Tag Archives: conversation

Support Literacy

We are on this blog forum to read, write, or both – some of us in multiple languages. As a volunteer for our local literacy group, I am promoting our annual giving campaign.

Funding is crucial for this group that trains ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) tutors and helps people pass the citizenship examination.

While the link above tells you about the donation levels, this link provides some personal insights about the tutoring experience – from lesson 1 to several months down the road. (Be kind, I was a rookie blogger with stories I wanted to share.)

Make tax time fun by reading and writing. Read about an organization that promotes increased literacy and empowers adults. Write a check to support the training courses and resource library.

Thank you for your consideration as you evaluate your charitable contributions at year-end.

Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays!


Conference call

Despite being the only two people left in our household, my husband and I still tend to have three and four-way conversations. And nobody is on the phone. 

Richie went out to breakfast with his Mom yesterday and when he pulled into the driveway, I let our dog, Otis, know “Daddy’s home!” My husband talked with us for a minute on the deck and then went into the house to get another cushion (it rained the night before, so we bring them in). I heard my husband’s next conversation through the kitchen window screen. He was also confirming to “The Dude” that he was back. 

Other days we might acknowledge that we didn’t hear or understand what was said:

 “What? I didn’t catch that.” 

“I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to Kapper.”

Are the additional conversations no different than talking to houseplants? Maybe we’ve always talked to the pets but are only now paying attention to one another? Either way, I wonder if this post will get us more conversations with household visitors – or less?                     


Ag – Au

My lifelong friend, Melanie, always turned the phrase “Make new friends but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.” The quote is spot on and my last few weeks can attest to it.

I met a new woman on the train. She lives in the town where I grew up and down the street from my in -laws. Somewhere along the way, we started sitting together and swapping stories during our long commute. I’ve since met her Air Force husband and young daughter and she’s seen pictures of my chia-pet-bearded husband and our two college-age girls. Maria is outgoing, ambitious, talkative and hysterical. We’ve chatted about challenges with our parents, children and life in general. Adding to that, we’ve also laughed about people on the train, our husband’s quirks and yesterday, winter laundry. She had me in stitches talking about clothesline-dried jeans that were stiffer than her husband’s military uniforms. She brought me right back to being a teenager in the 80’s. My sisters and I would want to wear our favorite jeans so badly that we would wash them at night and, since we had no dryer, hang them outside to dry regardless of the cold weather. They’d be stiffly standing at attention waiting for us in the morning. Maria is the silver lining to life’s problems and like the nanny in The Sound of Music – Maria, makes me – laugh!

I met an old friend in the subway station last week. Susan and I originally met in high school but have kept in touch in a variety of ways over the years. I was not only thrilled to see her but also glad she knew me under other circumstances. It was an incredibly hot summer day, I didn’t have on any makeup and I think she caught me cursing the subway car that closed its doors in my face. As a former teammate, she is familiar with my intensity;  she’s seen me sweaty and talking smack in the past. I think she also knows I can clean up pretty well (if I need to). We started talking a mile a minute.  We picked up where we left off  the last time we talked, updated each other on our families, talked about her recent house purchase, my new job and mutual friends in just a few green line stops. Seeing an old (longtime!) friend was, as we said in the 80’s, “awesome”! Sue always has a smile on her face, tells a great story and laughs at my jokes. Who wouldn’t want to keep a friend like that around?

Maybe Maria and Sue will be my lifelong friends too.  They hit the spot.  If not, maybe I can get them  bronzed?

Pearls of wisdom

Hundreds of people move around me every morning and evening.  Riding public transportation re-introduces me to the locals, highlights veterans of the commuter rail and every once in awhile allows me to recognize other people with similar schedules. Tonight I  inadvertantly sat down next to a younger woman that had stood out to me on on the Monday morning subway. She was probably noticed by many;  the quiet type you have to watch out for. This chick had some seriously sharp objects and she was stuffing them into her bag.

My girls would have been mortified but I let the woman know that I remembered her from North Station. She acknowledged my memory and asked if I knitted or crocheted too? I told her that I had when I was younger. I confessed that I wouldn’t know where to start and it was more a memory of my husband’s Nana. I explained that I had a few of her sentimental creations but her station in life was now North of our own. 

I like to think she appreciated my morbid sense of humor. She liked to believe I understood her explaining the impact of a smaller needle and double strands. I altered the conversation with a smile and a question to take the focus away from a free knitting lesson.

What are you making?”

She demonstrated that it was the bottom of a purse and threw the question back asking what I used to make?

Really long rows. I guess you could’ve called them scarves.”

She encouraged me to fold them in half and make a purse. I certainly hadn’t saved them. I slung the current bag in my lap over my shoulder and wished her luck. 

She was a veteran knitter and I was just a local trying to stay on schedule. I wonder if I’ll see ‘Pearl’ again tomorrow? 

Who did you run into today?

I couldn’t make this stuff up!

I see a newspaper man every morning and evening as I enter and depart the subway station. I don’t know if he’s there all day or if the papers in his hand are sold or given away. I’ve never seen anyone take one or exchange money with him. Everyone herds right past to enter the morning turnstiles or continue their way home at night.

This evening,  I knew I’d have an extra few minutes before the commuter train arrived. So, after walking up my steps 

and getting to the Mezanine, I caught my breath as I also caught up with this curious guy.

We had a nice talk as he explained his schedule. For a month now, I’d noticed no change to his expression amongst all the hustle and bustle. Tonight his demeanor and laugh were brighter than the skylights. I now know the cost of a smile, the  paper and his commission. I bought one simply because I considered him the entertainment section.  

With our moment in time, less than a minute, I also learned his name. As I walked toward my ride home, the grin on my face only took a second. I smirked because I’d already given my new Porter Square acquaintance a nickname. 

Tomorrow morning before I head into the subway, I’ll say hello to my newspaper guy, Harold. 

Harold Square.


[12 weeks into 1×1 English tutoring:  the evolution from teacher to student.]

Cristina AND I met at the library BUT we were both really tired. TO ADD TO THAT, her thyroid was going crazy PLUS she needed vitamins.  Cristina had brought a list of conjunctions and other phrases that join sentences. DESPITE just getting over the flu, she was ready to speak fluid English for an hour.

We caught up on not just our week BUT the emails we’d exchanged. We talked about the emails using the conversation reference she’d brought. I suppose our relationship is branching out a bit. SO MUCH SO that we told each other about our men.

She is sending seven gifts to her new man friend in Spain.  They are very creative BUT I won’t tell you here. That’s Cristina’s story. THE POINT IS,  she was able to explain the goal, humor, timing AND every item and plot twist in well-spoken English. It was a wonderful feeling  knowing she was sharing with me, has a similar sense of humor and creativity AND is finding her way in the English language.

I don’t  quite remember how much I told her about my man. Richie would have  laughed knowing I tried to talk technology at one point though. We translated the “input device” she drew for me. I told her it was referred to as a flash drive OR memory stick.

TO SUMMARIZE, we talked about a lot of things: her blog, movies, music, medicine and Indians. It’s becoming less about the lessons AND more about the conversation. She had told me about the gifts she was sending home BUT she is a gift to me.  THE POINT IS, we were both tired but I won’t  tire of her any time soon.

Lesson Three – Room 3

Christina and I met in the library again but with the holidays on the horizon, I hadn’t created any type of lesson plan. I was only at the third hour of training and wondered how I was going to help this person?   Short of my pop culture homework, we’d only talked so far.

In our first meeting, Cristina had said conversation and phrasing helped her the most though.  I also had my reference books if needed.   It was all I had to work with, so I walked into the room to converse and refer.

We started the meeting like we had the others. We told each other about our week.  We certainly had enough to discuss. My girls were home for the holidays and Cristina was back from New York City.

I answered her fairly-well-phrased questions and told her about the girls ages, majors and interests. Christina trumped me by talking about the 20-year-old  major interest from NYC.

You met someone?!  We had no trouble filling a large part of the hour after that.  He’d been nice to her, helped her with her English and walked with them around the city. I hadn’t even asked, “Whats up?” and she was already talking about being on the  Whatsapp with the guy.

Good for her. Clearly beauty translates as well.

I can’t remember how the tables turned after that but we started talking about depression. She has a degree in Psychology and her own ideas about what makes the disorder thrive. She believes it’s important to have a good diet, rest, engagement with others and positive attitude in life.

I loved everything she had to say and she was removing language barriers as she said it.  It was there I became a fan of hers. I admire her courage, dedication and motivations. She wants to help people and get them out of their proverbial…and hard to translate until we played pictionary for a few minutes…bubbles.

In these moments I learned the beauty of the human spirit also translates. It floated through the air like the bubbles in her journal.

I’d been paying attention in a lot of ways. I decided when she came back from her holiday in Spain, we’d work on pronouns and plurals. We role played our way through an airport in my reference book and then created our own runway to the back door.

Cristina thanked me, gave me a box of chocolates, hugged me and wished me a Merry Christmas.

When I hugged her back. I realized I already had.