Fall is Falling

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I read a Facebook post this week that has stuck with me. A father was talking to his young children about people coming and going, about how things are constantly changing, and his extremely bright young daughter said, “Nothing gold can stay.” That insightful young girl quoted Robert Frost. She’s 10. I am so impressed by her wisdom.

Now to be honest, do you know what I think of when I hear that quote? Think back…early 80’s… Can you hear Ponyboy saying it? I can, and I still love the movie The Outsiders. What beautiful words but so much more poignant from the mouth of babes.

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So fall has finally fallen in our little niche of the world. Just today I saw fiery red leaves ablaze on a maple and warm orange leaves in a haphazard pile. Fall seems to show up so much later these days. Weary, fading greens hang on and on in Tennessee until they finally give up around the first of November. Fall seemed to show up earlier when I was younger. Maybe it was the lure of Halloween or the later starting date of school, but I seem to remember it arriving at the end of September.

To say the least, my students are literally thumping with Halloween excitement. They’re downright giddy as they count down the days until Friday. Their joy has had me reminiscing about my youth and what I loved about the holiday. For me, it was the lure of the plastic mask and matching outfit. Can you remember trying to breathe behind those things? My favorite costume was the Darth Vader costume I wore when I was 10. Yes, I loved Star Wars, but I can’t remember why I chose Darth Vader over Princess Leia. Best I recall, I never even considered being Princess Leia.  And of course the candy played a huge role in the excitement – and it was more for the smell than anything.  (Well, that and eating the candy of course.)  Have you ever sniffed a large, mixed bag of candy? Try it – it’s the smell of spooks and giggles and youth.

 What are your favorite memories of Halloween? What are your most cherished memories of fall? I hope you add to your memory stash this year. Happy Halloween!

Halloween - late 1970's My sister and I all set but could we breathe?  Doubt it!

Halloween – late 1970’s
My sister and I all set but could we breathe? Doubt it!

Did You Know…

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Did you know…I sol 100 and to cows?

Did you know…that yesterday it was hot?

Did you know…that we pet a caf?

Did you know…it was October today?

Did you know…I saw cows?  Yesterday was Wednesday.

Did you know…that milk makes chees and yogert?

Did you know…I like the cows.  They give us milk.

Did you know…cows are big when they are two?

Did you know…the sun is hoter then the water?

Did you know…if you swollo lava you can diy!

I gave the Did You Know slips to my students this morning and told them to write something they learned or read about or experienced this week.  We had a field trip yesterday and I assumed most of the comments would be on dairy cows.  Some most definitely were not!  I left their inventive spelling intact.

Field trip on a beautiful fall day.

Field trip on a beautiful fall day.  That nice, shell-shocked man is holding a calf.

 

Here’s my momma/teacher did you know for the week:

Did you know…that working full time and trying to be a mother (effectively) at the same time can make a grown woman crawl?  My grown babies have needed me for a deeply bruised ankle last week and emergency wisdom teeth removal this week.  Work and boo-boo’s don’t mix.

Did you know…that taking off work turns into punishment the day you go back?  One day missed equals double the work, double the angst.

Did you know…if fall break wasn’t next week, this grown woman might cry?

Did you know…when I left my class at lunch today to come home and take care of my daughter (after missing yesterday and half of Tuesday), my babies hugged me tight and asked, “Will we get back to normal tomorrow?”  And one little boy chimed in as they walked away to lunch, “Us will be good!”

Did you know…I just love children.

What’s a little glitter?

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What’s a little glitter on a concrete floor?  And a little paint?

We just finished our fourth year of hosting (wearily allowing – ha!) my son’s high school class for float week.  Every year for homecoming, each class makes a float for the homecoming parade, and they have to have somewhere to make it.  And you guessed it, they made it in our barn.  We’re lucky to have a barn big enough to hold a trailer and the supplies and kids needed to create a float.  This was our fourth and final year.

I had questions from the children, from the other parents.  Will you miss it?  Will you miss us?  What about the concrete floor?  It has paint on it.

Will I miss the kids?  Yes!  This group worked hard and they’re all really good people.  I will miss their silliness and laughter and their love for each other.

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"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Dr. Seuss

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

 

Will I miss making the float in my barn?  Heck no!!  Love the kids but four nights in a row of coming in right after work, no supper, working until ten on a float, and tearing it all down the day after homecoming – won’t miss that a bit.

If I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that things are just things.  Barns are just barns.  And I know that memories can stick with you for a lifetime.  I won’t be sad that this phase of my son’s life is over.  My first child graduated from high school a few years ago, and I’ve watched her blossom.  I won’t be afraid of my youngest stepping through these natural progressions of life.  Our babies are supposed to move forward.  That’s life.  Will I be sad…sure, I will be.  Will I let that sadness keep me from being thankful each and every day…never.

So what about the ground in glitter and smeared paint all over the barn floor?  To me, they’re just memories.  Wonderful memories.

Senior Float - it won first place!

Senior Float – it won first place!

 

Saying Hello

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I woke up early this morning…very early.  It was one of those mornings where you can only sleep for snatches at a time.  Each time I woke up, my dog was staring at me.  Must have been something in the air (but it didn’t seem to be affecting my husband).

I woke up thinking about 6:05 a.m.  I could hear her in my head telling me it was almost time.  Not quite but almost.  My special day wouldn’t start until then.

I woke up thinking about her waffles and the homemade strawberry sauce/syrup/yummy stuff she used to cover them with. She pulled out her waffle maker on special occasions…today would have been one of those days.

I woke up thinking about my momma on my birthday.

I woke up thinking about my grandmother, too.  I had dreamed about her during those snatches of sleep.  Doris was back to well and feisty and spirited.  She was driving a car (Lord help us…she didn’t learn to drive until she was in her sixties and my papa passed away), and she was driving fast.  She was speeding toward the nursing home with a car load of family but she quickly told us she didn’t have to stay there anymore.  We all knew it was true…she was too well to stay there.

I woke up feeling melancholy as I thought about these women I’ve lost… but then I smiled.  I smiled because they were with me today.  They came into my mind and heart strongly, more so than usual.  They came to say hello.

Best birthday present ever.

My 9th birthday.  I got a red purse with my name stitched in white.  My name was in cursive and I'd only begun to write in cursive myself.  One of my most cherished gifts ever.

My 9th birthday. I got a red purse with my name stitched in white. My name was in cursive, and I’d only begun to write in cursive myself. One of my most cherished gifts ever.

Rocking On

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“Mrs. Rackley, why do you have that T around your neck?” asks an inquisitive, sparkling child.

“It’s a cross,” I answer as my ‘whoa, be careful, not supposed to talk about religion in school’ meter goes off.

“What for?  Did somebody die?”

“No…it’s just my cross.  My son gave it to me,” I have to say and then no more.

These conversations pop up out of the blue and always stop me in my tracks. We’re going, going, going, filling every minute of the day with stations and RTI and reading, and then boom, a little child pulls me back into the real world. I’m usually in deep teacher mode when these moments happen, and it’s almost like a little smack when they ask me real-life questions. Makes me wonder what would happen if I had more time to listen to their thoughts and stories and musings.

The playground is usually a good place to hear the unusual, the off-topic and sometimes, trivial.  I actually enjoy going out for recess, unless we’re having a rash of tattling that day.  Only outside can you hear the following (which are actual quotes I put into my phone as soon as I heard them):

“I ain’t scared of a ladybug.  They’re nice.  They might poop on your finger but they’re nice.”

“This rain’s got good flavor!”

ladybug

So school is rocking on.  We’re 18 days into the year, and in the last few days I’ve felt us slowly round the curve.  The children are learning routines, finding their way into first grade slowly and steadily (well, I may have pushed them a bit…).  We’re trying to find our footing, and I do believe we will.  I got my first two ‘I love you’s’ this week…a few kisses on the arm from one loving fellow…and hugs from a few girls I worried might not open up to me at all.  All these things are glimpses of bonding…me bonding with them, the children bonding with me.  But bonding is more than skills and numbers on a page…these children remind me of that often.  I have to listen to their inquiries and tales, and I have to let them hug and love.  That’s how they become mine and I try to become theirs.

 

Mork

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It’s been over a week since Robin Williams died and with all the media coverage, I’ve found my mind often on him and his situation. I was one of those kids who grew up in the 70’s watching Happy Days and then Mork and Mindy. I followed him into the 80’s and 90’s with Popeye and Mrs. Doubtfire.  Just like so many, he’s been in my media life all my life.

Since he died, I have seen nothing but one memorial or blog after another. Everyone seems to have an opinion about his life and death.  The most disturbing reads have been the judgmental suicide columns.  They’re heavy and doom-filled, and all I can do after I read them is sigh and wonder when we were given the right to judge another.

I am certainly no expert on the Bible, and I’m certainly no expert on suicide, but none of us have been given the special honor of being the ultimate judge over others.  Best I recall, we are not to judge others at all.

Depression is an ugly, vile thing.  I saw it devour my mother at times, and nothing about it was easy or clean.  When she was deep in the midst of the dark, she tried her best to think of others but she was waging a battle that she could barely survive on her own.  As a child, I witnessed her chemical imbalance, shock treatments, psychiatrists, institutions.  Trust me, none of it is as simple as just snap out of it… or… if you’d think about your kids, you’d be fine.

I can only reason that people who judge others actions may have never been in their shoes before. (And it’s a good thing we all don’t have to experience every single bad thing in this world.)  Still, before you condemn another, realize you may have never felt their pain or experienced their darkness.

I’ve knocked on depression’s door, caught glimpses of the dark, but never have I been unable to pull through.  I’m lucky in that aspect, my mother wasn’t.  The God I knew during those times never condemned me, never turned from me.  I’ve actually never known more love than in those weakest moments.  So instead of judging Robin Williams and the decisions he made, I’m praying that his suffering is over, that he’s felt God’s love, that people will try to love others as God loves us, and that we’ll all leave the judging to Him.

 

Back to School

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Back to school, back to school, oh how I adore you!

Not really – it’s just too stinking hard to adore, but still there’s nothing, not anything in the world like it.  It’s exciting, hard, terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling, energetic and fresh.  Unique to this time of year, it can only be explained and comprehended by people who have lived through the experience.  And somehow, not sure how, I’ve made it through the first week of another back to school.

You parents know, other kids may remember, but the little ones are t-e-r-r-i-f-i-e-d on the first day.  For example…my sister was in the car line on the first day readying to drop her daughter off.  As they pulled to a stop in front of the school, she noticed that a teacher had to pry a child out of his mom’s car as he screamed and cried.  My sis could hear him yelling, “I don’t want to go to school.  I don’t want to go in that Mrs. Rackley’s room!”  (And yes, that’s me and I’m not mean, I promise.)

Bless him – whomever he may be.  Luckily, no one was wailing in fear by the time they made it down the hall to the dreaded Mrs. Rackley.

It’s a little early to tell the personality of my class.  Will they be spunky or inquisitive?  Bright or sweet?  So far, all I’ve gathered is that we have promise.  Lots of it.  This group of children came in my door reading…like really reading.  They can track print, know gobs of sight words and can keep up when others are reading like nobody’s business.  I listened to them read this past week and all I could do was grin and do double high-fives.  Yes!  Oh the places we’ll go!  And you Kindergarten teachers, let me just tell you…you rock!!  Every day I’m thankful for all the hard work you put into your job.

I’m thankful to work in a building with teachers who aren’t afraid to work their tails off.  We push and love and never give up.  The older I get, the more I realize it’s a true gift to be surrounded by dedicated people.  So here’s to another back to school, another school year.  God…grant us peace of mind, a whopping dose of patience and more than anything, an abundance of love.

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Walk and Talks

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Can you see the webs glistening in the grass?

Several mornings a week, I get up early and walk.  The world is different early in the day.  Cool air whispers against your skin, faint mists float through the trees, the dew still sits heavily on the earth.  The dew was thick this morning, outlining web after web.  It was almost magical seeing hundreds of webs throughout the field and yard.

This is what I’ll miss most about school starting back tomorrow – my walk and talks.  During these early morning walks, with the beauty of the earth surrounding me, I feel closer to God than any other time during the day.  His magestic beauty does something to my soul.  For that thirty minutes, I pour out my gratitude, my sorrows, my worries, and for that thirty minutes, I feel Him right there with me saying I’ve got you.

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There’ll Be No Crabgrass in Heaven

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Musings about Heaven from a lowly human:

1.  There’ll be no more crabgrass in Heaven.  Of that I’m totally convinced.  What is that stuff and how the heck is it so strong?  I know there’ll be a day when it doesn’t consume my grass and flowerbeds anymore.

2.  Food:  No longer will it be the thorn in my side, the very bane of my existence.  I can’t eat onions, peppers, spices, red sauces – just to name a few.  What I can eat and love (southern comfort food), makes me gain weight if I even glance its way.  One day my diet will consist of more than almonds, eggs, Greek yogurt and Rice Chex, and I can’t wait.

3.  Dentist will no longer drill.  No more smelling the powdery smoke that settles in your nostrils as they grind away on your teeth.  Dentists will still exist but only to remind us to smile.  (I went to the dentist today – sorry.)

4.  Will my dog be there?  Will all of our pets be there to greet us on the other side?  Is that only a silly ‘wish’?  And if they are, some of us will end up with a slew of animals hanging around.

5.  Our loved ones are supposed to greet us on the other side…we hear that one a lot.  I choose to believe that theory but…and this but bothers me.  If we’re able to recognize our loved ones in Heaven, will we be able to decipher who is not there??  If there’s no pain in Heaven, wouldn’t that cause pain if we realized a loved one was missing?  (Sigh…this thought makes me perplexed.)

6. It’s forever…FOREVER!  Wow – my brain cannot fathom.

7.  Jobs:  My momma always said that if she had a job in Heaven, it would be taking care of dogs.  That thought makes me smile.  I can see her there, beautiful and confident, herding a slew of Boston Terriers and sneaking them Twizzlers and cheeseburgers from Sonic.  (Her Boston Terrier was very fluffy and wobbled around on skinny legs – hmmm…any guesses why?)  Wonder what my job will be?

8.  Sometimes I just can’t wait to go home.  That feeling came over me one night during a rough patch and I found myself praying those exact words.  Some days I just want to go home, to my real home.  The older I get the more I look towards that place and realize this place is only temporary.

9.  What do see when you visualize Heaven?  Vibrant flowers, towering mountains, a sandy beach, vast fields, a golden mansion – all of that?  None of that? Why does my vision overflow with flowers?

10.  Have you heard the song I Can Only Imagine”?  I love it.  The whole premise of the song is how will you react when you first meet Jesus.  I’ve already decided…and there’s no doubt…I will be a blubbering idiot.  I won’t be able to talk for crying.  And it will most likely be an ugly cry.  You know the kind – sobbing, snot, splotchy red face and a swollen nose.  Not exactly how I’d choose to look when coming face to face with Jesus but I don’t imagine he’ll care.

Oh, Sugar…

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My not-so-secret addiction is sugar.  As in sugar found in sweets like chocolate and desserts.  I don’t drink soft drinks, I don’t drink sweet tea, but if I could get away with it, I’d have dessert every single night (and cookies for a snack around 4:00 every day).  But I can’t get away with it so I mostly ogle desserts from afar.  Now…if we go to someone’s house during the week and they just happen to have pie, I’m all over it.  And if my mother-in-law wants to prepare a dessert to follow Sunday lunch, believe me, I’m there.  I just can’t pass them up.  But each time I eat them, I’m left with guilt (Why did you eat that when you know you’re trying to eat right, and you just walked this morning? So much for burning calories. Why?  Why?).

Sugar has become the latest no-no, the latest trend of evil we put into our bodies.  Experts say sugar can affect the brain in the same way cocaine does.  It can create compulsive eating habits and give you withdrawals when you try to cut back.  It can make you cranky and even mildly depressed.  (Hmmm…I’m just going to be honest.  Chocolate has never, not even one time, made me cranky or depressed.)

Oh, sugar…why you gotta be so bad?

Why does something so good have to be so bad?

And you salties…don’t roll your eyes.  You’re just as bad as the sugar addicts.  You know it!  I watch people around me douse their food with salt every day.  They seem to crave it as much as I crave sugar.  And I don’t crave salt at all.  A little dash in my veggies while they’re cooking and that’s it.

So what’s the difference?  Why do some people crave sugar and some people crave salt?

I won’t even pretend to know why we’re all so different.  We crave different things, taste things differently.  I guess it just means we all have a vice somewhere.  Whether it’s the nightly bowl of ice cream, a hand full of dark chocolate, or a whole bag of chips.

I did find some tips for curbing cravings:  limit processed foods, eat three meals a day, exercise, get out of the house, chew gum.  The one I liked the most was don’t shame yourself.  Isn’t that so true?  I mentioned the guilt my psyche rattles at me when I eat too much sugar – well, that guilt makes me want to scream.  (But honestly, if the little voice inside my head didn’t tell me to stop, I’d eat entirely too much sugar every day.)

Oh, sugar…why you gotta be so good?

You know I love you, but quit begging me to eat the leftover homemade ice cream in the freezer!

This is not me - this is just a representation of how I feel when I eat chocolate!

This is not me – this is just a representation of how I feel when I eat chocolate!