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Remembering Two Special Days in June


Remembering Two Special Days in June and Two Extraordinary Leader Dogs


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



“You are getting a female Black Lab, and her name is Willow,” announced Christie, my guide dog/mobility instructor (GDMI), one year ago this morning, at about 9:07 (Eastern Time).


“Oh, how pretty!” I responded with tears of joy squeezing my vocal cords.


“It’s very pretty, and she’s just as pretty as her name,” my–our–trainer continued.




Fortunately, I audio-recorded this awesome moment so that I can cherish this happy time of being given my fourth Leader Dog and so that I can more exactly share the exciting moment with you.


Before Christie left my dorm room at Leader Dog School to get Willow, the instructor added:  “I love that name; and it fits her because she’s graceful and gentle and beautiful like a willow tree.  Okay, I’ll go get her and be right back.”


After having endured the seemingly terribly long period of waiting for my fourth Leader Dog–March 16, 2016 to June 7, 2016–I could quite easily wait a few more minutes.


My heart had been so broken when my Zoe, my third Leader Dog, passed away extremely suddenly and unexpectedly on the sixteenth of March; however, all of those broken pieces of my heart fluttered happily in anticipation  of finally meeting my fourth guide dog.  When Christie returned to my room and told me to call “my dog,” I was so excited that I forgot to re-activate the audio-recorder.  Despite my not recalling the exact words that transpired, I know that I did call Willow and my fourth Leader Dog came to me like a long-lost friend–or one mighty happy dog of two-and-a-half years.  Thus, with much love and gratitude, I began a new chapter in my life with intelligent, devoted, delightful, and endearing dogs.


As those early days, first weeks, and twelve months have passed with our getting to know each other and learning to work together, I still miss my practically perfect Zoe.  Yesterday, Willow and I marked the anniversary of my receiving Zoe on June 6, 2009, by walking 54 blocks.


Some coincidences of life are especially intriguing:  I think of my grandfather clock, my gift to my parents on their 40th wedding anniversary.  I love this family heirloom; but shortly before Zoe’s passing, the grandfather clock stopped working.  I could not re-start the melodious clock.  With Zoe’s passing, my going to Michigan for training with Willow at Leader Dogs for the Blind, my writing and having published my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season to honor Zoe’s memory, and a variety of other happenings–I never called about having the clock repaired until recently.  Then, I realized that the appointment for the visit of the clock repairman was to be June 6–Zoe’s special day.  Tom T. said that all of the workings of the clock were in very good shape; he thought the only problem was that the timing mechanism was off and was preventing the pendulum from working.  After over a year of no chimes, no marking of each hour–my grandfather clock began ticking and chiming again yesterday–I think, to mark the anniversary of my receiving Zoe.  Late last night, I realized that Willow was hearing the clock for the first time:  she did not mind the quarter hour reminders of passing time.  Together, Willow and I are moving forward.


Through the saddest of times and the happiest of times, with or without a working grandfather clock, time does pass.  The passing time does not make me less grateful, but ever more grateful to Leader Dogs for the Blind (Rochester, Michigan), all the trainers and support staff, as well as those who generously donate to Leader Dogs for the Blind for making possible my four amazing Leader Dogs:  Keller, a Golden Retriever (March 21, 1990); Heather, a Yellow Lab (April 15, 1998); Zoe, a Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix (June 6, 2009); and Willow, a British Black Lab (June 7, 2016).  (While I know that many readers know the names of my guide dogs, their breeds, and the years when they came into my life, I repeat this information for new readers of Wordwalk and for myself as a litany of love for my Leader Dogs.)  Daily, I highly respect and am enormously grateful for all that my guide dogs have made possible and continue to make possible in my life.


Oh, what a beautiful day this has been in Milwaukee to celebrate this milestone with long walks with my precious Willow!  55 glorious blocks of independent walking for us today!


Wishing you many summer blessings and a happy June,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


June 7, 2017, Wednesday


POST-SCRIPT:  I am still trying to learn and fine-tune all the aspects of the new speech software which I am using.  While I have learned much, I know I have much more to comprehend and put into practice.


Commencement Address: More for the Graduate


NOTE:  Each year around this time, we read or hear on both the local and national news names of famous people who will deliver commencement addresses in our area and throughout the United States.  Then, eventually, I find myself enjoying a news segment featuring highlights of memorable graduation speeches of this season of turning tassels.  Although I never gave a speech to graduates–on the final class meeting of each of the courses which I taught, I, from my classroom podium, did share with my students a brief farewell address with notes of “good luck” and “best wishes.”


The following essay (first posted on my Wordwalk blog on May 20, 2015) is too long for a Hallmark card, too short for a chapbook–but the speech below is my commencement address, never delivered.  Fortunately, now, through my Wordwalk blog, I can share my thoughts about graduation from my Wordwalk podium.



After the Tassel Is Turned–A Report Card for the Graduate


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Are you ready for a another report card?  Are you ready for a report card that you can carry in your wallet, access through your phone, or find in a new and mysterious way which one of you may someday invent?  No matter what the medium is, I, as a former and forever teacher, am very comfortable with giving you the graduation gift of a report card for life–life after you turn your tassel to the other side.


You never wanted an “F” on any prior report card; however, on the report card which I am giving you today, you will find one “F.”  If you are sitting here, you are not a failure–you are a winner; and I hope that you have learned the lesson of the “Fairness Doctrine.”  No, I am not speaking of the “Fairness Doctrine,” established in 1949 and abolished in 1987 by the Federal Communications Commission.  I am referring to life’s most important lesson.  Life is not fair.  If you have learned this lesson and keep it with you for reference for the years to come, coping with life’s challenges will be so much easier.  While that “F” on this report card indicates that life is not fair, what can you do?  As soon as you turn your tassel, turn to all of those around you and try to treat all of them fairly.  As you proceed with your career, family, and other interests–try your best to treat co-workers, family members, friends, and strangers fairly.


Next, on this report card are two “C” marks.  One “C” is for the second most important lesson which I hope you have learned and will carry with you.  All of life is change.  When change is good and positive, we love change.  When change is hairy, hard, or heartbreaking–we could extremely dislike or even hate it.  However, I encourage you to embrace change–change of whatever kind–because change is life.  Coping with the good changes will be easy; coping with the challenging changes will make you the unbittered person whom you must want to be


The second “C” is for carousel.  When you are at the airport of life,  any best-forgotten or best-left-behind baggage that is twirling around the carousel at baggage claim is not necessarily yours to take–even if your name is on it.  Some baggage of life, you must just leave behind at the carousel.  Walk on; catch a new cab or take a future flight.


In the fourth and fifth spots on your report card for life are two “B” marks.  Since I have been a teacher of English, please allow me to say that the initial “B” is for books.  As you leave these ivy-covered buildings and the library where you have spent so much time, do not close the book on learning.  Continue to delve into a variety of books.  Be a lifelong learner.  Read to the little children who are around you now; read to those little ones who will come into your future.  Help others to learn to read.  Read to those who, for whatever reason, cannot read for themselves.  Instead of collecting books on bookshelves, share your books and the gift of reading.  Additionally, buy “nothing” books–books with blank pages; then, at least once a month, write the highlights of your life, your family members’ lives, as well as the news of your community and your country in these books.  Why do I encourage you to write these few sentences each month of the rest of your life?  You will not remember all that you would like to remember, and you may not remember the date nor the year when something important happens.  Okay, okay–if you do not handwrite these notes of your life into a “nothing” book, enter the memorable information into the computer device of your choice.  Decades from now, you will be glad that you abided by the “B” on your graduation report card.  This mark comes with one of those “graduation guarantees.”


Next, for all of you who have taken math classes, I need you to count something.  The second “B” is for blessings.  Today  and each day for the rest of your precious life, count your blessings.  If you count your blessings each day, you will not be able to feel sorry for yourself.  You will be able to smile at each sunrise and feel satisfied at each sunset during the seasons of your life.  With or without a ceremony, such as today’s, you will be able to celebrate your blessings.


Finally, for all of you who have collected “A” grades and all of you who wish you had collected more of them throughout the past few years, I think you will be happy to find one “A” on your report card for life.  This final mark of “A” is for an altitude of gratitude.  I hope that you will find this place where you can feel at home, feel community, feel challenged and comforted–a place where you can grow to your height and where you can give back.  I hope that you find your altitude of gratitude–the place where you should be to become the best you can be.


Congratulations to you and to all who helped you to arrive here on your graduation day!  Best wishes and good luck in finding your altitude of gratitude!



Enjoy the special ceremonies and celebrations of life!

Alice and Willow (who thinks your report card should include a “D” for dog)


POST-SCRIPT:  Reading over this essay again today even encouraged me–the writer–as I am in the midst of taking a big “computer step.”  Since I am transitioning to a different speech software program, I have needed some of my own encouragement expressed in this week’s repeat post.  I hope that you also have found the above words encouraging on this final day of May.  Additionally, you are welcome to share this piece or last week’s poem with a special graduate whom you know will be turning the tassel during this year’s graduation season.


If all my computer changes work well, I will post something new for you on Wordwalk next Wednesday.  Have a good week!


May 31, 2017, Wednesday


For the Graduate


A Diplomatic Wish for the Graduate:


Be a Leader, not a Star


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



As you stand quietly and confidently in your cap and gown,

I ask you to think before you toss that tassel to the other side.

Beneath the cooling shadow of the mortar board,

have you smiled with grace and gratitude?

If, in the wind, the tassel tickles your face,

will you laugh or just broaden your smile

as you take your place?

No matter how hard the wind blows,

stand tall–

I want a photo of this moment.

Click.  Now, you can move forward.

Can’t you?


Waiting, waiting, midst all the graduates,

are you running in place?

Are you glancing back

or looking ahead at your life?

I wonder.

Is that a tear on your face?

Is it a tear for all that you will miss

or a tear of trepidation for what may lie ahead?

Is what I see upon your face

not a tear, but a bead of sweat

for all the work you have done

and all the work that is before you?


Your hand wipes your face:

once again, you smile.

Momentarily, I know you are fine

and hope you will be for a long time.


Have you exchanged a word with the graduate at your right side?

Have you exchanged a thought with the graduate at your left?

You all will go in so many different directions

after sharing these four years,

this graduation day,

this moment.


As I watch you process into the arena,

I know that you are in a class

of leaders and stars–

not just leaders and followers.

I hope you realize

that while some stars are not leaders,

sound leaders will always shine.


Stars may not be diplomatic,

may not be kind nor caring;

but leaders lead with wisdom,

understanding, gratitude, and grace.

While I am certain

you sometimes will be a devoted follower,

I hope that you will be a leader

among followers.

I hope that in your chosen realms,

you will be a leader

who does not need to be a star.


However many stages lie ahead of you,

be assured that

your happiness, kindness, and success

may always lead

back to my smiling heart.


Congratulations to the graduate

you are today

and to the leader

you will be

throughout your blessed tomorrows!



Our best wishes to all graduates and their families,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


May 24, 2017, Wednesday


Tribute to High School Teachers


A Tribute to My High School Teachers:


Clinton High School (1964-1968) in Clinton, Indiana


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



While my favorite television program Jeopardy is in the midst of honoring teachers through its Teacher Tournament and after my blog post last week to honor some superior teachers from my grade-school days, I am turning to the teachers of Clinton High School (Clinton, Indiana) during my high school years of 1964 through 1968.  In my Wordwalk blog post of May 10, I acknowledged grade-school teachers in chronological order; however, for this tribute, I will give my thanks to teachers by a recollection of building location and departments.  Once again, I am not presenting a “Top Ten List of Teachers,” but am mentioning some outstanding teachers while I fully realize that I learned from each teacher in whose class I sat in the old wooden “row” desks that had such style and character.


Speaking of those desks prompts me to recall the block on which stood the five buildings of our high school (with an enrollment of approximately four hundred students, 104 graduates in my Class of ’68).  Of course, all of the buildings were brick.  The three-story Senior High Building graced the northwest corner of the large block; and the Junior High Building, also three stories, faced Mulberry Street at the northeast corner of the block.  Between these two buildings was the firehouse for the City of Clinton.  Behind the firehouse was the newest of the buildings–the Multi-purpose Building which was primarily used as our cafeteria.  A covered walkway connected the Senior High Building, Junior High Building, and the Multi-purpose Building.  Behind the Senior High Building and to the west of the Multi-purpose Building was the Gymnasium which in addition to a basketball court and bleachers, had a large stage, upstairs classroom for health class, and a basement for home economics and shop classes, as well as the band room and locker rooms.  Finally, on the southeast corner of the block, facing Blackman Street, stood the Administration Building which besides offices, had classrooms on the second and third stories.  Of these five buildings between Third Street on the east and Fourth Street on the west, only the Gymnasium and Multi-Purpose Building are still standing and being used.


All who know me certainly know that I am not a math person; however, I will begin in the math department of Clinton High School.  After descending the east stairwell of the Senior High Building, the first classroom on the right in the lower level was the math classroom of Mr. Theodore (“Ted”) Nolan.  Even more than freshman algebra, what I learned from Mr. Nolan was an extraordinary teaching method.  He had a most impressive way of not only welcoming each student, but also making each student feel important.  In his classroom, there were not just a couple of star students:  the entire classroom was a constellation.  I am certain that some students smiled and flourished only in his classroom.  When I was teaching, I tried to follow Mr. Nolan’s example and welcome each student as he or she entered my classroom each day.  Whenever I was challenged by a group of students in a class, I often wondered what I could do to make these students feel special and learn more from my class:  I truly wondered, “What would Mr. Nolan do?”  Even as a freshman in high school, I marveled at his classroom techniques.  How his manner of teaching did inspire me!  I wish I had been able to thank him years ago.


In the second room down from Mr. Nolan’s room was the math classroom of Mrs. (Susan) Lapworth, who was my teacher for geometry (sophomore year) and “College Algebra” (junior year).  While I have forgotten way too much geometry and algebra, I will never forget how, without ever asking me a question about my eye condition, Mrs. Lapworth very unobtrusively handed me each quiz written in her beautiful cursive handwriting because this observant teacher realized that I, even from sitting in a front seat, could not see the quiz questions which she wrote on the chalkboard.  During my sophomore year when an ophthalmologist told me for the first time that I was “legally blind,” I never thought, nor did my parents, of telling my teachers.  Eventually only the school nurse Miss Butts knew of my diagnosis of macular degeneration (juvenile onset); however, to my knowledge, the school nurse never informed my teachers.  Of course, the small accommodation which Mrs. Lapworth made was well before the days of the word “accommodation” becoming prevalent in education.  Most assuredly, what my geometry teacher did for me helped me to receive knowledge and grades that made me later eligible for National Honor Society because I had no plans to tell her that I could not see the quizzes written on the chalkboard.  Yes, I should have also thanked Mrs. Lapworth decades ago.


Across the hall from Mrs. Lapworth’s room was the typing room where, the summer of 1966, I learned touch-typing from Mrs. (Joan) Dunlap.  While we still pounded away on large, standard typewriters, some of the typewriters in the classroom were, gratefully, electric.  With all the papers which I wrote during the remainder of my secondary, undergraduate, and post-graduate education, that typing class was vitally important and appreciated then and now.


Moving from the lower level to the second floor of the Senior High Building, I remember the huge Study Hall which had a very small stage and a piano in the front of the room.  Expanding the entire length of the south half of the second floor, the Study Hall must have contained at least twelve rows of thirty or more of the “row” desks.  Tall windows lined the south and east walls; of course, the floor was hardwood.  Entering and exiting the Study Hall was through two large doorways on the north side.  Mrs. Dunlap, a business teacher, and Mr. Kyle, who was a shop teacher and was very active in the VFW and Lions Club, selected me as one of the students to take attendance in their large study-hall period.  Not only did I enjoy this task, but I benefited by their trust and confidence in my being able to do this task quickly and efficiently.  Another year or two, I was pleased to be chosen to work in the Counselors’ Office.  Picking up attendance slips outside classroom doors daily or delivering messages occasionally were among my minimal duties; but I was pleased to do this work for Mr. (Robert) Burton, one of our counselors.


To the west of the Counselors’ Office (across the hall from the Study Hall) was the classroom of Mr. (Max) Chambers.  Although I learned a fair amount about sociology, what I think Mr. Chambers most taught was how to study.  Study skills which I learned from him served me well through many subsequent years of my education and helped me to realize the importance of my teaching others how to study.


East of the Principal’s Office and across from the Study Hall was the foreign language room.  During my first two years of high school, I studied French with Mrs. (Marilyn) Hawkins.  I relished the variety of this class and also enjoyed its creative aspects (like making menus in French).  In this room, during my senior year, I was delighted to take a Spanish class with Mrs. (Vera) Shew.  With no foreign language lab and with only minimal teaching materials, these teachers instilled in me a love for learning languages.  As a result of this Spanish class, I continued to study Spanish throughout undergraduate and graduate school at Indiana State University.


During my years at Clinton High School, the Junior High Building, despite its name, was for secondary students (grades nine through twelve), as were all the other buildings which I have mentioned.  In the Junior High Building on the second floor was the large library, expanding the entire south side of the second level.  Miss (Florence) Salaroglio, who had been my mother’s French teacher, was the full-time librarian.  Not only did I enjoy working in the library for Miss Salaroglio, but I was thrilled when she selected my friend Nancy Rendaci and me to attend a week-long summer conference for student librarians on the campus of Purdue University.  One of the activities of this special week was a discussion of the book Fahrenheit 451.  Staying on a large university campus for a week was great preparation for what lay ahead in only one year.  Miss Salaroglio was one of the teachers whom I was able to appropriately thank because she invited Nancy and me to her home for a visit one afternoon to share what we had learned at the conference before senior year.


Certainly, I was blessed with English teachers who gave me a strong foundation in grammar, punctuation, writing, and literature.  I am especially grateful to Mrs. Gerrish (freshman homeroom and English teacher), Mrs. (Nancy Pointer who later taught in the classroom of Mrs. Gerrish (northwest corner of the lower level of the Junior High Building), as well as Mrs. (Harriet) Baldwin who was my English teacher for one year  and then again for senior English and British Literature in her classroom in the northeast corner of the lower level of the Junior High Building.  In the northwest classroom of the top floor of the Administration Building, I certainly remember the energetic teaching of English by Mrs. (Naomi) Craig.


During my junior year (1966-1967), my high school offered journalism as a course for the first time.  Since I was very interested in newspapers and newspaper writing, I was delighted to have this opportunity to take journalism with Mrs. (Sharon) Hussong, a new and young teacher.  The green and white cover of our textbook prominently displayed the title Press Time.  Undoubtedly, this was my favorite textbook.  I only regretted that the course was merely one year.  While I could not take a second part of the course of journalism, I was able to continue working on the school newspaper for a fourth year.  By the time of my senior year, the newspaper staff acquired the office between the library and the new classroom of Mrs. Hussong in the Junior High Building.  Our staff room had counter space, office desks and chairs, and even an IBM Selectric typewriter.  What a wonderful opportunity to work in this room on an offset newspaper production for our high school!  Through Mrs. Hussong’s journalism class and the newspaper staff (for which she was advisor), so many worthwhile opportunities and experiences developed, including attending the Indiana High School Press Association Convention and becoming a charter member of our high school’s chapter of the Quill and Scroll Society (national honorary organization for high school journalists).  My love of working on the school newspaper led to my studying journalism at Indiana State University.  I have always wanted to tell Mrs. Hussong how far that journalism course took me on a wonderful life’s path of writing.  I wish I could give her a copy of my book and a bouquet of thanks for all that she encouraged me and gave to me.


In May of 1968, when I crossed the stage of the CHS Gymnasium and was handed my diploma, I had my parents and many teachers to thank.  I thank them even more today.



With thanks to all of our teachers of Clinton High School,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


May 17, 2017, Wednesday, the 125th anniversary of the birth of my paternal grandmother Elizabeth (Liza) Massa


Flowers for Mothers’ Day


Flowers for Mothers’ Day


Whether you place flowers in the hands of your mother, send flowers to her across the miles, or put flowers at the grave of a mother–flowers have, through the decades, blossomed into a lovely part of this special holiday called Mothers’ Day.  Thinking of all of the floral gifts given on this day, I am sharing with you a floral bouquet of words in the form of an abecedarian which I posted on Wordwalk in March of 2013 (for Easter).  Since this 26-line poem mentions numerous flowers, my mother, my Aunt Zita and my other aunts, my sister, and my maternal grandmother–I thought re-posting this blog on Mothers’ Day would be appropriate.


As you will notice, the abecedarian includes 26 lines—one for each letter of the alphabet—in alphabetical order.  I chose to write my abecedarian in six quatrains with the a-b-b-a rhyme scheme, followed by one couplet.



Floral Abecedarian


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Arrangements of floral memories blossom in my mind.

Beautiful Bouquets at weddings were thrown to happy hands.

Chrysanthemums channel back to high school homecoming and marching bands.

Daffodils, in perky and steadfast fashion, disseminate hope that winter will soon unwind.


Easter lilies bud forth with bunnies, eggs, and prayer.

Forget-me-nots remind me to hold dear all of our family gardens.

Gladioli generated my first flower garden, and geraniums renewed Little Edens.

Hyacinths were blue and pink presents that Dad gave my sister and me—a fragrant flair.


Irises of many colors and with too many bees grew along our yard’s east section.

Jonquils grace the magenta vase that my mother purchase at the 1933 World’s Fair.

Kitchen window sill at home balanced children’s tiny bouquets beyond compare.

Lilies-of-the-valley hugged tightly against our Hoosier home’s foundation.


Marigolds of yellow, orange, and gold most remind me of my mother—another Mary.

Nosegays were grasped by a young bridesmaid, waiting to become a bride.

Orchids of cream and lapis make a favorite corsage to wear with pride.

Peonies, the most common among all my aunts, made a flouncy boundary.


Queen Anne’s Lace reminds us of how one different floret can stand tall among the rest.

Roses, that once graced funerals, were pressed into blessed and holy rosary beads.

Snowflake mums and red carnations burst forth with holiday cheer and good deeds.

Tulips of numerous types trailed along the sidewalk of Aunt Zita’s restaurant—the best.


Umbrellas reign for all the rains and rainbows that bring life to all our cherished flowers.

Violets snatched from a roadside were transplanted beside our water pump’s overflow.

Water lilies floated in the pond of Roselawn Cemetery—just for show.

Xerophytes do grow where there is no rain for hours and hours.


Youthful and elderly memories of family gardens abound:

zinnias were the flowers that Grandma nurtured near the Italian bakery of our hometown.



On this Mothers’ Day of 2017,

Mother Nature has bestowed on the mothers of Milwaukee

a beautifully sunny day (although a cool 52 degrees by the lake).

Hoping you are enjoying a sunny, heart-warming Mothers’ Day,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


May 14, 2017, Sunday


Happy Mothers’ Day


NOTE:  To honor the memory of my mother on this Mother’s Day of 2017 and to wish all other mothers a “Happy Mothers’ Day,” I am sharing with you a piece which I had originally posted on this Wordwalk blog in May of 2014.



Gifts from My Mother:  A Mothers’ Day Tribute


By Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On Sunday, May 14, all types of mothers will be celebrated, honored, and remembered:  saintly mothers and so-so mothers, adoptive mothers and adaptable mothers, mothers who have smiled on many Mothers’ Days, mothers who will be lauded on their first Mothers’ Day, and mothers-to-be.  Then, I think of my mother who was last here on Earth for Mothers’ Day of 2001.  While we all try to give our mothers special gifts on this special day in May, I now ponder the gifts which my mother gave to me—the second of her two daughters.


Since my family and I were from Indiana—my dad and I (and much of our extended family) were avid fans of motor racing.  For many Hoosiers and race fans around the world, the month of May is equated with the Indianapolis 500—the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  My first exciting trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) was at age five.  For decades, the first weekend of qualifications for the Indy 500 coincided with Mothers’ Day.  Knowing what fans my dad and I were of racing, my mother probably too often generously gave us the gift of allowing us to go to the Time Trials at IMS on Mothers’ Day.  I always gave her Mothers’ Day gifts, and we would take her out to eat on another day.  Nevertheless, didn’t she give me an unselfish gift?  Although my mother did not want us to feel guilty then, I now certainly do feel a twinge of guilt recalling how many times we spent Mothers’ Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—almost always without her.


A very different, but important gift which my mother gave me was the gift of reading to me.  Due to my eye condition, she did not just read to me when I was a child:  my mother continued to read to me until Alzheimer’s robbed her of her gift of reading.  Unlike most parents, mine were frequently trying to discourage me from reading print so much—they wanted me to save my eyesight by avoiding eye strain from reading too much.  Consequently, my mother read chapter books to me—a chapter a night.  Some of the book covers I can still picture in my mind:  Little Women, The Bobbsey Twins, Annie Oakley, Fury, Wild Geese Flying.  From 1985-1990, when I was coordinating the Sunday morning radio program Talking Newspaper, my mother read to me numerous articles from three newspapers so that I could select and edit each week the articles to be read by some of the fifty volunteers.  Soon after this experience, I purchased my first Kurzweil reading machine and then a computer with speech software.  Through a variety of means of reading and writing, I eventually found a new path in life and returned to school for a second master’s degree and then returned to full-time teaching.


A rare gift my mother gave to me was not letting my diminishing eyesight diminish my career path or opportunities.  How did she feel about having a child who would gradually become blind?  I do not know by what she ever said:  I only know by her actions.  She was always writing to specialists around the United States, and my dad would drive me to the appointments with ophthalmologists.  Only once did she ever somewhat express a comment about my eyes.  as my mother was driving our bright red Ford from Highway 71 to the cut-off road back home, my mother quite calmly stated:  “When you were a baby, you had such big, beautiful brown eyes, I never thought ….”  Her voice trailed off, and those few words were all that she ever said on the subject.  How she really felt about having a daughter who is blind, I will never really know—I think this is a gift for the child and the adult child.  However, without a doubt, the greatest gift my mother gave me was that she let me be—let me be myself, let me dream.  She let me be.  Thanks, Mom.  From Earth to Heaven, Happy Mothers’ Day!


May 2, 2014, Friday


To my aunt in Minnesota, my sister in Colorado, my cousin in “Alligator Country,” my cousins in Indiana, my cousins in California and Oregon, my cousins in Mexico and Missouri, friends here and there, my niece across Lake Michigan, my niece near the Rocky Mountains, and all readers of Wordwalk

Happy Mothers’ Day!


Alice and Leader Dog Willow

May 13, 2017, Saturday


A Tribute to Teachers


A Tribute to Teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Since we are in the midst of Teacher Appreciation Week and since yesterday (May 9, 2017) was National Teacher Day, I have been thinking of the many teachers who have been so important in my education, in my life.  My list of teachers whom I significantly appreciate will not be announced in a “Top Ten” manner, but will be presented in chronological order.  While I will name only a limited number of teachers, I realize that I have learned something from each of my teachers and professors.  In this week’s Wordwalk, I will focus on teachers through my eighth grade; in next week’s blog post, I will concentrate on teachers from Clinton (Indiana) High School and professors from Indiana State University and Western Michigan University.  I hope that my tribute to my teachers will bring forth positive memories of your teachers for you.


My thanks and best wishes to all who are currently enjoying this highly worthwhile, rewarding career of teaching and to those who have admirably retired from this profession!  May many of your students be inspired to follow in your footsteps and become remarkable teachers.


With neither preschool nor kindergarten at Jacksonville Grade School (Blanford, Indiana), I believe that my first “teacher” (in a make-believe school) was my older sister, who was born to be a teacher.  As soon as our dad nailed a chalkboard to a knotty-pine wall for us, my sister became “teacher”; and I had to be her first student.  In a variety of ways, I know that Mary did help me prepare for each level of my education that lay ahead.  In more recent years, I have observed what an effective, confident, and creative teacher she is in her preschool classroom.  In 1969, Mary earned her first education degree from Indiana State University; and she is still thoroughly enjoying teaching little four- and five-year-old students.


At the beloved Jacksonville Grade School where my formal education began, so many extraordinary teachers stood in front of the chalkboards of the four classrooms through the years (1914-1961).  Still today, I can clearly visualize the first/second-grade classroom when Ms. (Joan) Jones was my second-grade teacher.  In this classroom, I can clearly picture myself reading to my fellow students the first poem (about a poodle) that I ever wrote.  Since I enjoy writing poetry so much, I certainly thank Ms. Jones (Mrs. Bogetto) for first giving me the opportunity to write and present a poem.


In the third grade of the five years that I studied at Jacksonville Grade School, Mrs. Keown, our teacher for the first part of the year, was undoubtedly the sweetest teacher I have ever had.  With her gentle ways, she treated each student as her own child.  Then, for the remainder of third grade and all of fourth grade, Mrs. (Marguerite) Lenderman was our artistic, no-nonsense, creative teacher who was the first to add festive stickers or silver stars to our papers.  Her cursive handwriting was as beautiful and stylish as she was.  Learning cursive from Mrs. Lenderman was learning from an expert.  Her bulletin boards were inspirational.  At recess times and at PTA meetings, this outstanding teacher encouraged and a few times directed the singing that my cousin Carole Lanzone (Morgan), our friend Kathy Gill (Staats), and I enjoyed.  Since Mrs. Lenderman and her husband Mr. Max Lenderman often ate at my Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant, my family and I were able to maintain a friendship with the Lendermans for many years.  Even when I was in my early 40s, Mrs. Lenderman was still encouraging me.  When we met at the former restaurant Larry Bird’s Boston Connection (Terre Haute, Indiana), she had read a piece I wrote about my first Leader Dog Keller; and my fourth-grade teacher insisted that I should publish my story.  All of us who were students of Mrs. Lenderman and who became teachers must have certainly kept in mind her ways to model in our own teaching.


When Jacksonville Grade School was closed after my fifth-grade year (1960-1961), we Jacksonville students were bused to Universal Grade School for one year.  At this grade school, I met Mrs. Waters, our first teacher of music.  Having a music class once a week was a special treat, and I loved to sing harmony.  An animated and enthusiastic teacher, Mrs. Waters energetically played the piano and demanded that we all sing.  We did.  When we all went to the newly built Van Duyn Elementary School (kindergarten through grade eight) in 1962, Mrs. Waters directed the all-school Christmas and spring concerts that were highlights of those years.


Thanks to Mrs. Whitlock, who taught physical education and other subjects at  Van Duyn Elementary, I entered and attended the Science Fair on the campus of Indiana State University when I was a seventh grader.  (The Van Duyn eighth grader who participated in Science Fair that year was Clarine Nardi, a brilliant friend who became an attorney.)  Although my project with geraniums (still my favorite flower of my container garden) was a meager one, the experience and encouragement Mrs. Whitlock gave me were large.


Mr. (William E.) Payton, who had been principal during the final years of Jacksonville Grade School, was one of my “rotating” teachers of seventh and eighth grades.  He had an unbelievably precisioned cursive, handwritten with a fountain pen with blue ink.  This memorable teacher kept ringbinders filled with patriotic and other poems in his own handwriting.  Each Friday, he used this special ringbinder for a class of sharing poetry with us.  I am certain that this was his favorite hour of the week, and I imagine some of his poetry readings helped to influence my love of poetry.  I can still hear his reading poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and verses of our national anthem that are not often sung.


For a variety of reasons, I remember Mr. (Donald) Kemper.  The most clear eighth-grade day in my mind is November 22, 1963–the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  With our class of students unusually stunned into silent respect, Mr. Kemper stood in the open doorway of our room and listened for another announcement about President Kennedy to come over the PA system or to be shared by someone in the hallway.  On that day when so much changed so tragically, sadly, and quickly in the United States, Mr. Kemper was there.


While all of my elementary teachers helped to prepare me well for my secondary and post-secondary education, these wonderful teachers of the 1950s and 1960s helped to instill in me goals for life-long learning.  With the strong foundation in reading, phonics, writing, grammar, and punctuation that my grade-school teachers gave me, I was eventually able to become  a technical college instructor of writing and now, in my retirement from teaching, am able to pursue my own writing and publishing goals.


With all due respect to our teachers involved in our formal education at our schools, I believe that our most important teachers are our parents or another parent-like figure.  My sister and I were blessed with extraordinary and loving parents.  On this coming weekend of Mother’s Day, I will re-post at least two articles related to Mother’s Day.  Then, please remember to visit this Wordwalk blog next week on its typical day of Wednesday to read more about the outstanding teachers from my secondary and post-secondary school years.



With much appreciation to all active and retired teachers

and with best wishes for a Happy Mothers’ Day weekend,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


May 10, 2017, Wednesday


AUTHOR’S NOTE:  You are welcome to visit my author’s web page at:

where you can see the photo of the cover of my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season and photos of  my guide dogs Zoe and Willow (with me), as well as read a sample of my book and find ordering information for my 101-page book.  Happy reading!