I’ll Publish My Own ‘Stuff’ Soon….

colleen--bestTwo years ago, I wrote a blog (biddybytes.com) that focused on the good in this world. Because its theme was “encouragement,” I got categorized (by Google) with the “Born-again’s” and religious revivalists, tho’ I’m neither. I wrote 3 times a week and I had a really good readership…..

I began that blog,  following my husband’s “death experience” on that North Carolina mountain road (he survived the accident but the hospital experience almost killed him.) It’s been a tough climb back.

For the past two years, I’ve concentrated on getting my Op-Ed’s published (they appear in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Providence Journal) and working on my books. Now, I write to tell you I’ll be releasing my first book in the months ahead.

On this website, I’ll tackle occasional other issues (like today’s “Mr. Holmes”) but mostly I’ll file snippets of longer stories that will appear in my books.

“The Asheville Experiment” (book I complete now) has invaluable information regarding how to choose a home–especially out-of-state, self-sale (saving thousands,) quirks/benefits/drawbacks of condominiums and townhomes, power players in those communities, how to sell your furniture to your best advantage, how to deal with closing attorneys, etc. (remember– I was a successful realtor.)

It’s not all instructional. Much of what I write is amusing or downright hysterical.

Finally, another of my books, “In the Shadow of Princes” tells how to recover (seriously, it’s possible) from negative  family dynamics. Again, humor is my weapon.

My books aren’t ready yet, but “The Asheville Experiment” will be first.

Now, enjoy my most recent post “Mr. Holmes”…and please, sign on in “Subscribe” area on top right. Just add your e-mail address; I promise: it won’t go anywhere else.

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“Mr. Holmes” Is a Sleeper

holmes and roger walking from beachBut it won’t put you to sleep..altho’ it might just lull you into thinking the movie industry can produce some fine work that elevates the human condition.

A “sleeper.” That’s what they used to call them—movies that just squirrel their way into your consciousness, to leave a lasting impression. They lack the hype of a “Star Wars” or “The Hunger Games” but they’re so much more satisfying.

Anyway, I just saw one. I’m referring to “Mr. Holmes,” that sweet movie that demonstrates a young boy and an old man can, indeed, be best friends.

Lord, it’s lovely.

In the movie, an aging Sherlock Holmes is in a state of despair, has lost friends to death, and has retired from the world to his seaside cottage, with only a widow housekeeper and her young son, Roger.

The boy is incredibly inquisitive and loves learning from Sherlock Holmes. The latter teaches him about bees and how to run the apiary on his grounds and even puts the boy in charge.

The most touching scenes for me are when the boy helps Holmes after the man falls (out of his bed, while reaching for something) or following their swim in the brisk ocean, when the boy steadies Holmes, as they walk back to the house.

Then, too, there are the quiet times when they’re just talking and enjoying each other’s company.  Absolutely charming.

Favorite quote from movie? When Holmes says “Sometimes the most unremarkable parents produce a most remarkable child” (or something like that.)

Cinematography? Gorgeous. I think those are the famed white cliffs of Dover in background.

I won’t spoil the finale but can only say I found this movie uplifting. I suggest it for grandparents and kids 10 and up who are sensitive types (it’s not an adventure flick with lots of noise, as are most films dubbed “Family entertainment” these days.)

Come to think of it: Maybe grandparents should bring insensitive kids to this movie; it might teach them it’s cool for people to empathize.

PS…The young boy actor (Milo Parker) who plays Roger is phenomenal, as is that perfect character actor, Ian McKellan (Holmes).

Here’s a link to Rotten Tomatoes review of this film. Watch it but don’t forget to answer my questions below….I’m really curious (almost as much as Roger.)

The pic below…Our grandsons and husband, poolside, engaged in quiet “man-talk” (he was telling them stories of his youth.) They sat, for over an hour, like this….

Maybe that’s why this movie resonated so–I know how important these old/young relationships are (click on pic to get better look.)

luke grandpa and sam poolside Man-talkingSo, tell me:  Did you see this movie yet?

Are you planning to?

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‘Typical’ Ashevillian? Hmmmm…..Let’s See…..

gunrunners tenn....oxymoron

“Gunrunners” and “Jesus”…Isn’t that an oxymoron?

The heads above, in my header picture, aren’t really talking…but I am. I’ll tell you about life in Asheville, as we experienced it. It’s a crazy region, filled with contradictions, as the gunrunner pic demonstrates (nearby emporium on Tennessee side, so technically, ‘not Asheville.’)

My columns in Asheville’s famous alternative newspaper, the Mountain Xpress, talk about our 9-year sojourn in this trendy little town.

But in my book, “The Asheville Experiment,” I go deeper, still.  Who’s it for? Anyone who’s planning to move in or out (of Asheville,) anyone who’s there already, or others who are intrigued at the thought of a couple settling into any region where they know no one (is that gutsy or crazy?)

As a career realtor,  I’ll share secrets, regarding how you can save on costly realtor commissions–anywhere.  But protect yourself at the same time. And I’ll tell you what to guard against, too, if you consider living in a community of townhomes or condos (yes, there’s a difference.)

But my subject matter’s not just about buying and selling homes, for we had one heck of a run in this delightful town.  No, I’m gonna tell you about  the food…the people…the sights. And I’ll lace my accounts with humor.

But there were hiccups, too (one was a damn near strangulation).

Click on this link to my Mountain Xpress article, explaining why husband and I never settled in Naples, Florida (the way so many did.) It’ll give you a taste of what’s to come.

Are you a current Ashevillian? Or are you just beginning to think about Asheville as your retirement town? (If so, you’re hardly alone. It makes the list of “Top Ten Retirement Towns in America,” practically every year.)

And if you’re close to being ‘almost-native,’ you’ll find familiar territory in my topics…and more than a few chuckles.

Buckle up on the Airstream seats…Some of the ride will be bumpy….

 

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“Loves” and “Hates” Regarding Asheville

mini donkeys in nCSee this inquisitive little fellow? He lived right across the street from us…in North Carolina.

If you’re ‘inquisitive’ about what’s in my upcoming book (cuz you or others will be looking for retirement community–or if you’ve heard what a neat place Asheville is), consider my book “The Asheville Experiment” when it’s available. It’ll have lots of tips on buying (especially in another state)..a ton of colorful information..interesting characters..mostly-fun episodes (remember, I’m a humorist.)

What You’ll Discover in “The Asheville Experiment” (Pssstttt!…Get the word out.)

1. How we chose Asheville, NC (culmination of a many-year search.)
2. Adjustment requirements to this quirky town set in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
3. Our townhome community…the “leaders,” growing pains, and all-out wars.
4. Too many rules? and possible consequences.
5. The mountain crash that “killed” one of us.
6. Why we decided to leave.
7. How we managed self-sale of our townhome, saving us $20,000 (you can do this, too.)
8. How we recuped on furniture expenditure.
9. Problems with lawyers and what we learned.

Why You’ll Love Asheville

1. If you’ve got a pet, you’re “in.” If not, get one—or two.
2. You can dress any old way you want. It’s encouraged.
3. You can experiment with Yoga—and do it cheaply.
4. You’ll find friends easily, for everyone’s from ‘away,’ unless they’re hill people from nearby (and they’re not interested in being your friend.)
5. Police can be summoned quickly, in emergency—too quickly, as I’d find.
6. New restaurants appear with great regularity; they also close with the same.
7. Two can eat out cheaply and often, and restaurants never blanch at “Oh, can you split the check 14 ways?”
8. The medic squads attract the handsomest people, leading some to probably self-inflict.

Why You’ll Hate Asheville

1. Outside of the main hub, one needs to travel considerable distances to other towns, with  little activity in between (OK, we’re from little Rhode Island.).
2. In New England, “Cove” suggests harbors and water. Not the case in Asheville.
3. Roads disintegrate from paved…to gravel…to cowpath…to “Dead End.”
4. GPS’s often doesn’t work in the mountains; the same with cell phones, resulting in dropped calls and long conversations with one’s self.

***See? The “loves” far outweigh the “hates.”

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Woah!!!…Exposes Galore in “The Asheville Experiment”

couch-rug-n-cUpdate? Well, we sold our townhome in Asheville, NC. The decision and move weren’t easy. We’d spent 5 months a year (wintertime) in one of the trendiest retirement towns in America for each of the past 9 years, a place where we’d built a new life.

In the end, we left.

Why’d we leave that Southern mountain enclave to return to a geographic location that got 3 feet of snow last winter? I get into all that in the book.

There, I cover the joys and problems of close community living in a townhome complex (with rules and regs.), the in-fighting, the adjustment to a Southern way of life. I mention the time we residents tried to find the ‘final resting spot’ of one of us (to pay anniversary tribute,) only to find the marker to his ‘grave’ moved. Or the time we rode all over town looking for the right Baptist church but ending up in the wrong funeral procession.

I tell of the process of selling our townhome by ourselves–thus saving approximately $20,000 realtor commission fee….and our disposing of an entire household of furniture. Some experiences,  such as our Craigslist sale of our Cabrio car to a Southern hill person, are hilarious.

In fact, much of the book is pretty amusing, altho’ some characters may not like how they’re portrayed (even if I do disguise them.)

Then, there were the lawyers….those we thought we paid to oversee the remainder of the deal. Not so funny but you’ll definitely want to know–if only to save yourself future problems.

So, these are just some of the topics. It’ll be a helpful guide to all who consider moving to another state, for they’ll probably repeat the process that saw us investigate coastal communities from Maine (Portland area) to Key West.

Going inland to Asheville was the end-result of a many-year process.

In the end, we came back home. My book will tell you why……

***Below is a pic of my Asheville women friends. I’m in the center (it was my Going-Away Party), wearing a green t-shirt with “Asheville Under Glass,” the name of the column I wrote for Asheville’s alternative newspaper, Mountain Xpress.

women friends--asheville..going away party

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Big Rig Story Author and Trucker Visit Tiverton Schools

“Grandpa and the Truck” went to Walter E. Ranger and Ft. Barton schools May 13, 2015.trucker and cabgatorman

Named to Atlas Van Lines’s “Elite Fleet” (of drivers,) “Gator” drove millions of miles, flawlessly, across America in the big rig.
Now, he tells his exciting adventures to student audiences, focusing on the men and women who drive these big metal beasts….their challenges…natures’ role (hurricanes, fog, ice) and the beauty and diversity of our great land.
“Grandpa and the Truck’s” trucker and 30-year retired teacher, Providence Journal Op-Ed writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor (trucker’s wife and author) bring their lively show to Tiverton little ones and their audience was spectacular.

Principal Manuel Cabral of Walter Ranger Elementary said:

“The students were super-attentive and involved….kept on track and involved for the entire time and for that to happen in a space of 30 minutes with kindergarten,1st and 2nd grade students is a real testament to the program… I was really impressed with the presentation.”

Contact us if you’d like our lively show. Remember:  “We teach Geography…and a Whole Lot More.”

Signed and personalized books may be ordered atgr and truck kids enact geography gr and truck--things truckers fear most--rangerwww.grandpaandthetruck.com.

To arrange your own class visit/group presentation, e-mail us at…ckmellor@cox.net.

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Call for Student Rappers: Send Us Your Entries for Grandpa and the Truck

***But you might like to order the books first (check them out and order from Amazon.)

Note the book reviews from customers:  Highest marks from educators, librarians, truckers, parents…and kids.

Got kids in a class that like to rap? Video their efforts (with dramatic flourishes, as explained below) and maybe they’ll appear on the www.grandpaandthetruck.com website (with parental permission, of course.) What else might the winning Rhode Island class rappers get? A visit from none other than the trucker and his teacher/writer wife…We’ll bring the big rigs to you, along with his exciting stories and sound effects.

Grandpa and the Truck Rap…..empty pockets big rigGrandpa in trucking gear aside white truck (2)

Three little kids (2 boys…one girl), with crazy hats?, colorful sunglasses (on one?), leaning against trees in their backyard, or on a playground, rap to following: They ham it up, putting on “surprise” face (“was surprised”) or make steering motions for line “That he manned the big rigs.” Imagine their other effects, too, as they rap to the following…..

 Asked Grampy what he did

For his money-earning gig

Was surprised when he told us

That he manned the big rigs.

 

In his truck, “Proud Mary”

Sitting high on his seat,

Went to every state but one…

Oh, that job was sweet….

 

****(Cut away to one boy saying)………”Except for when it wasn’t”

 

Saw a 6-car pileup

Off a California highway

Following a “smokie”

On a super-foggy day

 

Partner Ralph found out

Just how dangerous it can get

In the foothills of Virginia

When bloodhounds aren’t pets.

 

In Biloxi, Mississippi

Grandpa stopped for shrimp ‘n grits

But his motel lost its roof

When the hurr-i-cane hit.

 

Rhody’s “Girl Truckers” proves

Men and women are the same

They should do the jobs they want to

Never ones based on their names.

 

Soon… Grandpa will tell

Of the time he got stuck

On a New York State highway

Two whole days in his truck

 

(One child says: “They called it ‘Woodstock.’ “)

 

Then, there’s West Virginia

When he climbed that mountain road

In coal-mining region

With a full household load.

 

(Little girl says: “To bring a little girl her toys.”)

 

His stories teach geography

In a way that’s really cool

They tell us other things, too…

Not always taught in school…

 

Grammy says they’re ‘wholesome’ (Other little boy shrugs “What’s that?”)

Their lessons are a must…

They’re all “Made in America”…(Pause)

In a way… they’re just like us.

________________________________________

Contest Ends:  June 1st, 2015, with visit shortly after that. 

E-Mail: ckmellor@cox.net; Twitter–@Teachertracks

 

10 Comments

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Student Loan Sharks–Finally Relief!

loan shark picI felt like the stereotypical problem gambler in the vise-like grip of creditors (predators,) owing way more interest than I’d originally signed on for. How so? Quite simply, I was at the mercy (there is none) of debt collectors, because I hadn’t paid my student loans.

But I wasn’t some casual drifter who ignored responsibilities. I was a mother who paid a caretaker to look after my young child while I worked. I was a single parent, before the era of deadbeat Dads (so I got no court-mandated child support from my former spouse.) I was raising my child, on an income that often didn’t stretch far enough. My older car broke down, often, and I had all the usual bills.

In my world of extreme priorities, I’d let the college loan debt lapse.

But, as I said: I was no ‘casual drifter.’ I was a teacher.

The harassment began in an unnerving way. The school secretary called me on the intra-building phone:   “Mrs. Allen (my name then), there’s someone on the phone who says it’s ‘critical’ to speak with you.” I nervously asked: “Is it the police or a hospital?” (I feared someone in my family being in a terrible accident.) The office person simply answered: “They didn’t say, but we’ll send someone up right away to relieve you.”

When I picked up the call, a collection agent informed me I was in arrears on my student loan. He asked me how I was going to ‘right the situation.’

With clerks bustling about and students arriving, getting late slips for class, I was pretty much silenced, in any form of protest. I mumbled I’d try to get ‘it’ (payment) to them. He insisted: “When?” I responded “This week.” He persisted: “OK, I’m noting that we’ve had this conversation and you’re stating you’ll have the payment in, by the end of the week” (it was Monday). I mumbled some kind of assent. I wanted this whole embarrassing conversation over.

I walked back to class, feeling bullied and bruised. It took a while for the anger to percolate, but it finally did, as I considered: The collector got me out of class, on the pretext there was some ‘emergency;’ they put me in the awkward situation of answering (or ‘non-answering’ to be more exact) in front of an office full of people; he got me to say I’d pay by the end of the week (when I hadn’t enough money for food.) I knew, even in my compromised state, that this was wrong.

Later that day I spoke with a lawyer friend who advised: “They can’t call and harass you at your workplace. That’s illegal.” He offered even more: “I’ll tell them to cease and desist.”

In the months ahead, I discovered I needn’t repay the loan at all, for a special proviso operated for teachers like me: I taught in a school with a high concentration of low, socio-economic families (on Welfare, reduced-lunches, etc.)

In effect, 15% of my loan was forgiven each year, ad infinitum. All I had to do was put in the paperwork, attesting to such. Had the collector even mentioned this to me? Absolutely not. They’re trained to get in…harass the borrower (even better, if in public forum)…and get out, with a promise to pay by certain date.

Today, I sympathize with students who have burgeoning school debt. Young debtors today never foresaw what they’d face in life. They thought their salaries would sustain them—not leave them without enough to meet their bills, and many still don’t have jobs. They never knew the predatory practices of bill collectors who’ve been amazingly brazen and free ‘til now. Worse yet, some have operated with approval and backing (contract-wise) of the Dept. of Education.

News media finally signal progress with the US Dept of Education’s latest move—to repudiate the predators. My question: “Why’d it take so very long?”

**If you know of someone whom this predatory behavior affects, pls. send this post along to him or her or share your perspective in the Comments section, below…..

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The Plot Thickens: Teachers Act Out on Common Core and PAARC

PAARC
Today’s Sheila Resseger commentary in the Providence Journal
is a call to arms for parents, educators, and all who care where we’re going regarding Common Core and the PAARC.

It’s not the first time former teacher Resseger’s weighed in, but her war cry’s gaining traction: Teachers’ union NEARI has determined to inform parents that they may, in fact, opt their kids out of these questionable tests, with no adverse consequences.
Yep…They’re all tired. And sick of what they see as flagrant violation of what we should all be about in the education of our youth.
“The problem,” the way they see it? Business and industry running the show, folks who know little about how students learn but who know a whole lot about how to make a profit. And profit they’re making, as stock watchers readily admit: Pearson (the group who determined Common Core standards and now who design the PAARC test) is zinging off the charts, as a company, as seen in the stock’s growth per this graph representation.

Here’s more, too, on how Pearson got their influential command of US education.

In a Nero-fiddling-while-Rome-burns scenario (OK, metaphor could be better,) schools and teachers quake as they see little ones hunched over tests, trying desperately to answer questions that are muddied and incomprehensible.

Parents and all those in the educational need to end this madness and return our schools to what they should be about–educating our youth.

Not providing the next best return on a Stock Market investment.

__________________________

A tangential problem however:  What to do with the kids who’ve opted out of the significant amount of time ear-marked for the test situation? Do they stare blindly into space or should they be allowed to pursue other activities, quietly? No simple answers here.

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If You’ve Gotta ‘Do Common Core’…At Least Let This Real Teacher Help

tyler-triplets-grandfather-and-the-truckYou know what teachers’ biggest complaint is? Pseudo teachers telling us how to teach.  You know who I mean…the self-appointed, supposed experts…the ones who got out of the classroom…or never got into it…because they were either being eaten alive by the kids or they feared that fate.

Now, they’ve morphed into education’s resident experts who tell us REAL teachers how to do the job.

This real teacher offers an alternative:  If you must employ Common Core, why not invite a real teacher and her trucker partner to show how CC’s potential might be realized via every child’s interest in the big rigs. How? We teach life skills, geography, science, weather, and history, through our colorful character–the long-haul trucker who traveled America’s highways for 30 years. 

His stories are fascinating and riveting.

First school in Rhode Island test-driving our stories? Fort Barton, in Tiverton, one of America’s select Blue Ribbon Schools for Excellence. Grandpa and the Truck will guest-speak there in mid-May.

This school’s openness to trying this new venture (such as utilizing Grandpa and the Truck books to get across Common Core principles) might be one of the reasons Fort Barton is so special…

We hope others will follow their lead and sign on.

Other news? Grandpa and the Truck will appear as a vendor at the Rhode Island Library Association Conference in Newport, in late May….

Wish to contact us? Go to www.grandpaandthetruck.com.

P.S. Don’t let the pic fool you of the little guys reading the books:  These books aren’t ‘just for boys’…Book 2 features the exciting story of two Rhode Island women who became legends in the the long-haul trucking industry.

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