My Heaven


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


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.









19 Days


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.


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

Paging Mrs. Broccoli!


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


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.

What’s Your Purpose?


I think somewhere along the way people decided your job was your purpose in life. Something that takes up so much of your time must be your whole purpose in life, right? With each passing day, I know this not to be true.  It’s a lie we’ve all bought into; a lie that more often than not leaves people feeling empty and useless.

Our jobs are just jobs…a vocation we decided to approach to feed ourselves, to provide shelter, to help pay for the things we want in life. And then when your skill or trade or profession leaves you empty, you’re left feeling like you’ve done something wrong.  Maybe picked the wrong career, maybe stuck with a job that leaves you unfulfilled.

Here’s what I’ve realized…our jobs are simply vessels.  Vessels that get us closer to other people, that perhaps help others, or provide for them what they can’t do for themselves. They are simply places to go with things to do.  But it’s what you do with that vessel that is your real purpose in life.

While you’re working, do you smile at others?  Do you use kind words?  When you’re at the place you spend eight hours a day or more, do you open your heart?  And if you do, is it with love or just duty?

I truly believe the ‘lowliest’ job (and honestly there are no lowly jobs because they all keep this intricate world running) is just as vital as the highest paying job.  So what if you make more than me or my neighbor.  The question is…what are you using your vessel for?  Are you sharing your love with others or only spewing more hatred into the world?

I believe the greatest thing we can do for our young adult children is to encourage them to give themselves to others no matter what vocation they choose.  Be it a carpenter or businessman or dog trainer, all that really matters is whether you choose to share the love that God gave you.  Is your light shining or are you making this world a harder place to live in? We need to remind them that their purpose in life has nothing to do with a paycheck, but what you do with your soul each and every day.


You Can’t Say That At School


A little girl with bouncing, shiny black curls ran towards me in the hall. It was more like a skip but still, in her current condition, she should’ve been walking. Covering her face was a mixture of glee and concern. Her large eyes met mine as she sort of smiled then sort of frowned. “I’m going home,” she said, immediately wanting a hug. “I don’t feel good.”

I hugged her back as I tried not to breathe in her germs and told her to get better soon.

And then this little voice, very twangy and small, chirped from behind me, “Her’s freakin’ sick.”

In a nano-second, I pushed the girl out of my arms to turn to the boy. “What?!”

“Her’s freakin’ sick!”

For a few seconds I could only gape at this child, only five years old and already spunky. Had he really said freakin’? Oh yes, he had. And did I want to address that first or his use of her instead of she?

I ignored the grammar lesson and proceeded to tell him not to use that word at school or at all.

So I thought I’d heard it all for the day. Not so fast. A few hours later, just as I’d wrangled the attention of three antsy little ones, another small voice demanded, “Who farted?”

Once again I gaped at the child (not the same child as before). I then told him not to say fart at school or ever. He proceeded to tell me that somebody did it and it smelled bad. Minutes later, as I’d moved the children on to other topics, the same fellow spat, “I can’t hear myself think!” He then began to chant as he squeezed his ears from top to bottom, open and closed, “It’s okay…it’s okay…peace, peace, breathe, breathe.”

All I could do was stare…that’s about it. Sometimes you just have to follow their advice or go crazy. So I breathed and then I laughed a little – but not in his face.

Y’all…come visit for a day. Come for a week. I promise you’ll smile.


Dreams Are Weird


So last night I had the strangest dream. I was in the White House…not sure why or how…and I was writing intently. Type, type, type. This man moved into the room beside me and sat across a narrow aisle. I looked over and it was Donald Trump. His shoulders were slumped and he seemed weary and tired. I knew who he was immediately, and I finally asked him why he was up in the middle of the night. He shrugged and then asked me why I was doing the same. I told him I could only find time to write when I was away from children. We began to talk, not sure about what, and in the next blink of the dream, we were sitting together in a big chair, shoulders touching. Sitting the way two small children would do in a classroom while reading books…innocently and without a care.

This man was grown but felt needy…he was needing a calm time in the middle of a harried world.

And then we wanted coffee, he regular and me decaf, and I woke up.

Ugh…unfinished dreams! I think if I’d stayed asleep just a little longer I would have gotten up the nerve to tell him in my best teacher voice to stop tweeting immediately, and too, maybe I would have volunteered to take Mrs. Grizzly Bear’s place as nominee for Secretary of Education.

It’s a shame he wasn’t having the same dream as me.

Here’s what I keep remembering from that dream though: this person is a human being. He’s far from perfect, as we all are.

He’s living behind this big bravado, which is a world he created for himself, but he’s just a man. He’s not God, and we all need to be praying for him since he is the leader of this country.

He felt vulnerable. He is whether he acts like it or not. He is not the ruler of the universe or my life…nor is he yours. Only one being holds that position, and when I focus on that, then this change in politics becomes much less scary (and mind you, I would have been just as worried about the change if Hillary had been elected).

God bless you, Mr. Trump, and may God guide every decision you make.

And P.S. – It was mighty strange dreaming about you, DJT. I’m taking it as a sign of too much media. I’ll now return to my books and hide away from you for a while.



Diablo and His Ladies


For Christmas, I got a new coop for our chickens. We’ve had the same group for a while now…Diablo, the rooster, and six hens. We all love the eggs we get from them and are now incredibly spoiled to the flavor of fresh eggs. I got the wild hair to bring the chickens closer to the house and mentioned it to Bill. Voila! I was given this beauty on Christmas Eve.

I think the chickens love it. If the amount of poop in the coop is any indication of love, then they are head over heels in love with it. It has become (mostly) my job to feed them daily and gather the eggs. The thing is, I’ve had to become a little braver with this new chore.

 Just like with my dogs, as soon as the chickens hear me approaching with food, they get flustered. Wings started flapping, squawking commences, and by the time I open the top of the cage, they are ready to rumble.

Maybe their instincts tell them to get ready to fly. Maybe they sense that it is their moment to escape. Maybe they just want to scare the crap out of me.

So…when I open the lid, they begin to fly. At first, I backed away and squealed. Now, I’ve figured them out. They only fly up just a little…maybe a few feet, and then they settle back down. Only one has dared escape, and as soon as she hit the ground, she was trying to get back into the pen with the others.

But she didn’t fly back into the pen.

No, I had to pick her up. Pick Her Up with my bare hands! That was a first for me. And I lived through the ordeal just fine.

(A few close family members and friends were awed that I was able to catch the bird and put her back in the pen. I may have awed myself.)



“Rest Beside the Weary Road and Hear the Angels Sing…”


Why do I go to church? Why do I bother?

I woke up this morning and my first thoughts were worry thoughts, fearful thoughts. It happens to me often, I won’t lie. Will something bad happen today? Who’s going to die next? I hope our old house doesn’t burn down. Are my kids okay? What will I do if something happens to Bill? I spend a portion of each day (some days mere minutes, others much longer) fighting away these thoughts, doing my very best to find the good in life. I turn these worries over to God daily but still, at times, they linger. (I think I’m wired to worry, and unfortunately, I know I have a panic button that makes my brain fear the worst.)

So I went to church this morning, and I know it can’t be true, but our pastor, Lee, was talking straight to me. We haven’t spoken about my fears…it’s not something I go around discussing, but his words sang right to my heart.

Even though I forget, even though I sink in my own fears of life, I forget that this is a problem that plagues the world. Fear is not my own exclusive feeling, neither is worry. They cripple the masses. Since the beginning of time, they’ve crippled many of us.

We sang these words today:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

That is a verse from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, a poem written in 1849 that was later put to music.  1849 – how could words written so long ago still suit us now? Take away modern perks and we are still the same. We still feel crushed at times, still trudge through the hardships of life.

So why do I go to church? I go to be reminded that my troubles are not new or exclusive, that we have the greatest gift of all at our fingertips. We have the peace only Jesus can bring…peace and hope and love. I go to feel the love of community, to hear words that soothe my weary soul. I go to feel the sun warm my cheek as is filters through the stain-glass windows. I go because I need to be reminded often that I am not alone, that none of us are.


Merry Christmas