For the Unpolitical Like Me

Standard

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.

Stress

Standard

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

Standard

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.

Adios, Diablo…Adios, Summer

Standard

A few months back we purchased a passel of chickens and one rooster, promptly named Diablo.  Diablo, at this point, is allowed to live with all the hens.  I am currently campaigning to separate him from the hens because I believe he is messing with their hormones in ways only a male can.  We’ve had 3 hens sitting on at least twenty eggs for months now…and they’re not hatching.  And the gestation period is twenty-one days.  Sorry hen-ladies, but your eggs are duds.  I truly believe having a male around is tinkering with their natural instincts and then proceeding to mess up my intake of eggs.  Buh-bye, Diablo.

rooster

I’ve slowly reacclimated to life back in the real world since our vacation.  It was very difficult for me to come home from possibly the best vacation of my life.  My fantasy – to spend the summer on Mackinac Island.  Maybe one day!  I can honestly say my (grown) children traveled better than they ever have before and made the trip so special.

mackinac 2011 037

The white shirt made an appearance!

The white shirt made an appearance!

219

So school starts soon…and I’m being honest, I’m not ready.  Of course I’ll miss summer break but it’s more.  I’ll miss the freedom to eat lunch anywhere I choose.  Freedom to go to the bathroom at any given moment.  Freedom to read or write or just sit with my dog in my lap at my whim.  I’ll miss my Chacos (I’m still trying to figure out what I can wear them with to work).  I’ll miss the quiet.  And too, I’m missing my students from last year.  I worry over which teacher they’ll have this next year, and I’m secretly wishing I could have them all back (I tend to get a little attached and I’m sure my new kiddos will help fill the holes left by last years children quickly).  Mostly, I’ll miss the pace…the ability to stop and breathe and just cherish each moment for what it is.  Sigh…buh-bye, summer.

 

My Heart’s Home

Standard

It’s hard to describe the smell.  It’s pure – no noxious gases from vehicles, no smokes or fumes.  There’s a sweetness to it, one of flowers and growth, of earth and soil.  It’s tinged with a pinch of the fudge made on the main road of town and then always, always backed by a subtle whisper of horse.  But even the horses smell better here – their sweat, their poop.  It’s true. 

In the air, something old whispers through the trees.  Something from long before you and me; an ancient hold on this earth that hasn’t been wiped out by man and its machine.  You can almost feel life here… Not the hustle and bustle of work life, home life, but life that God created before we all became too busy to recognize it anymore.  It’s not in the streets of town but back in the woods where tiny animals live without fear, where plants burst from the forest floor on their own accord, where the trees beckon you to come inside for just a little while.

   
    
   
   
 My heart lives here, a part of it anyway.  Having all of my heart here with me the last few days has made me extremely happy but already sad that tomorrow is the end of this trip.  Still, we have today and I will soak up each magical sight, cool breeze, sweet taste and soothing smell as long as I can.

Summer Vacation

Standard

Summer vacations…ahh!  Bill and I decided early on that we wanted to travel and we wanted to take our children with us.  So we did, and wow…it’s been an adventure!  I honestly wouldn’t change any trip we’ve ever taken, not one.  Wonderful memories, loads of fun.  My favorite vacation is a tie between Mackinac Island and a Boston-Martha’s Vineyard-Maine trip we took. My least favorite, a haunted hotel in Missouri (I did not sleep well there, to say the least).

IMG_1714

Two pictures taken literally seconds apart. The first – the perfect photo opp. The second – real life!!

Notice Bill’s white shirt. It has probably been on every vacation we’ve ever taken. He’s taking it with us this summer, too. The kids made him give up the white socks a few summers ago though!

Top picture – brother/sisterly love!  I have at least a dozen just like this taken over the years. The faces in the bottom picture are of two freaked out kids. We had just gotten into New York City, loaded our things into a cab, and they were in the back of the van (a van probably going at least 80 mph). They looked in the cup holders and both were full of questionable liquids, very nasty questionable liquids.  That began Trey’s 48 hour spell of essentially losing it once every few hours.  In one spell he screamed, “Why did you bring me here?!”  Believe it or not, he ended up having fun.

Deep sea fishing - the Hollywood sign.

Top – deep sea fishing. Bottom – the Hollywood sign.

I’m thankful for each moment I get to spend with my family, and as my children get older, I realize these special times may become fewer and farther between.  They are growing up, working, so while I can, I plan to keep traveling and keep taking them anywhere they’ll go with me (us).

(Our vacation is coming up soon, and we are driving 12 hours each way.  I may have to retract those words once we get back!)

So what’s your favorite vacation memory?  Your favorite place to go to?  Where is the one place you’d go back to today if you could?

The Best

Standard

This past Sunday, I was very fortunate to witness my nephew being baptized.  He’s ten, inquisitive (we call him the question man), sometimes naïve but other times, very deep and intuitive.  He takes things at face value and simply believes in the truth.  He decided he wanted to be baptized (for all the right reasons), and he was lucky enough to have his dad do the honors.  We all thought it would be a simple process until his father gave a little speech just before dunking him in the water.  I don’t remember all of his words but I do remember this:  He quoted, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  This auntie cried like a baby.

It was a beautiful moment…one of those moments that touch you deeply, that don’t come along often.  An incredible moment between father and son…and the big father, too.

It made me ponder the people who come into our lives.  The fathers, the mothers, the siblings and friends.  The world is a web of people, seemingly so far away from each other but then so close.  My nephew (and niece) were adopted from China, from a world far away.  I try to imagine what life would be like without them.  I can’t.  I try to imagine my sister and brother-in-law not being their parents.  I can’t.  Those four were put together by something so much bigger than you and me.

Taylor and Rachel in the front - with their dad, Trey, and mom in the back.

Taylor and Rachel in the front – with their dad, Cousin Trey and mom in the back.

They may say one day, “I have the best mom and dad in the world.”  To them, it’s true.  My children may think it.  Lots of people feel the same way about their own parents.  You hear it over and over.  My dad’s the best.  My mother is the best mother ever.  But what does that mean, and why do so many of us have the best?

I believe that many of us are blessed to have the best parent (husband, child) for us in our particular situation.  Have you ever noticed how families have their own personalities?  The way I parent my children may not be the best for another child or family.  Each family is different, each is unique.  So many of us are blessed to have the best – the best for us, for what we need, for who we are.

So there’s no reason to dismay – yes, there are many, many best daddy’s in the world.  There are many, many best momma’s in the world.  If we only look, we may find that for us, for our needs, for our personalities and desires, we have the best.  The best friends, the best spouse, the best family.  Some families may only have one parent, and that only amplifies the blessing you are to a child. (To those single parents, I think you should get a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day gift every year – you deserve it.)

The catch is to acknowledge what you have, to appreciate it for what it is.  I truly believe people are put into our lives for a reason.  We may never understand all the reasons, but there’s a plan much bigger than I’ll ever be able to grasp working all around us.

Aren’t we lucky the world isn’t made up of only one best?  Instead, we all get to experience that emotion, that feeling.  When we’re truly blessed, we find ourselves with what is the best for us.

And I have.

My babies with their 'best' daddy!

My babies with their best daddy!

Please Cover the Booties!

Standard

With summer, I’ve had time to channel surf some.  And for better or worse, I’ve become much too interested in the show ‘Naked and Afraid’.  It’s on the Discovery Channel and based on the title alone, the premise of the show is pretty self-explanatory.  One man and one woman are left naked in a remote wilderness and they quickly become afraid. 

The show begins with each contestant saying their name, age and then reciting their survival skills.  Goodness – if it were me, I’d say, “Hi – my name is Traci.  I’m 45.  I can bake a mean pork chop, and I love indoor plumbing and air conditioning.”

(Honestly – I doubt I have any survival skills at all. Can’t build a fire, can’t fish with my bare hands, can’t make a shelter out of bamboo. But if you need to learn how to read, I’m your woman!)

I really think the contestants are about half nuts.  There is no way I’d go into the wilderness with a complete stranger for 21 days – With No Clothes On!   Modesty is part of my DNA, and covering up all important parts is not a want, it’s a must.  Cleavage is even off-limits. The show blurs all the important parts but still the booties are a major distraction.  They aren’t sightly.  They actually make you think about beginning an exercise regimen.

What draws me back to the show are the people – how they act, what the say and do when things quickly fall apart. When these participants are stripped of everything, the person they thought they were may or may not disappear.  So often, they believe they’re perfectly suited for the worst until it actually happens.  They believe they’re the ultimate survivalist until day ten comes with very little food, if any at all.  I can’t help but enjoy watching what happens to people when they’re put in dire straits.  I believe that’s when true colors emerge.  It’s easy to spout off what you believe you are…it’s not so simple to be that person, especially when things are not comfortable. (Doesn’t that sum us up in every day life as well? It’s easy to say but so much harder to do. It’s easy to say I’m nice, kind, patient, but do my actions really portray those words?)

I just hope and pray I’m never forced into a live or die situation in a South American jungle!  Without a few of the basic necessities of life, I’m afraid I’d be the most pathetic person on the planet. :)))

My idea of roughing it!

My idea of roughing it!

Summer, Week 1

Standard

I have a list of projects I want to do this summer.  It’s not a long list, and after today the list may have dwindled down considerably!  My first project was to re-do the deck.  Well, I re-did it.  Lord have mercy, what was I thinking?

The process started over the weekend, including the removal of nine, rotted boards.  My guys replaced the planks, and then we proceeded to strip and deep-clean the other planks.  The toxic stripper began to strip the pealing stain while also removing my toenail polish and burning a hole into my leg! (I am not kidding.)

 

Deck with rotten boards gone and just a little stain left.

Deck with rotten boards gone and just a little stain left.

After the deep-clean, we had to wait for at least 24 hours of rain free weather.  That brought us to today – a Thursday, by myself, with no one to help.  I started at 7:30, finished up around 4:30, and I may never be able to move again.

Note to all teachers and any other person who usually works indoors:  manual labor is freaking hard!

Deck Over aka chocolate pudding!

Deck Over aka chocolate pudding!

I used a product called Deck Over and it worked well.  The only problem was that it had the consistency of chunky cake batter.  It went on slowly and thickly but the end result was really pretty.

The finished project!

The finished project!

Now it's time to sit and read!

Now it’s time to sit and read.

I did manage to read a little and write a little this week – along with the daily grind of living in a house with three other humans and two dogs.  Time off is truly treasured for me, and once I’m recovered from my deck ordeal, I plan to work on an old bathroom.  It needs gutting but it may only get a gentle scrape.  I’m not ashamed to say I’ll be paying for help on this next job, but still – pray for us all.  We may need it to survive!

 

 

Saturday on Repeat

Standard

So summer’s here…as in school’s out.  And honestly, I can’t believe it.  It doesn’t feel like it to me at all!  Not sure why but regardless, it hasn’t been Saturday for the past two days – it’s actually a Thursday and I’m not at work.  I’m sure it won’t take me long to acclimate to being at home…it never does!

I had to leave you with one more funny from perhaps the funniest group of students I’ve ever had.  Actually two.

How to protect whales.  Public Service Announcement - please read and adhere to number three!

“How to Protect Whales.”  Public Service Announcement – please read and adhere to number three!  And if you see a whale in a lake, please tell the authorities ASAP!

And secondly (and my last, I promise):  What does the mother buffalo say to her son going off to college?  Bi-son!   Like I said, funniest class ever.  I will truly miss them.

Here’s my wish list for the best summer ever:

Go to Mackinac Island (check – going in July)

Write every day

Read every day

Soak up some sun

Sleep late on occasion

Be thankful every day that I have nine weeks to recharge my depleted battery

That’s not an unreasonable check-list and I plan to make sure each one is accomplished!  To all my teacher peeps, Happy Summer!  And yes, it’s really a Thursday, not Saturday set on repeat.