The Clock is Ticking…

H  ow did the holidays get here so fast?

A  few weeks ago we were eating turkey

P  retty soon the stores were filled with Christmas

P  iles of gift catalogs throughout the house

Y  esterday we hung the lights outside

 

H  ow will we ever be ready in time for Christmas?

O  n December 17th we are leaving for Germany

L  ots of things to prepare for our trip

I   f only the next few days would slow down

D  estinations: Berlin, Dresden, Weimar

A  lot of miles to travel to see people we love

Y  es, it’s the trip of a lifetime

S  ee you in 2016!

Teaching and Terrorism

Emotions and thoughts have been swirling through my mind since I heard about the acts of terrorism in Paris this past weekend. Paris is a city I love dearly, having lived there for over a year in the 70’s in my mid-twenties and returning many times to visit.

I first began reading about the banlieues (outskirts or suburbs) of Paris about a decade ago. This was not the Paris I first experienced. It had become a city of haves and have nots, with the native insiders living within the city and the outsiders/immigrants relegated to substandard lives on the outskirts of the city. These outsiders burned cars and trashed their neighborhoods as a way of expressing their frustration and anger.  Eventually things returned to the status quo and their frustration was forgotten.

This past year the news of the violence that took place at Charlie Hebdo, the French newspaper whose cartoons mocked the Muslim extremists, reminded us of that anger. The lives of several French cartoonists and journalists were taken in another outburst of hatred toward French culture. The world responded with sympathy (“I am Charlie Hebdo”) and a renewed vow to celebrate “free speech.”

But this past weekend’s events, in which local terrorists took the lives of over 100 Parisians, remind us again that this hatred is not dead. More extreme and widespread violence has just begun, and we are now wondering what to do next to contain or combat extremists throughout the world.

image

This is where teaching comes into the discussion. I am so proud of my profession; moreso than ever. In the United States teachers are the ambassadors of plurality, seeking to find ways to assimilate and educate our newcomers as they arrive at our borders and in our airports.

This is not to say that all teachers welcome undocumented immigrants and their families; prejudice and scorn often rear their heads in faculty lunchrooms. But even those who do not appreciate our tolerance for immigrants understand that our nation was built on their efforts and continues to flourish in many ways because of them. They also understand that building a wall is not the best way to solve the immigrant dilemma.  Supporting the assimilation of immigrant children and their families into our culture is how our nation will continue to sustain its principles of freedom and equality.

image

I have often questioned my own beliefs as a teacher of English to immigrant students over the past several decades. But I have always come to the conclusion that becoming more understanding of people from other cultures, while helping their children to become better educated and assimilated, is the only way to continue to build a foundation of trust and strength.

I am particularly proud of my fellow English as a Second Language teachers.  We are often not held in high regard in our own schools or communities because of the controversial work we do, but we are the best advocates in our educational system for making sure that all children have equal access to a good education. Education is terrorism’s worst enemy and the best weapon we have for preserving our values.

Back in the Political Arena Today

When U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the White House-hosted Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh in late October 2016, he closed by addressing his words to Silicon Valley types:

The final thing I’ll say is that government will never run the way Silicon Valley runs because, by definition, democracy is messy. This is a big, diverse country with a lot of interests and a lot of disparate points of view. And part of government’s job, by the way, is dealing with problems that nobody else wants to deal with.

Democracy is often messy. Yet out of the mess of the past month or so has emerged a victory for those who believe that the people of this country need to have all their health care needs addressed with the help and financial support of the government. I confess to being greatly relieved by this turn of events because a) it validates all the time and energy I’ve put into sending emails to local politicians; signing petitions; forwarding information to friends; b) it means we’ve all made a difference through our efforts and that is so rewarding. If you are not of the same persuasion, you may not agree with the rest of what I have to say. But we do need to listen to one another, so I hope you’ll finish reading my post.

Today I got back into the political arena by attending a meeting of the Huntington Town Democratic Committee at a nearby American Legion Hall. On a Saturday morning, there were about 50 people in attendance; most of them middle-aged or older. I saw some of my friends from the senior activist group I’ve joined, the Indivisibles. I was happy to see my fellow super seniors out there beating the bushes.

Our local congressman, Tom Suozzi, showed up and gave a very motivating speech. He encouraged us with his words: “The challenge is not just to resist and revolt, but to organize.” He stated that he is very energized by visiting groups like ours because “this is the way democracy is supposed to work. For too many years no one was politically active or wanted to get involved.”


He explained that our challenge now is to persuade the 10-20% of noncommitted voters to “work with us.” And that is hard work, he said. And it takes time…a lot of time. We were given a handout highlighting the things the Democratic Party has done to improve life in our town. He outlined his plan for organizing. He is taking his District 3 area and dividing it into 16 parts; he will be holding a town-hall meeting in each of them to start the recruiting and organizing process. He emphasized that we have to start by working on the local elections and turn things around.

Another person spoke about canvassing door-to-door and how it’s actually very interesting work to meet the people in your neighborhood and actually talk to one another. It’s not easy, he said in agreement with our Representative, but it’s very fulfilling work.

One person from the audience suggested that the Dems now need to be more aggressive about their own agenda, since the Republicans can’t seem to come with one they can agree upon. I think she’s right, and I hope that is some of the work the Democratic Party is currently engaged in.

I took a couple of petitions for people to sign to encourage our NY State Senators to adopt a single-payer health plan which is called the New York Health Act. I will share them with my yoga class participants. When I got home I felt good to have been part of the action the past few months and to see such encouraging results. But the real work lies in the weeks, months and years ahead for all of us who are unhappy with the way things are.

My Friday: Quality Time Spent with Good Friends

Before I sat down to write my post today, I prepared dinner: Greek lamb burgers with yoghurt sauce, Greek salad, cole slaw and pitas. A family favorite.

Before I prepared dinner I stopped at our favorite Greek restaurant to pick up the Greek salad and yogurt sauce. We’ve been going to this restaurant for 40 years.

Before I drove into town, I spent an hour with a close friend of mine, the director of the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, catching up on each other’s lives. We shared a cup of tea and some cookies in the Sky Room, a lovely cafe housed within the Centre, named after my friend. A favorite place to visit.

Before visiting with my friend, I watched the movie, Jackie, at the Cinema Arts Centre, with another friend I’ve reconnected with in the past few years since I retired. We’ve known each other since our 20’s, but now we finally have the time to do things together.

Before we watched the movie my friend and I spent an hour having a “working lunch” together at the Cinema Arts Cafe. We are planning to launch a website together that promises to be a lot of fun if we can get it off the ground. (Can’t tell you yet what it is: it’s a secret!) We managed to discuss and agree on the working details of the site.

Before I went to the Cinema for lunch and the movie, I spent an hour or so at home visiting the TWT website, reading today’s Slices, commenting on them, and reading the responses to my own Slice.

Before I went on the TWT site, I forwarded an email to my husband asking him to print the trip vouchers that were sent to me today for our upcoming trip to Spain in May. This was exciting because the trip is starting to become a reality.

Before I went online, I sat with my daily morning coffee and perused the NY Times to see whether or not the ACA was repealed. The GOP plan was pulled because of a lack of sufficient votes. Nothing is more important than affordable health care for every single American. This is a great day for those of us who have been so diligently putting pressure on our congressional representatives. We’ve finally been heard!

Looking back over my day, it was a pleasurable Friday. I got to have quality time with two good friends; I saw a very interesting movie (Jackie); I had a nice lunch and an enjoyable cup of tea; and I will soon have a Greek dinner with my daughter and my husband…one of our favorites. Not bad for an ordinary Friday. I know how lucky I am.

Friday, What’s Not to Love?

Recently retired, almost every day feels like Friday to me. (Sorry, those of you who are still toiling in the vineyards.) The downside is that Friday seems to roll around all too soon; time flies at this stage of life. Here’s to Fridays…

F riday is the kickoff day to the weekend

R ediscover that energy that’s almost disappeared

I love going to Friday Happy Hours!

D o you have a Friday ritual that you enjoy?

A ll week we wait for Friday to come around

Y ou better make the most of it or wait another week!

Here’s hoping that your Friday will  be the beginning of spending your time in any way you choose for the weekend!

What Are You Reading?: My Book Spine Post

I’ve never tried this before, but I’ve always liked the ones I’ve seen on this site. Some people are interested in other people’s clothing, or cars, or houses, etc. I’m interested in what other people are reading, just as so many of you are. Here’s an assortment of what I’ve been reading for the past few months. Some I read right straight through; others I dip into occasionally for a change of pace.

Starting from the bottom:

Its’ Never Too Late to Begin Again, Julia Cameron
I first began reading Julia Cameron’s books in an artists’ book group about ten years ago. She’s all about helping people find themselves through whatever means possible and living their most creative life. Her preferred methods are through art and writing. This is her most recent book and it is about rediscovering your creativity in your more mature years. I love her writing; it pulls me in.

Deep Denial, David Billings
My first exposure to the author was quite recent when I attended a lecture he gave on racism in my town. I was deeply moved by this humble, wise, sensitive man, and his wife, who have devoted their lives to understanding the role of white supremacy and racism in American history and culture, and to sharing their wisdom. I hope to soon be participating in a book group based on this work.

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
I’ve read several of Gilbert’s books and am impressed by her dexterity as a writer. She can tackle any subject and pull you into her orbit. This one which has been so celebrated since it’s publication didn’t impress me as much as I had hoped. But that may be a result of already having invested several years in the works of Julia Alvarez, who covers similar territory. Nonetheless, I enjoy picking this up whenever I need a change of pace. She’s an engaging writer.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
I read the Kite Runner and really liked it, so I assumed I’d like this book, too. Instead, I loved it. It’s a no-holds-barred look at sexism in the culture of Afghanistan during the time of the rise of the Taliban. The story follows the intersecting lives of two women whose lives are pure drudgery and humiliation. Yet, they persevere. This is a powerful story: Not for the overly sensitive reader.

A Man Called Ove, Frederik Backman
This was a slow starter for me; I’m used to much more intricate writing which I love. But the simplicity of the story and the writing are misleading. By the end, I really felt the knockout punch of this novel, and you will too if you stick with it.

What Remains, a poetry collection by Orel Protopopescu
I recently reread this collection of poetry by an old friend of mine. I liked it when she first gave it to me. I loved it the second time. This is a deeply moving collection of poetic memoirs about the poet’s life and her family, told with great affection and awe for what has come before. Sadly, her beautiful second daughter, featured on the cover, is no longer with us, which makes the poems even more poignant.

LaRose, Louise Erdrich
I’ve saved my favorite for last. I’ve been reading the works of Louise Erdrich for perhaps twenty years. She’s extremely prolific and every book she writes is, to me, a winner.
I am deeply interested in Native American culture, and this writer/Native American woman (hard to say which comes first) weaves her storytelling in narratives that are spellbinding, cooked up with a pinch of Ojibwe language, magic, witchery, despair, ecstasy and plain truth. Her characters are unforgettable. I have just begun LaRose and am savoring every word because I know that the story will just become richer and richer, page by page. And I will fall in love with her all over again.

What are you reading?

Gardens That Will Take Your Breath Away!

So many Slicers, including myself, seem to have Spring on their minds…and for many of us that means G-A-R-D-E-N-I-N-G!

My slice today is short but sweet. I am sharing a website I found that features several breath-taking gardens from around the world. Be prepared to be bowled over by the beauty and originality of these gardens, as I was. They are each AWESOME!

Enjoy this virtual gardening tour!

https://www.greatvaluevacations.com/travel/unique-gardens-of-the-world?utm_source=gvv&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NEWS20170321

Oh, My Aching Shoulder….

I’ll admit I did something foolish. Three days ago I shoveled some snow and ice in our driveway in an effort to clear it away before the next predicted storm. That was a bad decision on my part.

I’ve been experiencing left shoulder pain for many months. Then my neck and upper shoulder on the same side began to hurt as well. The discomfort became so persistent I went to see a doctor and recently began physical therapy. After two weeks of therapy, I was slowly beginning to feel relief from my neck pain, and even occasionally from shoulder pain.

That is, until I shoveled that snow. I’ve been in such pain I couldn’t wait to go to my PT appointment today which I hoped would bring some relief. Instead, tonight it almost feels worse. I’m about to watch tv with an ice pack over my shoulder; I took a Naproxen a couple of hours ago. Even that doesn’t seem to be helping much.

Why did I do it? Because it’s frustrating to be disabled. Because I wanted to help my husband who wasn’t able to clear the snow away as he usually does due to bronchial asthma. Because I was acting on impulse, not reason. Because I’m human and make mistakes. All the above.

So this is all a preface to explaining why my slice today is
uncharacteristically brief. I am in pain…it’s making me feel very fatigued and I need to sit down and check out. So goodnight fellow Slicers. I’ll be back tomorrow, hopefully in better shape.

Today We Visited An Old Haunt: Northport

Cabin fever drove the three of us out of the house today. The air was brisk, the sun was shining, and we all needed an excuse to get outdoors. Our destination: Northport, Long Island. A sleepy little town where time has stood almost still. Northport is where my husband and I lived before we bought our first home in Huntington where we now live.

Northport is where our life as a family began. My husband and I shared an amazing apartment in a small complex built right along the shore of Northport Harbor. We had our own balcony and enjoyed watching the weather arrive from Connecticut for the three years we lived there. When I got pregnant we had to move; no children were allowed in the complex.

Interest rates were at an all-time high in the late 70’s…15% to 17%, if you can believe that. We searched and searched for a more permanent nest in Northport, but we just could not afford to stay.

We found a cozy two-bedroom ranch in nearby Huntington where we spent the next 15 years raising our two children. We moved to a bigger house when they were young teenagers and have lived here for almost 20 years. It’s been a comfortable, workable house for us and Huntington is a “happening” town. Some consider it the best place to live on Long Island.

But Northport still calls to us. We parked the car near the small park along the waterfront, bought some coffee and apple turnovers at the Copenhagen Bakery, and walked to a bench where we could sit and sun ourselves by the harbor.

I was reminded of just how nautical a place it is. After sunning a bit, we continue our walk along the harbor.

There’s a lovely dock with benches at the end of it where you can sit and look out at the mouth of the harbor, which is exactly what we did while we did some more sunbathing. Here’s my daughter with the dock in the background.

Northport is a doggie town. There are dogs of all sizes, shapes and colors being walked through the park. We used to bring our beloved yellow lab, Daisy, here because it is such a dog friendly place.

We left the park to walk up Main Street which used to have a trolley run down the street right to the harbor. The tracks are still in the road. Here are some of the facades on Main Street from earlier in the century.

We slowly ambled up Main Street with all the dog walkers and all the other people also out for a stretch of the legs. We ended up at a favorite place when my husband decided he’d like some New England chowder and a locally brewed IPA. Just our luck…due to the number of people out today they had run out of chowder. No problem…we settled for French Onion Soup and a beer.

As you can see, my husband is happy with his grub and his pint.

Enough of this flim-flamming. Time to head for home. We walked back down the street past one of my favorite shops filled with intriguing home decorating items.

Before we got back into our car, we turned to say one last goodbye to one of our favorite haunts…Northport. We even talked about the possibility of moving back there in a few years when we downsize. It was a perfect afternoon.