Early lessons live on even as memories fade

Day by Day
Early lessons live on even as memories fade

By LIZ THOMPSON

September 2018
This Week News

In September 1956, I stepped into the basement of the Masonic Temple in Westerville. (Ohio) Most likely I was wearing a dress my mother made, with saddle shoes and a bow in my hair.

Here, I would begin my public education. Mrs. Sleeper was my teacher. Years later, she would see me as an adult and call me by name. She said I had not changed.

My guess is Mrs. Sleeper followed many of her students’ lives and could call us each by name, even years later.

My black-and-white photo shows four rows of tables with eight children at each table.

Mrs. Sleeper handled all of us mostly by herself. We became members of our first club here — the Bow Knot Club — when we tied our shoes by ourselves. My next club membership was the Mickey Mouse Club with a photo membership card.

Many of these same classmates would see Westerville grow from a village to a city. We would see the farmland surrounding our city disappear.

We would walk side by side at graduation at the single high school 13 years later.

I remember the names of all my elementary teachers: Whipkey, Camel, Freeman, McGlish, Sweazy, Clapham. Once we began seventh grade, we had a teacher for each subject. No more recess; the only break came in walking to each class.

Remembering all those teachers’ names now from middle and high school is based on what happened in the classroom, both positive and negative memories.

Mr. Franklin was my seventh-grade geography teacher. His thick gray hair represented knowledge to me. I loved his class for what and how he taught. Here, we had our first real homework. I don’t recall the topic for my assignment, but I used an encyclopedia to get information.

Mr. Franklin called me forward when he passed out our graded assignments. The conversation went something like this:

“Elizabeth, where did you get your information?”

“The encyclopedia.”

“You do know you are not supposed to copy word for word, but read and tell me what you learned.”

How did he know? He must have seen my confusion.

“There is a hyphen in this word.”

I remember looking at my paper and knowing I was caught. I had copied a word that was only hyphenated because it fell at the end of the column and continued on the next line.

“That is called plagiarism, Elizabeth. Cheating. Using someone else’s words.”

He was not angry; he was teaching. I learned and never did that again.

In a small town like Westerville was in those days, sometimes the teachers or principals were neighbors or members of your church.

Recently, my church’s school at Beautiful Savior in Grove City installed a new first- and second-grade teacher. I mentioned to her that I still remember my early teacher’s names. I said the early years of school are uniquely important, setting the base for all learning.

Her enthusiasm was contagious. It gave me assurance that one day her students might remember her, much like I remember mine. That is the type of legacy we all long for.

Schools continue to teach English, mathematics, science, language, art and music. History, government and geography are called social studies. Hopefully, physical education remains a class, but sports have become a type of replacement.

Encyclopedias are not a temptation for students to copy from anymore — the internet has entered the picture. In my day, we did not have word processing or computers. We hand-wrote, in cursive, all of our work. Since cursive is no longer required, that probably sounds antiquated to today’s students.

The edge of Westerville is no longer farmland and the district has three high schools.

I no longer wear saddle shoes and most definitely have changed since 1956. But when I look in the mirror, I still wear my hair similar to when I was 5. No bow. No longer red, but white — sort of like Mr. Franklin’s was. My hope is I have passed on some wisdom I learned from my teachers.

Memories certainly are fogged with time. I choose to cling to the good ones.

Mrs. Sleeper’s 1956 Kindergarten class

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MS changes lives, families

Day by day

MS changes  lives, families
By LIZ THOMPSON
THISWEEKNEWS.COM
Tuesday March 18, 2014

Tim and Tyler Heaton, 19, of Westerville, know firsthand that life holds no guarantees. “Many people take things for granted such as financial stability and a healthy family,” Tim said.

“I have learned that these things are not guaranteed.” Tyler added, “We have kept a positive family attitude which has had a huge impact on our lives.”

Their mom, Leeandra, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Tim and Tyler were 10. They remember the day the world changed for all of them when she couldn’t get out of bed and had to be hospitalized. They had planned a vacation with another family, and their mother insisted they go without her. Their sister, Brynna, 8, stayed home.

Tim said, “Upon returning home, my mom explained that the doctors believed her to have multiple sclerosis, and I recall just blankly staring and — as much as I hate to admit it — just dismissing it as some kind of ailment obtained from age. I first thought that she would simply take some kind of medication to get better or go through physical therapy to strengthen her body, but I turned out to be incorrect about a lot of those things.”

“When anyone hears someone say that they have a cold or strep throat … people always say, ‘I hope you feel better and take it easy,’ but when a 10-year-old hears the word ‘disease,’ there is a different reaction,” Tyler said. “I did what I was best at and just smiled and said everything was going to be OK. This was not the day that we as a family really understood that this disease was going to negatively impact our life.”

These boys reacted much like anyone might without knowing exactly what this diagnosis might mean. Their comments make perfect sense, especially given their age at the time. Years later, their compassion for their mom has only deepened.

The twins each won a scholarship from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that is helping them as electrical engineering students at Ohio State University.

Tim uses a metaphor to express his thoughts. “If high tide and low tide are compared to sunrise and sunset, then everything in between can be compared as the events in a day. If the ocean is calm and predictable, it is manageable and pleasant. Once the storm hits, though, the ocean no longer is simply ‘manageable.’

“Rather, there are precautions, steps and planning that is necessary to ride these waves. I sailed the waves, and sailing the roaring ocean has taught me life lessons that I feel that some people will not realize for several years, specifically that financial stability and a healthy family are taken for granted. Growing up in a not-as-typical environment prepared me for college and the world ahead of me, and I am quite thankful for everything that has happened to me up to date.”

When their mom was diagnosed with MS, things became financially difficult. The process to apply for Social Security benefits is long and tedious.

The family chooses to turn it into a positive outcome. When her MS flares up, they make sure that everything else she experiences is positive.

Leeandra said the disease brought changes to her life, but it has not taken joy away. “I think that when I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know what to expect. I have figured out that it is just best to not expect the worst.”

“(We) believe that all a bad situation needs is a little bit of happiness to fix things,” Tyler said.

March is MS Awareness Month. More than 20,000 people in Ohio have MS and, as you can see, it affects the entire family.

When I was diagnosed in 1987, there were no drugs for MS. That was 27 years ago, and thanks to research, there are now 10. The largest portion of donations to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is used for research and programs for those living with MS.

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms are unpredictable, ranging from numbness and weakness to total paralysis. It is typically diagnosed between ages 20-50, although the disease has been diagnosed in children as young as 3, with an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 children under the age of 18 living with MS.

The Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers assistance and information for people living with MS and their families.

For more information, call 1-800-FIGHT-MS (344-4867) or http://www.msohiobuckeye.org/

If you have the desire, write, share and enjoy

If you have the desire, write, share and enjoy
By Liz Thompson
November 20, 2013
ThisWeekNews

Everyone has many a story to tell. Is it “worth writing a book about” is a question I hear often from people with stories they think are worth the ink.

Recently, I was at Praises Books and Gifts in Lancaster where they hosted a book signing for my second book. Sitting with me was Kathleen Welty who has three stories in this book, along with 14 other contributors.

Since I live in Grove City and grew up in Westerville, Lancaster obviously is not my hometown but it is Kathleen’s. She let friends and family know of the event and many came to see her and meet me. The best experience of the day was meeting these old friends and family of Kathleen and others who attended.

Kathleen’s inspirational stories show how God has touched her life. All three were accepted by the publisher, while some others, by other people, were not. They didn’t fit the theme but were well written.

I fought for one of Kathleen’s stories to stay in the book. Three times it was cut and still kept showing up in a new working manuscript. The third time, I said that it must be meant to stay in and the publisher agreed.

This day, I met Kathleen’s longtime Campfire leader and we talked about how different it was from my Girl Scout experiences. Some friends since first grade showed up with smiling faces and warm memories.

One woman asked about getting published. She had heard of an online service where she could self-publish and she kept talking. When she stopped, I asked how much she had written.

“Nothing yet. But it’s about relationships,” she said.

“Is your goal to simply be published or to tell the story?” I asked.

Her answer was to tell me the experiences. I was hooked and told her I’d read it but she had to get writing. I suggested she sit and write from the heart telling the stories just like she told us that day.

“Don’t edit or worry about sentence structure, just write freely,” I said. “Edit later and do lots of it.”

Our Grove City Writers’ Group supports this idea of editing well and often and that editors are our friends. I have always believed that. We all agree, too, that we can’t have a thin skin if we are going to be writers — published or not. Not everyone reading our work will like it. I don’t like every book or article I read, do you?

Being published or seeing a byline really does hold a personal thrill but I believe writing is about expressing our thoughts, recording personal and family history, sharing our experiences and more. Most artists I know of different mediums are compelled to express themselves.

Also recently, I had the good fortune to talk with the Current Events group at the Upper Arlington Senior Center. They asked me to talk about my life as a writer. I still need to remind myself that, in fact, I am a writer. It’s such a natural act for me and I’ve been blessed with venues like this newspaper, magazines and my books to express my thoughts and experiences.

Having been a reporter in Upper Arlington for two years, this was especially pleasant for me. I did quite a few stories on members of this senior center and other senior citizens in this lovely burg. Their stories often were the stuff of history books, or what they should be.

My Uncle Walter and Aunt Eva Page lived there for years and of course I visited as a girl and as an adult. I used to love hearing my uncle tell stories of his life on the farm on the East Side of Columbus. He wrote them down for his grandsons. My father-in-law made tapes of his life in Southeast Ohio as a coal miner and all his other experiences.

Things I heard growing up from my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents seemed so distant from the life I knew. But these are tales of the people who helped form America’s history. They lived it, fought in the wars for our freedom and raised families against many odds. We can learn from this generation and need to listen.

Many have written their stories and been published. But whether or not you get published, I encourage you to write, share and enjoy.