Crossroads of Humanity

Jun 29, 2014

Birthday Adventures

This year is a milestone year for me in many ways. Suffice it to say, I've been going through a rough patch since...October. Yes, that's right, October. It's been a very difficult year for me. Getting through that rough patch has meant starting a new chapter in my life.

Since my life is now looking up, I decided it was time to celebrate. My birthday is usually a one-day event (or actually, an event that takes place for a couple of hours on that one specific day each year). This year, I decided to celebrate for five days straight. In order to make that possible, I took a vacation. Now, I would like to share my vacation with you.

Day 1:

My daughter and I began the day with a shopping spree at a local bookstore. I had a number of gift cards for that establishment, so I didn't have to spend a nickel. Then we took our treasures and drove up to a cabin deep in the north woods where we met my parents. This place has been in my family since my great grandmother and great grandfather bought the land and built on it ages ago, so it felt sort of like coming home. This is where I wanted to spend my birthday week, in a place I love with the people I love most.


After we unloaded the car and ate a small lunch, we went down to the boathouse and put the rowboat in the water. This was a very big deal because it was my daughter's first time ever to go out on the lake in a boat. Last summer, she sat in the boat while it was tied to the dock, and that was a big enough thrill at the time...that and dropping pinecones, leaves, twigs and rocks into the lake to see which sank and which floated. This time, we were ready for more! A tiny orange and black butterfly (about the size of a quarter) flitted all around us on the dock. It seemed to enjoy my dad's company the most.


Then we saw one bald eagle over in the bay sitting on the shore while its mate sailed high up in the sky. When we finally got out on the water, we saw a loon at a distance. We rowed all around the bay, circling the loon. On our way back to the cabin, straight across the deepest part of the lake, we watched as the loon disappeared beneath the surface of the water. I took the opportunity to explain its diving expertise to my daughter. But our wildlife adventures had only just begun. While my dad started up the grill and my mom got dinner started, my daughter, our dog and I took a walk along the twisting and turning road. We saw another butterfly, a bigger and more beautiful one (according to my daughter). It was black and white. We also stopped when we noticed a tiny green caterpillar that was dangling by a thread and watched as it began to form its cocoon.


And THEN...the most amazing part of the day... On our way back to the cabin, just as we turned up the drive, I heard a rustling noise in the leaves. I wandered off the drive to investigate and found a turtle. At the time, I wasn't sure of the type of turtle it was, but I could tell it was a turtle and not a tortoise because of its webbed feet. I now know that it was a western painted turtle. It was a small one but not tiny, about the size of my hand with my fingers spread. Its shell was a dark green, and there were red marks on its belly. It did not try to bite me when I reached down to pick it up, so I knew it wasn't a snapping turtle. Why is a turtle so amazing? I've been coming to this cabin since I was a baby, and the only places up here I've ever seen turtles, are on logs sunning themselves out in the lake, and that has only been on occasion. My daughter and I brought the turtle up to the cabin so my parents could see it. My dad said he'd never seen one up here either. Then we took it down to the lake and released it near the water. We watched as it slid beneath the surface, and I learned why I've never seen a turtle here before. When the turtle was less than a foot into the lake, he virtually disappeared. Now I'm sure that there are turtles all around us, in the lake and marsh areas in the forest, hidden in plain view.


After dinner, my parents left and I spent a relaxing evening with my little girl. She watched as I popped popcorn on the stove top, a treat we got to enjoy together while she cuddled with me, and we watched The Rescuers.

Day 2:

The day began overcast and rainy. What a soothing sound at 6:30 A.M. The rain let up by 8:00, but continued to threaten our plans to go out for a longer boat ride, so just before noon, we decided to head into the nearest town for an afternoon of shopping at the Christmas Shoppe with Rainbow Dash (one of the new items my daughter had chosen at the book store) followed by playtime at the local library. Then we picked up some ingredients for M&M cookies. By the time we returned to the cabin, it was nice enough to spend more time down on the dock and in the boat rowing across the lake. But first, we had to return to the grocery store (a 40 minute round trip) because Rainbow Dash had been left behind on one of the grocery store shelves. The highlight of today was watching a large dragonfly, as it studied us, while we rowed across the middle of the lake.


So was the morning wasted? Heck, no! Remember about our shopping spree yesterday? The watercolor book was painted in, the Summer Bridge Activities book was well used, and I even had a chance to read about famous women in the latest National Geographic special edition.

Day 3:

I guess I'd classify day one of my birthday week as primarily a nature day, day two as a mother/daughter day, and today as a kid day. We finished The Rescuers last night before bed and began The Rescuers Down Under. We'll have to finish that one tonight. That will be a nice conclusion to "kid day."

We began the day by getting up bright and early...wonderful sunlight woke us by streaming through the bedroom window. After a quick breakfast, we drove into town to look for a nature class I'd read about. Ends up, it was a half hour drive north. Yes, of course we went! My daughter spent a fabulous two and a half hours learning all about different animal adaptations. They observed wildlife, they played games, they created mobiles; it was a busy morning. Then we drove back to town for lunch followed by an afternoon at the beach. As I was spreading out a towel, a little girl approached me and asked, "Can your little girl play with me?" I said, "Why don't you ask her?" She did, and they had a blast playing in the sand and jumping off the dock into the water. The highlight for me, in addition to watching my daughter interact with other kids today, was an amazing sight at the beach. A full grown bald eagle started circling above the children. I walked across the beach and pointed it out to them. As soon as they noticed the eagle, it spotted a fish in the lake and swooped down to capture its dinner. So cool!

The beach was followed up with two long-standing traditions: a stop at the local ice cream store and after returning to the cabin, a walk to the end of the road.

Day 4:

Today was my actual birthday. It began with a "Happy Birthday" text from a close friend, and rain followed by a thunderously loud storm. I read for a little while, but when the storm began in earnest, I returned to the bedroom to cuddle with my daughter until she woke up. Then we began our day together with more indoor activities, one of which was watching Disney's Tarzan (another first for my daughter) while we cuddled for another 90 minutes at her request. (She's not afraid of storms; she just loves the cuddles!) Nana and Gran'pa arrived at the end of the movie. They brought a chicken salad lunch, a card and chocolate cake, but before eating, they asked what we wanted to do. The rain had mostly fizzled out by that time, and my daughter really wanted to go back to the Christmas Shoppe with her grandparents, so that's what we did first. Then we returned for lunch and cake. Later in the afternoon, after the rain had completely stopped, we went down to the dock and bailed out the rowboat.


My daughter and I took one last trip across the lake and back. For the second time ever, she tried her hand at rowing and quickly caught onto the rhythm of it. We again saw the loon and watched as it dove for fish. The cool wind kept the mosquitoes at bay but another dragonfly checked us out in our little boat, and we found a few white and dark brown feathers floating on the surface of the water. When we returned to the dock, my dad helped me put the boat back in the boathouse before they left. The day had begun with a text from a friend, and it ended with "Happy Birthday" phone calls from another friend and from my brother and his kids. I was also told that there are birthday wishes for me on FB, but FB will just have to wait as I have no Internet access at the cabin.

Day 5:

I'm counting this as the last day of my "birthday week." Tomorrow will be the start of a short road trip with a good friend, but since that was planned months ago, I don't think I can count it as part of my birthday fun. Today, I'll be taking my daughter into town to participate in a class for young children at the local library. They'll learn all about air or so I've been told. She's really looking forward to it, so I'm sure we'll have fun. Then we'll close up the cabin and head back to my hometown. While Nana and Gran'pa watch the little one, I'll be hanging out with my friends at a local bowling alley/pub/pool hall, and we all know how that ended last time...

Wait? You haven't heard that one? That was when I suffered not one, but four, yes, count them...four head injuries in the span of about two years.

The first was when I tackled my escaping beagle as we were leaving the house for a Memorial Day lunch at my parents' house. My husband chased the dog and yelled for me to block the pass; I ran forward through the gate; heard the dog coming down the pass alongside the garage; saw a brown, black and white blur leaping for freedom; and on instinct, I leaped too. I was nearly eight months pregnant at the time. My forehead slammed into the cement retaining wall to the neighbor's property, but I caught that dog, and thank goodness, the dog cushioned the baby.

The third head injury happened during the winter. (I'll get back to the second one later.) I was shoveling the drive early one morning after a winter snowstorm, so I could get my car out for work. As I worked on the end of the drive, I didn't see the ice hidden beneath the snow. My feet went right out from under me, and the back of my head crashed against the cement. As much as it hurt, I was not about to pay for a visit to the ER or to miss a day of work. I simply monitored myself, making sure my mild headache didn't get worse, checking my pupils periodically for proper dilation, and letting my assistant know to call 911 if I were to pass out, throw up, etc.

The fourth incident caused an instantaneous and intense headache. It happened at a local pub that housed indoor sandpit volleyball. That winter, I played on a co-ed league there. I should be clear that we didn't play to win, we just played for the camaraderie and to have a great time. Our server hit the ball over the net. It sailed right to the middle of the opposing team's court. As I was leaping to block the ball, the full grown, very muscular man across from me, spiked it as hard as he could. The ball smashed into my forehead, causing my head to snap back and leaving a red circle on my forehead. The jerk didn't even apologize.


Okay, so now we all know what happened the last time I had a birthday party at the bowling alley/pub/pool hall, right? No? You want the details? Oh, all right! A group of my friends, my husband and I were all bowling at the time. My nearly-two-year-old daughter was with us because my parents couldn't watch her that night and anyone else we would have asked to babysit was at my party. So...we simply took turns watching her while we bowled. At one point, she bolted forward and ran straight down the lane. On instinct, I ran after her. As I reached out to grab her, her feet slipped out from beneath her and so did mine. We went down together, but thankfully, her head landed on me while mine hit the bowling alley with a loud "thwack!" Don't worry, this year, I think I'll stick to the pub and pool!


S. L. Wallace has been taking a break from writing, but she plans to get back to it very soon as she is anxious to continue her current project, a supernatural compilation. Ms. Wallace is the author of a dystopian trilogy, a supernatural/historical fiction novella, and a speculative fiction short story.

Mar 25, 2014

Are you a juggler too?

I've often thought about my job in terms of juggling. I do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and then I go over here and do this, and then someone needs my assistance, so I drop what I'm doing and help. Sometimes it can be hours before I get back to what I was doing, but eventually, I pick up the balls I dropped and resume juggling.

Right about now, you may be thinking, "Yeah, that sounds exactly like my life!" or you may be wondering, "What is it this woman does for a living?"


I'm a teacher, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels like I'm juggling day in and day out. Still, I had a revelation today.

I knew today would be busy before I even walked into the classroom this morning. It was an off schedule with a lot of special activities and events. For example, we started the day with a birthday celebration. Birthdays are always a big deal in my classroom, with that special child getting a half hour ceremony in which they get to share a little bit from every year of their life so far. Photos, signing and a read aloud from a birthday book make up the majority of the celebration, and the child being honored usually brings in a snack for the entire class to enjoy at lunch.

Ah, lunch! That was another something special for today. You see, last week, I taught the students about how a bill becomes a law. They even got to practice Parliamentary Procedure, and the law they passed had to do with an extravagant pizza party that took place today. The party included an hour's worth of fun and games, pizza, cake and ice cream, and many drinks of choice. The students were really great about it. They considered cost (Little Caesars was voted upon because it was the most cost effective pizza choice with their $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza deal), and they baked and frosted their own cake. They even decided to bring in their own drinks to help cut down on cost. Yes, this really was all their own doing. I just taught them how Parliamentary Procedure works and started them off with a note to one child who read aloud, "I move to have a pizza party next Thursday." In the discussion that followed, they decided to have the party today instead so as not to exclude a child who will be gone later in the week.



Anyway...back to juggling. Ball one: birthday celebration (birthday treat of Doritos added to the pizza party). Ball two: Parliamentary Procedure pizza party (cake to be made and pizza to be picked up). Ball three: special evening event.

The evening event happened to be a hunger dinner that was being hosted by an after school group of students from my class who were trying to raise awareness about world poverty rates and to raise money to help fight the problem. This meant that 1/3 of my students spent some time cooking yesterday and today to prepare for this evening's event.

To top it all off, this week is SPIRIT WEEK in our class, and today was costume day. That means that I was juggling with an entire class in costume!

Talk about busy! The best part of today's juggling act is the simple fact that the students were focused, courteous, and cooperative. Yes, all of them. Yes, all day! As I finished my lessons for the morning... (YES, I was able to teach all of my regularly scheduled lessons even with three balls in the air.) So as I finished my lessons for the morning, I realized that everything was going not only well, but very well. When I was finishing up the afternoon, I had to pause and wonder, "How on earth is everything going so smoothly?"

That's when it hit me. My revelation! I was not keeping the balls to myself. At that moment I realized why I like to juggle and why it usually does go smoothly. It's because I don't keep the balls to myself. I pass them off to other jugglers who invite even more people to join in the fun. For example, the students decided on a cost effective pizza party, so I picked up a cake mix instead of purchasing a cake from a bakery. Yesterday afternoon during Writer's Workshop, I passed off the making of the cake to two students who were caught up with their current writing projects. When they had to go to Spanish class, one of them told me how much time was left for the cake to finish baking, thereby passing the ball back to me. I assured him I would get it out of the oven in 10 minutes. The other asked if she could bring in cake decorating supplies today to finish it, thereby taking a ball back. Throughout this morning, a handful of students asked me if they could help decorate the cake too. I said, "Sure!" So everyone who wanted to, got to participate in the fun.



That is the secret of effective juggling. Think about it. Which is more fun to watch: one juggler tossing three balls around and around, or two, three, or even more jugglers tossing bowling pins back and forth to each other? It's more fun for everyone if more people are included in the show.

So...do I really know how to juggle in the traditional sense?


Yes, I do!

S. L. Wallace is an upper elementary Montessori teacher and a published author. Please visit her official author website or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Animated image from:  http://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/staff/boldtkatherine/images/animated-teacher.gif

Feb 23, 2014

No Lunch for You!

Recently, I watched an segment from The Ed Show: Policies Prevent Kids from Having Lunch

Ed pointed out that in Salt Lake City, Utah, dozens of students had their lunches taken away because their parents were behind on payments. This recent controversy made national news. And who was blamed? Take a look: Lunchlady on Leave after Trashing Hungry Kids' Food. District officials have given a public apology and have said that this will never happen again, and they put the blame on a worker who was following their policy. This is not an isolated incident! It has been happening in cities throughout the U.S.


Up until two years ago, I worked in a public school in Wisconsin. We had our own hot lunch issues because I taught in a public elementary charter school which was a pretty new idea for that district at the time of the school's inception. Until halfway through our first year of existence, our students didn't even receive hot lunch. Because we were located within a middle school, our students eventually received access to the cafeteria and the hot lunch program. About seven years ago, I was in line behind a little boy whose lunch account was in the negative. Still, I was told by the cafeteria worker at the cashier that they would never not feed our little ones. She said if he had been a middle schooler who was too far behind in payments, they would first remind the student to bring in lunch money and may begin withholding lunches, but not for the elementary school kids. Even that rubbed me the wrong way, but what could I do? That was the policy! My last year there, I did see students coming to the lunch tables with exchanged lunches. They were given the bare minimum if their lunch accounts were empty, and their peers noticed.

That trend has clearly spread.


The Star Tribune, Feb. 11, 2014, had the following article: Minnesota students: don't forget your lunch money.  A majority of public school districts deny hot lunch - or any lunch at all in some cases - to children who can't pay for them." This should concern us all. "...if students fail to come up with even 40 cents, some schools respond by denying or downgrading students' lunches..."

Tom Colicchio, a chef and food activist, responded, "If we want kids that are better educated, it starts with nutrition."

He's not wrong! Hungry kids can't focus. Hungry children can't concentrate. Hungry students can't learn.

On The Ed Show, Jennifer Hartstein said, "We going to create a system where they (the kids) don't want to go to school and that's going to start young. And then we're going to perpetuate the cycle of uneducated, unskilled people because they're not getting the education they need to do anything and further their lives in any way."

And it's not just happening in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Utah. This is happening throughout our nation, and it's only one symptom of a greater issue. A chasm has begun to form in our nation, dividing the haves from the have-nots. You may say it's not happening, that I'm wrong or disillusioned, but I'm here to tell you that even the children have noticed. It's time to wake up and see what's happening all around you. It's time to look with your eyes and your mind wide open because it's not too late to make a difference.


I began writing my Reliance on Citizens trilogy in early 2011, because I noticed what was happening in the world around me, and I wanted to make a difference. Frankly, if public policy continues on the path that has already been chosen, the future outlook of our society is bleak indeed. Who has chosen this path? It is certain wealthy politicians who have made the changes that will be a downfall of freedom and equality for everyone. Please read my statement carefully. I am not blaming all politicians, nor am I blaming the wealthy. No. It is a small but powerful group of wealthy politicians who are the root of this problem. Of that, I am positive. If they were not wealthy, they would understand the impact their policies are having on the majority of citizens. And if they were not politicians, they would not be able to create the change we are seeing.

But, you may say, it is a majority of those citizens who put those particular politicians in office. Why would they do that? Why would people knowingly create a world in which they and their children are being harmed? The honest answer is, they wouldn't.

I think some of the people who voted for those politicians must be just as removed from the problem as those who they have voted into office. In my heart, I cannot believe that anyone would knowingly harm the innocent, the children, sick and disabled. Instead, I think some people truly believe that the majority of people who are being harmed by public policy are lazy or deserve what they get because of their past mistakes.

What about the others? It takes a majority of the vote to put someone into office, so what about the people who are now being harmed by the very politicians they helped vote into office? Why would they do that? I think many believe the lies they've been told. They see the statistics that point to job growth and believe they are among the few who are having trouble landing a job. Perhaps they even blame themselves for their situation and think most of their peers are better off.

I'm here to tell you that's not true. If you think for just a minute, I'm sure you can name more than one person who you personally know who has been affected negatively by recent political changes. Maybe your friend's children have been moved to another school because their's was shut down due to the No Child Left Behind policy. Perhaps a neighbor lost a job and is back in school to beef up their resume with the hope of finding a better job in the near future. Ask your kids if they know anyone in their class who had their hot lunch replaced or removed when they reached the cashier.

And yes, even the federal government recognizes that there are problems with No Child Left Behind.

I wrote my Reliance on Citizens trilogy as a wake up call to Americans. It's about a society divided in the very way that our society is becoming divided. One Amazon reviewer stated, "I enjoyed the book, however it has a socialist bent to it. The author portrays most wealthy people as bad, evil and corrupt and the only way to have a good life is if everyone lives equally. Scary considering the administration in power right now." The part she has wrong is about most wealthy people being bad, evil and corrupt. All of the characters in my books are just trying to get by in the only way they know how, no matter how much or how little they have. Theirs is a society in which the strong and corrupt are most likely to survive whether they're wealthy or not. It's truly a society in which everyone looks out for themselves. I worry that this is the path we are on, and I don't like where that path is leading us. But in the end, these books carry a message of hope. It's not too late for my characters. If a minority of people can get us into this mess, then a vocal minority can also get us out of it. It's not too late for us either.

You can learn more about S. L. Wallace and her books at her official author website. The first book in her trilogy is forever FREE everywhere ebooks are sold. The thoughts discussed in The Ed Show clip are highlighted in the third book of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy, Heart of Humanity. Each of the books can be read as stand alone novels. S. L. Wallace welcomes thoughts from readers and is happy to send anyone a free copy of her other books if they ask.

Feb 1, 2014

Books, a Reflection of Society

I've gone on a futile search, so now I'm asking for your help. I cannot be the only person who has realized that books are a reflection of society, but search as I may, I cannot find a single quote of that nature.

I do know that during WWII, the comic book industry really took flight. And it stands to reason. It was a time in human history, when people craved heroes who could swoop in and save the day.

So what do we crave today? What does this surge in dystopian literature tell us about our society? What do demands for more fantasy novels tell us about ourselves? These questions have no easy answers, but they are worth considering.

Right now, there is an event dedicated to fantasy and sci fi readers worldwide. If these types of questions stir your heart, why don't you jump in and join in the conversation or listen to what some of the characters have to say. There will also be a number of games and contests to enjoy.

The Rafflecopter to the right, is part of the Fantastical Reads Event.

And in the meantime, if my questions have sparked some of your own, or if you have some answers, please leave a comment. I hope to see you at the Fantastical Reads week long event, starting today.


Jan 20, 2014

It's MLK Day! Celebrate Peace and Nonviolence Daily

We've all heard the name Martin Luther King, Jr. and most of us know some details about the man, his life and his work.

To summarize: He was born on January 15, 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and was admitted to Morehouse College in 1944. If you do the math, you'll see that he was only 15 years-old. From Morehouse to Crozer Theological Seminary, he was ordained as a Baptist minister on February 25, 1948. After that, he continued his education with graduate studies at Boston University. Things really got interesting for Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he joined the bus boycott in 1955 after Rosa Parks was arrested. Then, on December 5, he became the official spokesman for the boycott. At the March on Washington in the summer of 1963, nearly 250,000 people heard his `I Have a Dream Speech'. Did you know that he was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize? And this great man was assassinated on April 4, 1968.



Have you heard his message?  The heart of his message is all about nonviolent communication and acceptance of others. How do you celebrate peace and nonviolence on a daily basis? Do you actively think about it and educate the children you know as to how to go about creating peace? In our competitive society, it is important to teach nonviolent communication and conflict resolution skills. And the best way to teach those skills is to model them. But what if you're not very good at practicing nonviolent communication? If you weren't taught how, it can be a difficult thing to do.

Here is the secret: Nonviolent communication is about recognizing the feelings and understanding the needs of the people in your life.

If you know the secret, you can communicate peacefully with just about anybody. When someone is upset, angry, scared, sad, etc. let them know they've been heard by repeating back how they're feeling. For example, "I can see that you're feeling sad. Why is that?" or "I understand that you're angry. What can I do to help?" By recognizing the other person's feelings and following up with an offer to better understand their needs, you can diffuse many stressful conversations.

If you'd like to practice nonviolent communication, you may be interested in trying The No Fault Zone, a game that I use in my classroom with my students.

Whatever you do and wherever you are, I encourage you to practice peace on a daily basis. It's the best way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

S. L. Wallace is an upper elementary Montessori teacher and an author. Visit her official author website to learn more.

Jan 5, 2014

Your Words Are Important

We each have a voice. Let yours be heard.

You have a message. Take the time to make sure you're understood.

Instead of arguing about semantics, listen closely and with an open mind.

Try to see the world from another person's point of view. You may learn something about yourself in the process.

Before you head out into the big wide world, think for a moment about what you have to say. How will you get your message across today?

If you haven't seen this video yet, take a moment to see what I mean. The Power of Words

Say what you mean, mean what you say. Your words are important.


S. L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizen trilogy, a dystopian political thriller with elements of romance; Retrospection, a unique historical fiction/paranormal novella; and the short story, Dante's Day Off, in which Dante has a most serious problem.