Author Archives: kalipr

May 20 – And The Winner Is…

by Kali’ Rourke

2018 Austin Under 40 Awards

I have been involved in mentoring since 2005 when Austin Independent School District Principals asked the nonprofit I was working with for a mentor program for children who had lost a parent to prison. You see, in public schools, when a child loses a parent for any other reason (divorce, death, etc.), all sorts of programs and help snap into place for them. This does not happen when Dad or Mom is hauled off in handcuffs and life changes in an instant.

I dove into an area of service to children that taught me a great deal, I saw the program grow and flourish as President of the Board of Seedling, and then I began mentoring personally. My first mentee was a first-grade girl that I was blessed to know through fourth grade before her family moved away.

Now, I mentor a kindergartener who is processing her new reality, and I hope to be with her for years to come. I mentored a young woman through the Austin Young Women’s Alliance Connect program last year, and she has become another daughter to me, and I have added another YWA Connect mentee this year who is one of the most positive people I have ever known. All of these girls and women are unique, smart, fun, and gave me at least as much as I gave them. Really good stuff!

2017 Austin Under 40 Awards

Last year I was nominated for Mentor of the Year by the Austin Under 40 Awards that are sponsored by YWA and the Young Men’s Business League and I was one of five finalists. (Mentor of the Year is the only award they give to those of us who are over 40 and no, I did not win!)

This year I was nominated again, named a finalist, and last night was the Gala where the winners were announced. My two YWA Mentees and my older daughter were at my finalist table, along with my wonderful husband and a dear friend from the Seedling Board who had written a recommendation for me.

I did not win. It was not a big surprise to me, considering the amazing finalists in my category, but it allowed me to reflect on the influence mentoring can have. Role modeling and mentoring in success feels natural, but mentoring through loss, failure, and challenge can be much harder if you let it. I think, however, that it may be one of the most impactful places from which to mentor.

For women and girls who may not have opportunities to see and learn what losing gracefully looks like, through sports or other competition, observing a Mentor’s loss can be a powerfully positive experience for them to share.

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

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May 13 – Shaping Words

By Sara Etgen-Baker

winifred christine stainbrook etgen

Winifred Christine Stainbrook-Etgen

Before giving birth, Mother undoubtedly read child development books and baby-proofed her house. But no one could tell her what to anticipate. No one could tell her that the little girl she’d soon birth would come with a personality all her own and it would often run in direct opposition to her own.

I guess what got me thinking about Mother was a Mother’s Day keepsake the six-year-old me prepared for her in school. Our teacher mimeographed pictures for us to color; I selected the rose picture and colored the roses red because Mother’s favorite flower was red roses. When I ran across the keepsake in one of my scrapbooks, my mind was flooded with memories of Mother.

I remember the summer I picked plums with her from the tree beside our house and made plum jelly. I remember walking with her to the nearby corner store, buying a package of M&Ms, and washing them down with a diet Dr. Pepper. I remember her making me peanut butter sandwiches; combing the tangles out of my wispy, fine, hair; and making me wear the itchy, frilly dresses that she made. I remember the five-year-old me sitting on her lap while she read me books. The older me remembers her reading the dictionary to me every night.

“Words are powerful,” she repeatedly said. “Learn their meanings, how to spell them, and how to use them properly.” The teenage me half-heartedly listened as she impressed upon me, “Choose your words carefully and kindly when conversing with others.”

Mothers Day Card FrontFrom kindergarten on, she dropped me off at school. As she drove away, she rolled down the window and said, “Remember, you’re smart. You’ll do well in school.” Whenever I wrote a paper for any class, she always read it before I turned it in. Rather than offering criticism, she asked, “Is this your best effort?” Even now, her words echo in my mind whenever I’m critiquing or editing my own writing. Her methodology gave me confidence by teaching me to measure my own abilities and efforts from an internal standard and compass.

Mothers Day Card Inside

I thank Mother for her shaping words; words that made a difference. There have been those times in my professional career and personal life when I felt stretched beyond my ability. But I would always hear her gentle voice telling a younger me, “You’re smart; you can do whatever you need or choose to do.” Her words pushed me beyond where I might have been tempted to stop.

The much older version of me stares into the eyes of the reckless, demanding, know-it-all child I was; it must’ve been difficult to be my mother, for my personality and hers clashed. Frequently, I think about the words I said and wish I could take them back. I was unbelievably blessed with the quintessential mother. Were Mother still alive, I’d thank her for the words she gave me and the non-stop encouragement she administered; encouragement that’s sustained me my entire life.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice. 

May 11 – Six Police Cars…What’s Up?

by B. Lynn Goodwin

BLynnGoodwin 11:49 pm: Drove about two miles from my house to Starbucks and saw six police cars…What’s up? After the events reported on Monday I can’t help worrying. Monday at about this time, a fifteen-year-old high school freshman was found face down in the high school’s swimming pool. A coach pulled him out as class was starting and tried to resuscitate him. How I hope the kids weren’t already outside to see that!

He was air-lifted to Kaiser Hospital and he died there.

There’s a memorial on the chain link fence outside the Big Gym, which was called the Boy’s Gym when I taught drama at that high school back in the seventies. Lots of notes. Lots of flowers. A couple of on-site news trucks with dishes and size zero reporters, telling the same story I just told you—except for the part about my being a teacher there in the seventies.

I know some of the drama students I taught there are now grandparents. One recently lost her husband. I keep in touch with those I’ve found on Facebook. Back when I was in my twenties . . .  but what’s the point in looking back? Students die in car accidents, and I’ll never forget the one who killed himself in his garage when he was supposed to be in my English class. He was a quiet boy who did excellent work up until his last couple of days on earth when he did nothing. Then one spring day he was out. His first absence all year. When I heard that he sat in the family car and asphyxiated himself, I was stunned

At Starbucks right now a helicopter is flying over, going south, where I saw the police cars. Please God, don’t let another tragedy be happening while I write this. Are they looking for a fugitive? Looking for a teenager responsible for bullying Monday’s drowned boy to his death?

The high school administration had virtually nothing to say, except that a lot of rumors were going around. Something more than rumors is happening right now, and I can’t get this case out of my mind. It influences my dreams. Parents should not bury their children. If there was anything I could have done to save Tim, the student who inhaled gas in his garage when he should have been in my class, I don’t know what it was, and I’ve had thirty years to think about it.

BLynnGoodwin 2I took a quick look in e-mail and found this report at 2:05:

“Danville Police are currently searching for a missing elderly man. Reynaldo Rabia, 72, was last seen in the vicinity of Laurel Drive wearing a blue striped shirt, blue vest, and khaki pants. Mr. Rabia suffers from dementia and may be confused about his location. He uses a walker with a yellow towel on the handles.”  

“Any person spotting Mr. Rabia is asked to contact Danville Police Dept immediately either at 9-1-1 or (925) 820-2144.”

I’m breathing easier, and now I have a totally different question. How can Mr. Rabia be an “elderly” man when he’s only 72 and my husband is nearly 74? He’s not elderly and neither am I—except when I stand up.

B. Lynn Goodwin owns Writer Advice,. Her memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62 was released in December. She’s written You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers and Talent, which was short-listed for a Literary Lightbox Award, won a bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was a finalist for a Sarton Women’s Book AwardGoodwin’s work has appeared in Voices of Caregivers, Hip Mama, Dramatics Magazine, Inspire Me Today, The Sun, Good Housekeeping.com, Purple Clover.com and many other places. She is a reviewer and teacher at Story Circle Network.

April 22 – Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories

Inside and Out Book CoverIf you enjoy the writing in this blog, we have something special to share with you!

Inside and Out: Women’s Truth, Women’s Stories is the newest book from Story Circle Network. It’s a 250-page soft-cover anthology of women’s life writing, drawn from SCN’s annual collections of work by its members.

Edited by Susan Schoch, with a foreword by acclaimed author Susan Wittig Albert, this is a book you won’t want to miss, whether you prefer e-book version or print version.

Story Circle Network has something for everyone! 

Simply click the book cover image or the title link to find out more about Inside and Out: Women’s Truth, Women’s Stories and consider joining Story Circle Network for opportunities to write, share your truth and stories with other women who care, and find a community who will appreciate your participation.

We can’t wait to meet you!

Story Circle Network Logo

 

 

April 20 – Spring

by Ariela ZuckerSpring Flowers

Spring by far is my favorite season. Every year when the snow finally melts I can’t get over the magic of the first spring sprouts. It’s as powerful as God’s promise never to bring a second flood. Regardless of the craziness that engulfs us daily when even nature at times seems to lose its grip and lash at us humans with unremembered fury. When April rolls in, the days get longer, the ground gets softer, and the green erupts. Soft greens at the beginning dot the ground or appear as tiny buds on the trees until one morning everything is green.

My favorites are old friends I saw last fall and are now coming back. The Clematis who all through the winter looked like a dead twig springs new leaves and buds that will open into glorious purple flowers. The sweet pea in the corner sends tender, shy shoots that from experience I know will grow and grow relentlessly and if not stopped will cover walls and windows. In the wet ditch, bordering the road the nine cattails raise their brown heads and sway in the light breeze while next to them my pride and joy, the wild lilies I planted years ago start their journey that will yield my favorite orange blossoms.

It’s nothing less than a dazzling celebration. The colors of the new growth mingle with the loud music of the peepers. First, just a lone forerunner whose voice is heard at dusk from the wetland in the forest across the road but before long another one joins and another to create a deafening orchestra that salutes nature and will last all through the night reaching its crescendo shortly before dawn.

The cycle of life, perhaps a cliché, or maybe it holds an inner truth that we can adopt into our lives. Decline and death are but stages that interact with the spring bloom and the summer’s lush. It makes me feel good to know that the seeds I invested in the ground will forever become a part of this everlasting succession.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now resides in Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. She blogs at https://paperdragonme.wordpress.com/

March 14 – Cooking for Passover

by Ariela Zucker

CookbookIt is my mother’s cookbook that I kept after she passed away many years ago, so most of the recipes are hers. Every year I open it a few days before Passover and minutes later I am treading knee-deep in thoughts and images and even the smells of my childhood. I know from prior years that these entangled sensations, a neurological condition called synesthesia, is temporary and will pass after the holiday but for a brief period I let myself back into the land of memories.

The book’s hardcover is dull brown that is peeling in all four corners. When I open it, a stream of papers of all sizes and colors fall out and spread unevenly on the floor. Another thing I tend to forget is my habit to write recipes on random pieces of paper and tuck them inside the book, for a keepsake. The pages themselves stained from the years and the many times they were touched with oily or flower covered hands.

As I flip through the book, gently, so not to tear the pages that tend to stick to each other, I make it to the part marked Passover. I look at my mother’s angular handwriting and remember how the Hebrew letters, she adopted late in her life, never gained an easy flaw. I remember how she complained about it yet insisted on writing the recipes in Hebrew so I will be able to read them. In between, my handwriting, round and flawless, unlike her I drew a lot of satisfaction from the act of writing.

Passover flowerless cake, a family recipe my mother learned from her mother. Matzo dipped in chocolate, my favorite. Chicken soup with matzo balls, gefilte fish, brisket, compote, the list seems endless and with each recipe an image of the Seder table and the voices of people who are no longer alive mix with the loved flavors.

I look at the recipes and sigh. Like my daughters when they ask for a favorite recipe, I remember how I tried to follow the detailed instructions of the dishes just to fall short, time and time again. All my efforts did not produce the exact texture, or smell, or taste. I know that it will not happen this time around either, but that I will give it my best try.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now reside Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. She blogs at https://paperdragonme.wordpress.com/

March 9 – Want to Think Young? Mentor!

by Kali’ Rourke

canstockphoto28358255I am sure I echo many members of my generation who express the feeling, “I don’t feel as old as I am!” 

We look in the mirror and see the inevitable downward slide of gravity and the toll it takes, the wrinkles or fine lines that our frolics in the sun have left us as souvenirs, and sometimes we see the fatigue that lingers in eyes that have seen pain, sadness, and struggle. But when we look away from that mirror and assess ourselves, we are often shocked by the mismatch between the image we have seen and the way we feel inside. I don’t know about you, but I am enjoying that immensely!

I have found the secret to the fountain of youth and it may be available to you wherever you are and whatever you are doing. It is thinking young.

How do we think young? We stay open, flexible to new things and new thoughts, and we move our bodies and our minds as much as we can. But the very easiest thing you can do to keep thinking young is to keep communicating with young people. That’s the secret!

SF-Mentoring-Pic-2017I have been mentoring for a long time with the Seedling Mentoring program in Austin, Texas, and after four years with my first mentee (her family eventually moved away), I am now mentoring a kindergartener and I have to tell you, every Wednesday with LC is a revelation. Her mind is like a little hamster wheel tossing off observations, creative ideas, and 6-year-old wisdom. This is a picture she recently drew of me with a Super Cape and “lots of bling” on my crown. Awesome, huh?

How can you ever feel old when you know someone sees you like this?

But you don’t have to mentor a six-year-old. Young people of all ages are thirsty for the attention, experience, and wisdom you can bring into their lives. Check around and see where you might be able to plug-in!

I have mentored two young women who are early in their very successful careers through a program called YWA Connect. It is a smart outreach of Austin’s Young Women’s Alliance, and I have made new friends and gained great perspective by getting involved. The secret? (Believe me, I still work on it!) is to listen far more than you speak and to hold space for these young people to process all of the input they are constantly bombarded by each and every day. You can perform a great service and benefit personally at the same time. It’s a true win-win situation.

Mentor On!

 

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Mentor. She is a finalist in the 2018 Austin Under 40 Mentor of the Year Awards. (the only award they give to nominees OVER 40!) She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.