Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Picture

It was spring and the ice and snow were but a memory. Daddy came home from the service station he owned and announced, “Mrs. McCrary is having a photographer come to her home to take her picture; since he will already be in her home she said we could send one of the children for a picture. Let’s send the youngest.”

In our small town we didn’t have a photographer. The only person I had ever seen taking pictures, besides my brother, was a man who visited our school once a year and took pictures of all the students. So it was an exciting thought.

“Esther will take Mary Helen,” Daddy said. “The photographer will be at Mrs. McCrary’s home next Wednesday at 2:00 P.M.

Mother combed Mary Helen’s hair in pigtails. Then she crisscrossed them on top of her head. Lastly, she placed two little round combs right in front of the pigtails. My little three-year old sister wore an aqua colored taffeta dress Grandmother, an excellent seamstress, had made. With her white Easter shoes on her feet, we were ready to go.

We arrived at a beautiful two-story home. I knocked and was told to come in. Down the stairs walked an elderly woman. It was just like in the movies. She greeted us warmly and asked us to sit down until the picture-taking occurred. The furniture was dark and covered in flowers. A beautiful floral rug lay on the floor. I was in another world for a moment.

In a short while the photographer asked my sister to sit in a certain pose while I waited. He snapped the picture. And we walked back home. It was much later I found out Mrs. McCrary was the mother of the famous Tex McCrary, a WWII correspondent, and later the originator of the phrase, “I like Ike”.

My sister still has the picture.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Mother's Ears

A mother’s ears have to be attuned to many things. As she makes her way through her home she must listen for the timer in the kitchen, which will tell her the cake for the church dinner is done. She must also listen for the baby who will cry out when she wakes up from her nap. The mother listens also for the dryer buzzer, which makes an irritating sound when the clothes are dry.

Then there is the doorbell for it is the end of the month. The paperboy may be there to collect. The telephone may ring and remind the young mother of the cake she promised for the cakewalk to be held at the Halloween Carnival at the elementary school where her second grader attends.

If the door to the front bedroom opens, that might be the three year-old waking from her nap. The mom will need to rush over there to make sure she gets her to the bathroom before it is too late.

And before she knows it the young mother and wife will hear the back door open and her husband will come home for he will be through at work. Oh yes, the sounds a young mother must listen for, the sounds which signal a change or a need, call demanding her attention until the day is done. Then the house is quiet and few sounds, if any, are heard throughout the home. Time for the young mother to rest so she can begin the routine all over again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


When you become old and gray you start talking about friends you have had for thirty years. That is a long time and it is normal. However, one of my sons has had a friend for thirty years, and they are just both thirty-three years old.

I remember when they used to call each other after pre-school. “You’ve got a phone call, Matt.” The other children, all teenagers, would ask me who in the world was calling their three year old brother.

“I friend from school,” I answered. Well, the years have passed and the friendship continues. College is behind them and they are doing what they love in their respective careers in different parts of the country.

But thirty years is a very long time. Imagine when they are both in their sixties and they are in lawn chairs in the backyard belonging to one of them. Perhaps they will say to their grandchildren something like: we’ve been friends for sixty years. And the grandchildren will stand their amazed at a friendship that has lasted so long. It is a pleasant thought.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My mind is like a popcorn popper. If you will observe popcorn through a glass lid as it pops on top of your stove, you will not be able to determine exactly which kernel will pop open and turn into a lovely, edible morsel. Every pop is a surprise. So it is with my mind.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Sometimes you have to grow up to appreciate what you had as a child. When we were growing up in a small town in Central Texas, I puzzled over the destination of the cars that drove down the highway with such speed. Where were they rushing to? What lay up ahead in the big cities? What was there? It had to have been more interesting than the life we were leading. Everything was quiet where we lived and still, and it seemed nothing ever happened.

I remember a small town with graveled streets except for Main St. which had inlaid bricks. When it rained we played in the ditch in front of our home. We also caught crawfish after a big rain and spent afternoons playing with them.

We named our hens, at least one for each one of us. My brother Ben’s hen was mean and tried to peck everyone around. The rest of the hens sought nothing more than to eat, scratch on the dirt and move on and mind their own business. I was allowed to feed the tiny, yellow, chicks, a job I loved.

Betsy, our cow, docile as she could be produced a wonderful calf from time to time. Besides the fact she provided us with milk and butter, she was the most peaceful animal we owned.

I taught myself to sew and made my little sister several garments which she wore with pride. I also taught the two younger children how to ride my bicycle and trembled as they wobbled down the sidewalk.

Mama gave me free rein in the kitchen and I tried all sorts of recipes. Many failed as I didn’t know how to measure properly. Mother didn’t mind the failures. She applauded my efforts. In time I took Home Economics and succeeded in baking.
I also planted a small flower garden. Again, Mother praised my efforts.

I just didn’t know the quiet life we led and the simple activities we were involved in were so joyful and many years later would rush back into my memory bank like a sudden rain shower. And just like the rain showers that clean the air, those memories replenish my mind and make everything seem better.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Chess Game

The small student arrived at the elementary school with his parents who registered him. Larry behaved in an unusual manner, looking up at us and then hastily looking down as though he had offended someone.

His behavior was the same in the fifth grade classroom, which provided fodder for those students who pounced on anyone who was different. To make matters worse, he had difficulty reading. In the cafeteria where I observed so many students day after day, I noticed Larry ate alone. His classmates ignored him during this thirty-minute period, which was probably a relief to the self-conscious child. Meanwhile, we conferred with the counselor: how could we help this student?

A teacher announced: every Friday after school anyone who was interested could come by and learn how to play chess. Many students showed up, some to enjoy the cookies and drinks; others to play chess.

Larry turned up at the door one Friday where the teacher taught chess and entered the classroom reluctantly. The teacher greeted him in a pleasant and warm manner. Larry stayed and paid attention. Surprising his fellow classmates, he learned to play Chess. Very well.

I noticed in the cafeteria now his fellow students said to him, “Larry, sit down to eat with us.” They all sat and conversed in an animated manner.

One day in the cafeteria as they walked in a line a student said to him, “You can’t read.”
Larry looked at him squarely in the face and answered, “And you can’t play chess.”
I realized then Larry was going to be all right.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Speech

I assumed this reunion would be the same as all the others, but I was wrong.
This reunion was different. Tommy, a former classmate pulled me aside and said, “I have to tell you something.” And he began telling me a story about his life and where it had taken him.

“After I graduated I didn’t know what to do with my life. I used to walk by your dad’s service station, and when I did, he always called me over so he could talk to me.”

Your dad said, “Tommy, you must go to college. You can’t just do nothing. You have the ability. Go on and better yourself.”

“Every time I walked by his place of business he gave me the same speech. I knew he was right but I didn’t know how to go about pursuing such a dream. In time I went to Dallas, married and began having children.

“When my children started school the memories of your dad’s talk came back to me like a dream, and I said to myself…I didn’t go to college, but by the Grace of God my children will. I sometimes worked four jobs simultaneously, and I told my children, ‘Just go to school. I will pay the bills. All five children have gone to college and are in different careers. And it was because your dad planted the seed in my head.”

Like my father, Tommy has passed away, but I am sure he went straight to my father and thanked him for the good advice. His children will thank him forever.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


We’ve all read: If life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. Lately I’ve heard: If life gives you a lemon, throw it back and say ‘send something better’. If only it were that simple.

I knew a woman whose father abandoned the family, and the mother and children struggled for years. The result was a daughter who grew up to become an embittered woman. On the other hand, I met a neighbor whose father left the family and the mother and daughter suffered a great deal financially and emotionally, and the daughter came out of it happy and well-balanced. And I wondered …why the difference?

It isn’t what happens to you in life that determines your happiness, but rather what you do after something negative occurs that makes the difference in your life. It is how you choose to deal with the unpleasantness that results in your attitude.

And what is the element that helps or hurts the individuals who suffer? Both women in the above examples attended church and both had mothers who did the best they could. I think the answer has something to do with an inborn view toward things, some indefinable characteristic that tells you how to approach life. And it is a good idea to listen to that inner voice that tells us how to respond to unhappy events in a manner that will help us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


To believe in God, to care for your fellow man (I thought) meant everything would be perfect, and it wasn’t. So I reflected on this. Finally it came to me. To have faith, to think well of others, and to try to do the right thing doesn’t result in a perfect life. Rather, faith, action, and behavior help one to better cope with the life around us.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


This is an incredible story. I stood in my kitchen and suddenly I felt something coming on, not a bad feeling, an aura. I use that word because it was a most unusual and yet wonderful feeling around me.
I sat down. The world was silent except for the gentle sound of the motor of the refrigerator. There was a presence surrounding me. I felt wonderful, and yet I didn’t feel any of the usual earthly feelings: hunger, thirst, or satisfaction. I didn’t experience laughter or humor or physical pleasure of any kind.
Just the most wonderful, indescribable warmth, love, and comfort. That was it. I was thoroughly comfortable and felt safe with the aura surrounding me. After a few seconds or a minute or so, the world returned.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Large Family

Being in a large family is like living out in the world. For example, in a large family you don’t always get a name; you get a number. (I’m number six.) You don’t always get what you want. Sometimes you have to wear what someone has already worn. (Like buying a previously owned home.)
The teachers always ask, “You are so and so’s little brother or sister.” She thinks she knows how you will act. (Like in the world opinions are formed on where you come from.)
And when the oldest one leaves home to go to college, the others fight for the bedroom like people who fight for land. Also, when one leaves home, the things you leave behind are at risk. The aquarium might disappear from the table in the corner of your bedroom. Your posters might also be taken down. (You abandon a place and transients might take over.)
And when you return for Thanksgiving vacation and you take your problem to your mother, you may not get a welcome answer. (Like the United Nations who doesn’t know what to do with a country, errant or not.)
Yes indeed, living in a large robust family and trying to get along while learning to compromise is very much like adults living in the larger world. We have to get along, sometimes look the other way, and visit with one another from time to time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Caution: Under Construction

Years ago in a Vacation Bible School I heard small children sing a song, “Kids Under Construction”, a song in which they asked folks not to judge them for they were still in the process of becoming. They were kids under construction.
All of us are in the process of becoming. The amazing fact about this theory is that a young man and young woman choose each other as life partners, perhaps in their twenties, and are far from being that which they will become.
We are all under construction because a variety of outside influences affect us: death, unexpected money, children with problems, difficult jobs, etc. If both parties don’t recognize the outside influences and work to deal with them, death to the marriage occurs.
In one marriage between two folks deeply in love the wife studied to better herself. He refused to improve himself thinking he was fine as he was. Kaput went that marriage.
There was another marriage in which the wife became a high-earning realtor while the husband stayed behind and did not keep up with her either in ambition or in earning power. The marriage failed.
And yet, some of these young folks who commit do, in fact, grow into different beings and manage to stay together.
There is the young woman who began studying art and became a good artist thereby surprising her husband and friends. The husband appreciated her efforts, supported her emotionally and kept up with her intellectual growth.
In some marriages one of the parties develops a love of politics. It appears that suddenly one is catapulted on to the political scene. Quite a test, and yet some master the problems associated with a spouse holding public office, and they stay together in spite of the challenges. An accomplishment.
Yes, we are all still under construction.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The “C” word, compromise, is sometimes used to connote a lowering of one’s values. The meaning of the word in this context means that you might have abandoned your beliefs or values by agreeing to do something you would not ordinarily do.
The word, compromise, need not be an undesirable word. A situation in which two parties compromise or agree on an issue may well be a win-win: a result in which both parties can end up happy.
Compromise can be a successful strategy you may utilize in a variety of relationships: Mother-child; wife-husband; teacher-student; friend-friend; etc. A domineering member of a relationship coupled with a compliant party is doomed. Sooner or later the passive partner is going to abandon the relationship or be filled with bitterness from having been trampled over.
Even children realize when they have no input in a situation. Naturally some issues are non-negotiable. A small child cannot under any circumstances be allowed to cross the street alone. But a small child can be given a choice of this cereal or that cereal, this cookie or that cookie. Would a parent have an undesirable cereal or cookie in the home anyway? He has input into the decision and he gains self worth. The “do it because I said so” can’t be enforced all the time without some negative result.
In dealing with one another and attempting to make sure both parties agree to an issue, respect is the premise from which one works. Respecting a person is considering another person's feelings. And respect, as we all know, is something we appreciate from one another.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A hobby is a wonderful thing to have. You give yourself time to study in depth a particular area perhaps totally unknown to you. You read about it and look up pictures for additional information. You study it and finally you take the first step.

That is how I learned to knit. I was in a new city and knew very few people. I had always heard of knitting but it looked complicated. Well now I had time to tackle something that required time and study. I bought a book, knitting needles and yarn. And I stumbled and fell and tried again and failed again. But I never gave up. I discussed it with friends who knew more than I did. And I practiced some more, and I mastered it.

What this hobby gave me was information I did not possess. It also enabled me to meet people whom I might never have met, for we spoke a common language: knitting. I made gifts of some of my knitting. I did it for pleasure and also with purpose. I knitted while watching television, and on an airplane and in a hospital. My knitting started conversations, and I answered questions.

It opened another road in my life and it has fulfilled me in so many ways. Pursuing a new hobby is much like the famous line from Robert Frost’s Poem, The Road Not Taken, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Our family lived on Main Street in a small town in Central Texas. Highway 6 took Baylor fans east to A&M to see the two teams as they played football. The next year the Aggie fans drove west to see the Aggies and the Bears engage in a football game.
Sometimes we sat on the front porch and just watched the traffic, large trucks taking farm workers from S. Texas to West Texas. Other times we saw Greyhound or Continental buses drive by loaded with folks, and we wondered what their stories were.
One day there was a knock on the front door. One of my brothers and I ran to see who it was. We left the screen door latched as the man spoke to us. "Tell your momma I am hungry. See if she can give me something to eat." We closed the door and went to give Mama the message.
She spoke to the man and told him to wait. Then she returned with some food and handed it to him. "God bless you," he told her. The man walked off. My brother said, "Did you notice his shoes were held together with baling wire?" I said, "And his hat had a piece taken out of it, like a bite? And his face was dirty. His belt had lots of holes in it like he had to move it over and over to get it to fit." "Maybe he lost weight." My brother added.
Mother spoke to us both, "When you see a person who is hungry, feed him, for it might be Jesus Christ you are feeding." We looked at her. We knew what Jesus looked like for she had pictures on her altar and the Catholic Church had Jesus on a cross. It didn't make sense.
She read our minds. "And Jesus may not look like you think he does. Just remember to feed a person when he asks you for food. You will make Jesus happy."

"Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Matthew 25:40

(originally published in Lenten Booklet at Parkway Presbyterian Church 3-3-10)

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Death of a Hero

I just received the news. A hero has passed on…quietly and modestly, as he lived, a believer in God. A hero for us all.

Early on the morning of June 6, 1944 Roberto Martinez, a paratrooper from the 101st Airborne Division, with painted black marks under his eyes, climbed aboard a plane in England. In the dark morning as the airplane took him over the English Channel and into Normandy the Germans opened fire. “It was like Christmas with lights all over the place,” he said. The airplane kept flying until the men jumped out, one after another after another after another. Finally, it was Roberto’s turn.

“I tried to hide my parachute after I jumped. Everything was dark because they dropped us in the early hours and before the landings were to begin. I couldn’t find my cricket, that funny sounding thing that was to be used by the paratroopers to signal one another, but someone approached me and I heard his cricket.”

The invasion of France had just begun. Roberto Martinez along with all the other thousands of Americans began their heroic effort. And now his life’s journey has ended. May he and all the other heroes who kept this country safe from dictators not be forgotten.

A Buried Memory Rises to the Surface

A few years back I attended a school reunion. Since we attended a small school, students from various years of graduating classes comprised the attendees at the reunion. Among the attendants was a successful businessman. He pulled me aside to tell me a story.

“When I was in the first or second grade I went to school one day and some bullies jumped me. They were older and bigger, and they began to beat me up. After I was on the ground at their mercy, an older boy came by and seeing what was happening, told the mean boys to leave me alone. They walked off. I was so relieved and happy and still a bit scared. Well, we all grew up, including the bullies, and boy who made the mean guys get off me. I don’t think I said anything to the boy who saved me, but I never forgot the moment. One day I found him on the internet and I emailed him and finally, after about fifty years, I thanked him for saving me from that ordeal.”

I wondered why he was telling me the story. It was an incident I saw happen often as we waited for the school to let us in. I was a girl and was never bothered, but boys did fight and scuffle.

Then the businessman said, “The boy who saved me was your brother William. I finally thanked him properly.”

It was a wonderful reunion, a memorable one. A flower bloomed and thanks were given

The Inside Person

I know how my fifty year old friend acted when she was five or ten. I know what my eighty-five year old friend was like when she was a young girl, too. I wasn’t there to observe either one, but I know how they behaved.

How do I know that? I’ve lived long enough now to know that people do not change. I’ve seen my children, my neighbor’s children, children of friends, and relatives’ offspring grow from infanthood to adulthood and I’ve looked for changes, and they weren’t there.

Oh yes, you can see folks who didn’t have material things and now possess them. I’ve seen people who have acquired degrees they didn’t have. And I’ve seen people move from one part of town to another. And they didn’t change.

If their environments and possessions have changed what is it that remained the same? The inside of them, the characteristics, their feelings and approaches to life. If they were gentle as children, they are gentle now. If they were sensitive to other’s feelings, they don’t want to hear of someone cheating others. The little boy who shared his toys when he was five gives to charities now that he is a man.

The child who was concerned with herself, her needs, wants and desires, is an adult consumed with herself. The small girl who loved to be socializing with her friends is now grown and still socializing. The boy who fantasized about winning in games grew up and participated in sports. He is still dreaming of his team winning big.

Whatever it is that makes us what we are is there for the rest of our lives. We can modify our behavior, alter our lifestyles, acquire new practices, change our diets, etc., but the real inside person remains.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Something I Learned

This may be hard for young people to believe but…in the long run…looks don’t matter. Oh yes, when young, the boys are attracted to the cutest girls and the girls like the best-looking boys. Surprise: when you are mature, those attractions that pulled you like a magnet don’t have the same strength anymore, nor the same value.

So what are the attractions to one another or to friends when one becomes older? I am not referring to romantic relationships but rather relationships in general. People seem to be attracted to genuine folks, those who are honest in their actions, i.e., “I am going to call you.” And the person calls. “I’ll send you the article.” And you receive the article in the mail. Those earnest responses win votes and are remembered.

Also, a caring attitude always attracts attention. A friend tells me, “I know the child acts the way he does because of his home life.” I listen carefully and note my friend is not judgmental and really cares for her student. (I imagine deep in my heart I know that friend cares for me, too.)

Rational thinking and reasonable behavior results in admiration. “I need to think about that before making a decision. I want to do what is right.” The action that follows indicates good judgment. The listener or observer makes a mental note and it is positive.

As our teachers and parents told us: "Beauty is skin deep." They were right after all.

How do you pick your friends? And why did your friends pick you?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Confidence and Faith

They were about to announce the names of the winners. I sat passively with my team among hundreds of students. Of course I hoped they would win, but competition was so strong, I didn’t know if we stood a chance.

Our Odyssey of the Mind team worked hard all year with their two coaches. I brought them into the cafeteria for a thirty or forty minute work on a portion of their challenge. The part I worked with and their seven minute play would compete with schools from all over the region. It would be tough.

In the vast auditorium which was filled to capacity, we waited. One of our team members, a small, bright, boy asked me if he could sit in the aisle. “Well,” I answered hesitantly, “You can, but be careful you don’t get run over.” The child nodded.

“Why do you want to sit there?” I asked him.

“So I can be closer to run up to the stage when they call our school’s name,” he answered.

I sighed thinking…I hope he won’t be disappointed.

They called out the winners at the high school level, then the winners at the middle school level and finally the winners at the elementary level. “Schanen Elementary, Number One!”

The student sitting in the aisle ran fast and reached the stage before any of the rest of us. We screamed and jumped up and down and accepted the award. Our students yelled and clapped and the student who had been sitting in the aisle smiling confidently said to me, “I knew we would win.”

I should have known, also. Cheers for confidence and faith.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Most Important Day

I asked my middle school students to write an essay on the most important day in their lives. Some students wrote about their birthdays; others wrote about out of town trips. Boys wrote about sports events; girls wrote about meeting someone important. And so it went.

The most touching moment came when I read Clarissa’s paper. She told us the most important day of her life would be in the future when she graduated from high school. She said her father wanted her to graduate from high school because he had not been able to, and he wanted that experience for his daughter.

As I read her paper I could hear the young voice, “I want my father to be proud of me. I want to see his face as I walk across the stage. I know he will smile at me, and I shall smile at him. I’ll be thinking, ‘I did it, Daddy. I did it all for you.’”

As I read the last sentence my eyes released tears. Someone asked me, “Hey, Miss, are you crying?”

“No,” I answered. Perhaps I should have told the truth. The emotion I experienced in reading Clarissa’s paper touched me immensely. You see, I, too, was very close to my father, and I wanted him to be proud of me. When I read her paper, I realized I could have been that young girl many years before speaking the identical words.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bank Account

Being loved by someone is like having a bank account. You can place money in your bank account by showing love (kindness, good deeds) to your loved one, or you can withdraw money from your bank account by hurting the person you love. Only you know how to show love or hurt the other party.

If enough love is given the bank account grows and doubles and in a few year’s time, the account bulges, and both parties feel good about it. If, on the other hand, enough hurt is handed out, then the bank account dwindles until it becomes empty. Then no one benefits.

If only we had been more careful (thoughtful). If I had just not spent that last amount of money (last action taken) maybe we wouldn’t be in this fix. Maybe we would still be together. Maybe we could have even used the bank account for something from which the children would benefit (examples of love, respect). If only.

Have you checked your bank account lately? I know I need to get right on mine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


In a warm climate tulips, we were told, have to be tricked into thinking that winter is occurring. Thus, in October you place the tulip bulbs in the refrigerator for about six weeks, keep them there and then take them out and plant them. They will think winter has occurred and after being planted, in a few weeks the bulbs will push their way up through the ground and give you beautiful tulips.

That is what we were told and that is what we did. Except for one year when we didn’t buy bulbs and store them in the refrigerator and then take them out and plant them. Three tulip plants appeared one day sprouting up through the soft soil like three green knife blades a few weeks after some very cold weather. All by themselves. With no help from us.

Hmmm. “Oh yea of little faith,” a bible verse came to mind. Like the robin, the established first sign of spring, the tulips reminded us that a new season was coming whether or not we prepared for it. New growth. New hope. New opportunities and people to meet and love. All we have to do is go out there and look for the signs of a new season.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Brass Chalice

A small brass chalice type receptacle. I found it on my mother’s shelf after she had passed away. I brought it home and placed it on my kitchen shelf. After writing a note and leaving it on the kitchen I worried the note might fly off the table. So I placed the small brass chalice on top of the note.

The note reached my son who would arrive home from school before anyone else. The next day I wrote a note when I left for my teaching job, and, again, placed the brass receptacle on the note on the table. In time, like Pavlov’s dog, we all became trained and knew the brass chalice meant a note or a message for someone in the family.

And so we look for patterns in everyday living. If it happens a few times, then it will happen many times and you can expect it to happen perhaps forever. The mailman’s arrival can be a pattern. If he comes at 9:30 A.M for several mornings, it is probable he will come for months, perhaps years at the very same time.

Patterns are our guideposts, the things we look for when we try to make sense of what we are actually observing. And then we say, “Ah, there it is. Now I know what is going to happen next.” And that understanding brings us comfort.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


What does it take for a child to succeed in school? That seems to be in the newspaper often. People shake their heads and everyone wonders. Well, it takes a lot of things.

This is the picture that comes to my mind. A teacher leads-she has the knowledge and skills-the student moves himself along by working on his lessons and using his head and the parent is pushing, prodding, and encouraging the child/student. It is definitely a formula in which three parties are contributing to the success of a student. That is the general idea.

Now what does it take for the child to learn? Any new learning must connect to knowledge that is already there in the child’s brain or experiences, sort of like adding a link to a chain. I asked the students one day…How many of you have seen a car going down the street and the tires are shaking, sort of moving from side to side because they are not straight? (hands go up-I have. Me, too.)

Then how many of you have seen commercials in which the announcer says, “If you need your tires aligned, bring in your cars and we can align your tires for you.”
(hands go up-I’ve heard that. I saw that commercial.) I write align on the blackboard.

Align your tires means to make them straight so that if I say let’s align your desks that means to put them in straight rows. Understand? Like-in-a-line.

Today I am going to ask you to align your decimals in these math problems. What am I asking you to do? (Put the decimals in a straight line.)

That is right. If we are to work with decimals, they must always be aligned or placed in a straight line. Then and only then can we work a problem successfully.
(We went from the known-tires that shake-to the unknown-the term align.)

Teaching children using ideas or concepts with which they are familiar is another method of engaging them so you can teach them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Proud to be an American

We were at a large conference in Costa Rica with over 600 persons in attendance representing countries from Central and South America and the USA and it was our turn to sing a song which exemplified our feelings toward our country. Members of each of the countries involved in the ceremony were to do the same, sing about their respective countries.

We Americans stood up in our red, white, and blue outfits and sang Lee Greenwood’s song, “I’m Proud to be an American.” Naturally my eyes became moist as they usually do when I sing a patriotic song.

I thought as I sang…I am singing with my fellow Americans but I am also singing among my cousins or sisters because my parents were immigrants from Mexico and the Central and South American women have Spanish and Indigenous ancestors as I do.

I heard and saw the women from the various countries in Central and South America as they, too, sang proudly and with emotion. We had some differences among the countries, but I couldn’t help but feel, we were so alike.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010



Someone said, “A person is the sum total of his experiences.” And those experiences determine how an individual perceives the world around him or her. A perfect example of this were the answers we gave my three year old grandson while reading a story to him.

First the backgrounds
Mine: I had a bench stolen from my front porch. Also, I have had folks steal other things from me in a variety of situations. Now I am more careful with what I do and where I place things.

My daughter's: My husband always told the children to do their best in school because of the bad economy. Economy was not an isolated word to him. Bad economy were two words that went together, no doubt about it. The children were well familiar with the term BAD ECONOMY.

My son-in-law’s: He works with companies that invest money. Investments are his middle name.

And now my grandson and the story he wanted us to read to him nightly, “The Beauty and the Beast”. We took turns reading the story to him and every time we came to a certain point he asked the same question. The story went something like this: There was once a very rich merchant with a beautiful daughter…The merchant suddenly lost all his money.
When I read the part of the merchant losing his money, my grandson’s reaction: Whyyyyyyyyy?
My answer: Someone stole it.

The next night my daughter read the story and when she read the part of the merchant losing his money, my grandson asked the same question: Whyyyyyyyyyyy?
My daughter’s answer: Bad economy.

The third night my son-in-law read the story and when he came to the part where he read the merchant lost his money my grandson asked the same question: Whyyyyyyyyy?
My son in law’s answer: Bad investments.

So you see the truth of anything lies somewhere in our answers, but our answers are all based on our perceptions or on our own experiences. I guess we have to draw our own conclusions, again, based on our thinking.