Posts Tagged ‘lessons learned’

Is there a book that you read as a child that has stayed with you over the years; one that you have recommended to othrs and/or given as a gift to a child?

I can think of a few but one that I had forgotten about until I saw it on my bookshelf last night is a very special one. It’s called The Hundred Dresses and it was written by Eleanor Estes in 1944. I read it in fourth grade when I was about eight or nine. It touched me then and it still does. I’ve had a number of copies of it through the years as I tend to buy it to keep then give it away to a child or to a teacher. The one I have has managed to stay on my shelf for about eight or nine years.

The 1944 Newberry Honor recipient is the story of a little girl named Wanda Petronski who is different fromm all the other kids in her school. Not only is her name different, but she lives in the poorest part of town and she has no mother. Every day she wears the same blue dress to school. While it is always clean, it’s also always wrinkled and doesn’t hang right. She’s very quiet and hates to speak in front of the class. Outside of class, she is always alone and even when she tries to joing a group of kids, they never notice her. The only time the others notice her is when they want to tease her. One girl in particular, Peggy, likes to ask her how many dresses she has and Wanda always answers that she has a hundred dresses all lined up in her closet, all colors, all different kinds. They ask her about her shoes and she says she has sixty pair of shoes in her closet, all colors and all kinds, all lined up.

One girl, Maddie, feels bad about teasing her and she doesn’t want to participate in it but she also doesn’t want the others to turn on her because she’s from a poor family, too. So even though she feels wrong about teasing Wanda, she doesn’t speak up. She just goes along with it.

When Wanda doesn’t come to school for several days, her father sends a note to the teacher saying she won’t be coming to school anymore. They are moving to the big city where there are other “funny names” and lots of other Polish people and where they won’t be teased anymore. The letter from Wanda’s father arrives on the same day that the winner of the drawing contest is announced. The girls’ winner (for designing and drawing a dress) has drawn not onlyy one dress but one hundred different dresses, all kinds and all colors. The winner is Wanda. That’s when the girls realize that Wanda wasn’t lying about her hundred dresses. She really did have that many, only they were drawings.

I like it because it shows how Wanda is ignored and teased, making her feel isolated. And it also shows how Maddie knows it’s wrong yet doesn’t speak up. She just goes along with the teasing and bullying. I think it speaks volumes to kids. Although The Hundred Dresses is 71 years old, it still has a very valuable lesson to share with our kids…and with adults, as well. Before writing this post, I read a little about Eleanor Estes. I learned that she wrote the book out of guilt and a desire to somehow apologize to the little girl that Wanda was modeled after. She modeled Peggy, the bully, after herself because once the “Wanda” in her school moved away, Eleanor Estes realized that she had treated her very badly and had been a bully. I think that’s a valuable lesson, too!

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Learning From Daily Life

I forget a lot of things. Some things are important and I still forget them and some things are less important. Somehow, it’s the really unimportant and trivial things that I remember, but that’s another story.

About three years ago, I was really frazzled and my diabetes was way out of control. It effects memory, high glucose levels, that is. So I did a really dumb thing. Then I did it again a few days later. I think I’ve learned my lesson but sometimes I wonder.

I was at home and my daughter was at her independent study meeting at the learning center. I had to go get her in a while so I was watching the time. It was a wet, cold, winter day so I decided to fix myself some hot tea. In the meantime, my daughter called to say her teacher had to leave early so she was all finished with her meeting and would I come get her. I grabbed my jacket, keys, and purse and went to get her. We stopped to do a couple of errands on the way home. When we drove up, the next door neighbor came out from our backyard, quite concerned. Apparently, in my haste to get my daughter so she wouldn’t have to wait for me in the rain, I forgot to turn off the stove! A few minutes after I had left home, the tea kettle began to whistle, alarming the neighbor and she had come to see if I was okay because the tea kettle was whistling away, quite loudly. Once she realized I wasn’t home, she got even more concerned, afraid that something would catch fire inside. She had been trying to get in through a window but hadn’t been able to. I ran in and shut off the stove and checked the water level in the tea kettle. It was a good thing it had been filled when I turned on the stove. I often put only enough water in to fix one cup of tea. That day, by the time I turned off the water, there were just drops left in it.

Less than a week later, I did the same thing, only it wasn’t the tea kettle. It was a pot of beans I was fixing for my daughter! Note: There is very little that smells worse than burned beans!

I ended up writing a little note that I taped over the dead bolt in the front door. It read: “Check stove.” I also bought an electric tea kettle that shuts itself off when the water boils.  I’ve also learned not to turn on the stove unless I’m going to stay in the kitchen (but sometimes I forget that it’s on and I leave).  I have a timer that I set when I’m going to be in another room and I clip the time to my clothes or I forget that it’s on.  Oh, I don’t hear it if I’m not in the same room so I have to clip the timer on to myself!

Life is full of little lessons. We have to learn to make certain accommodations to deal with the lessons we learn.

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You taught me to be like you

I thought that was what I wanted

That night…

Sound, peaceful sleep

Harshly interrupted

You tried but you couldn’t help it.

You took it and all we heard

From you was quiet.

In the morning we waited

For him to leave and then

We ran into your room

You smiled at us, peacefully

Covering yourself so we

Could not see

You taught us

Your beautiful green eyes

Were now surrounded by

Blackness, bruises

You taught us

With your silence

You said you were fine

No, it didn’t hurt

You taught us

I cried. Your pajamas were

Ripped, shredded

You smiled with calmness

And you taught us

I was just like you

Everyone said, it made me happy


You taught us

I was different

I pulled out of it

I would not take it

You taught me

I learned not to be like you

My sisters did not.

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