Saturday, May 19, 2018

5 Languages of Love






Keith McArthur in his recent book, 18 Steps to Control Your Life), cites Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, in which Chapman makes the point that when we try to express our love to our loved one, we often do so in ways that we appreciate, but not necessarily what he or she appreciates. 
Chapman outlined five different love languages:

   1.    WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

These words are complements and affirmations, recognition of things they do well.

   2.    ACTS OF SERVICE

“Actions speak louder than words,” we’ve been told. I’ve also heard it said, “work is love and a real.” Many people know you care only by what you do for them.

   3.    GIFTS

Some people feel loved primarily when their partners give them things, not necessarily expensive things. While I don’t have much interest in most material things, it is true that when I see something I was given, I think of the giver with appreciation.

   4.    QUALITY TIME

Others measure our affection by the amount of time that we choose to spend with them, sometimes quietly, sometimes doing something that they want, even if the giver does not want to do it. Perhaps especially if the giver would not usually do it.

   5.    PHYSICAL TOUCH

Finally, some crave physical touch, not necessarily sex, but kissing, hugging, and caresses.


WHAT IS YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE?

Some tips on knowing what you want:

What hurts you most if it is not given?
What have you requested most often?
How do you express your love?


DIFFERENT PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS 

People tend to express love the way they want it expressed to them.
 
Many relationship problems are traceable to speaking different languages of love.

Learn what languages of love you and your partner want spoken. Don’t let a language mismatch produce a relationship failure.


                                                      Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD
                                                      WriteYourBookWithMe.com

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? My Mickey Mouse (R) Obsession




As I stated in the very first chapter of this book, I am quite the Mickey Mouse collector. Often, I'm asked when this began. To the best of my memory, which is sometimes sketchy because of the brain tumor, it started in the mid-to-late 1980s. Back then, my family went to Disney World a lot because my parents and sisters had moved from upstate New York to Florida. I visited as often as I could, which usually was about three times a year.

Because they lived within a couple of hours’ drive time from the parks, we usually just enjoyed day trips there. My favorite was always the Magic Kingdom and specifically Main Street, USA. When they say Disney World is the “happiest place on earth,” I can truly say that it is for me! When I stroll down that street and peek into all of the shops, I am beside myself with excitement.

I left shopping while on Main Street until the end of the day so I wouldn't have to carry my new purchases throughout the park. I know that many other tourists do the same thing, because there are way more people in these shops later on in the day than in the morning.

I just love how clean everything is there. I visited more than once when I had mysophobia, and it was one of the only places I went into the restroom without freaking out.

The staff at Disney World is so incredibly friendly. No matter how I was feeling when I arrived, I always felt much better when I left.

My condo has tons of Mickey Mouse memorabilia from those fun visits, and it has been dubbed a “Mickey Museum.” One of the ways I got this book started was because of these items, as described as follows:

A former reporter from our local newspaper, the Daily Freeman, attends the same church I do. She wrote excellent articles about collections people have.

One Sunday, I saw her in church, and I said, “Paula, great article about that man's baseball card collection. I wish my collection took up less space and was that easy to dust.”

Paula Mitchell responded by asking what I collected, and I filled her in.

The next thing you know, she's setting up a visit by both her and a photographer, Tania Barricklo, from the paper. When Paula was quizzing me about The Mouse, she asked what I did for a living. I burst into tears, and she shut the recorder off.

I told Paula I had been a teacher for 25 years, but now I'm on disability because the brain tumor has caused permanent brain damage. I told her I missed teaching, every day. The article ended up being front-page news and was about the life I lost as well as my Mickey Mouse obsession.

When I spoke of this at one of my support groups, Dr. Lois Tannenbaum, our facilitator and a writer in my memoir’s Foreword, told me about Douglas Cooper, an editor. She said he could help me put my story on paper so others can learn what happened to me and what I've learned from it all. I contacted Dr. Cooper, and so this book began.

In the chapter I wrote about the things I miss about teaching, I listed a bunch of things we used to do over the years that included MM.

These days, I visit Disney stores in malls and in Times Square. I only go to New York City once or twice a year, but when I visited the Disney store there recently, a few people walked in before me, and the greeter at the door said, “Welcome” to each of them. When she saw me, she said, “Welcome BACK,” so I guess I’m memorable! I’m dressed from head to toe in clothing with Mickey Mouse all over me.

As Walt Disney famously said, “I only hope we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

This book got started because of that newspaper article about that mouse….




                                              ###

For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. The excerpts are from the almost-final version. 

Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats from amazon.com and from its publisher, outskirtspress.com: 

                                              ###

BOOK TALKS AND SIGNINGS

Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NYI [DWC] attended, along with almost 40 other people. The talk was especially well received, with several questions at the end, as well.
Congratulations, Janet!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 


She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 


She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 


She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.


On 5/31/18 Janet will be at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.


On 6/9/18 Janet will be at the Tannersville Library at noon.


On 6/11/18 Janet will be at the Gardiner Library at 6 p.m.


On 6/20/18 Janet will be at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.


On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.

More signings will be coming up, and a fine feature about her by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. She was recently interviewed by the Kingston Daily Freeman, and that interview should be published soon.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? What I Don't Miss about Teaching




          As you’ve read, I loved teaching! But, as in all professions, there are things you don’t like. My list isn’t long, but I do have some….

          I now have Sunday nights for whatever I want to do. It used to be that all I could do those evenings was write lesson plans for the upcoming week. Some teachers do that during their work hours, but I never found the time for that. So – I missed a lot of fun things to do on many Sunday nights. The only time during the school year that I got a break from that was when we had Monday off for a special holiday. Then, Monday rather than Sunday night was spent doing the lesson-plan ritual.

          Another thing that I don’t miss about teaching is the day after Halloween, though it is, coincidentally, my birthday, November 1st. I hated it because the kids were experiencing “sugar hangovers” from all the trick-or-treating the night before. They’d either be so what I called “hyper-diaper” they couldn’t concentrate, or they’d be so worn-out they couldn’t stay awake. It was usually not a fun day on which to celebrate my birthday nor to have my students learn much.

          A third thing I truly disliked was how computerized special education all became at the end of my career. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for special ed. students used to be uniquely personal. Then they became too cumbersome; with selecting data vs. just writing the information. They became like multiple-choice-test answers rather than expressive essays. I became terrible at computer skills. I even had an administrator, at my very last job, belittle me, regarding how I had filled out the IEP, in front of parents at a meeting about their child. 

Many people had to help me work on the computer at the end of my career. I found out later from one of my many doctors that computer skills would have been affected by my brain tumor. I have never bumped into this horrible administrator since my surgery, and she’s lucky for that, because I’m pretty sure I would not be able to control my tongue, as I am taught to do at church and other places. No one should ever say such rude things as that about you when there’s an audience –especially when we all were unaware of the brain tumor that was behind my mistakes….

[In contrast, two teachers helped me enormously back then, and I wanted to include them in my book. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember their names. Then, God helped me. I bumped into both of them within a week of each other in two separate restaurants. So – thank you, Nischa and Angela. You both took good care of me at the end of my career. You are excellent human beings. Thanks, also, to Kim, Eileen, Joe, Toni, Barbara, Pat, Janis, Sheryl, Karen, Nancy, Jill, Mike, and Lorraine, who also helped me a lot (I had to find an old directory to remember the names of some of the sweet colleagues who helped me at the very end of my career).]

Now, back to some things I don’t miss about teaching….
          
          When I began teaching, everyone had to stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. By the end of my teaching career, not only did they not have to recite the Pledge, they stood only if they chose to while it was being recited. I think this is a sad display of how things have gone downhill, as far as respect for our traditions and forefathers. By the end of my career, I was disappointed to have to remind my class over and over what the Pledge symbolized. To this day, I put my right hand over my heart as I say the Pledge.

         Nowadays, when someone sneezes, I can say, “God bless you” again. Once, when an administrator was visiting my classroom, a student sneezed and that’s what I said. I was told later on in the office that I could only say, “Bless you.”

          I also loved decorating a tree at Christmastime in my classrooms. When we were no longer allowed to call it a “Christmas tree” anymore, I left our artificial tree up all year long and each month decorated it to match that month’s theme (for example, with hearts in February or turkeys in November…).

Yet another thing I don’t miss about teaching is catching scabies. This happened twice (once when I was student-teaching and then my first year of teaching).
          
         Scabies are those little buggies underneath your skin. You have to wash lots and lots of clothes that they may have “jumped” to, besides slathering your skin with awful meds. This was totally gross and I’m grateful I never caught them after that.
          
        The family I caught scabies from was very poor. I vaguely remember the teacher I student-taught with bought them laundry detergent and the medicine for the brother and sister to use. The second time I had scabies, my doctors were pretty sure I didn’t catch them from students this time, but from clothes in my closet that the tiny buggers got into the year before but hadn’t been worn due to the change in seasons.
          
        Lucky for me, I never caught lice, though students in my class had lice practically every year that I taught. I know of teachers who did catch lice from their pupils, so I was saved the aggravation of that hairy mess!
        
        Another thing I really don’t miss about teaching is my trips to the ER because of something that took place with the children while I worked. I know I was bitten more than once, breaking the skin at least one time. I was punched in the nose in a pool and there was so much blood, the public pool had to be drained. And – I got “in the way” of a piñata stick and had a broken finger.

The students who bit me I’ve never seen as adults, but the “pool puncher” apologized to me when I ran into him unexpectedly once. He was an adult by then, explaining how afraid he was of the water when I tried to help him with a swimming lesson when he was a very young boy. I thought it was sweet of him to remember that many years later.

The accident from the piñata stick was also apologized for when I met up with this young man for dinner to talk about days gone by. He was so polite and friendly and we laughed (and even teared up a bit) at some of the stories that took place when he was in my class. He was another one of my favorites…. Here’s one story about him: on one of the Reading Days towards the end of my career, as I slipped my feet into my MM slippers, I discovered a large, sharp knife in one of them. Luckily, my foot wasn’t cut. We found out pretty quickly which student put it there, and why.

He was being teased by other students in our school because he was in a special ed. classroom. He brought the knife to school to threaten those other students at lunchtime. He hid it in my slipper under my rocking chair, not realizing that I would take off my shoes this particular day. Of course, I had to take him to the principal’s office. The police were called and he was taken to a local hospital’s psych. ward for evaluation. As soon as school was over that day, I immediately went to the hospital, showed my badge and ID for my job, and they let me in to visit him.

Because I was an adult woman, and he was a youth, I was not allowed to be left alone with him in his “room,” so someone who worked there found us a mat to sit on in the hallway, where he cried in my arms, telling me how sorry he was.

I just held him and kept telling him how much I loved him, no matter what mistakes he made. I had brought my favorite classroom book, Love You Forever (mentioned in the other chapter about teaching), and I read it to him as he cuddled in my arms with hospital staff scurrying by caring for other patients there.

After our visit time was over, I left and tried to drive home. At this time in my career, I lived in Dutchess County, NY, so it was a long drive home, over 30 miles, from where this took place in Ulster County. I guess my driving was erratic due to how hard I was crying. I was pulled over by a state trooper.

When I told him what had happened that day, he was very comforting and didn’t give me a ticket, and told me to be more careful (I guess I was speeding and swerving). As he assured me he would, he followed me for quite a while, which I really appreciated. I think he might have learned how much teachers can care for the welfare of their students by stopping me that day.

Since my brain surgery, I went to a wake for a family member of this student. When I knew him as a youngster, he was in a foster-care home. At this wake, I met his mother for the first time.

When he introduced us, he said, “Mom – this is the teacher I always talked about.”

She thanked me for the job I had done for him many years before. I left that funeral home feeling slightly better that, even though I can’t teach anymore, there are signs that I did well when I could.

Another dangerous thing that took place in several classrooms I taught in over the years was the “flying furniture” episodes. Chairs, desks, tables, and more were thrown by various students who became agitated with their work, our staff, and/or themselves. Luckily, I can’t remember any trips to the ER for these occasions, so I guess I dodged these airborne “gifts” well.

I also don’t miss that very-hurried lunch break. By the time you stood in line to get a school lunch, headed to the teachers’ room to gobble it down, headed to the restroom, if needed, and then back to class, there was always a rush! When I finished scarfing lunch down, I used the students’ playground time to write to parents about their child’s behavior and work completion that day. I did this for every child, every day. I began that practice when I started teaching at Ulster County BOCES because I was told the teachers there had daily communication with the parents.

Instead of writing in individual notebooks like some of the BOCES teachers did, I copied someone’s idea of a Daily Report sheet. It was the quickest way I could relay important information. It was also the way families could let me know what was up at home. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but I changed the layout of it a little bit. I have an example of this idea in one of my appendices.

I need to mention another thing I disliked about teaching. It was those stupid standardized testing days! Too many are a waste of valuable educational time!

Another thing I don’t miss about teaching is fire drills. Those bells and alarms that ring are so loud and frightening for us all IF we weren’t told ahead of time we’d be having a drill. Some of my students screamed and jumped up while others were able to calmly line up to exit the room and then leave our school.

Something I have to admit here, though, is that I caused at least three fire evacuations over the years due to my trying to do too many things at the same time. One time a fire I started came from our classroom’s cooking, but I can’t remember much more than that. The other two fires, I remember like they happened yesterday.

The first memorable fire was the smaller of the two I remember. We were popping popcorn in the microwave in the teachers’ room. We accidentally pushed too many minutes on the buttons, because a student ran away and we were focused on catching her. Before we knew it, there were sparks and LOTS and LOTS of smoke pouring out of the microwave. The alarm sounded, and the whole school had to go outside.

Nothing makes for other staff’s being annoyed with you more than disruption of their teaching to go stand in the cold until the fire department arrives. But, that’s what happened, so, of course, I got comments and looks from colleagues who were less than thrilled with that afternoon.

The next fire that my classroom had was due to my rushing and telling my staff to do something that in hindsight, was just plain stupid.

We were about to celebrate our monthly Book It! Program. I had gone to Pizza Hut (which is the company that developed this reading program) the night before and picked up all of the free pizzas that my students had earned from reading that month. I had worked out a deal with this restaurant, because usually the families were supposed to bring their child in for the meal, but since most of the families I worked with could not do that, I went instead. I did pay for pizzas for my staff and me to eat with our class so we could all enjoy this reading celebration together.

When it was time to take the pizzas out of our classroom fridge (a small fridge I still had from my days in college), I told my staff to put the pizzas into our classroom’s little oven, still in their boxes, because we were late for something and we had no time to empty all the personal pan pizza boxes. Well – we sure wasted lots of time with that decision of mine!

As I was at the front of the classroom teaching some math problem on the chalkboard, a student, J., from the back of the room, who could see the oven better than I could, shouted out, “Ms. Schliff!”

I told him to stop calling out. A few seconds later, he shouted out even louder, “Ms. Schliff!!” Again, I told him to get back to work on his math sheet.

Then, he screamed my name, and when I asked him to please be quiet, he yelled out, “Fine – I won’t tell you your classroom’s on fire!” At that, I ran to the back of the room and flames were shooting out of our little oven. I unplugged it, pulled the pizza box that was on fire and threw it into the sink and poured water on it.

The entire classroom was filled with smoke, and because this happened on a winter day, the whole school was sent to the gym after we got out safely, so the firemen could inspect the entire building. This ended up being a three-hour event that actually was mentioned when I was thrown a going-away party from Ulster County BOCES several years later.

After all of us were safely back in our classrooms, I was called to our office to speak on the phone to my boss, Mr. Howard Korn, who called me to make sure we were all okay. I said we were, but lots of staff in the building were pretty upset with me (for obvious reasons – cardboard in an oven!).

But – what ended up being a happy ending is that as the firemen were getting ready to leave our school’s premises, a house went on fire across the street. I was told the next day that the house was saved probably because the fire trucks were so close.

When I was roasted at that going-away party, someone gave me a fire extinguisher as a present. Very funny!

That’s it, my list of dislikes. Given that I taught for 25 years, this is a short list, because I can hardly remember much I disliked about this wonderful job.



###
For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. The excerpts are from the almost-final version. 

Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats from amazon.com and from its publisher, outskirtspress.com: 

                                                ###

BOOK TALKS AND SIGNINGS

Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NYI [DWC] attended, along with almost 40 other people. The talk was especially well received, with several questions at the end, as well.
Congratulations, Janet!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 


She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 


She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 


She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.


On 5/31/18 Janet will be at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.


On 6/9/18 Janet will be at the Tannersville Library at noon.


On 6/11/18 Janet will be at the Gardiner Library at 6 p.m.


On 6/20/18 Janet will be at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.


On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.

More signings will be coming up, and a fine feature about her by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. She was recently interviewed by the Kingston Daily Freeman, and that interview should be published soon.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: 18 STEPS TO OWN YOUR LIFE








The author, Keith McArthur, is a former corporate executive, now an author, publisher, counselor, whose life was radically changed by his near-death experience with failing kidneys.  Not only has he written an insightful and easy-to-read self-help book, but he provides additional material on a web site that he offers his readers free of charge.

His book’s Table of Contents presents a useful summary of McArthur’s short and valuable contribution to self-help literature:

Free Bonus and Extras
How a Second Chance at Life Taught Me How to Live
Imagine the Life You Want
Make a Choice
Define Your Values
Set Good Habits
Commit to Growth
Become the Happiest, Healthiest Version of You
Embrace Gratitude
Practice Mindfulness
Find Your Fit
Protect Your Sleep
Drink More Water
Eat Better
Connect More Deeply with Others
Connect with Anyone
Stop Complaining
Ditch Toxic People
Learn the Languages of Love
Get [Stuff] Done
Sanctify Your Space
Master the Pomodoro
Take Time to Plan
Permit the Pivot
One Last Thing
Keep on Owning Your Life
About the Author
Other Books by Keith McArthur

SETTING GOALS
Although nearly dying from kidney failure made McArthur examine his life, he urges us not to wait for such a crisis.  Instead, we should decide that we’re going to change, and go to our goal with a multitude of small steps I’m reminded of the saying, “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” McArthur tells how he improved his once-awful penmanship with a few days of concentrated attention. He overcame his self-limiting belief that he could not change the messy way he wrote.

Having decided to change, we still have to determine the direction in which we want to go, the growth we want to achieve.  This requires defining our values: knowing what’s most important to us.  He reminds us that Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, said to ask ourselves what we would like eulogized at our funeral, what it was that was most significant about our lives.  Alternatively, we might explore our values by describing our ideal day or naming people we most admire or identifying what we’re most proud of or what excites us the most or what we want less of or want more of in our lives.  Such contemplation helps identify the direction we should head.

McArthur’s key takeaways with regard to goals are as follows: “We all die.  Live the way you want to be remembered.  When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.  Your values are compasses that can lead the way when you’re facing tough decisions.”

MAKING PROGRESS
As we pursue our goals day by day, we can do so in a joyful way if we are diligent about observing what is good and expressing our gratitude for it. This requires a certain amount of mindfulness, being mentally in the present, rather than in the past, and not worrying about the future. 

Meditation helps prepare our minds and has been shown to produce physical changes in our brains, with beneficial effects. 

We have to take care of ourselves, including exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep. McArthur gives sound, specific recommendations concerning exercise, nutrition, and sleep.

ENGAGING WITH OTHER PEOPLE
Achieving our goals and enjoying our lives are furthered by successful relationships with others. The first requisite for this is being genuinely interested in them. The second is displaying that interest…in facial expressions, body language, and communication. Dale Carnegie’s familiar advice is offered, a mix of tactics and human decency. Avoid bragging, criticizing, complaining.

When you need to try to get others to change something, don’t complain about it to those powerless to amend it; rather, become an advocate to those with the power to fix what you see as wrong.

I’m reminded of the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer, along the lines of asking God to help one to change what needs to be changed, endure what cannot be altered, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

Just as allying with good people is a plus, one must “ditch toxic people” when one can. Working with them is like walking with a stone in your shoe. Identify and avoid, if possible.

New to me was the concept of “the languages of love,” ascribed to Gary Chapman. Essentially, these are ways various people like to receive and give affection and love:
          Words of Affirmation
          Acts of Service
          Gifts
          Quality Time
          Physical Touch
What matters to you? To your significant others? What pleases you or its absence hurts you the most? What have you most requested? What do you tend to give? Are you and yours speaking the same language of love?

GETTING STUFF DONE
First, we should clean up our work space, discarding as much as we can, putting the rest where it should be. I was reminded of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” De-cluttering is key, though I lack the courage to do it.

Then McArthur advises us to become more effective by prioritizing, planning, and pivoting when necessary.

Prioritizing is familiar, though difficult.  Some things are more, some things are less important; their level of difficulty may also be worth considering, creating almost a benefit-cost ratio for ranking them, more often done intuitively than explicitly.

For planning, a To-Do list is useful, but even better is to put the necessary activities on your calendar, where it becomes clear when they should be begun, and approximately how much time they’re going to require. 

For more productive days, he recommends the Pomodoro Technique, presented by Francesco Cirillo three decades ago, where 25-minute blocks of time, with five-minute breaks for rest, are scheduled, and during those work blocks, one focuses on one activity exclusively.

His next “P” is for “pivot,” the changing of direction when necessary. I’m reminded of “to live is to maneuver.” Pursuing a goal without course corrections can be disastrous. Charging straight ahead has its merits, but any virtue can be overdone.

LAST WORDS
These last words will be mine, not McArthur’s: get this fine book if you want a refresher course on owning your own life’s success or failure…and making it a success.

.


Friday, May 4, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? Foster Son, Brian

MY FOSTER SON, BRIAN

          In 1989 I left the Pine Plains Central School District to work for Ulster County BOCES. I began there teaching Summer School, and I met a little eight-year-old boy named Brian [who has given me permission to use his real name here]. He was in that very first class.

          The first time we had a field trip to the pool, Brian took off his shirt, and his back was filthy. The gym teacher had to take him to the restroom to help him get cleaned up so would be allowed into the pool for instruction.

          Brian was placed into the foster care system by his mother. He had not been removed from his home, but, instead, she gave him up “temporarily” to help her get back on her feet. Brian ended up not living with his mother for many years.

          I was his teacher that summer. I was married at the time and owned a house in Rhinebeck. I had told my bosses that if housing was needed, I’d be glad to take him home with me for a few months. My husband agreed, but neither of us knew what we were getting ourselves into….

          We went to many special training sessions and got certified to be N.Y. State foster parents. We didn’t expect Brian’s stay with us to last as long as it did. Months turned into years, and the situation took a huge toll on our marriage.

          Brian was labeled at the time as “emotionally disturbed.” His behavior was erratic. Sometimes, both at school and then at “home,” he was well-behaved, but then other times, he would misbehave. He craved attention and being in the spotlight. Sometimes this worked well for him and my husband and me, but other times it was difficult.

          What truly made it hard at home was that I did my teaching job 24/7, non-stop. The homework that I assigned to my students during the day was the same homework I assisted Brian with in the evening. This, and many more such examples, negatively affected our marriage. Every couple needs to take a break from work in order to be happy. My husband and I separated while Brian was still our foster son.

          But, there was good, too. We took Brian to Disney World. He exhausted my parents and us, as he literally RAN around the parks because he was so excited to be there! Although Brian is in his 30’s now, he still reflects on how much fun we had there, as well as at so many other places we took him to.

          Nowadays, I don’t think teachers are allowed to become foster parents to their students. I agree with this change because foster parenting really alters your life. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for how hard it would all be. I do commend anyone who is able to be a foster parent.

          These days, though we only live about 30 minutes apart, I only see Brian every few months. I collect all the water bottles I drink from, and he recycles them for extra money. Sometimes, we have a quick lunch before I go into my trunk for the multiple bottle bags that he walks to a store. He always makes me feel better about my life, because each quick visit, he reminds me of all that I am to him.
         
You can read more about this time in my life from Brian himself. He wrote the next chapter.



TRIBUTE FROM FOSTER SON, BRIAN

I [Brian] was going to a special ed. program called “Ulster BOCES.” There were a few constants in my life, and BOCES was one of the constants, a program that has splinter classes throughout Ulster County, where kids with Down Syndrome or Asperger’s or kids who can’t read or even speak English go, basically kids who need a special-needs environment to learn. One summer there was a teacher who was unlike any other teacher I had met: she made learning fun and engaging to the point where you wanted to learn something new.

        I was walking into summer school and my new teacher was there. She said, “Hi, there. My name is Janet. Are you Brian?” [Back then, Ulster County BOCES students were allowed to call their teachers by their first names.]

        I said, “Yes.”

       She had big, colorful eyes, and she was wearing bright colors, but most important, she made you very comfortable, considering she was dealing with special-needs children.

       Janet didn’t know it, but in her teaching career she would set the bar at a high level for my future teachers. She would pull off the impossible. The first day in summer school, she was teaching us the hula dance. Yes, I can regretfully admit I did the hula at the ripe age of seven.
        
       One time I went to the YMCA to go swimming, but the gym teacher, Roy, could not let me in the water cause I was filthy with dirt on my back. I cried cause I could not go in the water. There were a lot of things like that in my life that I could not understand, so school was like that, and then I went into foster care when the fall came around, and Janet was still in school in the fall. You see my normal teacher, Marla, took the summer off, and Janet got her class.
       
        I thought Janet was going to leave when the summer ended. Turns out, there she was. Janet has a way of popping up when you least expect it. She is more stealthy than a Navy SEAL.

       School was the one constant in my childhood as well. Looking back, I had it good, and I took a lot for granted, as we all did. We were safe, looked after. We got a top-notch education, and we went on all the cool field trips.
          
       Then one day, Janet told me I was going to a new foster home. Weeks went by, but I had no idea where I was going, until the day I was leaving the home I was in. I was in school all that day, having no clue about what was going to happen to me. Then Janet Schliff asked me to step into her classroom, and she said, “Brian, I am aware that you’re going to a new foster home.”

She asked me, “Are you nervous about your new foster home?”

       I said, “Yes, I have no idea where I am going.”

       She said, “I can understand that. How would you feel if you were going to come live with me?”

       I paused for a moment and smiled and said, “I would like that. You’re really cool.”

       She then said, “I am glad to hear you say that, because I have some news to tell you: I am going be your new foster mother.”

       I jumped with relief and great joy.

       Here was this woman who had become a big part of my school life, and she was a really nice and cool lady, the one teacher you looked forward to seeing every day. What kid in foster care would not want their favorite teacher to take them home? I hugged her for the first time. I went home and packed my bags with joy, then got in the van and took the long drive to Rhinebeck, NY.

       Rhinebeck, NY, was a revelation. I had no idea people lived like that until I went to that town. It was the first time in my life I had mother and father figures under the same roof. It was an adjustment to get used to. I had to get used to a wealthy community where most of the kids you meet there take a lot for granted, things I simply would never take for granted. Janet and her husband made my life stable, and I was for the first time in a position where I was happy. 

       Janet and her husband also broadened my horizons. They taught me just how big the world really is. They gave me something that I will forever be grateful for: they gave me the courage to stand my ground and be Brian. They would always say, “Don’t ever let anyone turn you into something that deep down you know you are not, because who you are on the inside is the only guarantee you have in this world, and as long as you have that, you will always find a way back to where things make sense to you.”

       I found myself maturing faster than the rest of my companions. Janet and her husband managed to take a kid who was a complete mess and culture him, educate him, and teach him to be polite, charming, and a completely different person. They took me to the Albany Museum for the first time as a kid. I stood there in front of the mammoth skeleton and I was in awe. Both of them constantly showed me things like that.

       Then one day, Janet’s parents showed up. Janet’s mom could cook like no other. Her dad was a goofball and love to horseplay. One thing he loved to do was given what he lovingly called an “elephant bite,” which was grabbing my thigh and shaking his hand while squeezing at the same time. It would both sting and tickle. It was not long before I was calling them “Grandma and Grandpa.” I never knew my real grandparents, so they filled the gap in a wonderful way. A few months later, Janet, her husband, and myself were sitting on an airplane heading to Florida. I had to go to the bathroom every five minutes.

       Then we landed in West Palm Beach, Florida, and stayed with her parents in Boca Raton, Florida. Again, Florida was a revelation: this was me learning how another group of people lived. I was standing there on the beach, realizing I am in a place where I normally can only read about, which is also what ran through my mind when we went to Disney World. I was in awe at the huge globe in Epcot Center. It was an amazing feeling, but about 500 yards in front of the globe there were these huge disks launching water streams from one disk to the other, as though the water was playing hopscotch. It seemed seamless, as if it were one stream of water, so I stood there, reached my hand up, and my hand got soaked. I thought maybe I can swallow the water with my mouth, so I climbed up on the platform and watched the water go to one after another, and then I stood there, opened my mouth, and, not only did it not go in my mouth, it soaked me from head to foot. I jumped down covered in water and was absolutely drenched and laughing my head off.

       At one point, the three of us went on the teacups ride. Now Janet’s husband, when he was not working for IBM or hanging out being a foster father or weightlifting, was pretty buff and spry. We notice that all the other teacups on the ride spun but our teacup seem to spin round and round and round faster than all the others. I never realized how fast our teacup was really spinning.

       Now Janet’s husband kept bugging me to ask if we could ride in the front of the monorail, so eight-year-old little me did ask the operator, and we got to ride in the front with the driver, which was really cool, and I got to see how these really operated.

       Living with Janet as a kid was really cool. She loved rock music. We went to see all the Disney movies, and I got to eat at more restaurants than I can count, so learning table manners was a must. I got used to living in polite society and I liked it. This was a stable, happy time in my childhood, considering I had to face very adult situations. I liked where I was, and Disney World was not the only place I got to see. One place Janet and her husband went to when they were dating was Niagara Falls; he wanted me to see it so badly, and I did not really understand why, but one day he and his mother took me there, and I stood at the very spot he and Janet once stood by themselves. I stood there at eight years old, and I was in awe of the size of the falls. I felt very insignificant in front of this huge, massive waterfall.

       Disney World and Niagara Falls were not the end of my traveling. I got to go to Hershey Park as well. Janet and her husband planned the trip to Lake Placid, the cornerstone of the Winter Olympics. That trip was to be another unforgettable one that sticks out in my mind to this day.

       Janet and her husband taught me that if you truly love a child, you will do what’s best for the child even if it does not include you. That’s real love, and that is how you steer a child right, by doing the hard things that help the child be a better person.

       I remember the day the social worker came and loaded my stuff into the car and I had felt the pain of knowing I was leaving. It hurt so bad I cried really hard. Janet did, too, as she hugged me and held me tight. She took a picture that day of me, and I often look at that picture. My eyes from that moment on until today have one thing in common: I had pain and heartbreak behind my eyes. I felt like my entire world caved in and around me. I didn’t want to leave. I had a happy life, and I could not understand why my family could not see that. The selfishness and stubbornness behind everything they did hurt, but as they loaded me into the van to take me back to my mother, I said “No! Why do I have to go? Please let me stay!”

       Janet said, while crying, “I want you to stay, but it’s not up to me. Brian, I love you.”

       I could hear the case worker as she started the van and said, “I hate this job. I really do. This is so wrong in every way.”

       I cried until I exhausted myself and cried some more, and that was the first time in my life that I had felt heartbreak.



###



For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be 

excerpting, weekly, material from this fine book by Janet Johnson 

Schliff, M.S.Ed.. She wrote it over a three-year period, with some 

coaching and editing help from me, through my 

business, WriteYourBookWithMe.com. The excerpts are from the 

almost-final version. 




Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats 

from amazon.com and from its publisher, outskirtspress.com: 


                                                ###

BOOK TALKS AND SIGNINGS

Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at Barnes & Noble, 1177 Ulster Avenue, Kingston, NYI [DWC] attended, along with almost 40 other people. The talk was especially well received, with several questions at the end, as well.
Congratulations, Janet!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 

She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 

She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 

She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet will be at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.



On 5/31/18 Janet will be at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.

On 6/9/18 Janet will be at the Tannersville Library at noon.

On 6/11/18 Janet will be at the Gardiner Library at 6 p.m.

On 6/20/18 Janet will be at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.

On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.



More signings will be coming up, and a fine feature about her by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. She was recently interviewed by the Kingston Daily Freeman, and that interview should be published soon.