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This Wonderful Life

June 12, 2009

This Wonderful Life: Creative skills reap benefits beyond the arts

I know it’s hard to believe by looking at me now, but I was once a shy, bookish, unathletic child. And by ``hard to believe,’’ I mean ``it’s hard to believe things could have been any other way.’’

It wasn’t easy, especially in school, where physical and athletic prowess went much farther in determining social status than the fact that you had read every one of the ``Chronicles of Narnia,’’ back-to-back over the course of only 10 weeks. Somehow, that little accomplishment didn’t hold much sway in a game of dodge ball or Red Rover.

You never heard: ``Watch out for Elizabeth. Get close to her on the field, and she’ll open up a can of Judeo- Christian hero archetypes...’’ Even teachers could be guilty of favoring students whose athletic skills outshone their academic dedication. Perhaps the schools I attended in Virginia and Florida were unique in that regard; I’m sure that kind of favoritism never happens here.

My school life — and my opinion of school in general — were saved by a few teachers who valued and nurtured my love of words and creative expression. In fifth grade, my teacher, Ms. Phetteplace, assigned the class an exercise in writing a descriptive paragraph.

I can’t recall exactly what I described, but I will never forget the praise she wrote in the top margin after grading it. ``Very creative! You are an excellent writer!’’

It’s not an understatement to say that her encouragement changed my life.

Many creative types can tell similar stories. My friend Jeannine, who writes a beautiful column for another local paper, shared this story with me: It was the first day of eleventh grade. We had a new English teacher. I loved English. I loved writing. Nothing was more exciting than pouring over a thesaurus, replacing all the common words of my compositions with words that were big and flowery and impressive. It was technique that had earned me many a ``A’’.

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This Wonderful Life
  • This Wonderful Life: I can say No, but I prefer Yes If popular culture is any indication, it seems women suffer from an epidemic inability to refuse additional responsibilities. Magazines, self-help books and therapists nationwide offer heaps of advice on how to assert oneself, draw boundaries and generally say No when asked to sign on for those things for which we have little time and less interest.

    November 25, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: I wish someone had told me Disclaimer: Because my son more or less demanded that I stop using him and his life as material for my column back when he was 12 or 13, I want to make it perfectly clear to all my readers (and any legal professionals who are now retained or may be retained at some future time by aforementioned son) that this column is not about him. It’s about me. The fact that he happened to turn 21 on Saturday is mere coincidence. So help me God.

    November 19, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: A view through bare branches Every morning, Bee and I stand at the end of the driveway waiting for her bus and we look up into the branches of the elm tree that arches over the drive.

    November 5, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: To Posey on her fourth So here we are, on the other side of 3-years-old, and it seems we both survived it intact. It wasn’t easy, but perhaps it made us both stronger.

    October 30, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: A Posey by any other name... A few weeks ago, Posey gave us all new names. Or, to be more accurate, Posey gave us all one new name. Rose.

    October 8, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: Are pork chops really that good? If it seems unlikely for a vegetarian (that would be me) to own a couple of table- bound pigs, it probably seems downright absurd that their names should be Tender and Delicious.

    October 2, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: I sssssseeeeeee you there The first thing you should know is that I used to suffer from a snake phobia. The operative word there is phobia. It wasn’t just a matter of disliking snakes. It wasn’t a fear of being bitten. It wasn’t a simple reluctance to touch their impossibly dry, nimble bodies.

    September 24, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: What’s so funny? My kids, I hope In my experience as a three-time parent, there is something absolutely, spiritually magical about the first time your child cracks a joke.

    September 17, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: Who are these little girls? There are two children in my house who bear a striking resemblance to my daughters. They are adorable, smart and energetic.

    September 10, 2009

  • This Wonderful Life: A harvest that’s good for the soul Signs of harvest are all around. The afternoon sun glows amber over the fields and the farm stands are filled to overflowing with vegetables and fruit. We’re lucky to live in a place where we can have such an immediate connection to the food we eat.

    September 3, 2009