Saturday, April 28, 2012

Vocabulary Excercise (Part 1)

 These are parts of a vocabulary assignment from Mom's spring 1994 writing class. It appears to be essentially finding vocabulary words in daily life and finding their definitions. A few are kind of interesting, including the first, Bovine, where apparently I was the inspiration for the entry.

The photo is of Mom on a 2006 visit to New York. It's from a boat trip on Lake George.

21. Bovine
This word came up in a casual conversation at dinner one night. My son must have read something in the cartoons. He said, "What does bovine mean?" I sat a minute and couldn't come up with a meaning out of my head. "Why do you want to know?" I said. In the commercial, it said someone was showing bovine tendencies. I guessed it had something to do with a cow, but I don't really know why. So we looked it up. Bovine - relating to a cow, characteristics of oxen or cows. The girl was heavy-set and acting like a bovine.

22. Liberalism
This word is talked about a lot now in politics. I'm never sure which side it is on. To me, being liberal is someone who is easy and has very slack rules. The dictionary says that to be liberal where the government is concerned is to be very open to change.

He was elected because of his liberalistic attitude for the country.

23. Altruist
This word is bandied about when you are talking about good points of someone. Like Mother Teresa, perhaps, always thinking about the other person, never about herself. This person is rare. The dictionary says it is actions that may not benefit oneself, but ultimately benefits the species. Mother Teresa is an altruist.

24. Pendant
This word showed up on TV in conjunction with a party. This person was trying to show off by knowing it all and correcting everyone else's comments was called a pendant. The dicionary says this individual is one who parades his learning and is picky about someone else's learning. John is a pendant as he is so critical of Mary and her education.

16. Extrapolate
I came across this word at work when someone was talking about data from the computer. He said that he was going to extrapolate data. I assumed that it meant that we take out the data from the computer.
The dictionary has several meetings. Values of variable in an unobserved interval from values. To project and extend or expand known data or experience.

17. Trepidation - came across this word in a film. This gentleman in a wheelchair was talking about being interviewed and that the interviewer had some trepidation in interviewing a man in a wheelchair. I took it to mean that he was nervous and anxious.
The dictionary says that it means tremors uncertain agitation apprehension

18. Vulnerable - Despite our mechanism of power, we are human and vulnerable. I get this word to mean that we are weak and can be hurt easily. We are wide open to any kind of criticism.
The dictionary says, Capable of being physically wounded - open to attack or damage. I don't feel this has to be physical. It can also be emotional or mental.

19. Paradox
Thomas Merton was a Paradox: A hermit who loved people, a gifted scholar in search of a wisdom beyond knowledge. He struggled for freedom, but refused to compromise his vow of obedience. To me, this means that he was two-sided or two-dimensional.

The dictionary says that is contradictory. Such as always taking the opposite opinion of the one speaking.

20. Proselytize
"I'd have a hard time believing in him, too. It would certainly be a first if a Jehovah's Witness did not proselytize family members." This was taken from an editorial in the December issue of the Liguorian. I take it to mean that the elders take some sort of advantage of the younger member, especially the women.

The dictionary says it is the process of trying to convert someone to your faith or religion or party, etc.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Devil's Advocate: Separate But Equal: Mainstreaming

This is Mom's Devil's Advocate paper referenced in her 1994 class paper proposal. It's interesting because the requirement of the paper is to take the opposite position of a topic that was very important to Mom. 

I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but a tip off to Mom's heart not being in this opposite position is her title, "Separate But Equal," a title that itself has some pretty bad connotations.

The photo is of Mom's 6th grade class, in her hometown school. Mom appears to be circled, second row up, far right.

Disabled children have their special schools. They have their special teachers who are trained to work with them. These special teachers are educated in all facets of working with disabled students. Most of these students wouldn't be able to survive in 'real' school. So what is the big problem? What is this Mainstreaming anyway?

Mainstreaming began with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly referred to as Section 504; but it wasn't until 1977 that it became a common practice in the Iowa City School District as a means to place a disabled student in a regular classroom. Most of these students are able to manage in this classroom setting, with minimal assistance from others. Full mainstreaming, or inclusion, means that all disabled students are placed in the classroom and a special education teacher will stop into the classroom and attend to the child's needs. The goal is to place these children in the Least Restrictive Environment, or LRE.

According to Albert Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers, "Inclusion is Ideology. As a result of this LRE, there are a lot of "medically fragile" children being placed in these classrooms with little or no training in the care of any of these types of disabilities. Just one of these students could use one-on-one care and attention. Then what happens to the rest of the class? How much do they lose from the teacher's attention? Now, given the scenario of a severe behavior problem child, how do you handle the child who kicks and scratches the other children? Or a child who moans or cries all during the class. How much education are they getting? How much education are the other children getting? Unless there is someone in the classroom all the time for that student, that teacher cannot fulfill her duty to the other students.

"Schools are to be performing three basic functions," according to Mr. Shanker, "which are: imparting knowledge and skills; preparing students for the working world; and helping them become good citizens and develop socially. Those demanding full inclusion are only interested in socialization." This is not why taxpayers support the schools. Do you really want the subject your child to this kind of education?

The experts say that the disabled child will perform his/her maximum when they are able to copy for a normal child. Isn't the reverse also true that if the normal child is around the disabled child, will they not copy a little retarded, or worse yet, imitate the child unwittingly or cruelly intentionally.

The 'real' school has stairs and long hallways. They have books to carry and tests to study for. In order for the disabled student to survive in this environment, there has to be some changes made - some very expensive changes. Maybe this is a case of only the strong will survive.

Who should foot the bill for all these changes, and why should we subject our children to this? They have to sit side by side with this disabled student, some of them very severely disabled. Why should we slow down the progress of the rest of the class because of one slow student.

Let's take a look at how expensive this could be. We have a school building built in the sixties. There are two stories. Water fountains are high, restrooms are small in order to accommodate many stalls. Children, even small children in grade schools, must move from room to room between classes. By law, everyone must attend Physical Education class of some sort.

Now, you have a child in a wheelchair - A very bright child. By following her brothers and sisters she has already learned to read. It would be much better for you to send the child to a special school. There, she could get all the individual help she needs. There are therapists there who can aid in your child's physical development. She won't be embarrassed to run her wheelchair down the hall as there will be lots of kids there who are "different."

Federal Law, The Americans With Disabilities Act, effective in 1992, now, that all public buildings, including schools, must accommodate these children. Here is a price tag on just some remodeling that has to be done to the existing building. An elevator would have to be installed. This could cost somewhere between 20 and 50 thousand dollars. The water fountains, telephone booths will need to be lowered. This cost would vary with the institution. If the school is very old, the doorways may need to be widened, both to the classrooms and to the restrooms. The restrooms themselves will need a total remodeling job. Many of them have real small stalls to make room for as many stalls as possible. Now there will have to be at least one big one with a railing grab bar. The sinks will need some attention, along with the paper towel racks, etc. The list goes on.

If the child is severely disabled, an attendant will need to be hired by the school district to aid this child. The teacher, however, will still be the central figure in this. Many of the teachers are not equipped educationally for this type of student, much less be able to handle the other students in relationship to the severely disabled child. These teachers are still from the era when these types of children were hidden so they are not emotionally able to help.

The advantages to keeping the severely disabled separate but equal are many. The children will be able to learn at their own pace, with all the special equipment they need. As a result, they will not slow down the learning of the other students. It is really hard for the normal student to relate to the severely disabled student. They feel uncomfortable and do not know what to say or do to that student. The disabled student also feels this uncomfortableness and doesn't know how to handle it. All the expense is centered on one area. One classroom which can be located on the ground level and with one bathroom. If the cafeteria is out of reach, then the meals can be brought in. All very compact. Then all that money can be used on other things.

In summary, we need more data before full inclusion is forced to be adopted everywhere.

Connie, Feb. 20, 1994

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From Dependence to Independence Proposal

This appears to be the proposal for Mom's 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. I like the third paragraph, where Mom talks about the help her siblings gave her in school, and how she likely couldn't have done it without them.

The photo is of Mom, third from the left, at her eighth grade graduation at the crippled children's school in Sioux Falls. She only attended there for one year. The photo is also from a great photo album I found on my recent trip home, an album Dad had.

I have chosen to write my research paper on educating the disabled then and now. Rather than using techniques in teaching, I would like to focus on the physical aspect, for instance with kids perfectly able to learn, but unable to get into the building. This can be due to physical access, steps, wider doors, place to sit, furniture unsafe, etc., or due to textbooks that a blind person can't read or the extra help needed for a deaf or hard of hearing student. I believe I can go back to the early 1900s when no one bothered to educate these kids. Then it was a curse to have one and they were hidden from the public either in their home, or in an institution.

If a family could afford it, a private tutor could be hired and progress seen, as in the well-known case of Helen Keller. So often this kind of thing was never attempted. If you had any of these handicapped listed above, you automatically couldn't see, hear, or talk either, much less have a brain and be able to think. All of these assumptions are untrue, of course, as have been proven time and time again with the proper education.

I was born in the early 1940s and people didn't know what to do then. I came at the bottom of a large family. There weren't any organizations for us to turn to. My parents never considered anything but sending me to school. With my brothers' and sisters' help, I went to school. I'm not sure how much, if anything, went into the decision to send me to school. I'm sure that I was not expected to accomplish a lot. The physical barriers were countless. They began at the front door and countless steps. Everywhere there were steps. There were two flights just to use the bathrooms, one flight to get to the classrooms. The walking to and from the playground took many minutes. Without my brothers and sisters, I would not have made it. Along this line, I would like to interview some of my sisters about those early decisions. I would like to know if the school had any objections to my attending school. I don't think any of the teachers are around anymore. I do have contact with some of my classmates and wonder if it was discussed in any of their families. I never got the feeling that I was not wanted in school.

I had a brother who was born deaf and attended a school for the deaf in a nearby town. There wasn't a handicapped school until I was in late grade school. I did attend this school following a surgery for one year. I wasn't walking yet, so I couldn't handle the stairs. With the schools now, I probably could have handled it.

I personally was extremely disappointed with the academics of this school for that year. I can't say that I learned a lot of academics. I did learn a lot about people and was more appreciative of my home.

After that year, I returned again to my local school for high school. Here, of course, I was challenged along with the rest of my classmates. This was a small school, so perhaps it was easier.

After graduation, however, I think my parents let down. They were not real big on higher education and the benefits of it. I do feel that all of the kids should have been forced to go to college or trade school. I did return after about 10 years. At this point, my choices were a little different. That is a whole other story.

The emphasis has shifted greatly between when I started school, where not much was expected. Indeed, the thoughts generally were that we couldn't learn much. Then the start of special schools, where educators were saying it is best to keep the handicapped kids separate so they won't slow everyone down. The pendulum has now turned. With the modern use of "mainstreaming" these kids are now back in the classroom whenever possible. They not only can keep up academically, but many times they are a very good influence on the rest of the kids. With many of the physical barriers now being corrected, many of these kids get along quite well on their own.

On the devil's advocate paper, I could present perhaps the expense of re-doing all these buildings with ramps, putting in elevators, etc. Also the extra effort and expense of attendants and getting kids to and from school. Required also are readers for blind students and interpreters for the deaf, and attendants for the more severely handicapped. All of this is now paid for by your school district.

There are those who say spending all this money on these students is jeopardizing the monies for their own students. They could also say that these students are distracting to the other students and prohibiting them from learning.

There are those who believe that these students should be separated to promote learning for both groups. The handicapped group can't possibly measure up so to speak with the physically able student.

I intend to prove, however, that everything I just stated on this advocate paper is just the reverse, that  this student is not a detriment, but an asset and a good future investment. To make every individual a tax payer, rather than a tax drain. Education is certainly the key to all of this.

Vocational training is used in most communities to train the handicapped to a specific job or task. Higher education is still not done very often. It still remains very difficult for anyone to get a job in an executive position, even with the proper education, or in some cases more than the proper education. This will take educating the public.

Connie, Jan. 22, 1994

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We All Need to Communicate

This is a paper Mom wrote in 1993, I believe for one of her speech classes. It's more of a concept paper, rather than a details one, talking about the kinds of communication and how they can be used.

It's also hand-written, but Mom's handwriting was always pretty good and I think I got most of it. The photo is of Mom in June 2010 at the Saratoga National Battlefield Visitor's Center in Saratoga County, NY.

I. We all need to communicate. As a child, we learned to communicate with our parents by asking for things so our basic needs could be fulfilled, ex. "Potty," "Mommy," "Daddy, "eat," etc. The skills were pretty basic. As an adult, the learning years can be humorous.

As we grow older, our communication becomes more important and expanded. We get to intrapersonal communication, how we communicate with yourself. This is important as it helps improve your self esteem. How we view our self tells us how we view others.

We also learn how to communicate with others. Dyadic communication is with two people. When we are younger, this could be with a friend, with your mother or a sister. Again, as we get older, we expand our horizons and we have a Dyadic communication with a teacher, a boss, a husband, etc.

With everyone, we must learn to effectively communicate. We must learn to get our point across. Effective communication is when both parties equally participate. It cannot be all one-sided. The all "I" syndrome.

The physical communication is using verbal gestures to get the message across. Some people cannot speak without these.

The spoken word or gesture is sent out on adapters and conveyed to the listener.

Interpersonal communication, two or more people are conveying with each other. Communication with husband and wife, I would see as interpersonal.

Impersonal is a non-caring communication. We convey the ideas, but don't really care whether the ideas are excepted or not. If this communication continues, we may lose what we meant to say. Soon, no one will take you seriously and you will have no audience.

When you are trying to get a message across, you need to hear the message and speak enthusiastically about the message. If you don't like the message, then you will not communicate it well.

A family, for instance, will be a lot happier if they can, as a group, communicate better. Everyone needs the feedback, which you get from communicating well. ex. You asked your teenager to clean her room and later you find it still a mess, then you were not effective. But if you were specific, i.e. pick up your clothes, put the garbage away, make your bed. These are specific instructions and could result in other communication and a cleaner room.

II. Some of the ways I influence such a concept in others is, first of all, by communicating to them. I, first of all, must listen to them and when I speak to them, I refer to something they may have said. I try to remember their name and use it. I use a tone of voice that is encouraging and not too "cheery" or over-whelming."

My significant other, be it a husband, friend or teacher, boss, can greatly influence your mood by how they communicate with you.

We have all gone to work feeling great, only to be confronted at work by a surly boss who got up on the wrong side of the bed. It is very difficult to overcome this type of influence. Sometimes it is a matter of continuing to "beef up" your own behaviors and self concept. Maybe you just need to stop for a minute and walk away, if you can. If this happens often, we may need to prepare better our own communication.

We may need to say "I know me and I feel good today," then prepare a compliment for that significant other. "Gosh, sir, you just did a good job with that report. It is surprising sometimes how you can turn a "grouch" around with a few well-chosen words. The same can be said for receiving these words, if you are the surly one.

Sometimes, a very shy "wall flower" can be brought open by some wonderful remarks by a significant other and improve their self-concept or self-esteem.

How well a person performs depends on their self-esteem. We must think well of ourselves before we can think well of others. We need to know how others see us. Sometimes this communication can come in the form of a letter or a card. Something to say I care about you and you are important. We have to care first about ourselves. We can't be impersonal. We have to spread our self-concept.

With the significant other, we need to be self-confident enough to convey this self-concept to them. If you live or work with a person who is constantly tearing you down, your self-concept will be shot very quickly. If they are insulting you want to insult back. If they are to gossip, you want to gossip back. It may take a strong character and strong self-concept on your part to break this cycle. You need to begin to resist this temptation.

If you start complimenting little things, then bigger things, maybe the influence will soon be felt. Then if this doesn't change behavior, then maybe you need to break yourself away from this concept and improve your own self-esteem. Maybe he/she will not improve with you, so you need to improve yourself. Self-concepts or self-esteem is very important in human behavior. No matter what or where we go in life, how you perceive yourself may be how others perceive you.

Connie, Oct. 14, 1993

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Recite It to the Cat

This is an account Mom wrote for a class in 1993, about preparing for a speech. In it, she goes through all the steps she went through to put a speech together for a class and then give it.

One of those steps, Mom wrote, was recite it to the cat. The photo is of Mom in 2001 in her sewing room with Pepe.

When a speech topic is given, I need to turn it over and over in my mind. Before I select a topic, I try to visualize how different topics will work. Sometimes I'm on the road driving to work and suddenly the right combination of ideas start to take shape. The topic appears from several different angles, and think about which of the angles could be worked on and information pursued.

Now I decide what information I need and where to get it. Sometimes this is the hardest part for me. I don't like running around, and driving downtown is dangerous for me. Wondering around a library can be very time-consuming to me, especially when I don't know where anything is and when I do find it, it is usually out of reach. Because of my problems with the library, I try to stick to a lot of topics that I already know, so I can zero in on the books that I want to check on. I gather too much information so I can pick and choose. By combining the things I already know with the bits and pieces which I gathered from books and magazines, I now get myself organized.

I sort all the information either in my mind going to work or if I have actual pieces of paper then I put them into piles. I read and assemble the information. Suddenly I seem to have a beginning. That is very important as the very beginning sets the tone for the entire speech. A good beginning can make someone sit up and take notice, or fall asleep. Just stop and listen to the other speakers. Try and guess the speech content from the beginning. A good beginning could go in several directions, and not until you are further in do you actually see where the speech is going.

I pencil out a rough draft. This is so I can see the direction that it will take. Usually this flows out quite fast. Somehow when you know what you want to say and the point you want to get across, or in other words, the intention of the speech. If all you are looking for is a grade, then your heart is not in it. You will not give a good speech. Many times you have a "mission" or a cause that you particularly are fond of that may lend itself to your speech, this could give the added dimension of excitement and interest in your tone of voice. Remember this when choosing your topic. Also this helps you when it comes to actually reciting the speech. If you are familiar with the topic, it is easier to look at the audience while speaking.

Now that I have myself organized and written out, I recite it aloud. Here is where all the flaws are discovered. Nothing like reading something out loud and finding that it doesn't make any sense. Back to the drawing board and try to make it make sense. This may mean cutting and editing. You may also need to recite it to someone else. When no one else is around, recite it to the cat. Just don't take offense if the cat gets up and walks away. After going over it several times, you may want to time it to see where you need to polish it. Now take some notes from your written copy. Think of these notes as jump starts. This is your organization. You want to keep it in some sort of order. This will help. Now take these notes and try your speech again. Refine your notes. Put them on cards, just a few notes to a card so you can just glance at the card and remember what you are to say.

Never, never, never memorize the speech. It will sound memorized to the audience and just as boring. Pretend that all these people are sitting in your living room and you are telling them about your favorite topic.

I use the note cards and recite the speech aloud again. Try a different animal this time. See if he will listen better, knowing that not all your audience will listen either. Look at the audience as much as possible. Wow, I think I have it down. Each time I rehearse it, it is different. Guess that means it hasn't been memorized. Never seems to come out the same twice. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. I sure hope that something comes out tomorrow.

On the day of the speech, I go through a certain ritual, where something that is very comfortable and also I feel good in. For instance, a suit I like and I think it looks good on me. I also try to get my hair to look good. After all, you can't look good unless you feel good. I could never give a speech in a sloppy pair of blue jeans, for instance. When everyone is looking at me, I have to feel good about how I look.

The time comes for me to get up. I take a deep breath and walk to the podium. I need the podium to physically lean on. Suddenly, all my rehearsals go out the window and I speak from memory. Again it doesn't exactly come out the way I had planned. My throat tightens up but I keep speaking glancing on my notes, knowing that I'm not following them. I'm not sure if I'm making sense or not. The speech is over and I return to my place. There is applause, so maybe I got through to someone. Another speech over.

Connie, Oct. 4, 1993

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Random Act of Kindness

This is an account Mom wrote about a time she fell and the man who stopped to help her get up. It's a situation Mom sometimes found herself in and I sometimes find myself in.

In her story, Mom points out that the man stopped to listen to what help she needed, rather than assuming the best way to get her back up.

The photo is of Mom at a local science museum on a visit to see us in 2010.

As a handicapped individual, who is out in the world, I have benefited from many acts of kindness, by a variety of individuals. The latest happened just three months ago. I walk with crutches and full-length leg braces. I pulled my car into the parking lot behind LaJames College of Hairstyling. It was a beautiful day for the middle of February, after a very cold, snowy winter. I decided not to wear my coat, as it was only a short distance to the door. The sun had melted the snow on the sidewalk. I went on in to get my hair cut.

An hour later, I came out. It was now dark. Knowing that this section of sidewalk, which was wet earlier, would now be frozen, I slowed up walking when I saw the slick spot, but not soon enough. I fell face first on the slick cement. My bare hands scraped along the ice. I decided that I better get up before I was too cold to move. I could see no one around.

Suddenly a young black man came out of nowhere. "May I help you?" he said trying to grab me from behind.

"Wait, no!" I said, a little surprised.

"I won't hurt you," he said.

"No! Do what I tell you." He stopped to listen. "Now, hold your hands stiff so I can lean on them." I rolled over and used his hands to get up standing. He then picked up my crutches and my purse.

"Thanks," I said. "Now, if I can get to the car. It's parked right there."

"I can help you to the car," he replied.

"Now, just hold my hand steady and act like a railing," I requested. The young man did all these things exactly as I requested. After opening the car door, I got my things in and put my coat on. I thanked him very much. I got into the car. He kept asking me if I was OK. My finger was bleeding and I didn't want to get it all over, so I was moving carefully.

Suddenly, I looked up and he was gone. Just as quickly as he appeared. I couldn't see him on the sidewalk at all.

I sat in the car a minute trying to warm up and thinking about this kind gentleman. Most people try to grab me and try to actually pick me up, not listening to what I really need.

I thought about him all the way home; and wished I could have been able to thank him better. I don't even know who he is.

Connie, undated

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Began Working at Mercy

This is an undated writing and its not entirely clear what the context is. Mom starts by listing her education. But a portion of this gives a nice overview from Mom as to her time at her longtime job at the local hospital.

The photo is of Mom greeting a long line of those attending her retirement party in 2009.

I began working at Mercy in December 1971 as secretary in the nursing department. I was the only secretary at the time. I did everything from answering the phone for all in the office (before voice mail) I typed on IBM typewriters, before computers.

In 1975, I transferred to the staffing office. I remained there until 1998. While in staffing again I did a variety of jobs. I planned schedules for all the nursing department. As the job changed, I changed with it.

I did time cards for the nursing office. The cards themselves changed several times along the way. I also distributed the payroll checks for all nursing employees.

While in staffing we went on computer. I was the first person to organize and use Mistro, the system for staffing. I was the one who taught everyone else.

Five years ago, the messenger service combined with the unit runners into one department called Patient Escort. I was instrumental from the beginning. Many times during peak periods I dispatched their calls and did my own work.

In November of '98, it was decided that I take over dispatching completely in the Patient Escort office. ...

I have been full time since I came in 1971.

I do a lot of activities outside the hospital. I volunteer for our church to teach 2nd grade religion on Tues + Wed. I'm organizing a quilt club to make quilts for the Domestic Violence Center.

I also have a sewing business out of my home. It has grown so huge, I have a tough time keeping up. ... I also teach sewing through Kirkwood.


Monday, April 16, 2012

This Old House

I just returned from a trip to see Dad and visit South Dakota again. On the trip, one of the destinations was the house Mom grew up in. My uncle Terry showed us around. The house still stands, but is no longer occupied and is in disrepair.

I note this because the second story I picked up of Mom's after my return was this one, where she talks about that very house. Mom wrote the story in October 1991 for one of her writing classes. The photo is of how the house looked in April 2012.

Looking at all these pictures brings back many memories. Here is a picture of our old farm place. Gosh, this makes the old house look good. There is a date on the back, 1942, before I was born; no wonder it looks good. A lot of growing happened in this house.

I was born number 13 of 14 children. My parents lived in this house since they were married in 1924. It looked huge from the outside. Mom told me that two small houses were joined to make one large house a long time ago.

This made two separate upstairs. One, with three bedrooms, was for the girls; the other, with two large bedrooms, for the boys. You couldn't get from one to the other unless you came down. I grew up thinking every house had two upstairs. I couldn't imagine it any different.

As with many old houses, there were few closets and fewer cupboards. There was running water in the kitchen, but not the indoor bathroom. Water was carried to the bath tub and the clothes washer, then dipped out again when finished.

There were many entryways or porches for the many doors. None of the porches was heated, so they were not used much in the winter. One of these entries, or porches, was used for our playroom. Sometimes my sisters and I set it up to play house, many times it was our school. We passed out our papers to our imaginary students. We were always the teachers. Oh, what fun we had.

The house was old and drafty, heated only by an oil burning stove in the living room and a cook stove in the kitchen. Bugs and spiders came in through the cracks in the walls, not to mention the mice in the fall.

I couldn't go back to that old house, but that old house built character in me.

Connie, Oct. 3, 1991

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mom's Trip to See the Pope

Mom's 2008 trip out to see us in New York just seemed meant to be. The trip was already scheduled when it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI would say Mass at Yankee Stadium while Mom and Dad were already planning to be out here. This is a letter Mom wrote to the Davenport Diocese as a thank you for getting them tickets to the event.

It is also the story of how Mom almost missed the event entirely.

The photo is of Mom and Dad at Yankee Stadium. After giving them specific instructions to get pictures of themselves there, this is the only photo they came back with of them together.

I am late on this thank you to the Davenport Diocese. My husband and I were fortunate to get tickets to see the Pope at Yankee Stadium on April 20. It was like it was meant to be. My husband (Steve) was planning a trip to help our son, Steven and his wife do some things to their home. Steve was planning on going for two weeks and I was to fly out for the second week and return together. Steven and his wife live in Schenectady, a city about 100 miles north of New York City. I am always far behind reading the Messenger, so you can imagine my surprise when I read the short article about the Pope in Yankee Stadium, the next day after I arrive, and the possibility of getting tickets. I called Steve to see what he thought. He was on the phone to Father Helms to see if he could e-mail Davenport for us.

Steven got my flight ticket to Albany, leaving from Moline, Ill. My daughter was to drive the 60 or so miles from Iowa City, however, we underestimated the distance to Moline and we were late. After missing the plane, we scrambled with the attendant at the ticket counter to get a flight out. The only options were to drive to Chicago to go stand by to Albany, or take a flight to Atlanta, then one to New York City, to Kennedy Airport. I did not want my daughter to drive to Chicago on the chance of a stand-by, so we decided to go to Atlanta. We called Steve to let him know and we booked a room close.

There was time before the plane took off, so my daughter and the kids decided to eat lunch there in the airport. It was nice to be with her and the kids - time with family, priceless. After they left, I went to where the plane was to come in, however it was late by an hour and a half. When we reached Chicago, the connection to Atlanta was gone. Another nice attendant helped and this time the only alternative was to take the flight on standby to Albany. There were not extra flights going out that were not full already. The attendant stayed with me, reassuring me that I would get on. There was a list of eight people on the board for standby. Soon, she brought me a ticket. We cheered. I had prayed so hard. I knew that God would not let me have tickets in hand and not let me go.

Soon I was landing in Albany. My family was there. Now to trace my luggage that in all the confusion went to Atlanta. We would not get that back until next week. Steven and Laurie went out to get me a change of shirt and underclothes. Steve and I went to bed so we could get up the next morning early and start another journey.

The drive to NYC was uneventful. We stopped to pick up breakfast to eat on the way. We found the stadium and with the placard, supplied to us by the NYC diocese, we were able to park easier. At the entrance we needed to show our picture ID. Now, because I had shown my driver's license so often for the plane, I must have put it back in another spot, because I couldn't find it. After going through my purse at least three times, and Steve going through it once, I prayed some more. All of a sudden, there it was.

It was very cold and my hands really got cold. Now, we had a lot of walking to get to our section of the stadium. There were policemen at every section and a SWAT team on the roof.

While I was sitting there trying to soak everything in and reflecting on the crazy trip I just had, I realize that there must be thousands of stories out there of people who also made a harrowing trip to get here. I had been in Yankee Stadium several years ago. It looked the same, but didn't feel the same. Venders were selling food in the walkway downstairs. Steve asked if I wanted some popcorn. Somehow that didn't seem right selling popcorn at Mass. A lot of us were there all day, so it made sense to have food. As soon as it was getting close to starting the venders closed and the stands filled up.

They gave us a bag of various goodies when we came in, including a gold cotton scarf, rain poncho, and a program for the Mass. Looking at this, I began to feel the enormity of all of this, I noticed that all the advertising had been covered with purple cloths. The playing field was untouched. On the end, where the diamond was, was the huge platform, with a huge TV. The Pope said Mass on the other side of this monitor. My husband was disappointed because we couldn't see him. I just watched and listened to the enormity of it all.

While we were waiting in the bleachers, a priest came around and explained how communion would be distributed. There would be a priest downstairs for each section. We would leave on one side and come back up the other. One priest came over to give communion to two ladies and myself and some others. It still took a long time for each section. I can't imagine how many priests there were.

Once the Mass started and the sun came out, as though God had spoken. The program had several different languages. The Pope himself spoke in several languages.

Connie, 2008

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Franklin Roosevelt

Mom always admired Franklin Roosevelt. Though he died before she was 2, she always seemed to have a fascination with him as a person and as a president, winning the presidency four times, all while hardly able to walk.

That's why I'm glad that on Mom's last trip out to see me in 2010, I was able to get her down to Hyde Park to the Roosevelt historic site.

Mom wrote this paper in the mid-90s, writing about Roosevelt and how his disability was kept under wraps. The photo from that 2010 trip to Hyde Park, Mom and a statue of president.

Franklin Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, NY in 1882. He was elected our 32nd president in November 1932 and reelected (overwhelmingly) 3 more times in succeeding elections, 1936, 1940 and 1944. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage early in his fourth term. He was president during a most difficult time in our country's history. The depression and World War II were big events which threatened to tear this country apart. It took a strong man to keep life on an even keel.

This strong man, however, was in a wheelchair, disabled by polio in 1921. This small fact should have ended his political career. But not Roosevelt, he had more physical drive and mental know-how than most of us will ever know. All of these facts are well known now and in any encyclopedia.

All of this, however, made me very curious. In this day and age, when presidential candidates are scrutinized beyond belief, where every ailment is known in detail, every friend becomes well-known to all of us, how could a man in a wheelchair get elected president? I became curious to see how much the average American citizen knew about his disability. I decided to ask around with some of my older friends. I asked "do you remember your parents speaking about Mr. Roosevelt and his disability?" In all cases, they said yes, they knew he was disabled, but were unable to tell me when they found out.

I decided to look at the Press-Citizen from 1932 for the first campaign. By using Microfilm at the public library, I started looking. I looked through May, then in August for the Democratic convention. There was little publicity on the campaign, which started in September. Even then there wasn't much coverage. Nothing was mentioned about his disability. There were few pictures and the ones I did see were well-positioned. Always in a sitting position.

I checked out a documentary on Rosevelt, "The New Deal." Again, this was well-orchestrated. There were some standing shots, always by a doorway or someone was holding on to his arm. They showed people walking out of the White House to the awaiting car. Roosevelt was already in the car.

I remember seeing some news commentator a few years ago on TV discussing the political campaigns they had covered over the years. They discussed the Roosevelt years. They freely admitted that there was an unwritten pact among themselves not to film him walking on his crutches or wheeled in his chair and definitely not when he was carried, out of respect for him. I doubt that the average citizen knew until he was already president, then they realized it didn't matter. A sort of cover up until people were used to the idea by kind of osmosis.

It really shows when we don't make it an issue, it isn't an issue. This could be applied to race, health, gender or religion.

I also realized something else very curious. In July 1992 a law was passed and put into effect called the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Briefly, this law prohibits employers from discriminating in hiring qualified workers with disabilities. Indeed, it even went further and said that the employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations in the work place for these individuals. These could include elevators, ramps, automatic doors, parking places, closed captioning or interpreters for the hearing impaired, braille readers for the blind, etc.

A full 60 years before this law, we had a disabled man elected to the highest office in the land, living in a house that had to have been less-than accommodating, traveling extensively through this country and abroad.

What happened in those 60 years, I can't imagine a disabled person elected today without the news plastering it all over TV and newspaper.

I really admire Roosevelt's tireless drive for a country he loved.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


This appears to be a longer version of one of the stories Mom wrote out longhand last year titled here "Is That Your Puppy?" She wrote this version when she was 49, in 1993.

The photo is of Mom and four of her sisters. Mom, seated in the center rear, appears to be a little older than she is in this story.

As we walked up from the grove of trees, where we played "farm" all day, my sister Karon and I noticed a strange car in our yard.

"Who is that man standing there talking to Mom?" I asked Karon, who is older and walking with me. He is tall, bearded and unkempt. To us he looks like our picture of a bum, standing by an old car packed full of what looked like his entire worldly possessions.

"I don't know, It looks like he wants something," Karon is staying, continuing to stare at him.

"He probably wants a hand-out," I said. Mom was always helping people who stopped in. This Depression hurt so many people so they tried to travel to greener pastures somewhere else. Anywhere but where they came from. Mom and Dad told many stories over the dinner table about people stopping by for a meal. Mom always gave it to them. I always figured it was out of fear, more than anything else. She was afraid of what they might do to us. Yet, I believe my mother couldn't turn away anyone who needed help, especially if there were children in the car. She made these huge meals just to feed her large family, she figured she could always feed one or two more.

"Looks like she is hollering at Terry to help him," Karon said. "Maybe he just wants gas. Lets go up and see what is going on.

We walked up to the main yard, just as Mom motioned us to go into the house and help get the table set for supper.

"Terry, after you fill his car, see if he wants to eat. Supper is ready. Karon, run out to the barn and see how long Dad and the boys will be."

"Okay Mom," and Karon ran off.

In the house I helped get the evening meal on the table, setting an extra plate. Mom, a heavy-set woman in her early fifties, waddled around the kitchen. She was a good cook with old-fashioned dishes. Today we were having meatloaf and it looked and smelled great.

When they all came in to eat, the man, who introduced himself as Jake, brought with him a little bundle.

"M'am, I'm so grateful for your hospitality. This meal looks and smells wonderful. Do you have a box to put this fellow into?" he said, kneeling down and slowly uncovering his bundle. Inside I could hear a whimper and see a wiggle. Curled up in the blanket was a fur ball about the size of a large fist.

Mom had gotten a box from the pantry. We were all sitting on the floor anxious to see the prize inside. I am in front because I am the shortest.

"Oh, she is so cute," I screamed. The little fur ball was a blonde and white terrier puppy about six weeks old. She nervously whimpered and shivered even in the blanket.

"Can I pet her?"

"Sure you can hold her, if you are careful." He picked up her fragile little body and handed her to me.

She was so warm, her rough tongue licked my fingers. "Mom! Isn't she cute!"

"Jake does she drink yet? She is so tiny," Mom inquired. "Karon, get a bowl of milk. Maybe some warm milk the boys just brought in."

"Look, you have been so kind to me and I have no money to pay you; I brought this puppy from home, but I can't take care of her. I lost my job in Ohio so I'm traveling west to look for something different. Could you take her? Then I won't worry about her."

"Oh Mom! Can we?" I screamed as only a 10-year-old can scream.

"Alright, we can take her. You sure you want to give her up? She seems like a loving little pup. What kind is it?"

"It is just a small rat terrier mutt. She shouldn't get much bigger than a foot long."

We put the box next to my chair. She drank some milk and stopped shivering. She was my puppy -- my Suzie.

Connie, March 30, 1993

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bill In His Easy Chair

This is a short fiction story Mom wrote in 1993 about a mom trying to get through to her teenager.

The photo is of Mom from about 10 years before this story was written, in 1983.

Bill sighs as he plunks slovenly into the warn easy chair in front of the TV with a Coke in one hand and a bag of chips in the other hand. He carelessly throws his leg over the arm, spilling some chips on the floor. He looks at them but is only concerned with the amount still in the bag.

"Here girl! Come on Sal, here is a special treat," Bill hollers at the top of his lungs. A small spaniel bounds into the room and jumps on his lap. Her tail wagging in delight. "Ah not me, Sal, on the floor. There's your snack." Sal is shoved to the floor to start to clean up the mess. She is a blond cocker spaniel with the cutest curls on her ears, which drag on the floor as she quickly does away with the chips. Now that she is aware of what is in the bag she jumps back on Bill's lap for more. Irritated Bill shoves her back down. Sal sits patiently on the floor waiting for another accident.

It's 10 a.m. and Bill, a good-looking seventeen year old, is bored. There is much he could do, but he only has the ambition to watch TV. He hasn't even bothered to change clothes today, as he still wears his town blue jeans and T-shirt from last night when he got in very late from "riding his motorcycle with the boys."

"Bill, get dressed and go down to the youth center," his mother shouted from the kitchen. "You need to get interested in something. I worry about you wasting your life away in front of the TV. You know your friend Brian works down there. Maybe he can help you find a job there. I know how much you like basketball, why not use some of the fun and knowledge and help someone else, instead of always thinking about yourself." By this time she is standing in front of Bill. She is dressed in her black pants and sweater purse in hand on her way out of her luncheon.

"Mom, you know how I hate all that organized stuff. Besides, I can't work with kids, they drive me nuts. They always have so much energy."

"That's just it, Bill, you need to get some of that energy. You know, like you used to. You used to have so much fun with the boys, playing basketball, baseball, and running. What's happened? Is there something bothering you? You just haven't been the same, since, ah, we lost your dad. Is that it? Do you miss your Dad?"

"Mom, I just can't get into anything. My mind has gone blank," Bill replied, quickly staring at the floor.

"Maybe you need someone to talk to. Would you speak to a counselor if I made an appointment. It is nothing to be ashamed of, it is just sometimes we just need more help than we are able to give ourselves. I've been seeing a counselor for several months now and it has made me feel like I am a new person. I know it could help you too. Would you let me make the appointment. I'll go with you, if you want me to."

Bill just sat there unable to speak. "I love you so much. I just can't stand seeing you wasting away your time like this," his mom went on.

"Let me think about it Mom. Maybe one visit wouldn't hurt," Bill reluctantly agreed.

"Oh honey, I know it will make you feel better. Now I will take care of it. Why don't you go upstairs and take a shower and put on clean clothes. I have to go to my luncheon now. I should be back by 3 p.m. and maybe we can go out to dinner tonight, or would you rather just eat alone here. Now you need to get out of the house. You pick." She rattled on like a magpie. She was a handsome woman in her middle 40s. She exercised every day, so her body was rather trim. Her regular weekly trip to the salon kept her hair very stylish.

She grabbed her purse and walked out the door. Bill remained in the easy chair munching on his chips and drinking his Coke. Sal remained ready to jump at the first morsel to land within reach. Bill did, however, seem a little more restless - more deep in thought. Maybe there was something wrong.

Connie, Feb. 16, 1993

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fall 1991 Short Family Stories

Four short stories Mom wrote for her fall 1991 writing class. She writes about watching her daughter play ball in the hot July sun, her family and her religion being the top priorities in her life, how she didn't like her name growing up and, apparently following an assignment, what shape and color she saw herself as.

The photo is of Mom, myself and my sister in 1991, on a trip through Mark Twain Cave in Missouri. Dad took the photo.

July is very hot and humid in Iowa. A good rule is to stay in the shade or stay indoors. So here I am, in the hottest part of the day, watching a ballgame. My daughter is on the team, so I have to stay. All my clothes are wet with sweat. Whatever I drink, it is not enough and doesn't satisfy me. My arms are heavy. The longer I sit there, the worse I feel. At least the game is over. I try to walk to the car. I feel very dizzy. I feel like I will pass out. A friend helps me. Ten minutes in the air conditioned car and I feel better.
Connie, Sept. 25, 1991

Top Priorities in My Life
The number one priority in my life right now is my family. My husband, who is on disability from a kidney transplant, and two hip replacements, is very important to me. He also has a learning disability, which was not diagnosed until recently. He has great difficulty reading and writing. My two children are also a number one priority. My goal is to give them as much self-esteem as possible. They are both very gifted and talented in their own right.

Secondly, my religion is very important to me. My faith in God has gotten me this far, and it will get me through the rest of my life. My goal is to help instill some of this faith in my family, more by action, then by preaching.

My future plans include incorporating my hobby of sewing into a business. I love to teach someone how to sew. I eventually would like to do a simple sewing manual, written in simple language, to give the amateur confidence. I teach sewing part-time through Kirkwood Community Education Department when there are enough students. I have found that I love teaching. I love to see that light go on, which means they finally got it.
Connie, Oct. 8, 1991

My Name
I never liked Constance as a name in school. I wanted a nice, simple name like Mary or Jane. Also, no one else in school was named Constance. We did have one boy in class named Conrad, which really complicated things. As I grew up, it didn't matter and now I like the name. I like that it is a little different and easy to pronounce.
Connie, Fall 1991

I believe my personality is round, because I am interested in many different kinds of subjects. I am able to relate to a variety of experiences with old and young. I can go into a conversation with old or young, and feel fairly comfortable on a one to one basis.

My color varies with the day. It also varies accordingly to what is going on around me. As I am getting older, there seems to be more "blue" days and I feel blue. On good days, I feel like red. I can take anything thrown at me.
Connie, Sept. 19, 1991