Storytellers’ tales deserve our attention

Day by Day
Storytellers’ tales deserve our attention

By LIZ THOMPSON

August 2017

ThisWeekNews

My late father-in-law loved to tell stories of the “old days” — coal mining in southeastern Ohio, life during the Depression and more.

He would be well over 100 years old if he were still alive.

When we learned of his cancer, one of his granddaughters gave him a cassette recorder and blank tapes so he could record his stories.

My husband, Bob, grew up listening to stories not only from his parents, aunts and uncles, but from others who lived near their farm and had emigrated from eastern Europe.

Recently, Bob was telling some of the stories to our grandchildren. They laughed and asked questions and were amazed at how different things were for their Pappy and his family than they are today.

Our granddaughter, Elizabeth, said she wanted to write down the stories, and that she did. With pencil and pad of paper in hand, she wrote the stories passed down from her great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents.

Intertwined were stories of her Pappy’s childhood and his experiences with all the former storytellers. It was a joy to listen.

Since Elizabeth is a writer in her own right, I have a feeling a version of these characters will show up in a novel or two in her lifetime. At least, she will carry the history on to the next generation.

I grew up listening to stories, as well. I never knew either grandfather, so my grandmothers, aunts, uncles and parents provided tales of life in the same old days. That might be where I learned to love weaving words into stories.

We moved to Grove City in 2005, when we came back from the West Coast. This town was my first beat as a reporter in 2000. I loved the feel of the town. The people were amiable and seemed to work hard for a living.

I had heard history revealed in personal experiences of the early days in Grove City from people like Pudge — that’s the only name I knew him by. I could listen to people like him for hours and never glance at my watch.

Our neighbors are friendly, much like those in the Westerville neighborhood in which I was raised.

In 2007, one neighbor, Ann, hosted a get-together. We were in for a real treat when Ruth Sawyer Jividen, who lived around the corner, was a guest.

Turns out she was the last direct descendent to the first settler in Grove City. She started talking, and I started writing. She was a female version of my father-in-law.

Ruth and I enjoyed our time together writing the “Ruth Remembers” columns, which were published for a few years in a local newspaper, now gone. I was fascinated with her experiences growing up in Grove City, and so were the readers.

Around the same time, Janet Shailer and Laura Lanese published “Images of America: Grove City,” and Ruth’s family homestead history is included.

Ruth is now with her maker, in whom she firmly believed. Her home has been refurbished, but it’s just a house. I’m blessed with my memories of my time with Ruth.

As a reporter in Upper Arlington, I met Pete and Marjorie Sayers, lifetime residents and true storytellers. Marjorie was the driving force for the book, “The History of Upper Arlington,” published in 1988.

A new edition, in honor of the town’s centennial next year, will be available in the fall. The authors interviewed Marjorie and others to give it a conversational tone, along with the historical facts.

Soon after I wrote a story about Pete and Marjorie, the editor of the newspaper asked them to write a column about Upper Arlington history.

The late Patricia Orndorff Ernsberger wrote “Bicentennial Journal” and later added an updated version, including “Uptown: People, Places and Events” about Westerville history.

Most towns have their own local historians, and families have their own storytellers. People of this generation are all but gone. Their stories remind us of different times — not easier, but simpler.

All we need to do is listen.

Ruth Sawyer Jividen

Bob and me with our granddaughter Elizabeth. Our dog Toby joined in.

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Why write? Motives vary; need universal

Day by Day
Why write? Motives vary; need universal

April 10, 2017
This Week News

By Liz Thompson

I pushed the loaded cart of ancient records, videotapes and books into the used bookstore.

Standing at the cash register, where employees would look through my personal stash and give me a dollar value, I saw books piled so high, they looked as though a breeze would topple them.

Late author and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “It is probably true that every person has a book in him fighting to get out. What is crucial is that if something is going to happen, the wannabe writer has to commit by putting all those hopes and dreams on the line. It’s time to stop talking about clever titles and get the book written.”

I was overwhelmed — and as a writer, a little discouraged — by the number of books I saw, all these “hopes and dreams” people had put to paper, tape or film. I wondered about my own motivation to write.

I love writing — but bestsellers? Not likely. I write to inspire and inform.

I posted this question on a Goodreads author group: “What motivates you to write with so much competition?”

Sue, who lives in Canada, replied, “My motivation in writing my first book was my desire to achieve wellness. (My book) was never written with the intention to become a bestseller, but rather to reach those who could benefit from the information … and for those who did read it, that is exactly what they reported that it has done for them … mission accomplished.”

Leonide, an Oregon resident, said it seems the world has enough books, so why write another to add to the excess?

“I continue to write books because it is a creative drive inside of me that demands expression,” she said. “There are stories that simmer within and insist on being cooked fully and set out for the feast. Whether they get consumed and appreciated is outside my control.”

She markets, like most authors.

“I certainly hope others will read and enjoy my books; writing the book itself is the most important thing,” she said.

Jim, a cartoonist, said, “As a kid, once a week I would head down to the bookstore for a portal into another world. Every week I’d get to tour an exotic location and imagine another life. I just want to give that experience to someone else.”

Lily in San Francisco writes because if she doesn’t, she feels as if part of her has checked out.

“It’s as important to me as food,” she said. “The words are like a communion wafer that melts on my tongue, nourishing body and soul.

“Writing itself is a mysterious act. Putting symbols on a page not only connects us with our own inner worlds but also with others.”

Kate loves used bookstores.

“I still remember the joys of rooting through the secondhand book shop … hunting for a Georgette Heyer novel that I didn’t already have (since they were out of print). Sheer joy to find one and hold it close … until I got it safely home. It was a ticket to another world.

“We authors capture what’s in our heads in words. Black on white. It has no substance until the reader re-creates the people and the world inside their own head. It’s a kind of miracle. No images provided … only words, yet their imagined movie of your book will have scenery, props and characters fashioned by them from just words.

“With 7 billion people on the planet, there’s a good chance that at least one of those people will connect with your story.”

Don of New York said, “I must write, and I even wake in the middle of the night to pen down a thought that comes to me, or risk losing an amazing idea for a story or a book.”

Rita, who lives in Australia, said simply, “I write because I can!”

I left the bookstore $5 richer. My discouragement fled soon after and new words swirled in my head.

A writer friend a little closer to home, Janet Shailer of Grove City, said, “My mind always has ideas flying around, like a plane waiting for clearance to land.”

Eventually, our ideas land and words appear on the page. And so our story begins.

Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

Day by Day

Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

By LIZ THOMPSON

November 14, 2016
This Week News

Every day I’m reminded there are miracles.

When I put my cochlear implant voice processors on my ears, sounds of life flood my brain — voices or music on the radio, water running, the coffee pot dripping and my husband talking to me or our dog — and I smile.

All these sounds were happening, even when I couldn’t hear them. They went on much like people’s lives, even though I don’t know them.

One important fact I learned as a reporter years ago is that everyone has a story with many chapters. The stories range the full spectrum, from celebration to sorrow.

Before my first implant, in 2002, I was a deaf reporter relying on several things: one ear that had some hearing with a hearing aid, my ability to lip-read, pen and paper, computers and people’s patience.

I let people know I wanted to hear their story and they all complied, doing whatever was necessary to get the story right.

My favorite interviews were when friends and family gathered to remember a loved one. I looked at photos, old newspaper clippings, scrapbooks and more. I heard and saw laughter and tears while writing a story of a legacy worth remembering. Legacies born of hard work, loving their families and respecting life.

Once I had my first implant and the ability to understand speech made conversations possible, I treasured interviewing others even more. The strain was gone for both parties, and I developed a deeper interviewing style that was a joy for me.

The local politicians might not have liked that I could understand, but I did. News also ran the full spectrum, and 15 years ago, I reported the facts — both sides, unbiased and without commentary.

Especially since my second implant in the other ear, I love engaging in conversations with others. When I ask, “How are you?” I really want to know and wait for an answer.

Last month, we were camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. One day, we stopped at a picnic grounds by a creek for a snack. A woman was reading a book, and I asked what she was reading.

“A book by Lisa Wingate,” she said. “I love her writing!”

“I’ve read all her books and am one of her early readers,” I replied.

She saw my cane, I think, and came over to our table. We chatted for a bit and she sat down. She was Junella from Indiana, named for relatives June and Ella. I told her Ella is the name of the protagonist in my fiction book I’d recently finished, and she smiled.

I felt I’d known her for more than the moments we talked about books and life in general. All too soon, we had to be on our way. I left her my card and told her I’d love it if she emailed me.

This conversation would have been impossible prior to 2002, unless she knew sign language, and I was never proficient in that.

Throughout our camping trip, we had various conversations with people from all over the U.S. We talked weather — it was much warmer than usual and very dry — and about our dogs, campers, music, children and grandchildren, trips we’d taken and even politics, which was a hot topic this year.

It thrills me to be able to catch every nuance of the conversation and hear the different accents and still understand the words.

Most of us know the tradition of Thanksgiving began as a way to show gratitude for the harvest. In an era of at least presumed plenty, we need to think of those who don’t have enough to survive well. There are many ways to help — food pantries and missions, to name a couple.

But the need might be on your street or nearby.

The list of what I am thankful for is too long to write here, but hearing and understanding again tops the rest. Each new day, I’m reminded of this blessing. I don’t take it lightly.

If you tell me your story, I will listen. Count on it.

When I start asking people questions, my husband teases me that I’m in my reporter mode. But the truth is, I’m interested and intrigued by other people’s experiences. I may not write one of your stories, but I’ll count it a blessing that I understand your words.

Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News. Reach her at lizt911@gmail.com.

 

Four legged friend in need offers comfort

Day by Day
Four legged friend in need offers comfort
by Liz Thompson
ThisWeekNews
December 10, 2015

“Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy.”

These words from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen will be heard this Christmas season, as they have since first published in 1833, a mere 182 years ago.

Life has changed since those days. We know a lot more about physical comfort, something we all hope for: a comfortable chair, a bed, shoes, clothes and basically, a comfortable life.

Does it happen the way we hope? Sometimes we are blessed with things going as we think they should.

We especially seek comfort in times of illness, grief, or confusion. After a hard day’s work, that recliner calls us to prop our feet up and read, rest, enjoy our family, or watch television. But life has a way of keeping our feet on the ground and life scurrying around us, no matter what we want to happen.

It has been proven that pets lower blood pressure. Put a furry, cuddly creature in your lap, or next to you – maybe while your recliner is in the up position – and as you stroke the fur, your shoulders relax, your worries diminish and life seems to be pleasant, at least for the short term.

Two years ago, such a furry creature was born to a mission of silently comforting others. Last year, after a year’s training, Rosie, a Golden Retriever, was placed permanently in the Passing of the Leash ceremony as a Comfort Dog for Atonement Lutheran Church and Preschool in Northwest Columbus.

She lives with Atonement’s music director, but many people are trained as her handlers, taking her where she is called to go.

Rosie likes to go to church and cares not which one. She will greet people as they come in and leave, listen attentively to the sermon and music, lie down or sit while people pet her and accept her unconditional love.

With the command “visit,” Rosie will place her head in your lap. “Lap” has her upper body and front legs lying across your lap. That’s your cue to hug her, stroke her fur or bury your face in that same, soft fur. Maybe you’ll sigh, or cry, talk to her or laugh. There are no rules and Rosie cares not which you do.

She joined more than 80 other dogs across the U.S., as a part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry. There are other similar programs in the U.S. that bless people.

These dogs are “trained service animals prepared to interact with people in ways that provide a bridge for compassionate ministry. LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs are friends who bring a calming influence, allowing people to open up their hearts and receive help in times of need.”

She also goes to schools, nursing homes, assistive living facilities, funeral homes and funerals, libraries – she loves to be read to and might nap a little – disaster scenes, and she has her day in court, when needed.

Imagine you need to give testimony in court, or even worse, you are a child having to do this same thing. Your nerves are rattled and you hope your words make sense and your answers to questions are appropriate. Sweaty palms, right? A sleepless night beforehand, most certainly.

Now imagine the same scenario and Rosie is seated next to you, your hand on her head or back. Her presence steadies you. It’s still not an easy time, but you have a friend in your corner. If you are that child, you might even pretend you are talking to Rosie, not an attorney or judge. It has happened.

On January 5, four LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs and their handlers from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio were deployed to Washington Courthouse where Rosie was the “top dog.” They were there to “offer support and unconditional love to the family and community that lost three boys and a grandmother on Christmas night.”

Rosie has her own Facebook page at facebook.com/RosieComfortDog. You can email her at Rosie@K9Comfort.org or call Atonement Lutheran Church at 614-451-1880 to request her presence in a time of need.

The true meaning of Christmas often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the month. Comfort dogs remind us of what’s important.

“Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place, and with true love and brotherhood, each other now embrace; this holy tide of Christmas Doth bring redeeming grace, O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.”

Rosie

Rosie the Comfort Dog

 

 

 

Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits

Day by day

Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits
By
LIZ THOMPSON
May 27, 2015
This Week News

Westerville was a village when I was born. I innately knew my neighbors — along with people at church, librarians, teachers, firemen, policemen, doctors and all people in authority — were there to protect and care for me.

School was never an option for me, nor did I want it to be, at least till third grade. On the first day, a friend of mine was talking to me, yet I was put in the corner by my teacher. No excuses. I got my marching orders.

This was the year to learn cursive writing. I was working on my alphabet on lined paper, likely sticking my tongue out one side of my mouth in concentration, when my teacher peered over my shoulder.

“Fix that F,” she said sternly.

I tried again and again and I still didn’t have the top loop open enough — and she told me so. I was near tears when she said, “You’ll never learn to write, Elizabeth.”

I hear you — if these were my worst school experiences, I got off easy comparatively. I know this now, but then I did not. I worked to write better, and with my mom’s help, I succeeded.

Writing cursive was and still is much easier than printing. As a writer who relies on her computer, I still begin all my writing in cursive on paper.

Today I know many of these same figures of authority are working to protect children in much the same way, although laws and rules have changed.

One change found lacking in the Common Core is the removal of cursive-writing instruction from school curricula. This fact is up for discussion.

Two such protectors of education are state Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City). They sponsored House Bill 146 in April, requiring cursive writing to be taught in all elementary schools.

Specifically, the bill requires: “Handwriting instruction in kindergarten through fifth grade to ensure that students develop the ability to print letters and words legibly by third grade and to create readable documents using legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.”

This bill, with 13 co-sponsors, including several minority Democrats, follows a state law that went into effect last year, requiring students to read at grade level before they are promoted to fourth grade.

Even in this digital and app-based era, if they cannot write it, they likely cannot read it.

“Research proves cursive writing is essential,” Brenner said. “There is no contraindication for it. The Common Core does not require this in the curriculum and we need to have it back.”

Brenner has served as vice chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee for three years and hears from people who are surprised it is not being taught. The vast majority of those are in favor of teaching cursive writing.

“Cursive writing is a necessity, like learning to read,” Brenner said. “The arguments (against it) are that it is a modern day. Even though we have calculators, students need to know the basics of math to connect. Writing cursive is literally connecting one letter at a time.”

In Psychology Today, William R. Klemm wrote that writing cursive develops eye-hand coordination; to write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed.

“Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information. The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument,” he wrote.

Grossman said she knows technology is important, yet learning cursive is equally important for different reasons.

“Research conducted by Columbus-based research firm Saperstein Associates shows that handwriting is a foundational skill that positively can influence students’ reading, vocabulary, memory and critical-thinking abilities as well. Studies report that longhand writing has also been shown to assist kids with dyslexia, helping them to become better students. Studies indicate that individuals retain much more of the content when notes are taken in cursive,” she said.

“I have been amazed to hear from teachers, parents and friends how much they support requiring handwriting be taught in elementary school,” Grossman said. “This can be accomplished with as little as 15 minutes being spent on this per day and can also be incorporated into other subjects.”

The problems with Common Core should be replaced by common sense.

I obviously overcame my third-grade experience. What challenges us makes us stronger, so let’s challenge our children in a good way.

When we look over their shoulder, instead of saying, “You’ll never … ,” let’s say, “Here, let me help you.”

 

Hearing loss symptoms should prompt call to doctor

Day by day
Hearing loss symptoms should prompt call to doctor
By Liz Thompson
April 29, 2015
This Week News

As a youth, I loved swimming underwater. Watching the air bubbles rise to the surface caused my head to lift and see blue sky. Underwater I didn’t worry about hearing and I felt normal. Underwater everyone heard like I did.

Needing air, soon I’d burst through the water’s rim gasping. Then I’d hear it: noise. Laughing, slapping of water, yelling and the lifeguard’s whistle. I’d dive back under for peace.

By 50, I was almost deaf, wearing hearing aids, reading lips and body language. The miracle of a cochlear implant restored more than 90 percent of my hearing with clarity I’d never experienced. A few years later, a second implant gave me “surround sound.” I am permanently above water, living in a world of clear sounds, not mere noise.

Hearing loss is invisible. No tests existed in 1951, my birth year, to check babies’ hearing. Today a problem can be found within days of a child’s birth, giving way to treatment or therapy.

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association teaches that signs of hearing loss in a child include: lack of attention to sounds (birth to 1 year); not responding when calling his/her name (7 months to 1 year); not following simple directions (1-2 years); delays in speech and language development (birth to 3 years); pulls or scratches at his/her ears; once in school, has difficulty achieving academically; socially isolated and unhappy in school; and persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise.

I encourage those who suspect hearing loss in their children to seek an accredited audiologist and ear, nose and throat physician to have your child examined.

Likewise, I urge adults who suspect hearing loss to be tested. It’s easy to ignore signs stating hearing aids are expensive — and they are — or they won’t work for them. I lived with both thoughts until I finally got a hearing aid at age 39, knowing since 29 I needed one.

I have learned the average person waits seven years to get a hearing aid after being told it would help. Do the math: I waited 10 years. Stubborn.

Signs of hearing loss in adults include: inattentiveness; buzzing or ringing in their ears; failure to respond to spoken words; persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise; muffled hearing; constant frustration understanding speech and other sounds; avoiding conversation; social isolation; accusing everyone of mumbling; and depression.

Heather Pliskin, director of speech services at the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center, said that communication skills are directly related to academic success.

“Speaking, listening, reading and writing are the foundational skills for school and for life. Early intervention is the key. The earlier a child receives speech-language therapy, the faster the progress can be made,” Pliskin said.

Red flags for possible communication delays include: age 1, not saying a few words or pointing to pictures and objects; and age 2, not using simple two-word combinations and not being understood 70 percent of the time.

Preschool/early elementary school: age 2-3, not following one- to two-step directions; age 3, not using correct common pronouns and not being understood 80 percent of the time, 90 percent by age 5.
“When a child is young — especially before age 3 — it is especially important to involve the parents and/or caregivers in the process,” Pliskin said.

Audrey Tobias agreed.

“Speech therapy has improved the lives of every member of our family. When our son started receiving therapy at 2.5 years old, he had a vocabulary of zero spoken words. He couldn’t even say ‘no.’ We were scared to leave him in the care of anyone else because there was no way for him to tell us if anything went wrong.

“Now, two years later, he is a funny chatterbox! He cracks jokes all the time and loves to make complicated, exciting plans. We know what is going on in his life and what he’s thinking. For the first time, we feel like we really know who our son is as a person. It’s been an amazing transformation. We are extremely grateful for the skilled help he continues to receive.”

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. Columbus Speech and Hearing Center is giving away two hearing aids to the essay winner who is most in need to understand the world around them. Go to columbusspeech.org and click the Hearing What Matters link before May 11 to learn how to enter.

The music of this world is up for grabs.

Come out from under the water and listen, and tell me all about it.

For more information, go to asha.org, dangerousdecibels.org, apraxia-kids.org or playingwithwords365.com.