Unraveling a Mystery in the Classroom

Students - testing in class at a Taiwanese school. 2006

By Judy Berman

What if something you did when you were a teenager came back to haunt you 20 or more years later?

That’s what is happening to many teachers in Florida. Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, created a program that will cost the state $44 million. In the state’s 2015-16 education budget, that money is set aside for a maximum of 4,402 teachers to get up to a $10,000 bonus.

But, for teachers to qualify for Florida’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship, they have to be rated highly effective – the highest ranking – in their schools. Plus, they had to have ranked at or above the 80th percentile on their SAT or ACT scores.

You read right. That’s the tests teachers took when they were still in high school.

What was Fresen’s basis for this? He had read Amanda Ripley’s “The Smartest Kids in the World.” What he took away from it was that there is a clear link among nations with top academic performance: well-paid teachers with high aptitudes.

The problem is, Fresen got the equation backward. Ripley looked at how three countries – Finland, Korea and Poland – revolutionized their classrooms. She noted that if America “wanted to get serious about education at long last, we needed to start at the beginning.”

“Following Finland’s example, education colleges should only be allowed to admit students with SAT scores in the top third of the national distribution, or lose government funding and accreditation. Since 1.6 million U.S. teachers were due to retire between 2011 and 2021, a revolution in recruitment and training could change the entire profession in a short period of time.” (p. 96-97)

One reform Ripley said is needed is all stakeholders – parents, teachers, administrators, teaching colleges – need to embrace rigor.

Student - at a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math class

“In Finland, all education schools were selective. Getting into a teacher training program there was as prestigious as getting into medical school in the United States. That rigor started in the beginning, where it belonged, not years into a teacher’s career, with complex evaluation schemes designed to weed out the worst performers, and destined to demoralize everyone else,” Ripley wrote (p. 85)

I read Ripley’s book to see what was behind this issue. She followed three American students who took one year of high school in Finland, Korea and Poland. Thru these students, their schools in those countries and back here in the states, Ripley analyzed data and made many observations. I will focus on only a few.

Teens in Finland, Korea and Poland scored higher on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) than those in the United States.

“None of the other international tests measured teenagers’ ability to think critically and solve new problems in math, reading and science. The promise of PISA was that it would reveal which countries were teaching kids to think for themselves.” (p. 15)

The United States had a middling performance. “U.S. teenagers did better in reading, but that was only mildly comforting, since math skills tended to predict future earnings.” (p. 17)

Ripley said that there was a consensus in those three countries “that all children had to learn higher-order thinking in order to thrive in the world.” (p. 191)

She felt that there is a lack of emphasis on math in schools in the U.S. and that needs to change because “it was critical to kids’ life chances” All decent jobs required some math and science fluency. (p. 77)

So how do you spot a world-class education? Ripley suggests you tune out the “jargon about the curriculum and vague promises of wondrous field trips and holistic projects.” (p. 212)

Among her recommendations: Listen to the parents as they talk about the school. Ripley went on a tour of a Washington, D.C., private school where it cost about $30,000 a year. When a parent asked the parent tour guide what the school’s weakness was, she said: “The math program was weak.”

No reaction. But when the parent tour guide said she wished the football program was stronger, she suddenly had the other parents’ attention. Ripley was stunned.

Parental involvement is vital to a child’s education. But Ripley said that parents’ greatest impact is when they read daily to their children, talk with their children about their day, and discuss the news around the world.

“(Parents) are teachers, too, in other words, and they believe in rigor.”(p. 213)

Ripley admits that “no country has figured out how to help all children reach their full learning potential.” (p. 219)

While one child may thrive and excel in one school setting, another may fail. But the top scores were not about diversity, wealth or per student spending. “Excellence depended on execution, the hardest thing to get right.” (p. 18)

What changes do you think are needed to improve education in the U.S.? Do teaching colleges have to be more selective in students they accept?


Source: “The Smartest Kids in the World” (and how they got that way), by Amanda Ripley. Simon & Schuster paperbacks, Copyright 2013.

Photo: Junior high school students testing in Da Ji Junior High School in Chiayi County, Taiwan  (Dec. 1, 2006) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/32/Students_Testing_Something_in_Class_at_a_Taiwanese_School_2006-12-1.jpg/640px-Students_Testing_Something_in_Class_at_a_Taiwanese_School_2006-12-1.jpg

Photo: Student at a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) summer camp at Ryken High School, Leonardtown, Maryland. (July 27, 2010). A student examines her robot before releasing it for a test. The camp was hosted by the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Naval Air Warfare Center Patuxent River. More than 70 elementary and middle school students participated in activities such as building electronic alarm systems, solar-powered cars and water balloon cannons during the weeklong camp focused on encouraging K-12 students to pursue education and careers in the STEM fields. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/US_Navy_100727-N-4304M-001_A_student_at_a_science%2C_technology%2C_engineering_and_math_%28STEM%29_summer_camp_at_Ryken_High_School_in_Leonardtown%2C_Md.jpg/640px-US_Navy_100727-N-4304M-001_A_student_at_a_science%2C_technology%2C_engineering_and_math_%28STEM%29_summer_camp_at_Ryken_High_School_in_Leonardtown%2C_Md.jpg

Gondolas and Water Buses in Venice

Venice - nightlife along the Grand Canal

By Judy Berman

At times, the Grand Canal in Venice looks like a typical congested interstate highway.

Vaporettos (water buses) – Venice’s public transit system, gondolas and water taxis all jockey for position to and from the island.

After dodging Vespas and Smart Cars in Rome, it is a relief to go on shore to a car-less destination.

Our overnight stay at Hotel Ai Do Mori was just minutes from St. Mark’s Square, and our room had a view of the street and the bell tower. Except for the church bell ringing early the next morning, we didn’t hear any of the street noise while we were in our rooms. Lovely.

We got around the city “streets” on foot via narrow pedestrian walkways and bridges. Right after we checked in, we went out for lunch. Then, we were in search of a gondola ride.

We passed street vendors hawking their wares.

Suddenly, a vendor ran past us, talking excitedly on his cell phone. Apparently, he was alerting the other vendors that police were patrolling the area.

One vendor hid behind a cart near us and watched as police entered and then left the square. Within minutes, all vendors were back, and it was business as usual.

There were several gondoliers hanging out by the docks. We hopped aboard along with our youngest daughter and her husband. Our oldest daughter, her husband and their two children rode in a separate gondola.

During the day, a 40-minute ride cost 80 euros. You could divide the cost with another willing couple if you’re on your own. The ride is more scenic and romantic at night, but the price jumps to 100 euro.

Singing and music would be extra. Please ask for a Venetian song. Rick Steves’ Venice guidebook suggests “Venezia La Luna e Tu” (Venice, the moon and you)

“Asking to hear “O Sole Mio” (which comes from Naples) is like asking a Chicago lounge singer to sing “Swanee River,” Steves jokes.

Here’s some sights we saw on shore and off:

Venice - gondoliers and vaporetto on the Grand Canal

Gondoliers navigate their boats on the Grand Canal. A vaporetto (water bus) – Venice’s public transit system – is in the background.

Venice - St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Square – Music, tourists and pigeons fill the square. St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) was built in the 11th century, replacing an earlier church. The saint’s bones have been buried here since about 830 A.D..

Venice - restaurant

A delightful surprise – either a shop or a restaurant – can be found just around any corner on the narrow “streets.”

Venice - restaurant display window

A close-up of the restaurant’s display window.

Venice - gondola and bridge

A gondola glides under one of the many bridges on one of the quieter, small canals. Our guide pointed out many interesting and historic sites along the way.

Venice - early morning

As there are no cars on Venice streets, produce and products are hauled on carts from the boats to the stores and restaurants. Early this particular morning, we saw one shop-keeper wash down the street in front of her business.

Buon viaggio! Happy travels!

Travel tip suggestions:

We took a train from Rome to Venice – about a four-hour ride. Seats fill up quickly. So it’s a good idea to reserve them ahead of time. We did so before we left the States.

Gondola rides: Rick Steves says prices are standard and listed on the gondoliers’ association website at www.gondolavenezia.it

Is Venice on your list of travel destinations? If not, where would you like to go?  

All photos were taken by me (Judy Berman) during June in Venice. The main photo is of nightlife along the Grand Canal in Venice.

If you wish to borrow any of my photos or my post, please ask first. See copyright on About page and on the side.







Rage and Reverence at the Vatican

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (61) - Pieta

By Judy Berman    

Centuries-old art in the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica stir strong passions. Rage and reverence.

In 1972, a deranged man damaged Michelangelo’s Pieta (a statue created in 1499 of the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus’ body after he was crucified). The man dealt 15 blows to this statue, which removed Mary’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose and chipped one of her eyelids. The restored statue now is protected by a bulletproof acrylic glass panel.

St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church, covers about 5.7 acres. It was built in the 4th century over the tomb of St. Peter. “Atmospheric factors, the barbarian invasions, wars, sacking and neglect during the Avignon period had reduced the basilica’s structural walls to such a precarious state that it threatened to collapse.”   Construction on the new St. Peter’s Basilica began in 1506 and was completed in 1626.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (84) - view of St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum are impressive because of their history, their size and their extensive art collections that included paintings, marble statues that are 15 feet high, and antiquities from Egypt – including a 3,000-year-old mummy.

Michelangelo’s 12,000-square-foot fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling was the only art that was off-limits to photographers. It took Michelangelo four years to complete (1508-1512).

A golden globe sits in the courtyard outside the Vatican museum. The “Sphere Within a Sphere,” created in 1990 by Arnoldo Pomodoro, is part of a series of bronze sculptures found in prime locations throughout the world, such as the headquarters of the United Nations in New York.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (25) - Sphere within a Sphere (1990) created by Arnoldo Pomodoro

Laocoon’s statue, on display in the Vatican, was excavated in Rome in 1506. Legend has it that Laocoon and both his sons were killed by giant serpents sent by the gods. They were angry because Laocoon attempted to warn his fellow Trojans not to take the wooden horse outside the gates that the Greeks offered as a gift.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (49) - Laocoon and his Sons

Along the base of the inside of the dome in St. Peter’s Basilica is an inscription in Latin of quotes from Jesus to Peter in the Bible. It translates to: “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 16:18)

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (63) - letters are 7-foot tall, quotes from Jesus to Peter in the Bible

The bronze statue of St. Peter is seated on a marble throne. He’s blessing the faithful with his right hand. In his left hand, he holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It is a tradition for pilgrims, after they’ve prayed, to kiss or rub St. Peter’s right foot. Over the years, this has caused his right foot to be worn smooth. The toes on his left foot still have individual digits.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (66) - St. Peter - visitors rub his foot

The entrance to the Confessio – a 17th-century sunken chapel – opens under the center of the dome and “is really the heart of the Basilica.” Its name is in reference to Peter’s confession of faith that led to his martyrdom. Under the papal alter in the Basilica is St. Peter’s tomb. This is where, in the movie, “Angels and Demons,” (2009) – based on Dan Brown’s book – the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) met his demise when he set himself on fire.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (68) - the confessio - under papal alter in Basilica

As we left, we saw the Papal Swiss Guards outside the Vatican.

Rome - family vacation - Vatican - June 2015 (80) - Swiss guards

Don’t be fooled by their colorful garb. These guys don’t play. When a visitor stepped inside an area that was off-limits, the guard strode menacingly toward the visitor, who quickly backed off and stood behind the barricade.

Is there an art collection or site that is part of your bucket list? Please add to the comments below. 

Source: St. Peter’s – Guide to the Basilica and Square.   http://stpetersbasilica.info/Docs/Basilica-Square3.htm

Source: St. Peter’s Basilica and Confessio –   http://stpetersbasilica.info/Confessio/Confessio.htm 

Source: Angels and Demons tour (of St. Peter’s Basilica) http://www.aroadretraveled.com/angels-demons-tour-air-st-peter-basilica-part-2/

Source: Sphere within a sphere. http://vatican.com/photos/gallery/the_sphere_within_a_sphere-p44

Next week, I will post photos from our visit to Venice.

Part 2 of our Rome trip – Roman Holiday – can be found here

Part 1 of our Rome trip – Roming the Streets of Rome – can be found here

Roman Holiday – Part 2

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (209) - The Spanish Steps

By Judy Berman

Gladiators and emperors first come to mind when I think of Rome. But, centuries later, the Eternal City also drew artists and writers – such as English Romantic poet John Keats.

Keats came to Rome to recover from consumption. He lived in a home at the foot of the Spanish Steps and also died there at the age of 25 in 1821. The Keats-Shelley Memorial House showcases his works along with Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and many others.

The Spanish Steps, a Roman Baroque structure, were built in 1723-1725. You climb a “steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti, dominated by the Trinita dei Monti church at the top.” (Wikipedia) The Via dei Condotti, facing the Spanish Steps, is lined with shops carrying the names of Rome’s high-end Italian fashion designers -– Prada, Valentino and Gucci.

Throngs of people and vendors crowd the steps. We avoid the hassle of threading our way to the top by taking a side street to the Spanish Steps. Two already are at the top waiting for us. (Photo above)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (216)

There are 138 steps in the Spanish Steps -–  “la scalinata” (the staircase). At the bottom is the Fontana delia Barcaccia -– the “fountain of the leaky boat” which is spouting water as it sinks.  The fountain was built in 1598 as a monument to the great flood of the river Tiber that same year. It was commissioned by Pope Urban VII and is the work of Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo.

The climb is worth the trip, especially if you get there just before sunset.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (222)

The next day, we head to the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere near our hotel. There’s no need to bring bottled water. Public fountains provide liquid refreshment for man and dog alike.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (239)

The piazza features many delights. We saw a man painted in silver remain motionless like a statue, and an Invisible Woman – or, at least, I think we did.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (76) - invisible woman with Judy, Jenn, Kaitlyn & Connor

We definitely saw a marionette paint with a little help from his friend in a blue dress. (Valentina Balduzzi – il fiore e la luna). Very impressive. Occasionally, the puppet  peeked into the tin hat to see if anyone left a tip. He made his point – many did so.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (246)

Of course, we had to refuel. For lunch, we returned to Dar Poeta. They serve both thin crust and a thick crust (alta). We got the latter, and used a fork and knife to eat it. That’s the Italian way!

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (258)

Then it was back to dodge the traffic in the narrow cobblestoned corridor from the piazza. It’s best to keep one eye out for darting Vespas and Smart Cars.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (263)

The neighborhood our hotel is in has many wonderful shops, restaurants and bakeries. Innocenti’s had some mouth-watering cookies that we just couldn’t pass up.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (234) - bakery - Innocenti

The area’s ochre and terra-cotta painted buildings are picturesque.

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For our last night, we returned to Ristoranti I Vascellari. Our waiter brought a small bottle of Limoncello to our table. Limoncello is the generic name for an Italian citrus-based lemon liqueur that is served well-chilled in the summer months. Some consider it the national drink of Italy.

After we left, we walked over to the Tiber River. The lights are from a festival. We’d seen the white tents set up days before. Now, there were people dining along the river, buying art, and having a great time.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (311)

On our travels, we also visited the Vatican and Venice. I’ll posts stories about those places in coming weeks. Unless, you’re the Griswolds (Chevy Chase’s family in the movie, “European Vacation”), vacations always end too soon.

“Roma, non basta una vita.” (Rome, a lifetime is not enough.)

It was an amazing journey and I’d love to return to Rome and Venice. Buon viaggio! Happy travels!

What favorite spot do you want to return to?

My next post will be about our visit to The Vatican.

Part 1 of our Rome trip – Roaming the Streets of Rome – can be found here.

All photos taken by me (except the one with the Invisible Woman): Photographer – Judy Berman. My husband, Dave Berman, took the photo of us with the Invisible Woman.

Copyright. Please ask for permission to use any of my photos or comments from this story. Thank you.

Roaming the Streets of Rome

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (72)

By Judy Berman

Narrow crooked cobblestone alleyways in Rome beckon you to venture around the next corner, where there could be a street festival, musicians or shops.

The enticing smells of basil, tomato sauce, cheese and freshly baked bread float out onto the streets from the restaurants. Or a gelati shop pops up right in your path, and is calling you to pause for a refreshing Italian sherbet.

The slow pace along this corridor contrasts sharply with the Vespas zipping in and out of the traffic. It’s best to walk with one eye over your shoulder to avoid a too-close-for-comfort encounter.

In early June, we stayed in Trastevere, a Rome neighborhood that’s frozen in time, or so it seems. During the day, it’s peaceful and has the right touches of the Old World. At night, it comes alive. Party-goers and others flock to its many excellent restaurants.

Ristoranti I Vascellari, for example, near our hotel is warm, welcoming and serves a wide variety of excellent food: spaghetti alla carbonara, Tagliolini al tartufo, mussels, pasta, lasagna, breaded lamb cutlets and much more.

Thankfully, we didn’t hear any of that clamor in our hotel. Casa di Santa Francesca Romana is a former monastery, a perfect retreat.

After a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we head out to visit the open-air museum near us. That would be Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (10)

From a distance, the Colosseum might be mistaken for a multi-story garage. Completed in 80 A.D., this is the largest amphitheater ever built.  It can hold about 50,000 spectators in its giant arena. Here, gladiators fought for the right to live another day. (Some believe, however, that Christians met their fate in nearby Circus Maximus.)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (20) - Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill was the birthplace of Rome, established about 753 B.C. by Romulus after he killed his twin, Remus, in a fit of rage. Later, it became the lavish residence for several emperors, including Augustus. It is near the Roman Forum.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (26) - St. Cecilia's

The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is down the road from our hotel. It was built above the Roman house of this martyr.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (27) - St. Cecilia - statue

Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of music. When her sarcophagus was found in 1599, her body was intact. Sculptor Stefano Maderno sketched her body, and made a haunting sculpture of her out of white marble.

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When in Rome, do as the Romans do. For us, the search is on for food.  (But this photo makes those of us in front look H-U-G-E.)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (161) - Casa di Santa Francesca Romana - our hotel's patio

Back at the hotel, we relax in the hotel’s ochre-colored courtyard lined with orange trees. The staff at Casa di Santa Francesca Romana speaks several languages. Thankfully, their English is far superior to my meager Italian.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (284) - Dave standing in shower in our hotel room

In our rooms, Dave steps into the shower fully clothed to demonstrate what a slim compartment it is. On the plus side, the hot and cold running shower is very refreshing after a long day of hiking around the Eternal City.

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Hollywood has captured several icons in Rome. One is the Mouth of Truth, or Bocca della Verita, found in one of Rome’s oldest churches, Santa Maria in Cosmodin, Trestevere. It is in the movie “Roman Holiday,” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Legend has it that people suspected of telling lies are forced to put their hand in the mouth of this massive stone – once a common ancient street drain cover. It’s said that, if you’re lying, the teeth will clamp down on the hand and you risk losing your hand.

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Trevi Fountain was built in 1732. This fountain was immortalized in the movies “Three Coins in a Fountain” and in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” Sad to say, it’s under repair. So there will be no splashing about in the fountain. When it was open, it was under guard for such foolishness. While you can still toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, it’s just not the same with Plexiglas between you and the fountain. Legend has it that by throwing the coin in, you are assured of a return trip to Rome.

Buon viaggio! (Happy travels!) What place would you like to travel to or to revisit? 

Part 2 of our Rome trip will be posted July 4, 2015.

Roman Holiday – Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s characters test the Mouth of Truth

All photos – except the one in the restaurant and at Boca della Verita (the Mouth of Truth) – were taken by me: Photographer – Judy Berman

If you wish to use any part of this post or any of the photos, please ask. Copyright.

Lasting Memories of Dad

Dad - Joseph H. Fiet III - the Marilboro man look

By Judy Berman

Children are sponges. They soak up what they see and hear. They often learn best just by observing.

Growing up, my Dad led by example. From him, I learned about trust, standing up for what was right, and how to treat those who are less fortunate.

“Dad, you’re someone to look up to no matter how tall I’ve grown.” (Author Unknown)

Dad’s handshake was as good as a contract loaded with legalese. His word was his bond.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get a “real” bike. The one I’d learned to ride on was so short I could easily stop it just by planting my feet on the ground. But when I nagged Dad for a bigger one, I’d always get the same response.

“The bicycle is not in the garage.”

He explained later – after I did get a shiny new Schwinn bike – that he didn’t want to promise me something unless he already bought it.

I got that he didn’t want to get my hopes up. Life does get in the way. Unexpected bills, too much month at the end of the money … there’s no way to predict that you’ll be able to afford that special gift your child craves.

My parents grew up during The Great Depression in the 1930s and avoided piling on the debt. I don’t think they even had a credit card then.

This incident left a huge impression on me. But there were other lessons along the way that shaped me.

Dad - Joseph H. Fiet III - in the Army - 1943


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Dad was a jury foreman in a civil case involving two brothers who sued a hotel after they’d tripped over a cord that had been left on the floor. Their injuries required hospitalization.

Initially, Dad was the only juror who thought the men should be compensated.

He stood his ground and challenged the jurors to re-examine the evidence. When they did, many agreed with Dad’s assessment of the case and the plaintiffs won a settlement.

Dad and me - overheated car - Dad clowning around

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.” (Umberto Eco)

One brutal winter night, when I was a teen, a man came to our home seeking work. We had 66 acres, but only farmed a half-acre for ourselves. So we didn’t need a farm hand.

The man told Dad that he’d been fired from a neighboring farm. He had nowhere to go and was hungry.

My Dad was hesitant as the man was a stranger and Dad was concerned for his family’s safety. Still, my parents didn’t want to turn him away that bitter, cold night.

Dad let him sleep in our detached garage and provided blankets so he’d be warm while Mom fixed the man a hot meal.

The next morning, Dad started calling shelters to see who could help this man. The Salvation Army in Syracuse, New York – about 30 miles from our home – offered the man shelter, food and some work to earn money.

Dad felt that was the best option and drove the man there. The man appeared to be happy that he’d have a secure place to stay, meals and a job.

My Dad passed in 2011, but what I learned from him has stayed with me all my life:  always keep your word, don’t rush to judgment, and when given a choice, always choose ‘kindness.’

Wishing all dads, stepdads, guardians and Big Brothers a Happy Father’s Day.

What’s one favorite memory of your Dad?


Main Photo: Dad, Joseph H. Fiet III, in what our family called his Marlboro man pose

Photo: Dad when he was in the U.S. Army during World War II

Photo: Dad clowning around when our car overheated


Lasting Memories of Mom

Mom - Milly Fiet2 - copy

By Judy Berman

As a child, my favorite hangout on the weekends was a room filled with electronic gizmos and tubes.

I marveled at the naked TV tube that sat on a table. There was no cabinet surrounding it because my father, an electronics engineer, was always tinkering with it – even though it worked perfectly.

When Captain Midnight’s show came on, I’d pretend I was part of his daring adventures.

By the time the show’s sponsor – Ovaltine – came on, I was running downstairs to the kitchen and nagging my Mom for a cup of that chocolaty milk drink.

My Mom would heat up that drink or fix something else. By then, I’d be caught up in what she was listening to on the radio.

It might be the mischievous antics of Froggy on the “Smiling Ed’s Buster Brown Gang” (which became “Andy’s Gang” on TV), an opera or pop music of the day.

This is where I learned to appreciate many types of music.

But what I loved most was when she’d put down what she was working on and read to me.

I confess that I didn’t really get into reading on my own until I was in fifth grade. Oh, I could read all right. But I preferred to listen to Mom as she told the story.

“You may have tangible wealth untold, Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold, Richer than I you can never be. I had a mother who read to me,” (Strickland Gillian)

She opened my eyes to a world outside of what I knew, where I could immerse myself in the stories and take on the role of one of the characters. Mom introduced me to authors that she enjoyed. They soon became my favorites as well.

I’m sure Mom preferred that I was inside reading, rather than off on one of my adventures. If only she knew some of the derring-do I attempted outdoors, her hair would have turned white decades earlier.

I thought of those escapades with dread many times as my own girls were growing up.

“Being a mother is learning about the strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” (Linda Wooten)

Mom and Dad - Boulder City, Nevada

My Mom, who passed in 2001, taught me well. Hopefully, I passed those lessons on to our daughters, too.

When I was hurt or had worries, Mom would be the one I turned to for comfort. Like the song, “Mama Said,” by the Shirelles, Mom always said something to lift me up.

“What is a mom but the sunshine of our days and the north star of our nights.” (Robert Brault)


Wishing all mothers, stepmothers, guardians an early Happy Mother’s Day. This quote from Sophia Loren says it best: “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”


Music Video: “Mama Said,” Shirelles    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQlImg2bm28   

Photo: Mom and me

Photo: Mom and Dad (Milly and Joseph Fiet)