Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Princess Of AJville Has Arrived!!!

I've just been hanging around Delaware's Craigslist thinking of ways to convince the people in the CaesarRodney, Delaware School district that Richard G. Kolczynski Belongs On The School Board!!! I've, so far, posted something in the politics section and in the general community section.  What you see below is a copy of what I wrote.  Since it's a general community section instead of a politics section, I also saw this as an opportunity to introduce some more people to what several friends and I have to offer in the way of writing, activism, music, etc. as well as putting in a good word for Richard.  I hope he wins tomorrow.  If you're from that district and/or know people who are, I hope you'll click on the above link to see how amazing Richard is.  I've really loaded this blog-entry, so I hope that you will find at least parts of it you enjoy--and, hopefully, everything!  Here's hoping that you'll also leave a bit of yourself behind in my guestbook!   

Greetings From The Princess Of AJville (a.k.a. Ainsley Jo Phillips a writer, activist, and *totally* outside-the-box-whenever-necessary golden girl from Indiana)!!!

I'm here to fill you in on a few happening people out your way!!!

My motto could very well be: "Have Blog-Format Website -- Will Travel With A Punch Here And A Poke There On My Keyboard!!!"

The name of my website is AJville, and I love to use it to write about/display a number of things.

Look around, and you will find not only a blog area but, also, various displays, links, buttons, graphics, videos, etc. Sometime during the month of May, I'm hoping to also have a link to something called AJ's Little Black Blog showing up at AJville. This will contain pages dedicated to a number of people--with some of them being from the Eastern USA like you.

A thorough visit to AJville might tell you that, perhaps, instead of my motto being:
"Have Blog-Format Website -- Will Travel With A Punch Here And A Poke There On My Keyboard!!!"
it should be
"Have Computer -- Will Travel With A Punch Here And A Poke There On My Keyboard!!!"
or even
"Have The Ability To Get On The Internet -- Will Travel With A Punch Here And A Poke There On Whatever Keyboard Is Available!!!"
since there are times when I'm away from home and can't resist getting online somewhere such as a library, hotel lobby, or even a hospital lounge.

Sooooooo.......What brings me to the Delaware Craigslist on this fine evening (May 9, 2011)?

One thing that does is my opinion that Richard G. Kolczynski Belongs On The School Board!!!

Once upon a time, he lived in Indiana, so I got to know him well enough to know that he would do the CaesarRodney, Delaware School District proud. I haven't seen him in ages but was finally able to relocate him thanks to God and the Internet (and my own tenacity as well)--though I wish I had been able to do this sooner, as I've just read that not only are there five people (of which he's one) running for one seat but, also, that voter turnout is, generally, fairly low. Please urge your friends and neighbors to get out there and vote for school board members in their various districts, because you CAN make a difference by choosing just the right ones!!!

Even if you aren't in the district to vote for Richard and know nobody who is, I hope you'll read what I wrote about him, because he's a pretty amazing person--and my story is also a kind of nostalgic trip back to the spring of 1977, which wasn't a perfect time but, still, a very good one worth remembering in the scheme of things...

I'm going to give you a sneak peek at some of the Eastern USA people who will be included in my little black blog (which will include my take on them along with the links I've shared here going to samples of what they're about):

Thanks so much for reading this far in my message. I hope you've enjoyed the special people in your area of the country. There are plenty more, but I won't wear you out now any more than I already have except for serving up a few of the growing number of links that can be found at AJville just to (hopefully) whet your appetite for more as well as including three stories I wrote for Epinions and an invitation to join me at an almost brand new and increasingly exciting site that has a whole lot of positive things going on from socializing to social concerns to games & contests to getting paid for what you like to do anyway.

After I've done all of that, I think it will be time to sign off before I become a MEGA collective annoyance (What's a collective annoyance? Search around what I've shared in this link-filled article, and see if you can find out...).

Thanks again for looking around. Don't forget to vote (and, hopefully, for Richard G. Kolczynski, if you happen to be in his district)!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Richard G. Kolczynski Belongs On The School Board!!!

Okay!  Before we get down to business, let's get the mushy truth or dare part over with first...

"Once upon a time a long time ago..." is the way that stories with happy endings are often started, and I want this story to have a happy ending, so I'm going to start it this very way...

Once upon a time a long time ago in the days of yore when Saturday Night was both Live and running a Fever and CBs were almost as popular as the Internet is now, there was a year in my life known as 1977.

At the time, I was taking graduate school classes at Ball State University's Department Of English and had started the spring quarter in March of that year.

As I've just mentioned, I'm going to get the mushy stuff out of the way first so that I can continue with a more serious line of conversation.

So, I will confess to having certain symptoms of being smitten by somebody--symptoms such as stuffing a pillow under my t-shirt and standing sideways in front of a full-length mirror and looking at myself with a silly, dreamy expression on my face while Sunday Sharpe was singing I'm Having Your Baby in the background or just suddenly having so much energy inside of me that I had to run outdoors and dance/leap into the cool spring air during Monday evening class breaks.  There were other signs, too, such as writing everything from songs and poetry about him to simply writing his name over and over again in my notebook--usually, in fancy letters with floral designs on or around them.

As you might have guessed, the person who made me feel this way was Dr. Richard G. Kolczynski whose class I was taking at the time.

So, the truth is out now--that being that I had a major crush (make that total lovesickness) when it came to Richard G. Kolczynski back in the spring of 1977.

However, I hope that this won't make you take my opinion that he belongs on your school board (CaesarRodney, Delaware School District) any less seriously, because I'm about to give you plenty of legitimate reasons why he should be.

The million dollar question that is a song title for a Tina Turner hit could be asked here:  "What's Love Got To Do With It?"

After all, it's pretty commonplace to want to find out how people whom you knew "way back when" but of whom you've lost track are doing these days--and, if you've ever seen this or that person in a romantic sort of light, this just adds more flavor to the search.

So (like countless others on similar searches) I've taken advantage of The Internet to find out whatever I could in the way of current news re:  Richard.

For a very long time, I didn't come up with much.

Love has a lot to do with my desire to relocate Richard G. Kolczynski, though romance has almost nothing at all to do with it.

I still love to travel back in time to those days when the then-popular songs, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and You Light Up My Life (the latter which came out several months after the class had ended but still applied) described how I felt every Monday evening while listening to his engaging lectures and two-way interaction with all of us so blessed to be a part of his class.

The paragraph I just wrote is as far as the romantic part goes (just the happy memories of being a 24 year old young woman with a huge crush on her 30 year old professor), as I neither have the hope nor desire to turn this into a Hallmark Channel movie where two once-young people meet in their golden years and end up riding off into the sunset together.

However, love has so much to do with it, because there's so much worth loving about Richard.  Monday after Monday, I sat in class listening to his dreams while hoping that at least the very best of them would come true for him. After all, if his fondest dreams came true, it would be a better world for our most precious natural resources:  our kids!!!

It has been many years since Richard and I have been in touch, and, for all I knew, he might have turned a complete 180 in his outlook on life--but, somehow, I didn't think this would be the case.

Therefore, I was really pleased when I recently finally found some current news on him:  that he was running for a seat on his local school board!

I knew that the Richard G. Kolczynski whom I knew and loved so many years ago would be just what the doctor ordered for any school board, so I decided that I would write about Richard as I knew him and say that, if he were that same person, he would be a plus to his local school board.

Just yesterday, I actually found his current information, and he didn't let me down at all, as he's still the same Richard I knew back in 1977 with the passing of years only making him even more wise (and, yes, still very easy-on-the-eyes, imo!).

Having said this, I'm going to share my memories of his class, and, if you like what you read, please cast a vote in his direction if you live where you can as well as sharing this with others and advising the same...

It was March 14, 1977, and I had just started my third quarter of graduate school at Ball State University with the idea of ending up with a M.A. in English and, possibly, going on to get my PhD in the same after that.

My life would take a different route than planned, but those were my plans at the time.

However, I had been used to changing plans.  After all, I had once had a dream of being a special education teacher somewhere in or near Madison County, Indiana along with being a homemaker and writer.

Even though I still had held on to the homemaker and writer dreams, I had pretty much given up on becoming a special education teacher in the conventional way, as it seemed to me as if the school system that I would be going into just wasn't ready to accept the likes of me (another story, which will be covered in my upcoming book).

Therefore, my plans at that time were to write; possibly, teach creative writing at college-level; and operate a summer camp for a month out of each year.  One week of camp would be for kids whose main challenges were physical.  Another week would be for those whose main challenges were cognitive.  Another week would be for inner-city kids.  The final week would be for mainstream local kids.  And, of course, I wanted to be a wife and mother.

Of all of the courses I'd taken so far since starting graduate school, only one of them had an early education theme to it, and that one was the first one that I had taken (one about children's literature).

The other courses--in which I'd done very well (after only receiving a C from the first course, due to a personality clash between the instructor and me)--were classes in creative writing, Shakespeare, and English Literature.

Now--along with a class called Twain, James, and Crane and a Steinbeck seminar--I would be taking a course about getting students to enjoy reading.

Dr. Alexander MacGibbon (my academic advisor) had told me that I would especially enjoy the reading appreciation course and that he had the feeling that my instructor and I would get along famously.

He mentioned the instructor's name--which didn't really stick in my memory at the time other than sounding kind of Old World to where I pictured him being an energetic Lawrence Welk lookalike with a lovable personality and upbeat manner (a lot like Lawrence Welk).  Anyway, it certainly sounded as if it would be a much more positive learning experience than the last teacher-geared class had been.

Spring quarter had started the week before--but on a Tuesday, meaning that I'd already been to the first sessions of my other two classes but that this would be my first session of the reading appreciation class.

The instructor hadn't arrived yet, but students were gradually entering the room and choosing seats.

That's when I saw him--a real knockout of a guy!  He was around 5'9" and looked at least a little bit on the Italian side with thick, beautiful, almost-black, curly hair worn in the Afro style that was so popular back then.  Find a picture of how Conway Twitty looked at the time, age him backwards by about two decades, and you would get a general idea of how this sight-for-sore-eyes was looking to me that evening!

I was hoping that he'd choose a seat next to me, but, instead, he went up to the desk in the front of the room and placed the items that he was carrying on it before exiting the room again.

That cute guy's the instructor!?!. . .Probably already married. I decided at that point.  Even so, I checked his ring finger when he returned to the room again.  Yep!  There was a ring there.  Oh well...

After checking around, I would find out that, ring or no ring, Richard was single.  The ring was simply costume jewelery with no romantic significance.

This is all I'm going to say from this point on about how crushing I was on him, because it really doesn't matter.

Had the instructor of this class been married, eighty years old, a Catholic priest, or even a woman, the class and the person teaching it would have been just as inspiring and excellent--and worthy of a school board seat in the future (though there would be a very slim chance that somebody who was eighty at that time would be a school board candidate here in May of 2011).

Obviously, I found Richard's outward appearance to be attractive even before getting to know what was on the inside, but outward appearance alone isn't enough to captivate my heart the way that mine was captivated by Richard. 

It was what was inside that really counted there, and I want to share that inner-beauty with you so that, hopefully, the same inner-beauty that had me placing a pillow under my t-shirt and having wonderful daydreams will be the same inner-beauty that will have you placing a ballot with a vote for Richard G. Kolczynski on it in the ballot box and having a dream-come-true kind of reality when it comes to the education of the students in the CaesarRodney, Delaware School District!!!

The best way to share that inner-beauty is to share what it was like being in his class once upon a time...

On the very first evening of class, I would find out that he enjoyed Petosky stones.  My folks and I had hunted some of those amazing, fossil-decorated rocks a few years before, so I knew what he meant there.

His manner of relating to his students was engaging and personal.  He didn't seat himself behind his desk but, instead, on a corner of it where he would share, both that first evening and the ones to follow, his experiences (life experiences ranging from classroom experiences to personal experiences that even went clear back into his childhood). 

The way he told his stories was anything but boring, and there were many times when he reminded me of that adorable, little boy in the Oscar Mayer commercial singing about his bologna sandwich.

On the very first night of class, we were to learn about one of his favorite educators/writers named Frank Smith and were given one of the latter's thoughts on what we best remember:  the unusual, the unexpected, and/or the unpleasant.

Richard, himself, was certainly not what kind of a professor I'd been expecting to find teaching my Monday evening class, and he was definitely unusual.  However, he was anything BUT unpleasant!!!

He told us that he was going to be giving each of us contracts when it came to deciding on our grades and that everybody taking the class should be making at least a C.  The C was what you got for simply showing up for class.  If you also--along with showing up for class--read the two textbooks going with the class (and was able to show some kind of proof that you had read them) and did (as I recall) one or two of the extra-credit activities from a list he had made, you were good for a B.  If you wanted an A, you could do everything that you would do for a B along with several more of the extra-credit activities.

You could contract for any grade that you wanted to but could change your mind at anytime.

That is, you might contract for a C at first but find out that you were able to do B or A work after all and could change your contract to show this.  Or you might contract for an A only to find out that you were only able to do B or C work.  Again, you had the option of changing your contract.

If you didn't change your contract downward if you were up at the top, you would get an I for incomplete until such a time that you could finish it.  It was a reasonable amount of time.  If you didn't finish it, you would, of course, get an F.

Richard wasn't a person who was fond of giving Fs, so he would do everything in how power to see that his students left his class with at least a C.

As for myself, I contracted for an A right off the bat and was able to pull it off!

I began to find out that Richard and I had a lot in common when it came to our views on the educational system at the time.

At one time, he had taught special education--something that I had once aspired to do.  He would later go on to teach mainstream classes.

Both of us had reached the very same conclusion on one thing in particular:  There was too much government and red-tape in our public schools, and it was tying the hands of teachers while denying their students the right to be given the most meaningful and lasting education.

In my own case, I was denied even the right to get the complete education needed to become a teacher (Read my book when it comes out!) thanks to the influence of the dean of women at my undergraduate college along with a handful of others who thought like her--this in spite of successful teaching I'd done while taking some of the classes that were for teachers but weren't in the last rung up the ladder of the teacher education program.

Richard, on the other hand, was crafty enough to slip below the radar of powers-that-be like my own dean of women and was able to become a fully-licensed, effective, and well-liked (by the kids, anyway) teacher.

After teaching in the public school system for awhile, Richard found a greater calling in teaching college--as in teaching teachers (and, especially, those teachers of the language arts) the ins and outs of pubic education.  Along with that, he gave us pointers on how to better get kids to appreciate reading.

Of course, I wasn't even thinking along the lines of classroom teaching anymore, but I still loved kids and wanted them to develop a true joy of reading for its own sake as well as wanting them to get a truly wonderful formal education, so I soaked up everything that Richard was teaching us like a sponge!

His burning desire to cut through all of the red-tape gave him a very special place in my heart.

He told us this one story about outfoxing the powers-that-be in this one middle school where he was teaching language arts.

It seemed as if every teacher there had to make out a teaching plan and stick to it no matter what.  Of course, doing something like this would allow for very little, if any, spontaneity--which, in his opinion (and mine, too), really put a damper on those "Aha!" kinds of discovery moments that are so important to genuine learning.

Richard's solution?

He obediently made out the plan, gave a copy of it to the principal--AND barely gave his copy a passing glance when he started teaching his classes!

His students loved coming to class and really thrived!!!

In spite of this, he was called into the principal's office and called down for not going by his written plan.

How did they find out? he wondered.

He decided that he'd better play by the rules until he figured that mystery out--and it didn't take him long.  He picked up peculiar sounds coming over the intercom in his classroom and realized that he was being spied on.

At that point, he got some legal advice and found that this unauthorized listening in on his classes over an intercom was infringing on his right to privacy.

However, he was told, the principal and other superiors had the right to appear in his classroom at any time, so he'd better be going by his lesson plan.

After that, Richard kept his lesson plan handy--but still allowed his students to study and discuss whatever interested them at the time.  Richard had the ability to think on his feet and tie whatever discussion was going on to the written-out plan whenever some higher authority figure showed up in his classroom.

Another one of Richard's interest was collective groupings--as in what things might be called as a group.  It was usually determined by one or more factors that might describe the items.  A noise of boys, for instance, had a word describing a characteristic of boys (noise) and a case of one word rhyming with the other.  A gaggle of geese had two words starting with the same letter plus a characteristic of geese.  A knot of toads fit the bill, as toads resemble something tied in a knot.  A murder of crows referred to their vulture-like characteristics.

We were talking after class that evening, and I asked him what it would be if there were more than one of me.  When he told me that he had no idea, I responded:  "An annoyance of Ainsleys!"  He reassured me otherwise, but I told him that I was a genuine collective annoyance--and it turned out that there would be times every now and then when he had to agree with me. 

Thus, I had coined my own phrase "collective annoyance" or "genuine collective annoyance."  Its definition is something that can be so annoying that you're glad that it comes as a single instead of a group.

On a couple of Mondays, we didn't have class because Richard would be lecturing at a conference somewhere.  I have another confession to make here:  Whenever he was away like that, it reminded me of the Leo Sayer hit When I Need You about an entertainer on the road with his true love back home and his singing "When I need you, I just close my eyes and I'm with you. . ." in spite of the "miles and miles of empty road here between us. . ."  There were so many times of daydreaming that we'd, one day, get the chance to slow-dance to that ballad.

Thinking about Richard being on the road with his message was exciting to me because it was a message that needed to be heard:  The message of cutting through a bunch of political red-tape and giving a growing number of kids a really meaningful education!

Early in 1979, I got to attend a conference where Richard was speaking, and he told his audience the most wonderful story about living with this family for awhile (either while he was teaching or else when he was studying to be a teacher).  One of the family members was a young boy who was always drawing pictures--at times, even putting off his chores and/or homework to finish one on which he was working.  The boy's parents--and, especially, his dad--were always on his case about that, saying that he was wasting his time and needed to quit fooling around and get to work.

Richard said that he knew that, should he ever write a book and hadn't lost track of the boy by then, he was going to hire him to be his illustrator!

Although Richard has written articles and has even had one story included in an actual book (anthology with several contributors), he hasn't, to my knowledge, written that book yet.  I hope that, when the time comes, he'll be able to find that boy (now, obviously, a grown man) and have him as his illustrator!

For those who know me, you'll know that there's at least one thing on which Richard and I don't see eye-to-eye.  He believes that the word "cute" has been overused.  I don't!

All kidding aside, he was talking about when it came to describing children's books, and I can see his point there.  After all, most children's books have a certain cuteness about them, so they need to be further described in order to be able to distinguish one from another.

I remember right after class when he, another student, and I were looking at some children's books and discussing them.  He and I both especially liked this one about how far a rubber band could stretch, and I said to him, "That's really. . ." (short pause after catching myself before I said the forbidden word) ". . .adorable!"

Richard took the book and (gently) hit me over the head with it while exclaiming, "Adorable!!!  That's even worse than cute!!!"

During one of the last classes of the quarter, Richard told about how he liked to collect all things frog.  As it turned out, I had quite a collection of stuffed/woodcarved/ceramic/etc. frogs and toads, so I brought part of my collection in to share it with him a day or so later.

I have a kind of Rose way of telling my own version of St. Olaf stories, so I'll stop myself from doing this here and say that I'll share some of my stories of catching frogs and toads as a child at a later time when I'm not focusing on getting the right man elected.

But I will go on a little more about frogs and toads to first say that I got Richard a 45 of Chet Atkins' Frog Kissin' as a present to give him on the last day of class--which he said that he appreciated even though it was a bit too "twangy" for his personal tastes.

Also, I looked into the Frog & Toad book series by Arnold Lobel which he had recommended and bought some for my cousins' kids who celebrated their birthdays in June (two actually born in May and one born in February--and, a couple of years later, another born in May--but they all waited until spring for their big celebration which, usually, took place around the June 6 anniversary of Carolyn & Larry).

They all really fell in love with those books!  A few years ago, I received a letter from Eva (the oldest) who said that she was now passing down a love of Frog & Toad to her daughter!

After not hearing anything new about Richard in so long, I was elated to find out that he was running for a seat on his local school board--and glad to further read that he's still a person who believes that the best kind of education is when he can get kids, parents, and educators genuinely-enthused about learning!!!

Added to his previous issues is one that most of us hold to be of utmost importance:  bringing bullying to an end!!!

In closing. . .

Once upon a time a long time ago in the days of yore when Saturday Night was both Live and running a Fever and CBs were almost as popular as the Internet is now, there was a year in my life known as 1977.

It was then--on a night that wasn't officially spring but when both spring and spring fever seemed to be in the air after a chilly Indiana winter--that I met a real prince of a professor named Richard G. Kolczynski who, like myself, had big dreams when it came to improving the quality of education and getting kids to really love to read and learn.

A story that begins "Once upon a time. . ." deserves to have a happy ending--and, in this case, a happy ending written by enough people voting for Richard to get him that place on the school board where he can use his know-how and dedication to make sure that the kids in the CaesarRodney, Delaware school district get a joyful, meaningful, and lasting education in a safe, loving, and pleasant environment!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Something Fishy--In A Good Way, That Is...

I'd known that a friend hadn't been feeling all that great for quite some time in spite of both looking like one very healthy specimen AND living the kind of lifestyle that SHOULD have resulted in his being one.

When I talked to him yesterday, he told me that he had been having some pretty serious health issues in the past few months that went far beyond his overall feeling of not quite feeling like himself that he had been experiencing for the past six years--that is, he had gotten to the place where he felt so low on energy and achy that he found it next-to-impossible to even get out of bed and put on his shoes.

Then, he got on the Internet and found out that there were many people who had been taking what he had been taking for the past six years (Crestor) who were experiencing similar side-effects.

These people had decided to switch to a supplement called Krill Oil, and it had made all the difference in the world to them.

My friend decided that this might be his ticket, so he stopped taking Crestor and began taking Krill Oil.  He began to notice a difference almost right away.

When he recently returned to his doctor for a check-up, he told him what he had done, and his doctor had nothing bad to say about his decision, as it certainly had seemed to work for him!

As you know, if you've read what I've written in the past, I have some health challenges with my worst two being lymphedema and morbid obesity.  For someone of my size, I seem to have better-than-average health according to daily blood tests I took in the hospital where I was being treated for lymphedema-related MRSA back in late May/early June of 2009 as well as subsequent listening to my heart and lungs during home health care visits and check-ups since then.  

High blood-pressure seems to be my only other issue besides lymphedema-related problems and the components making up the "job description" of morbid obesity.  I even know from the past that my high blood-pressure is weight-related, as it's a very good normal when I'm within 20 pounds or so of my ideal weight.

I see it as a sign that I just so happened to be listening to one of my favorite country music stations a few days before talking to my friend and heard an infomercial about Krill Oil.

When I did a Google search on it, I was even more led to believe that this was the direction I needed to be taking now.

I'm taking the message of Thomas Berg's book, Uncle Tom's Classroom, to heart and following my bliss on this one!

I'm not one to advise you to go this route, though I've made up my mind to do it, but I've made a tiny url of the link to a Google search for Krill Oil where you should find everything you need and then some.  I'm going to be using it for my own study area, so I'm making it handy to me here while offering it to you as well.

I will be keeping you up with my personal results in the time ahead...

Update:  I've just ordered my first bottle, deciding to go with this company:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Younger Siblings ISO Your Attention/Companionship

I took an early education class at Ball State University back in 1980, and the instructor made the statement that preschoolers generally aren't aware of gender differences.

This was news to me--especially, in the light of the girls' club of my own preschool years.

Looking back on my life, I think I had the best of both worlds.  And still do!  Biologically, I'm an only child.

However, over the years, I have "adopted" various friends as siblings--and I also had a kind of sibling relationship with my cousins as we were growing up.

When Uncle Dick was stationed in Austria, Aunt Jenny and their kids, Carolyn and Jimmy, spent some time over there with him.  However, the three of them returned to the United States in time for the beginning of the school year.  They had a small camper trailer where they went to bed at night but spent the rest of the day in our house.  Their time with us began a few months before I turned two years old (on December 12, 1954) and lasted a few months more.

In the summer of 1955, Uncle Roy passed away very suddenly of a heart-attack at the age of 39, so Aunt Ruby and their son, Phil, came to live with us.  As they had furniture, they lived with us fulltime until sometime in 1956 when we turned part of our barn into living quarters for them,  This is where I live now--but that's another story entirely.
When I was in fourth grade and my dad was about to have serious open-heart surgery, my paternal grandparents (along with Uncle Jim and his five kids:  Barbara, Susie, David, Cathy, and Tommy) came up from Kentucky to live with us at least temporarily. 

I didn't know this at the time, but Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim had separated and would, eventually, divorce.  Since Tommy was just a baby, Aunt Mary ended up getting primary custody of him while my grandparents and Uncle Jim had primary custody of the other four.

They made up a day room down in our basement (a lot like the summer kitchen they had in Kentucky) but had full run of the house 24/7.

Once they decided to move up here permanently, they lived in the barn, as Aunt Ruby and Phil had long since been living in the house they had bought on the outskirts of Markleville.

Even when we were living in separate houses, my cousins and I were more like siblings than cousins.

Over the years, my folks and I have taken in several friends who were in need of a place to stay for various reasons.

But--getting back to whether or not preschool children had gender awareness--I don't know about the kids with whom Dr. Williams came in contact, but I do know about my cousins (Aunt Mary & Uncle Jim's kids) and me.  When this took place, Cathy and Tommy hadn't been born yet, so it was Barbara (6), Susie (4), me (3), and David (2).  

We usually all played together, but I got the idea into my head that I wanted to organize a girls' club.  There was one problem, and that was that David wanted to be in the girls' club, too.  

We girls couldn't persuade him to leave us alone and let us have our girls' club, so I came up with this idea that I thought would do the trick really well when it came to discouraging him.

I went to the shiftrobe and got a dress out, telling David that, if he wanted to be a member of our club, he would have to dress like us.

Surprisingly, he was okay with that, so we turned up the fire a little more by telling him that he would have to go into the living room and let everybody see what he looked like.
We paraded him past all of the grown-ups who were sitting around watching TV.  When they asked us what David was doing wearing a dress, we told them that he wanted to be in our girls' club.

They said that it wasn't necessary for David to wear a dress, to which I said that he couldn't be in the club without wearing the dress.  This, of course, was supposed to keep him out of our private club.

However, it didn't work quite that way.  David had turned out to be such a good sport that we were actually starting to have second thoughts about excluding him.  When one of the grown-ups suggested that David could be our manager, we decided that this would be okay, so we all went back in the bedroom and played together with David wearing his little boy clothes again.

Shortly after my cousins arrived at our house back in 1962, they took me aside to show me a discovery that they'd made that could be put to good use if I wanted to play along.  The full bath was right next to my bedroom, and there was a little closet that contained the plumbing for the bathtub.  These pipes, according to my cousins, would make the perfect boogie man--a solution for keeping Cathy (then four) in line when she got to be a pest.

After we had our story straight, my cousins marched Cathy up to the closet, and I confirmed my cousins' story that the boogie man did, indeed, live in that tiny closet and pointed out his arms, legs, and face to Cathy.  We told her that, if she bugged us, we were going to tell boogie man to come out and get her.

For some reason or another, there are times when everybody in a family plays together and gets along famously and other times when you want to play with some people and not others, and one or more people are seen as being in the way.

The story I wrote called Monopoly Memories starts out when I played the role of the pest and would, later, be a welcome player in plenty of those long, drawn-out games of Monopoly.

I'll never forget that weekend when I was in eighth grade and my folks, Aunt Kate, Uncle Don, Denise (then four), and I drove to Lexington, KY to visit Uncle Kermit who was teaching at University of Kentucky at the time.

She had brought along three or four of her favorite Little Golden Books so that I could read to her during the ride.  I can't tell you exactly how many pages long those books were, I've slept since then, but it's my guess that there weren't more than 20 pages in each one, if that, with a paragraph or two on each page.

Once I had read through all of them, Denise wanted me to read them again. . .and again. . .and again. . .and again. . .and so on and so-forth for the entire 200+ mile trip.

This was fine for the trip going down, but, on the return trip, I wanted to have my nose out of Denise's Little Golden Books at least part of the time so that I could enjoy some adult conversation and scenery.

However, Denise had other ideas and soon had those books in my lap again.  When I explained to her that I hadn't had the chance to look at any scenery on the way down and wanted to on the way back, she got a stern look on her face and told me:  "Ainsley Jo, I'm not looking for scenery!  I want you to WEED to me!!!"

I tried to get her to see the fun of looking out the window while we were riding along and pointed out an interesting looking arch to her.

My mom tried to help me, too, by encouraging Denise to take a good look at the arch--to which she told her: "Aunt Lee, I'm not looking for arches!  I want Ainsley Jo to WEED to me!!!"

I can't remember how it all turned out, but I think I ended up getting to enjoy some scenery and adult conversation on the way back home--but I'm pretty certain that I did "weed" to Denise at least part of the time on the return trip just because I have this little soft spot in me--the same kind of soft spot that made Barbara, Susie, and me decide that David could be part of our girls' club without wearing a dress; the same kind of soft spot that inspired us to tell Cathy the truth about what that thing in the little closet really was; and the same kind of soft spot that led my older cousins to reassure me that they would teach me how to play Monopoly and kept their word about doing so.

Recently, a story I read several years ago came to mind. It was one of those nostalgic, slice-of-life stories like I'm both fond of reading and writing.

This story was told through the words of a man (by then in his late thirties or early forties) writing about something special his big brother did for him that he didn't have to do which made him feel all warm, fuzzy, and included.

It was something on the order of when my dad took my cousins and me to watch A Hard Days Night at the South Drive-In back in the late summer of 1964.  Cathy--who was six at the time and would be starting first grade shortly--wanted to go, too.

Even though we were pretty sure that she would fall asleep within the first fifteen to thirty minutes of when the movie started playing and wouldn't wake up until sometime after we had carried her into the house as dead weight and placed her in bed for the night, we decided to include her.

As it turned out, Cathy and I were the only ones in the car who stayed awake 100% of the time, and she arrived home all excited about her big night out with The Beatles.

You can read more about that Beatle-filled summer here.

Cathy was very disappointed to find out that she couldn't go see The Beatles when they came to The Indiana State Fairgrounds a few weeks later (only three seats for Susie, my dad, and me), but she found comfort in getting the important job of helping to make the cake for David's birthday party while we were gone.

This brings me back to the story about the two brothers.

The older brother had just turned twelve or thirteen, which meant that he was now old enough to go to the movie theater (at least, for the Saturday matinee) without having to take a grown-up along with him.

He and some of his friends had made plans to go watch a Western together one Saturday afternoon when he noticed his little brother looking at him with a wistful expression on his face.

He turned to his friends and told them that he'd like to include his little brother in their afternoon out, and his friends were okay with that, too.

From then on, the little brother was always included in Saturday afternoon at the matinee with the big boys.

I have a lot of love and admiration for defense attorney, Stuart V. Goldberg.  He has defended many people over the past three decades.

Some of his clients aren't even guilty but have been in the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time.

There are others who are, likely, guilty of at least some of what they've been charged with but there isn't enough evidence to convict them.

There are others who are too guilty not to be found guilty, and, in this case, Stuart will work with the prosecution, the judge, and his client to try to come up with the best solution for all involved.

Lots of lives have been turned around, thanks to Stuart, because he not only defends his clients but, also, does all that he can to try to help them turn their lives around.

I'm going to share a passage from Stuart's website to give you an even better understanding of his thinking...

The Talmudic Scholar, Maimonides, wrote that a person "should see the entire world as half good and half evil, so that with a single good deed, he will tip the scales for himself, and for the entire world, to the side of merit."

Attorney Stuart V. Goldberg believes that there is a secret garden in the heart of every accused criminal--a garden, which no matter how dark, may be nourished.  To appreciate each person no matter what or where he or she is in life, and to give that person the best chance possible--and to convince the court that the sins should be erased but not the sinners.

There have been times in Stuart's career when not only has a client been so obviously guilty but, also, is somebody who is very difficult to like and/or has committed a very heinous crime to the point that it becomes a challenge even for the likes of Stuart to give this person what he/she is entitled to by our Constitution: a strong, fair, and effective defense.

How does Stuart deal with a situation like this?

He puts himself into the skin of somebody such as a parent, sibling, spouse/sweetheart, close friend, etc. of the defendant, imagines what they must be feeling, and gives his best to the case for their sake.

Have you seen the movie called Stand By Me, which is a sensitive coming-of-age movie about four boys during their last summer before entering junior high?

When the movie opens, it shows a man sitting in his car parked at the side of a quiet backroad and staring at a newspaper article about an attorney stabbed to death at a fast-food restaurant.

Some boys ride by on bicycles, and his mind goes back to his childhood and a camping trip he took with his three best buddies (Vern, Teddy, and Chris).

If you've seen this movie, you know the purpose of the camping trip and how everything turned out, but I'm not going to write about that here in case you haven't seen it--and, if you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend this classic from the 1980s.

Although most of it is played out via the conversation and action of the characters, there is narration from time to time throughout the movie. 

This is the voice of the grown-up Gordie who, at the time the drama took place, had lost his big brother, Denny, in an automobile accident not long before.

Denny had been the only person in his immediate family who thought that Gordie's dream of becoming a writer was worthwhile.

Gordie also had the feeling, right or wrong, that his mom and dad would have been happier had he been the one who had died because, unlike him,  Denny was such a popular young man and so successful in school and sports.

Chris had been the only one of his three friends to whom he'd opened up about his dreams of becoming a writer, even though. due to his brother no longer being there to encourage him, he had come to think that his dreams might be foolish ones.

It was Chris who picked up where Denny had left off when it came to encouraging Gordie.

Chris had a dream of his own that he could barely dare to dream, and that was to leave their little town to go off and do something special with his life.

In the end, Chris became a lawyer and Gordie realized his dream of becoming a writer.

The ultimate something special that Chris did with his life was in saving the life of another and getting a fatal stab wound to his throat while doing so.

Right before the end of the movie where he goes outside to play with his kids, the adult Gordie is shown at his word processor writing about that special summer.

One of the things he writes is about his late friend...

Although I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, I know I'll miss him forever.

Recently, President Obama made the announcement that the long-elusive Osama Bin Laden had been found and shot to death by some of our brave troops.

Even though he was our enemy, those who had captured and killed him respected his religious beliefs which called for a person to be laid to rest within 24 hours of his/her death.

He ended up being buried at sea--a man without a country wanting to provide a final resting place for his earthly remains.

Will this mean that it won't be long now before our troops can finally come home for good?  I hope so.  They have been away risking--and, too often, giving--their lives for far too long in this, seemingly, neverending war on terror.

Osama Bin Laden seemed to be the mastermind behind several acts of terror with the most atrocious ones taking place on September 11, 2001.  It will have been ten years this coming September.

What has he left behind?  Are his cells of trained terrorists still together enough to do more and extensive damage?

Will our troops come home to peace?  or  Will they have a new job of fighting terrorists on our own soil instead of fighting in other lands?

The "wars" in which we've been involved during the past two decades are, in the scheme of things, actually small battles happening within a generations-old war.

It's both a religious war and a war about who lives where and who is being forced to leave.

Acts of terror are tossed back and forth like a ball, because each act calls for revenge, and each act of revenge becomes an act of terror that calls for a return of revenge.  This is, seemingly, a neverending nightmare.

How can we make it stop!?!

Perhaps, we need to look at some of the players.

There's the case of the teenage girl from the Gaza Strip who watches as a bomb from Israel kills a neighbor child.  She responds by going to Israel and becoming a human bomb in a crowded marketplace.  Among those who are killed is a young Israeli lady right around her age.

In the account of this tragedy that I read, it talked about how alike those two young ladies really were and how, given other circumstances, they might have even become best friends.

They liked to listen to the latest hits; had dreams of going to college; had boyfriends; and loved to shop and experiment with make-up.  They had pictures of their pop idols on the walls of their rooms in homes they shared with loving families.

This won't be an easy task, but it just might be time to change our methods of fighting the war on terrorism.

The Internet is one of our most powerful weapons for pulling this off.

Pulling what off?

Bringing people of different countries, religions, and cultures together so that we can learn about each other and get to like and love each other so much that there will be no room for hating each other!

I read about one summer camp that brought together young campers where some were from Israel and others were from The Gaza Strip.  At first, the kids from each country kept to themselves, but, in time, they began to eat, talk, and play games together.  By the time that camp was over, they had forged friendships that wouldn't be easily broken by the hatred going on around them!

For now, I'm going to close, but I'll be talking more about this in the near future.  Some of what I have to say will be going in the book that I'm currently writing.

Even the worst of terrorists aren't some kind of demonic monsters that have risen out of cesspools.  They start out just like most of us have but, somehow, get their minds poisoned by hate.

Most have legitimate reasons to be angry, and their biggest mistake is not addressing that anger in positive and constructive ways and, instead, becoming bigoted against people whom they don't even know due to differences in religion, customs, skin color, and even physical appearance.

I've heard that Osama Bin Laden actually was a gentle and nonviolent person back when he was a young adult.  When did he become too consumed by anger to continue dealing with life in more positive ways?

It's a gross understatement to say that, within the general public, there is quite a lack of mourning re: the death of Osama Bin Laden.

People have actually been dancing in the street and celebrating!

If the killing of this one man brings about the dissolving of Al-Queda and returns our young men and women to our homeland where they belong, there will be a true reason to celebrate!

But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't mourn for the likes of Osama Bin Laden--not so much mourn his death as to mourn what he developed into many years before his death and even many years before 9-11.

He was killed many years ago by the hatred smouldering within him, and we should mourn the person he could have become.

Once upon a time, a little boy's day was made when his big brother talked his friends into letting him tag along with them when they went to the Saturday matinee.

This is how that little boy, now all grown up, chose to remember his big brother, Osama Bin Laden.

Those poignant words that Gordie wrote about Chris might also be the ones that this all-grown-up little brother is thinking now when he remembers how things were and how they could have been...

Although I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, I know I'll miss him forever.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy Mayday!!!

This will be short 'n' sweet, as I'm getting ready to go out and enjoy the rest of the first day of May.  So far, it's been really great.  I'll tell you about everything later as well as what I've otherwise been up to...