Saturday, September 17, 2011

“I Want It All”

I want it all
            smiles that light up your face
            embraces when we part
            caresses that sooth a troubled soul
            words that comfort when all is lost
            love that lasts forever more

I want it all
            attention to the little details of my life
            devotion that sings in harmony with me
            consideration when I hit defeat
            celebration when I succeed
            affection wrapped in tenderness

I want it all
            hours of your life each day
            days where I’m the only one
            weeks when our universe consists of just us
            months of serenity and hope
            years of splendor

I want it all
            your life entwined with mine
            your breath synchronized to me
            your thoughts revealed and cherished
            your essence captured in my hands
            your love that never ends

I want it all

Copyright 1999 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, September 16, 2011

“My Favorite Childhood Stars”

         When I lived in New Jersey and Delaware as a child, every afternoon found me stretched out on the floor, my favorite blanket cuddling me in a cocoon as I watched Sally Star introduce episodes of Popeye and The Three Stooges. Sally Star’s blonde ponytail nestled under her white cowgirl hat. Her broad smile and musical voice lured me to the television while her fringed outfit made me long for my own cowgirl duds.
         Lorenzo and Friends entertained me during my early childhood, too. The program always started the same way, with the lead actor sitting before his mirror, talking to the audience as he applied his makeup. I sat transfixed in amazement as I watched this man transform into the ever silent Lorenzo. Of course Shari Lewis drew me into her wonderful world, too. I loved the quick patter between her and Lamb Chop. My sister explained the art of ventriloquism to me, but I never saw Shari Lewis’s lips move, so I vehemently argued that Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse spoke on their own.
         Once my family moved to San Antonio, Captain Gus became my guide through cartoons. Captain Gus’s bold red mustache and cheery, “Ahoy, Mateys!” or “Ba Ding Bing!” always made me smile. Everyone looked forward to a chance to sit on his boat to watch Popeye, or Bugs Bunny, or Looney Toon. I loved my afternoon escape each day. The warm hearted Captain and the wonderful humor of the cartoons provided entertainment while I ate my after school snack.
         These “stars” from my childhood either started my mornings with their perky happiness or helped me unwind after a day at school. Their goal wasn’t to educate me as much as to entertain me, and I’m thankful for the role they played in my youth.  

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, September 15, 2011


         Over the last couple of days, I’ve engaged in written confrontations with several acquaintances on moral issues. These clashes stem from the inability of some people to view our society from totally different perspectives. During my discourses, I find myself able to see the opposing view, but I haven’t found success in getting my angry opponents to even try to see my outlook. Instead, I’ve met with unexpected anger and open hostility. I understand the fear of some of these individuals that somehow another group of people in our society, who are perceived as undeserving, will reap benefits from those of us who “work hard for our money.”
            Trying to reason with fears and phobias never seems to work. I did a little research to back my points, but finding statistical proof that families on welfare receive benefits that are below the poverty line, or that more than one-hundred studies show that most recipients of welfare leave the system within the first two years, doesn’t sway my antagonists.
            The entire situation leaves me baffled and stunned. Insults come flying my way. My opinions are simplistic, liberal, stupid, childish, naive, and WRONG! I sit here and wonder, “How can I be wrong?” When did making a moral choice to protect those weaker and less fortunate become something so erroneous that I’m belittled for my sense of morality?

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

"The New Colossus"
By Emma Lazarus, 1883

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

“The Act of Sorrowing”

Poulna brone Dolmen: 6000 year-old dolmen in The Burren, County Clare, Ireland     

Lamentations drift across the Burren   
echo through portals of eternity   
marking humanity’s mortality   
In the chamber, portico, and the grykes   
sleep the fleshless bones of ancient souls who   
give testimony to adversity   
in life, deference and honor in death   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

“New Voyages”

         I never want to spend my life fretting over the words never said, or the acts never completed. The changes in our lives during this last year bring home to me the importance of giving our best to those we love. Sometimes, I get so caught up in the minutiae of a situation that I bog everyone else down. “The Big Picture” always calls for taking risks and believing with heart over head. That outlook proves difficult for my often straight column approach to life, but whenever I’ve chosen my heart, I’ve never gone in the wrong direction. Whenever I push away my heart, anxiety suffocates me. Taking a breath, eating a meal, and sleeping at night all become impossible.
My head analysis tells me the “right” decisions, the cautious choices that assure safe passage across rough seas. My head won’t even weigh anchor if the voyage looks too dangerous.  The head must have life boats in tip-top condition. It makes certain there are enough jackets available for unexpected passengers. It plots my route and stays true to my course. But no matter how carefully my head plans for every exigency, a tidal wave broadsides me, flips my vessel over, and makes life boats and life jackets useless.
         My head, you see, doesn’t calculate for the totally unpredictable event. It cannot. That’s the heart’s job. The heart latches onto dreams and nightmares. The heart foresees the tsunami and still sets sail. The heart accepts risk because life’s random. That capriciousness doesn’t dissuade the heart. The heart believes.
         In the rough seas I now traverse, my heart speaks strongly to me. Believe. Believe. Believe. And so I trust my decisions. The moment I listen to the murmuring song of my heart, the decisions I must make ring true and clear. The head will step forward eventually. It will find the means of making the dreams a reality. By singing along with the heart, the voyage will prove challenging, but not impossible.    

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman             

Monday, September 12, 2011

“The Floating Teacher”

            The first three years of my career in education, I “floated.” The term, floating, is a misnomer. The word generates a cartoon image of this cherub-faced teacher drifting through the hallways like a helium balloon, gently tethered to the educational world by colorful hair ribbons and neon shoe strings. Instead, the teacher descends into the lowest level of Dante’s Inferno. The phrase, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” took on a new meaning as I struggled to find my footing as a new teacher while trying not to disturb or disrupt the other teachers forced to share their rooms with me.
            One hour of the day, I used the room of Ms. H, my wonderful mentor and friend. I did my student teaching under the guidance of this enthusiastic teacher, so she welcomed me into her room with open arms. She found space in her closets for me to store my personal belongings and kept me sane whenever I broke into frustrated tears.
The second hour of the day, my class and I met in Mr. M’s classroom. This tyrannical man refused to leave the room because he couldn’t trust me, a first year teacher, to control my twelve-year-old students. He threw a fit one rainy day when a couple of boys tracked mud into the room. Face red and veins bulging, he forced the boys to crawl on their hands and knees to pick up each clump. After class, he stormed out of the room to file a complaint with the principal that my students were too messy. Since clods of mud dotted the entire hallway between his room and the office, his gripe went unheeded. However, his actions made me and my students feel horribly unwelcome in his classroom. I held my breath each and every day that something would set him off. One day during the first few weeks of school, he left the room long enough for me to explain to my students that I desperately needed their help and support. This group of students remains lodged in my memory as the best class that ever lived.  
A third teacher, Ms. W fluctuated from day-to-day on how much she welcomed me or my kids into her room. I believe she hated the idea of someone invading her space. Teachers become very territorial about their rooms. They bring in little pieces of themselves and their home lives—pictures of their pets and children, favorite knickknacks or gifts from previous students, or saved projects and sample work placed on  special display. Sharing space with an “outsider” creates tension even if the other person tries to be as invisible as possible. Eventually, Ms. W realized I had a wicked sense of humor, and we became friends.
I ended my day at the room of Ms. T, a lovely Southern lady. More than thirty years later, I still treasure the open friendship she gave me from the moment I entered her room. She welcomed my students with all of their little quirks into her space with open arms. Sometimes I watched her instruct her classes and quickly learned the value of a good, skilled teacher.
Condemning the first year teacher to roam the hallways either builds character or leads to burn-out. I grew determined to capture my own classroom, so I kept a smile on my face and cried or complained to the co-workers I learned would keep my woe private. When I finally received my own classroom, I vowed to welcome any “floating” teacher. I volunteered each year to have any of the roaming teachers in my room, and I made certain I cleared closet space and drawer space for that teacher. Supplies like tape, paper clips, and staplers remained unlocked and available (some of the teachers actually locked their supplies away, so I had to carry those along with the classroom set of books from room to room). I never placed tape on the floor to mark where the desks should line-up, as one teacher had done, and I never yelled at the other teacher’s students. I hope that all of those “floating” teachers felt relief and welcome whenever they entered our room.  

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, September 11, 2011

“Beef in Stout”


            Comfort food. We all have those dishes that make us feel warm inside, and it’s not from the hot peppers! As a child, I loved my mother’s roast with mashed potatoes and homemade noodles. Give me a bad day, and I’ll pop a roast into the oven. I’ll crack half-a-dozen eggs into the bowl, mix in flour and roll out and cut the noodles. Even if the outside temperature matches the oven’s heat, my craving for comfort food on rough days overrides the desire for cold macaroni salad.
            Over years, the comfort foods have shifted. At one time, only fried chicken would suffice if I’d suffered through a horrendous event. The year my father died? I’d take an Ambien almost as soon as I got home from work since it knocked me out for twelve hours. If I took it too late in the evening, I couldn’t wake up the next morning; so I had to take it no later than five o’clock. I never stopped to think about it, but somehow, a Big Mac would find its way into my hands. I would rouse myself from drugged slumber just enough to scarf the burger down.
            Last year I discovered Beef in Stout when we visited Ireland. This easy dish shifted quickly to the top of my Comfort Food list. I hope you love this dish as much as I do.


“Beef in Stout”
Recipe from  Favourite Irish Recipes: Traditional Fare from the Emerald Isle
other recipe books aat
Stew that dates from the 19th century

1 tablespoon oil                                   2 tablespoons flour
A walnut of butter                              Salt and black pepper
2 lb. stewing steak, wiped                  2 carrots, peeled and sliced
   and cubed                                        ½ pint stout
2 onions peeled and sliced                  1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
                Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and cook the meat until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the onions and fry until softened. Stir in the flour and seasoning, then return the meat to the saucepan with the carrots, stout and sugar. Stir well and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 2 to 2 ½ hours or until the meat is tender. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Serves 4 to 6.

If desired, a half-and-half mix of Guinness and water can be used for the gravy and a few sliced mushrooms added to the stew. Alternatively, this dish can be cooked in the oven at 350 F or Mark 4 for the same length of time.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman