Commemorating an Extraordinary Teacher and Person: Bill Heyde, who passed on 10/26/16

Celebrating an Extraordinary Teacher and Person:
Bill Heyde, R.I.P., 10/26/16, reported by the Ladue Education Foundation in St. Louis, MO, USA

bill-heyde
Mr. Heyde, circa 1973, courtesy of the Ladue Horton Watkins High School yearbooks, as published for his obituary in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Dear Friends of Mr. Heyde,

I am saddened to share with you the news that our wonderful Mr. Heyde passed away on Wednesday. His health had recently been improving, and he was scheduled to return to his assisted living facility, but his life came to a close on October 26, 2016. As you all know, he had a life-changing impact on many of his students’, colleagues’, and friends’ lives.

Visitation will be on Sunday, October 30, from 2:00-6:00 p.m. at Bopp Chapel, 10610 Manchester Road in Kirkwood, MO.

The funeral service will be Monday, October 31 at 10:00 a.m. at Bopp Chapel.

Burial will be immediately following the service in Cape Girardeau.

Condolences may be sent to Bill’s sister: Adelaide Parsons and her husband Robert, 3120 Independence, Cape Girardeau, MO 63703.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to two of Bill’s favorite organizations:
Missouri Scholars Academy Development Fund
c/o Honors College
210 Lowry Hall
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211

and

The Ladue Education Foundation
9703 Conway Road
St. Louis, MO 63124

Here is the link to the obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/stltoday/obituary.aspx?n=william-albert-heyde-bill&pid=182178423&fhid=6378

For those of you who missed it the first time around, here is the link to the clever rap written and performed by 1972 alumnus Steve Levin to honor Mr. Heyde in 2015: https://youtu.be/tA5F3XdNcwI

As a grateful former student of Mr. Heyde’s, I’m so glad I was in St. Louis for the wonderful event honoring him as an amazing teacher and person in April, 2015!

Mr Heyde and students circa 1970
Mr. Bill Heyde and students, Ladue High School, circa 1970?

We had a BLAST!
Bill H and Bill W - Copy
Bill Heyde and Bill Weiss

Doug Cassel and Tom Newmark - Copy
Doug Cassel and Tom Newmark (sorry it’s blurry)

Jim McKelvy - Copy
Jim McKelvy and ??

Mark Zooie and Mr H mock debate - Copy
Mark Zooie (sp?) in mock debate

Randy Rubin mock debate - Copy
Randy Rubin in mock debate

Scott Anderson and Glenn Caplin - Copy
Scott Anderson and Glenn Caplin (former Debate captain)

Tripp Frolichstein mock debate - Copy
Tripp Frolichstein in mock debate

At the actual event, many people contributed to a large scrapbook and to the event’s festivities, including an amazing speech by former Missouri state debate champ, Neal Osherow, and an incredible original poem/rap, written and performed by former debater, Steve Levin https://youtu.be/tA5F3XdNcwI, and a mock debate (pictures, above) with many former debaters. So much fun! So much respect, admiration, love, re-connecting.

Mr. Heyde gave a prepared speech (but mostly from his memory!!) of the history of the debate team at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis and that was fascinating. There were many former debaters and Speech competitors there (as I was, having won 4th place at the Missouri state level with my acting partner, Karen Raskin, in Duet Acting!), and students of Mr. Heyde’s. Excellent turnout: many had to be turned away due to fire code restrictions!

Thanks, Ladue Education Foundation organizers, for imagining, creating and hosting this excellent festival!

Here is my letter, sent to Mr. Heyde in 2012 and again in 2015 for this event:


Hi, Mr. Heyde,

I just found out how to contact you and wanted to thank you. You may not remember me, since you have had thousands of students, so let me jog your memory: I was then Sally Fleischmann (Jonathan’s next-younger sister) at Ladue High School (we have 2 younger sibs you may also have taught, Wendy [now, Ellen] and Lauri). I took your Advanced Composition class in 1970-71. I was one of the only students to get a “B+” on a first draft, while most received “D”s and “F”s. So, I suppose I can’t give you credit for ALL of my writing skills and abilities, but please, read on.

Another memory jog: One of the essays written for your class (about game-playing imagery in a short story by William James) was published in that year’s LHS creative writing journal. I then went on to torment Ms. Cannon in the Advanced Placement English class my senior year by never getting less than a “B” on any written paper, while acting up in her class a lot (I did win the vote [along with our class President, Andy Eder] for “Class Clown” in our yearbook’s “Senior Superlatives,” after all…).

Although I had been published, starting as a 4th-grader, in school and camp newsletters, for short stories, articles, poetry and songs, and again as a freshman, in Missouri Youth Writes, for a poem, prior to having your class, I felt that this essay’s being published was my first “adult” placement. As an actual adult, I have had short stories, poetry, articles, nonfiction books, songs and plays published and produced by others, and served as an editor/rewriter/proofreader for many publications.

In 2013, I became a blogger (Sally Ember, Ed.D., http://www.sallyember.com), and a self-published science-fiction author with Volume I, This Changes Everything, of The Spanners Series</strong>; in 2014, I added Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, and I hope to add Volume III, This Is/is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in 2015 and seven more after that! In 2014, I began hosting my own talk show, conversations between authors, CHANGES, and I often think of you while talking to others about their writing. I also write reviews for Goodreads and Amazon, and while critiquing others’ books, your phrases about what constitutes “good” or “bad” writing often come to mind.

I credit you and want to thank you for modeling for me (and many others, I’m sure) how to teach and inspiring me to teach composition and writing to adolescents and young adults. I went on, after teaching elementary school and middle school language arts, to teach writing: for five summers at Upward Bound; for several years at three community colleges; for five years at two different universities; and, for six years in community education locales, including Corrections Education, in several states. While acquiring my Master’s and doctorate at UMASS/Amherst, I taught writing in Peter Elbow’s peer review process’ domain. I also have had occasional contract work as a researcher/ writer/ editor/ proofreader. I know that your recognition of my writing as “good” (a characterization you did not give out to many pieces) set me on this path.

I think of you often, as a great teacher and someone who inspired me to write more and to teach writing. Even 43 years later, I can picture you perfectly, gesticulating strongly, your necktie blowing about as you passionately enjoined us to become literary critics, not just essay-writers. “Literary criticism” was a foreign concept to me as a junior in high school, until your class. I had learned about symbolism, metaphor and allusion, even how to cite quotations. But, putting it all together analytically, originally, and interestingly? Never even crossed my mind, until you gave us your assignments.

You opened me to a whole new intellectual world. I remember with intense clarity the exact moment when I first “got” what you were trying to convey, and understood (in a very basic way, but still, understood) how to construct a critique. I was astonished. It was as if you had been decrypting a code, helping us to begin using a secret language within English. I really was thrilled to be part of this new “club.”

Yes, I am a geek. I usually read over 250 books a year. Yes; I do. I have, since elementary school, been an avid reader. I was also an athlete: a runner, a cheerleader in 9th grade, a gymnast and field hockey player; also, I am a musician and singer/actor; and, in high school, I was “popular,” including having been elected/selected to that pinnacle for girls in that era, a cheerleader. This is to say to your students that these “identities” are not mutually exclusive: being inducted into the National Honor Society and having lots of friends happily co-exist in many, and I heartily encourage your students to cultivate both their brains and their hearts.You will help them, I’m sure.

I mainly wanted you to know what a great influence and help you were in my professional life, and what warm memories I have of your class. Never think your import was forgotten or unsung, even if we don’t find you to tell you: THANK YOU!

Best to you and your students, past, current and future. Write on!

Take care,

Sally (Fleischmann) Ember, Ed.D.


Do you have a teacher, coach or other mentor you’d like to thank? Start by commenting here and keep on sharing! #thankateacher

Mr Heyde and one student
Mr. Bill Heyde and student, Ladue High School, circa 1970?

10/2-10/11/16: 10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.: “Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

You don’t have to be Jewish or celebrate #Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashona, Jewish New Year’s, and Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”) to want to spend some time considering your life and your goals/accomplishments each year. I was raised Jewish, but I am a practicing #Buddhist.

It’s free!

10Q: Reflect. React. Renew.: “Life’s Biggest Questions. Answered By You.”

The title and all the info, below, come from the 10Q site. Visit! Sign up! Do it!
http://doyou10q.com/

10 Days. 10 Questions.
10-q-logo

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping.

One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection.

Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that, too.

Next year the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that.

Do you 10Q? You should.

doyou10q

Click hereto get your 10Q on.

10Q begins October 2nd, 2016

http://doyou10q.com/


Here are some of mine from 2015 and 2014:
2015

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Your Answer:

I was able to reconnect with my meditation practice in March & May and again in early Sept. through instruction and connection with my spiritual teacher, Lama Drimed, after many false starts, attempts, painful absences and confusions as well as hurt feelings on my part.

So happy about all that!

Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

The upholding of Marriage Equality laws and the enforcing of them across the USA and in other countries feels like a giant victory.

Looser laws, releasing noncriminals from prison when their only “crime” is possession of marijuana, and eventual legalization of marijuana/cannabis use across the USA and other countries also seem imminent, due to the vast success (economic and social) of those places in which it is already legal and those changes have already occurred; another set of great victories.

I appreciate the egalitarians’ winning. I appreciate common sense’s prevailing. I appreciate nondiscrimination’s being enforced. Feels right and good.

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

Your Answer:

Due to a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] in April, 2014, I went from not being able to meditate for almost one year (after meditating consistently for over 42 years) to restoring my practice, slowly, bit by bit. Very grateful to my spiritual teacher, sangha and good fortune that this has been possible.

Returning to my practice is like coming home.

How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

Your Answer:

My meditation teacher reminded me that meditation practice in our tradition comes from our heart center, not our brain area. The Tibetans use a term that means “heart-mind” when talking about the mind.

My wish to improve myself and my practice is to keep it centered in my heart. “Meditation: it’s not what you think.”

2014
Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

Your Answer:

Many science discoveries: proof of the multiverse, ability to teleport particles, invention of pre-tractor beam technology, getting paralyzed rats and others to walk, moving limbs and other things with just the mind: so much!

Very exciting, and all goes into research I use for The Spanners Series books!

What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

Your Answer:

Fear getting more unhealthy instead of more healthy over the next several years. Fear not getting my full meditation practice/brain function restored. Fear being unconnected to community/friends, no lover, no one close to me where I live.
Plan to keep exercising, eating better, reaching out to Buddhist and other groups (writers, Jews, work) to make friends.
Plan to stay in touch with my teacher.

What are your predictions for 2015?

Your Answer:

Movement toward reducing and ending full-impact football, hockey, etc. (headers in soccer, e.g.), in youth and college sports.

More states’ legalizing marijuana.

More states’ ratifying gay marriage.

Proof of alien life on other planets.

The Mixed Bag of Lessons from My Father

Those of you who read my blog somewhat often know that I don’t usually share anything very personal from my past unless it’s positive. However, this year, due to timing and other factors, I am changing that with this post. If you’re not interested in hearing about my somewhat traumatic childhood or long-deceased father, skip this post! If you are, read on.

If you’d like to leave comments, you are welcomed to do so below this post, on my site: http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1HM [If you leave comments anywhere else that this post may appear (when it’s reblogged or cross-posted), I probably won’t see them very soon, if at all.]

The Mixed Bag of Lessons from My Father

My father died in 1991 at the age I am right now: almost 62. It seemed young even then, when I was only 37. Now, it’s appalling.
Here he is at about the age I was when he died:

Ira 1959
Ira Fleischmann, age 30

Dad died of a massive heart attack while playing doubles indoor tennis. He “was dead before he hit the ground,” according to the three doctors he was playing with at the time. They know this because he fell face forward and hit his forehead but never put out his hands to catch himself in the fall.

Because he had always been a coward about his health and avoided doctors, he died from what was actually a treatable condition (blocked arteries). We found out later that he had been having chest pains for months prior to that and hadn’t done anything about them.

My three siblings (ages 26 – 38 at that time), my dad’s third wife (age 48) and elderly parents (90 and 91), his sister (57) and others in our family and his friends were shocked at his early demise. Understandably, some of us who knew that he had avoided the doctor’s exam and that his death was likely postponable were also angry.

Know this:

FACT: 200,000
At least 200,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke each year are preventable.

FACT: 6 in 10
More than half of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths happen to people under age 65.
from http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heartdisease-stroke/

We became even more frustrated with him when we found out what a mess he had left his financial affairs in and how much his third wife would have to do to clean it all up. Ironically, even though he had sold life and other insurance policies for most of his life, he had cashed in his latest life policy to get quick cash (he was always short on cash) and died without any insurance. He had not only had made no provisions for his demise, but left no Will, either.

We spend the first few days after his death in a haze of mourning but needing to make many decisions. We ended up arguing about basic stuff:
—should there be an autopsy?
—should he be buried (my observant Orthodox Jewish brother insisted on this) or cremated (the rest of us, including his wife, knew that this was what he had talked about wanting)?
—what to do with the chaos of his home office, files, obligations, etc.?
We worked most of it out, but found out some disturbing facts along the way.

We found hundreds of business cards with some other man’s name, which turned out to be our dad’s alias (a mash-up of his two deceased uncles’ first names). The false name of this business and a local address were on letterhead and there were a few other “clues.” We opened file drawers and a desk drawers and compared notes: our dad had had a secret, alter ego, including another “business” of some type, complete with a fake office nearby.

My sisters and I, in a whirlwind of semi-hysterical giddiness and grief, put on our trench coats (literally) and slunk around to peer into this office’s windows: practically empty. No one was there or appeared to have been recently, but his fake name was on the door. The desk and chair looked unused. Nothing else was in this small room: mail drop only. For what? We knew we’d never find out. This was 1991, before Al Gore gave us the full internet, before Google, etc., and we had no money to pay to investigate in ordinary ways, so the trail ended there.

fraud scrabble

It took almost a year for his wife to make sense of the rest, pay off his numerous debts, settle some lawsuits (he was the defendant or the plaintiff in several). Even though she didn’t have to, she decided to disburse from what was left to us, his three children. It wasn’t much, but we were grateful.

We found out a few years later that our dad had purchased some oil wells in Illinois in the 1970s (yes, there are some!), when we siblings each received a notice about being his beneficiaries: where did we want to have the checks sent? Yippee!? Again, not much, but something.

So much for his financial legacies.

What else did I get from my dad? It was definitely a mixed bag, just like his financial detritus.

Planning for Death
It is cruel and selfish to one’s descendents and mourners to leave one’s affairs unsettled. Since none of us knows when or how we will die and we all know that death and/or incapacitation can happen quite suddenly and unexpectedly, there is no excuse for leaving these things undone when one has children, spouses, property and/or businesses.

The deceased one’s lack of preparedness causes what is already difficult (grieving a sudden or unplanned-for death) to become complicated, making the grieving a longer and more arduous experience for all mourners. Unwinnable arguments, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and vying for power, money, possessions, property and decision-making victories can take up the time we should be spending in simple grief and storytelling amongst us.

no Will
image from http://news.mdl.com.au
Dying Intestate (without a Will)= BAD

Lessons: Prepare for your death NOW
Because of the mess my dad’s disorganized death left, my son’s father and I responded. We both immediately signed up for a small life insurance policy and wrote our Wills when we got back home (our son was 10 at that time). I made sure I signed up to be an organ donor. We wrote our “Living Wills” so others would know our wishes should one of us become incapacitated and we each assigned a healthcare “Power of Attorney.” I have continually updated these documents and my list of whom to contact and what to do in the event of my death and for the disposal of my remains, any service to be held, etc.

Swimming
Our dad taught me and my brother (13 months older than I, so we did most early learning together) to swim when we were three and four, something I always loved from then on. I trained to and became a lifeguard and swimming instructor as an older teen and ran several waterfronts at summer camps as an adult, training lifeguards and teaching swimming myself. I was fortunate to have had intermediate and advanced swimming lessons every summer while a camper and I appreciated passing those skills on to other campers as I got older.

I developed a love of all places watery and being in the water from my dad. I had many years of jobs at summer camps because our parents sent us to them every summer—starting with the same camp, Camp Hawthorn, which I’ve written about on this blog—that he had attended as a child!

LESSONS: Water Love
I still swim many times per week, right here in St. Louis where I grew up, at the same Jewish Community Center where he taught us to swim (but a recently constructed pool replaced the old one). Because I’ve had many injuries to both legs and my back, swimming is my main exercise.

I have loved and swum in dozens of lakes, several oceans and probably a hundred pools around the world.

DSCF0013
I am lovin’ my sister, Ellen’s, backyard pool in California, 2013

Abuse and Strength
Our father was often an angry, impatient, intolerant, mean and frustrated person. He had been raised with physical and verbal punishment and passed those horrible habits onto my brother and me (mostly just us two oldest kids, because our younger sisters are very much younger). Our father beat up on us regularly, usually for no legitimate reason (most abusers operate that way), e.g., the TV was “too loud,” we weren’t moving quickly enough, we said something he didn’t like, we were tussling with each other too much, etc.

Our dad also yelled at us and our mother a lot and called us all terrible names. He was both physically and emotionally abusive for all my childhood years. When we got older, he focused on hitting my brother but pulling my very long hair. When he got violent and was looking for a target—any target—, I would tell my little sisters to lock themselves in our bathroom. I’d stand between him and that door, letting him pull my hair and slap me to distract him from going after them.

As soon as I got my driver’s license, I’d take them with me rather than leave them at home with him and my mom, who was very ill a lot of my high school years and not much help. They tagged along to visit my friends as we went to movies or listened to music. I took them to play rehearsals and other activities to avoid having them be at home with no one to protect or supervise them.

Luckily, Dad started having tennis matches (and affairs, we found out later), and was mostly out of the house a lot by the time we were in high school. After one extremely violent episode on the eve of my brother’s leaving for college, my mom finally threw him out. It was the beginning of my senior year.

My ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score is very high, mostly due to my father. A high ACE score has been connected to causes of a myriad of other physical and mental health problems well into adult life, some of which I do have.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) impact
from http://www.npr.org

LESSONS: Lemons into lemonade
I developed tremendous courage, intolerance for abuse, the ability to stand up to anyone, any time. After growing up with and surviving an abusive parent, I would never be intimidated by anyone else.

I vowed never to be like him in those areas. I went out of my way to practice meditation, get counseling and incorporate anger management techniques. I also learned to use many “positive discipline” methods while raising my own son and being a teacher of young people. As a master teacher, I supervised and trained dozens of others and helped them learn the positive discipline techniques I had honed.

I am proud to say that I have never hit my child (who is now 36) or any other child. Furthermore, I intervened whenever I witnessed physical abuse or when I saw that hitting was imminent in public or private places. I do not call children or teens derisive names, nor do I put up with anyone else’s doing it.

I was on the board for a local child abuse prevention task force. I learned and then taught creative conflict resolution techniques and mediation. I also taught parenting classes, mentoring many teen, bio, adoptive, foster and step-parents to help them become more positive and to curtail / end any incipient habits of abuse.

I became an advocate for those being abused. For example, I intervened once when I witnessed several police assaulting a teen and then testified at his trial to get his (bogus) charges dropped. After they falsely arrested me to try to intimidate me out of making a formal complaint against them, I filed a lawsuit which I won. Those assaulting officers were reprimanded and fired. That police department then changed the ways they trained, supervised and managed officers in the field from then on.

Music
My mom and both her siblings and her mom, my dad’s sister and many others in our family were amateur musicians of sorts, mostly piano players or singers. My dad had “flunked out of” his piano lessons, according to him, but he had a great, operatic tenor and loved to sing.

I grew to hate opera because of my associations of his abuse with his favorite music, but I began to play the piano and sing along with many songs and loved music from a very young age. Our dad took us to the symphony a few times (I usually feel asleep, though).

Because of my dad’s commitment to music education, my and my siblings’ love of music was educated (but I still do not like opera, hip-hop, twangy country, bluegrass, free jazz or rap). He paid for my and my sisters’ piano and my brother’s drum lessons and arranged for us to have his own piano teacher to teach me and my sisters for our first years.

Mrs. Rosenblum was ancient, to my young eyes (probably in her 60s!), and a harsh task mistress, but classically trained and very skilled. I became a gifted sight reader due to her tutelage. I won piano competitions and played complicated pieces in her annual recitals, from ages 9 – 16. From ages 16 – 18, I learned theory and improvisation from a different teacher, the talented Herb Drury, who also had his own quartet (my dad also paid for that).

Because of my accomplishments and talent, I was selected to be the accompanist for rehearsals and the annual school musicals in 11th and 12th grades (a great honor). I also sang and accompanied in several of the school choirs as a teen and in/for many community and women’s choruses as an adult.

After I graduated college, I used the small amount of money left to me by my great-grandmother to buy my first piano, one I kept and moved over a dozen times to five different states. I took piano lessons for one year during my first year as a teacher, since I lived alone and had time to practice.

I enjoyed being a paid or volunteer accompanist, musical director, piano teacher and chorus member for most of my adult life. I also have written more than a few songs, am mid-stream in writing a musical (still festering my my files…), performed in and musically directed/accompanied several musicals and cabaret shows and continue to enjoy teaching (rarely) and playing piano.

Closeup of a child's hands playing the piano. Horizontally framed shot.
from http://www.huffingtonpost.com

LESSONS: Music rocks!
Music is a connector: more than a few of my lovers were musicians and/or singers and so is my son, who also composes. His father also plays several instruments and so do many of my friends and all three of my siblings. Music is a language: when I have trouble expressing or finding meaning in some extreme or complicated emotional states, music helps me understand my own and others’ experiences.

Playing piano, especially sight reading, uses both “sides” of my brain. Putting my fingers on a keyboard my son sent me and making music have helped me in my recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury (from about two years ago).

When my sisters and I get together, we often sing. My son and I have had a lot of fun with “kitchen opera” (the only kind of opera I like), improvising lyrics and melodies as we cook or clean together.


My dad’s later years and my early adult life
Having worked for decades with youth and families, parents and professionals who work with youth in a variety of capacities, both educational and therapeutic, I know that my negative experiences are not even close to “the worst.” I have heard so many horror stories that it puts the difficulties of my life into a proportional perspective. Some of my childhood memories are actually quite positive.

Sally Dad Jon 1955
I, our dad and my brother, 1955, Clayton, MO

At this point, I do not deny the problems my father and his problems caused us, but I have grown to appreciate and be grateful for the good things he did provide. I am resilient and stronger due to a lot of help from other adults and friends. I have developed enormous empathy and compassion for others’ pain. I understand many of the conflicts that arise between parents and children of all ages.

For most of my college and early adult years, my dad and I were estranged to a large extent. I didn’t see him very often and we almost never talked on the phone. My sisters were little when he moved out (6 and 11), so they had the whole divorced parents-visitation-dad’s girlfriends things to contend with that my brother and I never had to do since we were already in college when our parents’ divorce came through.

Occasionally, Dad would send me a check for some odd amount (he liked to round off his checkbook running total to all zeros) with no note. Sometimes I’d rip that up, even though I needed the money. I was angry and hurt, unwilling to connect solely over money.

He remarried twice. The first time was when my brother was in medical school and I had just graduated college. He skipped my graduation, but he invited me and my brother to join him and his new wife, with our current dates, at a resort in New England (where my brother and I were both in college) later that summer. I didn’t want to go, but my brother said we had to. That experience was very weird. We played a lot of tennis and ate too much food; that’s about all I remember. The wife was unremarkable.

On the few occasions I did go to St. Louis during their brief marriage, I remember Dad’s being almost the same as when I had lived with him: he was frequently yelling at this woman’s three kids, calling them names, being horrible. I was disgusted.

At one tense dinner, the oldest (a girl) had left the table in tears due to his name-calling. I followed her into the hallway and stood next to her as she cried. When she was a bit calmer, I told her (from the vantage point of my ripe old age of 22 to her 11) that he was a horrible man and that he had been horrible to me and my brother, too. I then said that I’d stand up for her and that she should call me if he ever hit her or her brothers.

I don’t know what I would have done about his abuse of her and her brothers at that time (I didn’t know about child abuse hotlines, if there even were any in Missouri in 1977), but I do know that I would have appreciated it if ANYONE in my family or among my parents’ friends had ever offered any of us an acknowledgement of his abusiveness, any emotional affirmation of the trauma we were suffering, any kind of lifeline like that; no one ever had.

Luckily for those kids, my dad and their mom divorced soon after that visit.

My brother and his wife had their first child in 1979, a year before we had Merlyn, and then they had another one about a year and half later and two more in the next seven years. Our middle sister had her first child in late 1989. Both my sister-in-law and I took had privately taken Dad aside early on and told him, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever yelled at or laid a hand in anger on any of our children, he’d never see them again. He must have believed us, because he never lost his temper with any of the grandchildren.

Throughout the 1980s, my dad loved his 6 grandkids and enjoyed spending time with them. He happened to be visiting when my son was just learning to walk: Merlyn ran/fell into my dad’s arms as he took his first independent steps in August, 1981. Precious.

For his third marriage in 1986, he married a woman with three daughters around my sisters’ ages who was the same age as Merlyn’s dad. That was creepy, but we liked her all right. We later found out that this wife was an active alcoholic who almost immediately went into recovery soon after they got married.

Because of his wife’s personal recovery work, in the last few years of our dad’s life he had begun his own therapeutic journey. He went to some Al-Anon meetings, read some books relevant, talked with her and others.

During her senior year, my youngest sister, Lauri, went to live with them “to get to know our dad better.” Our mom had also remarried a few years prior to that and she didn’t much like her husband or being the only child at home (my middle sister was finished with college and living in California by then), so those were her other motivating factors. She reported during and after that year (1984) that Dad was starting to develop some insights into his own issues and kept his temper better around these teens (only two, Lauri and her youngest, were living at home): no hitting and very little yelling.

I participated in peer counseling (Re-evaluation Counseling, known as “RC,” and then Co-Counseling) from 1979 – 1986 and then had about ten years of regular therapy, starting in 1986. I also kept meditating, attended many other rituals and personal growth workshops and generally began to understand, heal and assimilate the consequences of my childhood’s traumas.

Due to both of our being involved in personal growth work and the mellowing effect of his having grandchildren, my dad and I were finally—very tentatively—having a more connected, positive relationship. This was helped by my living in New Hampshire and his still being in Missouri (distance and very few visits were key).

Dad at Stern wedding 1989
Ira Fleischmann, age 59, at my sister, Lauri’s, wedding, 1988

In the summer of 1990, we were visiting Dad and his wife (as well as my mom and her husband and other family) in St. Louis. My brother and his family still lived there (he had been doing his medical residency at a local hospital). At my dad’s condo’s complex was an outdoor pool. Merlyn and his cousins were frolicking with my brother and Merlyn’s dad in the pool while my dad and I relaxed in the shade on chaise lounges, drying off after our swim.

Suddenly, my dad looked up from the book he was reading on co-dependency and family problems to say, in a surprised and completely unironic tone: “Oh my God! I grew up in a dysfunctional family! Do you have any idea what that’s like?”

I was so shocked at his lack of awareness, I almost lost my breath. But, I could see that he was authentically having this insight for the first time. I didn’t want to discourage him.

Using my most neutral tone, I responded mildly: “I think I have some idea, Dad.”

He nodded and went back to his book. That was one of our last conversations.

In January, 1991, both of his parents, then in their early 90’s, were celebrating their birthdays. The entire extended family gathered in St. Louis to honor them. Unexpectedly, our dad died about 7 weeks after that reunion, so we were very glad that we had had that time all together.

Dad and Sarah at grandparents BD 1991
At the last family reunion, January, 1991. Counter-clockwise, from bottom left: our youngest sister, Lauri Stern; Ira Fleischmann with his youngest granddaughter, Ellen’s oldest, Sarah Miranda Kneeland; Dad’s sister, our Aunt Nancy Levin; her middle child, cousin Hillary Levin.

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

May 27 – May 30, 2016, all-day, four-day mini-retreat at home: YIPPEE! Did it! First one since my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)/concussion/broken nose/hurt eyes in April, 2014; first one in St. Louis. [I called it a “mini” retreat because I usually did at least three weeks’ and up to 11 weeks’ retreat, prior to this.]

I offer this post as a description and explanation for newbies and the curious, but I do not discuss the details of my practice with anyone but my teacher and fellow practitioners.

SCHEDULE:
A typical meditation schedule consists of Tüns (meditation/practice sessions) segmented by meals, breaks, exercise, sleep and personal hygiene time. When we do individual retreats, often we set our own schedules. I modeled this summer’s mini-retreat schedule mostly on the same schedules I followed while on individual retreats at the main meditation center (Rigdzin Ling in northern California), and at my residences in Silver City, New Mexico, and Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Hayward, California, 1999 – 2014.

Home Mini-Retreat Schedule 2016

3:30 – 4:15 AM— Wake up, ablutions, etc.
4:15 – 5:30 AM— First Tün (meditation/practice session)
5:30 – 6 AM— Breakfast
6 – 10:30 AM— Second Tün (with two ten-minute breaks)
10:30 – 11 AM— Lunch
11 AM – 12 PM— Third Tün
12 – 1 PM— Nap (during first third, usually; see below). Otherwise, Fourth Tün
1 – 3 PM— Exercise (swimming/driving to and from) with moving meditation for 35 minutes while swimming
3 – 5 PM— Fourth/Fifth Tün
5 – 5:30 PM— Dinner
5:30 – 8 PM– Fifth/Sixth Tün (with one ten-minute break)

Total meditation time: about 11-12 hours/day, so about 40 hours (I ended before dinner on May 30).

LOCATION:
When I was fortunate enough to be at RZL, I often sat on a cliff overlooking a pond, river and mountains in the distance, above the main buildings of the center. For other types of practices, meditators prefer or must be indoors or even in a cave or place of complete isolation and darkness for most of the time.

Many people doing the dzogchen Tibetan Vajrayana practice of awareness (rigpa) meditation, trek chöd, as I do, prefer to sit where we have an unbroken view of the sky.

man sunrise meditatiion
NOT what my home retreat looked like at all, this year

There aren’t many cliffs and sky views near where I now live, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time driving to a spot at which there would be no food, no bathroom, no easy place for this mostly injured body to sit, and no place to swim. Hence, a home retreat. I could almost see the sky, sometimes. I could see trees, bushes, a street and parking lot. Didn’t matter at all. I wasn’t involved with any of it. We keep our eyes open for this type of meditation, but with a “soft focus,” not paying particular attention to anything while noticing everything.

living room retreat spot 2016
Where I did most of my sitting practice: on the living room couch, learning against these cushions on the left, looking out the glass doors of the patio/deck to the right.

WHAT WE DO and DO NOT DO:
We also hear, smell, feel everything. We are not “checked out,” if we are practicing successfully. We are fully awake while doing our practice, sitting in oneness—in awareness (rigpa, Tibetan)—as often as we are able. We return to this awareness every time our attention wanders. That is the practice of trek chöd (Tibetan), in the simplest terms.

For this type of meditation practice, in retreat, practitioners usually don’t recite mantras, pray (except at the beginning and end of each retreat or even each Tün, if we want), use our malas (Tibetan prayer beads on a string, predecessor of the Catholic’s rosary), chant, visualize, play ritual instruments, enact stories, light incense, fill/offer water bowls, open our shrines or speak. Our practice is stripped-down to sitting and breathing.

The entire retreat is usually conducted in strict silence, which means that we make no eye contact when we do encounter people and we do no talking, writing, reading, or any other communicating (when necessary, we use “functional speech” only). We put away and turn off all cell phones, computers, communication or writing/reading/viewing devices of all kinds. We don’t write letters or answer the phone unless we are in a longer retreat during which we must communicate with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors occasionally to reassure them we are all right or respond to something urgent.

When we are fortunate (and/or wealthy), we have someone to “serve” our retreat: they shop for, prepare and serve our meals, sometimes even cleaning up for us, leaving us free to meditate for more time each day. That is part of the wonderful service that active meditation centers often provide retreatants. Sometimes, though, during non-busy times, when I was at the center, I still had to cook and clean up after my own meals, but I didn’t have to shop.

For home retreats, I have to do it all myself. I manage that by cooking a great big pot of soup and another big amount of something I can dole out each day for my two main meals and then have something small (a bowl of cereal, e.g.) for dinner.

Eating lightly at night is important for me, anyway. During a sitting and silent retreat like this, unlike the more active ones, our appetites get smaller and smaller as the retreat progresses, so we need less food.

THE RETREAT COMMITMENT:
It is important to make a firm commitment to one’s retreat by scheduling the entire period in advance and sticking to it. It is also important to make a daily schedule and adhere to it. Many also maintain/take a vow of celibacy to maintain during retreat (no sex or sex acts); some do not.

We all abstain from intoxicants (recreational drugs, alcohol) during retreat. If we have taken Layperson’s Buddhist Vows (or Five Main Precepts), as I have, we also never get intoxicated/inebriated. I don’t drink or use drugs, anyway, but for many meditators, retreat boundaries include that they refrain from engaging in the use of these substances during retreat.

Even if we get sick, someone dies, and/or there are other seemingly significant events that occur, we strive not to break our retreat commitments. Unless it is to save our own or someone else’s life or involves getting medical care to restore our health so that we can practice better afterwards.

It is important to let our friends, family and neighbors know, especially if we are doing a home retreat, that we won’t be answering phones or responding to texts or emails, for example, during these times/these days so they don’t worry. That way, we prevent someone from getting “wrong view” about meditation/meditators (e.g., not understanding our commitment, they think we are rude, unkind, insensitive, unless we communicate to explain).

We do not waver from this commitment or break our silence for any reason. These commitments and guidelines are called “retreat boundaries.” At the risk of generating “static” and negativity for our next potential retreat, we do not leave the grounds of a closed retreat (the “cloister”) or end our retreat prematurely. Some teachers give dire warnings about practitioners’ breaking boundaries that will result in creating negative future retreat karma, but I don’t like responding to threats. I maintain commitments because I want to do it.

Making and keeping these commitments strengthen the practitioner’s practice foundation and create/maintain a strong “container” for successful meditation practice. I feel good when I keep my chosen boundaries.

This time (or for any other home retreats), I did not have a completely strict, cloistered retreat: just isn’t possible. I drive to and from the pool, shop on the the first day for food and cook when necessary (more often on longer retreats). I also responded to a few communications from people who didn’t know I was in retreat and/or to reschedule things I had forgotten to reschedule. But, mostly, I did keep the strict retreat boundaries and commitments.

THE RETREAT EXPERIENCE:
Buddhist teachers talk about the entire retreat’s span of time as being divided roughly into three parts: “getting in,” “being in” and “rising out.”

“Getting in” is the first third. During this, we acclimate to being on retreat, letting go (sometimes slowly, sometimes more readily) of our daily concerns, activities, personae, thoughts, obligations and settling in to the schedule.

We always “open” our retreat with setting our intention and reaffirming our motivation and with gratitude, with prayers and thanks to our teachers. Usually, other directions are given to us in advance by our teachers.

Sometimes, we make offerings and/or have a ritual feast and prayers (tsog). Sometimes we continue our daily practices for the first day or so. Sometimes we do some preparatory readings (from teachings, notes, books) to remind us of the practice we are about to engage in and how to approach it.

Frequently, a lot of tiredness manifests early in this first third. If so, it is recommended that we nap a lot, recovering from the stress and strife of our usual lives’ demands. The peace, quiet and low-key nature of retreat bring us to a recognition of how exhausted and depleted we have gotten. Extra sleep is then necessary to restore ourselves and to be able to practice better for the rest of the retreat.

The middle third is “being in.” By then, accustomed to the schedule, needing fewer or no naps, we are ready and eager to practice for each Tün. We know what we are doing, we are glad to be doing it, it’s working as well as it will. Depending upon how long this period is and how quickly we are able to dive in, we can get very deeply immersed or only partially, but this is the main part of our retreat’s practice time. Whatever signs of accomplishment we may get usually begin to show up in this portion.

The last third is “rising out.” Sometimes gradually, sometimes more quickly, our minds and bodies begin to leave the depths and rise to the surface, preparing us for returning to our daily lives. For longer retreats, we spend part of this time still in retreat and the last part of it again in practices of formal gratitude. We “close” on the last day with offerings and/or a ritual feast and prayers (tsog), and dedicate the merit (the blessings and benefits of our practice) to all beings.

For the last day/hours or so, we are actually not still in retreat, exactly, but beginning to engage again in the more “ordinary living” aspects (whatever we haven’t been doing and must return to, such as driving, doing laundry, talking/communicating again).

We often don’t realize how deeply we are “in” until we begin to “rise out.” When we have been in a strict retreat for more than a few days, this gradual “return to duties” is very important for safety and acclimating to ordinary life. Otherwise, we can get into serious trouble or even accidents if we go back too suddenly to our busy, complicated home lives and schedules.

WHAT’S NEXT?
We usually meet with our teachers during or after our retreats (when we are so lucky as to be able to do that), to “offer our retreat experience” to the Lama by telling him/her about our experiences, insights, possible signs of accomplishment and/or knowledge acquired/applied successfully. We also bring questions, problems, concerns and “stuckness” that occurred during our retreat to this same meeting (or whenever we next meet) so that we may request guidance and answers from our teachers.

Usually during these meetings or subsequent ones, we get instructions, guidance for the next period of our practice, assignments/options for reading and/or attending live or video teachings. We might even schedule our next retreat(s).

I didn’t get to meet with my teacher at the end of this retreat, but I did see him for a private interview just last month, so I feel very blessed.

HAVING A MEDITATION TEACHER:
Tibetan Buddhists stress the importance of meditating under the guidance of and with instruction from a qualified meditation teacher. I completely agree with this. It is not sufficient to talk with other meditators, read books, listen to teachings on video or audiotapes or in person and then put ourselves into retreat and get ourselves out and go back to our lives.

Without a teacher who is more experienced and qualified to teach and guide us to listen to our experiences and direct our practice, we are certainly running the risk of there being a lot we will miss, misunderstand, misinterpret or just plain get wrong.

There are many qualified teachers in many parts of the world, now. I have put live links to some of them, above, when listing my teachers or main center. There are listings of some centers in Buddhist magazines, websites and other places online.

If you are not lucky enough to have found a teacher with whom you work well or you don’t live close enough to any teachers or centers who host visiting teachers, keep looking/trying. It is well worth the effort.

Where are the Buddhists Around Here?
There are several centers who host qualified teachers in the St. Louis area and throughout the Midwest, of all Buddhist traditions. Very close to where I now live is a Tibetan Buddhist practice group that includes some people who have met some of my own teachers and who use some of the same practice texts that I do. There are two others groups that are “cousins” to my lineages/practices and some of those people have also met some of my teachers and share some practices with mine. Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, Katag Chöling, is about a six-hour drive from here, in Arkansas. These are listed, below:

Blue Lotus Dharma Center somewhat eclectic, mixed Tibetan Vajrayana and Chan (Chinese Zen) practices Blue Lotus Dharma Center
Do Ngak Chöling Tibetan Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhism http://dongakcholing.org/
Katag Chöling Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, https://katogcholing.com
Kagyu Droden Kunchab—Saint Louis, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, http://www.kdkstl.org

MY TEACHERS:
I am beyond-words grateful to my teachers.

Lama Drimed
My beloved Buddhist teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed), about 2012

Whatever I was able to accomplish from this mini-retreat or any other part of my practice was entirely due to the blessings, teachings, support and care from my dear teachers, particularly Lama Drimed and the late H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (photos above and below), as well as my mom (in whose home I now live), other Lamas, especially Lama Shenphen Drolma and Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche, and sangha (spiritual community of fellow practitioners scattered now around the world) of meditating sisters and brothers: THANKS to you all!

Chagdud Rinpoche
the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, my first empowering lama and my teacher’s teacher, about 2001, and his Yangshi (designated and recognized reincarnation), about 2013

I dedicate the merit (benefits) of my retreat to all beings.

Happy Birthday to our Son, Merlyn T. Ember!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of our wonderful son, unnamed at the time and for 20 more days, was born. I became a mother and you became an actual human after swimming around in my imagination for many years and in my womb for nine months. SO GLAD!

bass cake
image from designrshub.com

So, later in May the year of his birth, our son became Merlyn Timli 0 Ember. We gave him in his name the middle figure of “0” (which is a zero, not the letter “O”) to be a placeholder, awaiting the day he might want to choose his own name. True to his independent and somewhat contrarian nature, when he decided what he wanted to do with his name, Merlyn deleted the zero.

“Merlyn” means “Child of the Light,” and “Of the Immortals.” We chose to give him the original Celtic spelling and used those meanings.

Merlyn, with his first initial “M,” is also “named after” two family relatives: his father’s father, Morton Briggs (alive at that time, following Protestant tradition), and my mother’s mother, Mildred Klein Cytron Bright (then deceased, following Jewish tradition).

“Timli” is a name his dad, Christopher R. Briggs Ember (or, now, Ember Briggs) created, and the definition of this invented name is “He who paints in the sky with his fingers.”

“Ember” is the name Christopher and I chose to take on, adding it to our own names so that Merlyn’s surname could be “Ember.” The Ember Days are the days of change, the two or three days before and after every Solstice and Equinox. This name seemed apt since having a child (our first and only) certainly began many days of change for Merlyn’s parents!

Cradleboard M C and I

Merlyn in the cradleboard Emmy Rainwalker made for him, with his parents, May, 1980

[NOTE: Laws in New Hampshire at the time dictated that unmarried women could only give our children our own surnames, and I had no wish to give Merlyn my birth name. So, we chose a new surname for our new family. Christopher and I were deliberately and consciously unmarried, calling ourselves “Partnered,” for several reasons: lesbians and gays could not marry at that time; women became men’s property in New Hampshire when married in 1980; and, we both were marriage-averse for individual/personal reasons.]

I am so grateful that Merlyn’s birth occurred intentionally (and quite fortunately) at our rented home in Stoddard, NH, attended by three lay midwives: Katie Schwerin, whose family lived as housemates of ours and are still our good friends; Emmy Rainwalker (Ianiello), who was a former housemate and good friend; and, Cindy Dunleavy, the “senior” midwife who had trained Katie and Emmy and became our good friend.

Midwives

Also in attendance or present soon after Merlyn’s arrival were other housemates and several good friends: Bill Whyte (Katie’s husband; thanks for the great black-and-white photos, Bill!), Mia Mason (six years old and Katie’s daughter), Emily Schwerin-Whyte (Katie and Bill’s daughter, born in the same house four months prior), Tashin and Toqueem Rainwalker Story Talbot (two months and almost five years old, Emmy and Medicine Story’s children), Dana Dunleavy (three years old, Cindy’s son), Nina (a friend of Katie’s whose surname escapes me), Pamela Faith Lerman (our friend and David’s sweetie), David Eisenberg (a current housemate of ours and a friend), and Zea Moore (family friend). Good thing we had a very large bedroom!

Merlyn and I 1981 cr

Merlyn and I, 1981

We personally knew and/or were related to a total of over twenty children born within one year of Merlyn. He has cousins one year older and one year younger than he is on both sides, and he was born into what felt like an exploding baby boom, a loosely-knit but connected network of families with children around his age. He grew up in collective households with housemates who often included other children and in close connection with several in particular with whom he is still close as adults. We had buying clubs (food co-ops’ predecessors) we belonged to in several towns nearby for collective purchasing of bulk, organic and healthy foods and supplies. We exchanged childcare, kids’ clothes and baby equipment, recipes, chores, tools and handiwork. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, holidays and other occasions at one another’s houses, often ours.

HappyBirthdayGuitar
image from handmademusicclubhouse.com

These other families and their children became our extended family which included children who were students at public and Waldorf schools as well as homeschoolers; Merlyn was all three at one point or another.

Many of these adults and children were/are musicians, as Merlyn is. Our diverse community also included storytellers, teachers, woodworkers, roofers, artists, singers, dancers, therapists, the aforementioned midwives, political activists and social change leaders, construction/building tradespeople, office workers, gardeners, writers, herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, composers, actors, directors, nonprofit social service workers, playwrights, spiritual teachers and leaders, computer techies, farmers/maple syrup makers, publishers, business owners, bookkeepers, retail workers, restaurant workers and many more.

Our ethnic and religious origins included Jewish, Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic, Native American, atheist, British Isles/Western European, Chinese, African, Eastern European, and many more. We were/are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, questioning, and unknown or unprovided.

Some of the places we lived right before and after Merlyn was born had no electricity or running water (or even walls). We played board and card games, invented and actual sports games. Most of us intentionally had no televisions or war toys. We put the non-TV-watching time to great use.

We READ a lot! We put on plays, played music, talked a lot with each other, rode bikes, ice skated, sledded, swam, cooked and did “kitchen opera,” made costumes, hiked, walked, repaired, recycled and re-used (long before it was required), spent time in Finnish/Dutch-type saunas and Native American sweat lodges, canned and preserved food and herbs, sang and drummed and worked in ever-changing configurations of children and adults together.

Merlyn, you have become an amazing adult: kind, compassionate, intelligent, capable, worthy of and earning respect and admiration from colleagues, employers, bandmates, friends and peers. I am very proud to be your mother!

I hope, on this anniversary of the day of your birth, in your first year since 1999 of living back in the town you spent most of your growing-up years, that you and your sweetie, Lauren, celebrate in multiple ways with friends and your dad. I wish for you to enjoy a great birthday and many more, healthy, happy and prosperous ones to come!

I love you! Thanks, again, for making me a mother!

S M and C at Jake and Sandys wedding

I, Merlyn and Christopher, 2013

MacArthur [Foundation] Announces [a year-long series of] Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program”

MacArthur [Foundation] Announces [a year-long series of] Performances, Discussion to Celebrate 35 Years of Iconic Fellowship Program”
https://www.macfound.org/press/press-releases/macarthur-announces-performances-discussion-celebrate-35-years-iconic-fellowship-program/#sthash.wuDoFQcB.dpuf

AND

Events Calendar
https://www.macfound.org/events/fellows35/?all=1

The-MacArthur-Fellowship-Program logo

These events are happening mostly in Chicago and on the East Coast (Washington, D.C., New York City), but will be broadcast/put online as well. Awesome! And, “Most of the events will be open to the public for free or at low cost.”

I have always been fascinated by and love seeing who gets these grants each year. I adore the entire secrecy of the process (no one knows, supposedly, who does the selecting, no one can be nominated, and no one can self-nominate). So, one day, my friends and I imagine, someone gets this phone call or email saying: You have been selected as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for a “Genius Grant”! What an amazing thing to happen!

The panel chooses such an excellent variety of creative, intelligent, talented and skilled individuals, also. Each year, we can learn about their Fellows and meet jugglers, dancers, scientists, writers, playwrights, poets, musicians, choreographers, youth workers and other educators, environmentalists and activists of other types and whoever strikes their fancy all honored in this way. Usually they choose about 20 people from all around the country. Not all are young, not all are older; not all are men or women; not all are Caucasian. Fabulous.

The MacArthur Fellowship[s], called “genius grants” by the media, recognize[s] exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future.

Fellows each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, which comes with no stipulations or reporting requirements and allows recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

Fellows are selected through a rigorous process that has involved thousands of expert and anonymous nominators, evaluators, and selectors over the years.

The Foundation does not accept unsolicited nominations.

This year “is expected to include the following events as well as others to be announced later.

  • Public artist Rick Lowe will deliver a lecture on “Art in the Social Context” at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service as part of the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor program (Stanford, CA, Feb. 4).
  • The College Art Association will host a discussion with photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier and public artist Rick Lowe as part of its 104th Annual Conference (Washington, DC, Feb. 5).
  • The Poetry Foundation will present the Chicago-based collective Every House Has a Door’s adaptation of a work by poet Jay Wright (Chicago, Feb. 20).
  • In conjunction with an exhibition of her work, the Whitney Museum of American Art will host a discussion with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (New York City, Feb.).
  • Sixth & I, a historic synagogue and cultural event space, will present a panel discussion on immigration featuring writers Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Aleksandar Hemon and Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz (Washington, DC, March 7).
  • New York’s 92nd Street Y will present a panel discussion featuring MacArthur Fellows (New York, March).
  • Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry will host MacArthur Fellows for events marking National Robotics Week, including Jr. Science Cafes, a public conversation, and robotics demonstrations (Chicago, April 2).
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the American Historical Association, will host a conference on “The Future of the African American Past,” featuring scholars, activists and historians, including several MacArthur Fellows (Washington, DC, May 19-21, 2016).
  • The Poetry Foundation will host a reading by poet and writer Alice Fulton (Chicago, May 24).
  • The Economic Club of Chicago will feature two conversation pairings with arts entrepreneur Claire Chase and music educator Aaron Dworkin as well as computational biologist John Novembre and historian Tara Zahra (Chicago, May 25).
  • Wingspread will host a public event featuring MacArthur Fellows working on issues of interest to the Johnson Foundation and the Racine community (Racine, Wisconsin, May).
  • The Chicago Humanities Festival will host a one-day series of programs highlighting the work of MacArthur Fellows (Chicago, May).
  • MacArthur Fellows will be featured in a plenary session at the annual convention of Americans for the Arts (Boston, June).
  • Orchestra conductor and MacArthur Fellow Marin Alsop is designing three free evenings of performances in conjunction with the Grant Park Music Festival that will showcase MacArthur Fellows working in music and science, including cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Regina Carter, and composer Osvaldo Golijov (Chicago, July).
  • The Harris Theater will host a free, two-night dance performance series featuring curated works created by MacArthur Fellows, including Kyle Abraham, Merce Cunningham, Michelle Dorrance, Susan Marshall, Mark Morris, and Shen Wei (Chicago, Sept. 16 and 17 or 18).
  • The Chicago Humanities Festival will incorporate MacArthur Fellows into its regular annual programming (Chicago, Sept.).
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will host two free public performances by MacArthur Fellows through its Millennium Stage series (Washington, DC, Oct.).
  • Conservation biologist Claire Kremen will speak at as part of the Women in Science series at The Field Museum (Chicago, Nov. 2).
  • Also during the year-long anniversary MacArthur Fellows will field questions from the public in Reddit ask-me-anything sessions and appear on other digital platforms.

Attend! View! Learn! Appreciate! Enjoy!

More info about the Fellows Eligibility, Criteria and Selection Process, from their website:

Criteria:
“There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

“The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

“Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

“The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows and does not evaluate recipients’ creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a “no strings attached” award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.”

How Fellows are Chosen:
“Nominees are brought to the Program’s attention through a constantly changing pool of invited external nominators. The nominators are encouraged to nominate the most creative people they know within their field and beyond. They are chosen from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible.

“Nominations are evaluated by an independent Selection Committee composed of about a dozen leaders in the arts, sciences, humanities professions, and for-profit and nonprofit communities. Each nomination is considered with respect to the program’s selection criteria, based on the nomination letter along with original works of the nominee and evaluations from other experts collected by the program staff.

“After a thorough, multi-step review, the Selection Committee makes its recommendations to the President and Board of Directors of the MacArthur Foundation. Announcement of the annual list is usually made in September. While there are no quotas or limits, typically 20 to 30 Fellows are selected each year. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

“Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously and their correspondence is kept confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their honest impressions independent of outside influence.

“The Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.”

Eligibility:
“There are no restrictions on becoming a Fellow, except that nominees must be either residents or citizens of the United States, and must not hold elective office or advanced positions in government as defined by the statute.”