Of Tears and Smiles of Joy

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Photo courtesy freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Although I am normally of a cheerful spirit and am always trying to provide inspiration for others, today is a truly difficult day.

I have been working with physically/developmentally/emotionally challenged children and adults perhaps since the 1970’s when my younger brother came home from Vietnam, 100% disabled with a TBI, a spinal injury, and permanent PTSD.  It gave me the heart for this work and I have done it ever since.

It has been a good journey, and I am glad that sometimes in the face of tragedy, we are led to do things to help our communities and to help others who are going through challenges.

Yesterday morning very early, I got a call from one of my best friends who helped me to create and run our tiny, but successful nonprofit for some 15 years, providing exposure and professional development for physically challenged artists. Barbara Williamson is a paraplegic lady I met more than 15 years ago when she was looking for help to become a professional with her own business selling her fiber arts work.  It was natural that we came together to do the work we did with virtually no money for all these years.

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Barbara Williamson, “Buddha’s Garden,”

one of three pieces left because they are in an exhibit in another town

Barbara was shot point blank by a felon when she was in her mid 20’s; the bullet missing her heart by one inch, and leaving her permanently physically challenged.  She was approximately four months pregnant at the time, and miraculously, the baby was born early, but survived, so today she is a mother and grandmother.  All these years, Barbara has been a productive fiber artist, a writer, and she has contributed so many things for her community and for others in need.

The phone call was short; she, her caregiver, and her dog had to evacuate their town.  There was a huge fire coming up the mountain in the valley below her home.  As we tried to hear the news throughout the day yesterday and today, we heard that the hospital has been destroyed (all patients evacuated) two blocks from her home and the fire is blazing through the entire town.  My friend is presumably safe for they got out early, but all of her artwork and her sewing machine and everything else had to be left behind.  This is some 15+ years of art quilts that have been in many exhibits including international ones, and which we were preparing to sell on a website we were creating for her.

But they were more than just that.  They were the reason she has survived cancer, a burst artery, a stroke, and any number of other physical challenges through these many years.  There are tears in my eyes, but there is joy in my heart, for what is taken from us today will live on in our memories over the many years.  Perhaps I have impacted her life in a positive way, but she has brought so much more to mine.

 

 

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Ravioli, Ravioli . . .

 

Baby Annie reading a book

This photo is a baby girl named Anne, and it is some 76 years old approximately. Oh how she loved to be read to aloud, or how she loved to “read” her own little books.  There were never enough books, and her favorite person to read to her was her Grandma.  She was still sitting on the floor next to her Grandma in her rocking chair.  And Grandma would tell little Anne stories to capture her memory and to make her days memorable.

I dedicate this story to my friend Jennie, who teaches preschoolers at a private school back East.  Her favorite way of teaching is reading aloud to the students, something they all love so much.  She combines it with so much creativity.  One day, she was asking the children if they wanted to have a new story, and instead of telling one child who was talking a lot, she told the children if they wanted a story to say “Ravioli, Ravioli.”  It changed the climate immediately and all the children began to say that.

I am so glad I grew up loving to read.  To this day, it is perhaps one of my most wonderful adventures in life.  I hope any of you who have children will take the time to read to them as much as possible.  Let them pick out books from the library.  And teach them to ask in funny ways such as “Ravioli, Ravioli!”

Celebrating a Great Teacher

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The Learning Tree Classroom Door Decoration by Anne Copeland

In my lifetime, I have come across two teachers who have been the best teachers I have ever known.  The first one I knew as a young teenager, struggling through being a shy person, and one with very little to inspire me at school.

She was a young teacher, very pretty and she drove a red convertible Corvette.  We all loved her.  She would bring photos and newspaper clippings and jazz music to the classroom, and we would all write about it.  She taught us so many things just by all the things she was introducing to us.

After one of our writing assignments was being handed back to us with our grades, when she got to me, she whispered in my ear, “You are going to be a great writer.”  My heart soared and my paper had an A on it.  I went home smiling in my heart, and the first chance I got to have money to pay for it, I got some business cards that said my name and address with “Writer” on it.  How clearly and easily I had made that decision.

Years later, I ran into an old classmate from that class and I told her about how great that teacher was.  And then she told me that the teacher had told all of the young people in the class including my friend the same thing.  What a lasting legacy she left with all of us.  I wish I could ever find her again to thank her.

I have another more recent friend I met in an online correspondence course, The Silent Eye Mystery School, a fantastic class that involves Archaeology (one of my degrees), History, Philosophy, Psychology, Science and Spirituality.  Three wonderful people founded and run the course:  Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent, and Stuart France.  We have been traveling via posts all over England studying all the great ruins, the churches, the castles and the amazing forts.  All three of them have written lots of fantastic books.

In one of the posts online, I met a lovely lady named Jennie, and she is one of the most dedicated preschool teachers I have ever known. https://jenniefitzkee.com/author/jlfatgcs/ is her writing, and her blog is called “A Teacher’s Reflections.”

Jennie writes: “I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, The Read-Aloud Handbook because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.”

I would like to give each of these women some sort of certificate of honor if I could.  I have worked in the school districts myself, and I appreciate a truly incredible teacher as these two women have been.  Thank you both for helping to make a positive difference in young lives.