Monthly Archives: September 2015

Pope Francis

Pope Francis said, “Life is a journey.  When we stop, things don’t go right.” Well he certainly proved his belief in this statement when he graced us with his wonderful presence here in the States.  I tweeted a fellow writer in the UK and said that, “He has made America smile.”  I could have added the word, again.

After so many horrific railings and sadness in the daily news, the Pope’s visit was comparable to a gracious grandfather who gently nudged us back on track.  He subtly reminded us of all of the basic things that we were taught as small children such as ‘Mind your manners; be kind to others; say thank you; do good deeds; be respectful of your elders or help your neighbor.’

So many of us have lost our footings as we have climbed the economic and social ladders to what we perceive as success.  Consequently, we have become rude, abrasive and intolerant of each other.  Yet, this gentle Pope of the people reminded us that the planet belongs to all of us.  There is truly enough room and resources to go around if we share and do not hoard our possessions.

Pope Francis shared light and love and gave hope to the thousands who lined the streets and temples in Washington D.C, New York and Philadelphia.  People waited for hours and several people traveled many miles to get as close to him as possible.  Many did get a glimpse of the Pope in his mobile and saw him wave or speak, if they were really lucky.

For those of us who do not live on the East Coast, we still got as close as we could by hovering around the television set.  His whirlwind trip to America was like sunshine beaming down on a drying plant that needed some light.  And, then he added his precious watering by spreading words of encouragement which signaled that we should keep on keeping on, as we continue on our blessed paths.

Lynn M.                                                                            September 29, 2015

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Gossip!

whisper

Why do we gossip? It’s rather entertaining, I suppose.  It doesn’t require much thought and it’s exciting when the original is exaggerated and borders on the genre of literature called Tall Tales.

But ultimately, after the brief excitement of it all, we are left with a feeling of emptiness.  Somewhere deep in our Spirit, we know that we should not have engaged in such a low-level of communication.  We may have just contributed to minimizing another person’s worth and participated in character assassination.

And how much truth is involved in the whisperings and rumblings?  A Jewish Proverb says, What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.”  As adults, it is unbecoming when we are seen whispering in public places.  It is a sure sign that whatever we are saying probably should not be taking place and certainly not in the view of others.

Of course, there are distinctive places to spread gossip, but public places are rarely the best location.  Whenever I see adults hovered together whispering, I feel disappointed.  I guess it reminds me of school-aged girls and well, I simply expect more of grown-ups.  Errol Flynn said, “It isn’t what they say about you; it is what they whisper.”

Grant it.  I have gossiped, but I usually do it on the phone, at home.  And afterwards, I often feel bad after belittling someone else.  It is a depleting energy and it takes everyone down a notch.  I later feel that I should not have been drawn into the conversation and I vow to work harder on avoiding those pitfalls.  I have to remember when talking with particular people to be on guard or just keep the conversations short.  A Spanish Proverb reminds me that “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.”

We should look for people’s assets and focus on rectifying our own shortcomings, as best we can. If we look deep enough into other’s lives, there is certainly some admirable trait.  Perhaps, we can learn something, as we build our own lives to new heights.  This can strengthen our characters and make us less likely to jump on the bandwagon and say things that we may live to regret.  Though the author is Unknown, one quote reads, Do not repeat anything you would not sign your name to.” 

I have observed so many admirable people and noticed traits that I wanted to emulate in my own life.  I studied them from a distance and I believe that it has helped me build totem poles in my own life.  Tearing others down or destroying anything, for that matter, is rarely fruitful.  We should do as Walt Whitman suggests when he said, Be curious, not judgmental!”

Lynn M.                                                                                        September 27, 2015

Child’s Play

Years ago, I read a chapter on Children’s Play in an Early Childhood textbook.  Before then, I really had not thought about the importance of children’s play.  It is a much needed skill in socialization and it also gives the observer a peek into a child’s makeup and personality.

As I work with small ones, I have learned to monitor them and see how they are playing.  Are they being fair?  Are they sharing?  Are they being kind to one another? Or, are they saying mean things when they think no one is looking?  Are they cheating?

These things crop up quite early in children and they reveal a lot about that child’s characteristics or home environment.  We adults can see what is going on and we may try to redirect any negative behaviors as they interact with others.  We can only hope that we can make an impact and help them make better decisions in the future.

But, some traits are just there and they show up early in their lives.    Even as adults, some will lean towards making those same types of choices.  If we think of people that we have known for many years, we can think back to how they played when they were very small.  From that vantage point, we can compare how they interacted as a child to how they function in the adult world.  There is often a correlation.

I don’t think that children come with a clean slate, as some theorists once believed.  When we witness any disconcerting actions, we can talk, separate the agitators from the victimized and find better places for all involved.   We can also look for the positive aspects in each child.  There is some good in everyone.  Sometimes, we have to do a little finagling until everyone is in their best possible space.

But, play should be done under a watchful eye because as we all know, it only takes a minute for light mishaps to occur.  Most children will probably evolve into healthy, cooperative adults, but for those who stick out like sore thumbs; well, we hold our breath and hope that they will climb aboard the good train.  Yet, if we get some strange report years later, we may not say anything.  We just give a silent nod and say to ourselves, “Oh yeah, I remember how he used to play.”  Tsk. Tsk.

Lynn M.

September 25, 2015

Leaves!

“Leaves will flutter to the ground.
Colorful foliage all around.”

It’s here.  Autumn has arrived. Some people will travel to places like Wisconsin or to the New England states to witness the colorful leaves in all of their glory. They will go and snap pictures to document what they have seen, realizing that some years are more astonishing than others.

Leaves have always been of great significance to me. When I think of leaves, I think of Walt Whitman’s book Leaves of Grass. It is filled with wonderful and thought-provoking poetry and prose. He wrote on a variety of topics but I remember his poem, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.  He was referencing the death of President Lincoln which occurred during his lifetime.  It touched him deeply because Whitman had served as a Civil War nurse.  He had seen the horrors of the war and he was moved by his experiences. He found solace by putting pen to paper.

Also, in that hefty volume, he wrote the pieces called Song of Myself. He talked about honoring oneself and finding the beauty of self-acceptance. I would venture to say that he was one of the forerunners of positive thinking which teaches people to love and celebrate themselves.

I used an array of colorful leaves for the cover of my novella, A Golden Leaf in Time Revised. The leaves symbolize Phoenix’s transformation. She goes from being green which represents her being ‘in a pickle.’ She has a serious dilemma. As she evolves, the colors change and she is ultimately represented by a golden leaf. When she has reached this heightened state, she attracts someone who will play a major role in her life and bring her great joy.

Leaves. When I think of leaves, I think of the leaves or pages of a book. Each page offers something new as we seek to see how a story will unfold or as we gather new and wondrous information while turning the leaves of a book.

When we hear the word leaves, we may think of raking leaves in a back yard or walking along a path as we crunch the fallen leaves under our feet. We may think of collecting leaves for a science project or observing the beautiful deep colors of the leaves on a tree. Or, we may recall an illustrious storyteller like Whitman or turn the pages of a beloved book. Whatever image comes to mind, leaves will certainly makes us think of fall or autumn.

Emily Bronte wrote:
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.”

Lynn M.
September 23, 2015

Making Peace

When we make peace with others, it is equivalent to making a deposit into our personal bank accounts.  We are refilled with abundant light, energy and more love overflows from us.  It is like a fountain that continually pours out the waters of plenty.  There is enough.  There will always be enough because the source is forever being replenished.

When we let go of the bitterness and the acrimonious feelings from disagreements and misunderstandings, we feel as if a huge log has been removed from our shoulders.  We no longer walk around like Atlas, toting the world around and feeling bogged down by the weight of it all.

And why do we extend ourselves to those who have been unnecessarily harsh?  We do it because it is liberating.  We breathe easier.  Our shoulders come down from the unconscious hunched position.  We exhale more deeply.  We find our smile and lightness of Spirit again.  We laugh more and radiate as we realign ourselves with the joy of everyday living.

We have a reawakening and realize that it is not that serious.  Nothing is, really.  We may never have a full understanding as to why people make the choices that they make. However, the quicker we flick it off of our shoulders, the livelier our step will become as we move forward and distance ourselves from it all.

We can do a power walk, a sprint or even jog as we glide forward on the path that leads us to the wonderful things that lie ahead.  We can become focused on that beckoning finger and we do not have time to look back nor give our energy to the shadows of the past.

We simply smile and give thanks that whatever it was, did not break us.  We just ease on down the road towards our awaiting good!

Lynn M.                                                      peace             September 20, 2015

Thinking Allowed

What ever happened to quiet?  Remember the signs that read, “Quiet please!”  Yes, in this day of high-paced technology usage along with the ever-present cell phone, there is generally some noise a few feet away from us.

There may be the tapping of the keys on a laptop, or the rapid movement of the thumbs as someone texts, or phone ringers going off or beeps letting someone know that messages are coming in for them. And heaven forbid if there is a real cell phone conversation going on. For some reason, voices escalate while people are conversing on a cell phone and it certainly sounds that way to those of us who are close by.

Finding a truly quiet spot to really focus and concentrate can be a challenge in itself.  Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote in her book, Simple Abundance, “In the silence, she could hear herself think.” Chatter is so prevalent in this age of talk shows, that many of us do not know the true merit of silence.  Silence is still golden.

Even in classrooms where much of the learning is done through grouping and pairing, a little one- on- one is still highly beneficial.  That is the best way for students to discover what they can accomplish alone.  It is like learning to tie shoes. There was someone to help initially; but, eventually, it will become a personal endeavor.

It can be compared to taking the training wheels off of the bicycle.  The rider will have to learn to balance and pedal on two wheels and not on four.  Riding solo better prepares us to problem solve by ourselves.  It’s comfortable when there is another person to bounce ideas off of but there may be times when there is no one around to listen. So, the ability to be independent is crucial.

And that is when that quiet time comes trickling in through the window.  When the issues become really heavy-duty, the wise will turn off the radio; maybe the phone and yes, even the television. That is how real dilemmas are solved – in the silence.

We can truly hear ourselves think and some of those latent faculties such as reflection, analysis, synthesis and visualization will come rushing in to assist us on our path.  In the quiet, answers come.  In the quiet, great works of art are created.  In the quiet, we remember who we are.  In the quiet, we can become re-acquainted  with our most precious friend- ourselves.

Lynn M.

September 18, 2015

Reaping: A Poem

Folks, you reap what you sow,
Oh. Why don’t people know?

Minding others affairs,
Will cause unhappy snares.

Can’t answer your own call,
Nor able to stand tall.

The focus is askew,
Missing out on the new.

Yet, much could be achieved.
If we quickly, take heed.

Keep your mind on your own,
Tally the seeds you’ve sown.

Then, you won’t come up wrong.
You can sing a sweet song!

Lynn M.
September 16, 2015

Soothing Sounds

We are never too old to be soothed by read-alouds. There is something about the melodious sounds of a reading that quiets the savage beast within us.   The other day, I was working with a class of second graders who I had totally lost.  It was a Friday and they only had about ten or fifteen minutes left to the school day.

They were coming upon a three-day weekend.  The sun had just come out  after a heavy downpour.  And what  was I trying teach?  Math.  Yea, right.  It was a washout for me at that point. They were rolling around on the carpet, chatting with friends and sharpening pencils.  They had already checked out and I was about to lose it too, until their classroom teacher walked in and handed me a book.

I was reluctant to open it because I thought I could bring them back; but my better mind told me to open the book.  I had never read this book before so I was focused on the words, trying to make sure that I was saying them correctly.  I did not know the storyline, so we were being introduced together to Tom Rath’s book, How Full is Your Bucket for Kids.

In the story, a little boy named Felix is being mean to his younger sister and his grandfather tells him that everyone has an invisible bucket.  He reminds Felix that harsh words are like drips that empty the bucket or deplete us.  Kind words are like drops in the bucket which build our self-esteem and confidence.  So the class had to say either, drip or drop, depending on the words being spoken in the story.

But here is the thing. I was so engaged in reading the story that I didn’t realize that there were no sounds in the room.  I finally looked up and saw that the students were on their knees trying to see what was happening with Felix.  They were so quiet. It was unbelievable!

There is that beauty of the spoken word which is calming and it brings back the true of art of imaging.  My mother used to read Little Women to us when we were small, right before bedtime.  We did let her forget because we wanted to know what was happening with Jo, her sisters and the March family.

A good read-aloud helps us visualize as we see our own personal pictures.  Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook writes “A child that has been read to will want to learn to read. Also, it increases a child’s attention span.”

I thank the classroom teacher who handed me Rath’s book because it got their attention. I think it averted a mini crisis as we eased towards that wonderful sound of the dismissal bell.

How Full

Lynn M.

September 14, 2015

Tell it to the Gatekeeper Angel

I think that we should remember the Golden Rule and “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” This was originally posted in July of 2014.

Lynn M's Blog

angel

When you arrive at heaven’s gate,
Can you present a decent slate?

Can you show all you did to just help?
Or will you cry out loud and yelp?

When asked to present your personal case,
Will it be adorned with beauty and lace?

Or will you hang your head in defeated shame?
And look around to find others to blame?

Be ready for that great inevitable day,
Make sure you have many positive things to say.

4-24-14

Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

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Rita Felton-Mitchell, Author

Today, I am featuring author, Rita Felton-Mitchell.  She has answered questions about her book called Movin’ Up North which focuses on the historic Great Migration.

Movin Up North

Tell us about your book, Movin’ Up’ North.

This book is a dedication to all of the brave people who decided to make that journey to a “new land” in search of better opportunities for themselves and their offspring.  The impact that they made on the cities and towns that they migrated to are phenomenal and need to be known and appreciated. The Great Migration in many respects is equivalent to and just as important to this country as the immigration of the early 1900s.

 Our family moved from the South to Chicago during those historic years.  I found your book to be very timely and it reminded me of our family’s stories.  Why did you think it was an important story to share?

From my experience as an elementary school teacher to predominantly Black students, I observed that many did not know how significant the Great Migration was to American history and particularly to the personal connection to their background.

Who is your prime audience?

Young people ages 5-9

How can this story be beneficial to the younger generations?

I believe this story imparts a vital sense of pride to younger generations and can serve as a motivator to take advantage of every opportunity afforded them with an understanding that those before them made sacrifices in order for them to do so.

Why was Chicago called the Promised Land for those in the South?

Chicago afforded many oppressed Blacks opportunities that the South simply would not. Basic opportunities such as voting privileges, better jobs, and a decent education.

Tell us about Uncle George and his stylish clothes.  What type of work did he do in Chicago?

Uncle George had migrated to Chicago and would frequently visit his family “down South” sporting his fine clothes in hopes of enticing relatives to join him in the Promised Land.  In the book, he eventually opens up a shoe store, which could rarely be done during those times in the South by a man of color.

Where did your family open their first store?  Is it still there? 

Actually, my father’s uncles opened a small corner grocery.  I believe it was located near 55th and State Street. It’s not there presently.  The uncles migrated from Mississippi in the early 1900s.

How do you think Velma felt as she boarded the train in route to Chicago?

Velma, who had never traveled anywhere prior to moving up North, must have been anxious yet thrilled to be going to a place that offered such promise.

Do you visit schools or conduct readings in the Chicagoland area?  If so, how would those interested reach you?

I do a limited amount of school visits in the Chicagoland area. Interested educators can email me at movinupnorth14@yahoo.com.

Rita

Rita Felton-Mitchell is an educator and library media specialist.  She lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters.

Lynn M.

September 10, 2015