Christmas Stories and Memories

Merry Christmas!  I have some bits of decoration out, enough to make me happy,  and I’m thinking of baking a little, maybe for Monday’s Story Swap at McClay Library.  In my teaching days, everything waited for the start of Christmas break — my cards were more accurately New Year’s cards.  The calendar really doesn’t matter as much as the sharing love.

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“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”  ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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When we were little, my parents put up the tree after we went to bed on Christmas Eve, for a magical Christmas morning surprise.  When we got older, we helped put it up, earlier in the season, but not TOO early.  Dried out trees are dangerous, and in that little house, the tree also made things crowded, but so very festive, in the front window greeting all who went by.  My favorite ornaments were the handmade ones and the glass icicles.  I remember one made at school, a little scene inside half an eggshell, with cut-outs from Christmas cards, a twig, and sparkles.

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Never underestimate creativity — and fie on those who say things like “You have too much time on your hands.”  We all have the same 24 hours per day and some use it to make beauty! . . . or at least attempt it . . .

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One year the gingerbread house would NOT stay up and the great-nephews were impatient to eat, so we declared it a FEMA site, decorated the ruins, and consumed the delicious wreckage.  Tasted good, but for eye-candy how about these . . .

http://www.cakewrecks.com/home/2016/12/11/sunday-sweets-a-gingerbread-jam.html

May all your holidays be bright!

Here are two stories from my dad and also some more from Chuck Larkin, who helped me put my dad’s stories together in little books.

http://www.chucklarkin.com/stories/Christmas_1.pdf

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Big Shot and Bingo Go Coasting

by “Daddy John” Fussner, collected by daughter Mary Garrett

One fine, cold day, Santa’s factory was running full speed.  Nothing went wrong, and the toys were coming into the packing room very fast.  The packers were working as fast as they could and were able to keep the supply wagons rolling.  Big Shot and Bingo were  pulling four or five wagons at a time behind their toy tractors.

The wagons were stacked high with bright packages for Santa’s sleigh, but before loading, they had to be stored in the big warehouse.  Every package had to placed just right so it would get put on the right load in the right place for Santa to get it when he came to  a certain boy or girl’s house.  How would you like it if your toys were put on the wrong load and ended up in some far-away land, halfway around the world?  It hasn’t happened yet, but only because Santa’s helpers know their job and try hard to do everything right.

With the toys piling up faster than they could move them, Big Shot and Bingo got a little careless.  They didn’t know that the Head Man Brownie had help coming.  Big Shot and Bingo started down the hill from the factory to the warehouse, each pulling four wagons.  Faster and faster they went, until they were going so fast that their feet flew off the pedals, and they were coasting.  When you coast down a hill with a toy tractor, and four loaded wagons are pushing you, you move fast!  The hill got steeper, and the speed got faster until Big Shot and Bingo thought they were riding jet-powered tractors.

Arriving at the warehouse, they zoomed in the open front door and zoomed out the back door just as fast.  They picked up more and more speed as they went further down the hill.  Most roads going down steep hills have a turn at the bottom.  This road had to turn to miss the big lake.  Big Shot and Bingo came to the turn in the road and went straight ahead, out across the frozen lake.  Spinning like a top, they scattered Christmas gifts far and wide over the slick ice.

About halfway across, they finally stopped.  Big Shot and Bingo looked at each other.  Without saying a word, they got off their tractors, and slipping and sliding, they started picking up the packages.  When they tried to move the tractors on the slick ice, the rear wheel turned, but the tractors didn’t move.

“Well,” said Bingo, “looks like we have to do it the hard way.”

Do it the hard way they did.  Eight wagons had to be loaded and pushed back up the long hill, one at a time.  Then the two tractors had to be pushed up the hill.  After that was done, the Head Man Brownie made Big Shot and Bingo unpack and repack all the packages without any help.  It was late, late at night when two tired but wiser brownies at last lay down to sleep.

Grumpy and his stable hands pulled the rest of the wagons with reindeer, and kept well ahead of the packers.  There was no package left in the packing room overnight.  Big Shot and Bingo learned their lesson well and are very careful at the jobs now.  Santa and the Head Man Brownie know that accidents will happen, and they are still well pleased with the work of their little tractor drivers.

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Big Shot and Bingo’s Tractors

by “Daddy John” Fussner, collected by daughter Mary Garrett

One day little Bingo and Big Shot, two of Santa’s little brownie helpers, were busy driving their tractors, pulling wagons loaded with toys.  Their job was to haul toys from the packing house to the big warehouse.  Little Bingo started to grumble about how hard it was to push the pedals on his tractor.  Soon Big Shot was mumbling, too.  The trouble was that little Bingo had seen a working model of a new tractor the Head Man Brownie was thinking about building.  It had a gasoline engine for use outside and an electric motor for use inside the factory and warehouse.

Big Shot and Bingo kept complaining until the Head Man Brownie just plain got fed up with listening to them.  “That does it!” he shouted.  “I’ve had about all of this complaining I can take.  You two go up and tell old Santa what your trouble is.”

Well, Bingo and Big Shot didn’t want to do that.  It’s one thing to complain to the Head Man Brownie, but it’s lots different telling Santa you don’t like something.  That’s sorta like telling your teacher something and having her tell you to go see the principal.  Well, Bingo and Big Shot kept stallin’ around like you do when you’re told to do something you don’t want to do.  But the Head Man Brownie is a lot like your daddy, and when he tells you to do something, you’d better do it, but fast.

Bingo and Big Shot went up to Santa’s big, big desk.  Old Santa looked up, and seeing Bingo and Big Shot, he said, “Is there something I can do for you?”  Well, Bingo and Big Shot stood there, first on one foot and then on the other foot, each waiting for the other to tell Santa.  Finally, Bingo told Santa what was wrong.

Old Santa has been around a long time, and he can pretty near tell what is wrong without being told.  “Well, well,” he said, “I thought your tractors were still in pretty good shape when I saw them yesterday.  Are they broken or worn out?”

“No,”  said Bingo, “we’ve taken good care of them.  Why, they are as good as new.”

Old Santa laughed and said, “Well, if there is nothing wrong with the tractors, then perhaps the drivers are getting old and worn out.  Maybe we need a couple of new drivers.  I’ll see the Head Man Brownie and ask if he has anyone we can use.”

“No! No!” said Big Shot and Bingo.  “We’re not old and worn out!  Why I’m bigger and stronger than I ever was.”

Of course, old Santa was just teasing.  He knew that Big Shot and Bingo were doing a good job, and he wanted to keep them on it.  They always took the loaded wagons to the right spot in the warehouse and always had plenty of empty wagons in the packing room.  It takes a long time for some of the brownies to learn where everything goes, and some can never learn.

“Well,” said old Santa, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do.  If you will make your tractors do until Christmas, then after the holidays, before we start up for next year, I’ll have the Head Man Brownie make some new tractors.  You two may have the first two he makes.

“What are you going to do with the old tractors?” asked Big Shot.

“Oh,” said Santa, “I suppose we can toss them in with the rest of the junk.”

“No you don’t!” shouted Bingo and Big Shot.  “You know that we don’t have nearly enough tractors to go around.  Many little boys who want tractors this year will have to take something else.”

“Yes, I know,” said Santa.  “Every year we build more factories and warehouses, but that old bird, the stork, just won’t let us catch up.  As much as I like boys and girls, it would sure help if that stork would take a six-month vacation, but that will never be.  He works twenty-four hours every day of the year.”

“Well,” said Big Shot, “why don’t you let us pick out a little boy apiece to give our tractors to.”

“O.K.,” said Santa, “if you can find two little boys that would like a tractor that’s been used in Santa’s factory, go to it, but if you don’t, into the junk pile they go.  We can’t have them sitting around in the way.”

So that’s how it is.  Do you think Bingo and Big Shot will find their two little boys?

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Father’s Day: Lessons and Love.

Verna and John Fussner002

 

Father’s Day ❤  Lessons and Love. ❤

A neighbor complimented me recently on the way I greeted his dog, back of hand presented for sniffing, and I thought of my dad, who taught us to do that and to approach new animals and new people with respect and friendship.  He and Mom also allowed us to enjoy and care for a variety of pets, including the mouse that Mom found in the bathtub and a baby bird my brothers found, and my brothers’ snakes, which did teach me not to be afraid of them.  A box turtle who spent one winter in our house would bite my mom’s toe if she hadn’t noticed it waiting by the refrigerator when it wanted to be fed.

Dad taught lessons at convenient teaching moments.  When a drunk neighbor shouted from the street for my dad to come fight him, my father told us that would be foolish, and then the man didn’t know what he was doing, and then moved us away from the front room to be safe.  Walking away from a fight as the sensible option . . . which is just what I did when dealing with a girl who was inexplicably eager to fight with me; I changed our route home, assuring my brothers that Mom would approve when I explained.  She did, and probably did “mom negotiations” to resolve the problem.

Probably the most important lessons had to do with safe driving and dealing with reckless drivers and other hazards. Dad would say, as an aggressive driver passed us, “Good.  I’d rather have him up ahead where I can keep an eye on him.”  He’d also hope that when the inevitable accident happened, they wouldn’t take some innocent family with them.  Dad never had an accident in all his years of driving.  I wish I could say the same, that we could all say the same.

It seemed nearly every year I taught at the high school we would lose a student to reckless driving, new drivers showing off new skills in new cars.  Our activities director recommended old, slow, sturdy cars for new drivers.  I shared with students that my dad had told my brothers he’d put a governor on their cars if he heard of them speeding, then wondered if that could still be done with newer cars.  “Oh yes it can,” said one young man, but didn’t share how he knew.

I remember family picnics at the Saint Louis Zoo, which has no admission charge, so everyone can afford to go. Dad used to encourage us to have fun rolling down a grassy hill, a fun memory.  When I mentioned it to Mom she told me that it helped us burn off energy while she and Dad got a little rest on a bench.  Parents have to be clever.

I don’t know if picnics are allowed inside the zoo now, but Forest Park has many open spots for gathering nearby, including the site of the outdoor Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

** Also remembering the sweet southern wife of the Prudential manager in Minneapolis, who explained how her fastidious husband came to be a willing diaper-changer of their three girls.  “I told him that I didn’t like diapers either, but I loved my daughter and wanted her to be healthy and comfortable.  I said I thought he loved her as much as I did, but if he didn’t, that was fine and I would do it.”   ❤

 

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https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/grandpas-young-uns/

Black-Eyed Susie’s Honey

One bright summer day, two pretty little flowers were standing in a field near the edge of the woods.  The flowers were Black-Eyed Susies, members of the daisy family.  They have a dark brown or black center with a single row of yellow petals around them.

One of the daisies said, “Isn’t this a lovely day, so clear and bright?  Look at the beautiful blue sky and the pretty white clouds.  It’s like a big ocean with lots of sail boats.  Oh, it’s so big and beautiful!”

“It’s nothing of the sort,” said the other daisy.  “The sun is so hot that it’s about to cook me.  I don’t like the blue sky.  I don’t like anything that’s blue.”

“Well, well,” said a little Jack-in-the-Pulpit standing nearby, “then you don’t even like yourself, because in a way you are blue except for your head.”

“That’s right,” said the shy little violet.  “The green color is made up of yellow and blue; so from your neck down, you are mostly blue.”

“Oh I don’t believe it,” said the second daisy.  “Besides, we were talking about the sky.  I don’t care for the white clouds.  I’ve seen too many white clouds turn black with rage and cry all over.  Just yesterday, I got all wet when a little baby cloud got lost from his mother and cried all over the place.”

“Now, now,” said Sweet William.  “You’ve sort of mixed things up a bit.  If it wasn’t for the crying clouds making rain and the hot sun making it warm, we couldn’t be here.”

“That’s true,” said Morning Glory, climbing a nearby tree.  “Everything and everybody is part of a big thing, and we all have our jobs to do and our rewards to receive.”

What is our so-called job?” Asked daisy number two.  “I can’t do anything with my roots buried in the ground and my head cooking in the sun.”

“Oh yes you can do something,” said the first daisy.  “You can look pretty for everyone to see, and you can make honey for the bees.”

“I’ll admit I’m the prettiest flower in the woods and I have the sweetest honey that ever was, but if you think I’ll have a dirty old bee walking on my head, you are badly mistaken.  I’ll give no honey to the bees or to anyone else.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Morning Glory, climbing still higher up the tree and opening more blossoms.  “I’m climbing as high as I can and wearing dozens of honey-filled flowers for the bees so that my reward will be big.”

“Reward, reward!” shouted the second daisy.  “What reward can you hope to receive?  You know as well as I do that all summer long, the bees will run all over your head gathering honey, the bugs and worms will eat your leaves, and then old Jack Frost will paint you so Old Man Winter can freeze you.”

“That’s partly true,” answered Jack-in-the-Pulpit.  “Some of us will die, but as a reward for giving honey to the bees, we will be given the chance to make seeds which will grow next year.”

“Oh!” cried the second little daisy.  “How foolish can you be!  I suppose the bugs and worms we’ve been feeding all summer will wade around in the snow, planting the seeds we leave for next year.”

“No,” answered the Morning Glory, “the birds will eat most of them.  You see, the birds must live, too, and they live on bugs, worms, and seeds, mostly.”

“Oho,” moaned the second little daisy, “so now we have to feed our hard-earned seeds to the birds.  After they get finished, what reward do we have left?”

“Now wait up a minute,” answered the first little daisy.  “The birds don’t eat all the seed.  Most of the seed is dropped on the ground.  When the birds scratch around looking for them, they bury many more than they eat.”

“That’s right, they do us far more good than harm,” wisely stated Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

“I care not what you say, do, or think.  I’ll not give any of my honey to the bees,” angrily shouted the second little daisy.  “Look, here comes one now.”  With that, she quickly closed her petals, keeping the bee away.

The bee flew to the first little daisy and took some honey, saying, “Thank you.  I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“What about us?” asked the other flowers.

“I only take honey from Black-Eyed Susies.  There will soon be other bees along for your honey.  Bye now,” said the bee, and away he flew.

The second little daisy refused all day long to give honey to any of the many bees that came her way.  Just about sundown, a little boy came along. Seeing the two daisies, he reached down and picked the second little daisy.  Walking along, he pulled the petals off one by one, saying, “She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not . .  .”

Steamin’ Storytellers on the Delta Queen

Steamin’ Storytellers on the Delta Queen!! July 24-30 2004

Meanderings by Mary Garrett

 

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What a wonderful step back in time!  The Delta Queen, built in 1926 (roaring ‘20’s) is quaint and charming, or as Moriah put it, cute.  The atmosphere is magical, service friendly and fine, and the river experience is so special.  We found ourselves getting up in the middle of the night if we heard the boat approaching a lock, just to watch the process — the technology at work.  This was especially tempting because the door opened right onto the outside deck, just a step out, and the river was there!  Sitting on the deck in rocking chairs or swings, just watching the world go by — and it did, a bit too fast.  At the end of the week (well, not quite a week, and was it ever a shock to realize that the fun would end on Friday, not Saturday — oops!), I found myself wanting more time to sit and talk with friends, more sunsets to watch, more classtime with Judith, more of everything!

Moriah and I dawdled on the way home, and she stayed an extra night at my condo, but it really is over . . . . sigh!  (Tuesday, 8/3 — looking at the paper I notice that part of the Ohio near Louisville is closed for lock repair and that 15 barges got loose on the Mississippi and closed two miles of the river, and I know I wouldn’t have picked up on those items before this trip.  I also note that an Underground Railroad Museum has just opened in Cincinnati, so we really should have stopped there to see it — or make a trip back sometime?)

Drive to Louisville

We began with a drive to Louisville (ˇ5.5 hours of actual driving, 7 hours total by Moriah’s calculations) — beautiful, with rolling hills, and not too eventful, except for the 30 minute delay when we exited at Sulfur, Indiana, for a rest stop which took us too far from the highway — no gas available, only a portapotty to use, and a wrong turn trying to get back to the highway — we’ll never stop there anymore (although the gift shop neighbor who gave us directions was very nice, and the response from the gentleman stopping traffic, “fixin’ the road, ma’am” was memorably short).   There was very bad traffic around Louisville (accidents on two of three major freeways).  I used my “Arlington Heights” trick, opening my window to ask the passenger in a big truck if I was right about which lane I needed for the airport.  Not only did I get the information, the driver held back to let me enter the lane in front of him.  Then a Prius merged in front of me, the only one I’ve ever seen on the road; we waved and gave each other thumbs-up.  Fun little club we belong to!

I left my Prius in long-term parking at the airport, getting wonderful advice (things to do in Louisville, directions back from Pittsburgh) from the driver of the airport shuttle.  We waited a long time for the Courtyard by Marriott shuttle, but remembering the traffic jam, we weren’t surprised.  This driver informed us of the horse statues around town, and later gave us directions to a camera shop to get help for my obstinate camera (but the shop had closed a year ago . . .)

We decided against rushing to connect with the Belle of Louisville, instead having dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then taking a carriage ride with a woman who knew all about the architecture (maybe because she was originally from Chicago, where they do love their architecture!).  She showed us many of the horse statues, and we saw more on Saturday with Mary Hamilton — Moriah counted a total of 61, all very different and creative. (http://www.gallopaloozaderbÎy.com/)

We did walk down to the water (and again on Saturday morning, to see the Delta Queen after it docked).   We also found time for a swim before sleeping, since there wouldn’t be a pool on board.  Moriah gave up a morning swim so we could seek camera help (finally bought a disposable camera) and explore Louisville a bit.  I sampled bourbon chocolates and bought some nice postcards — Moriah sent one home with a 34 cent Kentucky stamp I’d somehow not used yet.

Visit with Mary

Mary met us at noon, and we saw a bit more of the city, which is quite nice, I could see living there.  The Mayan Gypsy was closed (but we glimpsed the decor through the windows), so we ate at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, a visual as well as culinary feast (Mary has promised me the recipe for curried chicken salad).  Then with minimal paperwork, we went on board the Delta Queen, with Mary, who had seen it so many times but never boarded (apparently, they sometimes are quite rigid with security, so we were lucky) . . . dessert on board, some visiting, and then Mary’s name was called to collect her i.d. and go back on shore, so we waved to each other as she left, just like they do on the movies!

It was great fun meeting and visiting, and last night I finally told Moriah a brief version of Mary’s “inappropriate” “Susan Contemplates Murder” (in _Telling Stories: Fiction by Kentucky Feminists_), and made her laugh out loud.  I maintain that it has a wonderful lesson on maintaining independence, as does the curtain rod story!  It was too late and too dark when we passed the Storyteller’s Riverhouse Bed and Breakfast in Bethlehem, Indiana, so I’ll get a vision of that another time.  (Someone asked after Mary departed, “Wait, was that THE Mary Hamilton?” Yes, she was indeed).  We had listened to  “Stepping Stones” and “1000 Ideas,” so Moriah would know who she was meeting, and listened again on the way home, just for fun.

 

Saga of the Cabin (stateroom? closet?)

Get-acquainted meetings, dinner, and entertainment all went very well — we even figured out how to fit both ourselves and our stuff into the room (it helped that agile Moriah didn’t need the ladder to climb into the top bunk).  A running joke through the week was that various places, crew quarters on the historical tow boat, cells at the prison, were larger than the DQ cabins.  When we settled in for sleep, however, I found out that my allergies didn’t like our room.  I could breathe on deck, but not in my bed, and after three trips back and forth, I gave up, put on long pants and shirt, and returned to the deck.  It was too cold and windy to stay there, so the night watchman Gary found the mate, who suggested that I sleep on a couch in one of the lounges.  He brought me a blanket, turned out some of the lamps, and assured me I would be quite safe there.  One great relief to me was realizing that the problem wasn’t with the whole boat, just with the room.  I had been putting together mental scenarios to allow Moriah to enjoy the cruise even if I had to leave, and chastising myself for ignoring my allergist’s warnings about river cruises — but I really wanted to be with our great group.  Moriah postulated that our room was perhaps the one we had been told of that flooded when someone decided to hang clothing from the sprinkler head (don’t ever do that . . .).

The lounge was bright, but the sleeve of my Solumbra shirt made a nice blindfold, and I did catch some rest.  My new friends assured me that if Moriah awoke and began to look for me, all on duty would know where to find me.  Whenever I awoke, I’d stroll by the room to listen and look for any activity.  I also made friends with Susan from Africa, who was doing needlepoint in the front lounge, and saw the sun rise, surprisingly at the back of the boat, such are the twists and turns of the Ohio (heading East . . .?).   The beautiful sunrise was a nice bonus.

I also heard some interesting sounds, four knocks about every 30 seconds, as I tried to sleep in the lounge, and I saw a picture of Captain Mary Becker Greene hanging near my refuge.  She looked like someone it would be fun to know.  The ship’s info sheet the next day featured rumors that Captain Mary’s presence is still felt on the boat . . . perhaps looking out for a female passenger in distress.  Travis later helped me find more information on Captain Mary, one of the first female pilots of a riverboat.  She allowed no liquor to be served on the boat; after her death, that rule was changed, and the bar section was struck by a boat, the Mary B!

When the purser, Rebecca,  came on duty, I informed her of my troubles, and she very graciously arranged a new room.  I breathed well the rest of the trip (except perhaps during our tour of the prison) and felt much cared for as everyone involved asked almost daily if everything was all right.  Our porter, Aaron, when informed of  the reason for our room change, said that he wished they had awakened him (at 2 a.m.!) so he could have taken care of the problem then.  Bless his heart!  . . .all their hearts! ·  Everyone was gracious and wonderful, and we got to stay and enjoy a wonderful trip! (though Moriah claimed she missed the bunk bed — she had slept well there, only waking up when the alarm went off).   One other commendation for Aaron, Moriah’s little bear with the “I Love Camp” shirt disappeared.  We left a note for Aaron to keep his eyes open for it, and on the last day it showed up on her bed.  Clever Moriah decided to let the bear hold Aaron’s envelope — with thanks for finding her souvenir of camp.

The mythical 7th floor became a running joke after we distractedly gave our hotel room number to Shelby the first night at dinner.  We decided that was where all the other children were (Moriah was the only passenger younger than . . . 40?).  It featured an Olympic-sized pool, jacuzzis in very large staterooms, and any other amenity one could imagine.  We’re also inventing a story of Camp Bear’s exploits.

 

Workshops

Of course, the workshops with Judith Black were the highlight of the Storytelling Cruise, even though they had to be fitted in around other activities.  We began in the Texas Lounge — a bit distracting, with popcorn popping and drinks being prepared.  Judith demonstrated well how to cope with and incorporate interruptions, “No, there were no alcoholic beverages on the ark, drinking was one of the reasons for the flood,” and pantomiming during the announcements on the P.A.  She used biblical stories and showed how the story could stretch to include other possibilities, like Mrs. Noah, who doesn’t have a name (but now we know it’s Flo).  We storyboarded our own biblical stories, and then told the story based on the pictures, watching new elements emerge from our drawn versions.

We had the rest of our workshops on deck, with Judith performing in the hot sun and most of the audience cool in the shade.  It didn’t seem quite fair, but it was a wonderful setting.  I’ve used Judith’s Old Ironsides story “Hell for a Picnic” with my American Lit. classes, but it was so much more dramatic on the deck of a moving boat.  (I have made a personal pledge that all those wonderful stories and activities that have been eaten up by the MAP/NCLB monster will be restored to my lesson plans, and hearing Judith’s telling has strengthened that resolve).  She told us that historical stories have to engage the heart and imagination of the listener, and hers certainly do that.  We were right there with Barbara Fritchie saving the flag and spy Rose O’Neil Greenhouse outwitting Yankees with her charms (and her daughter’s warning, “Momma’s gone to jail” from the treetop).  Her story of the children pelting the British soldiers with cranberries was amusing — and we saw that stern British redcoat expression later in the Tecumseh play.  (I finished an apple hat on the cruise and gave it to Judith, but left the leaf separate, in case she wanted it to be a cranberry).  Charles shared a story of a nurse defying orders by burning unneeded forts to keep 4,000 patients from freezing in Nov. of 1863.

Bits from my notes — (better info at Judith’s site http://www.storiesalive.com)  Minorcharacters give more freedom to develop the story.  Illuminate a chosen vantage point — the audience enters the story through this window, and sees self reflected in the mirror of the character (traits we share).  The heart connects to the heart of the story.  Find a unifying theme, why you want to tell the stories (peacemakers in history perhaps?).  Dig for interesting details beyond the official records, like the fight for equality in the munitions plants.

Our final day’s workshop was on telling stories for children.  First, the journey from door (opening) to door (closing) must take the child from a safe place to a safe place, with adventure (empowerment) in between.  The character can be based on the child’s characteristics (what animal/plant/?? would you be?), with a name similar to the child’s (Solomon becomes Solhouse the Mischievous Mouse).  The day’s activities become an adventure, with the child’s talents (and suggestions) solving the problems and tasks.   Star of own story — memory and learning improve and so does confidence.  Stories to help cover curriculum —  Moth story teaches facts about butterflies and moths, plus lessons about being oneself, AND it’s fun!!  We did a group activity in which we drew a picture illustrating what we got from the week (mine was a kite — fly free — Leigh’s was a beautiful turtle) and used all the pictures to make up a story together — and it was a great story!

Moriah participated in parts of the workshops and caught most of Judith’s storytelling as well.  We listened avidly to CDs on the drive home, even enjoying the “Adult Children of Parents” — which I would have thought was too adult, but Judith, to quote a t-shirt I saw, “puts the fun in dysfunctional.”  “Glad To Be Who I Am” was labeled for ages 4-8, but we agreed that older listeners would hear the stories “on another level,” and they were fun!  We had listened to “Rosie the Riveter” “From Her Arms to His” on the way there — but they were even more fun in person.  One aspect I really liked was the use of song in the story — “Our Love Is Here to Stay” unified “From Her Arms . . .”  How did people travel before storytelling tapes?  Judith’s “Retiring the Champ” didn’t appeal to Moriah, of course, but I’ve found it a powerful, sad and funny tribute to a great woman, (and it brings sweet/sad memories of being with my mom through her final illnesses).

** 2016 addendum, wondering if Moriah, now a nurse working with elders would like Retiring the Champ.

Story Swaps

We had one official story swap, plus a small one organized at Sharon Thompson’s urging, plus telling on the bus after Tecumseh, plus I told “One Wish” on the deck to Anne and her mother — and I’m sure there were countless other unofficial tellings.  We have vowed that next time there will be more organization of swaps — it’s just so hard to organize around the ship’s activities.

Rosemary Potter had suggested a tandem telling based on the Three Pigs.  Moriah

and I had prepared by looking at some off-the-wall variations before we left St. Louis, and we organized our telling in several meetings on board.  (Rosemary, Jill, and Lisa had done a successful Cinderella story on the New England Cruise).  Rosemary’s new husband, Peter, agreed to play the wolf —  he is too funny!  We employed some piggy puns — Moriah’s violin shop was Fiddlesticks, and she did save the Pigavarious from the ruins — and allusions to other stories — the wolf came to my knitting shop dressed as a grandmother, wanting to knit a wool jumper (Peter the wolf in sheep’s clothing).  Rosemary’s ice cream shop served “The Trough” (inspired by the honeymoon ice cream pineapple served to Rosemary and Peter the first night), but the customers “pigging out” were interrupted when Peter “wolfed it down.”  The wolf found Rosemary’s documents and came on board, while Rosemary had to have Leonard’s help to get on board (as Leigh and Harriet had in real life).  Finally, Peter made a valid argument that most people present did like bacon, and since the crew had obviously been trying to fatten us up, we decided to make our getaway.  It was great fun!  (My librarian just gave me three pig puppets, one for each of us — I love my library!)

Pat Baker opened the first (and only official) session with a short story/joke about the little man with no “belly” drinking Guinness, plus the wonderful story of the emperor choosing his successor by giving all the children seeds to plant.  Marge Cleary shared memories of Baptist women and tight corsets.  Rosemary began our pig story while Moriah and I left so we could enter at the right time.  Then Craig told the story of “Slow Joe” who loved ice cream — too funny!  Harriet shared some family history around the St. Louis World’s Fair.  Peter told of his error in judgment driving his very fast car much beyond the capacity of the police to catch him . . . and remarkably getting away with it.  Charles shared another car adventure, on flooded roads, from his soon-to-be-published Never Mace a Skunk.  Sharon won my admiration with her harrowing story of riding a mule in the Grand Canyon.

When we had our unofficial gathering, I got my opportunity to share the “Worry Bundles/St. Louis Blues” story (which Leigh had never heard, even though she is the one who bought me the sheet music).  Rosemary shared the tongue-twister “Hightopper Mountain,”  and Charles followed with adventures hunting Civil War memorabilia on Rockyface Mountain, facing poison ivy and yellow jackets (and the important information that you need to bury yourself in leaves to avoid the yellow jackets . . . and a small branch of leaves, but not poison ivy,  over your head will keep away gnats).  Sharon told about staying at the Christmas tree farm with no electricity — what a trooper!    We invited all passengers to our activities, and some came.  I gave an NSN pen to one woman who wanted information on storytelling — I try to have one of those pens with me, as they have all the information and are not likely to get lost.  (Of course, I also gave out some of my cards — Dianne would be proud of me).

Food

The food, of course, was wonderful — and constant!  Moriah received extra special service, with Maurice fussing over her the morning after our late night out, “I’ll get you some hot chocolate and fix you right up.”  Shelby, the maitre d’, brought her some orange sherbet personally the last night.  It was a bit like the song from  Annie, “Please put us to the test/I think I’m going to like it here.”  Moriah became quite good at selecting and ordering, and was adventurous as well, trying frog legs, seafood chowder, fried oysters, and other delicacies.  We also found the chef to ask about the dessert she had circled in her brochure — Mississippi Mud Pie.  He said it wouldn’t look exactly like the picture (food cosmeticians, you know), but that it would taste as good as the picture looked — and on Wednesday night, the proof was served.

I made it a personal mission to sample all the bread puddings: bourbon, rum and raisin, peach & rum, raspberry & white chocolate, and chocolate chip with whiskey?  I missed the one night (apple & cinnamon?), and would be hard-pressed to name a favorite.  On the last night we picked up on the Ordis’ comment about “six-day-old bread pudding” and worked up a six-person performance adapted from the “Peas Porridge Hot” rhyme that we were very proud of . . . but which Ordis just ignored.  Moonlight snacks were welcome but not ostentatious, and included lots of yummy fresh fruit, including raspberries and blackberries!  Yum!  I do miss the luxury of those meals and that friendly service, though I’ve been compensating by visiting my favorite St. Charles places.

 

Cub Pilot Award

 

The Captain’s Dinner the last night was extra formal, so we dressed up.  Moriah wore her Captain’s hat from the river museum, offering to pose with people as the captain had at the champagne reception, no charge.  At the end of the meal, we were told to wait for special announcements, and one of those was the presentation of an official certificate designating Moriah as a Cub Pilot.  The captain shook her hand, and we started making plans to travel on Moriah’s boat one day.

Shipboard Activities

There was a wonderful variety of things to do (besides the obvious sitting and watching the river).   No one could, or should, do them all. We took a tour of the pilot house, at the same time as the daughter of a former captain, who declared Travis “the best riverlorian.”  We heard some extra inside stories, I’m sure — like the time the “can” fell from the smokestack, landing loudly over the crew quarters, and sending the captain and (a woman, but my notes don’t say who), “informally dressed” scurrying up to the deck, where they collided and started rumors of half-naked liaisons on the deck of the DQ.  We also learned that one does not want to touch the radar screen — so we didn’t.  We did go to the Engine Room, while it was quietly docked, and while it was noisily powering up to leave (but not too noisy, really a very genteel boat).   We watched the locking procedures, and got to see the smokestacks lying down to go under bridges (not as low as those in Portugal, though, so we didn’t have to lie down).

Musical entertainment was good (despite the lack of a trombonist for “Muskrat Rag”).  We especially enjoyed the Sing-along in the Texas Lounge (Marsh and crew were memorable for “Rockytop”) and playing the calliope — we have the certificates to prove it!   The calliope concert with colored steam (from left-over jello?) was exceptional.  One evening’s show managed to include salutes to every state, and of course, there was plenty of Dixieland.  One afternoon we  requested “St. Louis Blues,” which was played quite well, with plenty of solos and variations.  We decided Banjo Bob resembles Mel Torme, and “Hi, Bob” in addition to making a good Inspector Clouseau, bears a resemblance to the dance captain in “At Sea.”

Flying kites from the deck was perhaps the most fun — the calliope and the paddlewheel made short work of several kites.  Everyone was a child again for a while.  Moriah took hers onto the bank the next day, but we needed a bit more wind.  We played Bingo as well, but forgot to bring the duck call for B2 — nor did we win, oh well.  (The deal was, if Moriah won, she would give me back my $5).

The historical presentations were interesting.  Travis’ mountain man character, Ike, presented information on Lewis and Clark, as he pondered whether to go west himself.  I found it interesting, and Moriah made it a priority to hear the continuing saga.  Leigh debated his statement that Seaman belonged to Clark — I hope that issue gets resolved.  We neglected to do the Lewis & Clark crossword puzzle and were surprised to hear there was a prize — a piece of paddlewheel from the DQ — we looked for the hole, but couldn’t see it.

Mel Hankla, a very knowledgeable scholar (and collector of powder horns) presented two characters. The first was Simon Kenton Butler, who left home because he thought he had killed a man and survived on his own by claiming kin in various places and working a mill for a pretend relative.  He fought Indians and was captured and forced to run the gauntlet many times.  He allowed one old brave to stay with him, despite his bad behavior, “because I let you live.”  Leigh pointed out that he used his walking stick well as a prop.  (We saw more about Butler in the Tecumseh play).

The second was George Rogers Clark, older brother to William, embittered by war injuries and by unpaid debts owed him for the French & Indian War.  Drinking (really water and cola in that decanter) was the only way to dull the pain.  An older brother, forgotten in the glory of the younger sibling. . . .

Dark Rain Thom’s presentation was impressive.  Native American medicine “could cure our native diseases, but not the ones the whites brought.”  Indians wouldn’t sell food, as it’s a gift from the creator — holding back from others would be like feeding only some of the children in a family.  Water was clean, no need to purify it.  Justice — for murder, either kill in return, adopt to take the place of the one killed, or require a payment of wampum.  For gossip, two warnings and then death (story of feathers, to be placed on home of all to whom the gossip was told, then to collect them back to obtain forgiveness . . .  not possible — like the Jewish story of scattering feather pillow).  Living death was banishment.  She brought an amazing variety of artifacts to share, including a rock on a string, useful for hunting rabbits, but also, if a man tried to kidnap a woman, “if she didn’t want to go . . . .” (she wouldn’t).

All Ashore! (Shore Trips)

Sunday — Cincinnati (Porkopolis)

We hadn’t booked a tour, and as I was tired and we were moving, I opted for a nap and gave Moriah permission to explore the boat (or go ashore with storytellers, but I think they were all gone).  There were good reports on the outing, and Rosemary bought magnets featuring some of the pig statues, very witty.  If you want to see more,  http://www.bigpiggig.com/pigs/pigs.php

(By the way, just remembered to mention — this cruise featured the most relaxed emergency drill ever, put on a life vest and sit outside your cabin.  Leigh said she missed the whistle and light, but it was pointed out to us that if there really were a problem, they would just head for the bank — the same reason they don’t need a ship’s doctor, but they do accompany and properly fuss over a sick passenger, as one of our group found out).

Monday — Portsmouth — to Chillicothe

Resting well on Sunday was a good idea, as this was a long outing.  An hour on the bus brought us to Chillicothe for the outdoor presentation of Tecumseh!  I’m not sure about accuracy, but I can attest to energy, good will, and enthusiasm . . . and volume!   The backstage tour included basic theater terminology and some insight into special effects, like fighting, falling, blood, and shooting.  They use grass patches instead of paper, no paper mess, and during the fight scene, the female cast members, in army uniforms, fired the cannons.  (Storytell List members will be interested in the fact that loin clothes were worn, quite well, by many of the male “Indians”).

The autograph session afterward was fun — Moriah collected the autographs; I discussed the meaning of it all with cast members.  Little brother, the prophet, a crazy leader causing trouble (like now?) should have listened to his big sister — all would be better if everyone listened to the women.  We must settle matters between nations, make peace, so the young people have a chance.  Rain had threatened for a while, and we had joked around with the “Ain’t Going to Rain No More” song (from the duck on a second floor cabin door), but finally I seriously prayed for the show not to be ruined, and the rain stopped.  Hmm?  Of course, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  The young man I told this to said, “Thanks, I’m one of the crew that has to spread the tarp.”

The bus ride home was NOT dull — someone started storytelling in the back of the bus, and the time flew.  I had bet someone at supper that we could have our dessert on board (the doubter thought it would be too late and they wouldn’t feed us).  Of course I was right.  They wouldn’t let us go to bed hungry!!  Sharon had told a story of a talking clock on the bus, and as we were saying goodnight outside her door, the gentleman in the next cabin politely informed us of the time, so we stopped talking and went to bed.  Nice day!

Wednesday — Mutiny in Marietta

In fairness, Rosemary reported that our bus guide was very good once she got to the Rufus Putnam House where she quite ably pointed out features and furnishings.  On the bus, however, not so good.  The tour of the Fenton Art Glass Factory was interesting, if rushed — in order to spend time in the shop, one had to leave the tour halfway through.  I have to admit, though, that I was not sorry to leave the tour — the heat, noise, and smells make me sure that is not a career I want to pursue, and very few women work there.  I did shop a bit, though, some glass pieces, and Moriah and I each got a magnetic bracelet/necklace/whatever you want it to be.

Our moment of truth, and parting, was when the guide told us we didn’t have time to see the old tow boat because we had spent too long in the Ohio River Museum (she had allowed 15 minutes for each!) — I took my little stand, “We will see the boat!” and Moriah and I did a quick walk-through.  By then Marsh had determined that we could easily stay and walk back to the boat when we were finished, and we did.  We thoroughly explored that interesting W.P. Snyder JR, which had electricity way before most places, and mechanized systems for putting coal in the furnace.  I liked the speaking tube to carry the sound of the bells back to the captain.  The female crew, cook and laundress, shared a cabin near the captain’s so “no one would mess with them.”  The docent there was wonderful — “We like tourists!” (so even in tourist season, I guess they don’t shoot ‘em).  He walked us to the Campus Martius Museum, where we looked at displays on our own until a docent was ready to take us through the Putnam House.  It had been purchased after the fort was closed, and marked with numbers for disassembly and rebuilding, it was quite large and comfortable, and very beautiful.  There were numerous beds, including my favorites, trundle beds, because it was a very big household.

We got back late for lunch (but noted the Dairy Queen on shore as a back-up plan — DQ by the DQ).  No fear, food was found for us as soon as I mentioned that Moriah was coming as soon as she changed shoes — it’s good to have influential friends.  The only lunch left was fried oysters and shrimp, which I thought would be a stretch, but were really quite good.  We went back out to fly the kite, stroll a bit, and see the beautiful Lafayette Hotel — but no luck finding key chains for Donna.

Thursday — Wheeling, West Virginia, Moundsville Prison

I kept thinking of Sharon McCrumb’s novels and the statement that mountain boys can’t tolerate being locked up.  Prisons are such sad institutions, and I can’t really fathom the minds of those who have to go there.  The murals were interesting, a labor of love by the artists, and an expression of what they were missing — family, the mountains . . . even a big truck going . . . somewhere.   Inside a cell, with the doors closed, was an eerie experience.  Joliet is used as a training site for guards, which explains the “student parking” right next to the razor-wire-topped exercise yard.  It is also located right next to very impressive Indian Mounds, worth seeing for themselves.  We switched buses on this trip — the guide was terrific, but we wanted to be on the bus with the other storytellers — more fun!

We were very impressed with Oglebay Park, beautifully landscaped, with large swimming pools.  It was almost tempting to take an extra day on the way back  home just to stay there.  We were late getting back to the ship again (not our fault this time), but they still fed us, bless their hearts.

Friday & Saturday — Drive Home

Good-byes at the Airport in Pittsburgh were hard, as we really didn’t want to part!  I realized that I had no paperwork on a rental car reservation, so Leonard found an outlet and powered up his laptop; not finding the reservation, he made a new one.  We ended up with a Malibu at no extra cost because they had nothing smaller; I avoided tight parking spaces and did fine, and it did hold the luggage well. (A bit of sticker shock when I refilled it, though; the Prius made the St. Louis to Louisville drive on 8.5 gallons of gas).

The drive was easy, and we didn’t get lost . . . much.  We stopped at the Kruger Street Toy & Train  Museum in Wheeling, located in an old elementary school.  It was interesting and a good chance to stretch our legs.  Afterward, we passed the entrance to the Wendy’s for lunch and had to double back.  (Why do they hide entrances?  I guess if you live there, you know where to turn).   Later we stopped at a Perkins, for a snack and because it was raining hard, but they use latex gloves, so that was a waste of time.

We made it to the Louisville airport, turned in the Malibu, and shuttled to my car (Moriah bought a keychain at the airport gift shop for Donna).  The shuttle driver was a little bitty lady, but did her best to help with my big bag, and she gave Moriah a toy dog.   She also advised us the easiest way to find a motel for the night “easy on, easy off” — too bad we got lost from the motel trying to find Cracker Barrel (why do they hide the driveways for these places?) — good thing Moriah has a good sense of direction, and we did get back to the Country Inn, where the rooms were comfortable but the pool room had too much chlorine in the air, even for motivated swimmer Moriah.

The next day’s drive was also easy.  We considered a stop at the Evansville Zoo and then at Cahokia Mounds, but lacked information on proper exits, so we made a stop at Forest Park to ride the big carousel before it goes away.  It was a refreshing break, and we saw a bridal party join the line — photo op — obviously a marriage with a sense of fun.  Joy and Joe were off celebrating their anniversary, and the other kids were with their grandparents, so Moriah spent the night at my place, getting an evening swim and another swim the next afternoon, after dropping off film and library books and having lunch.  Joy picked her up about 5:30 and said she had missed her — I’m afraid I’m going to as well.

Notes — I tried taking notes on the Palm Pilot (perhaps I need more practice).  I switched to the Storyteller’s notebook from Jackie — she used a spiral spine on the notepad design, so the pages stay put.  It worked well, a good size to carry around, and the pictures and quotes inspire.  I’m thinking this might be a good item for workshops!!

Books recommended —

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Pigs Is Pigs

Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner

. . . and still reading The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter, and finding parallels to Dark Rain’s talk

Note from before the trip:

Nancy’s hanging fern had a nest in it.  We’ve been watching the babies.  Three of the birds flew the nest yesterday; one stayed in the nest.  Sam, Nancy’s Siamese cat (my “godcat”) almost got one.  He was a bit mad at us for not letting him “play” with them, but they were too cute!  (He does seem to have forgiven me . . .)

Chicken Salad, Lynn’s Paradise Cafe

Makes 4 cups

Whisk Together:

1 cup mayo

2 T. honey

2 T. curry powder

1/2 t. salt

Add:

2 cups cooked, diced, boneless chicken (about 1 pound)

3/4 cup finely diced celery

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup raisins, plumped in hot water for several minutes and drained.

That’s the recipe I was given several years ago, but it seems to me there

were grapes in what we ate, not raisins?  So, you may need to play with it a

bit, but the mayo, honey, curry, salt concoction will give you the curried

base we enjoyed.

Take care,

Mary Hamilton

The Sunshine Pump

When I taught in Jamaica, I encountered some fun language differences, moths were called bats, bats were rat bats, and moonshine was simply the light coming from the moon.  Much laughter ensued from my Missouri definitions.  A friend’s post today on Facebook reminded me of this . . .

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The Sunshine Pump

Seein’ as how Grandpa’s farm was in a narry valley ‘twixt two high mountains, he didn’t git much sunshine.  ‘Twas ’bout midmornin’ afore ole Sol could much moÊre’n peek down at the valley.

As the yars went by, they be more ‘n  more younguns to feed.  Grandpa ‘lowed as how ‘twould he’p iffin’ he’d put a windmill and pump on top of old Smokie to pump the sunshine down to his farm, which he did, and likewise which the pump did.  Things went right well for a couple or three yars, ’til one day the wind didn’t blow fer more’n a week.  Grandpa got plumb restless without the sunshine fer his crops.

Well sir, one morning he told his two fust born boys to take a couple of buckets and fetch down some sunshine.  Them mountins bein’ as high as they were, hit took a whole passel of climbin’ to git to the top.  When at long last, they stood at the very tip top, Eb cast an eye to the sky and said, “Zeb, look at that sun.  Hit’s half gone and none too bright.”

“Don’t fret ’bout that,” answered Zeb.  “We’uns is in the same fix an’ ah reckon ’tis no mind to no one nohow.”

Well sir, them two younguns filled thar pails and started down th·e mountain.  Zeb slipped and bumped Eb, and ah’m tell’n you all, they skittered down a sight faster’n they climbed up.  When at long last they rolled to a stop, thar be Grandpa lookin’ down at ’em and he twern’t smilin’ nohow.  Zeb got up and tole Grandpa the sorry fix the sun were in.

Grandpa howled, “You addle-brained young’uns, that thar sun you saw were the moon!”  With a howl and a growl, he yanked the pail outen Zeb’s paws and took a big swig.  Atter that he was smilin’ happy.  Yep, thar’s a mite bit of difference ‘twixt sunshine an’ MOONSHINE.

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Wrapping Up A-Z

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

Wrapping Up A-Z

I chose to blog on “Tales Out of School” because, eight years into retirement, I was feeling nostalgic about my teaching years.

I loved the opportunity to reminisce about teaching and my students. I can’t imagine what life would have been like if my wonderful kindergarten teacher had been less so.  No other work gave me the satisfaction of teaching, and no other work was as challenging, truly (to borrow from Peace Corp) “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

Storytelling became part of my life in connection with my teaching, and it made teaching much more fun and successful. I was disappointed that I haven’t done more storytelling, but then realized it had already helped me with the career that was my dream from the age of four. (I started kindergarten before my fifth birthday. I don’t think they allow that now). I had most trouble with V so did it last and a little late, but it did nag at me until I completed it.

I enjoyed this April A-Z Alphabetical Challenge even more because of my participation as a “minion,” visiting and commenting and passing along messages. I just barely scratched the surface of all the interesting blogs out there. It’s reassuring, as it is with books, to know that we will never run out of good reading. I also got some ideas for future blogging, on storytelling travels and maybe some family stories.

The end of the challenge coincided with the beginning of the St. Louis Storytelling Festival (and one stressful afternoon when I had to go buy and install a new router for my modem — thanks, Valnet tech. support for walking me through it). I’ll put in a bit of musing on the Saturday concert . . . just for fun.

****

Stories Saturday night were wonderful . . . and I made it home safely despite staying a bit past dusk.  
It was so good to hear Lynette Ford and Heather Forest . . . and just my imagination, or was there a love and marriage theme going through that concert?

Dinner at Spiro’s was wonderful, too . . . great conversation, excellent food!   
This interview with Jane Yolen was on NPR as I was driving to Spiro’s  http://www.npr.org/2015/05/02/401015636/author-hopes-holocaust-themed-picture-book-will-prompt-conversations

Dinner conversation included everything from engineering to students to stories (of course) to books:

Hinton’s _The Outsiders_ “Stay gold”

J.B. is a 1958 play written in free verse by American playwright and poet Archibald MacLeish   (Wiki info)
(I’ve requested it from our library 😉

Now remembering another . . . with a Garden of Eden theme
R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rosumovi Univerzální Roboti(Rossum’s Universal Robots).[1] However, the English phrase Rossum’s Universal Robots had been used as the subtitle in the Czech original.[2] It premiered on 25 January 1921 and introduced the word “robot” to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.[3]

Next Monday, 5/11, Story Swap McClay Library   – 6:30 p.m. Second Monday every month at 2760 McClay Road, St. Charles 63303
Join area storytellers Mary Garrett and Michael Bennett and others to hear and tell stories for all ages. Folk tales, personal stories, tall tales, myths — all welcome!

As for today, “May the 4th be with you.” AKA “Metaphors Be With You”   A super day have! ❤
http://www.cakewrecks.com/home/2015/5/3/sunday-sweets-more-star-wars.html

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Violence/ Values / Tales Out of School

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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

Violence/ Values / Tales Out of School

I found this one harder to write than I thought it would be, so it’s late and woefully incomplete, but at least fills the empty spot in the alphabet.

I tried to emphasize good values in literature and stories, and to show my students that they were valued, and was so glad never to witness much violence in school.

One of my first diagnosed ADD students was best reached by letting him help. Once I saw him after school, on his way to fight another boy, but when offered the option of helping his favorite principal put shelves in the locker of a favorite teacher’s daughter (whom he also liked), it was no contest . . . peace won!

A young man whose problems stemmed from mistreatment I’m not sure I could have survived needed escort from class to class because of fights. When no one came for him, and I had a planning period next, I offered to be the escort, which gave us a chance to talk. He said sometimes people just pushed him too far and he would get angry. I told him that it would upset me too much to have him fight in my room, so could he please just let me know, and I’d get him safely out of the situation. When tested, he did exactly that. There were a couple of other teachers who had won his confidence. We did our best to have one of us in the picture and he did his best to control his anger.

One student, convinced that I “hated” him, settled down when I took him aside, looked him in the eyes and said, “I don’t hate you. No one should hate you. You are a good person.” I added, “I still won’t let you disrupt class, though,” and he smiled.

Reading and hearing stories and writing one’s own can help see the world more positively. I left because of illness, but I was in a certain assistant principal’s sights. She had targeted specific people and managed to get rid of several, so my time might have been nearly up anyway. The situation inspired a short story, “The NCLB Murder.” (There were those who wanted to help with a real murder, but that’s just too messy, so I offered fiction).

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Zzzzz/Alarm clocks / Tales Out of School

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Zzzzz/Alarm clocks / Tales Out of School

Classes started at 7:25, teachers were supposed to be in school half an hour before that. Those early times were hard on all of us. One student failed American Lit. three times . . . all three times he was scheduled for first period. Why he wasn’t moved to a later class, I’ll never know. Another young man quit his late-night job at a filling station in order to pass and graduate. His father made up the monetary difference for him, a good investment!

Toward the end of the final week of my teaching career, I looked at my sleepy first period students, raised my fist in the air and vowed, “As God is my witness, I’ll never set my alarm for 5 a.m. again.” They clapped. I’ve kept that vow . . . well, mostly.
There was that one early flight to Hawaii, but I fudged and set the alarm for 5:05 😉

. . . Thanks to all who organized the A-Z Blog Challenge

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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

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