Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve 2014

Well, I guess I've reached the age of being semi-out of touch with the young people.  I am listening to the music in New York and really do not recognize any of it.  The individuals I would have aired for being the stars of 2014 are John Legend with his song "All of Me" and Pharrell Williams with "Happy." I do have to admit, I very much liked Idina Menzel's song, "Let it Go," performed in New York.

John Legend's beautiful ballad touches the soul, and Pharrell's song made for an international incident with Iran when young people decided to perform a dance video without their head scarves or burkas.

As for other memorable events of 2014, I cannot forget the terrible heartache of the people of Malaysia who have lost 3 airplanes, which took so many lives.  The pain is unimaginable.

Also, I find sadly that, we as an American people continue to struggle with our own humanity by brutalizing each other with horrible racist remarks and brutal killings. This is a nation that must come together for the benefit of all.  The blood that flows through our veins bleeds like a red river in the streets when one perishes whether Black, White, Asian, Middle Eastern, Native American and for Nations to numerable to name them all.  We must unite with treaties that are as impartial as they can be to create a world that is better for all future generations.

I must acknowledge my own frailties and to recognize when I have erred in my life to make me a better person.  I am at that point in my life where I am comfortable with whom I am and my goals now focus on sharing my thoughts with a new generation.

2014 is coming to a close and my life is moving in a positive direction.  I am a much better place mentally, emotionally and physically, and I assign that to a higher authority that I choose to call God, but my God has no face and no allegiance to a particular religion.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holocaust: Jewish Russian Eyes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    RECOUNTING MEMORY:
Flint-area Holocaust Survivors & Youth Dialogue with History, Mara Jevera Fulmer, EDITOR

I have had the opportunity to speak individually with Bettya & Michael Kurkis and with Leonid Litvak on a regular basis because of my move to the Flint community. I feel welcomed and embraced by these people.

Bettya has been extremely helpful in teaching me limited Russian words.  I plan to study more so that I may become conversant in the language.  Bettya provided me with the book, as edited by Mara Jevera Fulmer, to read and gain an understanding of the Jewish Russian experience during WWII when she was a little girl.

The collaborative project to produce the book, Recounting Memory, with Mott Community College students and local area high school students is an excellent introduction into presenting a unique perspective of the Holocaust, which depicts the horrific conditions under which Bettya & Michael and Leonid survived.

Michael did not begin school until age eleven and only had the opportunity for four years of study. This book is an excellent read to provide young people with the insights on the war, and the prologue is a genuine interpretation presented by students subsequent to their having met with the Holocaust Survivors.

The book lends itself to classroom discussion, but should not be read as a critical interpretation of the English language, as there are grammar errors within the text due to the natural barriers in language.

I urge educators and those who just love to read to obtain a copy of this book via the provided link above.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oliver Twist and I could have been Soul Mates

As a young girl growing up at St. Vincent Sarah Fisher Home, I read the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans and watched the television cartoons.  At the time, I thought he must be writing about me. I was named Madeline and we normally had twelve girls in a cottage headed by a Nun.  I related to the character because I was small like her, and I admired her not being afraid by saying "Pooh, pooh, to the tiger in the zoo." I have to admit I was some what disappointed to learn he was not writing about me.

My Foster Grandmother Jeannette McGowan made sure I had plenty of fun books to read. I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and she taught me how to read my first book, On the Ranch. When I left the orphanage, Grandma Jeannette and I kept in contact.  When we moved from Detroit to Royal Oak, I learned we were only blocks from each other.  I had the opportunity to meet her twin sister who did not look anything like Grandma Jeannette.  Her sister's name was Florence. Florence was tall; whereas, Jeannette was small.  They were equally enjoyable.

I never had a chance to say goodbye to Grandma Jeannette.  I was working at Beaumont Hospital when she was suffering from pneumonia.  We chatted briefly. She was with her, nephew, who was a priest.  Later that summer, I suffered my first breakdown, three days after my 18th birthday, in 1981. When I went to check on her, the building attendant said, she was no longer there. My heart was broken.  I lost many loved ones during different hospitalizations and I had to learn to cope with their departing and my not being able to say goodbye.

I know decisions I made throughout my life were in large part based on my upbringing, which at times caused for me to be in emotional turmoil.  I cannot change the past, but I can focus on the present, which will effect the future.

Ah, but back to books.  My favorite author is Charles Dickens because his characters are vibrant and real.  Naturally, Oliver Twist  and David Copperfield are two of my favorite.  Both books deal with the struggles of  children living on the streets.  The streets may have been the home of the children, but for the orphanage where the Daughters of Charity offered a supportive environment to care for the children. When I was child, Sr. Helen allowed us to watch Oliver Twist on the television, I thought Fagin was funny and fun with his pick-pocket tricks and for awhile I used to try to practice the skill.  No harm, I would just slip a comb out of a back pocket and giggle if the person had not noticed when I handed the comb back.

I attempted to read Pickwick Papers, but did not finish the book and it may be because the book was written in newspapers before being compiled together.  I read Hard Times and truly appreciated its authenticity. The book truly captures economic woes.  Additionally,  I enjoyed reading A Tale of Two Cities. I had a wonderful teacher Mrs. McHale who guided us in a literature class my Sophomore year of high school and exposed me to many other authors.  Dickens, however, remains my favorite. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Woven Dreams

In my eyes
See generations
Hair displays a part of me
Hands reveal the work I've done
Feet the path I've traveled on
But listen to my words and you'll hear
The people I've met through the years
Hopes, dreams of what yet to be
Despair on bended knee
Head bowed in reconciling
Urn of life unclaimed on a shelf
Unmarked graves of the fallen
Longing arms of a child for love
Tears of the homeless
Nomads of the world
Street Poetry unparalleled
Virgin Prose spoken, but few will ever hear
For the street requires a special ear
A beat reporter whose crossed the line
Touched the dark and danced in day
Seen the troubles
Felt the bitter cold
Brethren of the street, the peddler already knows
The dance of angels on desperate wings
Sings the song of solace and of special dreams
Where hearts cling to hope
An illusion of a home:  a mansion made of stone
Flight of angels
Work in unison
Rescue spirits of lonely ones
Temper the madness
A catalyst never dies
Spirit driven soul survives
Despite the winds and the torrid skies
To fain not in spite of what one sees
To capture the moment
Not to plea
The hour beckons the night cast her shade
Still the writer plugs away
Voice that resonates deep within
Spell that speaks tis not a sin
Kindred spirits walk the course
Touch time on a divided line
Where the metronome pauses for the memory
Of those gone before while the street beat reporter
Records the prose!

Friday, December 5, 2014

What's in a name: Madeline or Madeleine

For the first twelve years of my life, I was taught to spell my name Madeline O'Connor by the Nuns. It was not until I went home to begin schooling in the sixth grade at St. Benedict's in Highland Park, Michigan and began living with my real folks that I learned from my father that I had been spelling my legal name differently.  He peered over my shoulder as I was working on an assignment and said emphatically, "that is not how you spell your name."  "It is Madeleine O'Connor," he stated.

Mind you, I had had difficulty learning how to spell my name from the start.  I recall being taught in the first grade, Madeline O'Connor and not having spelled my name all summer by the second grade spelling my name Madeline Oconnor and being asked, "don't you know how to spell your name?" I squirmed in my seat and quietly, said, "no."

I loved numbers and working with math.  To me, math was easy.  Math was either right or wrong, and I felt comfortable working with numbers.  Math didn't talk back to me, in other words, I was in my own zone with math.

My English instructors never gave up on me and when I had Mrs. Bennet in sixth grade, I knew I had a teacher who connected with me.  She taught me about the benefits of having a thesaurus.  I pleaded with my father to get me the book.  He did not want to spend the money at first, $25.00 I read from the jacket cover.  My father worked at J.L. Hudson's Company in Downtown Detroit and for him that was a huge expense.  Mrs. Bennet encouraged me to read, and one day I had an assignment on sharing about a book I had read.  Sometimes it could be hard to get up in front of a class, but she allowed me to tell my story using a cassette in which I recorded the story.

In sixth grade, Sr. Adaline taught me social studies and we sang songs in French.  There were times it was difficult for me to sit in class, but she allowed me to help her with the bullentin boards.

Also in sixth grade, I had Sr., (I can't remember her name, maybe because she was kind of mean), who taught math and science, my best subjects.  Sadly, that year I learned nothing in math, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise as writing allowed me to learn how to deal with things that a young mind simply could not fully understand.  The funny thing is when I took the Michigan Teacher Certification Test.  I passed all three areas:  English, math and science on the first try, but just like the old days, my scores in math and science remained higher than in English.

At one point, I discovered an old diary I wrote that went through the fifth grade and I discovered many of the letters were backwards or upside down like "e."  Though I was never formally diagnosed I struggled with dyslexia.  There were examples in this text, but I am able to catch most of the errors. My mind requires me to try to see the mistakes as an example, I wrote "backwords" instead of backwards and I caught my error before the computer had to correct me.

Computers have made my life much easier and whether you know me as Madeline, Madeleine, Maddy, MO and so many other names, I am just happy to have a name.  Legally, I have had to write my name both as Madeline and Madeleine because so many documents were produced with those versions, but if I ever have the opportunity to meet you call me by the name of your soul and your language.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Friends Are My Anchor

At times it was difficult for me to get close to people,
I had gotten used to them coming and going, 
This started so young for me--living in an orphanage from less than two to twelve.
When I made friends at school at least they did not come and go,
Sadly, though one day I was told I would be going home with my folks.

How could I explain I did not know them?
I was closer to other relatives.
I would be enrolled in a new school.
Every sense of who I was--lost in a decision I did not make.

Don't get me wrong,
I learned to respect my parents and even to love them in my own way,
They simply could not care for me,
But they never outright abandoned me.

Now I search for friends from youth in the faces I see,
Some of us have reconnected.
Some seem to be lost in the sands of time.
If by chance you happen to read this,
Know that I am looking still,

You were, are and always will be my friends.
I will remain an open book, 
So perhaps one day what I write will help one of you.
Thank you to all who made me who I am.