Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Why write? Why not write?

Having been in the writing business for almost ten years (although I’ve been writing for quite a bit longer than that, on a non-business basis), I’ve learned many things. My hope is to impart them to my readers, both to share wisdom and to prevent you from making the mistakes that I did.

When you have something to say, say it. Sharing information is cathartic and if you find someone or some entity that wants to read it, so much the better. One of the lessons that I’ve learned through a significant amount of experience is that you are not the same as the work that you create. In other words, people will like you and not your work. Or more importantly, it’s critical to understand that a lack of positive response to what you’ve created in no way diminishes you. It’s simply the taste fairy thing.

Now that I recognize the value of this medium, I’ll be adding comments much more often. If you want to see more of me and what I’ve done so far, my website is http://www.csscribe.com. Looking forward to hearing from you – Shalom.

 

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Outside the eye of the hurricane

If you’re watching the waters rise, anticipating the loss of everything material, no other thoughts occur. To the millions observing your tragedy, the inability to provide hands-on help produces a thousand questions.

How can we join in the rescue efforts?

What do you need most?

How will our contributions be distributed?

Can we come to the area and participate in taking survivors to safety?

The sense of helplessness was not exclusive to the hurricane path. The nation and the world added its tears to the already swollen rivers, streets and buildings.

As the waters receded, we were partially reassured by the heroic efforts of so many from infinite sources. We watched the boats, helicopters and everyday people who combined forces to make many differences in large and small ways.

While your recovery will require years, patience and more dollars than most of us can imagine, we have not disappeared. As we provide homes to your lonely pets, dollars to Red Cross and provisions to your shelters, you remain in our wishes and prayers.

Never hesitate to call on us for any needs you may have, material or otherwise. The only support that you won’t receive is that which you fail to request.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

One word at a time

Watching kids trying to write is almost as much fun as writing. They ponder and scratch, erase and carefully print. Helping them spell “neighborhood” or “principal” is a good indication that they are thinking and processing information. But as was the case with math, the levels of expertise are all over the board.

My greatest frustration is wanting to help all of them reach competence. In math, it’s about adding and subtracting two numbers. In writing, it’s understanding concepts such as paragraphs, punctuation and proper nouns.

Clearly, if I could impart instant wisdom in conjunction with retention, I would do so. But as an advocate and disciple of education, I know that mistakes and victories are as critical to the learning process as memorization. Somewhere between magic and agony is finding the best way to coach and assist with an emphasis on individual styles and perpetual growth.

The best part of being an active observer is that the participants change daily. Some kids bring their best, happiest and most receptive selves to class. Others bring family issues, learning disabilities and self-confidence problems that they simply can’t understand.

One given is always as true as 2 plus 2 or 185 divided by 5. Amid all the confusion and frustrations of being a twenty-first century child, my kids all know that I care. If they hurt themselves, I will always have the pain-eliminating bandaid. If they are bullied, the guilty party will be prosecuted. And if you simply want to talk about anything at all, I will always listen. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Long distance love

The rapture of being a grandma began around the moment that I discovered it would be my newest and most cherished title. But from my standpoint, this role is best completed often, at close proximity.

Regrettably, while I have achieved my indescribably joyous status (bubbe, in my case) all is not bliss. My beautiful grandchildren are everything happy but they are 1,468 miles away from my hugs and kisses.

Thanks to the careful attention of my daughter, a phenomenal mother, I am able to see them every few days through the miracles of technology. But I can’t help teach them, dry their tears or engage in a game of catch.

Nobody requested this long-distance relationship and no-one likes it. There is nothing I can do to eliminate the miles between us. Most importantly, whining or anguishing over it is non-productive and makes no positive difference anywhere.

When I’m faithful to my ideals and principles, I find something to be gained from this condition. When one of the children is ill, I am always inquiring and diligent about their conditions. As much as I can afford it, I make frequent trips to see them. Any excuse is a good one to send a jacket or shirt or dress.

The ceremonies of grandmotherhood are far less important than the emotional mutuality. We repeatedly express our love, whether it is long or short distance. But it’s the hand-holding and promise-keeping that persuade me they are certain of bubbe’s love. That love is without boundaries, equal to my gratitude for their dimples and smiles. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Friend

One of the innumerable advantages of the English language is the fact that it doesn’t have the masculine or feminine designations present in some languages. In French, a male friend is ami and a female is amie. In Spanish, it’s amigo and amiga. Because I have several people whom I consider true friends, the use of Friend will be perfect for the sake of not needing or wanting to identify my friend’s gender.

The friend to whom I refer is someone who has redefined the concept of friend for me, in an entirely positive way. Friend is someone who is constant and consistent, no matter where we are or what the time may be. Friend is always loyal and in more areas than I can count, Friend finds ways to demonstrate respect and love.

My Friend is one who would share Friend’s $19.19, even if it is Friend’s last twenty. My Friend creatively and frequently demonstrates faith in my abilities and strengths. And most importantly, my Friend can be relied upon for Friend’s version of truth, regardless of how difficult or complicated it may be to articulate.

Those who celebrate friendship can easily appreciate how blessed I feel to have Friend as my advocate and cheering section. We have all experienced people who choose solitary existence due to abuses of trust or general dissatisfaction with human nature. If you belong to that philosophy, you have my deepest regrets. If, however, you can relate to the joys of a true and lasting friendship, you will understand the irreplaceable contributions that friends inevitably make to life.

 

To my Friend – thank you for your trust, your faith and your love. To those who read my words, be a friend to learn the joy of acquiring one. Consider your word to be as vital as the beating of your heart. And begin to understand the growth that you will immediately experience as you nurture that of others. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Thinking

It’s probably not necessary to empathize every moment of the day with the kids I teach. There are frequent occasions where it’s appropriate, such as when they are sad or hurt. But most of the time, they rely on me for direction and something resembling wisdom.

Looking at them, it is easy to imagine what they’re thinking. When they have Chromebooks, most are following instructions to read. A few will stray but these renegades are easily identified because they will repeatedly glance at me to make certain I haven’t detected what’s on their screens that are thirty feet away. Of course, I can’t tell if they are transgressing but I can confirm by walking the room to see if they change screens.

Sometimes obedience gets too much. One student thinks: I’ll bet I can get some distraction from the classwork if I get up, walk across the room and get two tissues from the box.” There’s another box of tissues about three feet from this student but that wouldn’t require as much time.

This group is a bit too young to sneak over to forbidden sites. We would like to think that the school districts would block explicit content. But last year, a sixth grader delivered a Chromebook displaying porn that, “…someone else had been watching.” By no means would I have argued with him.

The best way to spook kids is to busily write in a journal. Curious ones will wonder what I’m writing and why I’m writing it. Guilty ones will ask if I’m recording notes to their teacher about troublesome kids. And the brave ones will ask to see what I’ve written, although none of them can read cursive.

Happily, this is a well-behaved and courteous group. Third grade is typically too young for cell phone addiction or gang activity.

Although I’m not allowed to have physical contact of any kind, at least ten former students hug me in the hallway. And all students, my class or otherwise, will return my smile. Kids just don’t like change and I represent change. Because I get that I conform to the routine, acknowledge all accomplishments and never ask them to be other than third graders. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Lost

If dementia were a human, I would have no trouble creating an accurate characterization. It would be a cruel, unfeeling, unrelenting tyrant that robs its victims of everything but basic bodily functions.

One of my closest and most cherished relatives is one of dementia’s targets. Spending time with her, I soon realized that all she had left was the present. Her past was inaccessible, the future was impossible and the now lasted only for a few seconds.

For as much as I wanted the visit to be meaningful to her,  she had no recollections. When I told her my name (many times) I was blessed to see a flash of recognition. As quickly as it appeared, it was gone.

My countless memories are all that remain – only to me.  We have been related for a very long time and for all those years, I anticipated and enjoyed her heartfelt birthday cards that are no more. Now she is as far away mentally as the physical distance between us. To her, all the days are the same and they are all labeled as “today.”

If your reality resembles mine, never find excuses not to visit. My loved one knew I was there for ten seconds, then another ten seconds and ten more. With all my heart and spirit, I only hope that I brought a moment of security and love. If she knew that she was loved for all types and lengths of time, it would be to defeat the dementia beast. She deserves that defeat, roses to bring her joy and more, for as long as I can fight for her. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

We are Norway!

Staying at a resort location in north central Illinois, we were fortunate to wander into a location called The Norway Store. We were unprepared for the experience of walking through a meaningful and vibrant part of history.

The store was full of Norwegian food and souvenirs. We observed biscuits, pancakes, lutefisk and every other delicacy with direct or indirect connections to Norway. By this time, I am thinking that this was merely a fun stop in an otherwise corn and soybean-filled geography.

Toward the end of the journey, we completed our purchases and I asked the lady behind the counter to explain the Norway motif. She was noticeably Nordic and eagerly explained that Norway was originally populated by the nearby rural community of settlers called the Fox River Settlement. These immigrants trace their origins from the 1825 migration from Norway to New York state, then Illinois.

Present day Norway has a population of 100 but has no local government, fire district, school district, police or postal services. The store has been in the same location for one hundred years and has always been owned by the Borschenius family. At the end of the presentation, Ms. Nordic proudly proclaimed, “We are Norway!”

Outside we saw a barn with a large picture and title, “Viking Ship.” Adjacent to the barn/ship was a beautiful church called the Hauge Lutheran Church. Now we had completed the entire tour of Norway.

But what a beautiful, noble and proud history, right in the middle of rural America! Something tells me that if we had similar connections to our respective heritages, we would all be improved and enhanced by those legacies. As for me, I am enriched by spending a fragment of my life in Norway. Never again will I believe that farmland USA is devoid of surprises or joy. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Preserving the sixties

Without any intention on my part, I found myself in a 35 mm slide from the late 60s. Believe that it was in the unlikely venue of Sandwich, Illinois. For the sake of propriety and potential lawsuits, I’ll omit the name of the hotspot.

We sat down for a late dinner and I realized that this restaurant probably looks exactly as it did fifty years ago. There were several variations, one of which was my black bean burger. In the sixties, we were eating beef and fries with no regard for carbohydrates or cholesterol. Now it was black beans and kettle chips.

Everything else was a photo recollection. We had the black and white television. The glass case adjacent to our table was filled with small liquor bottles. We had Cointreau, Drambuie, Southern Comfort and a collection of tiny bottles of Manischewitz. Just to make certain that all bases were covered, Mogen David miniatures were on the bottom shelf.

The obligatory teenagers were playing pool. They sported butch haircuts, tee shirts, work boots and Wrangler blue jeans. And the lady sitting in the next table was wearing the predictable cutoff jeans and Grateful Dead tee shirt.

Toward the end of our evening, a lady with compromised mental acuity stopped at our table to chat and admire an Aspen shirt featuring a moose. She went on to talk about how much she loved moose and other animals, Colorado and nature in general. My guess is that if she hadn’t been gently directed toward the door, we would still be engaged in conversation with her. In Sandwich, there are no strangers, no fear of rejection and no reticence about striking up a conversation with everyone.

We were frozen in time in mid-America, a town with the population of 7,421 (as of 2010 census). Of this number, 6,745 were listed as white. In other words, middle-class America really hasn’t changed, making Schlitz beer, cornfields and beef burgers safe for upcoming generations. Somehow, it’s comforting to know that some things are immune to corruption. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Short kids and spiders

The screams of copious kindergarteners alerted me to the fact that some form of attack creature was nearby and presented imminent danger. On two occasions, dreaded spiders had entered our classroom and were brazenly climbing up the classroom wall.

As authority figure and solitary adult, I knew immediately that it was my responsibility to protect my children. Leaping up, I fearlessly approached the area of occupation and eliminated the threats. Later it occurred to me that doing away with scary critters was a metaphor for my presence in the room.

In addition to having no fear of small invaders, I find it important to let kids know that for as long as they are in my world, they need not be afraid of anything. Isn’t this the prerequisite for learning? In all arenas, in all contexts, our children need to feel safe for as long as they can enjoy that existence.

Far too soon, these children will be middle schoolers, high schoolers and adults. From there, they need to slay all their own dragons and face the endless frustrations and challenges of adulthood. And yes, they will ultimately be responsible for exterminating their own killer insects, for their own sake and the protection of their dependents.

As mother, grandmother and educator, this represents an opportunity for me rather than a misfortune. Having led a rather difficult and complicated life, what better role model than I to teach kids about controlling their destinies? Because I am always cautioning students to eliminate barriers or limitations, teaching them confidence is the logical next step.

And so, I will face adversity or crisis with bravery and determination. For as long as I am able to do so, my students will fear no spiders or impediments to their growth. How very fortunate for me. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Priorities

If I had walked into the classroom and behaved in the typical teacher mode, no-one would have been able to recognize me. Because we all have our own methods, modes and manners, there probably is no “typical” except for the one posited by teacher textbooks.

Just for comparison, these characteristics include unfaltering patience and understanding. Miss Typical Teacher is soft-spoken, supportive and always cheerful. She is always punctual,  immaculate and the quintessential role model.

Her sunny disposition is facilitated by model students. They never talk out of turn, they turn in  homework with all correct answers. And they all say, “please” and “thank you.”

Happily, I will never be described as typical. While I am eternally working on classroom patience, instructing a student to do math and hearing, “I don’t want to” will frustrate most of us. But the recalcitrant, belligerent students aren’t the greatest challenge. It’s the quiet, secluded ones who need the greatest amount of love and attention.

In these cases, I need to be the mother who may be abusive or absent. Or I need to be the leader who assures them that their work is exceptional and worthwhile. Sometimes I need to be a pair of ears to listen for issues at home or with classmates. Every day, I look my students in the eyes and communicate that their needs are my priority.

None of these are in my how-to book but some of them make me cry. All of them make me atypical, a type that all of my kids want. They don’t teach us that every student needs to be taught in his or her own speed, style and emotional level. Thankfully, the students teach me what they need, and I am grateful for the wisdom to listen. Shalom.