Just a Bear in the Woods

Last night I came into bed late, as I often do, and my early- to- bed husband was chuckling, mumbling something to me about dreaming about his best friend Tommy who passed away in 2005. He told me the entire dream from start to finish and I will remember it. My husband was trying to help Tommy get home from the “hospital on the lake in the woods”and his friend kept hiding or getting stuckin a big hollow tree that had fallen down. This friend always had a wry smile on his face and it wasn’t clear to my husband if he was fooling around, being playful like when they were kids, or if Tommy was in some type of danger. Somehow he got stuck in this tree and was all covered with twigs and dirt. My husband was chuckling as he talked about it, for his friend was like a big hairy woodland creature,and I thought of how we process grief in different ways.

My husband is not a talker, and I am. I have talked and written about my grief of losing a number of loved ones, talked about it in therapy grief groups, written about it in my blog, written poems about it. Grief is an ever present companion for me, and I do verbalize it. I sometimes cry, I often talk to my grief.

My husband is very different in that respect. He’s never mentioned his mother, his dear friend, his brother, or any other loved ones who have passed. Not even his father who passed away not too long ago.

Do I dream about any of my loved ones or friends who have left? Rarely. Most of my dreams are still about trying to find a classroom or trying to find my teaching materials or about trying to find time to use the bathroom. (The teaching baggage is left over, even into retirement.). I wonder if other teachers dream about the bathroom!

I’m very touched by my husband’s dream of trying to help his friend in that big log. I’m glad he was able to chuckle about it. His friend did remind me of a big bear in many ways, and I could just see him in a big downed tree covered with leaves and dirt. I can hear his deep voice always making jokes. Tommy was the eldest in a huge family, and was the boss, the elder brother and always had what my husband called a shit-eating grin on his face.

And I wonder how our dreams will be changed by our shelter in place/quarantine of the 2020 pandemic? In the future, will we have many more dreams of hiding, being caught in tight places, of suffocation?

I continue to talk, write, sometimes even cry. My dear husband, the person I love most in this world, dreams about departed friends in big hollow logs covered with leaves, twigs and mud, and chuckling.

Thank you for reading.

(Image from the Siberian Times, public domain)

Trying to …

I am trying to remember to appreciate. To wonder. To see beauty.

I’ve begun to read again write poetry. Submit poetry.

All the best wishes to you all.

Brief Bio

laura gym picture    Hello, readers.  I never added a bio here, so–better late than never!

I am a reading specialist; reading, English, and ELL teacher as well as a poet and fiction/ nonfiction writer.  My graduate coursework is  in Reading, Education, and ELL.    I’ve attended many colleges and universities, including:

* Elmhurst College (Bachelors degree, English, Sociology, Psychology, Education)
* College of DuPage (English, Spanish, music, writing, and more–over many years–as part of being a lifelong learner)
*National-Louis University (graduate degree in Reading and additional coursework in ELL and Education)
*University of Chicago (creative writing and art)
*De Paul University (started a Business degree program–what was I thinking?)
*St. Xavier University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Benedictine University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Concordia University (graduate coursework in Reading)

I think I am missing some; needless to say, I am a lifelong learner.

I began my professional life working in publishing (minimum wage!), banking, and insurance–those student loans had to be paid off! Eventually I was able to pursue my dream of being a teacher and writer; by then I was well into my “late” middle age years. I never regretted this decision to leave a well-paid business job to enter teaching and writing. Not one regret.

Not too many years ago, I “retired” from full time teaching.  I now teach at the college level part time and write part time.

I love nature and people and literacy.  Lifelong passions!

I’m also a volunteer adult literacy tutor with Literacy DuPage.  I also volunteer with Elmhurst College and work with English majors to help them navigate college.

One of the most meaningful things I’ve done is to be a Mentor Coordinator for a high school with a significant gang presence,  matching youths who had been arrested for or received discipline warnings for in-school gang activity and then completed a gang avoidance program with adult mentors.  This mentor program helped our students stay in school.  For me, I used to wonder out loud: What am I doing? I have no training in this field? What if I mess up?  But I learned that I had considerable skills in interviewing people and predicting who would get along/ work well together.

I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for decades.  I am very fortunate.

Thanks for reading.

Laura

PS For a list of my publications, look here: Publications.

 

 

The Email that Vanished and Good Bye to a Best Man

About five months ago, I started this blog and got an email associated with the blog. At first, I added that email to my phone and my computer at home. However, since I only got spam- like email there, I removed that email many many months ago.

However, tonight I saw an email from the daughter of one of my husband’s dear childhood friends. She informed us that her father had passed away, and asked to contact her. My husband asked me to reply as soon as possible, so I went into the next room and logged onto the computer.

However, her email was gone. Completely gone. Absolutely completely gone. Not in spam. Not in deleted. Not in trashed. Not an archive. Simply nowhere.

Since two of us saw the email, I knew I was not crazy. I knew we had actually seen it. And I remembered enough about the writer to be able to find her by her career and institution where she works.

And then I added back the email to my phone for my blog, the blog here. And there was her original email, notifying us of father’s death.

Her father had been the best man at our wedding. Her father was a very dear dear dear friend to my husband, who is a quiet and gentle soul, and appreciated his friendship very much.

There is no way I should’ve seen the original email at all. It is not surprising that it disappeared; rather, it is surprising that I saw at all since it was not on my phone, that email, nor on my computer.

Sometimes glitches with technology can work out. I’m not going to make it anymore than that.

However, we had been wondering what happened to his dear friends since he didn’t reply anymore to our texts or emails.

And now we know. Now we can mourn him, and send our love out into the universe and to his family.

Sometimes glitches can actually help us.

Thanks for reading this, and I hope all the little glitches in your life help you.

Of Broken Hearts…a Moment of reality in the doctor’s office and more…

broken heart syndrome       I don’t know why more people don’t die of broken hearts.

I was in a doctor’s office today and heard an infant crying.  An INFANT.  I looked at my doctor and asked, Do you hear that?  At first, he kept his professional persona, as I know he needed to do, and then he said, I thought I could be a pediatrician until my wife and I had children…I could not…could not…

A moment of connection with the medical provider and me—neither of us wanted to hear an infant crying in a medical provider’s office….

I could not tell a parent, he started to say.

And I knew what he meant.

I don’t need to see this doctor for a year or so, so I was a safe patient to be real with… but we both looked at each other and wondered–how do people cope?

All the news about children and parents being separated at the border.  How do people survive?

I worked with someone whose infant was born with a stomach tumor as large as the infant himself…and his insurance company denied his claim as a PRE-EXISTING condition.

How does one survive this heart-breaking, life-breaking fact, that a BABY would be denied coverage? That this child was born with a life-threatening disease?

I have often wondered how anyone survives a war; I doubt I could, as I am very sensitive and I do not make quick decisions. I ponder, ponder, fret and consider, while the world has moved on.

In any case, I found an article from the American Heart Association about Broken Heart Syndrome.

This doesn’t answer the question of HOW do people survive? I don’t know. I really don’t know… how people survive war, catastrophes,  etc.  I admire anyone who does.

And I think we REALLY need to be kind to others, since we don’t know what people are trying to deal with.

Be nice.  Try to put yourself in their shoes.  Life isn’t easy at times; life can be so complicated.

But I think most people want to survive, protect those they love, and have a purpose in life.

With all of this in common, can we find a way to get along?

I hope so.

Thanks for reading, and wishing you peace and empathy.

Laura Lee

 

PS I wonder how many people *do* die of broken hearts, but it is called something else?  BE NICE.  Try to understand others.  Try to extend compassion.

 

Another fun site for learners, Thoughtco.com

Website      As promised, I’ll keep sharing sites I find interesting. Thoughtco.com

asserts its goal as lifelong learning, and that is why I like it.  If you subscribe to posts, each day you receive some interesting tidbit of information, ranging from science to homework, Monet to gas gauges. (I kid you not–how to fix gas gauges!)

I have no idea who told me about this site, but I like learning something new every day.

Why not give it a try?  And do you have any sites you like for learning something new every day?

Laura Lee

 

Part 3–Literacy can be the Bridge: in Praise of Public Libraries

cropped-be-creative-creative-creativity-256514      Getting to there from here? How does one change careers while still paying the bills?  This was a true dilemma for me, for there was no trust fund, no rainy day forgotten account, no family to turn to once I quit my job in business.

This is a nice problem to have, and I know that.  It reeks of privilege, and I know that.  Yet I was a healthy adult with so much energy, and I knew I wanted a different type of life than working in an office.  I did not turn to drink, but I turned to sadness.  I turned to tension. Those are not healthy.

Since I loved to read and write, I turned to the public library and was amazed to find the library had become a hub of activity.  The library was not a quiet place as I remembered it, but a place of reading groups, tutoring, computer training, and so much more–in addition to having quiet places for reading and studying.

I wonder if librarians know they have helped to improve the lives of many?  For that is what I saw daily as people looked for jobs, learned a new skill, found positive activities for themselves and their family.

I found the world of book discussion groups, and never looked back. Like-minded reading lovers–what a joy!

And more–the library was looking for literacy tutors and I wanted to become a teacher.  Would I dare to take that risk, even while I was so very sad in my everyday world?  It almost seemed too difficult to risk change and then have the change not work out.

Would I take the risk and make changes?

More to follow.

 

Creativity and compassion should walk together.

teach                     Creativity and compassion should walk together–what does that even mean? Thank you, students.

I had no business entering teaching later on in life, and certainly had no business teaching where I did for my first full-time teaching job. I’d come out of business, gone to graduate school, and entered teaching in my middle years.

Prepared, but totally UNPREPARED for the great needs of the kids. My kids. Yes, I found teachers tend to refer to our students as OUR KIDS, MY KIDS. We love them.

My kids taught me so much, and among the many lessons learned is that it is better to be compassionate than talented.  Does the world need another poet? Maybe, although I love poetry and would argue how important poetry is to the ever changing world. But does the world need better teachers? Oh, yes. (Poets don’t hate me. I love poetry! We need great poets of social justice and to keep poetry alive!)

I found my talents were challenged daily, hourly, even every minute I taught.  I grew so much as a person in patience, humor, and love.  Yes, love. Can we even use that word?

I found my talent for researching resources and creating lessons to engage even the most reluctant learners were challenged every day.

Some time I will write about what I lost by teaching where I did for so long, but for now I want to acknowledge something that has changed my life for the better:

Kiddos, my Kids, all the students even my college students–you’ve helped me become a better person. I had no idea the heart could grow so much. (Can we say heart?)  I had no idea how much my talents that lay dormant when I worked in business would be needed as a teacher.

I know I am a much better teacher than I am a writer, and I am okay with that.  What I’ve gained through teaching is immeasurable, even shocking.  I had not expected that!  I promise I will continue to improve as a teacher, even in retirement years.

Thank you, students past and present–I so hope you are doing well.  Thank you.

Is this what I had been missing?

So much beauty. Know how you sometimes remember where you were when you see a photo? I remember what I was thinking when I took this photo. I thought, is THIS what I’ve been missing for so long? As a child I was a veteran sky watcher/sunsets/sunrises/clouds already, then I lost it as I became a work, work, work type of person. Is this what I’ve been missing? Just some phone photos.

 

 

“Between Sunlight and Skipping” (fiction)

  •                          bike smaller

Between Sunlight and the Skipping

–by Laura Lee

(c) 2013

(Reprinted with permission; a version of this story was published  in 2013 at Staxtes.com) 

Last Sunday evening I decided to take a ride to a park and watch the sunset, but found the sunlight flooding my eyes.  I reached for my sunglasses, remembering how often during the last several years I was one of those people driving at night while wearing sunglasses. I needed to hide my eyes.

“Excuse me!  Lady!” Abdullah said, skipping from the porch to the garage.

Abdullah is a chubby black- haired boy who lives next door, a boy who seems to smile all the time.  I noticed that he had on dark green sweat pants and wondered how he could be skipping in such heat.  His older brother Hassan was still sitting on the stairs next door.

“Excuse me, please.  Can I? Please, can I please borrow your pumpie thingie?”

“My what?” I asked him.

“You know!  I’m six, going on seven, you know!”

“You’re what?”

“He’s SIX going on SEVEN,” his older brother Hassan added, walking over to us.  “You told her last week.”

“What?”

“I’m six!  Going on seven! I will take good care of the pumpie thingie!”

“Oh! The bike pump?”

“Yes! Can I use it? I will return it, lady!  It is a good pump!  Works good on these tires,” Abdullah said.

As Abdullah tried to pump up his tires, Hassan looked at me and said, “I’m nine, you know that?  Abdullah is my little brother.”

“You told her that!”  Abdullah said, laughing.

“I will help him,” Hassan said.  “I will be ten soon.  Abdullah is the laughing one,” Hassan said.  “He is the baby.  I like to hear him laugh.”

And Abdullah dragged his bike over to show me his flat tires and I didn’t have the heart to tell this small SIX going on SEVEN- year- old boy that he was using a girl’s bike.  It was hot pink and sparkly and had two very white “mountain” tires that were very flat.

“Sure.  You can use it whenever you want.  Just leave the pump by the side of the garage, ok?”

“Oh, no!  Lady, no!  What if a big boy steals it?  I could not face my father.  You wait, ok?  I pump fast and you go then, ok,” Abdullah said.

Hassan did most of the pumping but left a little work for his little brother.  As Abdullah finished pumping up his tires, Hassan looked at me and said, “He is my little brother and I watch him.  We are Muslim you know.”

“You told her that last week,” Abdullah said.

And after that, Abdullah called “Father!” and soon his father came out of the building. The older boy shook his head, grinning.

“My little brother is so happy,” Hassan said, “even my father smiles.”

“Father! This is the teacher lady who lets me use pumpie thingie,” Abdullah said. The father touched Abdullah’s head, running his hand through his son’s thick sweaty hair.

“Lady! This is my father,” Abdullah said, kissing his father’s hands.

“I’m sorry, Miss.  Are you the teacher?”

Yes, I said, not knowing how they knew this.  I am sure I never mentioned this to the boys.

“Excuse me, we have seen you carry many books up and down those stairs many times.  It must be a wonderful thing to be a teacher in this country.  And you teach in the big school at the bottom of the big hill?”

Yes, it was a wonderful job, I told him, and yes, my school was the big high school at the bottom of the hill.

“Excuse me, but I thought so.  I have seen your school uniform shirt with the name of the school, so I think you might be a teacher.  You do not remember me from the store?  By the school?”

Now that he mentioned it, yes, he did look familiar.  Maybe it was from the little store where I bought my morning coffee or my afternoon newspaper, but I wasn’t sure.  I did remember a very small woman, so short she could barely reach the cash register.  I wondered if that was the boys’ mother.  I remembered that she smiled a lot, had very warm but frightened brown eyes, always seemed tired, but did not ever speak to me.  Ever.

“That store is my brother’s.  He came here first and then I help him in the store some days.”

The father seemed to be waiting for something, or someone, and finally said, “You do not have a husband or father I should talk to?”

No, I told him it was all right to talk to me about the bike pump.

“I do not see a husband or your father with you, so forgive me I must talk to you like this.  Do you like to teach?”

I told him that I loved teaching English, and that it was okay to talk to your neighbors here, that Americans are usually very friendly and very casual.

“English!  An important language,” the father said.  “There is so much freedom here.  I think of such things for my sons.  But that is not what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Father!” Abdullah said.  “She gave me the pumpie to use.  I did not take it.  I am not a thief!”

“Excuse me, please, but has my son bothered you?”

I assured him that his sons never bothered me, that they were polite and nice young boys.

“That is good,” the father said, “but I will deal with him if he has taken anything of yours.  I wanted to meet you and say I am sorry if my son takes your things.  I tell him he should not bother you.”

I assured him that Abdullah was never a bother.

“I have talked to his mother about this,” the father said, “but I am afraid the boy is becoming rude as he gets older.”

I assured him that Abdullah was never rude.

“He must not yell at you like that,” the father said.  “In public like that to a strange woman he does not know I thought was very rude.  Is that something American? My brother said in America everyone is so loud.  Even in school?”

I laughed, but told the father that yes, it was very American, and I did not think it was rude.  His son was never rude to me.  I told him I knew about these things and he could trust me that Abdullah would not be in trouble at school.  He was a good boy.

With that, the father seemed to relax and then smiled.

“My wife could not talk to you,” the father said, “because she is very afraid about talking because of her English.  I told her a teacher would not mind about the bad English and that she must learn.  It is bad in the store if she does not speak English and that is why we came here, for the freedom and the chances.  And she wanted you to know she does not wish her sons to take your things.”

I told the father that I remembered his wife from the store, I remembered her very well, and she always understood what the customers wanted.

“That is good,” he said, “but she wants you to know we will pay you for anything my son has taken.”

Oh, no, no.  I assured the father that I let the boy use the bike pump, that he could use the pump any time.  I wanted to tell the father that he had no idea how much it meant to me that Abdullah still skips even though he is using a girl’s bike and wearing green sweat pants in summer. I wanted to tell the father that he and his shy wife must be doing something so right with their son that he still skips.

But I did not tell him that.  Between the sunlight and the skipping, I had to put on my sunglasses again.  I handed the bike pump to the father and muttered something about the sun this time of day, they can use the pump any time, I barely ever ride my bike anymore.  I think I said I would talk to his wife more when I went into the store and maybe I could help her with her English and that English was a hard language to learn.

The father might have said something about a blessing, more blessings, but I could not really hear him well since my sunglasses did not cover enough of my face, which had suddenly turned into a stranger’s face with its weeping.  I am sure I walked away from him while he was still speaking, being such a rude American, and I know I should be a better example, but I could not help it.  I could not take the sunlight and Abdullah’s skipping at the same time.

I got into my car, backed out of the garage, and waved weakly to Abdullah and his father, marveling at a boy who skips in joy and does not need sunglasses to protect him from beauty.

##############