On Womanhood: Connecting and Thriving in Every Season

Today is the DAY! On Womanhood: Connecting and Thriving in Every Season is officially on sale! I have an essay about my sister’s journey with breast cancer in the book. Please get your copy and help make this launch day extra special. Thank you for all of your support.

The ebook version is available for ready reading!

The hardback version is a great coffee table or gift book and it includes a few pages for journaling.

https://tinyurl.com/onwomanhood

My Focused Writers group will be donating 100% of proceeds from the sales of this book to the YWCA USA to help empower women, starting today through the end of March, which is Women’s History Month.

#OnWomanhood #FocusedWriters #womenwriters #personalessays #anthology

Oh Christmas Tree

Mom and I were reminiscing about Christmas trees our family has had over the years.

Children’s Works of Art Years

 At the beginning of their marriage the Christmas trees came from the lot where Dad volunteered for a charity. He always bought a Balsam pine because that’s what he grew up with in New England. The pics of my brother and I in front of the tree showed a beautiful pine ladened with paper ornaments we had made in elementary school. We were so proud to decorate the trees with our works of art.

The Lean Years

Then came the Out-Laws Christmas Tree Adventure years. My dad along with the 3 brothers-in-laws would venture out to pick the Christmas trees for the four sisters’ homes. Dad would complain that my Uncle Joe took forever to find the “perfect” tree. On the other hand, Dad would pick the first one he came to without scrutinizing it for the “three F’s” Form, Fullness and Footage. What he would bring home was a pitiful specimen similar to the Charlie Brown tree only taller. No amount of silver tinsel could fill the empty gaps between branches and any ornament would cause the limbs to droop even lower. Needless to say, Uncle Joe’s trees were always the most beautiful and checked off all the boxes for the three F’s. My mother was not happy.

The Perfect Tree Years

While I was in college, Mom took over the job of finding the perfect tree. We refer to this as the Beverly Hills Methodist Church Tree Lot years. The word in the neighborhood was that these were the best trees going and at $100 a pop, the money went to a good cause. A phone call usually came from someone who had just passed the church after dusk and noticed trees being unloaded from the trucks. This meant that the next day you needed to be one of the first in line to get a tree because they went fast. So at 5:30 A.M. mom would awaken you to accompany her to the church parking lot. It was dark and cold at this ungodly hour in December. I thought my mom had lost her mind. But upon arriving I realized that the whole neighborhood had lost their minds. There was a crowd of at least fifty people in line to get into the lot. My job was to hold up the trees so that Mom could stand back and inspect for the three F’s. This was difficult since it was dark and the only light came from a few hanging bulbs strung overhead along the center of the lot. This process took a while and required dragging the tree to a spot under a bulb. Once the decision was made, mom paid for the tree, it was tagged with our address, and someone dropped it off at our house later that day. I can still remember the dimly lit lot, the smell of evergreens and the sticky sap on my hands from holding trees up. There were a few Christmases when the tree arrived at our home and mom noticed a couple of branches near the top that changed its symmetry. This meant some creative ornament and light placements were needed to offset the imbalance. But that’s what happens when you get tree in the dark at the crack of dawn.

The Artificial Years

The artificial tree was introduced to my parents by my sister, Cathy, in 1980. Oh what a glorious time this has been. No more early morning wake ups, no more holding up a multitude of sticky prickly trees in the dark, no more trees with symmetry issues and falling needles. At the time, Cathy worked at a federal building in DC and made friends with the people who came to decorate the lobby for Christmas. They used artificial trees, taught her how to add the lights when placing each layer of branches, and how to bend the branches to complete the fullness. Yes, these trees passed the test. They had fullness, form and footage and the best part, you could use them every year. Cathy has had the tree that rotated, the one where you had to add the lights, then the one that came with lights attached (my personal favorite), the one with frosted tips that looked like you just plucked it out of snowy forest even though it was 60 degrees out. Amen and I am forever grateful to Cathy.

The Christmas Surprise Year

But in the middle of the artificial years, there was one Christmas when we had a real tree. My folks’ home had burned down due to a lightning strike in July. That December after months of problems with rebuilding and construction nightmares, the house was almost done. Just one more month to go before they could occupy their home again. As a surprise my brother bought a Charlie Brown tree on Christmas Eve. My siblings and I set it up in the empty living room, decorated it with ornaments we had brought from our homes. It was the surprise our parents needed to help get through the next month after so much time of waiting for the reconstruction to be completed.

What I realized while recalling these memories is that it’s not the tree, it’s what we did as a family. It didn’t matter if the tree didn’t have form, fullness or footage, came from the best tree lot in town or in a box. It was time spent together around it that mattered the most.

Christmas Tree in an empty house.

Musings from an Elementary School Teacher

I have been in the business of teaching since I was ten years old. My siblings and cousins were my students and our recreation room was my classroom. When they would cooperate, we would draw, paint, dance, put on plays, identify wildflowers, capture bugs and dissect them, jump rope and go on field trips around the neighborhood. Teaching is in my blood. It’s how I organize my day. It’s not unusual for me to set a timer for 20 mins at home just like I do at school when I am conducting “Center Time”. At home when the timer is set, I begin the tasks of cleaning and organizing. When the timer dings, I just switch to a new room, job, or project. By the end of the day, my house is usually picked-up, organized and ready for the week. Unlike school, at home I am the student and the teacher and a lot of the time the child in me would much rather be at recess than come back inside for math aka bill paying. I can’t say that “Center Time” works as well for me at home as it does at school.

Since I was five, I have had the same yearly schedule. September brings fall and the anticipation of a new school year. That turns into the 6 weeks of holidays beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year. Followed by an intense interest in the weather, while watching for possible snow days. Then begins one of my favorite times of the year, spring and of course Spring Break. However, the rush to the middle of June when the “Break of Breaks” begins is the best because then it is …  summer vacation.

My never-ending summer vacation will begin July 2018 when I retire from teaching. I look forward to it because I am being drawn to other projects and travels. I  know that I will miss the children, teachers and staff that I have worked with on a daily basis. I am lucky to have been a part of a team of educators who give tirelessly for their students. The parents are very supportive and generous because they want to do what is right for their children’s education. I realize that parent involvement is not the norm is lots of schools and I have seen how important it is to a child’s success. I feel lucky to have witnessed the resilience  of children. Most of the time they succeed in spite of the deck that is stacked against them. If they have the right supports at school, there is no stopping them. When the school, family and community unite for the children, a children’s growth skyrockets. My favorite part of all about teaching is when children make that connection, find their gift, realize they are learning and begin trusting what they know. I will miss witnessing that moment when I retire.

In my forty years as an educator, I’ve seen lots of trends come and go. Phonics, no phonics, whole language, no language, sight words only, spelling, no spelling, grammar, no grammar, etc. Some of the trends keep cycling back with the same adage, wait until you see how kids will learn, only to cycle back out. As an educator I know that just one way is not going to reach all students, and to be a good educator you need to know a lot of ways. I also know that if you can’t find one thing that you like about a child, your impact on them will be minimal. You have to connect somehow with them because otherwise, you are wasting their time. Yes, I know some children are not easy, and yes, I know some parents are not easy to either. But to make a difference with that child you have to build that bridge. No trend will ever replace the impact a connection has on a child.

What I won’t miss about teaching is the stress from endless testing and retesting, being at work at 7:20 AM, washing my hands 20 times a day, the trends that come and go only to return 10 years later. always under a catchy new name, enthusiastic new spin, shiny new book, but really the same as what we’ve done before. My daily biological clock is set to go to bed at 11:00 PM and wake up at 7:00 AM or later. This waking before 6:00 AM to be at work by 7:15 AM is not working in my body’s world. I think I might still be on teenager time. I remember going to a talk about how the schools in Japan set up their school day differently from America. The teachers work with students for half a day and then while the students are at their electives, teachers work with their colleagues developing lessons for the next day or days. I thought how wonderful to have that time to research and design lessons that are individualized for the class. If teachers had more time to plan, they would have the most amazing results for their efforts. They also would not have to give up one day a weekend to get it all done. I know that when I retire I won’t miss carrying my work home every night and on the weekends.

You go into teaching to reach children and support them as they discover their potential and achieve their goals. Once in the trenches of school you realize the obstacles that are stacked against you. I have worked at schools with tons of parental involvement and schools with no parental involvement. I have worked with teachers that were just waiting it out until they retired and I have worked with teachers who have committed to doing their best until the very last day they step into the classroom. I have to say that children, our future, need teachers, parents, and community to support them every step of the way. Some will get out and do well in spite of the lack of support. However, most need our  commitment to be there for them every step of the way. The blessings of being a part of that commitment have been rewarding. I’m lucky that at ten years old, I followed my calling.