Our Playhouse in Sturbridge

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When our Dad built the Sturbridge, Massachusetts home,

he thought of everything for his young daughters:  our

very own playhouse complete with a door and window.

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We felt special since the door was tall enough for our

parents to enter.  He also built a huge backyard

barbecue which I do not recall ever using.  At some

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point, our Dad decided we were not using the playhouse

as he had intended either.  I do recall we complained to

our parents of cobwebs and spiders inside our playhouse.

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The executive decision was made to store chopped

wood inside for the two fireplaces, one in the basement

and the other on the first floor.  When we played

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outdoors in the fall, we would look inside at the

wood piles inside the playhouse.  Now covered with

cobwebs and spiders.  I do recall a couple times

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when our Dad tried making baked potatoes in

the hot embers and other times, we roasted

some marshmallows too.  Special treats for us.

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Fond memories remain of this Cape Cod style house

where roamed the woods freely and made mud pies

in warmer weather.  Raking leaves into big piles.

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On rainy days, we cut out paper dolls and used

our imaginations to script our own plays.  Or

played a card game called Authors intended to

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teach us about famous writers.  I suppose those

were the foundation of my book some years later.

Our Mom had plenty of clothes and shoes for us

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to don as we played dress up and modeled them for

our parents.  Giggling as our little feet didn’t quite

fill up the shoes.  Stories told of when she wore

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the dresses.  Fancy materials.  Dances when she

first met our Dad in Boston.  We never tired of

listening to those stories repeated over and over.

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Posted in fireplaces, playhouse, playing dressup, Sturbridge, MA home | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Annual Rites of Passage

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Colorful autumn leaves offer us eye candy now.

Sugar maple trees are warm and beautiful.  Childhood

memories of many-hued leaves our Dad raked into

piles in Sturbridge.  Shrieking, we jumped into the

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leaf piles.  It’s what kids do! As I take in all

the colors, the outdoors beckons.  After another

frost, I wanted some photos of our gardens before

winter’s white blanket covers everything.

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Yesterday the collards were ready to harvest.

My deceased librarian colleague informed me

that collards taste their finest after the first

frost.  Noting that no more apples were on

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the lawn, I spied two young bushy tails climbing

one tree to pluck apples off a branch.  The winds

will help the remaining ones fall for greedy paws

to hold for the feast.  Some of our birds greet

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me in song.  They shelter in our bird houses

to get protection from Nature’s elements.

Crisp air.  Warm colors.  Sights and sounds of

fall: raking leaves, final mowing of lawns.

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The annual rites of passage of our lovely

four seasons in Upstate New York.  I do

not adhere to the camp of those who

complain of how cold the weather is.

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No, I smile to myself as I fondly recall

my Massachusetts childhood:  the leaves at

the Old Sturbridge Village. Snowsuits.

Blueberry picking with empty pails

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but blue mouths from eating the

blueberries the best way:  by the

handful directly off the bush.  So tasty.

Bundle up now and get rosy cheeks.

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Posted in annual rites of passage, Autumn colors & leaves, Sturbridge | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Shadows and Spooks

20211027_152908Neighborhoods are decorated for Halloween.

Some people add orange lights on trees.

White spooks hang from branches.  Pumpkins

galore on walkways.  Stuffed figures. 

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Squirrels sense the extra tasty morsels to be

had. After cleaning up after pumpkin seeds

from the front steps, we opted for a

plastic pumpkin lit by a light bulb. 

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This weekend, we will have costumed children  

appear chanting Trick or Treat in unison.

With outstretched arms holding baskets,

offerings of treats are given. Thanks.  Giggles.

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Autumn is my favorite time of year with

colorful leaves to entertain my creative

spirit.  I have collected a few to photograph

until winds took them away.  Another day.

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No hard frost just yet so the Montauk

daisies stand under the watchful eye of

our garden rooster.  My body cast a

shadow as I captured images earlier.

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The other evening our resident rabbit

sat on the lawn waiting for the last of

the apples to fall for him to munch.  I

spied his white cottontail as hopped.

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Nowadays, my husband has assumed

decorating duty from our daughter. 

He affixed two figures to the columns. 

A witch appears to have flown into one of

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them this year.  On a sunny day this week

we lunched at a nearby restaurant where

roses still bloomed close to the building.

All too soon, snows will fall as they are

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wont to do in higher elevations.  Meanwhile

colder winds and rain will bring down the

leaves as Mother Nature lays down a

white blanket.  Snowmen will be built.

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Posted in Halloween, pumpkins, shadows, spooks, Trick or Treat | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

Amusing Signs

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Just hopping over to say hello once again.

Signs are sometimes amusing to read.  In

Virginia on bridges, there are signs

saying  “no crabbing from the bridges.”

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Word play and word meanings came to

mind.   So, I could “crab” or complain in

another spot?  Just not on the bridges!

On Long Island family visits, we

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have a favorite spot to stay.  Each

time I see the sign “park head in,” my

mind starts to play with the words.  Why

only head in?  Why not head out?  I

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surmised the owners did not want folks

backing into units or signs; hence, head in

so, you can see what you are doing!  Ah ha.

A favorite breakfast treat is grapefruit

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sections with honey topped with a sprig

of fresh mint. The sight and taste of the

mint reminds me of tea I drank in Morocco.

It was served in a tall, clear glass.  In the

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Long Island retreat, we enjoyed several

days of an acai bowl with granola and

garnished with blueberries or blackberries,

coconut and cacao chips.  Topped with mint.

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Healthy, gourmet fare did not have many

calories.  The scoop of acai was a cold

concoction which was almost like a sorbet.

Refreshing and satisfying.  We savor

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our breakfasts while visiting family.

My husband gets his fill of fishing, fly

casting, and boating.  I enjoy sitting

on our deck and reading a good book.

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Quality time.  Beautiful weather. A

nap or two.  The perfect pause to

normal routines.  Change.  Good

conversation.  A walk on the beach.

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Posted in amusing signs, change, family, healthy breakfasts, visits | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Slow and Steady

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 Like the turtle in the road as our daughter jogged,

I recall the saying: slow and steady wins the race.

We took a break from our usual routines these

past two weeks.  We visited our daughter on

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Long Island.  Sights, sounds, and tastes galore.

After our daughter’s wedding last year, we

opted to stay at our beautiful retreat nearby.

Sumptuous breakfasts await us each morning.

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The chef prepared a feast of fresh homegrown figs,

Greek yogurt, and drizzled raspberry puree. House-

prepared granola.  Each morning we enjoyed a

full breakfast which kept us throughout the day.

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As a writer, I make mental notes and take photos

to jog the memory come blog time.  Wanderlust remains.

My husband walked to the bay each morning to

commiserate with the locals.  He crossed paths with

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the wild turkeys.  The pond with frogs and lily pads

was entertaining as we walked to the restaurant.

A lover of nature from my Massachusetts childhood,

I enjoy observing and documenting my encounters.

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Our weather was picture perfect.  Even the ocean

seemed warm as I walked in.  The natives have outdoor

faucets and showers to clean off the sand.  Perfect to

fish and boat with the newly restored wooden boat.

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Just gazing at the ocean and waves is a soothing,

relaxing activity.  Stress leaves.  My breathing changes

to slow to the pace of the water lapping at my feet.

Who doesn’t love a walk on the beach?

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My craving for freshly caught fish was filled

this trip too.  Accompanied with fresh vegetables.

Swordfish, cod fish, flounder, oysters on the half

shell.  Such healthy choices.  Tasty.  Perfectly prepared.

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Posted in beach, freshly caught fish, frogs, Long Island, turtle, wild turkeys | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Mother Nature’s Calendar

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The calendar said it was the first day of Autumn

this week.  Signs abound in our neck of the woods.

Colorful leaves on the neighbor’s sugar maple.

Buds are about to open on our Montauk daisies.

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Apples keep falling off the trees.  The breeze

feels cooler now.  My eyes watch the beautiful

leaves of the red bud trees bend and move.

Hark!  What did we hear overhead just now?

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The Canada geese are flying off.  They know

and felt the cold front which moved in.  Our

temperature has dropped a few degrees.

Time to pull out the colder weather wardrobe.

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Mother Nature will unleash her colorful blankets

on our lawns soon.  Raking noises will be heard

along with the loud drone of mechanical

leaf blowers.  No one seems to have a particular

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schedule to mow lawns and rake leaves.  Some

weekends, it seems, there is constant noise. Certain is,

these activities will cease with the first snow.

I can wait.  Autumn is my favorite time of year.

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So colorful.  So tasty.  So many recipes to try.

Conversations with neighbors out walking their

dogs.  Soon, tiny whirlwinds will swirl the leaves

around our legs.  Our youngest neighbor next

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door took my hand to get me to watch his

very own plastic leaf blower.  Imitation is

the highest form of flattery.  This young man

is well on the way to emulating his father.

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It has been a long time since I held a small

hand.   The earth is preparing to take a snooze.

Falling leaves, rains, winds, and snow.  Spring

will herald renewal as birds return to nest.

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It is enjoyable and gratifying to observed all

these activities in life.  Mother Nature is

a capable source of pleasure to us.  We

strive to be good stewards.  Meanwhile,

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we shall try to make some applesauce,

harvest the herbs and last of the tomatoes.

The collards will be harvested and cooked

all winter.  Smiles of happiness abound.

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Posted in Autumn, Autumn Leaves, baskets of apples, cold front, Montauk daisies, Mother Nature | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Mary Ann Appleseed

 

20210917_104136Growing up, I heard the familiar legend of

Johnny Appleseed.  With two apple trees

of our own now, I am reminded of the

tale.  I don’t recall Johnny speaking of

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apple thieves.  We have the four-legged

and two-legged variety.  The four-legged

thieves are messy.  They take a few bites

of an apple and then simply discard it.

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Perhaps these bushy tails got distracted

by a passing car or neighbor out walking

the dog.   The two-legged variety would

refer to neighbors and assorted friends.

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John, Don, and Isaac picked up the branches

on Tuesdays.  I know this from observing and

finally stopping the very tall truck with

my arm in the air and hand motion to stop.

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This week, even the truck driver Don was

emboldened or hungry at the end of their route.

Driver Don motioned to John to pick an apple

off the tree.  Well, well, I thought.  I must

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stop the truck to chat briefly which I did.

John responded he was from a nearby

town.   I informed him that he had selected

apples from my favorite kind:  Empire.

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Next, I explained the other tree had

red delicious variety.  I expect that they

will continue to pluck apples off the

trees as long as they are there.

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A neighbor told me she had tried one

of the Empire apples.  It was so tasty.

Normally, these ripen toward the end

of September so perhaps they have

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matured earlier this year.  We gave

this neighbor a bushel basket full of

our apple crop.  This year they look

as beautiful as store bought ones.

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I imagine our own John Appleseed will

continue his thefts of tasty apples.

Admittedly, who can really resist these

low-hanging gems.  Do you have a favorite?

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Posted in Empire apples, Johnny Appleseed, Red Delicious apples | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

How Was School Today?

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After sitting down to dinner with my parents

at either head of the table, our Dad would ask

this question after we finished saying Grace

together before our shared meal.  Memories

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flooded my mind as I observed how silent

our neighborhood became because the

children had returned to school.  I envisioned

dinner conversations at their tables.  Exciting.

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I don’t remember who started to answer our

Dad’s question nightly.  Whoever had the most

urgent news I suppose.  Results of a test in one

subject or how strict a teacher was.  News.

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Grumblings.  Happy reports.  Our parents were

genuinely interested in our answers.  Education

was at the top of the list of importance.  If we

had something negative to report, more questions

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resulted until a resolution could be discerned.

Our parents were active participants in the

parent organizations both in Massachusetts

as well as in Colorado.  Our Dad brought a

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German guest to one of our high school

meetings:   Herr (Mr.) Bode.  Our Dad spoke

a little German, but his accent when he

introduced the gentleman was such

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that people around shook the gentleman’s

hand while declaring “Glad to meet you,

Herb.”  Mind you, that was not his first name

but the resulting German pronunciation!

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Today in recalling such events, I am mildly

amused and no longer mortified by our

Dad’s German pronunciation.  Our Dad’s declaration

to us repeated quite often over the years

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was that he wanted to live long enough to

see all his daughters graduate from college.

After obtaining five degrees in German,

I surpassed his expectations.  He passed

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during my first Fulbright Year in Germany

but not before telling me how proud he

was of me and of all his daughters.  His words

are forever engraved in my heart.  Thanks, Dad.

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Our Dad’s love and interest in our

education remains today and has been

passed on to our two children.  My fervent

hope is for all parents to take an interest

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in the education of their children and

to talk about it at the dinner table during

those formative years.  From generation

to generation, the seed is thus planted.

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Posted in dinner table talk, education, saying Grace, school | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Our Valued Friends

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Cedric and David are our friends. On Mondays.

we wave to one another, greet one another and

exchange pleasantries.  If we are perchance not home,

David will bring the blue bins up to the door.  These

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are our sanitation engineers whose task it is to empty

trash cans left curbside.  Tony, Desiree, Alexis and

Andy take turns delivering our mail.  Our route is

the longest at 14 miles.  Fae is the early bird who

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delivers the newspaper three times per week.

Where would we be without such great friends

in our lives?  At school, teachers greeted custodians

and had brief conversations from time to time.

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For holidays, we brought them cookies and other

baked goodies or a pizza.  These friends belong

to the family of man.  We remain grateful for

their services.  To break up an otherwise

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mundane day, I have made it my habit to

wave to the truck drivers as they stop to

pick up trash.  It’s not a glamorous job but

a necessary one.   We look out for one another.

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Last October, young David lost his mother and

was not on our route for a few weeks.  I expressed

my thoughts and offered prayers for him and his

mother.  Walking in another’s shoes makes

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for a more pleasant world.  It is, after all, the

golden rule in action.  How do you feel when

someone looks into your eyes and smiles while

saying a few words?  Having compassion for

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our fellow individuals whom we encounter in

life is as easy as a smile and a wave.  Offering an

apple from our apple trees is a simple gesture.

Sharing our abundance with others.

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The world would be a better place if we

practiced the golden rule.  Doing unto

others as we would have them deal

with us, makes for a happier existence.

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Posted in brief encounters, custodians, golden rule, good habits, sanitation engineers, valued friends | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

A Tribute to a Teacher

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Difficult as it is to recall the names of teachers,

Mrs. Hughes was my ninth grade English teacher.

In her class, I discerned that I wanted to be a teacher.

From her I learned kindness and compassion.

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From her I learned the joy of grammar. 

In her class, I learned to love learning.  She had

the keys to unlock the mystery of grammar.

Still today, I love learning, reading, and writing.

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She taught us the questions to ask when diagramming

sentences.  How, when, where, why, and

to what extent.  Sentence structure took

on new meaning as I diagrammed. And still does.

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Around Thanksgiving, Mrs. Hughes needed

some help changing her bulletin board.  I

volunteered and asked for black and white

construction paper and scissors to cut out Pilgrim

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I

figures freehand.  Mrs. Hughes was impressed

and told me her teacher daughter would love

my idea.  She asked what pattern I had used for

the figures.  It was my own creativity.

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I didn’t know it then, but I was learning more

than English grammar and diagramming.  The

instincts that Mrs. Hughes nurtured with her students

brought out the best in us.  She valued us. She

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listened to us and was patient.  She smiled.

She had unconditional love for us.  Amazingly. 

I learned to use my creativity and ideas in my

own teaching career years later.  I was

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fortunate to be able to study in Heidelberg,

Germany for about three years.  The icing on the

cake was learning aspects of language, literature,

culture, history, and geography.  While

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I did not diagram sentences in German, I

instinctively understood the grammar thanks

to Mrs. Hughes. This school year, I wish

for teachers to impart their own love of learning.

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Posted in diagramming sentences,, English teacher, grammar, learning to love learning, paying tribute | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments