Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feeding My Teacher's Soul

I just attended a conference hosted by the Montana Office of Public Instruction - Indian Education For All Best Practices.  It is one of the best conferences I have attended in a long time.  We had some wonderful presenters.

One of my favorite sectionals was listening to two of the Elders, Minerva Allen and Lois Red Elk present their own poetry. I wish it there had been a recording of  this Poetry Reading . The last poem that Lois Red Elk presented was haunting. Her delivery mesmerizing.  To have both women together sharing their writing was a once in a lifetime experience.

Teachers shared what works in their classroom, educators from elementary all the way through college. Presenters from the Montana Historical Society were also there.  I came away not only with new literature to use but new ways of sharing it in my classroom.  I am excited!

Montana's Constitution mandates the study of American Indians.  We have started by learning about the tribes in our own state first.

This is a section from the Montana Constitution that discusses Indian Education For All -

MCA 20-1-501 
Recognition of American Indian cultural heritage -- legislative intent. 
(1) It is the constitutionally declared policy of this state to recognize the distinct and unique 
cultural heritage of American Indians and to be committed in its educational goals to the 
preservation of their cultural heritage. 
(2) It is the intent of the legislature that in accordance with Article X, section 1(2), of the 
Montana constitution:  
(a) Every Montanan, whether Indian or non-Indian, be encouraged to learn about the 
distinct and unique heritage of American Indians in a culturally responsive manner; and 
(b) Every educational agency and all educational personnel will work cooperatively with 
Montana tribes or those tribes that are in close proximity, when providing instruction or 
when implementing an educational goal or adopting a rule related to the education of 
each Montana citizen, to include information specific to the cultural heritage and 
contemporary contributions of American Indians, with particular emphasis on Montana 
Indian tribal groups and governments. 
(3) It is also the intent of this part, predicated on the belief that all school personnel should have 
an understanding and awareness of Indian tribes to help them relate effectively with Indian 
students and parents, that educational personnel provide means by which school personnel will 
gain an understanding of and appreciation for the American Indian people.   

People ask me,"Why should the study of Montana's Indians be mandatory?  Why not their heritage - English, Irish, Spanish, German etc?"  The short answer is you can go to the country of your heritage and learn about that culture.  America is the home and only place you will find most of these tribes.  It's about expanding cultural awareness for all Montana citizens.  It is also about hearing the other voices of our history.

Indian Education For All is one of my passions.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What Books have Impacted Your Life?

Today I have been attending the Indian Education For All Best Practices Conference.  It is one of the best conferences that I have attended in a long time.  This evening several of us were discussing the conference.  Julie asked the group what books have been influential in our lives.
She turned to me and said you should blog about this.  So I am.

That question is very challenging for me.  It's like asking me for my favorite book.  I have so many.  It is usually the last one I read.  But back to the question, "which books have been influential in my life?"

The first book is "Mr Dog: The Dog Who Belonged to Himself" by Margaret Wise Brown

My mother read this to me before I ever went to school.  At the end of the story she would ask me, "Whose little girl are you?

"Daddy's little girl?"


"Your little girl?"

"No.  You are your own little girl.  You belong to yourself."

It took me many , many years to replace this book.  I received such a wonderful gift of self because of this book. 

The second book that is memorable for its impact on my life is "The Magnificent Obsession"  By Lloyd Cassel Douglas.  My copy is a red hard bound.  I read this book when I was in my early 20's.  It taught me about making investments in other people.  In my opinion the book is better than the movie.

The third book is a very recent read.  "The Simple Act of Gratitude" by John Kralik.  I loved the story of how writing 365 thank you notes changed his life.  

It is a book that found its way to me after I chose gratitude as "my one little word."  Its a very fast read.  

There are other books that have influenced me in so many ways.  I have been influenced by an authors writing style.  I have been haunted by stories.  I have been uplifted by the gift of humor that some authors share.

Can you name three books that have influenced you?  I hope you share your list.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Have You Ever Bought a Book Twice?

Have you ever bought a book that sounded terrific only to discover you had its twin at home?  Have you ever looked at a book and it seems familiar but you just aren't sure if you've read it before?   I've done it more than I would like to admit.

My home library is not sorted.  At best its on the shelf by where I can fit it.  I've even toyed with inventorying my collection.  That was over whelming! And I didn't stick with it.

Today I was reading ilearn technology  and her post

All three apps let you scan the barcode and add the book to collection.
I know google has had a similar program for a long time.  Except you have to type in all the information.  I love being able to scan and everything is DONE!

This is a great resource for the classroom library.  I need to play with this to see how to tweak it so that I can keep track which books I buy each year for taxes.  Maybe more importantly I won't buy so many twins! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dessert - To Share Or Not To Share

The first time Dan ever tasted my Cherry Cheese Dessert was at a family get together around one of the holidays.  I made it at home and offered him the beaters to lick.  He didn't want to try them.

That evening we all got together, had supper, visited - and one by one people returned to Lori's kitchen for dessert.  Dan decided to try mine.  He took a couple of bites and looked at me with amazement.  "This is really good.  Why haven't you ever made it for me before?"

I smiled,  reminding him - I had suggested it before!

About that time teenage great nephew #1 came in and started dishing up a helping. I watched Dan's eyes follow every spoonful as it went from the dessert pan to the plate.  It was like watching the dancing ball going up and down.

Great nephew #1 sat down to enjoy it.  Dan watched every bite that  he took. His (GN#1's) very young cousin, great niece #1, came in and started to dish up a serving.

This time two sets of eyes followed the spoon like a bouncing ball, as she served herself.  Up down, up down went the eyes.  Their message telegraphed - they begrudged every spoonful she took.

She began to eat.  She left a couple of spoonfuls on her plate.  Great nephew #1 took her plate and quickly transferred the dessert to his own.  He commented, "Little kids shouldn't even get any of this - if they are going to leave it."

It was hard not to laugh.

Yesterday we went to Miles City to see Dan's kids and granddaughter.  We usually have supper at his son's house and play cards with friends.  Dan had asked me to make a pan of the Cherry Cheese Dessert.

The gathering consisted of Daughter #1, Son # 1 and his daughter (granddaughter #1), the kids cousin and her family - girls #1&2, her husband/Son #1's good friend.  And another couple that have been long time friends of my husband.

We ate supper and then played cards, followed by dessert.  Each person took a serving.   I watched Dan's and Son #1's eyes follow like a bouncing ball, as Son #1's friend dished up and started to eat.  He finished his serving and took another helping.  Of course he was razzed about this by many.  He explained he was just evening out the lines.

I have been known to leave any remaining dessert with our host/hostess.  The first time I did that - Dan told me, "I can't believe you left that dessert there."

This time as we got ready to leave Dan gathered up the pan.  When we got back in the pickup he commented, "I'm glad you made it in the good pan.  I didn't feel guilty about not leaving it."

Watching him, watch others dish up the dessert makes me want to giggle.

Cherry Cheese Dessert Recipe

Step 1
2 cups graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup butter melted
6 Tbs sugar
        I usually crush the graham crackers in a gallon sized Zip Lock bag and then add the other ingredients, until well blended.  Then pour and pat into a 9 X 13 inch cake pan.

Step 2
2 pkgs (8 oz)  Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 cup sugar
4 cups cool whip

Mix cream cheese and sugar.  Beat  on medium speed until fluffy.  Add cool whip continue beating.  (Texture will resemble whipped cream).  Add by dollops on top of graham cracker crust.  Smooth cream cheese mixture until fairly level.

Step 3
2 cans (20 oz) cherry or blueberry pie filling (I use Wilderness Pie Filling)

Pour cherry pie filling on top of cream cheese mixture.  Chill until ready to serve.

Enjoy!  (It is also good with blueberry pie filling)


Saturday, February 18, 2012

History In Pictures - Zinn Education Project

Freedom on the Menu is a picture book that I use as a lead-in to the Civil Rights Movement.   This book is about the Greensboro Sit-Ins.

I glanced at this picture from the Zinn Education project and immediately thought, “Oh I recognize this.”  I thought it was a picture of the sit-in at the Greensboro “Whites Only” lunch counter.  When I connected to the link  I learned that this picture wasn’t taken at Greensboro.  This picture was actually taken Feb 6, 1961, and is part of the Rochill sit-ins.  I also learned that one of the first lunch counter sit-ins took place June 23, 1957 in Durham, NC.

The Zinn Education Project has a number of photos and short captions that catch history in pictures.  What a great portal to going deeper into our history.
History in Pictures is part of the Zinn Education Project

Related Resources  (Interview “Dub” Massey - Library of Congress Collection)

Lesson Plan by Carole Boston Weatherford for her book Freedom on the Menu

Greensboro Unit Plan

Activity PDF to share with parents as they read the book “Freedom on the Menu” with K-4 students

Readers Theater Script

Friday, February 17, 2012

Where Are the Keys? Unlocking Alzheimer's

A friend gave me an article quite some time ago.  It took me awhile to read it.  When I did I was inspired.  Then I lost the article.  Tonight she and I talked about the article and told me it was from the Parade Magazine.  Tonight I googled Parade Magazine & Alzheimer's.

Up popped a number of articles.  The one I was looking for was titled "Unlocking the Silent Prison" .  Christine Wicker tells how Michelle S Bourgeois, a speech-pathology professor is an expert at communicating with people who have dementia.

One strategy she recommended was memory flashcards. She said, "that people with Alzheimer's can read words if the print is large enough."  Bourgeois has been using these strategies for the last 20 years.  She has trained countless people how to use them.  When I was taking care of my mother, I wish I had been trained by her.

She has written a book about her methods and strategies, "Memory Books and Other Graphic Cuing Systems: practical communication and memory aids for adults with dementia".  The title is a little wordy, but it looks like it has some very valuable suggestions.

When my mother was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer's in 1998, I knew next to nothing about the disease. As I started my journey, I did not know where to go.  I was fortunate to have great family support and the support of good friends.  I also met caring professionals that made a positive difference in our lives.  Little by little I found help.  I tried many different things, some worked some didn't.  Sometimes I wonder if I could have had more training with follow up, would things have been easier?

I continue to read research about Alzheimer's, I try to keep up on what other people have found that works.  Thankfully it is easier to find information and support.  Doctors and other medical professionals are more informed about the disease.  

My mother lived with me from 1998 until Dec 2006 when I was hospitalized with Pancreatitis. She passed away June 2007.  Today I learned that Alzheimer's is the third leading cause of death world wide.  This silver tsunami, this thief of memory needs to be stopped.  But until it is stopped we need to share information so caregivers have the best tools available to care for people with neurological disorders like Alzheimer's.  

When I was in the middle of caring for Mom, I just needed help with how to take better care of her.  How to deal with issues like her fear of showers.  How to keep her safe when she wandered.  I experimented with many things.  Now there is GPS in shoes.

I have read many stories of how family members have taken their talents and applied them to caring for and loving their family member.  The photographers who have made documentaries, the authors who have written books, the techie people who have developed software.  The list goes on.  We have been faced with great odds and we have used our talents to try and make a difference.  We have done it for our loved ones. We continue on because we have the experience - we were the first responders - we were boots on the ground.

I hope that I can share some of the things that worked with my mom.  I also try to share information that looks promising.  Networking and sharing information with each other is the key to solving these neurological diseases and the dementia that accompany them.

Was She Still Reading?

It has been over a year since I last posted to Bridging Memories (this is a cross post).  Juggling life is always a challenge.  Even though a lot of time has passed since my mother died, my emotions are still a little raw.  I also have not posted to my education blog at Li-Bear-Y Corner.  I have however kept up with Windows 2 My Life.  Mostly writing short slices of life stories.

I decided tonight that it was time to return.  Thank you for sharing my journey  I am sure there will be detours and probably some bumpy patches up a head.  I hope you will add your thoughts.

Books have always been a part of my life.  My mother read to me as a child.  My mother loved books and reading.  When she developed Alzheimer's I would read to her.  I mostly read children's picture books and we would look at the pictures.

One day I read an article about Lydia Burdick.  She had written a picture book for her mother who had Alzheimer's disease.  The title of the book was called "The Sunshine On My Face:  A Read-Aloud Book for Memory Challenged Adults.  I ordered it.  The first time I read it to Mom, she responded.  It was amazing.  She connected to the book in ways she never had with the children's picture books.

Lydia Burdick has developed a new literature genre.  I have recently noticed a few more authors publishing books in this category.  I would encourage you to check some of them out.

I recently learned a fact I did not know when my mother was still living.  Reading is one of the last skills that a person with Alzheimer's lose.

Years ago my mother would attend a cooking school.  If I was in town I would join her.  After I moved to Billings I attended The Taste of Home Cooking Show every fall.  I would go with my sister-in-law, her two adult daughters and my mom.  Every person who attends gets a goody bag, complete with their cooking school magazine with that nights recipes.  They also set up big screen tv's so you can see the person cooking.

Mom had her magazine in front of her.  I had turned the pages to match the dish being prepared.  I got side tracked and didn't turn my own page.  When the cook moved to the next dish mom nudged me and let me know the page needed turning.  She looked like she was intently reading the new page.  I remember feeling amazed.

Carol a friend shared an article about individual's with Alzheimer's still being able to read.  Thinking back I see that Mom probably was reading.  What doors that would have opened if I had understood that.

Related Posts

Many Alzheimer's Patients Find Comfort in Books -

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Floating Heads

When I was taking care of my mother a young woman in my National Guard Unit told me not to wear black when working with my Mom.  People with Alzheimer's see black as a hole.  So if you are wearing black they see a hole with your head floating in the air above it.

After having this conversation I told this story to my mother's caregivers.  When I read Jolene Brackey's book "Creating Moments of Joy" she has a short article titled "White on White".  Until I read the story I had not realized that wearing white and standing next to a white wall had a similar effect.  Your hands and face would appear to be floating.

In the article she asked what color are bathrooms (white)? Toilets (white)?  I had my aha moment.  My mother had not been able to see the toilet or bathtub.  No wonder she fought about getting into the tub, or sitting down on the bath chair.

If I had a magic wand I would give every family a copy of Jolene's book.  It is filled with common sense.  It is filled with ways to share moments of joy with family members that have Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.  Simply it is a great read.  It is filled with short stories that take only a few minutes to read.  It is filled with practical wisdom.

I met Jolene at a conference hosted by the Montana Alzheimer's Organization.  I only wish I had met her earlier.  I think her materials would have helped me create more moments of joy with my Mom.

Jolene has developed material to help families communicate better with their family members.  Her website talks about her material and how to find ways to have great conversations when you visit.  Jolene has generously shared information and some handouts  (look for handouts).

I loved listening to Jolene tell her stories.  She loved creating moments of joy with the people she cared for.  She loved even more, in teaching us how to create moments of joy for ourselves.  I am grateful for the moments of joy in my life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Published! My Lesson is On the Web

How do you spell excitement?  My lesson is now part of the Montana Historical Society website.  It is "kinda" scarey.  Will people like it?  Will they use it?  Is it to much?

I love research.  Martha took  my massive amount of information and helped me sculpt it into a richer piece.  Martha thank you.  The graphic artist did an amazing job!

Here is the link

This page is under "Outreach & Interpretation"

Montana has adopted the "Common Core Standards".  Part of those standards involve using primary sources in the classroom.  I love the timing.  One of my favorite pieces is the "Scavenger Hunt".  This is an easy piece to do in the classroom to give kids a taste of thinking like a historian.  Then if you are interested you can go deeper.

"Girl from the Gulches:  The Story of Mary Ronan" is an awesome mentor text to connect to articles from "The Montana Post".  Montana's first newspaper, it was published in Virginia City, Montana.  It tells the story of a mining boom town.

I hope you check it out.  Every state has digitized some of their historic newspapers.  You can take my lesson and give it a regional spin reflecting the history from your state.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"His Fans Hope He Can Keep the Lines Open"

I was watching CBS Sunday Morning and they did a vignette on Glen Campbell- his music and his struggle with Alzheimer's.  What a powerful testimony to Glen and his family!

I am always deeply saddened when I learn of yet another diagnosed case of Alzheimer's.  There are no "good" diseases, but Alzheimer's is insidious.  My Mother was diagnosed with it in 1998.  She passed away in 2007.

As I watched the segment on Glen Campbell.  I marvelled, at the power of music.  I also enjoyed listening to this talented man perform with the support of his family.

The Alzheimer's epidemic has been called the "Silver Tsunami".  According to the Alzheimer's Organization 5 million plus Americans have Alzheimer's today.  By 2050 that number is projected to increase to 16 million.  Right now 16 million Americans serve as caregivers, many are unpaid family members.  By 2050 the number of people in America is expected to rise in the neighborhood of 45 million.  Financially the outlook is even grimmer.  This year Alzheimer's will cost our nation $183 billion dollars.  By the year 2050 that cost will rise to $1 trillion dollars, bankrupting our health care system and countless families.

I recently read the blog Thirty Thousand Days, in one of the posts it said that a small tweak can create a big shift.  Shortly after that I read some work by Dr Gary Small in both the Readers Digest and care ADvantage publication.  The Dec 2011/Jan 201 Reader's Digest quoted Dr Small as saying,

"If everyone in the United States added just one healthy habit, it might prevent or delay a million cases of Alzheimer’s disease that would otherwise be expected to occur over five years, says psychiatrist Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center. "

That phrase resonated with me.  Even if the best case scenario was to postpone the onset of the disease - what a fabulous accomplishment that would be.   The Alzheimer's Organization has a petition to the President calling for a National Alzheimer's Plan.  I challenge you to join me in taking action, moving from fear and denial and investing in a solution.  Together we can make a big shift by taking small actions.
  • Take care of your brain 
  • Sign the petition

Thank You,
Ruth Ferris

The last line of CBS Sunday Morning's Glen Campbell segment summed up my feelings well. He was singing Wichita Lineman and the commentator said, "His fans hope he can keep the lines open a little longer."

Posts of Interest

Dr Oz - Alzheimer's: 5 Greatest Risk Factors

Readers Digest & Dr Gary Small 

Alzheimer's Foundation 

care ADvantage publication

Monday, February 6, 2012

Birthday Mystery

Saturday was my birthday.  Saturday was also my monthly tech class.  Last week Dan told me he had planned a surprise road trip for Saturday.  So I attended half the class and let them know I would miss the last half.

I tried asking questions about where we were going.  He answered a few and refused others.  Said it would give it away.  He was delighted that I was still baffled by my birthday mystery.

Saturday we set out after I got home.  We headed southwest from Billings.  I guessed Jackson Hole.  Not there.  I thought about Yellowstone Park but I knew the roads were closed in the direction we were going.

A couple of my guesses were:

  • Have we stayed there?
  • Is it a new motel or vintage?
  • Is it a place I'd been to before?
  • Is it noted for a point of interest?
  • Is there a bead shop there?
  • Is their a quilt shop there?
Many of my questions he refused to answer.  He did say, "The town has a rodeo every year."  He followed that comment with, "But so does most every other small town in Montana."  

But he did say he didn't think I'd stayed there before.  With that answer I was very puzzled.  

I pondered the communities along the road we were traveling.  Joliet, Roberts, Boyd small towns no points of interest.  Red Lodge is one of my favorite little towns.  I love all the specialty shops - most cater to the summer tourists or the winter skiers. I lived there for about a year.

As we drove through Red Lodge I was confused because I couldn't think where we were going.  You could get to Roscoe, Fishtail, Nye or Columbus but other roads were more direct.
Just as we got to the outskirts of Red Lodge he turned the car into the Lupine motel parking lot.  He grinned as I raised my eyebrows.  "You haven't stayed HERE!" And I hadn't.

Part of my birthday present was some cash and time to go shopping.  I loved it!  It was also time together.  That was delightful.  He had made reservations at the Rock Creek Resort restaurant - "The Piney Dell".   Supper was delicious.

When I stopped at Boomerang Beads, I learned that there were 2 other ladies who had come to town to celebrate their birthdays.  Two of us ate supper at the Piney Dell restaurant.

Best of all Dan had used his new computer and his growing skills to look up and make reservations.  I was so proud of him.  He told me he had been planning this even before we had gone to Red Lodge to buy Peggy's birthday present.  

He had already made the arrangements when I reminded him that I had class on Saturday.  He told me, "I hadn't planned to let you know anything.  Then when you mentioned the class I knew I'd have to tell you something."

His eyes filled with delight that he had succeeded in surprising me.  It was a delightful mystery and a great birthday surprise.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baby and the Calendar

The other day I hung a new calendar in the living room.   It was a Labrador calendar.  I was sorting some boxes when Dan nudged my arm and pointed to Baby and the calendar.

She had put her front feet on the wood chair to get a better look.  Just like a kid she tried to look behind it to find the other dog.  It was so funny to watch.  Of course my regular camera was across the room.  So I took out my cell phone and caught this shot.

The next day Dan saw her jump on the couch to get a different view of the calendar.  I'm going to have my real camera ready when I change the calendar to the new month.

She is such an amazing dog.  We have laughed often at her antics.