Ellenhalter's Blog

We can’t flag now!

June 17, 2017
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Many of us remember the quivering moments following the presidential election when we faced the reality of Trump’s victory, a man we viewed as crazy, whose finger would have first crack at the nuclear button. Immediately, the news media reported his right wing appointees like Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn. With clenched fists, many of us vowed to fight the right and the alt-right. In a flurry of commitment, we called representatives, gave money to special elections, and organizations like Planned Parenthood, ACLU and Common Cause.

Five months since his inauguration, our worst fears have materialized. Trump managed to push through the Senate a right wing Supreme Court justice and fill his cabinet with people who had reputations for wanting to dismantle the very agencies they now head.

But other than initiating a botched raid on Yemen, there has been no nuclear war. Not yet.

My point is that it is too easy to watch our nightly “Who Done It?” at CNN and MSNBC, cross our fingers and hope for impeachment. Complacency is our worst liability and the strongest weapon of the right. Nor can we rely on Trump’s dwindling support. According to Claire Malone at fivethirtyeight.com, Trump retains a solid base of support, people who approve of his handling of health care and the economy and who believe the media has blown up his relationship with the Russians.

Trump also has a solid base in Congress, representatives interested in passing their conservative agenda on tax reform and health care, who are unwilling to tamper with his presidency.

In other words, if we don’t keep up our fight against the right, our democracy will continue to lose. Our effort can’t flag now.


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Pete Seeger

January 29, 2014
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Pete Seeger

For me, the door slammed shut to the sixties two days ago when Pete Seeger died. Twanging along to his banjo or guitar, he was in the center of all its protests, articulating its moral zeal. There was never doubt he believed in the power of song to bring small folks together to change the big powers that be.  No matter if he was attending rallies to support unions, marching for the Civil Rights movement or to end the Vietnamese war, he’d sing then ask the audience to join in.  Clearly for him, song was tantamount to prayer.

The folk music itself was a big part of his message.  In listening to recordings, I was struck by how clearly he articulated the lyrics.  It was as if he viewed himself as some sort of conjurer, channeling the words and wisdom of small folks from our past to deal with the big  problems of our present. He sang songs for children and songs for grownups, songs at once soothing and invigorating, conveying an encompassing support and energy to go with the fight.

In recent years when I’ve seen him, Seeger has made my heart jump into my throat. Yes, that was my sensation at the sight of that reedy man in news footage of his ninetieth birthday bash at Madison Square Garden. He sang with so much joy in front of thousands, it didn’t matter his voice had lost half its former resonance.  Though frailer than I’d seen him, he still stood quite upright as if all his political battles had kept him in shape, building muscles no one would expect him to have.

He was incorruptible too. In a pale blue work shirt, he refused to cave into the pressures of McCarthy, not naming names during the grilling of the House on Un-American Activities Committee. He didn’t seem to care about wealth and power so he couldn’t be intimidated by  threats of their withdrawal.  If TV networks no longer wanted him, he found a way to survive, singing around the edges of our country and world. Despite his anti-government stance, he was unmistakably patriotic, bursting into Woodie Guthrie’s anthem, “This land is my land, this land is your land” at every opportunity. Clearly, He would never have fought so hard against money and power if he’d had doubts that our land was worth it.

Seeger could be a bit of a curmudgeon.  He didn’t necessarily want times to change. When Bob Dylan first played folk on the electrical guitar, Seeger was horrified.  But when he was behind the mic, singing and strumming with all his might, the whole audience in his hand, he was stunning, a spirit onto himself.  For me at least, he made it easy to believe that I was part of something bigger, better than myself, that I could live in brother and sisterhood with the many others in the audience, equally smitten with his powers of voice and heart.




Once a Child, Always a Child

February 24, 2012

I just finished writing a middle school grade novel tentatively titled Lies My Best Friend Told Me and sent it off to an agent.  I have the expected postpartum pangs, but I’ve told myself I’m not done with writing for children.   I’ll never be done.  Children’s literature has always made my heart sing, and probably always will—even if I live to be as old as my mother did.  For me, growing up, which seems to have taken my whole adult life, has meant reaching down to the first books I loved as a child.   Or maybe  learning to re-love children’s books has meant learning to respect the child in me.

I  graduated college with the usual delusion that I was finished with all this childish stuff.  Parenthood  provided my excuse for a return to reading the books of my childhood to my children.  And I reveled in it—this getting to reread to my children books I’d loved such as Winnie the Poo and Peter Pan.  And my small subjects had no choice.  They had to listen to their mommy’s melodramatic readings.  My choice of books may have been fantasies, but they were real, too.   Once, after having read the latter to my oldest son at bedtime, I snuck back to his room.   “Psst,” I hissed from the doorway, “I’m Tinkerbell, and I’m here to teach you to fly so you can come with me to Never Never Land.”  He bolted up then saw it was me.  I never figured out if the look he gave me was one of embarrassment that he’d fallen for my ruse or  simple disappointment that he wasn’t going to take off for this magical land.

Of course, there was a whole new generation of writers who had published sinceI’d been a child which I got introduced to as a parent.  Although Dr. Seuss might have been around when I was small, he didn’t really become famous until I was in my last years of elementary school, too late for me to have read him then.  So I introduced  him to my children and read him I did, getting almost  physical pleasure from Seuss’s rhyme and meter.   “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant/ An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent,” I must have almost shouted that and other of his delightful refrains.

Are you ever too old for a children’s book?  Not if you don’t forbid that part of yourself to continue to grow and flourish.  I found that as an adult reader of children’s books,  I had much the same taste as I had as a child.  For example, as a nine- year-old, I had loved the largely realistic and humorous books of Beverly Cleary.  As an adult reader of children’s books, I gravitated to the same.  When a friend who had an older child told me about a hysterical book for children by Judy Blume entitled Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I couldn’t wait to read it to my five-year-old son.  I’m afraid I found the antics of Fudge far funnier than my kindergartener did.   I learned then that if I wanted to read a children’s book, to go ahead and read it myself rather than impose it on my son before he was ready.


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Beloved Teacher–In memorium

June 19, 2011
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Memorial: Blanche Chaiken

(March 10, 1922 – January 19, 2003)

by Ellen Halter

You found me

on the near side of childhood.

Your brow,

arched like a spade,

plunged through topsoil

to the secret garden

of my heart,

trillium running through it.

Your retinue

of nine-year olds,

sailed with you

after school,

through the projects,

its mean grid

of concrete and brick,

to the library.

Port of entry,

its bay and lagoon,

underwater dives,

we’d surfaced

late afternoon,

the sun in our eyes.




I believe.

Ramrod as a mast,

regal as a queen,

you trod abroad,

toeing outward

away from me.

You, my dear,


bones to dust,

I can’t conceive.

Dumb to the love of the child,

deaf to the poet’s pleas,

To please,



You there,


a mirage,

I retrieve.

My shoulders squared,

my eyebrows raised,

readied to proceed.





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February 10, 2010

A New Beginning on an Old Page

It’s snowing this February night on the midwestern town where I’ve spent the last twenty-five years.  It’s my home, but not my hometown.  at heart I’m an Astoria Girl.  Always have been.  Always will be.  Because I left when I was seventeen and never returned except for summer vacations, I have a need to resurrect that past.

The place I called home as a child was a cooperative development called Queensview in Astoria, New York.  My husband who grew up in a real small town thinks it was a small town of sorts.  It had a stable population, so many of us who moved in as babies spent our entire childhoods there.  We watched each other grow up and leave.  And then we lost each other until now–the era of Facebook and other social networks.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve joined two Facebook pages–the “Queensview Nursery Alumni Association” and “Astoria Kids.”  As I wrote on the Nursery Alumni page, I graduated 56 yrs ago.  LOL!  Best of all, I found a former classmate there.

I’ve also come upon unexpected images of my younger self as classmates have posted class photos.  The biggest surprise is the accuracy of my memories.

Signing off on this snowy winter night.

An older Ellen

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Hello world!

January 17, 2010

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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