About Judy Berman

Stories, and the art of telling them, fascinate me. I am a writer, a teacher and former reporter - both in newspapers and on radio. In this blog, I will share some of the stories I heard growing up, from our travels, our family and experiences on the job and off.

Surfing Canine and Cats? Not at Our House

Dog surfing

By Judy Berman

When I heard that I’ll be dog-sitting our grandpuppy, I begin to envision a video of our two cats and the dog surfing – just like the one I saw on YouTube.

My biggest hurdle will be persuading our cats, Jean-Louis and Reggie, to take part.

After one week, with all three under the same roof, I suspect those dogs and the cat in the video are paid actors.

I just don’t see ours getting on board – so to speak.

The first signs of discontent are when our cats check out the new guy’s shiny silver water dish. Suddenly, their ceramic water bowl has lost its luster.

So, I cave in. I buy a shiny, silver water dish for our cats. I hope that will keep peace in the house and allow Riley, our grandpuppy, unfettered access to his own water dish.

No dice. Our cats sniff disdainfully as they take one look at their new dish. They march purposefully toward Riley’s dish, and lap up the contents.

The grumbling continues with their next painful discovery.

Riley - walking in the park - 7-12-14

“What! Why does Riley get to go outdoors?” they meow pitifully.

They watch mournfully thru the window as Riley and I go on our walkies.

Ever the peacemaker, I buy the cats a harness – with a hoodie even – similar to Riley’s. The saleslady at PetCo, my furry companions and I are now on a first-name basis.

Reggie tolerates the harness. She tentatively slinks around the kitchen for 10 to 15 seconds as if she was a ninja trying to avoid detection.

But, at one point, Reggie just plops down and refuses to budge.

Jean-Louis, on the other hand, wants no part of THAT. After I put the harness on him, he performs acrobat-worthy flips.

Togetherness? Only if you count Reggie and Riley snoozing in the computer room where I write and maintaining a No Animals Land about 10 feet apart.

When I take a nap, Reggie is right there next to me. Jean-Louis is also on the bed, but he’s at the farthest point away from Riley as he can get.

There is some hope. Once Reggie gave notice who was boss in the house – she’s about twice Riley’s size – they touch noses a few times.

Riley, Reggie and Jean-Louis - 7-13-14 - Copy

But family photo ops are out of the question. It takes all of my diplomacy skills and master wresting moves to get Jean-Louis to sit still long enough for a photo of the three of them.

I’m not giving up … there’s still time to make that surfing video.

Now, just where did they all go to?

 

Do your furry – or nonfurry – animal companions play nice with their guests?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Video – Happy Dogs and a Cat in Australia   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DePFiF-nNoE 

Story behind the cat and dogs in the video – http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/05/04/cat-trainer-gets-dogs-cats-to-rock-to-pharrell-williams-happy-video-viral-lucas-valley-mel-gibson-hollywood-james-cameron-dick-clark/

1. Main Photo: Dog surfing – taken Nov. 19, 2011 by Frank Kovalchek, Anchorage, Alaska, USA   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c3/Hanging_18.jpg/640px-Hanging_18.jpg

2. Photo – Riley walking in the park – taken by Dave Berman, April 12, 2014

3. Photo – Riley, Reggie and Jean-Louis (and me) – taken by Dave Berman, April 13, 2014

Sit Back, Relax and Unwind

Loon Lake, Washington - sunset

By Judy Berman

It was a day like any other on my long commute to work. Suddenly, I realized I must have passed my exit because the scenery was unfamiliar.

“Funny, I don’t remember seeing ice flows and polar caps in Florida before.”

That’s when I knew I had to dial it back, slow down and just breathe.

Our brains can go on automatic pilot. As we mentally sort thru the day’s to-do list, and yesterday’s drama, the gray matter steps in and announces: “Here. I’ve got this.”

Then, the brain efficiently handles the mundane while you continue to juggle the heavy-lifting issues.

There might be times when you question if it’s gone on vacation. Like the time I felt particularly stressed at work, and my brain went into the vegematic mode.

I was headed to the Utica Police Department to pick up reports for our newspaper.

Just as I parked the car, I thought I saw someone I knew and ran over to say “hi.” It wasn’t who I thought it was, and I continued walking to the police department about a block away.

As I’m ready to leave, I began to check my pockets. Empty. Where’s my car key?

I enlist the help of an officer there, and we retrace my steps. No luck.

Maybe, I dropped it on the way into the station. I search the streets frantically as I run back to my car. Still no key.

Finally, I round the corner. There’s my car. The key is in the ignition. The car is running. The door is unlocked.

I’d been gone about 20 minutes. I was lucky the car wasn’t stolen.

When I returned to work, a co-worker gently suggested that my brain was fried. I suspect he was right.

I no sooner, jokingly, told my boss that I wanted someone to escort me home, wrap me in a blanket, and give me a soothing cup of tea … when I got a call.

Documents revealing how and why the feds investigated a company I was reporting on had been filed in federal court in Syracuse. That was 50 miles away, but only a few miles from my home.

Loon on Paudash. Click to enlarge.

A saner person would have taken the rest of the day off. I didn’t.

For me, I was able to file my story from home and, then, finally, thankfully, unwind. I sat on our back porch on a deck chair and let nature wrap me in a warm, loving embrace.

Now, when I feel stretched to the max, I look for ways to tap into that same calming spot. It can be in a library, an art museum or just some alone time at home.

It can be found on a deck chair in a nature center near a quiet brook.

That’s where my mental journey takes me. I envision myself alone on a canoe trip into the wilderness with the sound of the loons (water birds) in the background before drifting off to a blissful, welcoming sleep.

Watkins Glen, New York

 

Where do you go to get away from it all, to just turn down the volume?

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: Loons – Sounds of Nature for Relaxation – nearly 24 minutes long. Sit back, relax and unwind. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPkCnMso5rE 

Main Photo: Loon Lake, Washington – sunset – Atmospheric conditions created by forest fire about 1 mile from location photo was taken August 2, 2004 by Nomeato http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/57/Loon-lake-WA_-sunset.jpg/640px-Loon-lake-WA_-sunset.jpg

Photo: Loon – A Great Northern Loon (also known as Great Northern Diver or Common Loon ) swimming on Paudash Lake, Haliburton County, Ontario, Canada. Taken 2007.This work has been released into the public domain by its author,Lake Central at the wikipedia project  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Gavia_immer_-Paudash_Lake%2C_Haliburton_County%2C_Ontario%2C_Canada_-swimming-8.jpg

Photo: Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen, New York – taken August 5, 2012 by Jyothiprakash007 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/77/Beauty_at_Watkins_Glen.JPG/640px-Beauty_at_Watkins_Glen.JPG

 

 

Hoover Dam, Ragtown and Dingbat Houses

Hoover Dam - June 2014   (9)

By Judy Berman

What would drive a man to take his family across the country and set up in a squatters’ camp in the desert where the average temperature was 116 degrees?

The three D’s: Desperation, the “Dust Bowl” and the (Great) Depression. During the 1930s, thousands fled to whatever Promised Land offered a job.

A drought turned their land into a “Dust Bowl” and rendered it useless to grow crops and to make a living. This forced thousands to leave their homes in a five-state region of the Great Plains in search of work.

“On October 29, 1929 – Black Tuesday – the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. By 1933, one out of every three Americans was living in poverty. Thousands lined up to apply for a handful of available jobs,” Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum Permanent Exhibit. (Exhibit 2: Welcome to Hard Times)

Two years before construction began on Hoover Dam in 1931, the area near Las Vegas was flooded with job-seekers.

They lived in Ragtown, a makeshift shantytown on the floor of the Black Canyon next to the Colorado River. Their “homes” were made of tents, cardboard boxes, tin scraps and anything that amounted to shelter from the scorching heat.

“When somebody … became overcome with the heat, we dashed out there with these ice buckets and we’d pack them in ice. If their heart took it and they survived, OK. But if their heart stopped, that was it. We sent for the undertaker,” Bob Parker. (museum’s Exhibit 4: A Deadly Desert Place)

Boulder City - cottages built by Six Companies, Inc. - save

Six Companies Inc., a “supercompany” made up of six construction firms, agreed to build the dam for just under $49 million. The Boulder Canyon Project authorized Hoover Dam for flood control, improved navigation and regulation of the Colorado River.

Temporary housing was built in Boulder City for those who would work on the dam.

The homes – 658 of them – were called “dingbat” houses because of the quick and shoddy way they were constructed. The boxy homes had a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom.

Two men could throw one together in about 12 hours.

They looked so much alike that it wasn’t uncommon to wake up and find a stranger sleeping on the couch. When he was awakened, he’d look around bewildered, get up and head for home.

“The dingbat houses were a great improvement over the squatters’ camp, but the ragged construction style created hazards of its own. Dust blew in thru the cracks in the walls and doorways, piling up against the houses, creating small dunes throughout the neighborhood,” according to “Boulder City,” a PBS documentary.

Boulder City - bus to transport workers to Hoover Dam - save

Despite the hardships at home and the hazards of dynamite blasts at work, the workers at Six Companies completed Hoover Dam two years ahead of schedule and well under budget, says U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Restoration.

Their work created an engineering marvel that draws millions of tourists a year. Some staggering facts (U.S. Department of Interior Department of Reclamation):

Hoover Dam - June 2014   (7)

  • Hoover Dam is 726 feet tall. That’s 171 feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
  • At its base, Hoover Dam is as thick (660 feet) as two footballs fields measured end-to-end.
  • Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the USA, contains enough water to flood the entire state of New York with 1 foot of water (26 million acre feet).
  • Between 1931 and 1936 when the dam was built, 96 men were killed in industrial accidents. None were buried in the concrete.

Hoover Dam - mascot

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Source: Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum – http://www.bcmha.org/

Source: Hoover Dam, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

Source: Boulder City – PBS. http://www.pbs.org/bouldercity/script.htm

1. Main Photo: Hoover Dam Tour Center, Nevada – mural of construction workers – June 5, 2014, by Judy Berman

2. Photo: Boulder City – cottages built by Six Companies Inc.: Department of the Interior. Bureau of Reclamation. Engineering and Research Center – April 1, 1932  http://research.archives.gov/description/293623

3. Photo: Boulder City – bus to transport workers to Hoover Dam, capacity 150 men:Department of the Interior. Bureau of Reclamation. Engineering and Research Center – July 27, 1933   http://research.archives.gov/description/293924

4. Photo: Hoover Dam – June 5, 2014, by Judy Berman

5. Photo: Hoover Dam – mascot – memorial to dog beloved by the construction workers at Hoover Dam. Taken – April 13, 2012. Filed in wikimedia.org. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Hoover_Dam%2C_Wikiexp_21.jpg/640px-Hoover_Dam%2C_Wikiexp_21.jpg   Used with permission by photographer: Adam Kliczek, http://zatrzymujeczas.pl (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Harmony in Nature

Swans and Brevard Zoo - Viera - April 2014 058 - Copy

By Judy Berman

The harsh caw caw of one bird
The sweet song of another
As they take flight, swim, rest, or
Waddle thru my neighborhood.

Sandhill Cranes - Ichabod and Abby - photo by Craig Bailey - May 2014

The swans gliding gracefully
across the pond’s calm surface,
The mockingbird thrilling us
on moonlit nights with his song.

Mourning Dove

There’s the low mournful coo coo
of a mourning dove at dawn,
The great blue heron’s patience
stalking dinner in the lake.

Great Blue Heron - Viera - April 2014 (1) - Copy

The hummingbirds hovering
over a fragrant flower,
The robin, spring’s welcome sign,
protecting her blue green eggs.

Hummingbird

They share the same living space
In search of food and water,
a safe haven for their young
and a place to stretch their wings.

Sandhill Cranes - Florida Today - 6-26-14 039 - Copy

How different they all seem
Yet have so much in common. **

Mallard Duck and ducklings - Viera - April 2014 (3) - Copy

** My poem was inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Human Family.” http://allpoetry.com/poem/8511441-Human-Family-by-Maya-Angelou   This link also includes a link to Maya Angelou reading her poem.

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Video: Mockingbird singing – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMpe34Aign4  

1. Main Photo: Swans and cygnets, photo taken April 2014 by Judy Berman.

2. Photo: Sandhill crane – Ichabod and Abbie – taken May 2014 by Craig Bailey, photographer at Florida Today newspaper

3. Photo: Mourning dove – taken May 13, 2011. Author: Tony Alter of Newport News, USA http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2a/Mourning_Dove_%285717426794%29.jpg/640px-Mourning_Dove_%285717426794%29.jpg

4. Photo: Great blue heron – taken April 2014 by Dave Berman.

5. Photo: Hummingbird – Attribution – Mdf  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Featured_Pictures_of_Trochilidae#mediaviewer/File:Colibri-thalassinus-001.jpg

6. Photo: Sandhill crane chick, Frasier Crane, and parents, Ichabod and Abbie – taken June 26, 2014 by Judy Berman. (Frasier was born 6-21-14)

7. Photo: Mallard duck and ducklings – taken April 2014 by Judy Berman

The Writer’s Life – Blog Tour

Judy - birthday - flowers - at home - Nov. 2013

By Judy Berman

In a police lineup, my neighbors would be hard-pressed to identify me. Fresh air and natural light are foreign to me.

That’s what the writing life feels like to me at times. I retreat to our small office, do some research for some of the posts on my blog and I search for photos to go with the story.

It’s not glamorous. But it’s hardly like J.K. Rowling, who took her baby in a pram to a coffee shop so they’d be in a warm place while she wrote her first Harry Potter book.

What’s appealing is that I get to create, to do what I love: write. Until 2011, my personal writing was confined to about a dozen journals. Then, I began blogging. I enjoy the feedback and writing to other bloggers.

Fellow blogger Marian Beaman http://plainandfancygirl.com/  invited me to take part in a Blog Tour. It’s a great way to introduce some writers and to learn what motivates them. Plus, I get to share my own writing experiences.

As a memoirist, Marian Beaman tends to weave the literary with the familiar from growing up as a Mennonite girl on farm country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to her move south where she was a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida.  Her writing includes “It’s Not Easy Being Green, WalMart and Me,” which recounts her neighborhood struggle to keep large live oaks and tall pines from biting the dust.

1. What am I working on now?

Right now, I’m doing some historical research for a future post. I’ve already visited the location, taken photos, and gathered some historical documents and photos. While I love writing humor, stories about history excite me because I always learn something new.

Crime Scene tape - Do Not Cross

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My blog is a Personal Blog. timethief of One Cool Site says that: “Each blogger has a unique personality; each has a unique writer’s voice.” http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2013/04/19/personal-blogs-tell-your-story/

In April, I wrote to her about her post on blogging tips. I wasn’t sure what drew readers to my blog. Timethief said I was “a skilled and engaging storyteller and the brand you are creating is based on that and your experience as a teacher and reporter.”

While I might not know what to expect when I open a vein to write, timethief says she does: “it’s a well told story.” I thank her for that compliment, support and advice.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love to tell stories, something I learned at my Mom’s and Dad’s knees. Depending on the day, I might be writing about my family, my experiences as a reporter or as a teacher, or my interests in travel, reading, movies and music.

4. How does my writing process work?

I aim for the unusual, and for folks without filters. Then, I scribble shorthand notes on small yellow legal pads, trying to frame the story. What are the smells? The sounds? The ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe’ moments? I want to place the reader where I was so that they can experience that time as well. If none of that exists, I weep gently into my computer … and create.

Like Marian, I will tag two unsuspecting blogger friends, Mark Bialczak of http://markbialczak.com/about/  and Kate Crimmins of Views and Mews by Coffee Kat at http://coffeekatblog.com/

Mark Bialczak, a veteran journalist, lives in the Syracuse area. In early 2013, he was set free to write about whatever he wants. He has numerous blog awards for stories about his family, their beloved rescue dog, Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle, and for his music and movie reviews. In his film blog, he wrote of the connection to the song, “Bonjour, Bonjour,” in the movie  “A Fault in Our Stars,” and the city he loves and writes about: Syracuse.

Kate Crimmins shares her experiences as a former human relations executive and as a non-furry parent to her kitties: Hazel, Morgan, Mollie and Jake. Her stories about the trials and tribulations of trying to get them to use a cat tower make me laugh. As do her efforts to get her husband to accompany her to the mall. Kate has numerous blog awards.  Her humorous observations at the gym and elsewhere draw me in time and again and leave me chuckling.

OK, Mark and Kate. “Tag. You’re it.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Judy – A rare photo of me outside taking a break from my computer

Photo: Crime Scene Tape

Vegas, Baby. Vegas!

Blue Man Group 5 - Las Vegas - 6-7-14

By Judy Berman

Just mention you’re headed to Vegas, and immediately you get those knowing looks.

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the stewardess jokes slyly as we board our flight out of Orlando.

“That’s what we’re counting on,” I respond with a smile.

We hardly fit the image of the characters in the 1996 movie, Swingers, who take a road trip to Sin City. Their mantra: “Vegas, Baby. Vegas!”

Nah, the gaming tables and one-armed bandits hold no appeal for us.

It’s the entertainment and off-The-Strip action we crave.

Mt. Charleston Lodge - June 2014 (5)

OK, we’re here to visit my brother, too. Hank waves front-row tickets he bought for all three of us to see the Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo. Score!

When we arrive, I’m nervous. Our seats hold a plastic, hooded, full-length cape that we’re expected to wear to avoid flying water, cake batter and other unexpected assaults.

During the concert, one Blue Man steps onto the armrest next to me and proceeds to hunt down his next victim/volunteer to pull up on stage.

Their skits are interactive, humorous and spot-on ribs at our culture.

It’s a “thrilling, energy-infused performance that introduces wildly inventive musical instruments, a humorous look at robots and creativity, and a mind-blowing (literally) tour inside the neural network of the human brain,” according to its website http://www.blueman.com/las-vegas/about-show

Mind-blowing? How about an Elvis sighting? No visit to Vegas would be complete without that.

Vegas - Madame  Tussauds - June 2014  (13) - Elvis and Judy Berman

Not only did we see him at Madame Tussauds, but Elvis offered me a ride in his car.

What a guy! Hanging out with the strong, silent type is right up my alley.

Vegas - Madame  Tussauds - June 2014  (15) - Marilyn Monroe and Dave Berman

Dave lucked out, too. He bumped into Marilyn Monroe. What a doll!

Before we left the wax museum, we saw the 10-minute film, Marvel’s Super Heroes 4D.

The audience really is in on the action. Again, watch out for liquid spray from the screen, things that go bump in the dark and unknown things that race by your chair.

Squeamish yet?

Vegas - Madame  Tussauds - June 2014  (21) - Hulk

OK. Your heart’s pounding, but there’s no need to call for paramedics.

Forget Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay or Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden at the Mirage. You need something far more soothing than a voracious shark or a white tiger eyeballing you.

Head on over to Bellagio’s Casino. There you can enjoy the water works and the action from afar. The Fountains at Bellagio – there are more than a thousand of them in front of the hotel.

Vegas - Fountains at Bellagio - 2014   (9)

Depending on the time of day, you can be mesmerized by the dancing waters every 15 to 30 minutes. Light show and music are thrown in for free.

Then, it’s back to the Vegas’ best attraction: people-watching. It’s the best show in town.

And, if you’re feeling really lucky, scope out the casinos. As they said about confidence in Swingers: “You’re so money and you don’t even know it.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video Clip: “Swingers” (1996) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlCprJPwBSI 

Main Photo: Blue Man Group performing at Monte Carlo Casino, Las Vegas, taken by Judy Berman, June 7, 2014.

Photo: My brother, Joseph H. Fiet IV, and me at Mt. Charleston – about 50 miles outside of Las Vegas

Las Vegas photos taken June 7 and 8, 2014 by Judy and Dave Berman:

* Elvis Presley and Judy Berman. Madame Tussauds wax museum.

* Marilyn Monroe and Dave Berman. Madame Tussauds.

* The Hulk at Madame Tussauds.

* The Fountains at Bellagio Casino.

 

Dear Dad

Dad and me - overheated car - Dad clowning around 1

By Judy Berman

Photographs and memories, snippets of a song, so many things remind me of my Dad.

Strolling thru a park, I see a father pushing his daughter on a swing. That takes me back to a wild ride one winter with my Dad on a sled.

A little boy runs up, breathless with excitement. His Dad puts down his cell phone and listens attentively as his son recounts the day’s events. Those special times are fleeting.

How I looked forward to when my Dad came home from work so I could tell him all that happened that day.

Dad and Judy - Copy

A man ran, holding onto his daughter’s bike, until he felt she was confident enough to ride the bike on her own. Another father showed his son the fine art of flying a kite. If I could just turn back the hands of time and return to those days.

I remember my excitement when Dad converted an old orange crate and roller skates into a sidewalk-worthy race car. All the neighborhood kids were eagerly waiting their turn for a ride.

As I look thru old family photos at faded photographs, I also see my Dad’s humor and patience.

In one, our car is by the side of a long, lonely stretch of road. It had overheated. Dad, his hand to his head, playfully milked the moment for a joke. Then he got down to business and got the car running smoothly again.

Dad and me - overheated car - fixing

In all these moments, Dad is with me still. He’s never far from my thoughts.

For all Dads, step-Dads, Big Brothers … Happy Father’s Day. Give yours an extra hug from me.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photo: Dad – Joseph H. Fiet III and me, Dad clowning around when our car’s overheated

* Photo: Dad and Judy (me)

* Photo: Dad and me, Dad working to get the car running again.

 

 

Lasting Lessons as the School Year Ends

education - Uncertain Future - taken 2009 by Daniel Teoli Jr

By Judy Berman

At times, I’ve had to concede to a student’s superior skills in classroom disruption and turn him or her over to the dean.

Others, I bask in the sunshine they spread wherever they go.

Over the years, I’ve had many great kids in my classroom. Sometimes, however, the misbehavior of a few overshadows that. It shouldn’t.

Those rare gloomy gray clouds were dispersed this week by two events: A student that I last saw in 2009 stopped in to visit me and thanked me for helping him learn English. Another apologized for her behavior earlier this year.

The first student, J.R., is a native of the Dominican Republic. When he first entered my class, he knew very little English.

I made an agreement with J.R.’s uncle and father to tutor him once a week at the uncle’s house over the summer.

His uncle asked me what I’d charge. “My price? Someone has to speak to me in Spanish.” He probably thought that was funny, but he did and that helped me as well.

His younger brother and sister joined us at the kitchen table as we played word games, created crossword puzzles and read. One of our favorites was the cartoon book, “Calvin and Hobbes.”

When I heard J.R. explain a cartoon in Spanish to his father and grandmother, I knew he got it. If he had trouble understanding something in a story, I explained that.

As the 2009 summer ended, I was sad to learn that he’d be moving and would be attending another school.

This week, his sister, who I taught last year, told me her brother was coming to visit me.

J.R. brought me a Snickers bar and great news. He just graduated from high school and is looking forward to going to college.

And the books I gave him? He passed those on to his siblings this year.

Teacher and students

Sometimes, it’s a challenge forging that positive bond. I question: Is it me? Is it the student? If it’s me, what do I need to do to improve the student-teacher relationship?

This year was no different. There were a couple of students who were determined to remain indifferent to learning. Sad to say, at times, I was THAT student when I was in high school.

Then, there was this bright, chatty, bubbly, outgoing girl who wasn’t working to her full potential.

To cut down on the talking, I moved her seat. Something she was resistant to. A call home did help. Her mother was supportive, and I did see a positive change in behavior.

Over the past few months, she became more engaged in classroom discussions and helped me in class.

The last two days of school, she surprised me. She drew a picture in crayons of us, titling it “BFF since ’09.” (“Best friends forever.” The ’09 part was a gag because we’ve only known each other since August 2013.)

On the last day of school, I visited another teacher’s class. She was there and showed me a red paper heart she’d made. On it, she wrote an apology to me.

She asked me not to read it until after I left the room.

Alone in my classroom, I read her note and was touched by her thoughtfulness. Then, I returned to thank her and told her – joking – that I went thru a tissue box.

That moment when students “get it,” when they realize that teachers really want the best for them … is beautiful, indeed.

My best wishes to all students as you begin the next chapter of your life. Enjoy your journey.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main Photo: Education – “Uncertain Future” – taken in 2009 by Daniel Teoli Jr. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Education#mediaviewer/File:%27Uncertain_Future%27_2009_Daniel_Teoli_Jr.jpg

Photo: Teacher and Students – Teacher working with students at Albany Senior High School, New Zealand. Author: Mosborne01   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ashs-teacher-and-students.jpg

Music Video: “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr0tTbTbmVA 

Blueberries, Bears and Fats Domino

Black bear

By Judy Berman

Walking along tidy rows of indigo-colored fruit, we quickly plucked the plumpest, juiciest ones.

How is it that this simple excursion reminded me of my Mom, a run-in with a bear and Fats Domino?

Blame it on the blueberries.

In mid-May, our daughters, a son-in-law and grandchildren continued the family tradition of blueberry-picking at a U-Pick farm in St. Cloud, Florida. It was quite a change from experiences my family had when I was a teen in Oswego County, New York.

Mom told me once about a scary time she had when she was picking berries in the fields and woods near our home and ran into a bear.

Well, not running into, actually. She spotted the furry hulk a few bushes away. Mom made a quick check to be sure she wouldn’t be in between the mama bear and any cub she might have in tow.

Then Mom flung her pan and blueberries into the air, fled the hills and bolted for home.

Blueberry picking 2 - 5-10-14

My folks had 66 acres, and some of it bordered state land. So it wasn’t uncommon to be lured off the path by a tempting berry bush.

Before you know it, you’d look around to get your bearings and realize you had no clue where you were.

That’s what happened when Mom was out with our neighbor, Sophie.

They got lost, and Mom knew Sophie was panicking. In an effort to calm Sophie, Mom lied and told Sophie that she knew exactly where they were.

Fortunately, they stumbled into a scout camp a short time later. Someone brought both of them back home.

Blueberries - two handfuls

The best part, of course, is when Mom returned home with the blueberries. We knew we’d soon be munching down on one of Mom’s mouth-watering blueberry pies or blueberry jam.

And, Fats Domino? How did that rhythm-and-blues artist become a part of this story?

Fats Domino

Well, Fats recorded “Blueberry Hill.” When it played on the radio, my brother, Hank, and I would warble along with him as he sang “I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill, on Blueberry Hill, when I found you.”

Mom had an accent. She would pronounce hill like “heel,” and berry like “burry.” Just like Fats Domino.

Hank and I would always make sure to sing that tune real loud — accentuating “hill” and “berry” — when she was around. Mom knew what we were up to. But she’d just smile and tune us out.

Actually, we were sending her subliminal messages. Hoping that the song itself would inspire her to return to blueberry hill and then back to us with more luscious berries.

A long overdue thank you to Mark Bialczak, a dear friend, who nominated me for the Liebster Award. Mark’s blog is a link to my Central New York roots. His posts range from music to movies to neighborliness and is always a great read. For details on this award, go to Mark’s blog. http://markbialczak.com/2014/03/29/i-have-been-dragon-my-feet-on-loyalty-liebster-awards/

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music video: Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl5hknXqXps 

Photo: Black Bear – taken by Jon Sullivan http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f2/Black_bears.jpg/640px-Black_bears.jpg

Photo: A blueberry bush at the U-Pick farm St. Cloud, Florida. (family photo)

Photo: Blueberries – two handfuls – taken by Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic from Windsor, Canada on Aug. 31, 2009 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/99/Weather_tomorrow-_sunny_with_plentiful_blueberries.jpg/480px-Weather_tomorrow-_sunny_with_plentiful_blueberries.jpg

Photo: Fats Domino – taken at a concert in Germany in 1977 by Klaus Hiltscher http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Fats_Domino_1977.jpg/640px-Fats_Domino_1977.jpg

Swatting and School Lockdowns

SWAT team

By Judy Berman

A disembodied voice, filled with urgency, came over our speakers, announcing a Code Red.

It was a school lockdown. We were told to lock our classroom doors. I don’t remember if we were told to shut off the lights, too, but I did.

This happened earlier this month. There was no time to find a safe refuge. We stayed in our rooms, listening for any unusual noise.

We were victims of “swatting.” The FBI says “swatting” is making a hoax call to 9-1-1 to draw a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team.

As it turned out, this was a cruel hoax allegedly perpetrated by a teen in Canada. Another teen at Melbourne High School, not far from our school, is accused of being part of this teen “swatter” crime as well.

But we didn’t know this at the time.

Students are well-aware of tragedies that have happened at other schools. Mass shootings, terror and heartbreak. It’s hard to tune these events out when you’re in a darkened room and unsure what’s going on.

We heard a loud clang outside. My students questioned what it was. I dismissed it as “probably just thunder.”

Jennifer Brown Ontiveros, who co-taught this class with me that day, also minimized the disturbance. Together, we helped our students relax.

It’s in these moments that I find my calm center and dark humor serve me well. They act as a shield to mask what I really feel.

A female student, sitting on the floor, looked up at me. I flashed my most convincing and reassuring smile.

“It’s been nice knowing you, Mrs. Berman,” she joked.

My comeback? “Well, we all have to go sometime.”

I’ve heard about students who have meltdowns in a situation like this. Teachers, too, have been known to crumble during these real and pseudo-emergencies.

But our room was almost Zen-like. As we waited, a fan blew a few papers off the students’ desks. I edged cautiously over to the knob that controls the fan and shut it off.

Many “what-if” scenarios rushed thru my mind.

Fortunately we were safely lifted out of limbo 40 minutes later. We were told that everything was all right, and students moved on to the next class.

Crime Scene tape - Do Not Cross

Police arrested a Canadian teen last week who they said “used Twitter to solicit targets across North America,” according to a May 13th story in “Florida Today,”

A student at Melbourne High is accused of contacting the Canadian teen to place a call about a false emergency so he could avoid taking a state test.

Both teens were arrested. Ottawa Police Service charged the Canadian teen “with 60 crimes, including uttering death threats, conveying false information with intent to alarm, public mischief and mischief to property,” the paper reported.

Of 30 hoax emergency calls, the 16-year-old Canadian “swatter” is suspected of making, four of the false threats affected Melbourne High and other schools in our area.

The crime carries serious penalties. It’s no joke, especially to those whose lives are disrupted by someone pulling a “prank.”

I’m just relieved and grateful that no one was harmed.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: SWAT Team, taken Oct. 27, 2009, by Oregon Department of Transportation http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/SWAT_team_prepared_%284132135578%29.jpg/640px-SWAT_team_prepared_%284132135578%29.jpg

Photo: Crime Scene tape – Do Not Cross, taken March 25, 2009 by Yuri Kimua from Yokohama, Japan http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3d/Do_Not_Cross%2C_Crime_Scene.jpg/640px-Do_Not_Cross%2C_Crime_Scene.jpg

Article: Canadian teen arrested in Melbourne High bomb scare http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/crime/2014/05/12/swatting-melbourne-high-hoax-swat-team-deployed/8996873/

Article: The crime of swatting http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2013/september/the-crime-of-swatting-fake-9-1-1-calls-have-real-consequences/the-crime-of-swatting-fake-9-1-1-calls-have-real-consequences