MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

Twenty two years ago, a ten year old British girl was on her way to a holiday in Belgium. Before she got on the ferry, she threw a plastic bottle into the sea and while that it is not to be encouraged, this bottle was special. It had a message inside.

Right before Christmas, a Dutch couple were walking their dog on the beach in Zeeland. Apparently the dog has long been fascinated with playing with plastic bottles and he was the one who spotted the bottle. The note, written by Zoe, said that she was on her way to a holiday and wanted to share that she liked ballet, playing the flute and the piano. She also said she had a hamster named Sparkle.

The couple sent the note to England, to the address that was on the note. Luckily, Zoe’s parents still lived there and took the note to their daughter. Needless to say, she was surprised and very happy. She has begun emailing the couple and they have sent her photographs of the area where the bottle was found. She hopes to visit The Netherlands someday.

So there is your happy story of the new year. You just never know..

Recommended reading: I have so many books to talk about, but here is the one that I just finished: THE ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline. I could not put this book down, in fact I finished it at 1am.

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I AM A CAMERA

I don’t remember a time that my father did not have a camera in his hands. He was always taking photographs and making home movies. As a little girl, I was told “smile, Jane” and I looked at my dad and his camera and smiled. The home movies show me as a baby in the crib and being aware of the camera. As there was no sound, I can imagine my mother or father talking to me, trying to get my attention. So there I was, in my crib, smiling and chewing on the wooden rails of the crib.

One of my favorite moments caught on film was me sitting on a potty chair and I am guessing it was right before bedtime. I am obviously sleepy and I am trying very hard to stay awake. I am sitting on this chair, naked and frankly, I look drunk. Trying to hold up my head and smile, resting my chin in my hand and my head slips down and then I sit straight up and smile for my dad again. It was not strange to have so many parts of my life recorded, this is what my dad did and as I aged, it became a routine.

The opening of gifts at Christmas were interrupted by having to show the gifts that my sister and I got to the camera. Now I can see what a great record it was of the stuff we got and it sure is a trip down memory lane. When it was my dad’s turn to open his gifts, my mother held the camera and it was clear she was not gifted in this area. Many times it looked like my dad was on a ship as the camera went all over the place as my dad was sitting still. Later on, I was given the camera and filmed my dad, and I had a steadier hand than my mother but no one was as good as my dad.

I don’t think everyone was comfortable being in front of the camera. In the 1960’s not every family had a movie camera, my dad kind of stood out for having one and using it as much as he did. If you look back at the movies and even the photographs, you see how stiff people were. They were really not so sure what they were supposed to do in front of the camera. Many times, people just stood still and would have to be encouraged to actually move. But I remember wonderful moments of naturalness that were caught on film and those are the ones that make you laugh and maybe just smile.

My dad’s brother Russell and his family came for a visit to California. They had never seen the ocean before (they were from Washington) and my dad stood back on the beach and just filmed them approaching the water. My uncle Russ rolled up his pants (he would not wear shorts) and just watched the water roll in, but he would not move. My cousins and my aunt Harriett would walk towards the water and the minute it came towards them, they all ran. They ran back and forth and screamed the whole time. My mother tried to encourage them to not be afraid, but I don’t think they were convinced to embrace the ocean.

And then there was Christmas, my sister and I in our pajamas sitting on the floor and waiting to pounce on our gifts. I remember all of those films, but the one that comes to me right away was the year my sister Karen, who was 13, got a sewing machine. If you know me by now, you know that this is not a gift that I would ever want, but Karen had this idea that she could make her clothes. When she unwrapped the box, she leaped up and did a dance of pure joy. She could not sit down as she went all over the place dancing with happiness and my father caught it all. These are the moments that you cannot plan or control and even after all these years, they can still make you happy.

This subject has been on my mind because the world is changing so fast and sometimes I feel like such a dinosaur. You cannot go anywhere and not see people taking pictures with their phones and even making mini movies. It is just no big deal to be able to record an experience right as it is happening. And why wouldn’t you if you had the chance? But the new trend is the making of photographs of yourself. It was recently announced that in The Netherlands that the word of the year is SELFIE. It was chosen by 2200 people who voted in the Van Dale (dictionary) online poll, with SELFIE taking 32% of the vote.

You do not need anyone to take your photograph anymore. You can do it yourself. It is not like the old days when Karen would call out to my dad to bring his camera as she was going to do a handstand. Everything is like instant pudding. People do not need to put film in a camera and they don’t have to be upset if they forgot their camera, as they now have a phone that does everything. So that means there are more images out there, more photographs of your friends and family, and certainly there are more images of YOU. You only need a long arm and a cell phone to take a picture of yourself.

We could go back and forth about the pros and cons of all of these changes. But there is a part of me that gets sentimental for the old days. When I look at a home movie or a black and white photograph, I know that my dad took it. I know that my mom was standing nearby talking to me. They were there with me, in that very moment, and it is a lovely thought. There are hundreds and hundreds of photographs of my sister and I am so grateful for them. It is our scrap book, our timeline, our diary of who we were and new memories are being created with new gizmos. Now, people can share an instant photograph of their dinner or of their baby’s first breath. Life just becomes one more episode from The Jetsons, doesn’t it? The quality of the technology is impressive and those instant films have shown us images that we may not have ever seen.

The reality is that technology has broadened our imaginations and opportunities. I wonder if my dad were still alive, if he would use his phone to record his life and I think he would love the new gadgets. He would be the first to say that things are less complicated when it comes to making a film. There is no doubt that there are tremendous benefits and conveniences to using the cell phone. But it still seems odd to me the amount of selfies being taken. When did we start having this need to photograph our own image?  Maybe it was always there….

I think that I look back with some nostalgia to the old days because my family was not really that happy. Our parents were not happy with each other, but the photos and films told another story. We could look back at our lives and find some kind of connection.

The very first movie that I made an appearance in was when I was three days old. My mother was 22 years old, a beautiful English woman, who was giving her baby her first bath. My dad, a new father himself, was filming this historic moment. And I wonder about what was being said in this scene…but this was the start of my dad recording the events of the family, now there were three of us to film. Years later, when our family would watch this movie, my sister would say “hey, how come you didn’t film me taking a first bath or how come I am not in as many movies as Jane?” How many times did the second child ask this kind of question? Not sure what was better, the actual filming or eating popcorn with your family and having a home movie night. Dad would set up the projector, put up the screen, and we would add our own dialogue and laugh a lot. Now a family films themselves having a snowball fight and can immediately see what they did just a few minutes before. It is really amazing how far we have come. All I am saying is that sometimes what you see in a photograph or in a film, is not the whole story. Sometimes the story behind the camera is just as interesting.

Recommended reading: THE SONGS OF WILLOW FROST by Jamie Ford. I was eager to read this novel, I loved Ford’s first novel, ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET. Wonderful story.

WORKING GIRL

WORKING GIRL

I will share a few updates on stories that I have posted before. Just a few things going on in The Netherlands…

Since it reopened in April of this year, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has had two million visitors. On average there are 7-10,000 visitors a day.  Recently, the two millionth visitor walked through the museum’s door and the director was there to greet her. He had flowers and a bag of items from the gift shop. This lucky visitor was a tourist from Israel and she was on the last day of her holiday.

I have written many stories about how OLD this country is. When there is any construction going on, you can usually expect an announcement about what has been found buried for over 500 years or so.  There could be bones, money, weapons, or even a wooden bicycle.

In central Utrecht, archeologists have found part of a Roman road. The northern border of the Roman Empire ran through The Netherlands, via Utrecht, and through to Germany.  A Roman fort has stood on this site. This discovery was found near the Domtoren (the tallest tower in this country) and a very popular area for people to visit or sit at a nearby café. This is an area that I really love. Once construction is complete, this road is going to covered by a glass walkway so that the public will be able to see it.

And finally, we come back to the prostitutes. Five months after the houseboats (they were the working spaces of the prostitutes) lost their licenses, the Utrecht city council has agreed to a new location.  The city was concerned about the possibility that women were being forced to work in this profession and that there was some human trafficking going on. This was a big deal for the city, as there were many arguments for both sides. Ultimately, the city closed down the entire area and the women were either out of work or they went to other cities.

But now the city says they will create a new work space, although there will be no houseboats, just boring buildings. The houseboats will be removed in March of next year and the new space will open after that. There will be 162 windows, as they are called here. This new area will be known as The Prostitute Centrum.  I am not kidding.

Also, the city now requires that all prostitutes must be at least 21 years of age.

I just keep wondering about those houseboats. Where they are going and how will they be used…it just makes you wonder.

Recommended viewing:  In Britain, they have just aired the final POIROT episode. After 25 years, David Suchet is leaving the famous detective behind. The last episode is actually Poirot’s last case, just as Agatha Christie wrote it.  It was very bittersweet to watch this. In the USA, the final three episodes will air next year.

BLACKFISH

I am taking a few minutes to write a new post. My time is consumed by homework. I know I sound like a kid, but I am buried with school. My one Dutch class demands a lot of my time and of my brain, so I have two ways of rewarding myself: reading a novel and watching a movie or television show. Those are my treats for studying and I love doing both.

So I will be brief about just a few things. There are two new documentaries that are wonderful and very different. DEAR MR. WATTERSON is the story about the popularity of the fabulous comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, created by Bill Watterson. Watterson is not in the film and most people don’t know where he lives or what he looks like. But the focus is on the comic strip and many other cartoonists are interviewed.

BLACKFISH is about the use of Orca whales at Sea World parks. There has been a long history of concern about the whales living in captivity, and in a small space. The film raises two main issues: is it fair for Sea World to put their animal trainers in harm’s way (as many have been injured and some even killed) and is it fair for the whales to be living this life? The film builds their case very thoughtfully that this is not a good situation for anyone except the company who is making millions.

I just have to mention Tom Hanks. Everyone knows his work and has seen at least a few films he has been in. His list of films is astonishing because it is so diverse. I recently saw CAPTAIN PHILLIPS and I was completely entertained by the film. It is gripping, intense and you are very caught up in the story. But for me, I was so impressed by Hanks and how he came alive on screen. The audience has to feel what Hanks is going through, we have to be invested in this drama and how will or will not survive. It is a brilliant performance, please do not miss it.

Now back to studying the beautiful Dutch language….

NO RESERVATIONS

One of the first things that I noticed upon moving to The Netherlands is that customer service was a little different from what I was used to. I can best explain by sharing what happens in an American restaurant.

When you sit down at a table, the waitress automatically brings you a tall glass of ice water. She greets you and sometimes will even introduce herself.  She will tell you about the specials of the day and then leave you with menus. Okay, you have placed your order and are now eating the meal from a large plate that accommodates the very large American portions. During the meal the same waitress comes back to check on you. She wants to know two things: are you enjoying your meal and do you need anything else? And without you even asking, she will fill your water glass. Some restaurants have free refills on soda, and if that is the case, she will take away your glass and bring you another one. Also, there are napkins at each table setting and the waitress will bring a pile of extras if needed. Once your meal is over, she will take away the plates and ask if you want tea or coffee and dessert. You will get free refills on both tea and coffee. When she sees that you are done, she will bring your bill to the table and thank you for coming. Most times you can pay the bill from the table. And now you can go home.

Now, we are in The Netherlands, and you might notice some changes. The wait staff are friendly, I have rarely met grumpy or rude waitresses or waiters. You will immediately be asked what you would like to drink and once the drinks are delivered, you get a menu. There are no glasses of water and there are some places will not give you a free glass of water. By the way, the Dutch are not too impressed with ice. If you ask for ice with your soda, then you get an ice cube, maybe two. But it is rare to automatically get any ice. You also notice that there are no napkins, if you ask for one you will get….one. Some places do have napkins with the silverware and it is always a nice surprise to find them. The meals come on more reasonably sized plates with much smaller portions. There are no free refills on any drinks, including tea and coffee. Let me prepare you, in case you visit, there are no free refills in The Netherlands.

The biggest shock for me is that you do not get the same waiter during the meal. You could literally have four waiters as they all share the tables. I think that is part of the problem with their customer service, that the wait staff do not feel a bigger responsibility for their tables. Once you have your food, you will rarely see a waiter. They do not come back to check on you, and of course there are some exceptions, but it is rare. Also, they are not coming back to fill your water glass, so they have less reasons to return. Once you are done, you have to wave and wait for the bill. Once you get the bill, you go up to the front and pay. You do not do it at the table, unless you have cash.

I am writing this blog today because I recently went to a Chinese restaurant called the Jade Villa in Maarssen. We not only had a perfect and fabulous meal, but the service was so…American. They gave such excellent customer service I thought I was back in the USA. The experience stood out to me as it was so different  from what I have had for over two years. I cannot wait to go back just because of the way I was treated. This is what is all about. For Americans, I think great customer service is taken for granted. Here, the Dutch could use some lessons on improving their business. I think the best way to describe the major difference is that the Dutch are more reserved with the way they treat customers and Americans are looser and want to give you more. And that is what I felt that night at the Jade Villa, they could not do enough for you.

Now the other big difference is that the Dutch workers are mostly bilingual and most Americans are not. It is rare to go into a café or restaurant and have a waiter not know English. Not only do they know English but they are very welcoming to non-Dutch customers. I have amused many wait staff with my attempt at Dutch and have gotten lots of encouragement from them. Each time I order something in Dutch, they answer me back in English. For some reason, they know I am not Dutch. Maybe I should start wearing wooden shoes….

To my American friends, I wish you all a fabulous Thanksgiving. Whether you are going out or staying in, I hope it is filled with great food and that you show lots of gratitude to those who made and served the meal!

JFK

November 22, 1963

I was seven years old. We were living in England, but I was an American. Because we had left the United States when I was very young, I did not have too much knowledge about America. So on this day, I was alone in the kitchen and the television was on. My mother was taking a bath. All I remember about this historic moment was that the news interrupted whatever show was on and I knew that I had to tell my mother. I went into the bathroom and said that someone in America had been hurt and that it was bad news. My mother wrapped herself in a towel and came into the kitchen. I looked up at her and saw how upset and shocked she was and I knew that this was a very bad thing.

It is the one thing that is asked of Americans (of a certain age): where were you when Kennedy was shot? Sadly, there have been many more memorable days to ask about, including 9/11.

President Kennedy’s death was obviously international news, but I must admit being surprised at how many memorials there are for him throughout the world. In Europe there are just too many to mention. In the Netherlands, there are streets, town squares, bridges and schools that bear his name.

In the summer of 1937, a twenty year old Jack Kennedy was on a Grand Tour of Europe and he visited The Hague. Here he is with his dog Dunker. He had to give the dog away to a Dutch family as his traveling companion was allergic.

JFK 1937 The Hague

Because I lived in Massachusetts, I was lucky enough to meet people that had known Jack Kennedy. They had great stories of him as a campaigner when he was just starting his political career. This skinny young man going door to door to introduce himself to the voters. Everyone who personally knew him said the same thing: that he was so charismatic, so charming, smart and very witty. They remembered him in glowing terms and it seemed like everyone felt so fortunate to have known him, even if it was for a brief time.

To all my friends in America, as you face this 50th anniversary of the assassination, I want you to know that there are people all over the world who are marking this day as well.

I asked a Dutch man what he remembered about that day and he said “it was like the world just stopped. We were all in such shock and just could not believe it happened.” Feelings shared by so many.

JANE’S BOEKENTIPS

WE ARE WATER by WALLY LAMB

If I hear that Wally Lamb has a new book out, I know I will read it. I don’t even have to know the plot, if he has written a novel, I know I must read it. Wally Lamb is a great storyteller and I have always enjoyed his novels: SHE’S COME UNDONE, I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE and THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED. He has also written a short novel that is full of charm and very different from his other works: WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’: A CHRISTMAS STORY.
WE ARE WATER is the story of one family and the many years that secrets are held onto. After 27 years of marriage, Annie and Orion divorce. This has a great impact on their three children and the surprise gets bigger when they find out that their mother is going to marry a woman. In this novel, we hear from all the members of this family, as they each tell their story and the novel moves from the past to the current day.
The strength of Lamb’s writing has always been his creation of characters. They are believable and feel very real. The only weakness I found in this novel, was that it could have been a little shorter, maybe a little more editing. But his books are always long and that is not a surprise. Overall, it is a gripping and entertaining story and it kept my interest to the very last page.

I finally saw GRAVITY and can say that it certainly matched the hype. It has a great script, great cast and fabulous special effects. I don’t think there was one second where my mind drifted or was distracted. Very compelling.

JANE’S BOEKENTIPS

THE GOOD HOUSE by Ann Leary
Hildy Good has lived her whole life in this small town in the North Shore, near Boston. She is a successful realtor but she is feeling the pinch of the hurting economy. Hildy is a divorced woman with two grown daughters who recently staged an intervention for their mother. They think Hildy has a drinking problem, and Hildy disagrees. But to quiet her daughters, she goes to rehab and pretends that she has stopped drinking.
In this novel, we meet the townspeople who Hildy has known all her life. We also meet her new friends, her wealthy clients who ask quite a lot of her. But ultimately this is such fabulous story about one woman who is in complete denial about most things, including herself. Hildy is not your typical fictional heroine and that is what makes this book so refreshing.
This book is a fun read and yet it has many surprises and the bottom line: it has such wonderful writing.
HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL by Robert Goolrick
Goolrick’s first novel, THE RELIABLE WIFE, was quite a sensation and a hit with readers. I have eagerly been waiting for his next novel, and HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL is simply wonderful.
Charlie Beale arrives in a sleepy town in Virginia and he has only two suitcases, one is full of butcher knives and clothes and the other is full of cash. It is 1948 and he is a man of few words and many mysteries. He gets a job as a butcher and becomes friends with the butcher, his teacher wife and their young son. The story slowly builds for us this small town life and the reader wonders about Charlie and what will he reveal about himself. By the end of the book, we don’t have all the answers.
But we meet some fascinating characters, including the young woman who will change Charlie’s life. As you read this novel, you know that things are not going to turn out well. You know that this is not a happy little love story, but you are invested in all the relationships that Charlie has. It is a story about redemption, betrayal and love. And Charlie Beale. Robert Goolrick had me on the first page.
FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick
I have often talked about the power of words and what a talented author can do with a story. This is a powerful young adult novel for teens and adults. Do not dismiss this book because it is marketed to teenagers
Leonard wakes up knowing two things: today is his birthday and that he will be dead by the end of the day. He plans to shoot someone and then himself. We go through his day and feel and see his life.
I am not going to say anymore just that this is superbly written and is a constant page turner from beginning to end. Leonard is someone worth getting to know.

I COULD GO ON SINGING

This was a historic week for me as I went to my first Dutch concert. Since I moved here, I have been a fan of singer Caro Emerald. Her music is hard to describe, as it is a mix of jazz, hip hop, Latin, and lots of songs from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s seem to have inspired her sound. She is one of the most successful Dutch pop singers in this country and in England. She is from Amsterdam and naturally speaks Dutch, but she sings in English. All of the songs on her two CDs are in English and there is no trace of an accent. She is extremely popular here, and she has now widened her fan base. This year she did a sold out European tour and it was hugely successful. We bought our concert tickets about 6 months ago, and could not believe that we were going to see her live. The other good news is that she was performing just minutes from our neighborhood. Utrecht is building a new music center and a local venue is being used while construction is going on. The theatre we went to was wonderful, it had 1000 seats and the  front of the stage has space for another 1000 people to stand. You can imagine that I was very determined to get to the sitting area.

All I can tell you is that the concert was beyond brilliant. Caro Emerald’s voice was perfect and her 8 piece band was fantastic. It was a glorious night in celebration of music. I am not going to give a music or concert review, but I will share some observations as an American at my first concert in this country.

First of all, I had heard that the Dutch are very quiet in concerts. That they are pretty reserved and don’t scream and shout too much. At the start of the show, which started right on time (this is such a Dutch thing and she was true to her heritage), Caro came out on stage and I thought the sold out crowd would go crazy. They were polite and friendly, but they did not seem that excited. Caro sang all of her familiar songs and each song has a distinctive beat. It took the crowd awhile to get into the music, or maybe they just needed to loosen up. I looked to see if the people in the pit were dancing or moving around, and they hardly were. But after a few songs I noticed heads swaying and nodding and that people in front of us were moving just a little. They loudly applauded after each song, and now they were making more noises. Was it the beer or wine that relaxed them or did they finally realize it was okay to show some emotion and have fun?

Second, this was a crowd of two thousand people and we can safely assume that most of them were Dutch. I am sure I was not the only English speaking person or non-Dutch person there. But once the audience got into the concert, I heard them singing along to the songs, as I was. Remember that all the songs were in English. Imagine that you were an American and how would you do at a concert in a foreign land where you had to sing along? It gave me goose bumps to hear all of us singing the songs together. During the few times that Caro spoke to us, she spoke Dutch, and that was weird for me as I have only heard her use English words.

When the concert was getting toward the end, she was doing her bigger hits and she encouraged the audience to stand up. The song I had been waiting for (A Night Like This) my personal favorite, was starting and the crowd went crazy. We all stood and sang the whole song while clapping and moving to the beat. And from then on, no one sat down again. For all the other songs, everyone stood and danced and swayed, and sang. I thought the roof was going to blow. The Dutch can certainly party, but it takes them awhile to warm up.

Finally, this is just an American observation. Caro is pregnant and if you did not know this, you would know once you saw her. She never mentioned this during the concert. This was the very last night of her concert tour, as she had to end it early because of the pregnancy. I know that if she was an American singer, she would not only mention the pregnancy, she would have sung a song to her unborn child. There was no way this was NOT going to be mentioned if this concert was in America, a big deal would have been made of it. But this is about the Dutch culture and this was an educational moment for me. Here is this amazing woman who is so beautiful and so very talented. She stands on the stage for two hours and fifteen minutes and gives a fabulous performance. She is the center of whole night, she is why two thousand people came on a rainy night. And yet, with all of this deserved attention, this Dutch woman did not speak about her first pregnancy because…it is not that big a deal. The Dutch don’t expect parades and applause for things like this, the Dutch get pregnant all the time, and why should she make an announcement about hers? She is not hiding her pregnancy, it is just the way it is. The Dutch are not good self-promoters and they do not like people who brag, so this is consistent from what I know. But it still surprised me as it was a reminder that I was not in USA.

But the bottom line is that I was completely entertained, this was one of the best concerts I have ever been to. And the crowd was so friendly and diverse. The age range was 8 years to 75 years (I am guessing on that). It was an gezellige evening.

This is the video that introduced me to Caro and I was hooked. Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/74LXx0wSqMI

Recommended reading: The Light of Amsterdam by David Park. A really good novel about people coming from Ireland to Amsterdam for a long weekend. You get a great sense of the city, but ultimately a good story about a variety of characters.

TEACHERS

Teachers have been on my mind lately. The shocking murders of teachers in the United States has made me so angry, frustrated and very sad. I think back to the teachers that I have had in my long life, and it is hard to imagine that anyone was in danger. Or that school would be a dangerous place to be, as a student or as a teacher.

I went to four primary/ elementary schools (in Italy, England, The Netherlands and America) and had a variety of teachers and experiences. I loved school and the main reason was because I loved my teachers.  I loved the way they introduced us to new things. I used to think they were so smart…how did they know all those things about history, geography and books? I think I liked that things were organized in school and that the teacher would lead us from one subject to another. There was time for science and then it was time for art. There was a time for math (ugh) and a time when the teacher read a story to us. When I first came to America, in fourth grade, I was thrilled to have our teacher read to us at the end of the day. It was such a wonderful reward and I still remember that first book — JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH by Roald Dahl. I was then determined to read all of Dahl’s books and have been a fan ever since.

Middle school and high school were obviously more challenging, and the big difference was that you had more teachers. I now had 6 or 7 teachers in one day and you then got to see  a variety of styles of teaching. I think students find out what kind of teacher works best for them when you have many teachers each day.  Word would be out about certain teachers that were really hard or gave lots of homework. There were stories about teachers who were lots of fun and there were teachers who were supposedly boring. It was a learning experience for me to see how different grownups could be and that there was not one giant cookie cutter that made teachers all the same.

As you age in school you start to define yourself. You find out what subjects excite you and what you are good at. That comes from teachers who compliment you or encourage you to not give up. It comes from teachers who love the subject they teach and from those who just love to teach. And of course, you always knew the teachers that loved being around children or young people. You just knew.

When I was in junior high school, girls had to take a sewing class and boys had to take a class to do with wood—I think they all made a birdhouse. But there was no choice at that time, this was what was required. I hated sewing and in fact, I hated the IDEA of sewing. From the very beginning of class, I was terrible at anything to do with a needle or a sewing machine. Our big assignment was that we had to make a dress and then wear the dress in a fashion show during class. My idea of pure hell. I got the pattern and the material and started on this project. It did not take long for the teacher to realize how limited my talents were. I could not thread the bobbin, I could not even cut the material straight, and I certainly had no idea how make darts. My darts were pointing towards my feet, if I remember correctly. But this is the wonderful thing that happened in this sewing class: I discovered myself. In a class which should have destroyed my self-esteem, I bloomed. As we girls were working on our dresses, we had some freedom to talk and talk is what I did, instead of sew. I told stories and they laughed. It got to the point that as soon as we settled in to work, the girls would gather  and look at me for the entertainment. Soon the teacher caught on to this, and she told me that it was okay as long as I finished my dress. I remember asking her if she would let me stop sewing all together and just let me sweep the floor each day…she did not accept my brilliant proposal. So she let me be, she let me talk and basically perform as long as I had a needle in my hand. I made new friends and I got a reputation as a witty person and this led me to audition for the school play. Teachers told me that I should audition and even though I was terrified, I did and got the part.

It is all about being uplifted instead of being brought down by negativity. It was school and teachers who gave me so much happiness and so much direction. It was the environment of learning that taught me the most about myself, not just what was in books.

This blog is dedicated to all the teachers I have had in my life and to the one I now have who is trying very hard to teach me Dutch. But this blog is also for all of my friends who are teachers, as you are simply magnificent. Maybe no one has told you today but you are doing a great job and you should be thanked for ALL that you do. It is not about a blackboard or now a whiteboard, it is not about textbooks or recess, it is about you as an individual and what you have done to impact so many young lives.

By the way, I did complete the dress. It was the ugliest dress ever made, it was a very unattractive green and I got so sick of looking at it. But I did wear that dress and walked in a parade in class and I got cheers from the students, as they all knew what a miracle it was that the dress did not fall apart. My teacher told me she was proud of me and that she could safely say she had never had a student like me before, and I sure she was right. I went home, folded up that dress and put it in the back of my closet and never saw it again. Little did I realize that when I went to college I would be required to take a costuming class (for my degree in theatre) and that I would have to make a skirt…but that is another story.

Recommended reading: I just finished the latest mystery from Sue Grafton, W is for Wasted, and it another enjoyable time with Kinsey. I have no idea what Grafton plans to do when she runs out of letters, but I hope that she does not stop writing mysteries.