Finding Love at--A Writers' Group?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Between my own marriage ceremony in 1979 and my daughter's in 2006, I attended only a handful of weddings.

But last Monday I went to my third one in as many years. Not for my friends' children or my children's friends, either. For my own friends.

No, it isn't elderly widows or widowers remarrying. Believe it or not, I hang with a younger crowd on Saturday afternoons.

That's when the Highland Writers' Group meets. HWG members and guests critique each other's work, but we also share friendship.

And some members share even more.

Gordon and Heather were the first. They met at another writers' group, but it was at HWG that their romance blossomed and grew. And we got to watch it.

Mike and Janine were the second. They did meet at HWG.

That's two couples brought together by their common interest in writing.

Admittedly, Monday's wedding was different. Ken and Sunisa didn't meet at HWG, nor had Sunisa ever attended a meeting. Still, we felt like we knew her from Ken's descriptions. And as at the earlier two weddings, there were enough HWG members to fill a table at the reception.

So if you are lonely and looking for love, don't try a bar. Join a group that shares one of your interests, be it photography or bowling or writing.

Because love may be waiting in the chair next to you.

Happy 100th Birthday, Girl Scouts

Monday, March 19, 2012

Or happy belated birthday. I'm a week late.

Juliette Gordon Low held her first meeting on March 12, 1912. From the original 18 girls, the organization has grown to over 3.2 million members. I'm proud to be one of them.

Back in the days when girls began later than they do now, I was a Brownie for one or two years while living at DeTour Village, Michigan. I don't remember if I started in fourth grade or fifth grade, but at the end of that time I thought I had "graduated" from the Brownie level. Then we left on sabbatical and I discovered that Brownies were older in Scotland. So I had to a Brownie that year, too.

We returned to DeTour in the summer to find that our small village had swapped Girl Scouts for 4-H. And I never did progress beyond the Brownie stage.

By the time my daughter's turn came, we were living in the Chicago metropolitan area and Girl Scout eligibility started in kindergarten with Daisies. Caroline was a Girl Scout from kindergarten through high school, and I was co-leader of her troop the last six years of that time.

The picture shows my troop, with parents, at the girls' Gold Award ceremony. The Gold Award is the highest award for girls, and every member of our Senior troop earned it. In doing so they learned leadership skills, contributed to the community, and added an impressive achievement to their college applications.

Actually, I did progress beyond the Brownie stage by becoming an adult leader. I even bought a lifetime membership. And when Caroline moved up to college, I bought her one, too.

"Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place." That's why I'm proud to be part of it.

So happy birthday, Girl Scouts.

When "No" Isn't Negative

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saying "no" to people who ask for your time is like the number zero. Sometimes it is neutral, and sometimes it isn't. When you put a zero after a one, it becomes ten. If the one was positive, then the ten is a higher positive number. If the one was negative, then the ten is even farther down the scale of negative numbers.

We classify "no" as a negative, but that isn't always true, either.

My church is in the process of nominating people to serve in elected positions for the next two-year term, and I received a telephone call asking me to be on the Board of Stewardship. I wasn't home at the time, but Roland knew what my answer would be, and he gave it for me.


I sing in the choir and am an active member of the Voters' Assembly. But more to the point right now, I am training to be a Stephen Minister.

Stephen Ministers are laypersons who provide Christian care to individuals going through a crisis and in need of someone to talk to. As Stephen Ministers, we learn to listen effectively and to maintain confidentiality. When assigned to care receivers, we support them as they work through the situation. We also provide them with information on community resources, such as vocational training or cancer support groups. But we do not solve their problems for them. That's their responsibility.

Stephen Ministry is a huge time commitment. It requires 50 hours of training, which at my church is spread over five months. After completing this initial training, a Stephen Minister normally meets with his or her assigned care receiver once a week. Stephen Ministers also attend regular meetings with other Stephen Ministers and their leaders for peer support and continuing education.

Yes, it's a heavy commitment and a scary one. Still, God is calling me to this ministry, and I am confident that he will give me the inner resources to do it well.

But overcommitment can lead to stress or half-hearted effort. And that is what would happen if I said "yes" to serving on the Board of Stewardship. While board service is worthwhile on many levels, it's the wrong thing for me at this time. Instead of doing one thing well, I would be doing two things poorly. And that's harmful to both.

So don't be afraid to say no when saying yes will water down your effectiveness.

Teacher of the Years

Monday, March 5, 2012

I was going through some of my father's slides and came across this picture of my favorite teacher. I think my brother took it when they were on a chemistry field trip. I'm sorry that we moved before I got to take chemistry from her, but I did have her for algebra.

I'm also sorry that I never told her how much she meant to me as a teacher. Dr. Shula Giddens was not just teacher of the year. She was the best teacher I had in all my years of formal education. And she died without ever hearing that from me.

When the husband and wife doctors moved to DeTour Village, Michigan, our small town didn't have enough people to support a two-person practice. So Mrs. Dr. Giddens became a high school teacher who helped her husband on the side, and he handled the practice while substitute teaching on occasion.

What made her such a good teacher? It wasn't that Dr. Giddens was a well-educated woman with an excellent grasp of her subject, although she was. Nor was it her ability to explain complex concepts in simple English, although she did that, too. What made her an exceptional teacher was her interest in and knowledge of her students.

Let me give you a rather unusual example.

I was a shy, insecure high school freshman with neither athletic ability nor good looks. I did have friends, but I wasn't popular, and I wanted that desperately. The only thing I had going for me (or so I thought) was my brains, and brains aren't high on teenagers' lists of popularity qualifications. But since my grades were my only source of self-esteem, I worked hard in school. I needed to prove to myself that I could do something.

Algebra was easy for me. I willingly explained the homework to my classmates, but that wasn't enough to make me popular. So I would move my tests toward the edge of my desk and make sure that my arms didn't cover the answers.

And Dr. Giddens caught me.

That's when she proved how well she knew her students.

Most teachers would have simply given everyone involved--including me--an F on the test. But instead of flunking us, Dr. Giddens said something like, "The next time I catch you cheating, I will give Kay an automatic A."

That approach wouldn't work with many, or even most, students, but that's the point. Dr. Giddens didn't use a one-size-fits-all method to deal with cheating. She knew her students well enough to fit the punishment to the criminal.

And it worked. It may have been partly the embarrassment, but the main deterrent was the thought that I might get a grade I didn't deserve. And where is the pride in that?

Dr. Giddens knew how badly I wanted to earn my As, and she used that knowledge to stop the cheating. That's what made her such a good teacher.

And I never thanked her.

Do you have a teacher of the years who is still living? Then tell him or her while you still can.

Because we all like to know that we have made a difference.