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Living Poor by MJ Writer (BLW Contributor)


family w cousinsSome aunts, uncles and cousins in this photo with us.

I know how to live poor.  I know how to live poor and be happy.  No, I’m not poor, but I was raised poor.  Let me explain.

My parents had twelve children—a dozen—but I don’t know about cheaper by the dozen.  All biological, all healthy, all twelve.  Five girls and seven boys.  My twin brother and I were numbers eight and nine.

My family lived in California when I was born, and there Dad worked in the timber cutting Redwoods.  He served in the military, then we moved south and he started farming.  We lived in a small community where the older children hoed and picked cotton on land Dad rented to farm, and they also hired out to other farmers to work in the fields.  For two years the family worked at truck-patching on an island in the Mississippi River where we lived and where my twin and I started first grade in a one-room schoolhouse.  Then we returned to the small community until Dad bought a small piece of land in the hills.

We were poor, but we didn’t really know that we were poor.  Dad and Mom taught us to work hard, and they taught us to have a good attitude about it.  Those were some of the best lessons we learned from our parents. Dad had a great sense of humor and loved his family.  He always said that we could make work fun, and he showed us how to do it.  We sang, told stories, played jokes on one another, and supported and loved each other.

So back to being poor.  Mom was a stay-at-home mom, and worked harder than anyone, although she would never admit it.  She was truly a Proverbs 31 woman!  With the help of the family, she raised a large garden full of all kinds of vegetables and canned hundreds of quarts of food for the pantry.  We always said Mom could make something out of nothing, and when the pantry was low, she would whip up meals that were very simple but so delicious.

We sometimes raised our own beef, pork and chicken, and while we often ate meat-free meals, we loved the times we were able to spare a hog or beef to butcher, and when we had enough to spare, fried chicken made a wonderful Sunday dinner.  During the winter months Dad and the boys hunted, providing the family with venison, rabbit or squirrel.  We enjoyed healthy food with no preservatives!

Early in the spring before the garden was grown we would enjoy salads made from a variety of plants chosen carefully by Mom from the fields around the house.  The salad would consist of plants such as lamb’s quarter, dock, thistle, and wild onions.   This would be served with beans, seasoned boiled potatoes, and cornbread.  Yum!

Mom sewed most of the clothes her daughters wore, and even some shirts for her sons.  I remember her making my twin and me matching tops—a shirt for him and a blouse for me.  I’m not sure he was happy about it, but I thought it was pretty special!  She used whatever she could find for fabric, including recycled fabric from used clothing.  I have worn many dresses and blouses made from printed flour sacks.  Mom was a wonderful designer, and some of the best compliments I received was on a dress she designed and made.  No one had to know it was made from a flour sack.  We also wore lots of hand-me-downs, and the boys wore patched jeans before patched jeans were cool!

My family worked together, played together, and prayed together.  We grew up healthy and happy, and we loved and still love one another.  What wonderful memories I have!

I think my being poor is/was a matter of perception.  Did that mean we had no money?  If so, then we were pretty poor.  But we had food, clothing, and a roof over our heads.  We worked hard—all of us—and managed carefully what we had.  We might not have had nice things like so many others had, but when I look back, that seems immaterial.  And for the most part, we just didn’t think much about it.  We were secure, fed, and happy.  That was what was important.

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The Years Go By Like The Waters In Our Lovers Eyes (BLW Contributor)

Image result for Bart simpson in love

Stop.  Click on this song by Needtobreathe.  Wait a few seconds for the music to start playing…..

Now continue reading.

Its one of the most powerful sentiments and word of wisdom that has ever graced a human ear and blessed the trajectory of a lifetime:

“You Only Know What You Have, Once You’ve Lost It.”

In order for that wisdom to exist, someone had to go through heart ache.  Someone had to lose.  Someone had to feel foolish.  Eyes had to be open; eyes that were once blind.  Second chances exist and for this we are all grateful.  Nonetheless, they do not exist for all and for some, they have only known eternal short-coming; an inconsolable oust.

So let us learn from those that have come before us and have been kind of enough to lecture our very situation or circumstance.  Hold on to who you have; never let go of what you have and what it could be.  Before you know it, like stones under rushing waters, the years will have past; opportunities will have ceased; hearts will have fluttered for you or become bitter at your blunder.

Just be sure to take a step back every now and then.  Be grateful and appreciate; realize everyday that the love and joy around you is not of your devise, but in spite of it.  This song is by a great band that I will leave you with.  The purpose of including the link is not to name drop or click-bait.  Listen to the song.  The lyrics are included for your consideration.  Take another listen if you fancy, I know it will do some good.

“Why don’t we dance anymore
I’m not okay with that
Why don’t we laugh anymore
I’m not okay with that
The years go by like stones under rushing water
We only know, we only know when it’s gone
Yeah, the years go by like stones under rushing water
We only know, we only know when it’s gone
Why don’t we smile anymore
I’m not okay with that
Why don’t we dance slowly
I’m not okay with that
‘Cause the years go by like stones under rushing water
We only know, we only know when it’s gone
Yeah, the years go by like stones under rushing water
We only know, we only know when it’s gone

Oh the years, go by, like the waters, in our lovers eyes

Oh the years, go by, like the waters, in our lovers eyes”


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Ninth Year (BLW Contributor)


Think of a time when you felt safe, felt grounded, and felt happy. 

Imagine that place. 

Can you bring your olfactory sense back to the location? Can you see what it looks like before you? Perhaps you see it and walk within that realm when you dream. Or maybe it reappears every now and then when something strikes a memory chord in your brain.

I can still smell and feel parts of the interior walls of my elementary school. The smell of glue, the wet pavement outside on the playground, and the crisp air after snow has fallen and stillness unfolds.  These smells and the combined shine of the tile in the main hallway are emblazoned upon my memory. I can almost feel the painted brick wall on the outside of the gymnasium. If I close my eyes I can see the hallowed entryway of the leaded windows in the circular library with slivers of light darting across the gray carpeted floor. That smell of the books, dust, and a sense of comfort intertwined with one another can bring me back in an instant.

Walking into my school building four days ago, for the beginning of a new school year, I felt a rise of positive anticipation bubble up within me. There is something magical about watching all of the hopeful children of varying ages walk towards their next school year with fervent glee and nerves.

The twenty six individuals that entered our classroom on Tuesday all carried with them a sense of expectation, a sense of wonder, and an overwhelming sense of jitters.

Their day started off with a gift bag that was stapled together and laid upon their desks, with what they did not know was a plethora of supplies buried within each bag. A mentor colleague of mine taught me about this, “mystery bag,” game as a welcoming first day activity. Each year I have carried on the tradition with a new class.

As the day progressed the student’s nerves eased and my heart melted. I love watching students begin to unfold, ever so slowly they uncurl a tiny layer of themselves, their level of trust builds as they explore the beginning of friendship and community. The sense of innocence in their questioning and steadfast belief in, “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” is truly everything that adults strive to go back towards in time.

As an educator it is part of my job to teach about compassion, kindness, patience, and above all: love.  There is no curriculum that can encompass masterful lessons for these essential skills we need in life. It is merely a lesson in every interaction I have with a child, every question I answer, and the laughs that we share. I focus on sharing these ideals through the stories I select for students. They experience, read, and listen to these works of art every day. Children intrinsically desire to show kindness towards one another and I build upon this instinct to create a unique structure every year with a new community of people.

Going into this ninth year I felt a shift in myself as an educator. I realized my level of gratitude had been raised in the last few months. I felt grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for literature and life long learning every day with a new bundle of children. I felt hopeful about what my role could bring to the table in this year of growth for these students. I also felt a rise for my love of humanity, in which I dwell within as I walked through the doors, and down the halls, on the beginning of my ninth year.

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Think of a time when you felt safe, felt grounded, and felt happy.

Imagine that place.

Can you bring your olfactory sense back to the location? Can you see what it looks like before you? Perhaps you see it and walk within that realm when you dream. Or maybe it reappears every now and then when something strikes a memory chord in your brain.

I can still smell and feel parts of the interior walls of my elementary school. The smell of glue, the wet pavement outside on the playground, and the crisp air after snow has fallen and stillness unfolds.  These smells and the combined shine of the tile in the main hallway are emblazoned upon my memory. I can almost feel the painted brick wall on the outside of the gymnasium. If I close my eyes I can see the hallowed entryway of the leaded windows in the…

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Even Trees Branch Out (BLW Contributor)


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I am easily mesmerized by trees. How strong they must be, yet so vulnerable. The seasons define them. Animals need them. People have burned, cut, climbed, decorated and planted them. They are homes and hide-outs, sustenance and ceremonial, leafy and prickly.

Basically everyone and thing needs them. (Oh to be so important…)

Grounded in a good way.

What’s my point? Well, I’ve noticed that the trunks of trees, regardless of age or thickness, allow branches! I attribute this to the ultimate metaphor of “Life”. Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect, is to change often.” So, find a favorite tree and look at it. Really look at it. …if we shadows do offend,…

Does it have the chinks in the bark, like a knight’s armor? Has it survived the winter or wind storm of the decade? Are the branches as round as the circumference…

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Hero!!! (BLW Contributor)


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Oh yeah, this feeling is right
I’m not gonna hide that perfect smile
Even if the sun goes down
And the night breaks free
I’m not gonna pretend like a person Im not supposed to be
You cant deny the swing of time
Every day is gonna be like a glass of wine
Intoxication is what we’re living in
The truth will be fervently poured within

I long for the vehement desire
And shun away my greatest ire
After all this time
I tried to hide
My greatest mistake was my own disguise
I would walk away from the belligerence
And my coutenance will be my deterence

You’ve got to make the best of life
You’ve got to create the chances of time
Let there be peace
Let there be rhyme
For I’m not gonna sway away from time
You got to hold another day
A fortune that was once…

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Plugged In – My Music, My Life (BLW Contributor)

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Unprecedented Cult


Being an introvert, most of the time I spent in childhood revolved around studies, sketching, writing amateur poems and fictional stories. One man who influenced my childhood was my grandfather – “Bapu” as we used to call him was a Reader in Physics department of a well known college in Lucknow.

That Brilliant and disciplined personality, was somewhere I knew my lifeline. Studying under his guidance, playing chess, watching TV leaning on his stomach, sharing my daily thoughts was the only world I thought I had. Till the time I gained some senses, there had developed a strong feeling of losing him as he was growing old. The old man promised me that he won’t leave me until I was out of school and he has seen me through my academic years. But as they say promises are meant to be broken, Bapu left me when I was in…

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Forever Young – Still Crazy by Alienated Nation (BLW Contributor)


Image result for grandpa simpson

One day I stopped, looked around me, and with 19 year old eyes, could only see people sitting behind desks waiting for their pensions. I panicked. Surely there had to be more to life than this. Luckily for me there was.
My boss was understanding, and knowledgeable – and from behind a large oak desk in an executive suite in central London informed a rather shy young man about a volunteer movement, an ideal, and a different way of life. To me it sounded perfect – an opportunity to escape the humdrum of every day life, to experience new things, new ways, new horizons.
With his assurance that I could have my job back in a years time I headed off, case packed, stomach full of excitement – a head full of warnings from those who knew me vaguely gnawing at my brain.
And suddenly I was here, sunburnt face, sun bleached hair, (long), nervous tummy – jet lagged legs climbing concrete stairs in anticipation of what might just lie ahead.
The building looked new. Two story, white, rooms to the left of the corridor, a shower at one end, a class room on the ground floor, and a place to collect work clothes, cigarettes, chocolate and pocket money. Over night I had become a kibbutznik, a volunteer farmer- the great outdoors beckoning. How exciting!

When you are still a growing young man food is very important, and the dining room didn’t disappoint. So much to choose from, so little time. But I did my best in the 15 or so minutes I had to eat Porridge, bread, fruit and yoghurt- drink coffee, tea, and ice water – all consumed with an insatiable appetite. ‘Come, we are waiting’. And so I was forced to stop, still chewing as I followed a swarthy man, muscles bulging from a dark blue work shirt, down dining room steps to the awaiting canvass topped flat bed truck.
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‘My Sweet Lord’ cackled from a speaker hanging loosely from inside the drivers cab as we glanced at each other with dazed, nervous eyes – bodies dressed in inappropriate clothing, bobbing up and down on a dirt track journey to an unknown place of work- the already hot day heating up to boiling point as we arrived in the fields beneath The Gilboa Mountains – their fat mounds bulging into impossibly blue sky as we sank further and further into the shade of the tree dense Jezreel valley.

Grapefruits, big fat fruit eventually stamped with the words ‘Jaffa’ – once we had filled a very large chest with them that is – hung low from trees struggling to bear their weight.
And so we were handed the tools necessary to relieve them of their burden, instructed by our leader in how to clip the fruit at their stalks, never to pull them free, and then on how to place these lush juicy spheres into the wooden chests provided without bruising them.
We picked in silence, our minder keeping a close eye on surrounding mountain slopes with a chunky pair of industrial binoculars meanwhile. Occasionally he would announce that we were being watched, his observations turning our heads to try to see what he had seen. But did we care? Of course not. We were young, immortal, on a great big adventure – our pioneering enthusiasm only waning when city limbs flagged and homesick stomachs rumbled.

Back at the dining room we tossed bare chicken bones into stainless steel pots soon filled to overflowing, gulped ice water, placed dishes onto trays on a conveyor belt trundling off into the distance before we ourselves trundled back up the path to our Ulpan.
Friendships began to form, language proving not to be a barrier in our enthusiasm to learn about each others cultures – why we were here- who we liked and didn’t like on the Kibbutz. Some made us welcome we agreed, even became our friends, others looked down on us. And some even shouted at us in a language we hadn’t learnt yet.
But try we did, aided and abetted by a large busty teacher, a woman bursting with enthusiasm and given easily to laughing – especially at our attempts to pronounce impossibly sounding words. She paid no respect to personal space either, her proximity often causing me to blush. But in truth she only had eyes for Steve, a  Canadian, a brutish hunk with red neck charm and very little interest in learning. Was I jealous?
Trips were arranged, a bus organised, a desire to teach us about the country we had come to visit taking us to Massada, Kiryat Shmona, to a bunker beneath a kibbutz on the border with neighbouring Lebanon. Families would have to flee here when under attack we were informed, a reality causing me to shiver despite the red hot humid day.
But in truth we were the luckiest people on earth – working the land, bathing in sunshine, feasting on fresh organic produce long before it had become fashionable.
And then of course there were the huge water melons devoured whilst we chatted, the friendships, the getting to know people from completely different back grounds – the partially shaded Ulpan lawns an adopted meeting place where we could get together and set the world to right. And swat flies, and look upwards, drawn by the deafening sound of jets flying low above us. We’d always assumed that they were friendly, and continued with our banter untroubled as they disappeared over a hazed horizon.

Saying goodbye was hard, but after a year and a bit it was time for me to explore new horizons. And so I left, full of knowledge and different perspectives, healthy, strong, and with an overwhelming sense that I had been a part of something special.

I never did return to my job in London – ended up in the United States instead. But that is an entirely different story.
But what I would like to say now, that I didn’t get to say then to all those people who supported me, laughed and cried with me, is this: ‘Thank you for a wonderful experience and for all of your kindness and generosity. Good luck and every success with whatever you are engaged in now. Where ever you may be, I hope the memories bring you just as much joy as they still do me.

Happily remembered, never to be forgotten, long live the days of the pioneering spirit.

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This Parenting Thing (BLW Contributor)

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Bordeaux on the Ferris Wheel

The “Thing 1” aka The Chicky B

So today was the day it happened. The kid’s four years old (going on 44) and she did kindly announce that it was wake up time and that I needed to get up. She said that the sun was out so it’s not rest time but wake up time. She encouraged me to get up. All I did was roll over. She said “mommy get up.” All I did was shove a tablet in her face with Spongebob the Movie on it and roll over the other way. She gave me one final chance to get up and I just curled up and sunk back in my bed under the covers. She just didn’t understand that Mommy and Daddy wanted adult time last night and tried to replay a moment in our lives where we didn’t have kids and could stay up all…

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BLW Interview w/ The last video of Jerry Heller talking about N.W.A members

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