Category Archives: Women

Monday Memories – The New Kid (Again)

The continued chronicle of a young American teenager living in Europe during the mid 1960′s.

North Carolina

My daughter will graduate from high school next month, the second high school she has attended.  She has a great circle of friends in both places, great academics, work she loves and memories of being the new kid. Although the change has been great, the learning experience that “being the new kid” provides will be most beneficial throughout her life. I know. I was the “new kid” five times in three years. That’s a lot of introductions, cracking the social codes and making friends for a young teenager. I learned how to start over, condense my life story to a paragraph and enter a room full of strangers without committing a social faux pas. It was a “great experience” I could pass along to my children.

My high schools were large, small, private and public. There were Americans in each of them, every race, religion and nationality. In one, English was the second language, in another, military rank created the social order. I rode buses to several schools, walked to another and lived in several dorms for a year. Each school presented its own social obstacles, academic emphasis and “new kid” hazing.  Each new school presented the classic “first day” nervousness and stress. The perceived benefits were few while I attended and like many experiences became more valuable as life unfolded. I learned that roots are important and yet you carry them with you. I learned you can have friends close by and maintain friendships with hundreds of miles separating you. I learned that academics can center on the same subjects with vastly different curriculums. But most important, I learned how being the “new kid” doesn’t last long because at some point, everybody is the “new kid.”

Paris

We moved from Paris, France to Stuttgart, Germany after a brief six months in France. I had learned to navigate the multi-building campus at Paris American High School with ease. I knew where the cafeteria was, the menu for each week and where the locker room was in the huge gym. I had friends who shared slumber parties, lunch tables and homework assignments. We giggled a lot and shared hopes and dreams of the American teenager of the ’60’s. They taught me readiness. Fathers of military dependents get transferred frequently. New orders give brief adjustment time and often, the father left before the family, who followed after packing their belongings and saying goodbye. Although friendships would survive with distance, they were ready to move and start over at a moment’s notice.

I was fortunate with the move from France to Germany. Most of my new friends in Paris moved to the same area in Germany. Attending a new school was easier because there were friends from Paris to share the experience. We compared notes when we met on the weekends. Three of us attended different schools in Germany yet managed to find time for roller skating, swimming and hiking German trails on the weekend. We still shared slumber parties, we still giggled a lot and we all made new friends. They helped me realize friendships can continue despite the miles between friends. Reunited in yet another school, we shared homerooms, English assignments and Home Ec. We went to the local “gasthaus” and Oktober Fest with older siblings, went to movies and the AYA (American Youth Association) dances. We rode buses to school and gossiped about the latest Beatles trivia. Those friends taught me to savor the moment, to live fully today and enjoy the present. Tomorrow may bring change, but we were together today and we made each day count.

Institute auf dem Rosenberg

I had a different experience when I changed to my fourth high school. This time there were no familiar friends or even family to ease my transition. This new school was in a different country, away from all of them. I was on my own, living at a boarding school where German was spoken at every meal and kids from all continents shared rooms down the hall. Whether privilege or punishment, this change in schools presented new challenges I hadn’t dreamed about when I wished to “live away” at age 13. Suddenly, I learned I could live in a house with 40 teenaged girls who spoke different languages than mine. I learned I could succeed academically without my parents’ reminders to finish homework. I learned I could be accepted in an international social group, sharing experiences that would make my mother cringe had she known. They taught me that change was possible and positive, that there was another world outside of America and that teenagers shared similar concerns everywhere in the world. I learned I could be separate from family and through trial and error, I could make good decisions on my own.

Chatham High School

The “new kid” status changed at my last school. I returned to my hometown after three years away. I was a “new kid” with my former classmates and friends, back “home” in the US. I returned a different girl, to a group who had no idea of who I was, where I had been or what I had experienced. They were different, too. Older, more confident, more knowledgeable about social issues, and more experienced in life in the US.  Most had lived in the same town since elementary school and knew all the faces in their small high school. Friendships were cement solid, grown together throughout their early high school years. Although they looked familiar, lived in their same house, they were as different from the person they had been at 13 as I was. It was a time of wary reconnection. I went to the same church, library and grocery store yet it seemed different from the town I had left. My school was American, I had the same teachers that my siblings had and we lived in the same house we had left three years earlier. I learned that you never “return” home. Different experiences, places lived and new histories prevent you from “picking up where you left off.” I did make new friends, I reconnected with former classmates and I earned my diploma. I shared confidences and dreams and developed friendships that continue today. I recognize many names on Facebook but have no memory of many of their recollections, I wasn’t there at the time. But, I learned that moving on is better for me, to be a “new kid” is easier than being “the returned” and that you have to look ahead for your future rather than dwell on the past.

I know we are the “new kid” throughout our lives, the new employee, the new roommate, the new neighbor, the new  student. I know what my daughter experienced and the confidence given her for the next move, when she is the “new kid” once again. I hope she carries her friendships with her as she looks forward to her future. I hope she recognizes the value of being the “new kid” and shares her positive experiences with the “new kids” in her life.

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Filed under Memoir, Travel, Women, Writing

Friday Friends – Joyce Norman, Writer, Teacher, Friend

I am fortunate to share “friendships” with people I have never met. Through the power of technology and the internet, I have shared many wonderful moments with Joyce Norman, although we have never met. Introduced through a mutual friend on Facebook, Joyce and I have shared a love of writing, books, literature and life. I learn something new every time we speak on Skype or message through email or Facebook. My writing has been inspired through the magic of her editing and reading her stories inspires my own recollections. Her editing is renowned in our circles, a former journalist and teacher, Joyce spends hours reading and working through the manuscripts sent to her. I gladly call her friend.

Joyce has been advisor, teacher and mentor to the many students who attend her classes, join her workshops and follow her Monday Morning Writing Chain. With a brief prompt on a Monday morning, Joyce sets our imaginations free to complete a story with other writers. No other impetus is provided but a few sentences to set a scene or a picture to prompt our story. The co-creation is sometimes filled with great writing, dialogue that flows from characters created by a distant author. Sometimes we hear Joyce attempting to reel us in, as she reminds us of the details of writing, maintaining scene, character’s names and the dialogue written previously.

Joyce’s editing skills have allowed many beginning writers to be published in an anthology, It Was A Dark and Stormy Night. Encouraging her students and colleagues to produce short essays, stories and including a few Morning Chain entries, Joyce compiled the anthology and edited our entries for readers to enjoy. No entries were denied.

Joyce’s own work, Coming Together, published in 2009 with Joy Collins, is a novel filled with foreign intrigue, the love story of a mother in search of her son and a fascinating story of a film maker. Set in Brazil, a place Joyce visited repeatedly, the story uses many of Joyce’s own experiences to engage the reader in the action. Currently, Joyce is writing a fascinating story of her travels throughout the world. Looking back at her past without becoming mired in reminiscing Joyce leads us to tropical islands, a look at other cultures and how experience can be the best teacher.

I am honored and grateful as a writer to know Joyce and to benefit from her skills as a writer, teacher and journalist. Her positive attitude and encouragement has assisted many writers through the dark waters of their first publishing efforts. Her classes and workshops are always filled at the local university and online. I hope you will seek out this talented woman, a woman who seeks to lead by example, skill and experience. You will be encouraged to continue on your path.

 

 

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Penniless Penalties

A recent disconnect of my electric service brought home the penalties of the impoverished. One mislaid bill set off a chain of events that will ultimately cost well over $500, strained relationships and a heap of self-doubt. How do people without means continue to exist in a society that penalizes the penniless?

Third Person Past Perfect

There is a charge for falling below a certain bank balance, there is a charge for withdrawing money from a “foreign” ATM, there is a charge for paying with each credit card, there is a charge for paying with cash, and there is the charge of your time to run here, there and everywhere to pay the exorbitant amount required to restore service. I live in an all-electric house with septic and well. When there is no power, there is no water, toilet, light, stove or refrigerator. Electricity is all important. So I scrambled, I texted, I borrowed internet and cash and ultimately walked 5 miles to get the bill paid and the electricity restored. And then, there was the reconnect fee. Missing the deadline by fifteen minutes meant an additional $47 to have the person return. Another fee, another penalty added to the others already charged. And there is a 10 day grace period before an additional deposit fee is due because the bill was mislaid. Unfortunately, the five-year good payment history is void now. We are starting over.

With an additional $100, there is no charge from the bank. With an additional $350, there is no charge from the power company. With an additional $150 there is no ATM fee, or charge for credit card use. Without the extra funds, how do others cope with emergencies and financial deadlines?

Yesterday, a woman and her children were found sleeping in their car in the parking lot where I work. Their belongings surrounded them, created pillows for the young children asleep in the rear seat. I was grateful a customer notified us of their presence and grateful to know the phone number of the agency most likely to help them. I was saddened to know the panic the mother must have felt to live in her car to hold her family together.

Emergencies occur every day, people suffer loss of job, home, and belongings. That should be penalty enough without  the outrageous fees added. I am grateful to friends and family. We are grateful to have enough, grateful to live in our home and work out arrangements. We are also committed to helping those who have no other resources, live in their car and are penalized for falling behind.

I wish there were others willing to eliminate the penalties for being penniless.

 

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First Person Singular

I am a single parent, confirmed by the judge on Wednesday. Of course, the was-band is still the sperm donor, however, given his unwillingness to provide sustenance and support, I classify myself as a single parent. Initially, this realization creates a sense of panic when I realize I am solely responsible for this child of my heart. How will I manage? How will I find the strength to address all the little issues of life, like finding toothpaste or where socks go in the wash? How can I support a Pumpkin Soy Latte habit on a Perked at Home budget? The order from the court seems overwhelming until I realize I have been a single parent for ten years. The order from the court is merely a legal recognition of fact.

We arrived at this point after ten years of wrangling over responsibilities accepted and ignored. Entering the foreign courtroom is reminiscent of previous court appearances with one exception. This is my final appearance.  I let go of the need to explain, the need to convince and the need to force responsibility. He is a deadbeat and I am not. He is unwilling to provide, to love and cherish. I am not. I have succeeded, created adult relationships with my children. I move toward the future free from the narcissism, the greed, the felonious behavior. Whatever he decides to do, whether he follows the order or not, I know I am a single parent. I am blessed.

There is no longer panic when I realize I can savor the acceptance to college, the high school graduation with honors, and her move to college.  I can enjoy the thrill of her first job, apartment and success. I can cherish the young couple finding their way in marriage. I know they are ready.

I am a single parent and life is good.

First Person Singular

First Person Singular

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Welcome to WordPress Alanajustfauxfun

Welcome Attitude

Welcome to Alana, a new member of the WordPress group. Check out her art here.

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Filed under Art and Artists, Creativity, Uncategorized, Women

My Mentors, I Thank You

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  ~  Voltaire

“Thank you” seems inadequate to express my appreciation and gratitude to a number of women who have lifted me, supported me, guided me, encouraged me, and yes, rescued me during my life.  A dedication page in a book would continue for several pages, these women are so numerous. The following are a few of the reasons I say, “Thank you” to  my mentors in my career, family, and life.

1. Encouragement.

2. Creative prompts.

3. Financial advice.

4. Listening skills (X’s 10)

5. Belief in me.

6. Broad shoulders

7. Packing ability

8. Great sense of humor.

9. Soft shoes for the kick in the pants.

10. A great example of success.

What have your mentors given to you?

Thank You, Mentors

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Crossroad Warning – Women of a Certain Age

I am currently researching life choices and new paths women follow after age 50. If you are interested in participating, please contact me here or email penpaperprose@gmail.com. If you are changing careers, retiring, becoming a grandparent, raising your granchild, a new student, traveling, facing health issues, ANY and ALL of these would be great topics to discuss. I would love to arrange to speak with you. So many of us are seeking meaning in our lives as we turn the page on another decade. What are YOU doing? I’d love to know!

WARNING
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens . . .

….But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

~ Jenny Joseph

Women of a certain age – The Color Purple

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