This past two weeks I have spent most of my time sitting in front of this computer. I have working on submitting manuscripts for publication. At the top of my agenda are three books I’d love to see published. Books that have been in the writing in various forms for many years—one is a biography of architect Mary Colter for middle school children, a picture book of Mary Colter for lower grades, and a chapter book telling the story of a young girl living on a farm during World War II.

All three of these books have been through several revisions and critiqued by my writing group and edited again. But I have let them sit quietly in my computer. Yes, I did send them out once or twice and received a rejection. No, I don’t like to receive rejections, but they don’t discourage me from writing. I’ve even received encouraging rejections, such as: “I love the story, but it is not right for us.”

How to find that one agent or editor who says, “I love the story, here’s a contract?”

Nothing submitted. Nothing published. I know this.
So this is my New Year’s resolution:
I will submit at least one story to an agent or editor every week.

Perhaps having written this for all to see, I will work to keep my resolution.



Next week is May Day. What that means now and what it meant when I was ten are very, very different.

After World War II, the formation of Communist block, and the beginning of the Cold War between Western oriented countries and the United Soviet Socialist Republic, May Day brought news of stiff marches of the Soviet Army showing off guns, tanks, and planes. The traditional May Day festivities in the United States declined.

In European countries, May Day is a holiday. Dancing around the Maypole continues in many small communities. Young girls in traditional costume wind the Maypole with colorful ribbons as they circle it, weaving over and under one another’s arms.

You also know the call of “mayday” when someone needs help


In the afternoon, Mrs. Parsons announced we’d be making baskets as our art project. She distributed outdated wallpaper sample books and let us choose a couple of pages we would like for our baskets. Then with her help and instruction, we folded square pieces of these colorful sheets into baskets and pasted a handle on them.
After school I begged my mother to let me go over to the sap house to look for wild mayflowers and violets that grew in the damp earth. It was a long walk, but Mom let me go. I went through the dairy barn, down a farm road and across the bridge that spanned the creek that ran through our farmland. I squeezed myself between the strands of the barbed wire fence, walked and ran down the path which acted as a road through the length of the long flat field to the fence at the other end.
In front of me stood the sap house, a very old building with its roof caving in. Dad said that many years earlier the farmer had made maple syrup in it. The large brick furnaces still in place could boil sap from one thousand maple trees growing on the hill beside the building. Dad used it one year, but it was too far away. Instead he opted to use the pans, but build a fire closer to our house. I digress.
I searched until I found the tiny white and pink mayflowers, purple, white violets, and yellow dog-tooth violets or trout lilies. When I had enough for two or three small bouquets, I retraced my route to our house. While Mom went to help Dad in the barn, I arranged my bouquets in my baskets.
As it grew dusk, I slipped out of the house to hang a basket on the front door. Then I knocked loudly and ran away a short distance. Mom came to the door to find the basket. She chased and caught me to give me a kiss. Dad took me to a neighbor’s house so I could surprise
another mom with a basket and collect my kiss. Meanwhile, Mom had a knock at the door from
another school friend.

Do you know other May Day traditions?

To see pictures of wild mayflowers, click on the URL below:


I woke at three in the morning with a scratchy feeling in the bottom of my throat. Oh, oh. I know that feeling. It means laryngitis. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been afflicted with it, but I can’t forget the tickle in that certain spot in my throat.

Several years ago, I could almost count on having no voice around early December and then again in the spring, near Easter. These I managed to bring on myself because I would push my voice to teach, sing or to direct a choir. Many times I could not sing “Gloria” or “Alleluia” when the holy days arrived.

One year, I went to the doctor complaining I couldn’t seem to get over my voice problems.
Dr. B. said, “Go home and stay there for a week. Rest!”
“But I have a job. I have to go to work!”
“Suit yourself.” Dr. B. was clearly annoyed with me. “You’re not going to get better unless you take care of yourself.”
It was not easy for me, but I did stay home an entire week. I slept, read, and did very, very little. Dr. B. was right. I got better.

Hopefully, I’m being a little smarter today. I stayed home from a group meeting. I will not go to choir rehearsal this week or plan to sing on Sunday. Perhaps with rest, my voice will recover.

Why do we often feel our presence is so important that we put our health and that of others in jeopardy?


When my husband, Richard, began his senior year at New Brunswick Reformed Church seminary, I went back to teaching in Highland Park, New Jersey.
My first grade was a good mix of children. A few tried to skip the work I wanted them to do, but none were discipline problems. As I began breaking the class into reading groups, I found three or four girls, who after being introduced to the first reading book, seemed to say, “Oh, is that what reading is? I can do that. No problem!” I truly never had to teach them to read, they devoured books.
One of my favorite children in the class was a little boy. Jay was shorter than some of the boys, but stood straight. He looked like he was a professional fullback at age six. He was obvious bright and could easily do whatever work I asked for, but I had to cajole, encourage, and pick at him to get it done. At the end of one morning, all he’d done was to put his name on his writing paper. I wrote a note for him to take home at lunch time, and return to me, signed.
He didn’t bring it back. “I forgot.”
“Bring it in the morning.”
He didn’t bring in the note. “Mom didn’t have time.”
“Bring it back this noon, or I will send you back home to get it.”
His father appeared with him after the lunch hour.
“I didn’t know about the note before,” he said. “I’ve talked about it to Jay, but I didn’t want to discipline him because I was afraid I might hurt him. I will tell his mother tonight.”
That was the last time Jay didn’t finish his work. If he began to slough off, I only had to ask, “Should I call your father?”
He’d shake his head and cheerfully go to work.
Toward the end of the school year, it was our class’s turn to put on an assembly program. In the Ginn First Grade Music Book, teacher’s edition, there was a short musical play, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Jay took part of the bad troll seriously. As each of the three goats approached the bridge which would take them to the green pasture on the other side, Jay popped up onto the bridge to sing, “I will eat you….” The children watching loved it, and of course they cheered when the Big Billy Goat Gruff knocked the bad troll off the bridge. Jay was the star of the show.
The adults in the audience struggled not to burst out laughing as Jay jumped up to sing in his deep “bad troll voice” that often squeaked. What happened to Jay? I don’t know, but perhaps he did become a football star fullback somewhere, or perhaps an actor. I wish I knew.


In September, I found a job at a nursery school two blocks from our Philadelphia apartment. At the beginning it went well. I liked the other staff, particularly my partner, Sarah. The boss left us on our own with no direction. I confess I was a horrid teacher. For the first time in my life, I spanked one or two of the boys. I was a mean teacher. Those little boys must have hated coming to nursery school. I’ve regretted and compensated for my behavior ever since.

Early the next spring, the boss came to Sarah and me separately to say she had to let one of us go, but said, “I’d like you to stay.” Walking home, Sarah and I shared those conversations. Neither of us wanted to work there. After being paid the next day, Friday, we skipped and danced down the street, happy to be jobless.

My friend, Joy B., suggested I apply for a summer position at the Provident Mutual Insurance Company home office where she worked. I did. I took a typing test without erasures and made 35 words a minute. Typing had not been my strong point, but the personnel director was satisfied. She asked me to type a short letter and allowed for erasures. I was hired and put in the sales department. We took cards sent in to the company by perspective clients. The cards said we would give them a personalized pen or some other gimmick to get a salesperson in their door.

Once a month I typed a long list of agents giving their sales of the month. The agents were very picky about their names, initials, etc. I learned to be picky with my typing. These had to be typed on blue mimeograph film (no copiers in 1956). Fortunate for me, if I made a mistake, I could put some blue liquid on the error, wait for it to dry and make the correction. Another person took the film and ran it through the mimeograph machine to make copies which we then addressed and sent to each agent.

I sat next to a woman, June, who typed at least a100 words per minute. She would reach into her drawer and pull three sheets of paper and two carbons, put them in the typewriter and whip off a letter. Should she make a mistake, she ripped the papers and carbons out of the carriage, tossed them in the trash, and reached for more. The way she used carbons must have cost the company a lot of money.

One day June was sick or on a day off. It was the day I really learned to type. The boss handed me three letters at 3:00 in the afternoon. We were finished work at 4:00. He wanted the letters before then. I handed him the letters just before 4:00. I must have taught my fingers to concentrate that day. Ever since then I’ve been a much better typist. Computers make typing a breeze, but in 1956 it was an IBM manual typewriter.


During my last year of teaching in Interlaken Central School (1959-60), I had a pre-first grade class. These children had spent a year in Kindergarten, but needed extra help to be a success in first grade.

Leon was a special case. His biological mother had kept him in his crib for the whole first two years of his life when social services took him from her and placed him in a foster home. When Leon arrived there, he had not learned to walk, talk or even stand on his own. His foster mother loved him and as an only child she spent her full time with him for three years. His foster dad was a cross-country truck driver so was gone from home much of the time. Leon learned to walk quickly after he was fitted with glasses. He learned to talk and when he was five, he attended kindergarten and was given a “conditional pass.”

Then Leon’s life was interrupted again by his biological mother. She demanded that he be given Catholic religious instruction. His foster mother couldn’t provide the instruction for reasons unknown to me. Leon was moved to a new home with a family, which had other children. This proved to be a good move for him because the other children provided models and “teachers” for him.

Leon was placed in my classroom. An intelligence test showed him to have a little below normal intelligence. The psychologist told me not to expect much from him, but to give him with others in the room an advanced kindergarten experience.

There were five children in Leon’s small reading group. This was the day of Dick, Jane, and Sally, Puff, Spot, and Tim – three children, a cat, dog and stuffed bear. These names plus look, oh, run, jump, up, down, come, and go were the words of the first book. After two months some of Leon’s reading group could still not identify these words in spite of my antics to get their meaning across. We eventually moved on to the next book with added words.

I began saying, “Look at the words on this page. Think what they tell you. Then tell me what they say.” For example, “Come and play ball.”

One day, Leon said, “Do you want me to read them?”

“Yes, can you read them?”

Leon did.

“Turn the page. Can you read these words?”

He did.

Somewhere through the magic of insight, Leon had learned to read.

I gave him two books to take home. The next day he apologized. “I’m sorry Mrs. Lake I only had time to read one book.”

Leon’s progress continued. By June, he was reading as well as more advanced children in my class. The psychologist retested him. His IQ had jumped from 85 to 115. It was not that Leon had become brighter, he was catching up from the first two years of his life. He was maturing in ability to use his full intelligence. I wish I could tell you what happened to him years, but I can’t.

Leon’s story has always made me wonder about how we look at one another’s intelligence. Do any of us use our full intelligence to the level that is possible?