The Blessings of Wanna Be Teachers

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“I don’t like the Lego movie either.  When it comes on, I just turn it to Fox News.” – This quote did not come out of the mouth of a teacher.  Nope, a six year old said that to me and two other teachers this week.  Of course I laughed (and began writing his quote down immediately). One of the other teachers piped in, “Well, as long as it’s not MSNBC.” The boy and teacher looked at each other and smiled, sharing some inside joke I know not much about.

School has been busy as always, but I’ve been blessed with a student teacher the past month.  I get to keep her until March 1st and then it’s back to one set of hands.  A little girl told me the other day that it’s like I have two sets of hands now that Miss Sarah is around.  Very true.

I’ll be the first to admit, and I told Miss Sarah right up front, that I really didn’t want a student teacher. It’s a crucial time of year with testing lurking around the corner, and the thought of turning my class over to a college student was daunting.  I also told her that I believed that sometimes things happen for a reason, and that if God put her into my life, there was a reason for it.

Never doubt His reasons.  He placed a human into my life so level-headed and mature, so ready to work. When something is amiss, this girl tackles it. No being shy, no wondering if it’s her place.  She jumps in and figures out what needs to be done.  Sarah is a very mature soul in a young body, a natural-born teacher.  She’s kind, calm, loving but firm, and my kids love her.  And I do too.

Honestly, I remember being her age.  I remember having my first classroom at her age.  A year older than her, I had my first child.  I look at Sarah and know that I’m old enough to be her mother.  And yes…all of that freaks me out.  Inside, I don’t feel old enough to be my student teacher’s mother!  I mean, come on – I still feel 30-ish most days.

I look at Sarah and thank God young, vibrant souls are entering education.  I’m thankful that these women want to teach. I’m thankful that our community has a college that is producing such well-rounded, highly qualified wanna-be teachers (you’re awesome, Martin Methodist College).  Because these teachers will one day take our places.  These young, happy, light souls will one day soon slide into the rooms that many of us are retiring from or simply leaving for other endeavors.

Maybe God sent a young soul my way to remind me that there is a cycle, that the world keeps turning and progressing, even as I get older and my time grows shorter in the classroom.  Maybe God wants me to learn that it’s okay to jump – jump into new fields, new opportunities, new changes.  There will always be new life to take the place of the old.  And from what I see, this new life is ready to tackle the world.

 

Miss Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me A Book, Please

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“Every day I visualize God picking me up by the heels, holding me upside down until all of the bad, negative things fall out into that circle of light.  Then he stands me up, and I picture streams of light coming through the top of my head, filling my whole body until I too am a being of light.  Then we stomp all of the negative things into a fine white powder and blow it away with the wind of our dancing feet.” – Dolly Parton

The quote above came from Dolly’s autobiography written in the mid 1990’s – a funny, spiritual, uplifting read. This morning I tried her meditation technique but I kept seeing myself as the little blonde Dolly in the movie “Coat of Many Colors.” Still, I think I’ll try it again.

Since Christmas I’ve done nothing but read. One wonderful book after another.  Most of them were Christmas gifts – the best kind of gift this girl can get.  Reading does something to my soul, something hard to put into words.  It’s cleansing and healing, cathartic and soothing.  I can always find something to relate to in the books I read.  A character’s innermost thoughts or their pain…their forgiveness, their laughter.  And man…I’ve fallen back in love with an actual book…a hand-held, paper-whiffing book. (Not that I ever fell completely out of love with them to begin with.)

If you’re looking for a good, uplifting, non-tragic, relationship story, all of these are good reads. (I don’t read scary, gory or anything more depressing than life can already be. Yes, The Girl on the Train was suspenseful but it didn’t give me nightmares.  Always a plus.)


Lately I have been missing the women in my life.  Reading helps. But still, I miss the women who took care of me, who even as I aged, were a step above me; gentle, kind, understanding of what it’s like to be a wife and a mother.  They knowingly nodded when I was tired or dealing with a sick child.  They remembered the feeling of raising teenagers and the pain only a parent can feel when a child hurts.  I miss their love and support.  I miss their presence.  I miss my mother’s hugs, my grandmother’s wisdom, and my mother-in-law’s laughter. I miss not having them in my life every single day.  Momma and I talked about books a lot…so did Dot and I.  It’s strange not having them to talk to anymore, but often when I’m lost in a book, I find them there.  They are the strong women fighting for better lives, matriarchs showing others how to live.  They are the warm people showing and giving love to everyone.

That is the glory of reading…slipping away, losing yourself in the words and then magically finding others.

 

Happy New Year

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Is it wrong for me to say, “Goodbye 2015!  Don’t let the door hit you in the a@# on your way out!” Because, man, that’s how I feel.

It’s been a crappy year…a yucky, stressful year.  And I’ve been reminded that stress can do lots of horrible things to your mind and body…like make you tired and grumpy, make you gain weight, make you have pains where pains don’t belong.  Stress is an evil little heifer.  Mix her with a dose of sorrow and you’ve got a batch of blah.

So without much ado, I will go to sleep tonight and say goodbye to 2015 without looking back!

But tomorrow…I will start tomorrow with hope.  There’s something encouraging about the idea of a fresh start. One segment of life closes, another begins. One day ends, and at midnight, a fresh day blooms.  Our minds have been programmed to believe with each new year we have the opportunity to begin again…I kind of like that.  Don’t we all need the chance to feel fresh, to feel like new opportunities are possible?

Tomorrow, I will begin looking for new opportunities.  That is my resolution this year.  Taking advantage of opportunities means stretching, moving out of my comfort zone, and not being afraid of difficult situations.  Those are hard feats for me…I’ll be the first to admit it.  But this is how I see it: new opportunities could be as simple as being kind when others are being cruel, saying hello to a stranger, joining classes at church when I’d rather be lazy.  Opportunities could be as amazing as traveling with my family or pushing myself back to college.  Who knows?  The thing is to take the opportunity when it arises.

There is tremendous hope in those thoughts…a yearning for fresh, a desire for better, a wish that maybe, possibly the next twelve months will be better and stronger than the last.  Here’s hoping we all find that freshness, that push to move us forward.  Shouldn’t we in the very least refuse to stay exactly the same?  Shouldn’t we at least try to smile just a little bit more or laugh a little bit more?  Shouldn’t we cherish the good while realizing the bad will not win over us forever?  I sure hope so.  Hope will keep me going.

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Hello Christmas Break!

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It should be mandatory for every adult in the world to spend the week before Christmas break in schools.  Not only to experience the chaos…the squealing, running, chatty, messy chaos (and that’s just the teachers), but to feel, to remember what it’s like to be a child.  The children go to another place, a world adults forget about when they grow up. Children live in a perpetual realm of giddiness this time of year.  It’s exhausting but it’s also infectious. Every adult should get to experience that kind of giddiness at least once more in their lifetime.

In the midst of utter pandemonium, here are some of the things I heard over the week:

Little boy, age 6 – “I have ballet stuck in my head!  When I get home, my daddy’s going to ground me.”

Funny girl, age 6 – “When did people get in color?  Like not gray anymore?  I saw an old picture and people used to be gray.”

Too smart for me boy, age 6 – “Who first started using money…not just trading stuff?”

Precious girl, age 6 – “That sounded like two snowflakes singing together.”

Inquisitive girl, age 6 – “Who made the Earth? I know God, but like who did the landscaping?”

 And last but not least, after receiving a precious homemade card from a little girl…a handwritten card with a beautiful Christmas tree and lights and a star in the sky, I find another note folded up inside. She pointed to it and said, “It’s a zombie map, so if you need to get away from zombies.”

A journal entry from the week. I asked who the man was at the bottom and she said God. Sigh...sweet baby girl.

A journal entry from the week. I asked who the man was at the bottom and she said God. Sigh…sweet baby girl.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter.

C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.

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The older I get, the more concerned I become about the world we’re living in.  The news is terrifying, people are afraid of neighbors, and somehow in my lifetime, we’ve become a society that is so politically correct that we have lost common sense.  Respect is slipping away…simple truths such as greeting others with kindness, treating adults with reverence.  This country is turning into something I don’t recognize.

Christmas is turning into something I don’t recognize.

Bear with me.  Let’s spell Christmas.  C..H..R..I..S..T..M..A..S.  Does anyone else see the beginning of the word as I see it?  I know I’m not alone.  It says Christ.  Not holiday.  Not Santa.  Not season.  When did Christ lose his standing on his own birthday?

This time of year bothers me…actually more and more each year.  There is a total disregard of what the season really is.  This is not just a holiday season…it’s Christmas.  This season is not about parties and gifts or stockings and Rudolph.  It’s not about anything except Jesus.  Period.  But somehow this time of the year has turned into just another holiday.  We’re not celebrating Santa’s birthday, we’re not celebrating anything but the fact that Jesus was born to save people like me…simple sinners who struggle each and every day.

Now let me clarify:  I am a Christmas nerd.  I love it.  Always have.  I love the time with my family and our decorated Christmas tree.  I love to eat holiday food (maybe a little too much).  I love my church filled with red poinsettias, a spiraling tree and the Nativity scene.  All of these things are wonderful traditions and very calming when I’m weary and agitated, BUT these things have always been celebrated because of Jesus’ birthday.

I am terrified of losing the meaning of this time of year.  I am terrified that self-proclaimed Christians won’t publicly stand up for Jesus (even if it is on national T.V.).  And I realize I’m not being politically correct by pronouncing my opinions for all to see, but in this matter I’m shouting from the rooftops:  Christmas is about Jesus!  Nothing else.  And it never will be.  I love my Jesus that much…the man who has stood by me through it all.  He’s my dearest friend…He sees every heart wrinkle, every personality flaw, every mistake, and He loves me anyway.

I can hear the non-believers in my head saying, “But shouldn’t every child have a ‘holiday’ even if they don’t believe?”  First of all, I’m a sucker for kids so of course I would say they should. It is not the fault of children if they’re living in an environment they can’t control.  However, as parents, we should step up and make sure they know the true meaning of Christmas.  Even non-believers should clarify what the day is about with their children because believe me, they hear it other places.  As a bare minimum, they deserve to know the definition of Christmas.  (Just this week, one of my students asked me how old Jesus is…in front of the whole class…on his own with no prompting from me.  Children talk, they express their views and ideas, they have vivid minds.)

Is there a time to stand up for your beliefs?  Is there a time to not be politically correct?  I believe the time is now.  This season is now.  My faith pulls me to declare that for me and my family, we will celebrate our Jesus.

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From the bottom of my heart, I wish a Merry Christmas to each and every person I know, to everyone on this planet.  I pray that we all feel peace and hope and love…things we can only know by finding the true meaning of Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Family

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Family – that beautiful, complex six letter word. It can be something you’re born into, an entity you marry into, or even people you find in your life along the way.  Family is an encompassing word – it holds so much love, so much loyalty, and even at times, pain.  It can bring out the very best in you, make you feel nurtured and loved and wanted. Family can make you whole.  

Days like Thursday remind me that one of God’s greatest blessings is the kinship He gave us with others. Simply being together can ease the sting of loneliness and soften the blow of loss.  Even when nerves rattle and personalities grind, in the end there’s still a connection, a longing for fellowship. I’m so very grateful for my family…the ones who have nurtured me all my life, the ones who swallowed me into their mix without hesitation, and the ones I’ve gathered into my heart over the years.

The Dog Branch Clan

 

The children put out a thankful bucket. There were so many great responses!!

 
 

One of our animal family members on a beautiful November day.

 

Thankful

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                                                               “A thankful heart is a healthy heart.”

     There’s nothing like hard times to make you long for the calm, peaceful days you take for granted.  You know those days…days when you’re almost bored with the steady humdrum of life.  We never appreciate those days when we have them.

     The last few months have been hard.  Really hard.  Losing a loved one, watching family members struggle with health issues and surgeries, trying to be strong and sure when most days I’m not. To remedy that weight, I’ve been trying to turn my thoughts to thankfulness.  Everyday, starting early in the morning, I step through all the things that are blessings in my life.

     I’m grateful for the angels watching over my daughter when her condo caught fire.  They sent good Samaritans to bang on her walls, to open up their homes, to lend a phone.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the sudden cease of flames just before they could cause real damage to her or her home.  (Like I said…angels were with her.)

     I’m so thankful for family and friends who surround you when you struggle. They bring you food and help you clean your house. They check on you, call, text and encourage you to do things you never, ever thought you’d do in your lifetime.

    I’m filled with gratitude for another day in my home with my husband and children and our pets. A husband that is the other part of me, and children who never cease to amaze me.  There is a warm bed, a roof to cover my head, the comfort I only feel when I’m there.  

    I’m so very thankful for prayers.  So many people have told me they’re praying for our family, and I’ve felt them, every one.  They are a comforting hug, a kind word, a lovely card, a wash of peace settling over us all.

    Most of all, I appreciate the bond of genetics.  In the middle of all the busyness, my son decided to write down his first recipe while making deer jerky.  In his notes, I saw his grandmother.  When I used to ask Dot how she made things, she’d always say, “Oh, you know, just a little bit of this and then I’d add a little of that.” I never could follow her directions. Apparently, he’s the same kind of chef.  

This made me smile so much. Our angel was smiling too, I just know it.

Granny Dot

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“Open the door.  He’s telling me what to do.”

Her eyes were on the ceiling, over my head.  She studied whatever it was she saw very seriously. I asked her who it was and she shrugged.  I asked her if it was Jesus and she mumbled, “I don’t know”.  But still she stared.  I saw a mixture of fear and maybe agitation in her eyes.  Her brows were knitted together. She studied him hard.  I finally said, “Listen to him.  He loves you.”

*

I’ve witnessed the beginning of life first hand, and now the end of life.  The ultimate joy, the heart crushing loss.  Honestly, neither were pretty.  Both were hard and messy and full of anxiety.  When will it happen?  Will I be ready?  What will I do once it’s over? The only catch is with a birth you’re left with a little human to love, raise and adore.  With death, you’re left with a hole, an empty place where a human once presided in your life. With both, you’re required to have incredible faith.  Faith that you can be all that person needs you to be in that moment.  And now, now that the moment has come and gone, still wondering if it was enough, if you’ll be enough.

My mother-in-law passed this weekend.  We knew the end was coming.  We saw the affects of cancer claim her body.  And even though it was excruciating to watch her struggle, there is a bond that feels stronger than it ever has before.  Even with her gone, I feel closer to her than ever.  Dot fought, she persisted, she demanded that her body breathe.  We all told her that it was okay…that she would be safe and never alone.  I felt the truth of those words in her room in the middle of the night, and I still feel it now.

Dot told us all that she wanted her passing to be happy…no sappy funeral, nothing but celebration.  She liked to laugh way too much to ever settle for sappiness.  But still… all I can do is think, but what about Thanksgiving and your grandkids and your black pie and sugar cookies?  You haven’t taught me how to make dressing yet.  You were going to show me your favorite dress and your favorite book.  We were supposed to have one more day to do all those things.

The sad thing is, we’d just had a lifetime.

A lifetime of moments and conversations and meals and family.  It turns out that even a lifetime is not enough.

I’ve read that death is like walking from one room to the next.  You simply close one door and open another.  I pray for that transition, for that simple step of walking out, walking in.   I pray that for Dot she simply bounded into the next room, her energy back, her laugh loud and strong, her spirit filling up that wonderfully bright new room in a flash.

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We Called Her LP

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A half-empty Sun-drop bottle, an open pack of crackers, jelly packets scattered across a desk.  A snatch of time, a life finished too soon.  I made myself stare at her desk, take it all in.  Her myriad of bobble-head dolls, her schedule for the day.  It was all where she’d left it, expecting to return.

Our school lost a dear friend this past week. She spent the last twenty-five plus years of her life taking care of teachers, taking care of children.  Petite and thin, strong and quick-witted, she was sharp.  She was unique.  If you were willing to open yourself to her, if only you tried the slightest bit, you found a friend.  Not always a woman of many words, she was so much more than what the eye perceived.  She had a smile that was bright when she chose to smile, and when she laughed, the air around her sparked.  Sharing a laugh with her meant sharing joy.  I’ll never forget our last laugh together, me illiterate about technology, asking her how she’d fixed my VCR and remote, her shrugging and saying ‘I don’t know’. We looked at each other and laughed.  And it was real – a moment between souls that just got each other.

And that soul left behind so much more than a half-empty Sun-Drop bottle.  She left her ability to connect with children. It could’ve been a sweet, spirited little boy or a special needs child.  Her radar found them and they became hers, not just for the day or for the week, but for life.

She left her dry sense of humor, her devotion to work when she could’ve retired years ago. She left her no-nonsense approach to life, her gift of technology, the taping of school programs for parents, and her never-ending supply of change. She left mementos like crochet blankets and wooden bowls, tweeting birds and knitted booties. She left a lifetime worth of memories.  She left all of us at Pulaski Elementary feeling like we’ve lost a limb or gained a hole in our hearts.

She was our friend, and we called her LP.

Park Hopping

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Theme park 101:

1.  You will at times feel like a cow.  You will be herded in mass groups, shuffling along until you find a green pasture.  If you suddenly moo, no one will notice.

2.  All children act like children no matter where they are.  They will invade your personal space, confuse you with their mother, and whine uncontrollably for the slightest infraction.  And those were the ‘other’ children – my crew behaved perfectly.

3.  When Optimus Prime looks at you and says, “I will always consider you my friend,” you will get chill bumps.

4.  When a place claims to be the happiest place on the planet, they only mean after you’ve acclimated to 50,000 other people and the never ending touching by strangers. Once you’ve settled in, relaxed a little, taken a nerve pill, and accepted the fact that you can’t have the place all to yourself, then you can be happy.

5. If you’re on a water ride, keep your mouth closed at all times.  The water has a poignant body odor smell and will transfer to your skin in a single splash.

5.  Nothing…I mean nothing is better than watching a parade of characters surrounded by kids, big kids and little kids.  The sighs, the blood curdling screams, the precious sounds of delight when a favorite character is spotted. Absolutely priceless.