Cyber Monday: Charity Giving

It’s the season of shopping. Catalogues invade my mailbox daily. And it’s also the season of giving. Non-profit organizations try to capture our attention and donations, hoping to replenish their coffers to enable them to fulfill their missions.

I’ve been to a couple events – aka—fund-raisers in recent weeks.

My neighbor hosted a coffee for the Tahirih Justice Center, an organization devoted to immigrant women and children who arrive in the United States without any legal benefits and need protection against domestic violence and other horrendous customs like female genital mutilation and human trafficking.

Youth Communication, a New York City-based organization whose board I serve on, held a fundraiser at a private residence in Greenwich Village. Speakers included a current writer who is in foster care, a graduate of the program who shared how being a YC writer changed her life, and the program director from Joe Torre Safe at Home, a foundation serving victims of domestic violence. The representative described how her staff uses the YC story anthologies and curriculums. Some of these people, mostly paraprofessionals without college degrees, become so inspired by the training; they then pursue more education themselves.

Last, I attended the annual black tie Committee to Protect Journalists at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The event honors the true heroes of journalism—those reporters and photographers whose lives are on the line daily in their pursuit of telling the world the truth. Some pay the ultimate sacrifice, with their lives. Some are imprisoned, some injured. While the stories are horrific, the mission is noble and reinforces the importance of a free press. Over $2 million was raised.

Today is Cyber Giving Monday. Will you be supporting your favorite charities?

On another note, I want to share that I am no longer teaching. While I loved being back in the classroom and being with young adolescents, I found the time commitment too much given other interests and demands in my life. The school found a replacement and I assisted with the transition. I hope to continue as a volunteer, helping the 8th grade students with their high school application essays. Thank you for your interest and support of my teaching and please stay tuned for new projects underway.






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France, Je T’aime

We’ll always have Paris,” Rick (Humphrey Bogart) tells a distraught Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) near the end of Casablanca (1942).

Ah, Paris. You’re in my heart with so many memories of the city and country now rattled by terrorist attacks.

We lived in London between 1982-87, and made our first trip to Paris one Christmas. We stayed in the apartment of my husband’s colleague. Armed with the Plan de Paris—the street by street guide, complete with maps, we walked everywhere, loving the city’s beauty- its bridges, churches, art, and food. Give me a mocha éclair and I’m happy.

Bought on our first trip to Paris.

Bought on our first trip to Paris.

We returned again the next year, this time staying at a centrally located one-star hotel recommended by a friend. One star lived up to its name—cockroaches greeted us in the sink, and the mattress sunk to the floor. But we were young, and the city beckoned.

When pregnant with my first child, we took the hydrofoil from Dover to Calais, and drove to Rouen, the medieval city where Joan of Arc was tried for heresy. Though my London-based obstetrician cleared me to travel, the French didn’t agree I should be on the boat for the return trip. We convinced them after much discussion and I made it safely back to the UK.

Another trip, we toured the battlefields of Normandy, this time along with our 6-month -old son. The French love babies; we were welcomed everywhere.

Years later, we brought the three children to the Loire Valley, where we visited castle after castle.

We celebrated our 30th anniversary in the Dordogne, 232323232fp54396>nu=35;6>295>253>26-729534425-ot1lsi on our bicycles in 2012. W’ve been talking about a return trip for our 35th, and hope to explore a different part of this gorgeous, bike-friendly, nation.

There aren’t enough words to address the terrorist situation. We’ve grown complacent, 14 years after 9/11, grumbling about taking off our shoes at the airport. I remember that day crystal clear. I lost a wonderful neighbor, who left behind a wife and three children under 8. I was teaching at the local middle school then and I cried  during homeroom. Students were asking me questions. I didn’t have answers. I told them to be the best they can be to make the world a better place.

I’m not sure that’s enough. If the world’s cities and cultures are to be preserved from madness, action must be taken.


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Class Notes #10: Literary Salons, Veterans’ Day, & New Names

The Literary Salons were a great success. Several administrators and teachers stopped in and gave their support. The highlight truly for all was when one 7th grader, a boy from Ghana who has been so shy he never spoke, read his own work. The audience remained silent and then broke into spontaneous applause. There can be some tremendous moments in teaching. The head of school collected the students’ work to include some in the yearbook.

On Wednesday, Veteran’s Day, a guest speaker, who’s served two tours in Afghanistan, addressed the entire school for about 45 minutes. He started off saying he’d answer questions except the questions “Had he ever killed anyone?” and “Did he bring his gun?” (He did not, though of course, both those questions were what the kids wanted to know.) He’s now with the military police and shared what he looks for when hiring new recruits for his job now with the military police. I took notes, thinking there might be a lesson to mine from his talk. He mentioned three things he values: a hard work ethic, breaking the rules as in being able to think outside the box, and giving back.

The assembly ended with the students giving him the school’s “Three Claps & a Stomp,” shaking the building’s foundation, and then a call and response routine that tells who they are, why they’re there, what they’re doing, etc. and frankly I think resembles military drills.

The second quarter began this week so I’m learning new names and faces. I had students select one of the values the vet presented and write how it relates to them. Many understood the hard work ethic and giving back, the breaking the rules/thinking outside the box stumped them. They are very literal in their thinking. Creative writing hopefully will expand their imaginations and at the same time give them some much needed writing skills. I brought to the administrator’s attention an article in last Sunday’s Star-Ledger about why Americans can’t write. There’s only so much I can teach in one quarter.








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Announcing: A Glub Glub & A Shake Shake: A Cookbook

I was seated on a flight from New Jersey to San Francisco and overhead the attendant asking customers in business class if they wanted blintzes for breakfast.

I thought of my mother’s—hand made, light batter, carefully mixed cheeses, lightly fried, served with dollops of sour cream. There’s no way whatever they were offering could come close… (Preface)

And so an idea was born. I thought, why not write down my mother’s recipes, many of which are in her head, for all of us to have? We started last summer; she’d recite the recipes and I’d write them, asking her to clarify measurements and methods. At one point she said to add a “glub glub” of honey. “You know, turn the bottle over and glub, glub.” Likewise, a “shake shake” of a spice is just that. Turn the container over and give it a couple shakes.

We laughed a lot putting this little book together, now available on Amazon. My sister Madeline did the illustrations.

Cover hi res


It’s a wonderful legacy for my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. And the recipes are good too! You’ll find  her good old fashioned pot roast, her innovative Kiwi Lime pie, and of course the best chopped liver and matzo ball recipes ever.

Proceeds from sales will benefit The Killingworth Foundation, founded by my father when he served as the town’s First Selectman. The non-profit provides funds to local service organizations and scholarships for students. My mother serves on the scholarship committee.


Posted in Books, daughters, Family, food, Grandchildren, health, Judaism, parenting, Recipes, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Class Notes #9: President Obama, Songs, & Literary Salon

Since the quarter ends next week, I decided each class would participate in a literary salon to share their writing with staff that may be free that period. Students selected their own work to read and then made invitations, cutting construction paper and decorating with crayons and markers. I was stuck how calm they seemed when coloring- it has been in the news lately about how coloring is becoming more popular with adults and relieves stress.  Students enjoyed the freedom to select paper and colors that suited them. I had to explain what a literary salon is though one student took a risk and suggested it was like a hair salon, but instead of different stations for various services, we read literature.

This week they wrote about their favorite songs and took a line and turned it into an original poem or song. One student told me that none of their music is school appropriate so I said they could write what they wanted as no one had to read their notebooks. Given that freedom, I didn’t read one poem that included language not considered school appropriate. The “never say no” theory played out.

They wrote about a school rule they’d change if they could and many complained about the dress code and black shoes requirement. Some felt they needed more homework and many agreed that standing in line silently is unreasonable. If I had more time with them, I’d teach persuasive writing and have them write letters to the school administration.

President Obama visited Newark briefly on Monday and there were high hopes that he’d stop in as the drug rehabilitation center he spoke at is around the corner from the school. Of course he didn’t come, but there was a lot of excitement that he was nearby. I asked students to pretend they could spend the day with the President and what they’d show him in Newark. Some mentioned parks, cultural and sports centers, and a few wrote they’d bring him to their grandmother’s to eat.

One student bit another (not in my class but one of my students) about a marker dispute. Very sad and a bit scary how quickly a little nothing can turn into a bigger something.



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Class notes #8 Inventions, Friends & Scary Stories

Students this week wrote about what they’d invent to make the world a better place, about qualities of a good friend, and scary stories. The 7th graders spent a day in the woods, hiking and participating in cooperative games as team building activities. Despite a cold, rainy day, they had a good time out of school and doing something different.

Next week I hope to teach peer editing and conference with students about their stories. They’ll have time to illustrate them if they wish. I made a list of good writing tips for their notebooks; hopefully they’ll keep it as a reference guide.

I’m helping one student with her high school essay application. She’s describing a journey moving from one state to another, one school to another, from living with her father, then mother, now father. She’s  separated from her mother who has stage 4 breast cancer.

Later today the principal sent an email notifying staff that an 8th grader was found with a knife and had threatened another student.

On the outside, they look like normal kids. On the inside, many are facing tremendous challenges.

There are only six class sessions left in quarter. The students will move on to another arts class and I’ll get a new crop of students to get to know.



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Class Notes #7: What if President Obama invited you to….


The “Macbeth” bulletin is up, ready for an admissions open house and for a big donor tour next week. A couple 8th grade girls enjoyed designing it, and the chance to be out of class and given the responsibility. IMG_1111

For “Do Nows” this week students wrote about what they did last weekend, and most wrote about attending a school-sponsored skating party. I asked them to pretend they’d received a phone call from President Obama, who was appointing them to an important committee. They had to write what they were asked to do. Though some 7th graders didn’t know what a committee was, once they understood the term, they had fun thinking about what task they’d accomplish. One girl imagined being able to “hang out” with Malia and Sasha, one student was named head dog keeper, one was in charge of an “inspiration” committee. Several brought the President to Newark, to show how they were leaders teaching young children or serving as Pop Warner cheerleaders. Many found themselves engaged in national security, a concept, they’ve unfortunately grown up with.

I brought the students to the library to type their short stories on the computers. They really need to learn proper keyboarding as many struggled, hunting and pecking with one finger. Next week’s lessons will focus on revision as I’m trying to impart that writing is a process of revising, editing and rewriting again and again.

The 7th graders received a whole class recess detention due to the bad behavior of a few students. (not assigned by me) It’s not that hard to know who the perpetrators are, I wish they’d be punished instead of the entire class.

The 8th graders missed a day of school for a high school visit and a fire drill interrupted class one day. All par for the course in education.


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