Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday: It's Good for You

With thousands of people participating in the social media trend #ThrowbackThursday (#TBT), over 100 million photos have been posted. It's the practice of sharing old photographs, lyrics, and links to songs along with the memories behind them. It has taken Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like by storm.

Have you joined in the fun yet?
You should join in the fun because nostalgia has benefits. Pondering over fond memories makes you feel better. Take a soothing bath in those times when you felt happy, protected, and loved. According to Hepper, Ritchie, Sedkikdes, and Wildschut (2012), the strength you gain from these positive memories can  have the following effects:
  • improve your self-concept
  • boost your mood
  • feel accepted
  • help you make connections between the then and the now
You can conjure up fond memories by looking at old photos, listening to old songs, smelling an aroma, touching an object, and/or tasting a food item or drink. 

Participating in #TBT is easy:
Participating in #TBT is easier than you think. 
  • Select a picture that was taken at least five years ago (one associated with fond memories).
  • Post it on your favorite social media site.
  • Write a brief description of the nostalgic memory.
Note that social media is not the only way to participate in #TBT. Start a #TBT scrapbook. Each Thursday, select an old photo that generates fond memories. Insert the photo into a scrapbook (make it or buy it). Then write about the fond memories centered around the photo. Before you know it, you'll have completed the scrapbook.

This is a picture of a poem from a collection of poems I wrote when I was about 11 years old. 
This is the only school assignment I kept from my childhood and teenage years. It's special because I still remember the day my mother helped me write the poems. My elementary school teacher gave my class an assignment to write several poems, but I could only think of a few. I remember sitting on the couch with my mother and telling her about my dilemma. 

She suggested I write about the family and things I liked. She gave me some ideas about each family member, and I did the rest. I was good at finding rhyming words.

My siblings and I were privileged to have lots of books when we were growing up. One of those books was a nursery rhyme book, and we memorized most of the rhymes. It wasn't until decades later that I discovered many children do not grow up with books and paper and pencils and crayons. It's called the absence of print. It can delay the development of reading and writing skills. We were fortunate.

Learning rhymes is essential to learning how to read. The sounds and patterns are helpful in learning sight words and phonics.

Recently I went to a baby shower. One of the games we played focused on nursery rhymes: Little Jack Horner, Little Miss Muffet, and the like. Very few of the younger adults were able to fill in the correct words. They were unfamiliar with the old rhymes. I had the most correct answers, so I won the game. While I was writing in the answers, I remembered again how blessed I was as a child. My siblings and I grew up in a home filled with love, hope, respect, patience, and books. We thought we were rich! We learned later in life that our definition of rich was not equivalent to the definition of rich most people use--having the abundance of material things. Money could not buy what we had. It was priceless!

What fond memories do you have of your childhood? This is the story in you. Share it. 

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Hepper, Ritchie, Sedkikdes, and Wildschut. (2012). Nostalgia. Retrieved from

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Homework Helper: Creating a Productive Space

Should my child do homework seated at a desk or table? This is a question many parents ask. My siblings and I all gathered around our big rectangular dining room table to do our homework. Throughout the week, the dining room table stayed cluttered with our scattered papers, books, and writing utensils. Our house looked "lived in" as my mother used to say. And we were not allowed to do our homework while watching television. In fact, we had to complete our homework before we watched television or played outside 

When my children were old enough to go to school, I bought them desks for their bedrooms. I wanted
to make sure they had a "proper" homework space without distractions--something I had desired as a child. They began their homework seated at their desks. But eventually, one would end up doing his homework stretched across his bed while the other would end up doing her homework stretched out on the floor of her bedroom. When I peeked into their rooms, I would tell them to sit at their desks. (After all, that’s what their desks were for. Right?) They would groan and comply--for a few minutes. Then they would drift back to their comfortable and productive homework spaces. I finally realized that doing homework in a space other than seated at a desk is alright. They always earned high grades, so I let them be. I learned to accept that their desks would be part of the décor in their bedrooms, not a functional piece of furniture. They were productive, and that’s what mattered.

By the way, did you know some people concentrate better when they have background noise? Is that your child? If so, classical music or white noise (available on CDs and phone apps) might help your child’s productivity. I work better when I’m enveloped in silence. Even when I grade papers, I must not have distractions, not even soft music. But that's me. It's beneficial for you to learn what your child needs to be productive.

I kept my parents’ rule of no television while reading, writing, and studying. However, when my children had to do creative projects, I allowed them to sprawl out in front of the television after they had completed the planning and organization stages of their projects.

Here are some tips for making your child's homework space productive:
  • strong lighting
  • an easily accessible supply box filled with items they may need:
    • paper, lined and unlined
    • folders
    • clip board
    • pencils (regular and colored)
    • markers
    • pencil sharpener (or lead for mechanical pencils)
    • pens
    • erasers and white out
    • paper clips and stapler
    • book marks
  • an easily accessible craft box filled with items they may need for creative projects:
    • construction paper
    • poster boards
    • fabric, yarn, and string
    • tape
    • glue
    • glitter
    • beads
    • scrapbook paper and embellishments
    • picturesque magazines such as National Geographic
    • old newspapers (for paper mache projects)
    • washable paints

Don't forget to have on hand extra quantities of the items on your child’s school supply list. When I used to be a substitute teacher, I saw many students writing with pencils so tiny they could hardly manage. It was downright awkward for them. Your child may forget to tell you when their supplies run out in school. Ask them periodically if they need more supplies.

Peek in on your child from time-to-time. Encourage him or her to take frequent breaks. Did you know that sitting too long can be deadly? 

                          Ted-Ed, March 5, 2015

What homework memories do you have? This is the story in you. Share it.

The Memory Keepers' Daughter,


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Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Homework Helper: Reading and Writing Resources

Homework has evolved. Decades ago, my siblings and I were ecstatic when we received our first set of encyclopedias. My mother bought the collection over a period of time through a grocery store offering. I believe it was the local A& P. When she made the final purchase, World History Part I and Part II (a bonus to the set), we thought we had everything we could ever need to complete our homework.

Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll discover that a set of encyclopedias does not meet a child’s homework needs. Websites can be quite helpful in providing supplementary information and activities.

For homework and activities related to reading and writing, you and your child will find the following websites helpful:

Reading and Writing Resources provides the definition, origin, usage, and pronunciation of words. Its companion link includes synonyms and antonyms for words. includes a link titled Parent and After School Resources. Games, podcasts, and activities encourage literacy in a fun way. supports literacy with a variety of writing games, book trailers, and Meet the Author videos. includes resources that focus on grammar, mechanics, and composition. provides a comprehensive link that addresses writing topics and writing strategies for students in grades 7-12.

(Don't forget to monitor you child’s Internet use.)

To encourage reading and writing in your home I recommend the following:
  • Model reading and writing.
  • Talk about your reading and writing activities.
  • Read to your child on a regular basis. They are never too young nor too old. Discuss the characters, plot, setting, and themes. Inquire about his or her likes and dislikes.
  • Have your child read to you and other family members. Make it a family affair by putting on a reader's theater.

  • Establish a "library" in your home. This can be an elaborate room with shelves of books or a simple corner in a room. Provide a combination of traditional and ebooks.
  • Although you can check out ebooks online from your local public library, still take your child to the library to check out books and to attend age-appropriate literacy programs.
  • Provide writing materials: pencils, pens, paper, tablet/laptop/PC, and a comfortable writing area.
  • Display your child's writing: frame it or put it on the frig.
  • Encourage your child to write letters to family and friends.
  • Help your child learn the keyboard. Using a computer for word processing will be less intimidating to him or her.
  • Schedule time for writing and reading. 

What resources did you have when you did your homework? This is the story in you. Share it.


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Friday, September 11, 2015

Art and Apples Festival: A Weekend Event for Everyone

The Art and Apples Festival in Rochester, Michigan is an amazing experience encompassing artists’ booths, food, and entertainment.
  • Friday, September 11th, 4--7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 12th, 9 a.m.--7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 13th, 9 a.m.--4 p.m. 
  •  A $5 donation is suggested
Paint Creek Center for the Arts, 2013

Many artist festivals are held all over the country, but what makes this event special is the setting: Rochester Municipal Park (off Ludlow and University), a 30-acre park with a creek, trees, trails, beach (albeit tiny), flowers, play scapes, tennis courts, sand volley ball, and even a pond with swans. 

It’s a little bit of paradise. 


It’s the kind of place where the ducks will interact with you.

It's serene.

 It's inviting. (On one visit for a stroll in the park,
I saw a little Yorkie playing with deer.)

There is something for the very young and for the very young at heart at the Art and Apples Festival. Artists showcase and sell their unique works: jewelry, ceramics, paintings, clothing, accessories, and mixed media. If you’re the creative type, you'll gain inspiration for your next project. Art activities are also available for you to participate in, so you don't have to just be a spectator. 

Oh, and the “Apples” in Art and Apples is for apple pies--homemade apple pies. The Older Person’s Commission will be selling apple pies Saturday from 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m.: 1 for $15 or 2 for $25. Proceeds go to Meals on Wheels.

I recommend you park in the Rochester High School parking lot on Walton Boulevard and Livernois and take the shuttle bus to the festival. The parking lots around the Rochester Municipal Park are quite small. You can also park in the new parking structures in downtown Rochester (on Walnut and University and on East and Fourth). Then walk through downtown Rochester to the festival.

The Art and Apples Festival is an amazing event in a unique storybook setting. You'll be glad you made the effort.

What memories do you have of September activities? This is the story in you. Share it.


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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back to School

Going back to school can be an enjoyable and a valuable experience for children and parents. Follow these tips to make the most of your child’s school years by helping your child to succeed.

Nurture Reading in Your Home
School begins at home. In fact, school begins before a child can talk and walk. Buy your child books, traditional and electronic. These are the types of print he or she will be exposed to in school. If you have a young child, read to him or her. Talk about the pictures and the plot. As your child matures, ask questions that foster making connections. And ask questions that have no right or wrong answers: Which character is more like you? What lessons did you learn? How would the story be different if . . . ? Why do you like or dislike the book? How is this animal different or similar to . . . ? Questions like these develop critical thinking skills.

If your child is reluctant to read, I recommend you focus on buying or checking out award-winning books. You can find lists by genres at your public library. Your child’s school librarian can also recommend books. My son was a reluctant reader until I began buying him award winning books. Soon, he was hiding a flashlight under his pillow. When I said, "Lights out!" he would pretend to comply. Later he would pull the bed covers over his head, turn on his flashlight, and continue reading his book. I couldn't resist taking advantage of the situation. I would "fuss" at him about using the flashlight, but as I turned around to walk out of the room, I had a smile on my face. I had won. He was hooked. Today he is a grown man and still enjoys reading books.

Let your child see you read books. You are a role model.

Be Supportive of your Child’s Education
Reinforce what your child is learning in school by asking questions: What did you learn? Why do you think this is important?

Review your child’s homework. Discuss how the end product compares to the assignment instructions and/or rubric. This might mean having your child redo the homework.

Parent-teacher conferences should not be a Pandora’s Box. Communicate regularly with your child’s educators via emails, phone calls, online grade book, and/or classroom website.

Protect your child by asking him or her about relationships with other students and educators. Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Invite them over or schedule activities. Parents should be proactive. And sometimes, the older your child gets, the more strategically involved you must be. (They don’t always need to know how you are doing this.)

Be Supportive of your Child’s Education Team
Avoid talking negatively about your child’s teacher, counselor, and/or administrators. Meet with your child’s educators to ask questions or to discuss issues in which you need greater understanding. If your child hears you talking negatively about his or her educators, he or she might lose respect for them. Greater learning takes place when a child respects his or her educators. I recently read an article about parents being worried about the weighted grading system their local school district had just adopted. Before you begin a protest, learn more about it. Just because it’s new and different doesn’t mean it’s bad. Pick your battles wisely.

When you can no longer support your child’s educators and administrators, consider other school options. I must give you fair warning: The perfect school does not exist. A good time to consider other options is when school policies conflict with your religious convictions.

How have you facilitated learning in your child? This is the story in you. Share it.


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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to Celebrate Labor Day

Reflect on the Purpose of Labor Day

Labor Day has always been a day in which I reflect on the accomplishments and sacrifices workers have made for equality, safety, and wages. It's about respect. It's about being fair. The importance of Labor Day was instilled in me when I was a child. You see, both sets of my grandparents migrated to Detroit, Michigan in the early 1900s to find better opportunities. Big Daddy, my father’s father, migrated from Pulaski, Tennessee to Detroit. And Papa, my mother’s father, migrated from Columbus, Mississippi to Detroit. Both men brought their wives with them and eventually bought houses on the same street--three houses down from each other. The couples became friends, and many years later, their children became friends. Eventually, my father and mother fell in love and married. 

Papa worked for Michigan Central Railroad, which operated out of Michigan Central Depot.

HistoricDetroit, 2015
When my siblings and I were children, Mama always told us how important Labor Day was to Papa because he had experienced many hardships like so many other African Americans. Migrating to Detroit meant better opportunities for him, and he was able to find a steady job with Michigan Central Railroad. The working conditions were better for him in the North than it had been for him in the South. And the union accepted African Americans.

Reflect on the Work that Needs to Done
Although Americans have made great strides in improving equality, safety, and wages, we must remember that many Americans are still working to further improve conditions. Moreover, working conditions for children, women, and men in other parts of the country are not so great. Learn more about the products you buy. Who makes them? What are the working conditions for the employees? You have a voice and a choice. Let the companies know how you feel if they exploit their workers. Buy from a company that respects its workers.

Simplify the Day
Labor Day is usually the last holiday my family and I enjoy celebrating outdoors. When my children were younger, it was also a time when I began preparing for back-to-school by buying school clothes and school supplies. It was a busy time of year, so I always tried to simplify our Labor Day dinner. Here’s one of my Labor Day recipes. It’s simple and guilt-free. I love to cook meals that don’t leave you feeling guilty because of high calories or harmful ingredients.

Loaded Baked Potatoes
·         organic white (or sweet) potatoes
·         sautéed toppings: chopped kale, spinach, red peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms (leftovers work well)
·         fresh chopped/sliced toppings: jalapeno peppers, green onions, and herbs such as chives and basil
·         extra virgin olive oil
·         shredded organic cheddar cheese
·         plain yogurt (I recommend Maple Hill Creamery yogurt made from grass fed cows)  
·         sliced/chopped cooked meat: smoked salmon, grilled chicken, beef, etc.
·         salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in the microwave for approximately 4-6 minutes per potato, depending on their size (16 minutes for 4 small white potatoes). Chop and sauté veggies separately in extra virgin olive oil. Warm the cooked meat. Slice/chop raw veggies. Arrange items on a large platter. (However, I recommend placing cheese and yogurt in separate bowls.) For a dramatic presentation, put items in separate serving dishes. 

This is my favorite serving dish for this recipe:
individual serving dishes fit inside a metal tray.

To assemble, cut the potatoes lengthwise, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and add salt and pepper. Add toppings, and top with cheese and yogurt. Don’t forget to eat the skin of the potatoes to increase nutrition. Enjoy!

What Labor Day traditions do you have? This is the story in you. Share it. 


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