Being Thankful

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I asked my students, with absolutely no prodding or help from me, what they’re thankful for.  I refused to give them any ideas, and they had to come up with five different things.  Their responses were timeless, innocent and pure.  They never cease to amaze me…especially when you dig down to what’s just below the surface.  Here are a few of their responses:

 My family (this was a biggy – almost every one of them wrote it)

Love

Toilet Paper

God

Jesus

My class

Grandma & Grandparents

Mesa Blocks (not sure I know what those are)

I’ll be honest here…the world seems much less scary to me when I see these responses.  Truly.  Just think…what if these babies could keep their focus just on (most of) the items listed above?  Just think where the new generation could lead this world if their hearts stayed true to family, God, and love.

With each passing day, I find I have more to be thankful for.  And it’s not just the big things.  Of course I’m thankful for my family…they are my most cherished gift, one that I cling to each and every day.  Of course I’m thankful for nourishment and shelter…I know I’m so blessed to have what some don’t and may never have.  The thing is, I find myself more thankful for the little things these days.  Things like a pain-free body when I get up in the morning, a warm, soft bed to fall into at night.  I cherish the little conveniences of life…things like coffee and central heat and air and indoor plumbing.  I cling to my books and savor each day I get to write.

I’m also thankful for the silly things…like XM radio and the classic rock stations.  I’ve discovered channel 57 (Y2K country – and all I can say is thank you for some decent country music.  It saves me from having to listen to the new, overly produced, male heavy country music of today.  Gag me.)

I’m also thankful for the encouragement I get from the readers of my blog.  Opening myself to others and admitting that I love to write was very difficult for me.  I guess I spend too much time in the worry zone.  Anyway, your sweet comments and kindness have fueled my love for writing even more and given me courage to share some of my stories.  For that, I cherish each one of you.  I truly hope you have the best Thanksgiving ever.

For me and my family, we’ll be keeping our eyes and hearts on the words above…family, love, God, and enough toilet paper for the 35 folks coming to visit on Thursday!

Movies and Books

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I finally made it to the theater to see Gone Girl and The Best of Me.  There has never been a movie I like better than the book…not Harry Potter or Gone With the Wind…not any of them.  There’s just no way to capture the essence of the written word on screen, to me anyway.  These two followed suit.  Yes, they were both good but I still liked the books better.  Gone Girl’s screenplay was written by Gillian Flynn so that helped tremendously in translating the book to screen, but the Nicholas Sparks book…well, it was as if they stripped it raw and made up their own story.  I wonder how he feels about that?  I wonder if it drives him nuts that movie executives take his carefully scripted book and change it into something that could never be as wonderful as the original story?  It would me.

I’ve been reading like a maniac lately, one book after the other through my local library’s on-line eBook resource.  I love it.  (Sidebar:  I still LOVE to hold a book rather than my I-Pad but sometimes laziness wins the battle.)  However, I’ve found myself in a reading rut…as in reading the same type book over and over.  I now know more about Scottish Lords than any female has the right to know.

So help!  What book has snagged you lately?  I need titles, please, and lots of them.  With winter making an early appearance, I need a thorough list of must reads.

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Confessional time…

I signed up for the NaNoWriMo writing challenge.  (It’s the National November Writing Month challenge where you write 50,000 words in a month.)  Well, it’s the middle of November and I’m nowhere near 25,000 words.  Why November is what I’m asking?  There’s a holiday in this month, dang it.  Let’s move it to January when there’s absolutely nothing going on.  I guess they couldn’t call it NaNo then.  Anyway, I’m trying to get more word to paper.  Wish me luck!

And remember, please let me know great books you’ve come across lately!

 

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!”

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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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