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Illinois Association for Gifted Children, Journal 2015

In February 2015, I will have another article published in the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal 2015 titled, “Creating a Writing Community: Fostering Multiculturalism in the Gifted High School Creative Writing Classroom.”

Previously, I had an article published in the IAGC Journal 2013 titled, “”Go Forth, Children and Make Music! Tips for Parents of Gifted and Talented Children in Music.”

 

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Ten Reasons: A Professional Violinist and Mother Reflects on the Importance of Music Lessons for Her Child

Just a few quick thoughts – –

It may sound like a cliche, but music is life. At least in this house it is. I am a professional violinist who began singing and playing music to my daughter from the moment of her birth. Of course, she heard music all along in the womb, too! Lots of parents looked at me strangely when they saw me bring a two-week old (yes, that’s right -two weeks old!) to a Kindermusik class which she participated in until she was three. My daughter then began taking piano and violin at the age of 3 1/2.

This past weekend, my daughter performed in her first major public recital. As she played her violin, I was reminded, once again, why I am having her play music and learn the violin – this instrument of both intense complexity and, most importantly, of particular and profound beauty.

Here are the ten reasons why:

1. Discipline and perseverance.

2. Increase math and science ability as well as develop increased analytical skills, critical thinking, and spatial I.Q.

3. Greater self-esteem and empowerment.

4. Greater coordination, relaxation, posture, and breathing.

5. Performing becomes easier. Increased ability to do public speaking.

6. To learn to work well in groups.

7. Self-reliance.

8. Learn the joys and benefits of having a mentor.

9. To develop a love of music and the arts.

10. To develop a beautiful spirit and inner peace.

As my daughter took her bow at the end of her piece,  I became certain, all over again, that if my daughter is going to succeed in life, music will help her. Music will offer her hope, provide escape from the daily grind, and it will give her a voice, a view, and a forum upon which to build her life and leave something of herself for the next generation. Most of all, music is just fun! Have a great tiime, and play on, my child.

Play on…

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Everyone Needs a River

Mettowee River, Vermont
Mettowee River, Vermont

Everyone needs a river. Everyone is a river.

I think about that river often -– the river of my childhood. I have returned to it many times since my youth but only in my mind. Its beauty lingers still, ever fixed in my memory, to help me through the everyday busyness and rush of adulthood or during meditation or creative pursuits.

From the side of the dusty Hollow Road, it never looked like much of a river. It was narrow. I could wade across it in about twenty-five steps. It was shallow. Or, so it seemed. But if one placed a foot a few degrees to the right of the majestic rock formation, the raging falls could bury an unknowing swimmer faster than he or she could skip a stone across it. Yes, the Mettowee River knew its power.

The strength of the hearty snow-capped Vermont mountains allowed hundreds of years of gritty New England resolve to plummet and cascade into the nearby town of Dorset in the southwest portion of the state. Its icy exactness sliced the gloating town into halves with its forceful purpose. On the one side was Dorset Hollow Road where wealthy oil tycoons would spend a month or two each summer in lonely vacation homes placed upon white birch farms fresh out of Robert Frost. Their slick Arabian horse stables and in-ground heated pools seemed to have been plunked down in what were once pioneer cow pastures. The faint tinkles of cowbells could still be heard in the rush of a June morning breeze.

Outstretched on the other side of the river was Kirby Hollow Road where humans actually lived like cattle in weary barns with paint that had dulled with the harsh winters. Folks made themselves at home in trailers with worn tires stacked out front like welcome signs and where mud-encrusted half breed dogs in chains yapped at gutted-out deer carcasses hanging from trees. Run down shelters looked as if they could be blown over in a gentle wind, sheep looked at home in the front yards, and dirty-footed children grew up with little more than dreams.

The river seemed to know my family was neither rich nor poor, but that we were needy, in many other ways. The river beckoned us, my brothers and me, to its intoxicating lures, its mystical comfort, and its raging beauty. We escaped to that place. We were children, then, and so easy to entice.

The river was the summer swimming hole where the locals might congregate to cool; it was the place to rest and dip one’s tired toes after a hike in the woods. As children, my brothers and I spent many hours there.

I could disappear at the river’s edge. And I did. I blended in with the land as I wrapped myself up in the shady protection of its cocoon-like refuge. Pine needles cushioned my feet and let me slip into the tranquil beauty of it all without disturbing a nearby deer or chipmunk. The smell of the damp, newly sprung earth made me feel even closer to the nature enveloping itself around me while thick, towering evergreens stood guard overhead. I heard the gush of the currents rage loudly – loud enough to mute the growing self-doubts of prepubescence and, eventually, the rebellious teenage angst that began to form while growing up by the river’s wild side.

That river was cold. Stubbornly cold. It refused to ever freeze, even under winter’s death-like grip. The water would chill my brothers and me instantly, numbing us from the pain of who we were and from who we weren’t. The ice cold would shock us, would make us feel alive. We’d let that river, those rapid currents, hurl us, whirl us, carry us away just to see what might happen. We would feel light again in that water – no more of the crushing weights and burdens of growing up. Would the river take us far, far away from where we were? We never seemed to care that it might or that it could.

Even today, I can still feel the warmth of the autumn sun in the field on the other side of the river. After swimming across to the embankment, I could fall into its safety as the tall golden grasses would shield me, meld me to the earth again, yet still allow the rays of a brighter tomorrow to offer themselves up. I wonder now how I could have ever been so foolish to have wanted to leave that town, to leave that time. Always wanting to go, to grow, to leave that little place of security, always feeling that I had now become too old for it, too wise for it, too strong for it.

But, no one could expect me to be as old or as smart as the land. I now know that the river flowed from something bigger than itself and then out again to the world, touching other lives – healing them, inspiring them. This made the Mettowee River that much more regal, that much more inviting, and warmly maternal. That river has nursed me through many episodes when life has smashed me. Like my bone-chilled body lifting itself from that river of childhood, I have lifted myself many times after that and many times yet to come from that river of the mind.

Now, a mother myself, I wish to share the river with my daughter. She will experience great devastation of nature and the environment in her lifetime. I only hope she will be able to experience the river as I did, in all its still unchanged glory, even if only for this brief time. She will have other reasons to look to the river, too. For peace. As a refuge from many things yet to be determined. For strength.

Everyone needs a river. Everyone is a river.

My daughter and I step to the river’s edge. As I look at her now, hopeful and pure, I realize my daughter is a product of that river. Without the river’s power to have kept me strong and alive in all the ways it has, my daughter would not be here now.

Gently, we wade in. Mother and child. The river surrounds us, tries to whisk us off. But, I refuse this time – to let that river carry us away. My daughter and I stand strong. While the flowing currents swish around us, I look into my daughter’s eyes and hope.

Let these years stand still now.

We’ve only this life.

This moment.

 

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Forthcoming article

An article that I wrote will be published in the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal 2013 (coming out  in February 2013). It is titled: “Go Forth, Children and Make Music! Tips for Parents of Gifted and Talented Children in Music.”

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“We must meet children as equals in that area of our nature where we are their equals…The child as reader is neither to be patronized nor idolized.” -C.S. Lewis

“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations – -something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.” – Katherine Paterson

“A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” – Margaret Fuller

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The End of Innocence: Some Final Thoughts on Newtown

It’s the end of bright futures and childhoods that sting and shock the most. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, America mourned. It shed many tears, let out wails of grief, and tried to nurse itself back to stability after this crushing setback. Being a mom, I, too, was among the the chorus of weepers. Still today, I am wandering about in a shell-shocked fog.

I first heard about the tragedy on December 14th while reading The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne  to my five-year-old daughter. I saw the headlines on the Internet. 26 dead including 20 children. Blood shed. The end of innocence.

Children can sense everything, good and bad. Try as I may, I couldn’t shield my daughter from all the media coverage. She knew something was wrong. Even before she heard about it, when parents at her preschool thought they were inconspicuously talking about the shooting away from little ears, my daughter could feel the palpable pain and heaviness that gripped everyone around her in those first weeks after the massacre.

“Did the children die?” she asked me.

Scared to tell her yes, but even more fearful of not telling her the truth, I answer. “Yes, the children are gone. But we’ll remember them always.”

It’s the end of America’s naivete about guns in our country. Let’s get real. Gun laws are not working. Solving the problem, NRA style, by having armed guards and rifle-toting teachers in our children’s schools, is ludicrous. The death of those beautiful children at Sandy Hook, as well as all children who are slaughtered by gun violence in our neighborhoods and on our streets, is appalling. Assault and military weapons don’t belong in the hands of civilians.

I am afraid. For my child. For all children. Like most parents are.

Since Sandy Hook.

I feel so stressed worrying about what is going to happen to my daughter every time she steps out the door and into a country of gun-crazed mass shooters. Into an era that seems so callous and nonchalant toward its most important resource: its children.

Is it the end of our loss of human compassion, of humanity even? To shoot down children? How did we get here? Yes, the shooter shot those 20 children, but how can America now just go forward and not do something? All during the first week after the tragedy, my daughter kept repeating: “The guns need to die, not the children.”

“Yes,” I kept replying to her. “The guns need to go away. Far away and never come back.”

Filicide is ugly. And it seems that America is committing filicide by not dealing with the gun control and mental health issue. Is this really a nation killing its own children?

Today, the victims at Sandy Hook have all been laid to rest, and the survivors have gone back to school. My daughter and I have just finished reading The House at Pooh Corner despite all the sadness of these past days. My daughter has just asked me the big question: “Can the mommies and daddies protect the children from the guns?”

All of a sudden, I tear up and draw her tight. I rock her in my arms. I know I can’t protect her from the next gun going off. No parent can. “We are going to try,” I whisper to her. “But we need a lot of help.”

My daughter joins in the crying with me.

Hush, hush.

I try to comfort her.

Sssh.

Our sobs and tears meld together and fade into the uncertainty of her tomorrows.

–So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing. — A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner