Category Archives: Uncategorized

‘Tis the Season…

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C – Christ child, savior of the world.

H – Happiness, an unexplained warmth in your home and around the ones you love. A heart that is full and thankful. Hallmark movies on repeat. Hot chocolate.

R – Rejoice! Rejoice! A time to remember peace on earth.

I– Images of past Christmases flutter in your heart.

S – Santa and sleigh bells, silly drivers and mad shoppers, stress and savory smells.

T– Too much food, too many sweets, too much tension, too much fun. Tinsel, toys, time to reflect on another year gone by.

M– Malls to avoid, busy moms in a hurry. The miracle of little faces who are ready for Christmas morning. Memories.

AAngels we have heard on high. Angelic voices singing in a school program. Another Christmas has arrived with growing children, aging parents, hearts missing.

S – “At the last house, we always join hands and sing Silent Night. The reindeer, too.” –Memoirs of an Elf.   Finding solace on that silent night.

for unto you

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And Just for Fun – The School Version

C – Crazy children so high on Christmas they could float.

H – Hurrying feet rushing everywhere they go. Happiness and big hearts. Harried teachers holding on just a few more days.

R – Reindeer games. Ready for Christmas. No raising of hands, no resting of heads.

I – Idyllic smiles fill their faces. Icing on gingerbread houses. Imaginations in full bloom.

S – Sad or sappy, sighing and surprised, so many emotions. Sorry is spoken often. Santa just as much.

T – Toys. Toys. Toys.

M – Music and songs. Munchkins watching the Santa cam. Many smiles, many tears.

A – Ample love. Anticipation grows strong as days are counted down. Antsy and agitated, awaiting the 25th.

S – Smiles, stories and daydreams. Wishes for stuff, songs about sleighs. So excited they beam.

The Santa Cam – smiles blossom when they see it, and a few children will even stop, stare into the camera and give their Christmas lists in detail.

Vader

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Mrs. Rackley, do you like Star Wars? 

I love Star Wars!

Me too! Who’s your favorite character?

I really love Darth Vader.

Me too! Hey can I call you Mrs. Vader now?

Sure.

I thought I’d never hear another word about it, but he shows up for library two days later and immediately calls me Mrs. Vader and instructs me to call him Lord Vader.

Whatcha gonna do??

It is strong in that little fellow. He’ll be one to watch grow for sure. Oh…and in case you didn’t know, the new Star Wars movie comes out December 15!

Life has gotten extremely chaotic of late. College courses are stinking hard and time-consuming and stressful. So…I have an embarassing confession to make. I had to do a PowerPoint for one of my classes – never done one of those before…isn’t that sad? But I’m a quick study and I figured it out. Honestly, I’m doing lots of things I haven’t done before…like using Bibme and WorldCat. Don’t know what those are? I didn’t either. Now I know.

My saving grace is that I’m taking these classes with two other teachers. One is 26, the other mid-30’s, and then there’s me…the late 40 something. They have taught me so much…and without eye-rolls. I’m not sure what I offer our little group…so I try to make them laugh and be encouraging. That’s about all I’ve got in my repertoire.

Have you ever gotten so busy that you look up and wonder who you are? I know that sounds a little silly…but think…I’m a teacher, a mom, a wife, a student, a friend…but who am I when I’m just me? Am I just a mixture of all those things or is there, somewhere in the mix, another person? Why is it I only feel lost when I’m so busy? Is that when I don’t have time to do the things that ease me…like write, go walking and go to my Wednesday night study group (which I have done very little of since school started back)?

Since I’m too busy to enjoy the things that make me feel more like myself, I’ll take on the persona of Mrs. Vader for a while. Mrs. Vader is going to need some serious gumption to get through the next few weeks…that and a black cape, a mask to hide behind, and one seriously wicked light saber to kick some life stress to the curb.

Library Lady

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What do you do when you find yourself in love with your job? A space, just a long rectangular room. The smells, the paper of books and the mist of little humans. But in that space, with the comings and goings of over 450 little people, I have found a tug around my heart. I feel like I’ve found my place, my home.

During the first few weeks, when I was very overwhelmed with the unknown of a new job and new schedules, I wondered secretly if I had fallen into a job I couldn’t do. Steadily, and then with a few leaps, things settled, and I found myself really liking my work…even loving it a little. And even though college homework is consuming my free time and making me feel really old and a little behind the times, I still can’t help but feel giddy when I’m there.

Some things I’ve learned over the last six weeks:

It’s really hard to memorize 450 names…really, really hard.

Seeing every child in the building during a week’s time is interesting. I now have 450 new buddies who like to hug and speak often. Maybe from across the lunchroom or from down the hall. And if I can’t remember their name…eek…I just try to fake it.

In a pinch, and if they can’t remember my name, being called Library Lady or Library Teacher works just fine. And I surprisingly answer to it.

My favorite part of the new job is (unsurprisingly) reading aloud to the students. Least favorite part, the accounting. I’ve never been a money person but I’m quickly learning. Nothing like your first Book Fair to speed up the process!

New librarians should be equipped with super-human powers for their first Book Fair. I have none and on day 4 of this year’s Book Fair, I realized the people around me were my strength, shields and swords. When the library was swarming with children who can’t count money and don’t understand that two dollars can’t buy a five dollar book, my heroes swooped in and began helping without being asked. And they came back day after day even though it was a wee bit stressful. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I work with the best.

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The Book Fair invaded my library. It was awesome, tiring, fun and intimidating at first. Bless them…kids don’t get tax and that $2.50 in your hand won’t buy a $2.50 item. Luckily there were angels around who helped a lot of the children find that extra tax money.

During the Book Fair, I had trivia for the students and teachers. So fun, and I got the best answers! 

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Trivia question: Who ate through an apple on Monday? You’ve got to use a little imagination but this kid was spot on.

 

 

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Trivia question: Who sat on the wall and had a great fall? I love this entry from a Kindergartner.

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Same question but answered by an older student. Sound it out! This kiddo got the answer correct too.

Best moment of the whole Book Fair. During one of the most harried moments…I mean we were so-o-o busy…this little voice yells out into the room, “Library Lady!” My head jerks up and away from the cash register. “You got a bathroom in here?”

I’m telling you, every adult in the room stopped in their tracks. It barely phased the other children. To say the least, I stopped what I was doing immediately and assigned an older child that I recognized to escort her to the bathroom just down the hall. (I did this automatically, without thinking really, because when a Kindergartner says they have to go to the bathroom, you better listen.) Her mother, wide-eyed and mouth falling open, ran out the door after them.

 

Class of 1987

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As hard as it to believe, I attended my 30th class reunion this weekend. Thirty?? How is that remotely possible? Only old people go to 30th class reunions, and I am not old…at least not in my mind. When I think back on high school, it feels slightly out of reach but still infinitely there. Going to school with the same people for years…the same classes, teachers, the same ballgames and pep sessions, the same hurts and desires…you become tethered to one another. Last night, even though I hadn’t seen a few of the people at the reunion in so long, I found that invisible thread between us still there.

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Once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat!

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The five amigos…we worked together to put on the reunion, and somehow after countless group  text messages, several meetings and lots of planning, we pulled it off. As silly as it may sound, I’m going to miss our endless texts.

Here are some things I noticed after thirty years:

Most people are still the same. Their personalities, their smiles, their eyes. Body sizes may have adjusted and hair color may have changed, but deep down they’re the same person.

Age is a number, period. The number 48 doesn’t identify you. It’s just a flip of a calendar.

Hearts can continue to feel love, admiration, respect after long periods of time. Hearts can also continue to feel nervous and unsure. There were many timid smiles and uncomfortable waves.

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But there’s nothing like a little Electric Slide to ease nerves and get the fun started!

Honestly, I had my own battle of nerves. I said more than once that I didn’t know if I really wanted to go (even though I was helping put on the event). You know, seeing old schoolmates and friends again can be hard. You wonder if you’ll have anything to say. You wonder if you’ll have anybody to talk to for longer than two minutes. You wonder if you’ll look different than everybody else. You wonder if you’ll fit in. (Sounds a lot like high school, doesn’t it?)

But I can truthfully say that I’m so happy I went. The night was fun, the people were warm and welcoming. An old classmate stated, “There was a lot of love in the room.” And there was. It was worth the butterflies in my stomach to see familiar smiles again, to see good friends dancing and then hobbling off the dance floor saying that their knees were killing them. It was worth a smidgen of anxiety to hear familiar laughter and have squishy hugs from people you’ve known all your life. It was worth every second of it.

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Class of 1987

More pictures, more great memories.

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Forever Bobcats…

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always missed…

Ripples

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Do you remember The Purpose Driven Life book? Many, many years ago, I belonged to a study group that gathered to discuss it. Our group consisted of multi-aged men and women. One night, a seventy-year-old man said that he was still looking for his purpose in life. Not that he hadn’t felt he’d already fulfilled other purposes along the way, but at his age, he wanted to know what God needed from him now. I was floored because in my young mind I sort of believed that he’d done it all and it was ‘happy retirement’ time. I’ve never forgotten him or his statement.

Ever since then, I’ve been more aware of my place in this world. God didn’t give me a handwritten note during the study directing me towards what I was supposed to do with my life, but that class began the process of letting Him lead me where I’m supposed to go.

Over the years, I’ve balked. I’ve cried when I was tired and lost. I’ve begged, repeatedly, for him to send a thunderbolt down with explicit instructions. I’ve yearned for dreams that always seemed just a smidgen out of reach.

And honestly, at 47, I’d almost given up on one of my dreams. For years, I’d dreamed of going back to school and picking up my library certification, but you know…life’s busy, I’ve got two kids in college, I’m too old to go back to school…the excuses were boundless.

But still I prayed and I asked God to put me where He wanted me, to use me where He saw fit. And with great surprise on my part, He stuck His finger in the waters surrounding my life. The ripples started, ripples that not only affected my life but many other people around me. And doors opened, others closed, and here I am.

I’m 47, a college student again (21 years after I got my Master’s degree), a new librarian, and guys, I’m so excited! I haven’t felt this sort of giddy-can’t-wait feeling in a long time.

(We’ll touch base in a month when I’m in way over my head with work and two college classes. I may be begging for mercy! Ha!)

I sure am thankful for God’s hand in my life, and He reminds me often that His time-table does not match my schedule. And even though I usually love calm waters, I’m so thankful for the ripples in my little pond.

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I’ve been busy in the library letting my creative juices flow. Bill and Hunter helped me make this. I’m kind of in love with it!

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I’ve painted clouds and added some window decorations. Notice to short people – you will get a crick in your neck if you reach up for way too long.

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This isn’t quite finished but it’s close. Hunter and Kristie saved me on this project. I’m sort of in love with this, too. I’m sort of in love with the whole room!

My Heaven

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The windows are open in my little bay window sitting area. I hear the clip-clop of horses moving up and down the road, their harnesses jingling with each step. A cool, damp air coats my skin from the rain that has fallen and nourished this tiny patch of earth. I sit here loving a few days in my little piece of heaven. 

Today was the first day I’ve ever heard thunder on the island. It was the first time I’ve ever needed an umbrella or raincoat. But instead of hampering the day, we relished this new side of Mackinac. A little rain didn’t keep the Grand Hotel from being any less grand, and it surely didn’t take away from the beauty of the land.


My sister, who has come to the island with me twice, says my love for Mackinac is contagious. I know the thought of this place can make me smile, and I’m convinced there is no sweeter smelling place on the earth, and I’m very sure the absence of cars and fast momentum eases my soul. But contagious? Well, maybe so. This place might not be for everybody but for those souls who crave being just a little closer to nature and God, and those who don’t need the hectic pace of commercialism, I know of a place. And I know I can show you how much I love it with a few words, a picture or two and a smile. 

Some Kids Don’t Smile

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This little fellow has come into my life. He’s thin with wary, pale blue eyes. The child’s a skeptic; a hard-earned, already knows the world can be brutal, skeptic. And he’s seven. Honestly, there are moments when he can push my buttons like a lightning strike…fast and powerful before I even know it’s coming. The heat flushes under my skin and I have to bite my tongue. And then there are moments when I find his smile and I know I won’t pinch his head off that day. (Just kidding, seriously.)

Those smiles of his are rare. We go for weeks without smiles. Pain lives inside his tiny body and a smile just seems ridiculous to him. Of course I only have him with me for forty-five minutes of the day…just a blip in his massive twenty-four hour a day span. But for those 45 minutes, he’s mine. And when I see him in the halls, he’s mine. Once a child comes into my room, I get a little possessive, and whether they know it or not, they become part of the slew of students I call my own.

This past week, something eased at this little fellow’s home. I’m not sure exactly what but I have my guesses. He’d never be able to describe what it is, but something lessened its grip just enough for his anger to weaken. And then, it came. A very awkward smile…he did not want it to come out, and he fought it as long as he could. And then before he knew it, another smile popped out. I just smiled back, thankful for any grin I could get.

To some, it may be hard to believe that children in this world don’t smile. It seems as natural as breathing to most kids, but there are so many who have no reason to smile. Their home lives are broken and painful. They come to school starving. They come in with dirty clothes and unkempt hair. A lot of students struggle to find any reason to smile at all.

The mother in me wants to squeeze them until they feel better. I want to make it easier for them even though I know I can’t fix what so many of our kids live through. I want to trim their jagged nails and take them for hair cuts. I want to buy them a pair of matching socks or a pair of shoes that fit. My heart aches to wash the smell of neglect out of their hair. The teacher in me knows many of those things are beyond my capacity to do. Not because I don’t want to, but because we all know I would get fired for bathing other people’s children at school.

BUT…what can I do? I can not lose my temper when my buttons are repeatedly pushed to the point of exhaustion. I can be kind even when I’m the grumpy one. I can do my best to make a child smile, even if it’s only for a minute.

I don’t think anyone besides educators (and the spouses of educators that have to hear this every night) fathom the condition of little people…not just their outwardly condition, but their hearts. Their souls are fragile, and many of them are living through things we think only adults go through.

Those needy babies keep me grounded, they keep me focused on something other than myself. I cherish the children who smile easily and say thankful prayers for their joy, and then I pray again for the little ones who don’t smile at all. I pray the happy giggles of other children will rub off on them. And honestly, most days I pray for the strength to handle their moods and the ability to remember why they’re moody in the first place.

He smiled at me this week…a smile, not a snarl (and yes, he’s snarled at me many times). It was a good smile and it made my week.

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19 Days

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I had a naughty dream. My dreams are often vivid, mostly strange, and then usually forgettable. But this one, oh, I’m still thinking about it. There was this cake, and it was dark chocolate with thick, creamy icing, and I was eating it…the whole cake, all by myself. And all I could keep thinking was, “I’m going to have to start over. I can’t start over!”

I’m 19 days into Whole 30, a program where you give up everything but meat, veggies, fruit, eggs, and nuts for 30 days. And if you slip and eat the cake, you’re supposed to start over from day 1. Of course, there’s much more to the program than the fear of ‘slipping up’. It’s truly about getting rid of all the crud in our diets and rebooting our systems. It’s about eating what’s real and natural and learning to avoid man-made junk.

Five years ago, I gave up wheat and sugar, but gradually over the years, it all seeped back into my life. Back then I followed a life-style program where you eat what is natural and/or has less than five ingredients that are pure, but you could still have dairy if your body could digest it. It was tough but this program…whew.

Whole 30 says no to dairy, even in its purest forms, no to corn and rice, no legumes, no to peanut butter, along with no sugar, alcohol, grains. And let me be the first to tell you, it’s hard! Like want to cry from cravings hard.

But I’m 19 days in, and I haven’t started over. Here’s what I know so far:

*Morning coffee sucks. It’s my favorite drink of the day because the rest of the time, I drink water. But with no cream or sugar, yuck. I tolerate it by using Nutpods creamer and just recently, cinnamon. (Thank you for telling me about those, guys!)

*I feel hollow. Where all the bloating and junk used to live in my gut, now it’s emptying out. Sometimes the hollowness feels as if I’m starving, but most times, it feels like I can breathe so much easier, as if I’ve dropped this rock in my body I didn’t know I was carrying around.

*I don’t love vegetables. I know I’m supposed to but I only truly love a few. The others I just sort of like. We’re getting to know each other and I’m trying to be their friend but it’s a work in progress. (I’m sorry, cauliflower, I just can’t. And brussel sprouts, never.)

*I’m NOT a fearless cook, and I find myself unsure about new recipes. They look hard and call for ingredients I don’t keep. (And have you ever noticed those pictures they post? I could never make my food look like that!) So my diet has been limited. On day 19, I’m restless for something different. I may try a few things this weekend but I’m afraid my dishes will look like Pinterest fails.

*With 11 days to go, I know I’m going to make it. I will not eat that cake! I’m hoping for some clarity on what keeps my stomach in a roll, and since it’s rarely rolling anymore, I have to believe it’s something I gave up. Right? Now just to figure out what.

*Pray for me as Easter falls on day 27. Let’s not even think about the Angel food cake we always have.

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If cauliflower tasted like this, maybe I could eat it!

Paging Mrs. Broccoli!

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I have a new name this year.  A new name…at least with some of my kindergartners. After almost twenty-seven years as Mrs. Rackley, I am now Mrs. Broccoli.

No kidding…

Over the years, I’ve had trouble with students pronouncing my name. We work on it a time or two and that usually does the trick. Not this year and especially not with this one little boy. We’ve practiced. We’ve broken down the word into syllables…RACK-LEE. Still, he can’t get it. He finally told me that he just couldn’t say it and that I was Mrs. Broccoli.

The thing is, he’s heard my name other places so in his little six-year-old brain, Mrs. Broccoli and Mrs. Rackley have become two different people. I’ve tried to explain, to help him, but still no luck.

We’re on the final swoop of the year, working on the last nine weeks, and trying to finish with as much growth and positive energy as we can. Honestly, it’s hard. In some ways, the end of the school year is just as hard as the beginning. It’s just a different kind of hard. People are tired…kids and teachers alike. All of us are struggling from time to time with energy lags, sometimes frustration, but then at other times, amazement at how far the students have come. If your babies at home are seeming a little more tired or maybe a touch grumpy, don’t be alarmed. It’s a real condition from now until the end of May.

Funny’s of the week:

Bright eyed girl, age 5 – “You’re pretty,” she says to me as she looks me up and down. “I look just like you.”

Cool boy, age 8 describing new guitar lessons – “The first day of lessons was the worst day of my whole entire life.”

Bubbly kid, age 6 – “If you’re not Mrs. Broccoli, then who are you? I know you’re her!”

 

The Shack

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There were times I thought my heart might burst or I might sob out loud, you know…one of those loud hiccuping things for the entire theater to hear. It’s rare for a movie to leave me breathless…an hour later, I’m still sighing.

My hubby and I just saw The Shack...and it was moving and heartbreaking and poignant and all the things you’ve heard it would be. It was all those things and more.

Let’s start here – it will make you cry. Period. Unless you’re semi-robotic. But as Papa says in the film, your tears can be mighty healing. This film reminds us all that pain is universal. Pain and unspeakable evil. But along with that pain is love…love we cannot fathom, love that can be damaged by old hatred and anger, but love that can survive when little else can.

The author of this book took emotions that so many of us are afraid to voice or are unsure how to release and put them to paper. An incredible feat…and if you ask me, inspirational for so many people. We all need to be reminded that we are loved, that it’s not our place to judge others, and that with help, we can move forward from despair.

That’s what this movie is about. And it was beautiful.

This year for Lent, I took on the Herculean task of (trying) to give up fear and worry. For years, I’ve prayed about it, read about it. I try hard to focus on the positive but it is still something that hovers in the back of my mind, waiting to jump out at me like a creep in the night. My own take on this unwanted experience is that since I’ve seen up front and personal how gut-wrenching life can be, I now am afraid that something just as bad will happen again. Not good, I know.

In this movie, one focus was on letting go and trusting God. That’s what I’ve been trying to do lately…as in completely…for good or bad.  I trust that I will be taken care of no matter what happens on this Earth. I trust that with help I can survive anything that comes my way. I’ve spent a lot of time chanting I trust You.

Maybe that’s why this movie was so powerful…maybe it’s easy to find yourself in the middle of not trusting, or maybe we recognized pain that strips you bare. And even though everyone hasn’t felt the same kind of pain or experienced the same tragedies, this movie speaks to everyone’s hidden pain about something. Because we all have something.

Go see this movie. Open your heart to the tears that may accompany the visit. Imagine what your life’s garden may look like as God continues to see way beyond our scope. Take my word, it’ll be worth it.