Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tips From My Mom #12

This year my mom turned 70!

She is absolutely beautiful but when she looks in the mirror she asks herself, "Who is this old woman looking back at me?"

The physical self does not match the image in her head. But, as Linda Ronstadt stated back in 1995;

"I'm 48 years old. I don't look like I did when I was 38; I don't look like I did when I was 28. It's got to be O.K. somehow. You've got to look in the mirror and go, 'This is reality, and it's all right.' I don't want to hide from that."

There is something to be said for aging gracefully.

My mom does not lie about her age because to do so would be a rejection of some part of herself.  Which year(s) are worthy of elimination?  Each experience has brought her to where she is at this moment.  They have made her the incredible woman she is today and are building the even more amazing woman she will become tomorrow.  Each day is important.

The energetic, playful child stays alive in each of us.  It is that essence that makes my mom want to dance when she hears the music of the 50s and 60s.  Elvis brings her to her feet and suddenly all those memories from her teenage years leap forward bridging the past and the present.  Music is a great equalizer.

I am 46 years old and to realize that it has been 21 years since my 25th birthday is shocking.  Now it is my turn to ask "What happened?" How is that possible?  I still feel young even if I don't look it.  But with another birthday approaching I deeply realize it is an occasion to celebrate. A time to cherish my past, recognize it, embrace it and be thankful for another year, especially in light of recent losses.

When I asked my mom for an ending quote for this post she said "I'm not going out without a fight".

Thank goodness!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Books of Wonder

Have you seen those illustrated posters with a reclining child peering into an open book and springing forth from the pages are fierce dragons, brave knights, waterfalls, pirates and all manner of magical creatures?

When I was a boy I used to love those images and the captions that read something like "Reading makes all things possible" or "Reading opens a world of imagination".

I felt like the child in that poster. I knew well the fascinating journey that reading engendered. The adventures stayed with me when I put the book down too.

My bed became a boat with billowed sail, like Max in Where the Wild Things Are, only if I stepped off my boat I would suddenly become engulfed in hot lava. My poor stuffed turtle, Myrtle (pictured), was sometimes made to test the temperature of the lava by selfishly sacrificing herself for the good of the crew. I usually let her live.

Or I could be a wizard of great power transporting myself to any place in the world with the simple blink of an eye.

I once tried to build a log cabin based on the description by Laura Ingalls Wilder in one of the Little House books. I learned about frontier life from Young Pioneers and times long gone by from Betsy and Billy .

I loved books, still do. The smell of them. The weight. The journey. I loved sitting in the back of my living room surrounded by my family who were watching television and talking while I turned page after page. Or going to the park with my grandpa, sitting under a tree with a book while he flew his homemade kites with my brothers.

All of this was running thorough my mind as I walked to Books of Wonder in NYC this past week. I heard about this popular children's book store but had never ventured over there. It was about time I did!

The store houses an impressive collection of old and rare books, classic picture books, modern picture books, sale items (50% off!) and original artwork (pictured blue horse & red bird from Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle).

They host children's book authors and illustrators for readings and many of the books are signed by the author/illustrator.

I became lost in the familiar titles and then lost again as I explored the newest releases. When I was approached by the staff for assistance "Can I help you find anything?", my smile and wide eyes let her know immediately that I had found my little patch of heaven (either that or she thought I was some nut who wandered in off the street).

I walked out wishing that I had allowed myself more time for this visit and with a list of books to recommend to our school librarian. If you find yourself in NYC do yourself a favor and stop by Books of Wonder - they also have a cupcake cafe connected to the store providing an extra enticement.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back to School

That gleeful anticipation of going back to school took a hit with the cloud of my friend James' sudden passing but the shiny, happy faces of little children offered a soothing balm.

And what shiny, happy faces!

With the arrival of each new student the commotion, joy and anticipation grew. We had a very busy morning of greeting parents and welcoming children into their new home away from home.

Each child brought his or her unique, vivid personality. There was the shy, nervous, cautious little girl who never ventured far from her mother while at the same time took in her new surroundings and eventually settled in quite comfortably.

There was the dynamic, energetic, musical and confident little boy eager to share stories of his summer, his skills, interests and family.

There was the equally confident little girl who immediately felt right at home and helped other students feel comfortable. She knew the answers to all the questions and was not at all shy about sharing what she knew.

There was the little girl who kept taking off her shoes.

There were the best friends who boosted each others comfort level as they gently glided around the room holding hands.

There was the boy who looked like he was on the verge of tears at any moment but never gave in to them.

There was the boy who wet himself and the little girl who threw up (poor thing).

And many others who helped complete our dynamic group of kindergartners.

They all made me smile and I am really looking forward to working with them this school year. Each year we count the number of school days with the children and as we march on toward the 180th day I grow sad that our time together is ending.

This was only day one and our journey has only just begun. Lucky me!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


When I was a student at The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute I had a horrible acting teacher who screamed at me because I had never lost anyone I loved. It seemed unacceptable to him that at 20 I had never experienced death.

Wouldn't he be pleased now?

I just found out that a good friend of mine has died unexpectedly. I am not even sure if I believe it yet. I called his number but he does not answer. And I feel stupid for not picking up the phone before this to say hello, sing a song or laugh about something only we would think was THAT funny.

I want to write more about James but feel exhausted. Better to drift off into slumber where this isn't true.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bimodal Bilingualism

This morning I "crashed" (thank you Connie!) the Fairview Learning Network's training at the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf in New Jersey.

It was certainly strange to be a fly on the wall and not an active participant in the discussions because, as always, I had a few things I wanted to ask/contribute.

However, it allowed me to really listen to the conversation and what struck me was the fact that all of us in the field of Deaf education are asking the same questions. And the academic geek in me became exhilarated to once again grapple with issues of language acquisition, bilingualism, reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing development and teaching methods.

A seemingly new phrase floating around out there is bimodal bilingualism (as opposed to "unimodal"). But this has only added to the confusion between language vs mode. Some use it to emphasize the fact that Deaf individuals communicate in a visual modality (American Sign Language - ASL) and read/write in English, also visual. Although there are others who would not agree with such labels.

There is no doubt that individuals who are Deaf are bilingual but there is debate in the area of codeswitching. Various researchers conceptualize codeswitching (CS) between ASL and English quite differently. There are even different names given to it depending on if the participants are hearing or Deaf.
  • Code switching with hearing signers (like Children of Deaf Adults or CODA's) happens when the participants stop talking and switch to signing ASL or vice verca. This accounts for a small percentage (5-6%) in bilingual pairings.

  • Code-blending which occurs when ASL signs are produced simultaneously with English words. For bimodal bilinguals this is common, accounting for about 95-96% of signs produced.

  • Code-Mixing is a strategy many Deaf individuals use to adapt linguistic resources to communication needs. Communication is the goal so any method that serves that purpose is utilized.
When pondering all of this along with the demands placed upon emergent readers and writers it is no wonder that there are struggles. The idea Fairview promotes is to develop understanding across languages through a clear knowledge of both. Once that happens teachers can explicitly teach techniques like bridging and chunking when there is not a word-for-word equivalent between ASL and English.

This is good stuff and I was happy I had the opportunity to pop in to join the conversation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Encountering Angels

It has been a month since I returned from my European holiday and still I am unable to capture in words the impact of the experience. I grasp the fullness of the blessing only to have it flit away as I begin to mold it towards some lucid, fully formed understanding.

There are elements of angels mixed with what Joseph Campbell describes as the hero's journey. An adventure that we all are invited to undertake, to become the hero of our own lives, if only we listen to and accept our calling without allowing our ego to interfere. We are prepared for and ready for the journey. If we were not, it would not present itself. All we have to do is commit.

Many people do not. There is fear, doubt and often seemingly valid reasoning to stay put, to linger close to home (not only in the physical sense), to comfort, to what is known. It takes some sacrifice to follow "the music of the spheres, the music we dance to even when we cannot name the tune" but though it we find bliss.

Those who do, shine.

To me, there are angel-like figures here on Earth providing examples of possibility, love and kindness. And when these 'angels' take you under their wing, share their experiences and struggles and shine that white light of love in your direction it changes you.

There are angels all around.

In Zurich, Switzerland I had the privilege to spend time with two brilliant angels; Cherie and Milud. The words of Joseph Campbell seem to be living within them as they understand and embody this statement "You may have success in life, but then just think of it - what kind of life was it? What good was it if you've never done the things you wanted to do in all your life?" When you follow your bliss, you come to bliss!

Cherie and Milud? They are bliss.

They examine and question. They cherish, love and care for one another. They have life in perspective. And it seems to me that with a strong foundation you can begin to share this love and gratitude with others. And, once again in my life, I feel blessed, humbled and grateful. I thank them.

Also, can you think of a better combination than spending time with angels who celebrate cocktail hour with you at 6:00?


Related Posts with Thumbnails