Q is for Quotations

April 19, 2014 at 9:10 am | Posted in Family, Family History, Mental Health, Philosophy, Ways of Living | 10 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

FAVORITESSAYINGSOFFAMILYANDFRIENDS

There are often certain people in one’s family or circle of friends who are known for the things they say or have said. They have often become part of family lore, associated with that person, often with either a laugh or a grimace.

It can be the same with our friends too. For instance, the normal response to discussions about a problem from a woman we know is a sigh and the comment, “But what can you do?” Another always says, “It’s a worry”.

My family has its own little quirky sayings, and many seem to have rather a philosophical bent. It is mainly two people who had sayings they used quite often, sayings that have been passed down through the generations. In many ways, these favourite sayings illustrate aspects of their character, as they express beliefs they adhered to and lived by.

 

Teddy Thompson 1949, with a grandson & his faithful dog Monty.

Teddy Thompson 1949, with a grandson & his faithful dog Monty.

The adages of my grandfather Teddy Thompson, the poacher and WWI veteran, who died in 1950, have been handed down by his son Ernie, my father. Here are a few:

– “If you see a man walking towards you down the same side of the street and he crosses to the other side, he owes you money. If he crosses from the other side to yours, you owe him money.”

– “Income: one pound; out go: 19 shillings and sixpence– a happy man. Income one pound; out go one pound and sixpence– an unhappy man.”

– “Laws are made fer them as keeps ‘em.”

– When Granddad was in the army, he used to play a betting game called Crown & Anchor. He always made money when others lost theirs. That was because he followed his own advice: “Always be the banker, they’re the only ones who win.”

 

Ernie Thompson 2007, aged 86

Ernie Thompson 2007, aged 86

Dad had lots of sayings too. Some were his own, but others were ones he heard that reflected his own open and positive attitude to life. In his later years, he quoted them often.

– When asked how he was, he would say: “top of the world”. Everyone in the district identified Dad as the ‘top of the world’ man. He later expanded this to, “top of the world, fighting fit and getting younger every day.”

– When someone said it was a nice day, Dad would reply in one of two ways: 1. “Every day’s a nice day; sometimes the weather’s better than others”; or 2. “If you can get out of bed and walk away from it, it’s a good day.” Then he would add, “ Do you realise how many people couldn’t do that this morning?”

– When someone talked about ‘a problem’, Dad would say, “There are no problems in life, only challenges”.

– If he was a bit late for a meal and you told him it was getting cold, he’d say, “It’s a poor belly that can’t warm up a bit of cold food”.

– When we talked about how hard it was to do anything about the problems of the world, he’d say, “Do what you can, for as many as you can, however you can, wherever you can, for as long as you can”.

– Dad was legally blind (10% decreasing to 3% vision) for the last twenty years of his life. When anyone mentioned it as a problem, he’d say, “No it’s not. I look in the mirror and I don’t see any wrinkles; and every woman looks beautiful to me”.

– When walking through a large shopping mall with his tapping stick, he had enough vision to see the movement of people. He said, “As I walk along, they separate like the bow wave on a battleship”.

 

Agnes Thompson Eng.1974 (2)

Agnes Thompson on a visit to England 1974

Mum had a few of her own common expressions too.

– About a pushy person: “S/he’s not backward at coming foreward!”

– Two expressions of amazement that came from Oswaldtwistle were: “Well, I’ll go to our house!”; and “Well, I’ll go to t’top o’ t’stairs!”

– When something was done well, she’d say (and so would Dad): “Go to the top of the class and kiss the teacher!”

– When something was done well enough: “It’s as near as makes no never-mind.”

A saying she liked, but which applied to neither her nor Dad was, “Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can. Seldom found in women, and never in a man.”

Well, that’s probably enough!

If you woke up

Do you have sayings in your family that have been passed down, or that identify a certain member of the family?

 

© Linda Visman 19.04.14  (699 words)

 

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P is for Poacher

April 18, 2014 at 9:21 am | Posted in Family History, History, Philosophy, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

poached-eggs

No, not that poacher. The one I’m talking about isn’t a gadget that cooks eggs.

I mean real poachers, the people who nick (pinch, steal) animals that don’t technically belong to them.

But I don’t mean poachers who take endangered wildlife, kill them and cut off their horns or tusks, and leave their bodies to rot either. Nothing like that!

The poacher I am talking about is the one who takes animals that are abundant, like rabbits and hares, pheasants and partridge from the estates of a wealthy landholder in early 20th century England.

poacher

My grandfather, Teddy Thompson, was a poacher, and a very good one. He knew the countryside – the woods and the moors – and the animals and plants that lived there better than most people.

He netted rabbits and hare, and snared or shot the birds. He made his own nets and was a champion clay-bird shooter. Throughout the Great Depression he fed his own family – and others too – when they would otherwise have been in dire straits. He kept the larder stocked and he didn’t get caught.

ER Thompson, Ern,Eddie,Edna

Teddy kneels behind his daughter. My dad is the eldest son, on the right.

Legally, he was breaking the law. Morally, he considered what he did justified. The wealthy landowner didn’t hunt these animals for food – only for sport. Also, the notion of privilege that the game laws embodied was abhorrent to him. The wealthy didn’t need a permit to net or shoot rabbits, whereas the lower classes had to purchase a licence, and at a significant cost, given their meagre income. They also had strict limits on where and how many they caught.  Teddy considered it wrong that people should have special rank and privileges just because of the station they were born into.

Dad told me many stories about what Teddy did. Among them are a couple I will share.

He used to catch pheasant and partridge and sell them to well-off  and eager businessmen in the town. Sometimes, the man would pay in cash, which helped pay the rent. At other times, Granddad would ask if the fellow had meccano or electrical stuff his son might no longer need. Dad always had plenty of parts to make crystal radios, which he then sold. He also made things for his parents, as well as his younger brother and sisters.

One time, a farmer asked Teddy if he would catch some rabbits to put in his fields for his son to shoot. Teddy netted the twenty animals the farmer had requested, and went to collect the money he’d been promised. But the farmer reneged on the promise. That night, Teddy went back to the farm, caught the twenty rabbits again and set them free elsewhere.

Edward&EdwardR Thompson &dog Abt 1946 (2)

Granddad may not have been law-abiding in some ways, but he was a very moral man. He was willing to go against laws or customs that he saw as unfair. My father also learned to hate the injustices of the class system that he grew up in, and always admired and respected his father for standing up against them.

One example where this is evident was at the interview Dad had on completion of his flying training. This interview was in front of about five senior officers “all showing off their medals and gold braid”, and would determine the rank that each man would be given before being assigned to a squadron.

Dad said the interview went well, as he’d gained high marks and shown a lot of talent as a fighter pilot. Indeed, he was at the top level of the group that was passing out, and had better results than most of the upper class men – those who would automatically be given an officer’s commission.

RAF pilot wings

The last question of Dad’s interview came from the biggest brass at the end of the row. “What does your father do for a living?”

Dad was incensed that what his father did would have any bearing on the rank he would be given. Teddy was a fire beater (stoker) of a steam engine in a cotton mill, but that isn’t what Dad answered.

“He’s a poacher, Sir”.

Dad didn’t receive an officer’s commission. He was given non-commissioned rank instead.

What do you think of traditional social divisions? Is it morally right to prevent someone from feeding his family just because he comes from a lower level of society?

 

© Linda Visman 18.04.14  (715 words)

Earth Hour 2014

March 29, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Destroying nature, Nature, Philosophy, Social Responsibility, Special Occasions, Ways of Living | 2 Comments
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Tonight is Earth Hour, the time to reflect on the damage that we are causing to our planet.

I wrote this in my journal in fifteen minutes.  I enjoyed a glass of wine and some chocolate, and wondered as I did so, how much longer an ordinary person like myself would be able to enjoy something like that.

 

I am writing this in pen in my journal in the almost-dark, lights off.

It is quiet tonight – unusual for Saturday;

just an occasional car in the distance.

Dogs bark as something disturbs them,

street lights shine on

tall, slender spotted gums

whose high-set branches

are silhouetted against silver-grey clouds

lit by reflected street lights.

 

The only noise apart from distant traffic

and barking dogs is the buzzing I hear –

either crickets, or the tinnitus in my head.

I think of the reason for the lights out –

Earth Hour – a symbol and a reminder

of what we face if we do nothing,

if we do not change our ways –

for Climate Change has begun,

and it is quicker than we are.

 

I think of those who are steadfast

in their refusal to acknowledge any problem

or that we are an integral part of it.

I wonder if millions of minds

meditating on one thought, one desire –

to save our world –

can influence and change those other minds.

But I know that we cannot change minds

that are shuttered and barred,

locked tight against anything

that threatens their grasping hands

or their wilful disregard of what they do.

 

I think of our Earth, ravaged

by Nature so often in the past,

but even more threatened now

by the greed and lust for power

of a disbelieving and dishonest humanity.

I grieve for the damage we have already done

and I grieve for that which is to come.

 

I can do nothing in the Big Picture,

but I can do something

in my own little part of the world.

I will continue to do what I can,

hoping that my small efforts,

joined with those of others with like minds

can be enough to halt the rape

of the only planet we have.

 

(c) Linda Visman

Stories Don’t End Where the Book Does

February 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Philosophy, Psychology, Reading, Writing and Life | 13 Comments
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There's no real ending

Have you ever finished a short story or a novel and couldn’t get the characters out of your head?

Have you imagined what might have happened after the story finished?

With a good story and well-realised characters, I think it happens quite often. I know it has to me.

I suppose that is why there is so much fan fiction written, and why readers love book series.

They don’t want to lose those characters, that world, that reality created by the author. They want the story to go on.

 

Harry Potter books

Think Harry Potter. To many of her readers, J.K. Rowlings’ imaginary character has become just as real as their own family and friends. He is someone they may know even better than those real people. It just happens that Harry, together with his own friends and foes, lives somewhere else.

They dwell in a different reality. It is a reality that has a door from our own that we can enter at will, or which can spill for a time into our own reality through the magic key of reading.

Why do some characters and their worlds become so real, when others do not? Why do we want to stay with some when we can’t even get to know others – or want to?

That to me is another magic. The magic created by a sensitive, observant and creative writer. Such writers do not necessarily create great works of literature (as defined by high-brow literary critics).

What they do create are real worlds occupied by real people, with real feelings and desires, hopes and dreams, challenges and triumphs. Characters with whom the reader develops empathy, a feeling of one-ness.

It’s no wonder we don’t want to leave the book – in a way it is our own life we have been reading, or that of people we have become close to. We want to know more.

Book hug

 

Do you ever identify with or become close to characters in the books you read?

Connecting Lives – why I write memoir

February 13, 2013 at 12:31 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, History, Making History, Philosophy, Psychology, Writing and Life | 18 Comments

CountryRoad in headlights_BW

There was no moon. From inside the car, our headlights illuminated the ever approaching, ever passing, road. Some of the light escaped the black surface, reflecting against trees and grass and white posts along the roadside, at times appearing to create a wooded tunnel through which we sped. In other places the eucalypts scattered into open woodlands. Further on, were more and more cleared paddocks carrying the animal that rivals the kangaroo as our national emblem. Post and wire fences edged the verges, defining the road rather than the paddocks, somehow isolating it. We drove along a corridor, from which real life was suspended until we reached our destination.

It was central NSW in the early 1980s, and we were driving home from a holiday trip. I felt the dry warmth of the heater that kept out the cold winter night and glanced behind me. In the back of the station wagon, our five boys sprawled on mattresses, blankets scattered over their sleeping forms. It had been a long and active day, and we still had another fifty miles to go. Joe and I had fallen silent, discussion on our holiday activities exhausted. He drove, as he always did, more focussed tonight than usual on the road’s dangers. Kangaroos or wallabies had no concept of waiting for a passing car before they crossed the road. I relaxed, staring through the windscreen at the mesmerising asphalt strip.

A light seemed to flutter through the passing trees, and my gaze drifted sleepily to the left, to the barely-seen outline of a farmhouse, set back a little from the road. Uncurtained windows glowed a warm yellow against the blackness. It must be dinnertime, I thought. Perhaps it’s a family, eating together at the end of their working day: father talking about what he’d got done, about what needed doing tomorrow, next week. He and mother smiling as the kids shared what had happened in school, or on the bus that took them thirty miles each way every day. I felt a longing rise inside me. How nice to be in our own home, the journey over, boys in bed, Bill occupied with one of his projects and me, comfy in a lounge chair with a novel.

I sighed. Maybe my cosy farmhouse picture was wrong and quite different occupants shared a less than homely light. I imagined an old man, leathery face set in deep discontented lines. Across the once colourful table cloth, now soiled by crumbs and spills, sat a small, white-haired woman, hunched and silent. There was no friendly conversation here. Childlessness and disappointment had worn a deep divide between them. Years of enforced cohabitation, love and respect long buried, had led to a cold and bitter truce. Their only goal was to get through each dreary day. I shuddered at that scenario and looked for more lights.

A few minutes later, I saw one on the side of a hill. Again, uncurtained windows hid rather than exposed the occupants within. Nobody out here to peer in on their intimacy, only a passing whoosh, hardly noticed, carrying a reflective passenger on her way. Who are the people in that house, I wondered. Another surge of feeling washed over me, so strong that I glanced across at Joe to see if he’d noticed. His eyes still darted here and there across the road, face impassive. He probably wouldn’t notice anyway.

I looked again at the lighted windows, now disappearing behind us and felt a sense of loss. I wanted to know who they were, these people whose lives were completely separated from mine. I wanted to share in those lives; feel their joys and successes, their sorrows and failures; know what they did and why, how they lived and worked and what they shared – love or hatred, fear or security. Strange I should feel that way when I had a full and reasonably adequate life of my own. It was the same urge, to be a part of other lives, that I get when I visit cemeteries, especially those with old headstones. The names written there, the relationships – “my dearest wife”; “cherished daughter”; “sadly missed” husband”; a son “tragically taken” – are more than just words to me. They belong to a world where I might have belonged, where I might have had my own special place.

night driving

We drove on. Every lighted window we passed that night reminded me of the disconnection of existence, and of how I wanted to make connections instead. Everywhere that I see people, whether singly or on groups, every news story or biography, memoir or personal story reminds me of how I can take a tiny peek into a small part of strangers’ lives. But there are many more who I can never, will never know, never share an action or word or thought with. To me, given other circumstances of birth, they could have been people I know intimately. They are might-have-been brothers or sisters, parents or cousins, close friends or bitter enemies.

Every now and then, I still see the homely yellow glow of a lighted window. But many of the windows I pass along my life’s road are dark. Their inhabitants leave nothing, not even a headstone, to mark that they were here.

I think we all deserve to be remembered somehow. Perhaps that’s why I have the constant urge to write my own life, to share my experiences and thoughts, trivial though they might be. It is a way to connect with others. To let them see a distant lighted window and wonder at the person inside. To give them a glimpse of how another person faced her life. For me, it is also a way to explore my existence, to give it meaning, justification, validation. I wrote, therefore I existed. I woz ere.

I woz ere

(c) Linda Visman

What would you go back and change?

August 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family, History, Mental Health, Philosophy | 9 Comments
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My husband and I were talking today about our youth and about the choices we wished we had made then. We wondered what we would do if we were allowed to go back and change some of those decisions.

You often hear people say, when speaking about their younger selves, “Oh, if only I’d known then what I know now!” Or “I wish I’d done things differently then.”

It is interesting to speculate – since we cannot go back in time, that’s all we can do – on which deed, word, relationship or other thing we would change?

Mostly, we do not realise at the time what importance a seemingly minor choice can have for our whole future. If we knew that our choice led to unhappy consequences, would we change it? And if we knew that, then we would also know what other, happier consequences resulted. Would we be prepared to negate those happier consequences in order to avoid the others?

I can take an instance from my own life where I used to wish I made a different choice.

In 1968, I went ice-skating with another student at my college. It was the first time we went out together. He broke his ankle at the rink. Feeling sorry for him, I visited, to see how he was. I was not smitten with him but, six months later, we married. I knew it was a mistake at the time, but marriage was expected of a girl then and I was a good Catholic girl who had to pay the price for the sin we had committed.

Our marriage had its good times, but was not a generally happy one. I often suffered from serious depression. We fought a lot. We lasted for sixteen years. If I’d known how it was to turn out, would I have changed my earlier actions if I could? At what point would I change my choice – going ice-skating, visiting him, not ‘doing it’ instead, pulling out of the wedding? Any of them would mean my life could have been far different.

If I went back in time unaware of the future, I would still be the person I was then. I would therefore probably make the same decisions I did then.

If I went back in time knowing at least this one future, then I would have to deny the chance of everything in that future happening. So, that adds in quite a few complications – five of them being our sons.

Would I be willing to not have had them, and to know that? Would I deny them and their children an existence in return for an unknown future that may be better, similar, worse, or even non-existent? I love my sons and my grandchildren, and I could never do that.

I would not be the person I am now either; someone quite happy with life. Someone who has grown wiser through the adversities and pain she has suffered. Someone with a second, wonderful husband and a family I am proud of. Someone who is alive, and able to write such a philosophical blog entry.

No, I would not go back and change anything. I am the sum of my experiences and of my responses to them. I am reasonably content with the person I have become, and I do not want to give up what I have earned. If I need to change things, I can do it now or in the future.

My husband said the same thing about himself.

 

Would you go back and change something that resulted in your life taking an unwelcome direction?

What would you be willing to give up in the life you have now in order to make that change?

 

© Linda Visman

27th August 2012

Small Stones 21-24

January 27, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Gardens, Nature, Philosophy, Writing | 1 Comment
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Here are four more of my small stones, written as part of the writing our way home challenge.

 

21. Magpies

I wake up to nature’s summer music;-

the magpies carol with enthusiasm,

encouraging those who hear

to join them in celebrating the day.

 

Well, that’s what it seems like –

even if they are just saying,

‘Keep out; this is my territory!’

 

22. Broken Promise

A tiny grey speckled bird’s egg lies in the garden bed.

But for a small hole at one end, the shell is whole.

When I pick up the delicate casing, a single ant emerges.

 

The empty shell is heavier than it should be, so I check.

A dessicated embryo is stuck to the inside wall,

And it weights the egg at its little end.

The egg’s promise of life is only fulfilled for the ants.

 

23. Nectarine

Red and yellow skin and soft white flesh.

A nectarine, ripened to perfection.

Succulent; delicious.

I hold the taste in my mouth for as long as I can.

 

24. Mist

Misty cloud descends on the rainforest;

its cool, ghost-like tendrils spread among the trees and ferns.

They settle on branches, leaves and fronds

and gradually coalesce to drops

that fall to water the earth.

© Linda Visman January 2012

Christmas Day

December 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Posted in Australia, Philosophy, Society | Leave a comment
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We have just had a simple lunch out on the verandah – toasted sandwiches with a cup of tea.

It is so lovely out – a beautiful Australian summer day; warm but not hot; breezy but not really windy; not as humid as it has been; sunny and bright; and still clean from yesterday’s rain.

The beauty of the place we live brings home to us, even more than usual, how very fortunate we are.

We have peace and security, in our family, our home, our neighbourhood and our country.

We have plenty to eat, regular and clean water, the clothes we need, a comfortable bed and a home of our own.

We have reasonable health, even after several scares, and we have good medical care.

We are blessed with lovely friends and decent neighbours, as well as families we love and are proud of.

We have worked hard through life, and can now enjoy retirement in a delightful place where people come for their holidays.

My husband and I exchanged gifts this Christmas morning; gifts that were bought with love and thoughtfulness.

We were able to speak by telephone with our eight children, who all live far away, and with their older children; to share in their day just a little – enough to know that we are loved, and to tell them of our love for them.

There is a sense of gentle peace all around us today – no cars going by, no noisy parties, and even the local dogs aren’t barking for a change. The twittering of the numerous birds only adds to the beauty.

We have so much to be thankful for – and we are thankful for it.

I hope that anyone who reads this has had the good fortune to experience the same peace, joy, love and thankfulness.

That is what Christmas is about – even for a non-believer.

© Linda Visman

A Different World

December 2, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Posted in Gardens, Mental Health, Nature, Philosophy | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , ,

I sit on the grass two-thirds the way up our yard and look down the slope of the land. Introspective.

The grass is longer than it should be, because I broke my toe on Sunday, and it will be a while before I push the lawn mower about again.

Dogs are barking in yards behind, below and beside me, but their territorial claims wash over me.

Cars pass below, but don’t impinge on my solitude.

A sunset-silvered jetliner sails high in the blue, and then is absorbed into shaving-cream clouds.

I look closer, down at the grass beside me.

A tiny spider – we used to call them money spiders when we were young – is busy creating a guy rope between my trouser-covered leg and a blade of grass.

Equally small, a spotted red ladybird clambers up another blade of grass.

A second one steps from a brittle leaf onto my leg, and I take it up carefully in my hand, but its wing cases open and it flies off almost immediately.

Amid the grass and weed stalks, midges flit about, searching for whatever midges search for. One has found something – the gap between trouser and boot – and I scratch at the itch absent-mindedly.

A green ant, larger and stockier than the little black ones, climbs the hill of my leg, and I give it the brush-off. I don’t want your bite, thanks!

I pick up dead leaves and bark shed from the moulting Spotted Gums. My fingers shred and shred and pick up more. When I realise I have a pile between my legs, I toss the bits around over a wider area.

I can no longer see the tiny spider or its fine, silken thread, but the ladybirds are still there.

I stand.

And wonder how many tiny creatures I have just crushed.

I wander about the lawn, a colossus above a whole different world of hidden life.

I think how, every day, our feet and machines, our chemicals and pollutants

Disturb and disrupt,

Despoil and destroy,

And we do not even notice, or think about it.

I see a small, pale grey feather and pick it up. It is fine but dense – probably from a Noisy Miner.

There is another small feather in almost the same spot. This one is ultra-fine, downy; unbelievably soft and wispy; speckled brown and white – from a young Tawny Frogmouth owl.

I hold them high between finger and thumb, one in each hand. When I let go, the breeze carries them away.

The Noisy Miner’s feather falls first;

The Tawny’s feather floats on a soft current of air, and lands lightly further up the slope.

I leave them where they land;

The elements will take them back to themselves.

I go back to my world.

 

© Linda Visman

Friday, 2nd December 2011

Author of Ben’s Challenge, a novel for readers from 10 years to 100. Click on the image above to see it on Amazon – printed book or Kindle edition.

Entitlement or Responsibility?

August 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Philosophy, Social Responsibility | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The choice of TV stations and free-to-air programmes, as well as of pay TV, has certainly expanded considerably in the last couple of years. Then again, this is like many other aspects of our society. We have access to so much, and for such little cost, that it is almost, if not literally, obscene.

There are so many people in the world who struggle to keep body and soul together, or to have any kind of personal freedom. And yet most of us in western society have everything we need, and more, so easily and so cheaply. And it is usually based upon the exploitation of cheap, exploited, overseas labour in third-world countries.

We have also come to expect this as our right, and that is tragic for our greedy and selfish society.

We are not learning – or indeed, teaching our younger generation, that it is a good and positive thing to work for what you get. It should not be handed out on a damask-covered platter.

How will our young ones learn responsibility if they are given whatever they want? How will they even know the satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with doing something for themselves?

How will they learn to exercise their imaginations if they are spoon-fed with computer games and movies and wii games, with instant communications and instant gratification, with advertising and political exploitation.

How can they stretch their creativity if they cannot make something from almost nothing, to fulfil their needs, or even for their entertainment?

I fear that there is coming a time when creativity will be stifled – if it has not already arrived. The exceptions will be those few who are given the opportunity to stretch themselves by caring and discerning parents, and those who have the strength of character to go their own way, against the pressures of conformity.

These are the ones who give us hope for a future that is not robotic or constrained by the bread and circuses of those who rule by giving the masses what they want.

We should hold back on giving our children what should be earned, and on allowing what they should produce from their own creativity.

 

© Linda Visman, August 2011

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