Time for a New Schulranzen!

It’s that time of year in Upstate New York to get ready for school. Some Southern states are already back to school in the U.S.  In Germany, each state has its own school calendar so that when we arrived in Bonn back in July 1990 for the Fulbright orientation days, I was given tips for a successful year as a teacher.  Little did I realize that I would also have a new set of vocabulary words to use when it came time for school for my two children.  Our son had to get a Schulranzen which I thought would be just like our book bags in the U.S.  Far from it.  First of all, the cost alone shocked me.  When it came time for our daughter to get one for second grade, I was no longer shocked.  The cost was more than $100.   Why are they so expensive compared to U.S. backpacks?  Well, for starters, the construction is sturdier.  I was informed that the hard plastic interior was meant to keep school papers in good condition plus it was healthier for the back to carry them rather high up as compared to our book bags.

The list of needed supplies continued with an Etui or pencil case.  It was meant to hold more than pencils, however.  Also inside were a pencil sharpener, colored pencils, a fountain pen and ink cartridges  (Füllfederhalter), an eraser (Radiergummi) and a Tintenkiller(ink slayer) or Tintenhai(ink shark) which I have shown in a photo.  It appears as a two-sided pen/marker.  One side contained a white felt tip which magically made the fountain pen ink disappear.  The other end had a blue tip with which corrections could be made.  However, a second error required the use of the whiteout product which was smeared over the error and then allowed to dry before a correction could be done.  German school classrooms did not have pencil sharpeners so each student brought the small hand held one.

Our son began first grade in Germany, and I went to the stationery store with my supply list in hand and asked for the DIN A4 and DIN A5 paper not knowing what to expect. These are standard sized paper used in German  schools in addition to graph paper.  Many American parents are used to purchasing three hole punched paper for notebooks.  In Germany there was a choice of either two or four holes.  German paper is longer and narrower than the standard lined notebook paper used in the US.  Elementary children normally use wide ruled paper.  I have included a photo of the paper both our children used to being cursive penmanship which was taught in first grade.  If you observe closely, there are four lines instead of the standard wide or college lined notebook paper.

Also, on day one of first grade, students brought Hausschuhe(slippers for in school use)and came with a Schultüte, a large cone of sweets and supplies.  Parents were expected to attend the first day of school with their children  which happened to be a Saturday morning at the end of July.  The first graders were given a task to complete and a picture to color.  The teacher then spoke with parents about what would be taught during the year.  We were expected to communicate regularly with the teacher and sign off on homework assignments and tests.  Additionally, we were told to purchase a Blockflöte or recorder. I observed the combined first and second grade classes, and  they all played their recorders and took turns singing either the melody or harmony.

The Fulbright Exchange Teacher experience was more than simply  learning to be flexible in teaching and to learn from other German teachers. It was also an enormous cultural immersion for my children.  I did not make adjustments for my children but let them learn by doing, by immersing them in school and the language.  Children learn quickly and are resilient.  By December and the mid-year parent meeting, the teacher complimented all of us on the quick transition to using Hochdeutsch or High German from using the dialects spoken at home.  Any German I had used with our two children had been High German with is the standard all Germans used.  Most children arrive speaking a dialect and then have to learn High German.  The parents explained to the teacher that because our son had only spoken High German, their sons and daughters had to learn Hochdeutsch so that they could communicate with him.

So, no matter the country, I wish much learning and teaching success to all students and teachers around the world.


Note:  my models to show off the German Schulranzen are neighborhood children who were very happy to pose for me.



Posted in German school supplies, Schulranzen, Schultüte | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Singing on Pitch

One, two, three – let’s waltz now. The Tennessee Waltz that is. Country music from my end of the pond to yours. I continue to sing and find joy in it. My homework assignment from my sister was to search out music groups in my area of Upstate New York. As luck would have it, a man from church mentioned an acoustic music jam at a nearby YMCA. My lifelong learning desire continues with this jam in mid-September.

When this music adventure began last spring, I commenced voice lessons with a voice coach, Laura Enslin, from Syracuse University. Laura has the most beautiful voice. Add to it her remarkable personality and brilliant teaching ability. She helped me with singing country music as I had requested, but more than that, she advised me to participate in music groups and to sing on stage in Washington. Her tips and techniques remain invaluable. My dear sister kept giving me advice on how to sing with her various jams and bands, and I found myself quite comfortable singing in front of people. Stage fright and nerves had disappeared.

I studied music theory, chords and some voice with a new teacher in Washington State, Jon Epstein. Although he mainly teaches banjo and other string instruments as well as bluegrass, country and folk music, he offered me helpful advice. My sister studies fiddle with him and then brought me along for three lessons. It was grand fun to learn from his perspective. Keeping an open mind to new adventures in life is key to enjoyment and success.

After several requests from my readers to hear how I sound in my foray into country music, I am providing a couple of YouTube links at the end of today’s blog. It is a big step forward to put myself out there in public for all to hear and see. Providing my written word is a totally different means of communicating with my readers. So I hope I provide all of you some amusement and light entertainment as you watch and listen.

Harvey Nelsen (sometimes spelled Nelson) is a Hall of Fame guitarist for Western Swing music with whom I sang at a senior center dance. I watched in amazement as 90 year olds danced to the music. My sister indicated that it was high praise coming from Harvey when he said I could sing on pitch. My wish for all my readers is to enjoy life to its fullest and keep singing!


Posted in Voice Coach | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Musical Odyssey

The long, eventful sojourn
lasted three fun-filled,
musical weeks in Washington State.
The country music repertoire I had prepared
in advance had only a few songs.
What I listened to was an
adventure with songs very
new to my ears and filling my head.

My sister had laid the foundation
with fiddle and singing and was
involved in many jams and bands.
Behind the scenes at my sister’s place
were long hours of practice.
Sound equipment, back-up tracks,
tempos, rhythms and keys. I sometimes
played the piano and keyboard.

What a reunion this was and many
moons apart from our beginnings
in Massachusetts and Colorado. I sang
with many professionals and one Hall of
Fame guitarist. I stretched my musical
abilities which opened doors to new
singing feats. All the musicians were
helpful and friendly. Now if I can

just build my repertoire of selections.
One day off, I foolishly thought I could
rest, only to discover we were to practice
seven hours of music. My attempts to
yodel left much to be desired. We sang
harmony together as well. My work is cut
out for the future with country and Western.

Posted in country and Western music, fiddle, Harvey Nelsen, 2012 Western Swing Hall of Fame, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Liebster Award


Earlier this month, my talented friend and fellow WordPress blogger nominated me for the Liebster Award. Annika Perry is a gifted writer, and I urge my readers to visit her site:


I think you will enjoy her entries and find her absolutely fascinating. I know I have. Enjoy.

Today’s blog entry will have a different format. I wish to thank Annika Perry who has kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award. She provided me with the details of the award. So now to the first part of the task; namely, answering the 11 questions Annika posed.

1) Why did you start your blog?

When I published my book, A Past Worth Telling, in 2014, I began blogging and using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Since the book is a poetic memoir, I use themes in it and from my past when I blog as a means to connect with others of similar interests.

2) How do you deal with a setback at work/rejection letter, etc.?

While sometimes annoyed, I continue trying. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

3) How do you celebrate a success?

A quiet celebration at home or a nice meal out in a favorite restaurant. I will also share my happiness with others.

4) What’s the one crazy activity/thing you wish you’d tried but never dared?

I am stumped with this one since I normally will try most anything. I guess I would have to say skydiving because of the risk involved.

5) Which of your posts has got the most views? Can you post a link to it?

The Diva Bag at https://drniemczura.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/the-diva-bag/
Dad and I at https://drniemczura.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/dad-and-i/
A Letter of Gratitude to a Stranger at https://drniemczura.wordpress.com/?s=letter+of+gratitude+to+a+stranger
The Adagio of my Life at https://drniemczura.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-adagio-of-my-life/
Meandering in Nature at https://drniemczura.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/meandering-in-nature/
and my page about the author at https://drniemczura.wordpress.com/about-the-author/

6) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Besides around the world, I would go to Europe, Scandinavia, Finland, Australia, New Zealand and the Southwest U.S.

7) What advice would you give your younger self?

Be kind to others, work hard and stay organized with good time management skills.

8) What is one of your most embarrassing moments?

Walking into a class of 30+ students and speaking only German. I looked up to some very puzzled looks which at first didn’t bother me. Finally one brave soul raised her hand to inform me that this was a class of Spanish students. Every quarter, the university changed our classrooms, and I obviously had walked into the wrong room.

9) What’s your favourite drink? Alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

Espresso or pomegranate juice

10) If you could travel into the past, which era would you go to and why?

Probably the early 1800s to meet my ancestors.

11) What is your most favourite (clean) joke?

It’s an elephant joke. Why do elephants paint their toenails red? I don’t know. Answer: So they can hide in cherry trees. Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree? No, I haven’t. Answer: See, it works.

Next up are 11 random facts about myself:

I almost majored in music in college (piano).
Sometimes I am trilingual but most days just bilingual with German and English. French sometimes. I have 5 degrees in German.
I started working at age 11 doing babysitting and tending neighbors’ yards while they went on vacation.
I am mainly a morning person but since retirement, this has changed somewhat.
I was the church organist from age 13-18 and played daily at 6:30 AM, three times on Sundays and for all the weddings and funerals.
I love to walk in nature and especially loved growing up in rural Western Massachusetts.
I am a sewing artist as well as author.
I won the Colorado Grand Champion in Food Preparation in 4-H.
I was the second runner-up in the Colorado Junior Miss contest.
At heart, I am a creative spirit who likes thinking outside the box.
I love Colorado and graduated college in Boulder at the U. of Colorado

The next 11 are my nominations for the Liebster Award. There are so many, many eligible ones out there so my apologies in advance if I have not nominated you. In my book, however, you are all winners. Some of you have posted being award free on your sites. I still want you to have your deserved place in the spotlight.

1) Sally who blogs from Costa Rica at http://rosedevi.blogspot.com/ Currently she features beautiful photos and lives in Costa Rica
2) Joe who is a critical care nurse instructor nonpareil and has lived and taught in Nepal. A blog link is at
https://joeniemczura.wordpress.com/author/joesar/ and https://joeniemczura.wordpress.com/
3)BunKaryudo whose sense of humor will have you laughing at https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/
4)Edward Roads writes two wonderful, intricate sentences which will send you to the dictionary at times at http://mytwosentences.com/
5) JoHanna Massey at http://johannamassey.com/ Lovely photos accompany her blog.
6) Anna writes as Annas Art with bold colors in many pictures at https://fargaregardsanna.wordpress.com/category/blogging/
7) Elyse Reine writes a beautiful blog with many images at https://elysereine.wordpress.com/about/
8) Annett writes amazing facts about Germany at Learn German Coach at https://learngermancoach.wordpress.com/
9) Bette A. Stevens, a Maine author inspired by nature can be found at http://4writersandreaders.com/
10) Etta D writes to motivate and does just that at https://simplyettad.wordpress.com/welcome-to-my-piece-of-the-web/
11) Stuart Perkins writes a fascinating blog called Storyshucker at https://storyshucker.wordpress.com/

The following questions are for all my nominees. You can simply reblog my entry to link with everyone and then answer these questions on your own blog. Here are my 11 questions to my nominees.

1) What are you hobbies?
2) If you had a million dollars or equivalent in another currency, what would you do with it?
3) If you had three wishes, what would they be?
4) What invention do you find most useful in your life?
5) What are your favorite travel destinations and why?
6) How would you describe yourself in three words?
7) What or who is most important in your life?
8) What do you value in a friend?
9) Do prefer to work alone or with others, given the choice.
10) What is your favorite kind of music and why?
11) What is your favorite food and why?

To my Liebster Award Nominees:

If you wish to participate further in the Liebster awards, here are the “rules.”
1) Thank the blogger who nominate you and link to their blog.
2) Nominate 11 other bloggers to Liebster Awards 2016
3) Answer the 11 question from the blogger who nominated you.
4)Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
5)Give your candidates 11 questions to answer on their blog.


Posted in 4-H, Fulbright Teacher, Liebster Award, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Time to Move the Hose

Water is often scarce in Colorado, and we were permitted to water on odd days of the month only since our house number ended in an odd number. One day when my sister moved the hose, she found a very long snake in the yard since we lived near the prairie which had rattlesnakes.  Later my father was sad when he learned he had needlessly harmed a bull snake.

Time to Move the Hose

Another stifling hot
Summer day in Pueblo.
Odd side of the street
So we could water

The lawn today.
Twelve hours of
Moving the hose
From spot to spot.

Dad was tired
Now so asked
My sister
To move the hose.

Startled, she shrieked.
Six foot bull snake
in the front yard.
Time for the ax.

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When we first moved West from Massachusetts to Colorado, there were frequent dust storms. And even though windows and storm windows were shut, the dirt found its way inside the house.  In the Fall, the wind whipped up the tumbleweeds which bounced everywhere.


Bouncing, tumbling,
Whirling, zigzagging,
Across the windswept,
Arid earth.

These weeds
Protruding through
Cracked, parched
Hard ground with

Roots searching
For moisture.
And despairing
When rains

Remain scarce,
The loosened weeds
Now rampantly roar
Across the prairie.

Engulfed in anger,
These tumbleweeds
Rage and
Wander aimlessly.

100_1610 tumbleweeds

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Singin’ and Fiddlin’


Singing in Seattle

Months of voice lessons and practice
singing country songs in preparation
for my trip to the Northwest to sing
with my sister who fiddles and sings

in several groups near Seattle.
My music background has been
classical piano yet when I play and
sing from printed sheet music,

my sister admonishes me to just
play chords. Don’t bother with
sheet music. She has had different
musical training with fiddle and

country music. All my sisters and
I had years of piano lessons. It will
be a revelation to be united again
and sing together – this time not in

a church choir. No, in a country
music group playing with chords.
I have been stretching my musical
ability with a voice coach and

never realized there is so much
involved with training one’s voice.
It helps that I have a strong classical
music background. Often when

driving or creating on the computer, I
will listen to satellite radio and classical
music. After some 60 years of singing
in various church choirs, here I come,

Seattle, your newest country music
singer. Who knows after that? Perhaps
we will be Nashville-bound. Don my Western
duds, boots and hat and sing on!



Posted in Seattle, singing and fiddling, voice lessons | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments