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End of the School Year Has Me Bringing Out My Old Yearbooks

11 May

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With the end of the school year coming, I have an urge to look at old yearbooks.  I have every yearbook from high school through college, as well as ones I mentored as a teacher, and now ones from the school where I work in a non-teaching role.

It is strange to see me as I age from 14 to now.  But one thing stays consistent, I was on the newspaper and yearbook staffs of high school, college and my year studying overseas.

It is strange when I look back and see where I began my interest in journalism and writing, to where I am now.   When I first started working on my high school newspaper, “Paw Prints,” and yearbook, Prelude,” at North Bergen High School, I never intended to go into journalism.  I wanted to be a psychologist.   I just enjoyed being on the school newspaper and yearbook, moving up to become one of the editors, but never vying to be editor in chief.  Just happy in the role I had.  It was fun, but not my main interest.

In college, at Drew University, I had the same view.   College was a bit disjointed and strange for me.   I spent my sophomore year in Israel doing a year abroad.  Most people go during their junior year, after they have made an impression on their friends and professors.

I went a year early, because a friend of my parents was on the board of the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program.  As a college professor, he thought being gone junior year was a mistake, and pressed my parents to send me a year earlier.  In 1974, it was unusual for students to go overseas to study at all.  For my parents to even let me go, and to go a year earlier, I think they were brave.

In any case, I lost a year of making a name for myself at the school and connecting with friends.  When I got back, it was a bit awkward, as I had to reacquaint myself with everyone and sort of start again in the school atmosphere.  Also, I was changed by my year in Israel, arriving there less than a year after the Yom Kippur War.  The me who left Drew in 1974 was extremely different than the me who returned in 1975.  I was resolute, braver and knew myself!

While I was in Israel, I actually worked on the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program yearbook. I am listed as one of the eight students on the editorial board. I have vague memories of working on it.  Being in Israel at that time was so amazing, I honestly feel as if a different person was there, each memory more of a dream then a reality.

When I came back, I had to decide what to do next.  I had to declare a major.   I now knew that psychology was not for me.  I had taken a neuropsychology class at Hebrew University where we went to look at brains and studied brain damage and its impact on a person’s personality.  The professor and I clashed. He believed left handed people were left handed because of underlying brain damage.  I am left handed.  I still remember him stating: “Ten percent of the population has brain damage, ten percent are left handed.”  I told him his logic was totally off!  No matter, it left a bad taste in my mind for psychologists.

I came back to Drew and decided to become an English major, with a minor in political science.  Now I was really busy.  I had to take many of the sophomore English classes, as well as upper level courses, so I could graduate in time.  I was taking 18 credits a semester.  I guess I should say, in time, for me meant early.  I wanted out of college.  I set a plan of action to graduate in 3.5 years.  I had spent three semesters learning in Israel.  The entire summer I had studied at the Ulpan learning Hebrew. That provided me with 12 credits.  I decided that by graduating early, I could save my parents some money…which I did.

Upon my return, I joined the newspaper staff, “The Acorn,” and the yearbook staff, “Oak Leaves.”  I wrote stories, worked on layout, and made new friends.  I was busy with all my course work…lots of reading and writing… and I also became a research assistant for Professor Chapman. (See link to earlier blog below.)

I was on a roll.  Although I still did not have journalism on my mind.

In my senior year I became one of the layout editors for the yearbook.  I let them know in advance that I would be gone second semester. But all went well…for a while.  I still remember my first indignant protest as a woman.   I was out of town for the weekend when the editor in chief wanted my layout pages.  Why he needed them, I don’t know. But he got my RA to let him into my dorm room and search it till he found them.

I was incensed.  The invasion of privacy was outrageous.  I when to the Dean of Student Life, Elynor Erickson.  I had an earlier issue with her my junior year, so we knew each other.  I told her what had happened and how furious I was about someone going through my things when I was not there.  She agreed. The RA got in trouble.  As did the editor in chief at the time. It was so wrong!  It still bothers me. But I had to stand up for my rights!

In any case, I do not have an official photo in the yearbook. I think he got his revenge.  Although I am in a photo of the yearbook staff and I am still listed among the editors.  Of course, it could be that I just was not there during the time the official photos were taken.  I have to be honest.

During that fall semester I was trying to decide what to do next.  My Dad would joke that he had paid for an expensive finishing school with my degree in English literature.  Also,  I really did not have a career in mind.  But I thought about journalism, and when I applied to graduate school, I included a master’s in journalism on my list.  I still was not officially going into journalism as a career.

However, at Drew, there was a January-term program.  You could take a one-month class over winter break. That year there was a class in journalism, and I decided to take it. I loved it. I excelled at it.  This class marked the start of my career path.

I had applied to three graduate schools: Columbia University and University of Missouri-Columbia for journalism, and Hebrew University for a degree in Jewish American Literature.  I got accepted to all three. So now I had a great decision to make.

Professor Joan Steiner, my advisor, as well as Professor Jacqueline Berke, who was my independent study advisor, seemed to think journalism was the best for me.   It also kept me in the country. They were routing for Columbia University. (Especially Professor Berke, as she was a Columbia graduate.) On another aside, I still have my independent study paper I wrote for my personal class with Professor Berke, “Alienation In th Novels of Saul Bellow.”  Originally I wanted to do Bernard Malamud as well, but that would have been a master’s thesis.

But I had another source of advice, Cecelia Whitehouse, my high school English and journalism teacher. (see link below.) She and I had kept in touch all through college. She was the one who had told me about the University of Missouri in the first place.  She thought getting out of the NYC area would be an eye-opening experience for me.  She was right!

The University of Missouri won out. I accepted their acceptance.

Eventually I taught high school journalism for a few years.  During those years, it was me who was the newspaper and yearbook teacher.  I often thought of Cecelia Whitehouse during those years.  I would think about how she handled issues with students. And I modeled my teaching on her.

I kept in touch with her and my college professor, Joan Steiner, for many years.  They both were positive and important role models!

My life was forever changed.  It started with school yearbooks and newspapers.

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/12/remembering-my-college-during-graduation-season/

 

The Purloined Blankets: A Winter’s Tale

30 Dec
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Blue purloined blanket and plaid purchased blanket.

With the bitter cold weather, I am thinking about my Dad and one of his lessons to me.

Always keep a blanket in the car during the winter months, especially when driving long distances.  His insistence about blankets used to drive me crazy.

My parents would come to Kansas to visit and not understand the Kansas winter mentality. Many people here do not wear winter coats most of the time.  Since we have a ‘drive up to where you are going attitude’ in the suburbs.  We really do not walk around that much.  We get into our cars and drive to where we are going, then run in.  So why wear a winter coat? A sweater is more than enough. I admit when I was younger, I would do the same thing.  But I always kept my children bundled up.

This attitude sometimes backfires on our children.  My god son went from the Kansas City area to Madison, Wisconsin, for college.  His mom suggested that he take long sleeve shirts and a winter coat up to college with him, his freshman year.  No, he did not want any of that.  Then came Thanksgiving break.  His main request was a hat with ear flaps.  He was so cold walking across campus.  Winter coat, gloves, scarf and long sleeve shirts returned with him to Madison.

My daughter went to college in New Jersey.  She also was impacted by winter in this unexpected manner. Walking across campuses really is different than Kansas ‘run in and run out.’  Her request that first winter was a coat that covered her tush. I quickly agreed to that request.

But back to my Dad.  When my family was young, we often drove to and from St. Louis in the winter months.  My husband’s family lived there. It made my parents nervous.  So they purchased a plaid blanket for my car in case the car broke down.  Having a blanket in the car was their idea of safety against the cold of winter.

He also purchased a car emergency kit for me that had a first kit, jumper cables and a flash light. Even though that kit is long gone, I have made sure we always had one in every car. That makes sense to me. So I never argued about that.

It was the blankets in the car that really drove him crazy. He wanted me to have a blanket for each person in the car. What would happen if we were stuck? We needed a way to keep warm. His passion became stronger after the time my husband, children and I got stuck in a snow storm on the way back from St. Louis.  But we spent the night in Columbia…at a hotel… I told him.   It did not matter.  He was now truly concerned. I  needed blankets,  now!

Dad did buy me another blanket.  But I have to admit, even though he was an honorable, kind and gentle man, my Dad had one flaw that I hesitate to tell you about. But I will.  He was a bit of a goniff, a thief!  He stole the blue blankets from airlines. Do you remember them?  We used to get one each time we flew…not any more.  But years ago, they always had a blanket and pillow on every seat. (His favorite airline blanket….Continental.  The airline no longer exists, except for the many blue blankets in my life.)

Dad would not use his.  He would bring in to my house still wrapped in its plastic bag. It made me crazy. When he flew to visit in the winter time, he often would come off the plane with a blanket. When he got to my house, he would pull it out of his carryon bag and quietly place it in my car.  I soon had a collection of blue blankets. During the winter, I kept a canvas bag filled with blankets in my car in case of emergency. Some purchased, some purloined.

We had disagreement after disagreement as the blue blankets continued to enter my home.  Finally my Mom had enough.  “Don’t tell him not to bring you the blankets.  The more you complain, the more he does it,” Mom demanded.  She was right, once I stopped yelling at him and arguing, he stopped taking the blankets off the planes.

Dad passed away in 2011.  I no longer worry about the blankets in the car.  Or so I thought.

My son’s girlfriend lives over an hour away. They drive back and forth every weekend. One coming here, or one going there.  It is so cold today and she has to drive home, so I asked, “Do you have a blanket in your car?” The answer, “NO.”

Oy,  I feel my Dad’s spirit rising up in me!

The plaid blanket my Dad purchased for me over 30 years ago is going into my son’s girlfriend’s car. My son will get the canvas bag filled with purloined blankets.  When it is this cold, you do need a blanket in your car for long distance travel!

As we enter the new year, I realized more and more that we do become our parents. My sister also has our Dad’s safety gene. She gave me a Vera Bradley blanket that folds into a pillow for Hanukkah. It is my new car blanket.

Wishing everyone a safe, warm, and happy memory filled year!

Remembering Our Bodies, Ourselves Thanks to an NPR report

2 Jun
My original Our Bodies, Ourselves Books

My original Our Bodies, Ourselves Books

Listening to NPR while driving in my car is a joy. Almost every day I find out something new. Today while driving I listened to a program about Our Bodies OurSelves, and how it was saved through internet crowd funding. Robin Young, of “Here & Now,” spoke to the new executive director, Julie Childers, who went to college in Tulsa, Oklahoma.   That made me laugh. The new ED of  the “Our Bodies Ourselves” organization went to college in what is now a state worse than Kansas. Ugh! Oklahoma has not been very good to women’s issues. Maybe that is why she is working on this important book.

In any case, when I got home, I pulled out my 1976, second edition copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and my 1978 first edition of Ourselves And Our Children.   There was still a paper napkin marking a spot in the book that I obviously felt was important.  I was 21, and a college junior when I purchased my copy.

For those of you who might not know, before Our Bodies, Ourselves there was a dearth of information for women about their own health issues. The medical field seemed to be ruled by men, who did not really understand women’s health issues. I, personally, had horrible time during my menstrual cycles. And was told as a young girl that it just me. And I should get over it.

Years later, when I was in my mid 20s, I found out I had endometriosis, which was causing my horrible periods. I only found out when I was going to an infertility doctor who, even though was a man, truly helped women.  (There were some!)

To be honest, now I only go to women doctors for my major health needs. I grew up in a time when men really did not get it!

It was Our Bodies, Ourselves that helped me. I know I am one of millions, who must thank the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and their work to help women learn about their own bodies, their sexuality and their health care.

Although I have not taken to the streets, I have been a strong supporter of women’s rights, and their reproductive rights, throughout my adult years. Our Bodies, Ourselves was my second awakening to women’s rights issues. My first occurred the day before my 18th birthday, when the “Roe Vs Wade” decision was announced.

The young women today have lived their lives not knowing the battles of the 70s and early 80s.   They do not have the workplace issues we faced. But most important, with the rise in so many more women doctors, they no longer face the condescending attitudes to our health care needs that we often faced.

I thank Our Bodies, Ourselves for this awakening of women’s health needs and the evolution of medical care.

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2016/06/02/our-bodies-ourselves

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Bodies,_Ourselves

 

What I Learned in My High School Typing Class Has Helped Throughout My Life

24 Sep

When I attended North Bergen High School in the 1970s, I took both a typing class and a short hand class. I did not want to. Typing and short hand classes were for the students who were not going on to college. And I knew that I would go to college. But my Mom made me take them.

“You never know when you might take a job that requires typing,” she said, and added: “These are good skills to learn.” I argued back, but obviously I lost.

My MOM insisted. So I took those two classes when I was a freshman in high school. I think one of the teachers was Miss Wirt. It was not the most exciting class for me, but by the end of the semester, I could touch type to the required words per minute without too many errors.  Being in class with good typists was a bit intimidating (As my friend Shashi reminded me). I will remind everyone that typing on a typewriter was much different than typing on a computer keyboard.  First there was the click clack of the keyboard.  You could tell how fast someone was typing by how quickly the clicks and clacks came together.

I did use these typing skills when I was on the staff of Paw Prints, the school’s newspaper. We had to type all of the stories into columns for them to be put into the layout and then copied and printed. I learned out to measure the space and fit the letters/words into the space correctly. A skill that came in handy much later in my life.

I have to say that my Mom was right. I will tell you that the skills I learned in the typing class have stayed with me forever. It is almost as if my Mom had telepathy and knew that eventually typing would be a much appreciated and required skill for college students.

Thanks to my typing classes, I excelled in my college and graduate school classes in the sense that my typed papers had very few typos and/or needed corrections. While I had friends who often had to hire someone to type their papers, I was set with my little typewriter.

In fact, only once in all of my undergraduate college career did someone type a paper for me. But there was a reason. My very last college paper at Drew University was due when I had an accident involving one of my eyes. After a long visit in an emergency room, I realized I could not type this paper since I had a large patch over my eye. Luckily for me, I had a great friend, Shari, who lived in the same dorm and was my savior. She typed the entire paper that evening in time for my morning class.

Later when I went on to graduate school, for journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, my parents bought me the most wonderful gift, a self-correcting typewriter. This was the best typewriter available with a second ribbon of white out, so you could just back up, lower the white-out ribbon, and then cover the error and then retype. Amazing what was wonderful in the days before word processors and computers.

My typing class made it possible for me to complete my master’s degree exam in plenty of time. We had to answer four questions and had one hour to write the answer essays. They had to be typed. So as we thought out our answer, we had to actually type instead of write. I came to the exam with my typewriter and ribbons and succeeded.

This typewriter was also an important part of my Master’s Thesis, as I could easily correct mistakes.     Writing a thesis before computers was a nightmare. You had to estimate how much space to leave for footnotes. Getting everything perfect took experience and spatial coordination. As I said earlier, many people had to hire someone to type their thesis. But not me, as I knew how to type and I knew how to make words fit. Thank you Miss Wirt! Thank you Mrs. Whitehouse and my Paw Prints work!

The short hand class taught me the basics of taking quick notes using some symbols. Knowing a few of these symbols came in handy when I did an interview. I could write quickly by not writing all the words and using short hand instead.   Thanks to my Mom insisting that I take this class, my interviews as a grad student in journalism were always accurate. Yes I had a tape recorder as well. But some people did not like to be recorded. So accurate note taking was important.

I will admit that I have forgotten most of these symbols. And when I look at short hand symbols today they look like hieroglyphics. But when I was in graduate school I was so happy that I had an advantage.

Although I do not use the short hand, my touch typing skills are something I use every day for work and for pleasure. I am using those skills as I type and write this blog!

With the advent of computers, everyone needs to know how to use a keyboard.   Today touch typing, or as it is now known – keyboarding — is a skill that children are taught in elementary school. If you cannot type, you cannot use a computer successfully. Although probably in a few years, people will just talk to their computers and to have their thoughts put down, just as we talk to our smart phones to type a short message to someone.

It is amazing what a good teacher can help a student learn. I went into my typing class with a chip on my shoulder, not wanting to take it. I came out with a skill that has been with me for over 40 years. What I learned in typing class has helped me throughout my life.

What a week! A Murder and a Campus Lock Down Impact My Life

5 Sep

I honestly thought that with my daughter living in Tel Aviv, Israel, that when the bombing and war there ended, I would be able to watch the news again and be calm when watching. But that did not happen.   This past week in the Kansas City area has been emotionally stressful.

On Tuesday there was a triple homicide in south Kansas City. A friend of mine said it happened on 107 and Wornall, I corrected her and said it was further south, because I knew the area well. Someone I knew lived there. But having said that, at the same time, I had no concern about this friend. It was not possible that something would happen to her.

On Wednesday, I found out that I was wrong. Another friend told me the horrifying news that the woman I knew was one of those murdered. We were in a store when she told me. I paid for my items, went out to my car and began to shake. I had just seen this woman a few days before at clothing store. We showed each other the outfits we were trying on. And gave opinions. Now she was dead. It did not seem possible.

I called another friend.   I needed to talk to someone before I drove; I was so shook up. And it was true. Thank you for calming me down so I could drive home.

Yesterday, Thursday, the college campus that my son attends went on lock down.   He was there in a class. When I saw on the news what was happening, I texted him. And yes he was on lock down.   He was okay.

His girlfriend also texted me to tell me where My son was and that he was okay.

But a few minutes later, my son texted these words, “I am very scared.”

At that point my heart broke and my panic started. But I knew I could not let him know that I was scared as well. And due to the shootings earlier in the week, I could not say ‘nothing will happen.’ I felt anxious.

I started sending him text with information from the news, from the police reports. I believe it helped calm him as there was no active shooter, just reports of a woman with a gun.  We could text, but he could not speak so I could not call him.

I texted him to come to our home immediately after he got out…not to go to his apartment. The campus was just two miles from our home.  We continued texting for two hours. But then there was silence.  I hate silence!

After a half hour of silence, during which I sent him six texts, he arrived home. He got a very big and long hug from me.  He then laughed and said,  “I have lots of texts from you!”  I glad my texting gave him some comic relief!

He told us an armed police officer in tactical gear came into their class and told them to barricade the room, turn off the lights, get on the floor and stay quiet, till the police came again. And there they sat for three hours.  Their professor gave them updates when he received them.

The police searched every building. When his class was released they had to go through other buildings. All students had to exit from the same place so the police could see them. And when he drove away, he had to stop so the police could look into his car.

We drove to his apartment and picked up his roommate, and we took the boys out to dinner. It was after 7 pm and we were now hungry.

My son told us what happened again during dinner. I think he needed to get it out of his system. He said, “I thought about every scenario that could happen.”  I told him that everyone was scared. As they interviewed other students they all talked about thinking about what might happen, just as he did.

After dinner, before my son left us, I again hugged him for a very long time. He told his Dad, “Get a crowbar!” I did not want to let go.

Now I am getting ready to go to the funeral of the woman who was murdered in her driveway. The week ends tomorrow.

I will go to synagogue and pray for the family of the woman who died. I will also pray and be thankful that the college campus only had an inconvenience and not a disaster; and that my son came home safely to me.

I never expected in one week that a murder and a campus lock down would impact my life!  I have always felt so safe in Kansas, but this year with the shootings at the Jewish Community Campus, and this past week, some of my beliefs and feelings of  calm have been impacted.

Remembering My College During Graduation Season

12 May

 

Walking through the balloon arch at Drew University graduation. This was in 2008.

Walking through the balloon arch at Drew University graduation. This was in 2008.

With the May graduation season, I always think of my own graduation. I graduated from college 37 years ago… I find that a bit frightening to admit. But it is true. I still remember the green and yellow balloons (In 1982 the colors turned to blue and green) that we walked under on our way to our seats. I still remember my excitement at graduating magna cum laude. I still remember that my grandparents and parents came to my graduation!

I loved my time at Drew University. It was the best place for me. A small liberal arts school, Drew is situated on the most beautiful campus. Large trees, quiet paths, lovely buildings, great professors all in one place, with easy access to New York City and an easy train ride home. I learned; I made friends; I found my place in life at Drew.

As an English major I had two professors in particular that had a major influence on me. Professor Joan Steiner and Professor Robert Chapman were my inspirations and both added much to my love of words.

Not only did I take Professor Chapman’s classes on literature, I also took classes on semantics and I was his paid assistant one year. He was working on revising his Dictionary of American Slang, and I helped. Dr. Chapman was well known for his dictionaries and thesaurus. He loved words and language. His excitement about words encouraged my love of language and words!

For the second edition of the Dictionary of American Slang, we had to find three references for each new word for it to be included in the dictionary. Each word was put on an index card…. no computers in those days. If we found a new word in a printed reference, we started a card with the referenced article. I had to do a lot of reading of popular publications: newspapers and magazines.

My biggest achievement was the word “carpool.” I will never forget the moment I found my third reference in Newsweek magazine. I was visiting my parents for the weekend. While reading my Dad’s Newsweek, I found it. I was beyond excited.

“Dad,” I said. “Read this page now. I have to take it back to school with me.” He didn’t even argue when I ripped the page from the magazine.

I remember racing to Prof. Chapman’s office in the Browne Hall with the page from the magazine in my hand on Monday. That was it. The word could now be added to the files for the second edition of the dictionary.   I then helped with writing the official definition of the word. I walked on air for days after that. The two of us were so excited. Carpool was officially a new word!

I know it sounds strange now. Carpool is such a common word. People use it all the time. Mothers and fathers plan carpools with friends in order to take their children to school and sports and afterschool activities. Co-workers organize carpools to work. But in the early 1970s it was a new word. And I helped define it for the dictionary.

I cannot remember the other words I helped uncover that year. It is the word carpool that forever stays in my memory. I get a moment of joy whenever I see the word in print or hear it used. “Carpool” is my word! And yes, carpooling is also my word!

Most important for me, however, was that Professor Chapman encouraged my love of words and added to my interest in language. His discussions on the leveling of language and how languages change stayed with me throughout my time in college, graduate school and in life.

Besides Professor Chapman’s support, I had the support of my advisor and mentor, Professor Joan Steiner. It was her encouragement throughout college that led me to become an English major. I had started my college career focusing on studying psychology. But after my first few literature classes, I realized that my love of literature was more important.

Joan Steiner and me graduation

With Joan Steiner as my advisor, I was able to focus on English during my last two years at Drew. But more important, she help me find what I really wanted to be, which was a writer. And with her help, I focused on journalism as a career and went on to earn my master’s degree in journalism.   I kept in touch with Professor Steiner for many years. Since I live in Kansas, our contacts were usually holiday greeting letters. But once my daughter also went to Drew for her undergraduate years, Professor Steiner and I had a bit more contact.

I miss her wonderful letters. And I feel blessed that she was part of my college life and that we had contact later in my life.

I so loved my time at Drew that when my daughter was a sophomore in high school, I took her to see the campus during one of our annual visits to my parents in New Jersey.   She fell in love with the campus as well. But not only the campus, the focus on political science and religion was important to her. (A Methodist seminary school is also situated on the Drew Campus.) When it was time to make her college choice, she chose Drew.

I am proud that my daughter graduated Drew 31 years after I did. She received her double major in Political Science and Religion. She participated in the semester at the United Nations through Drew and participated in many activities, although she did not follow my major and goals in college. I worked on the newspaper, the yearbook and was a member of the OC (Orientation Committee). She focused on political science organizations, mediation and policy. She even interned at the County Courthouse working with domestic abuse victims. But she walked the steps I walked and loved the school as much as I did.

Her graduation also included the blue and green balloon archway that led to the outside graduation behind Mead Hall. And she, also, graduated magna cum laude, wearing the cords from two honor societies. We did not have those when I graduated from Drew.

My parents were once again there, as was my entire family: siblings and their spouses, and all the cousins. My daughter, as the oldest grandchild, was the first to graduate college. And since my entire family lived in New Jersey, it seemed important that all be at her graduation.   Afterwards we had lunch with her then boyfriend’s family and friends. It was a wonderful celebration.

I love graduation. I love the transition to another stage of life. But for my daughter and I, I am so glad that we were able to experience college life at Drew. And share a graduation experience 31 years apart.

 

To see the beautiful campus go to : http://www.drew.edu/