Category Archives: Novels and Stories

The Importance of Reading

I don’t understand why so many young adults don’t see the value of reading. I don’t know what I would do if books didn’t exist. I’m always looking up information, learning about different cultures and reading good stories. My college students have told me that reading stories of the past in high school didn’t make much sense to them. I think it would if we, the teachers, would relate these stories to the present. If we could help students see that the concepts are the same then, I think they would understand these stories better.

Last spring, I asked my reading class to, in anyway they could, show the value of reading.  They had to present their work to the class. This video is what one student presented. Watch it and see for yourself. I was greatly impressed.

The Importance of Reading

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A Good Parent

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A Good Parent  –  Martin Milner

            Several people have asked me about the minor characters in That Ever Died So Young. I like Martin Milner, Kathryn’s father. It makes me question what it takes to be a parent. What are the requirements for parenthood? A man and a woman marry. They move into a townhouse they can barely afford. They lead thrifty lives so that they can try and save something. One may take on more responsibility at work for more money, or even take on another job. They get ahead and financially, they find a little relief. While they continue to try and build a life and marriage, they discover that one of them has a serious medical problem.

Martin Milner never expected his wife to have cancer. He and his wife were busy trying to eke out an acceptable life when she was diagnosed. Martin knew nothing about cancer or what caused it or how to cure it. He expected a long life with the woman he loved. He and his wife had planned to move to a larger single family home, have four or five children, where they would enjoy family picnics, surprise birthday parties and “stay up late” Christmas parties. Martin and his wife thought the biggest problem they would have was not being able to save enough money for college for each of their children. Martin did not expect that his beloved wife would die before their first child had finished elementary school, and before he had a chance to understand cancer and certainly not before he had time to plan on a life without her. He had not planned on the life he was forced into, the life he was forced to accept.

 

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Martin had a hard time at first. He had loved his wife so much, he wasn’t able to manage without her. The world didn’t seem right to him anymore. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go on. He didn’t care about his life. But most importantly, he forgot he was a parent. He forgot that his daughter was hurting also. His little girl who loved her father, who needed him to help her through the hard time she was having was also hurting. She missed her mother. When Martin finally realized his little girl needed him, he cleaned himself up and became a father to his daughter. He drew close to his daughter, protected her, cared for her, and loved her dearly.

So a parent is someone who makes mistakes, but corrects them. A parent is someone who takes care of those who need them – the children. Martin Milner was a parent to his daughter, Kathryn.

 

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

I awoke this morning with something or rather someone on my mind and heart – my neighbor. She is a tiny lady in her eighties attends yoga classes regularly, and enjoys working in her yard. Her husband died about three years ago and left her with a burden she is not able to manage at her stage in life. In their backyard and very close to the fence that separates our yards, her husband planted bamboo. So I think I can end this post now, since you already know the problem.

For years I was burdened with the bamboo and after a while, he too, saw it a problem. But nothing was done about it. Later, she tried and continues to try  to control it by spraying it with weed killer. That seemed to have worked for a while. At least the bamboo looked like it was dying; many of the stalks turned brown and the large group that was, was now beginning to thin out. But in my glee, I tried hard not to jump up and down, celebrate the death of the bamboo. Isn’t this crazy? Maybe I thought that if that bamboo was really leaving,  it should have been gone by now.

This summer, I was gone for a while and when I returned, the bamboo seems to have taken over that entire side of our yards. I have a pond that I want to fill in and have plans to extend my garden. The bamboo will cover my plants and keep them from growing.  Shouldn’t I be allowed to have a garden in my own yard if I want to? I’m having a very hard time asking an eighty-year old lady to cut down all of her bamboo. As I look out my window now, onto the spot in my yard, the brown dying looking stalks are all green and even very pretty, I hate to say. What happened? Why won’t that just go away?

I looked up how to remove bamboo. It is possible, but it takes dedication and time, and of course, money. You have to start with the roots and get them all out. About three years ago, I got most of the roots out of my yard, and when I pulled up many of those tough (by the way) roots, they went under the fence to my neighbor’s yard. I don’t believe that she ever got the roots up out of her yard. By that time, her husband was very ill and she was attentive to him.  Now she is haunted by that bamboo. I’m sure it was a surprise to her too, to see the growth of that bamboo after she has spent many summers spraying it with weed killer. What I want to do is ask her to join me in paying a neighbor who will spend the time and energy digging up the roots and finally getting rid of the all, every inch, every everything of that bamboo.

Robert Frost, in his poem, “Mending Walls,” said “Good fences make good neighbors.” She is a good neighbor and I would like to keep it so by solidifying that fence that could separate us.

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Thinking Back, I wonder What Happened to . . .

Lately, I have been thinking about my seniors during my last year that I taught in high school. A few weeks ago, a Facebook Friend posted that right after college she began her teaching career, excited and bubbly at a university. On the day of her post she wrote that she was now retiring and teaching her last class at that university. This started me to thinking about my seniors and some of the other students I worked with my last year before I retired.

My seniors worked on a project and I wonder if it is still on the school’s or library’s website. During that year, I had my students do a podcast on a book that they would have to read. I knew it was a difficult project, I mean it was about a book that they had to read. How cruel could I be? But I felt strongly that they could do it. They could choose their book to write about. I thought that would make it easier, a bit. So, I wrote up a description, a rubric and handed it to them. They looked at me like I had lost my mind, but I was ready for that. I was really excited about the project and they could hear my enthusiasm as I spoke about the project. I knew they would at least start it, and I hoped that they would enjoy it after we got started on it.

It took us several weeks and we went through many steps from finding out what a podcast was, what made up a podcast (those items that all podcasts summarizing books had),  selecting a book they wanted to summarize, summarizing it, critiquing each other’s summary according to what they found out about what makes up a podcast,  and then reading their summary on the library’s website. Along the way,  they discovered how to write a book summary, and in small groups exchanged with each other for critiques and edits. The students also noticed that everything had to be expressed in a positive way. Otherwise it was your opinion, one student said, and it was not appropriate to give your opinion. The students began to enjoy this project and well before the midpoint, I was just a bystander just listening to them reading the research, teaching each other and critiquing each other’s work.

Then they recorded it. They had already discovered that podcasts were about 3 minutes in length so they each practiced reading their work first. They recorded their work, with the help of the IT professional at the school and then played it back. The look on the face of each student (only one student did not complete the project) as they heard themselves talking about their book sounding so official and knowledgeable was beyond expression. The work that they put in was worth it. Somehow, the principal heard about it and asked to have it put on the school’s website. I wonder if those podcasts, or book reviews that those seniors did are still there.

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An Uneventful Blizzard?

Is it me, or did we just have an “uneventful blizzard” where we didn’t have extensive power outages, down trees or other devastation? So now we can use the time to do things with our family members? We can use the time to slow down, and reflect on our needs, to not worry about the office needs or how we’re losing money. We can enjoy the day, the snow and each other. We can also use it to check on our neighbors, those elderly or disabled who live alone or can’t get out.

Yesterday’s evening news showed a good example of ways we can help each other. There is a group of people who are volunteering their time to dig others out. If you need help you contact the organization (it seemed to be newly forming), put in your request and identify your location and someone or a group will contact you and come out to your house and shovel your snow. How nice is this? Then right behind it the news lady showed us a picture of teenagers going around helping people shovel their snow. She said it was a way for them to make money. Why must we turn everything into some money-making venture? Why don’t we teach our children to do good deeds because it is a show of love, and the right thing to do? Do we want to teach our children to do things for money to buy a new video game? Or to do things out of love and because helping our “fellow-man” is simply the right thing to do?

Since we don’t have to worry about power outages, removing trees from our living rooms, or moving the elderly and ill out of cold places to warm places, let’s use this time to do at least one thing good for someone else. I implore everyone now, to call a neighbor, friend, family member and ask if they need anything. When you are offered money, don’t take it. Donate it to a homeless fund or cancer fund or a fund of your choice. Then spend the rest of the day (and more than likely tomorrow) with your family just talking and maybe even finding out things you didn’t know about your children.

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A Nice Surprise

It’s time now to begin the next semester, spring semester. I have often wondered why the spring semester begins in the winter and why it is called spring when we sometimes have to trudge through the snow, but perhaps that’s a topic for another time.

In preparing for the new semester, I looked back over the last three to see what I need to change and what I need to continue. Many of my students read my novel,That Ever Died So Young, and even wrote about it. In viewing the themes, I saw that the students consistently came up with the same themes. I thought it would be interesting to make a list of them.

1. An alternative Program/Education for students who will not go to college or want something other than a college
oriented program.
2. Hit and Run: What are the ramifications?
3. Owning a business: Steps to take to Begin A Business
4. Edgar Allen Poe’s Poem, That Ever Died So Young. What did he mean when he wrote the poem? How is the poem the same or
different in the story?
5. What is the World of Fashion Designing Like? How can one become a fashion designer?
6. Physical Exercise: Running. How does one become a runner? What kind of diet and exercise regime should they consider?
7. Anxiety/stress. What is it? What causes anxiety? What brings on an anxiety attack?
8. Homeless and runaway Teens: How does a teenager become homeless? Where do they go? What does she/he do? Why do they run
away? What are they searching for?
9. How to cope with loss? A Comparison of how Scott copes with research or experience.
10. Safe Driving. What must one do to be a safe driver? Does safe driving only mean keeping yourself safe?
11. Bullying: Who are bullies? Why do they bully? What do they look for in those whom they bully?

What a nice surprise, huh? And here all along, I just thought I wrote a story. I tried to see which one was the favorite of each of the three classes. Bullying was written about in each class, but also many students wrote about loss, anxiety/stress and safe driving. Most of these were students right out of high school.

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My Class Did a Video!!!

During the months of September, October, November, and part of December, there was so much ugliness. We had people taking the lives of others, taking their own lives, ISIS, and there were still many shootings in colleges and universities. I asked my students what they could do to promote good will around the college campus. This video is what they created. I am so proud of that group for the work they did in the class and for this video. Everyone who watches this video, please remember that we are called to love one another and help each other. I challenge each person who watches this video to do what these students did.

pictures read.mp4

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