Tag Archive | children

Curiosity Results in Life-Long Learning

curiosityPeter Mallet’s blog is one of my favorite blogs. He’s dedicated his blog to giving other writers very good advice. He also offers a variety of links to other helps a writer can use. While I was reading his post this morning, I came across these words:

“The best writers are curious. I think the addition to that rule should be, “Always strive to know more than you do at any given moment.” Never stop learning.”

In those two sentences, Peter summed me up. I think this is why I chose to write historical fiction. First, I was curious about the time period of my parents, and second, I constantly love to learn things I didn’t know.

Right now, I’m researching women  pilots of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Most people have heard about Amelia Earhart, but have you heard about Jackie Cochran? Did you know that British women and American women pilots provided a valuable service of ferrying planes from the factories to the airfields, so men could devote their time to combat flying? Did you know there were women who actually flew in combat? I didn’t either until I started researching.

I believe my natural curiosity drove my mother nuts because she felt, as my parent, she needed to know everything instead of saying, “I don’t know, let’s go find out together,” she made something up. That technique worked until I got old enough to prove her wrong. From then on, I never asked her questions any more. Instead, I headed for my neighbor’s encyclopedias.

When my children came along, I thought the best thing I could do for them was cultivate their curiosity. As we drove along in the car, I’d say something like, “I wonder why that tree grew so crooked.”  As we walked through a park, I’d ask, “I wonder what kind of flower that is.” Then we would go home and look up the answer. I wanted my girls to be aware of the world around them, and I wanted them to grow up asking their own questions.

One of the things which concerns me is the lack of curiosity I’ve seen in today’s young people. I would be happy if they had questions and satisfied them quickly by searching the Internet. They have this powerful tool as close as their “smart” phones, but they are more apt to text their friends and wonder, “Whatssup?”

We live in a world where if you stop learning and asking “Why?”, you may as well lay down and die. When I see this kind of attitude in my students, I worry about their futures as well as that of our country. Curiosity is cultivated by parents and teachers. We need to ask our children, “What do you think?” Light their fire. Make them think. Get them excited about the world around them.

The Dog Days of August

sunHere we are at the end of August and summer has decided to show up. We’ve had an exceptionally cool June, July and most of August this year, so this weather is hard on everybody–even Ernie the pug. He lays like a frog on the linoleum to keep his tummy cool, while he pants and snorts. Needless to say, pugs have a small window for weather tolerance to keep them comfortable. Much like me.

So, yesterday, today, and tomorrow when the temperature gauge dances around the 90 degree mark, Ken and I will be hanging out in the living room each on our own computers pretending we are somewhere else. The oscillating fan will provide our trade winds, and the air conditioner will keep the temps a balmy 78 degrees.

I’ve heard friends from warmer climates speak about how hard it is to stay indoors when the weather looks beautiful through the window, but going outside means a good chance of melting. A few days of such weather drives me nuts; I don’t know how southerners get through the whole long, hot summer. Of course, they wonder how and why we northerners endure almost six months of cold and snow. I always tell them I can put on more clothes than I can take off without being arrested.

One plus of hunkering down indoors is getting on with my research. The greatest perk about being a writer is you can research and write almost anywhere. I truly love my profession because my commutes are short; my working environment is comfortable, and  I can write in my jammies, sipping coffee, while my imagination takes me away to different times and places.

As we suffer through these three days of extreme heat, I daydream what it must have been like not to have air conditioning or fans on hot days like today. When I was a child, no one in our little town had air conditioning — including the school and church. I remember heading to the basement to escape the inferno outside. I remember not sleeping because I couldn’t get comfortable. And I remember my Dad coming home from work after working all day in a place where the inside 100 degrees and the outside 90 degrees offered no relief. We never complained to Dad how hot it was because he had worked in hell all day to keep our family feed.

Children love hot weather because they can splash and play in cool water from the hose in the backyard. Lucky kids swim in backyard pools, while their Moms watch them from padded chairs perched under a huge umbrella sipping lemonade or something stronger. Such was the case when my children were little. Our neighbor’s pool was always open to us, and I spent many hours swimming with them or watching my little tadpoles practice what they learned in swimming class.

Up until recent years, summer was my favorite season. I had my birthday in July, there was no school, and I played all day at the park. I got to go to Girl Scout camp every summer, learning the mysteries of the outdoor world. I played baseball all day long whenever I could. It’s funny. I never remember being too hot to play. Mom treated us to Popsicles or Kool-Aid in the afternoons, and we were happy.  Maybe that’s the secret!  Kids don’t feel the heat like older grown-ups do. Yeah. That must be it!

So, if I complain about being cooped up in a comfortable, cool house for a few days, just slap me. I deserve it. After all, children are young once and summer is a time to enjoy.

 

Life Without Chuckie — Part IV

It’s Sunday Short Story time. So, settle down with your favorite hot beverage and read another installment about two great friends, Barbie and Chuckie.book clipart

 

Life Without Chuckie

Part IV – The First Communion

2013 Copyright Barbara Celeste McCloskey

 

The winter months went by slowly in 1958. Chuckie and Barbie could only play on the weekends, which actually meant Saturday. They spent their one day a week building snowmen when the snow would stick together, skating on the ice rink that was flooded in the village park, and building snow forts and tunnels behind the grocery store where the snow was piled as high as the roof. But, as  much fun as the winter brought, both children waited patiently for Spring, when they didn’t have to be cold to have a good time outside.

One warm day in April, the children were able to play in Chuckie’s sandbox again after the long Winter. Barbie liked playing there because a chain-link fence kept out her little brother, John Robert. Nowadays, whenever she wanted to play with Chuckie, her little four-year old brother tagged along and butted into the her fun. Worst of all, if she didn’t willingly bring along the little pest, her mother would scold her and then tell her father how bad she was when he came home from work.

“Where’s John Robert?” Chuckie asked Barbie.

“He’s at home, taking a nap. Thank God.” Barbie replied as he carefully honed out a tall spire on her sand castle.

“Why do you say that? He’s not bad.” Chuck didn’t mind having John Robert around because he always wanted a little brother, but instead he was the youngest in his family.

“He’s such a pest. He gets into my stuff, even when Mom tells him to stay out of my room. But he never gets a spanking. Man, if I would disobey like that, I’d get a whack on my butt and then have to tell the priest in confession, too.”

“What are you talking about? What the heck is “confession?”  Chuckie screwed up his face when he said the word.

“Well, I’m just learning about it right now. When you do bad stuff, you have to go to church and be really, really sorry for your sins. Then go into this little dark closet and tell the priest all the bad stuff you did, and he gives you a penance.”

“You’re kidding?” Chuckie thought she was making it up. “That’s crazy! I thought you said God saw everything.”

“Well, he does. He knows everything, too, Chuckie. We talked about this before.”

The whole concept of confession confused Chuckie. “So, why do you have to tell some other guy about what you did when God knows already?”

“I don’t know. But that’s the way it is. If I don’t tell, I can’t make my First Communion.”

“Communion? What’s that?”

Barbie looked at Chuckie like a teacher. “Communion is when you get to eat the body and blood of Jesus.”

Chuckie stood up and looked at her with fear in his eyes. “You can’t do it, Barbie. That’s just wrong. You’ll get sick and die!”

“What are you talking about?” Barbie looked up at him.

“You can’t eat somebody. That’s being a cannibal like on Tarzan! Only guys living in a jungle do that kind of icky stuff!’

Barbie looked at Chuckie like he was stupid. “It’s not real a body, Chuckie. It’s just a little piece of fake bread the priest puts on your tongue as he says, “Body of Christ.”

Now Chuckie was really intrigued. He sat down again. “So, this communion thing is just make believe?”

“I guess.” Barbie pondered. “I really don’t know how it all works, and I’m afraid to ask because good ol’ Mrs. Pink gets mad when we ask questions. She thinks we’re not paying attention if we have a question.”

Chuckie’s lowered his voice. “So you’re going through with this communion thing?”

“I’ve got no choice. Everybody in the whole second grade is doing it on May 10th. Mom’s even making me a pretty white dress and a bride veil to wear for the ceremony.”

Chuckie looked at Barbie with new eyes. Going to Catholic school certainly required her to do a lot of weird stuff, and she never complained. “Can I come?” Chuckie was curious about this whole concept of eating another person.

“I’m afraid not, Chuckie, ‘cause you’re not Catholic. There’s only enough room in our little church for Catholics.”

“Do you have to have a special decoder ring or something to get in?”

Barbie laughed. “No, silly. I guess the guy at the door just knows.”

“Oh.” Chuckie wasn’t convinced and felt a little hurt he was excluded from such a big deal in his friend’s life.

Barbie said. “And besides, you wouldn’t like it anyhow because everything is in Latin.” Barbie said with authority, and then quickly added, “But I want you to come to my party, after all the church stuff is done.”

“Gee, thanks.” Chuckie was happy to finally be included. “What kind of present do you get for going through this communion stuff?”

“You don’t have to get me a present. Just come over and eat with us.” Barbie smiled at him.

“Oh, okay.” Chuckie paused for a few seconds and then asked. “What’s Latin?”

Barbie had to think hard on how to explain something she didn’t understand either. “Well, it’s this secret way the priest talks and sings in church. I think he wants to keep what he’s saying a secret because nobody is supposed to know what he’s saying ’cause he’s talking to God.”

“That’s pretty weird.” Chuckie wondered why anybody would want to such a church if they couldn’t understand what was going on.

“Yeah, I know. It makes sitting still for an hour really hard.” Barbie confessed. “And we have to sit through Mass everyday.”

“It sure is hard going to that Catholic school.” Chuckie felt sorry for her.

“Tell me about it!” Barbie said. “You know, I still ask Daddy if he would switch me over to your school every once in a while when I can’t take it any more.”

Chuckie nodded. “Can you say something is this Latin?”

“I know this: In nomine Patris et Filli, et Spirtus Sancti.”

“What’s it mean?”

“I don’t know.It must have something to do with the sign of the cross because he always does this when he says the words.” Barbie said as she crossed her chest.

“I’m sorry, Barbie, all this Catholic stuff seems pretty nuts-o.” Chuckie started to laugh.

“You take that back, Chuckie. It’s not nuts-o! It’s Jesus talk, that’s all. You don’t understand because you’re a PUBLIC!”

“I’m a what?”

“A PUBLIC. You go to the public school.” Barbie said with confidence.

“I am not a PUBLIC. That’s dumb.”

Barbie got extremely irritated with her friend. “You are too a public. Teacher says there’s Catholics and everybody else. And Chuckie, you’re going to HELL! I didn’t want to tell you, but you are!” The little girl put down her sand tools and stomped toward the gate.

Chuckie chased after her. “Take it back, Barbie. If you weren’t a girl, I’d pound you! I’m not going to HELL! I’m not going anywhere! I live right here on 97th Street, and I’m staying here with my Mom, Dad, Ronnie and Carol forever!”

Barbie could see he was really upset and she calmed down. She stared at her best friend.  “I guess Jesus wouldn’t want us to fight like this, Chuckie. I’m sorry.” Barbie took a deep breath. Knowing her best friend would have to go to hell just because he didn’t go to her church weighed heavy on her. “Maybe you won’t have to go to hell because you’re such a good friend.”  Barbie crossed her fingers behind her back as she felt like she just lied to her best friend. Now she had a big sin to confess to the priest on May 8th.

“Let’s not talk about Catholic stuff again. Okay?” Chuckie spit in his hand and offered it for Barbie to shake. She spit in her hand and the two friends sealed their deal with a strong handshake as they smiled at each other.

“Let’s get our bikes and ride to the park.” Chuckie said as his bright blue eyes lit up.

“Good idea. I’ll push you on the merry-go-round.” Barbie smiled.

“Deal.” Chuckie ran to the garage to get his two-wheeler out, while Barbie did the same.

They never talked about religion again.

Giving is Forever

Santa and childrenI can remember when I was a child WAITING for the night that Santa Claus would bring me the gift that I had been dreaming about all year — or at least since my birthday in July. Yes, it was a magical time for a little girl. A time that all children should have a chance to experience. Even the fact that Santa NEVER brought me a Lionel train set could be overlooked because he did bring me ice skates.

The sad fact is, this miracle of an elf coming in the night to shower presents on eager children with big dreams isn’t worldwide. There are children who go to bed hungry on Christmas Eve and most of us don’t even give them a second thought. There are poor children living on our city streets with their mothers, who would just be thankful for one safe night in a warm comfy bed. Other children wish for enough food to fill their extended tummies. Orphanages are filled with children who just wish someone would love them. In still other places, girls dream to have an education.  Wouldn’t it be great if the Jolly Ol’ Elf could grant these children their Christmas wishes?

I’m always excited when God touches the lives of people who are like Santa. Like Oprah who started a school in Africa, like Bono who contributes to 32 charities to fight poverty and hunger. Angelina Jolie is the Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. She and Brad Pitt also founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation to fight poverty in rural areas. Then there’s George Clooney who made the world open its eyes to the genocide going on in Darfur. This list of Celebrity Santas goes on, too. Bill and Melinda Gates have created a foundation to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty worldwide, while in America, it expands educational opportunities and access to information technology.  Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Ellen DeGeneres, Scarlett Johnansson, Justin Timerlake and many others. They all have given their famous names and a lot of their money to make the world better.

So, what can we do? After all most of us don’t have enough money to do such grandiose gestures. How can we make a difference?

It’s easy. Let God touch your heart and find out. Then listen and wait. Before too long, you’ll feel a tug at your heart that won’t leave you alone. Don’t ignore it because this is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s your way to be Santa any time of the year.