“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


“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.


We Called Her LP


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


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.


Brown Eyes 


I know you must get tired of my teacher stories, and after this one, I promise to find other topics to write about.

There’s this tiny fellow in my room…brilliant, asthmatic, mannerly, kind.  He’s so smart he can barely contain the thoughts bouncing through his head.  We’ll call him Brown Eyes.  Well, today he came in from the playground with a massive pout on his face.  I mean this kid was down.  I called him over to my desk and asked what was going on.  It took all of three seconds for him to burst into sobs – the kind of sobs you can barely speak around.  He proceeded to tell me that nobody would play with him, that he’d even asked a few people and they said yes but they all ended up running in different directions.

By this time, he was nestled in for a big hug, his head on my shoulder.  The other kids were watching.  One little boy slipped up behind him and began to pat his back (this fellow is Blue Eyes).  I took the moment to remind the class that we take care of our own, we’re family and nobody gets left out.  About this time, Blue Eyes said, “It’s alright, man.  Don’t be sad.”  

That was all it took…Brown Eyes turned around and threw his arms around Blue Eye’s neck and held on for dear life.  Blue Eyes looked at me, startled at first, but then just hugged him back.  See….here’s the thing:  Blue Eyes is a whole year older than Brown Eyes.  He’s seen more, lived longer, and in little boy years, has outgrown innocent shows of affection.  Brown Eyes is young, he’s still very innocent.  To him, hugging another boy is no big deal.   Blue Eyes…he’s already been taught or simply learned through osmosis that guys don’t do that.  But here’s what’s awesome – he let Brown Eyes hug him anyway.

Not to be outdone, here come several girls, ready to mother at a moments notice.  A few more boys hustled to us.  Suddenly, at my desk…at 11:03 on a warm day in September, there was a group of seven or eight kids, arms thrown around each other in the sweetest group hug I’ve ever seen in my life.  

Brown Eyes smiled after that.

I shared this story because it was my life-line this week.  I’ve been weepy, sad in a way I have a hard time expressing.  My heart is achy because I believe my heart may be realizing that the teaching I fell in love with so many years ago doesn’t exist in that form anymore.  I ache for what I fear is gone.  The teaching I once knew has been replaced by numbers and mandates.  What may be the hardest is knowing I’m not a numbers or mandate kind of person…never will be.  So when I was at my lowest, that little boy and my huddle of kids…well, they gave me a reason to keep going.  Those babies reminded me what I love about teaching…them.

Highlights of a Hairy Week


Here are some highlights from a very crazy, busy week:

Mrs. Rackley…can I ask you a question about babies? 

Be.  Still.  My.  Heart.  This came from the mouth of a precocious, mannerly little fellow.  As smart as he is, I’ve got to be honest, I sputtered some.  My eyes, I’m sure, got big.  Finally I said, “Sure.”

Why do babies walk on their tippy-toes all the time?

After I could breathe again, I tried to answer him.  I might have said something like, “Oh you know, their muscles are not strong yet…blah, blah, blah.”  I was so happy it hadn’t been anything worse, I could barely focus.


I got this love letter on my birthday.  It was written by the sister of one of my students.  And let me assure you, sweet girl, you ARE beautiful…and smart and creative and kind and thoughtful.



At another point, we were brainstorming (-ed) family words.  I got bed, red, fed.  One yells out ted.  I told them yes but as a name with a capital letter.  A few little brains churned until I hear, “Like the movie ‘Ted’?”

“Yes,” I say, while I’m thinking ‘you better not have watched that movie’.

Someone else yells out, “What about Teddy…like my teddy bear?”

Then boom, another says, “Teddy Roosevelt!”

Only the little fellow and I knew who he was, but still, it was another one of those moments where I know my face looked stunned.  (I have a hard time hiding emotion on my face, like really hard.  It’s a curse.)  I’ll tell you, I’m surrounded by some very intelligent, inquisitive children this year.  Hope I can keep up!


So, I had a birthday this week.  The students asked how old I am, and I told them….then it was their turn to look stunned.  Their minds cannot process 46.  It’s too much – especially when I’m older than most of their parents…which they made sure I knew!  I’ve got to be honest…birthdays have become a weird, almost depressing event over the years.  What happened to the celebrations?  Now it’s just, “Oh crap…in four years I’ll be fifty.”  But fear not, the hubby made the one thing I wanted for my birthday.  I had chocolate cake so all is right with the world.

This is the masterpiece Bill made.  Half chocolate icing, half cream cheese.  Yum!

This is the masterpiece Bill made.  Half chocolate icing, half cream cheese. Yum!

Finding Balance


What is balance?  Where has it gone, and did we ever have it to begin with?

I struggle daily to find balance in my life.  Balance between home and work, balance between what I give of myself and what’s left behind once I do.  The struggle is real to find the right amount of effort for each compartment of my life.  And that’s how I cope with issues – I compartmentalize my life.  Little sections of family, work, friends, church.  Each section is important but as odd as it may seem, they rarely mesh.

My daily battle is somehow equalizing the compartments, and I have to honestly say, there are times when some of my compartments are totally ignored.  There are days when one or two areas devour the other parts of my life.  Can you guess which areas those are?  I bet the same ones you struggle with, too.

As with many jobs, mine tends to devour.  If I’d agree to what it wants from me, I could work from dawn to bedtime every day.  If I would just give in and let it have me, I would eat, breathe and sleep work.  Many people I work with do and have.  They work incredibly long hours, every day of the week, just trying to somehow keep their heads above water.

Here’s the thing, I refuse to let any compartment of my life completely rule over the others in a negative way.  Especially work.  I work my tail off while I’m there, but I’ve learned the hard way that I must have downtime at home.  If I don’t, my family and home life suffers.  My children suffered when they were younger because work zapped me so fully and completely that they were left with a grumpy momma.  I learned a little too late that if there’s no downtown, there’s no energy for friends or church or anything else.

So where’s the balance?  How can teachers find balance in a system that demands more every year, sometimes every month or week?  How can school employees (because our principal, secretaries and staff work just as long if not longer than we do) continue at this pace?  I know my body and psyche and I know that this pace can destroy my gut.  It can wreck nerves and fray the senses.  It can change once kind, jovial humans into fussy, irritated grumps.

How can we fix it?  What can teachers do to regulate their time, to find a balance that keeps them healthy while providing all that is expected?  I wish I knew all the answers.  I wish I had a magic wand.

Here is what I do know (and granted, it’s not much):

  1. Don’t be afraid to leave work when your work day is over.  If the work is still there, guess what?  It will still be there in the morning.  The world will not have stopped turning and somehow, you’ll get it done the next day.
  2. Your children and spouse come first.  Period.  End of story.
  3. God gave us all a job to do on this earth, but I believe we’re still expected to take care of our internal selves.  If we don’t care for the tender parts of our soul, no one else will.  We have to ‘tend the garden’ of patience, love, kindness.  If we ignore them, weeds will take over.
  4. “Don’t sweat the small things” – man, nothing is more truer than that statement.  Let the little stuff go.  Out the door, out of your mind, out of your gut where it will turn into an ulcer the size of the moon if you’re not careful.
  5. When you get tired, STOP!  Stop, walk, run away from the building.  Go home, rest, cook, read, zone out in the recliner.  Just stop.
  6. Be kind.  Smile at somebody at least once a day.  Give a compliment.
  7. Sleep is awesome.  Downright magical, really.
  8. Share the good – like when you figure out this balance thing.  When you figure out the answer, let the rest of us know.
  9. Never forget the reason most of us are there.  I have heard so many teachers say over the years, “If I didn’t love the kids so much, I’d be gone.”  I guarantee you, every teacher in the world has thought that.  I know I have.  Sometimes, when I slow down enough to really look at my students, to look into their eyes and see the churning of their minds, I remember.  I remember that these little people are just little people.  They need us to love them with all we’ve got.  THEY are what keep me there.

Told you it wasn’t much, but it’s all my weary, work compartment can manage.  And I’m serious about number 8.  There has to be an answer to balancing our lives, to keeping our focus on what is real and important.  I’m expecting some really smart educator to figure it out.  That’s what we’re good at, by the way.  That’s why they pay us the big bucks!

mackinac 2011 032




For the Unpolitical Like Me


I know I can’t be alone.  Surely there are others in the world who cringe at every commercial, every ad, every post.  And even though the election is a long way off, the hullabaloo has already begun.  I already hate it and I can’t imagine how much worse it’s going to get before the actual election gets here.

Here’s the thing – I am not or ever will be completely affiliated with one political party (even though I am surrounded by people of both parties).  Nobody can sway that.  The only person who has some influence over my political decision making is my husband, but even he knows that I hate it all too much to ever fully commit to one party or another.  To me, they are ALL one big hot mess!  In my experience, political parties only seem to care about one thing…their own beliefs.  If something is different than what they believe in, then it’s out…goodbye and don’t even look my way.  What about that works?  What about that helps your fellow man or this country?  It seems like absolutely nothing.

I think about how much money politicians make and it makes me cringe.  I think about how they’ll fight for their own agenda but then ignore abused and starving children right here in America and I’m sick.  To me, and probably only to me, our system seems very broken, and since different political parties bounce through the White House every eight years, I think it’s hard to blame our problems on one group of people.  This brokenness has been occurring for too many years to count.

Has America become the world’s joke?  Are we now just one big reality television show?

I take comfort in believing that God is in control, and I do believe He has a plan.  Somehow he’ll turn our huge messes into good.  But guys, I just cannot believe that this same God cares who is Democrat or Republican.  I instead think He’s looking at us like I look at my children when they’re telling me something all hyped up and one-sided…He has one eyebrow up, eyes are squinted, mouth is pursed in a smirk, and He’s silently shaking his head.  And since He loves us, He just murmurs, “Good grief.”

My hubby told me the other day, “If so-n-so wins, we’re moving to Canada.”  I laughed hard but I think he might be serious.  If we’re up and gone come next winter, you’ll know why.



If there was an award for stress eating, I’d be your champion.  Like the gold medal, first place winner.  For instance, our adopt-a-school sponsor, the wonderful Johnson Controls, gave us a goody basket of supplies for back to school. Nestled inside was a jar of jelly beans…the really good kind you get at Easter…and I ate every single one of them in probably fifteen minutes flat.  Told ya…first place for sure.  

Back to school is the ultimate stress inducer, as in there is no worse month in the month of teaching than August.    New students, new personalities, new schedules, new everything.  And as much as I hate to admit it, I stress eat like a crazy lady.  Not good things either.  Stress eating hits at non-meal times when I’m weak and shaky…at times when only a snack will do.  Things like M&M’s and Smarties and dark chocolate.  Not good, I know.  

I’m hoping this week will be better and the marathon snacking will subside.  We’re entering week three, day ten of this new year.  My class is sweet and eager, hard-working and interesting, and I’m anxious to see how far they will progress.  If we can survive August, we can do anything.

So as I prepare for another week, I’m asking a huge favor.  Please pray for the children and for the teachers.  Pray for us and how we deal with our stress.  We all don’t handle it the same, and goodness knows we’re all just looking for a way to survive the moment.  Some chew nails, others cry, some rant.  I eat candy.  

And that is my confession.

Told you they were interesting!

Back to School


It’s that time again.  Are you ready?  Am I?  Most definitely not…not today anyway, but I’ll get there.  It’s time to begin another school year, to meet new students, to try and be the best teacher I can be.  Some years it’s easy, some not so much.  And honestly, I’m struggling a wee bit.  It has nothing to do with school (except for the getting up early part) and way more to do with the fact that I’m heading off to school alone this year.

For the first time in sixteen years, I have no child starting the school year with me.  No babies to pick out new outfits for, no new backpacks, no new tennis shoes.  Since Kindergarten, I’ve always taken their pictures on the first day of school and then meticulously put them in their scrapbooks.  I’ve always gone school supply shopping for them, picked out snacks, dreaded the homework, and prayed hard for them each day when I passed the high school.  This year, it’s just me.  And like the big goofball I am, I’m a little sad about it.

Hunter starting Kindergarten.  The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Hunter starting Kindergarten. The first of many school pictures made on the back sidewalk.

Trey, first grade - reading to his daddy.

Trey, first grade – reading to his daddy.

Is it possible to be thrilled they’re both going to college at the end of the month and still be sad they’re growing up?  Yes, that’s me.  And is it unreasonable to ache for your little babies even while you beam at your semi-adult children?  If it is, then that’s me too.

Here’s what I figure:  I spent sixteen years of my life getting my children through school (and the last three, college), so…is it an unreasonable possibility that I should be finished with school, too?  Seems fair to me!  And what if I get them both through college?  Then that’s the bonus round with a big retirement coming right after it!  Right??  Right??

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack.  Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Hunter and SuSu and a really gigantic purple backpack. Sorry Hunter, that thing must have tipped you over a few times.

Luckily for me, I’m going to have a room full of little ones to love me when I get to school next week.  I know they’ll ease the missing and ease the sadness.  That’s such a wonderful perk to my job.  Just today, I got hugs from a prior student and a boy I’m having this year.  There are not many jobs where hugs find you everywhere you go.

I’m also lucky to live in a county where freedom and faith still find you on a warm Saturday.  This morning, people from our community gathered to pray for the upcoming school year.  People from all denominations and different parts of the county gathered at the courthouse before heading out to individual schools.  It was pretty amazing, and I know I felt blessings all around me.  My beloved Mrs. Marsha, the kindest cafeteria worker and person in the world, said, “Did you see the birds and butterflies circling our building while we were walking?”  They were there, we weren’t alone…  What a wonderful reminder that even when I feel sad and alone as I head off to school, I’m not.  I’m not alone at all.