Au Contraire

Everybody always says I write “beautifully” They say I paint lovely pictures with my words. I suppose this is a good thing. I do try to keep my mind in the positive; registering the sunny side of life. And, it is what I am so inclined to do. But, perhaps enough is simply enough! Or at least, a temporary detour is warranted. After all, I don’t want to become stale as a “Hallmark card”. No offense, Hallmark, but, perfect can just be too saccharin, sometimes, you know?

Therefore, at least, for this essay, I am going to be the opposite. I declare myself soured, withered, crotchety and ill-tempered. Heck, it might be kind of fun! Ahem…I mean, “Drat no! There ain’t no fun left! I’m just doing’ what’s necessary! So sue me!”

To start off with, I have a few dag-blame pent-up complaints to spout at ya! Okay, seeing’ as I’m a smudge past 60 now, I’m noticing a few ironic things are taking place. Here’s a list:

*I thought becoming elderly meant one could eat all the chocolate ice-cream they wanted! Heck no! Nobody warned me that I should have done so long before my sixties, because now, my body isn’t too keen on the creamy stuff, the sugary stuff and even the chocolate stuff! No fair! Just ain’t fair!

*NEXT: How come you start feeling a little happy about your weight because when you look down there is nothing sticking out anymore (ahem, I’m a woman by the way)…but slap, right across the head, you come to the GREAT epiphany its not weight that you are losing, it has only shifted-DOWNWARD…it’s just started to give in to gravity and begun to sag. Oh darn, the weight is still there, only its A LOT lower than it was. How mockingly cruel is that joke? I mean really?

*Next, and this harkens back to the digestive situation, since I am a sexagenarian, (and no I am not referring to being extra frisky under the covers),… I am instead referring to how I am pretty much disabled from enjoying a juicy cheeseburger and fries without consequence. Now that is just “gall darned” uncool! We live our lives fastidiously freaking out for joy over the next char-broiled, exactingly created, “condimented” to the max beefy masterpiece when suddenly at the ripe age of sixty or so, we encounter major counterattack. Whoa Nelly!, says our body…you can’t eat anything oozing red-meat juice or fried in a frier! Nothing can you eat fried anymore! That door is closed! SLLLAAAMMMM! Seriously? WHY??? I have devoted most of my life since the first Big Mac and then my father’s awesome barbecued burgers living from one blissful chowdown to another! And those french fries! You may no longer partake in even the ones from “In n Out” that are perfectly straight and the exact color of golden that you can see being sliced from the raw potato right there in the restaurant and minutes later end up in front of you begging to be devoured! Well what is life living for? I know I sound dramatic…fists on hips,…What of it?

*No there are just too many ironies and sudden surprises that stop you in your tracks once you have reached past the ripe age of “never again bliss”. I mean, you spend your twenties, thirties and forties proving to yourself how active and engaged in life you can be. You bike, hike, rock climb, body surf, roller-blade, jog, run, throw-down a few round-offs and cartwheels just to prove the kid in you is still there, and you do everything in your power to show you have a bit of athleticism in you. For me, it was dancing, gymnastics, basketball and I could play a mean game of dodge ball even up into my forties. Swimming was something I did every day, until I moved away from a swimming pool (huge mistake). Finally, I used to still pull off a very decent headstand up until about 50. So what the “heckaroo” has happened? Deteriorating body parts, that’s what happened!

*Now come on! You mean my feet who marched me, tapped me, sashayed me, strolled me, raced me, tiptoed me, stomped me, twirled and kicked me through life are so afflicted with arthritis that I can barely rely on them anymore? To think they spent six decades of standing me in various lines, on classroom concrete and tile floors, on asphalt streets, in metallic elevators, on buses with no room to sit, in shopping malls and awaiting my turn in post-offices, at concerts and in arenas with standing room only, at kitchen sinks and laundromat washing machines, and at grocery store cash registers. And now? I can hardly use the little buggers without becoming the world’s most vile, combative, grumpy grown-up to set foot upon the public side-walk. Now folks, I HAD bunion surgery, and it really didn’t do much to help! All it did was take away my opportunity to wear lovely high heels ever again…talk about injustice!

It is definitely not right in the vast scheme of things that when we need wine the most, in our supposed “Autumn” years, we are advised to no longer partake. When we reach retirement and we are for the first time in our adult lives in possession of a good amount of free time, we are unable to fully appreciate what we see because of encroaching cataracts or worse yet, glaucoma! How wrong it is that with the freedom to close our eyes, lean back and swing in our backyard hammock, that we won’t be able to hear the song of birds or see the shimmering leaves in the sunlight and breeze above.

I think the gods have played a dirty trick on us. We spent so much of life being responsible, by denying our own frivolity in the name of success and for the sake of others that now when we might be able to sample the pie, we just can’t…at least not without problems. The aches and the pains are being manifest day by day. It gets to the point where you just look in the mirror at your time-carved face, laugh out loud and throw your eyes up in disgust. You might catch yourself calling out, “Really? Now this? Are you kidding me?” I hate losing my once pristine looks: the shine in my hair, the color, too, the silk of my skin, and the firm shape of it as well, and even losing some of my height is rather a sinister twist for an already non-statuesque human being.

Worst of all is this awful threat of losing one’s marbles. Keeping the faculties, at all cost– now that’s important! Keeping the mind resilient, elastic and accurate. This is perhaps the most intensely ironic of all the things that happen with advancing age. Imagine, we get to a point where we perchance have learned a thing or two, and what begins to go to mush? The brain, the communicative tool that could really teach the “younguns” a few samples of wisdom.

Blast it all! How RUDE of the gods to do this to us!

NOW, wait! Maybe that IS the plan Deity has in mind. If all the wisdom was revealed, then there would be no point in living. There would be nothing for the next generation to learn. Life without learning is simply not life. Maybe everything starts to fall apart so you can stop the insane “horse race” to prove how young you are. Maybe these signs of change are meant to pull on the reins and put the “horse” back in the paddock. The horse (us), just needs to concentrate on swishing butterflies with its tail and chomping on the grass. Of course it’s a drag that we can’t jump hurdles anymore, or that our coats can’t be brushed to a glowing sheen. Maybe, there is a whole new palette of colors to appreciate in the muted, less blatant times. Maybe the slowing down of life is in order that we can ponder the one we HAVE had. Granted, the aches and pains hurt something awful. Having them, helps you recall how fine it was when you were ailment-free. Plus, it could be that the pain helps us agree to make our passage into the after life with our Maker. I don’t know– its all quite philosophical. Something to stew over.

I know I didn’t stay cantankerous as promised—yet I didn’t fall into too sweet and beautiful! I don’t like feeling old, especially when I have a good chance of living into my 90s. There are probably lots of 80 year olds who would be shaking their heads at my “getting elderly” comments. I know the scientists and doctors can measure the bone density, monitor our heart rate, prescribe pain killers or physical therapy, replace organs and lost hair, sometimes restore eyesight and hearing, give us canes and orthopedic shoes, remove moles, and regulate the hormonal gland, but there is only one thing they cannot do for us. They cannot tamper with our spirit of heart and soul. That is the one part of us that is not physical. It is intangible by the gods, fate and evil. It is our birthright link to our God. It will always BE. There is no youth when it comes to our spirit. It doesn’t need to breathe, or exercise, or be given vitamins. It is with us until and probably after we die. It just IS. What do we need to do about our spirit of heart and soul? We need to love it because it is our present from the Almighty. It is our LIFE. And, I believe, it knows no age. It is our silver lining, behind the cloud of doom. And guess what? The shine always shows itself to the delight of ourselves and others.

Okay, now, let me think,…where did I put those sunglasses? And dag nabbit, where did I last put my ear trumpet?






Of Scottish Things

When I think of Scotland, I think of its traditional dances. This singular nation has a mighty history that tells  of “her” bravery and emboldened causes. Thus, it clearly is signified by the fiercely executed Scottish “Sword Dance”! The dance goes back to the time of courageous warriors dancing over two crossed swords to the tune of a bagpipe. On the moors and in the highlands, the soldiers would execute their “war dance”, taking great care to not step on either sword in the process. If they did, the belief was death to them in battle.

I also think of the lively dance known as the  “Highland Fling”. Thinking of this, conjures up all of Scotland’s specific beauty~her mountain landscapes, her everflowing waters: those streams, brooks and waterfalls, and her bowers of flowers galore. My mind escapes into the enveloping rich colors of her heather and thistle, and her rainbow of hues found on hillside or deep in the glen. 

Next, my heart recalls the gentle swing one sees in the “Scottish Lilt” dance. Those swishing steps, smooth and musical, remind me its all about the piping. Stretched-out kicks and the horizontal sliding swing of the legs create a visual of church bells pealing, Thus, I cannot help but feel joy over the strathspeys, jigs, reels and even the marches of Scotland’s bagpipes. The finesse of dance with the thrill of tune create a Celtic magic. There is hopeful happiness there, and most of all, purpose. 

Finally, there is the genteel, soft-soled polite sway ‘n’ step of the country dances. Subtle, not garish, alluring, not commanding. Respectful and quaint is how these dances are. 

Perhaps, stemming from such humble dances comes the general feeling of family, honor and history. For me, they elicit the memory of one of the most ancient Scottish traditions, borne first of song, never written, and transformed into musical note. I speak of: Piobearachd, or “peebrok”. This is a genre of bagpiping that is played from a kind of mindful singing passed down, from ear to ear, generation by generation. Its pace is quite slowed down, as if the singer is lost in thought. It evokes what I believe is the core ingredient of what constitutes this thing we call “Scotland”. 

When Piobeareachd is played, one can listen and imagine a lone piper atop a cliff overlooking the turbulent sea or feel the allure in the message, calling the listener to halt and remember. And what do I remember? The wind on the moors, the stone castles of yore, and the warrior who defended them. I can stretch my imagination to envision the goat, sheep and Highland cattle. I also can’t help but remember the majestic red deer,  the bonnie Fresians, the determined falcons of flight, the glistening dragonflies and even fairy-like folk in Scottish lore. A tapestry of images abounds!

This thought rendering music often described as forlorn and plaintive-this Piobearachd-makes me also think of peat-warmed cottages, boiling porridge, bannocks and shortbread, herbs drying in dry nooks and ardent cooks brewing up their savory tastes. The enticing repetition of motif and theme in “peebrok” may supplicate ideas of whisky-induced stories and elusive-themed poetry such as that of Robert Burns; all meant to cajole and charm the listener. Still recalling this “vocal dance” (though it has not a dance-prone rhythm), sung by the lone bagpipe, my innermost depths sense the warmth of hearth in home and gentle rocking of wee bairn in cradle. I can imagine it all as a soft snow wisps at the window pane, and a weary father is making his way back to the fold.

The last conjuring “all things Scottish” is through touch. Just as all dance is a mere threading of pattern and step, so is the tweed and tartan. The warm wool is woven to provide clan identity, protection and utility; three very Scottish characteristics. Scotland is shawl, and plaid. It’s also glengarry, dun bonnet, and kilt. All from homespun origin. In addition to touch, as one’s revered remembrances are polished into a silvered sheen, one can’t help but smile over the shiny splendor of an amber-jeweled brooch. It feels smooth and important, along with its elegance. The glint from the jeweled skein dubh, the flash of a silver buckle and the preserving of things most precious in the sporran, complete the Highland attire ensemble, which is appreciated tactilely and visually.

You asked what I think of, when I think of Scotland? Well, here they are. To visit her shores will be a dream come true for me. Then, I will be able to write about her people. In the meantime, I can ponder what I am already familiar with: Scotland’s valor, her coveted history, her landscape palette, the rousing dances, the mysterious music, and her plethora of wildlife to admire. I’ll hold dear her visuals and treat them as my own. I do not come from a long line of Scots. I had married into a family that did. But, I love Scotland. I truly do.

Little Joys


Today many teachers went back to school…thus, I was compelled to write this: 

Once in awhile, a reminder of past experience comes at you in the gentle form of a real-life tickle. Now, this is not to be confused with scribbling fingers on your waist or belly, but instead the kind of tickle that “wiggles” your mind into a happy memory. Such an event happened to me today. 

Riding in an elevator, I was aware some youngsters and most likely, their mother, were standing behind me. I could tell some jostling of a lively sort was going on rather quietly, which prompted me to turn around and have a look. I saw two kids, one on each of their mother’s hand, hopping up and down. It was bound to happen… Immediately, I guessed one was a second grader and the other a kindergartener. The little kindergarten-age boy was sporting an enormous grin and he couldn’t contain his joy. I then said, “Well someone is a happy camper this morning!” “I’m starting school today! I’m sooooo excited!”, was his reply. His sister looked full of zeal as well. I smiled at their mom, and I turned back around to face the elevator door. My mind flashed back to the days when I was a kindergarten teacher. I would be excited too the first day, even the night before. But, the real happiness would come once my pupils had stepped under my charge in my classroom. First days were always a mixture of glorious, sometimes fretful and always ever-present discovery. 

I loved kindergarten and taught that grade blissfully for 8 years. 

I have a colleague who is assigned kindergarten this year. This master teacher who has never been at the helm of the “Good-Ship Kindergarten” before is about to take command of a grade like no other. Even the way it begins is like no other grade. Idiosyncrasies and issues only found in THE first year of schooling in all of the “Education Kingdom” make it a grade worthy of being deemed THE most rewarding of ALL grades, in my opinion. A kindergarten teacher acclimates to the plusses and the minuses of being the first adult outside family, to rock the precious world of five year olds. 

Now, to begin with, Kindergarteners are prone to crying the first month or two, (only some of them, not all), and they really do not know how to blow their noses. Nor, until they are taught how, do they understand or employ the act of focusing on one focal point: you, their teacher. Challenging as this may be, a kindergarten teacher will see that the rewards far outweigh the strife. I KNOW kindergarten is still, the most gratifying grade! The “cherubs” are totally unadulterated and are truly a blank slate. All that you do with and for them, is soaked up thirstily, with no apprehension or prejudice. They simply love this new learning place you have provided just for them! They would walk a tightrope for you if you asked them to. Therefore, your power is tantamount in their eyes. Embarrassingly, though, they have been known to usurp their own parent’s word by stating, “No! My teacher said it is THIS way!”. 

Perhaps, the sweetest prize is seeing the affection they have for one another. They are unafraid to hold a hand of a friend in comfort, in comraderie or glee, regardless of gender because of course, they don’t classify others at all. There are no taboos in kindergarten society. It’s a “golden” thing to behold to see their genuine acceptance of peers. And how fine to know this kindly acceptance extends to adults as well. 

In your classroom their wide-eyed look as you read stories to and with them is indeed priceless. It is often that a kindergarten teacher will pause to savor the emotional lump in her/his throat. You can literally feel the devotion toward you, their leader and that ethereal thing we call (learning). An educator amidst a sea of engaged kindergarten faces cannot help but feel the synapses sparking and firing and transmitting and creating that “Dendrite Information Highway”! Any kindergarten teacher will tell you this is no exaggeration. But with that flow of power comes their dear love for you. If one ever seeks appreciation, you will find it in your kindergarten classroom. All the countless and I mean COUNTLESS hours of preparation are well worth it, because in a kindergarten classroom you do get your bang for your buck! Sometimes double! 

Inside the kindergarten classroom, the soft voices, whether lackadaisically singing or intentionally conveying tender ideas are actually little “sound bites of treasure”. For the most important aspect of a kindergarten classroom is this untamed “spilling forth”. To listen to a five year old thought being sung or spoken is a critical endeavor of the kindergarten instructor. The job of the students is to practice communication. Your job as their teacher-facilitator is to intensely LISTEN and consume what they verbally have to offer. There is no standard or price tag on this integral part of a kindergarten. A wise kindergarten teacher hones in on this “vocal window” into her students’ typically diverse expression. 

If run well, affording natural curiosity, explorative play and individualized rate of academic growth, vs. cookie cutter “everyone must be on this point, by this time” mentality, it will indeed be a cheerful place for children and their educator. The thrill of one child’s epiphany can often be infectious to the point of being THE catalyst which steered the whole class toward success. THAT is quite fun to witness. It is one of the many gems in the kindergarten world “jewel-box”. All  kindergarten teachers and their pupils are in for a most unique experience which sets the tone for the rest of their life. 

Even though teaching kindergarten is completely exhausting, it is a special time for the kids, their family and their teacher. One should remember it is a “kids’ garden”…where young hearts and minds sprout and grow. A gardener doesn’t yell at his beans and peas to make them grow. Instead, he coaxes them along with soothing words, sunshine and refreshing water. The same applies to children. You can’t force or pressure them to learn, one can only provide opportunity for learning and growth to take place, coupled with celebratory words along the way. A gardener still appreciates his snap pea with only three seeds inside vs. the ones with 4. No rushing along required! Patient, ardent, attentive weeding, fertilizing and watering is hard work, but necessary. It will tire out the “gardener” by the end of the “growing season”, but the proof of growth is most apparent! The kindergarten teacher will reap the fruitful bounty of her pupils’ success, whether it be in the form of reading, writing, computing math, or renderings in crayon or paint. The realization of culminating achievement is literally art for the soul of a teacher. Truly. 

To my colleague- enjoy the best year of your life. I promise there will be lots of surprises and exquisite “small moments”. Be ready to be charmed.

By Julianne Cull🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏

Review of the 2018 movie: “Christopher Robin”

For what it’s worth: it is my opinion that this was a truly wonderful film. I myself was enamored over the authentic beginning with the viewing and reading of some pages from the actual book by A.A.Milne.  The sweet gentleness and purely childlike start to the story was both refreshing and affirming that children still should be lovingly coddled and cared for. Not every movie for children has to be brimming with wild, loud, in your face silliness. “Christopher Robin” had a much more meaningful and genteel approach. Yes, there were many funny moments, for sure, but this film has a higher purpose.

The scene which transitions from Christopher Robin’s fetterless childhood to one of accepting he must bolster-up and prepare for manhood was incredibly poignant. I believe today’s kids can comprehend this- or at the very least feel the truth and importance of it. Hearing the endearing voices, seeing the creatures profess their allegiance to Christopher Robin, and he to them, was very touching, and a bit angst-filled, as well. Don’t we all long for the free-spirited play of our childhood? 

As the story progressed through the tribulations and quests to be dealt with and solved, the main focus was a very poignant message for these times: Family is foremost and above all in importance. I loved that. Thank God we are addressing this fact! I applaud how the medium in which the story comes to fruition was through ingenuity, imagination, trust, loyalty, perseverance, hope and patient devotion. What more meaningful messages ought today’s children receive? 

I was so glad that in true Disney style the story problem neatly ties up at the end with a good heart epiphany that saves the day, so to speak! Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and yes even Eeyore were a joy to see and hear and believe. I am thrilled Christopher Robin not only could retap into his childhood innocence, but, also utilize its power to apply to his present life situation. Bravo

This movie is “anyone who wants it childhood” served up beautifully and poetically. It is a “must see movie” for all children; young, old and especially “adult”. Like the audience who shared with me this sure to be timeless piece of cinema, everyone who goes will also clap at the end!