Diablo and His Ladies

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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…”

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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.

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Merry Christmas

 

Seasons

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My Wednesday night women’s group never fails to be enlightening.  Something about the class makes me think deeper, and this past Wednesday night was no different.  In our discussion, a young mother said ‘the season of my life’. Someone had told this woman that she was in the season of raising children. And she is…three of them, and she’s in so deep that a life without chaos seems unfathomable to her.

On the way home, her words washed back through me.  Her life season is surely summer. No longer a baby in spring, living without the burdens of life, she’s now in the full throes of summer. This is her growing season – filled with abundant life, filled with buds and blooms.  And even though it may feel too hot at times, it’s the most bountiful time she’ll ever have.

But then I realized…my summer season is ending. I’m certainly past the years of producing babies, and most assuredly no longer thirty. My season is fall. Something about that realization brought a sudden rush of tears to my eyes. It’s more than the realization that my children are no longer babies. It’s more than the graceless steps of aging.  Maybe it’s knowing life is progressing steadily along, sometimes vanishing in big sections of time, while I work on hanging on to what’s left.

Still, fall has always been my favorite season. The colors, the refreshing feel of the air after a long hot summer.  If this is the season of my life, I will embrace it. I’m more secure in my skin than I’ve ever been, more independent, more sure of what I want and don’t want. It’s really an incredible feeling. Simple joy in nature, kindness and laughter feel so much better than ever before. My dreams continue to grow in this season…things I want to do, places I want to see.  And even though my landscape has changed, I know I’m still me…just in a slightly different light.

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What the Heck is Fwight Night?

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Y’all…I’m still shaking my head, still trying to decipher what I heard today. I was across the table from two little people…real little people. These little people have severe speech impedements (according to me anyway), and they were both talking at the same time. Their little shoulders were touching as they gabbed and gabbed, and even as I tried to intervene, they couldn’t find the period at the end of their sentences. Our topic was math – matching dots to numbers – easy, right? But no…somehow we ended up talking about Fright Night (I’m still not real sure what that is). Remember the speech issue I mentioned – fright night becomes fwight night.  Anyway, apparently this stuff is scary so I proceeded to tell them they didn’t need to watch scary things. They shook their heads and said they watch scary stuff “all da time”. 

Y’all…I’m 47. I wasn’t allowed to watch scary movies when I was little. When I spent the night with a friend at 13 and saw my first one, the original Jason, it traumatized me so bad I was sick all night long – in the dark, where Jason lives, All Night Long.

So, these kiddos were comparing war stories about their scary shows. One looked at me and said, “You wealy don’t need to watch Fwight Night…it’s bad, so bad.”  The other jumped in, “I have scawy dreams after that show.”

Well duh…they’re five. 

Even though I was honestly fascinated by their conversation, I declared total silence until they finished their work. It about killed them to be quiet but they survived the torturous five minutes. 

Is it just me? Am I the only person in the world who believes Chucky should be off limits for children? Like for real. No scary shows = no bad dreams. Back to simple math. 

Y’all…these kids. My days are never boring.

Kid friendly Halloween!

My idea of a scary movie.

The Little Old Man

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There once was this little old man, his body frail and hunched and confined to a wheelchair. He no longer spoke, only listened. His body no longer cooperated, but his eyes still sparkled from time to time. His body had not always been this way. He’d once been tall and lean, spry and brilliant. Time had played the dirtiest of tricks on him, forcing him into a life he would have never chosen for himself.

The little old man often visited nursing homes, slipping in and out according to his health that week or month. No one paid him much attention as he inched down the hall in his wheelchair. There was very little eye contact between he and the others…only a few could read his thoughts when no words were spoken. He crept along, his feet slowly pulling him towards his goal. And then, when he was sure no one was looking, because no one bothered him much anyway, he would reach up and pull the fire alarm.

On more than one occasion, his shaky fingers reached for the shiny red handle. On more than one occasion, he succeeded. Even though his body no longer worked, even though he couldn’t speak his feelings or needs or wants, and even though most thought he was no longer able to make and then carry out a plan, this man knew better. His mind still looked for the mischievous, and only he knew for a very long time that he was the reason for the scrambling of workers. Inside he chuckled, knowing that he’d still been able to stir the pot of life in his own way. It wasn’t meanness that made him stir…perhaps only a wish to be more than an old man in a chair.

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That’s a true story about a man I knew. A man who hadn’t always been old. I think young people look at the elderly and think it’ll never happen to them, but those of us who have lived a little longer, know that it’s only a matter of time before we follow in their footsteps.

This story affected me deeply. It sounds like a tale about an impish person…but really it’s so much more. It’s a person still trying to live his life in his own way. Instead of giving up, he found a means, even when every odd was against him. He found a way to still live, make decisions and be in charge of his situation if only for a moment. It’s a tale about the mind, of how it can work even when the body shuts down. It’s a story about enduring until the end. It’s a tale about finding the joy in life even when life is at its worst.

This man’s spirit and mischievousness have been passed down through the blood lines. Two others have inherited every bit of his charm and spunk and wittiness. Ask me how I know…I know because I knew the little old man in the wheelchair. I know the nephew and great-nephew who inherited his fire. I knew this man, and his name was Bill.

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‘The Little Old Man’ was written from my mind’s eye…I wasn’t there when any of this happened. It was how I saw the story unfold. Still, I know this for sure…the old can become new again. I’m sure Bill’s having fun sailing on the waters of Heaven.

 

 

 

 

Great Forever

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“I’m not ready.” That’s what he told me as we sat waiting for a table at J. Alexanders. We were surrounded by strangers who probably thought, “Ooh look at that couple.  They’re both crying…they must be fighting.”

We weren’t fighting.  We were instead facing a cold, stark fact. Bill’s dad was close to dying…we’d both just witnessed his current state, and we both knew he was to the point of no return.

Bill wasn’t ready to lose another parent, the second in ten short months. He wasn’t ready to face life without parents and grandparents. He wasn’t ready to let another loved one go.

We still aren’t eight days later.

But he did go. Very calmly and surrounded by a packed room of loved ones, he slipped away with a few last breaths. The very thing we all live in fear of, the very thing none of us will ever escape from, happened. Eight days later, it’s still hard to believe it happened.

The loss of one parent is excruciating. My mother passed suddenly when I was 35, and it left me empty inside. I wasn’t ready not to have a mother. Bill lost his mother in November, and I was thrust back into those emotions…even eleven years later. How do you live without a mother? I discovered quickly you can because you simply have no other choice.

But two parents? I’ve listened and watched, my wanna-be-writer’s mind that never ever really shuts down, absorbing the words of so many. Some say they felt like orphans when parents passed on, others stated it was a new feeling of responsibility when they were suddenly at the top of their living family tree. Others just nodded in understanding, having lived through it and understanding our weariness.

So now what? How does life continue in such an unwanted new fashion? Here’s all I can fathom:

-Life will continue, whether we really like it or not. Our job is to find the joy in the bad. Life is what you make it, that’s for sure.

-Cherish each day with your loved ones. (Don’t we hear that to the point that it almost becomes a weary cliché? Unfortunately, it’s blatantly true and nauseatingly hard to live with once the loved ones are gone. I learned that the hard way with my momma.)

-Enjoy today. Tomorrow may really kick you in the face.

-Life can suck. Life is gut-wrenchingly hard at times. But life is also wonderful and beautiful and warm.

-Find a great pair of big girl panties. You will need them often.

-Each loss makes me so thankful for what I have left. Each loss makes us grow (even when we’d rather stay babies and never grow up).

-This life is not forever. But there is a place that is forever. That gives me incredible hope.

I can’t help but think that all the loved ones that are gone…parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends…are just a step beyond what our human eyes can see, and they’re prodding us along. They’re nudging us into the next day, the next month or year. They’re that hidden strength that gets us through the hard times when we’d rather just pout or cry. They are our strength, and they’re waiting on us in the great forever.

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Jofis (Or Kindergartners are Kwazy!)

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She’s little, maybe comes to my hip. She’s blonde and giddy and very, very expressive. There’s a little speech impediment and a smile big enough to make you laugh for no reason.

“Jofis! Jofis,” she chants until the little boy (really named Joseph) looks at her. “You better be good! You hear me, Jofis?”

In the next nanosecond, she turns to me and exclaims, “Do you know Nancy (name changed to protect the innocent)…she is making me cwazy!”

“Who’s Nancy? Why is she making you crazy?”

“My sister, Mrs. Mawackawee!  And she…you know her?…she’s so mean to me!” She shakes her little blonde head and rolls her bright blue eyes. “She’s my fwiend but she’s so mean!”

These Kindergartners are a hoot. And their teachers are angels on earth. If you don’t believe me, come visit for awhile. I’ve always appreciated how hard they work (and always wondered how and why they stay with it year after year), but now after working with these little ones myself…all I can say is wow. These educators take on things we outsiders can’t even grasp. Tears, fear of toilets, angst and anxiety – and they are expected to take them from sad, I want my mommy little ones to ready to read first graders. My appreciation for these Kindergarten teachers has quadrupled. You guys are rock stars!

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Little Tiny Hands

More Kindergarten quotes…and mind you, these statements come at you like rockets, one after the other, sometimes with no breath in between…bam, bam, bam!

“I like tantelopes.” I say cantelopes. She says, “That’s what I said…tantelopes.”

“I’m a good listener.”  Little princess repeats this four times in a row before I even have a chance to nod. “A really good listener.”

“I might stink – I took a bath last night but I pwayed on the pwayground, so I might stink.”

“The tooth fairy comes to my house in some bubbles…”

“Hello, hello…,” she says to me, “Let me see your clock.” It’s the watch on my arm, and of course, I let her see it.

“Look, look, Gracie…Gracie…why, why, why? I don’t like lemon pie.”

Can’t Never Could

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Where has the time gone??  Six weeks since I last posted. Of course I know where really…it happened when the big change occurred in my life.  When I last posted, I had just gotten a new position at work, and since then, that change has consumed my life (but in a joyful way).

This past week, I finally began to interact with my new students. Being an interventionist, I serve small groups of students at a time, helping with certain skills. So far I love it. I love the one-on-one time…I actually have time to talk to them about the process of learning. Early in the week, I did a welcome-back-to-school activity while we were testing. It was very simple…they had to write the word can and decorate it. The word correlates to the “I can do it” poem I say with students who come my way.

Most of the kids smiled and quickly completed the task but one little boy balked. I told them that in my room we don’t say can’t, only can. He frowned at me, a very confused scowl on his face, and said, “But…but some days you have to say can’t.  Some days you just have to.”

I said, “We’re going to work really hard in here and try not to say can’t.”

“But…,” he shook his head, “No…no.”

This is the same child who within five minutes of meeting him, told me that his mom and dad don’t live together, his brother is being bullied every night, and his sisters are in heaven.

No wonder he knows the word can’t.

Can’t never could…maybe it’s hard to believe that when your home life is in shambles. Maybe it’s hard to believe that you can succeed when everything around you is crumbling. And believe me, he’s not the only child in our building whose home life is far from ideal.

I definitely look at him in a different light now.  Even though I may be expected to treat all students the same, how can you when you catch glimpses of their souls? Each one of them needs something different, something unique. Our job as educators is to figure out what that one thing is.

Can’t never could…I’ll be repeating that statement to myself often next week. I begin working with Kindergarten students…something I haven’t done since my first two years out of college. A part of me is excited, the other is terrified. They’re young, needy, sometimes very emotional, but so stinking cute. Should be interesting!

Love my new space…


 

 

Time For A Change

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Change is hard…especially for people like me. People who like patterns and lists, people who believe in schedules and the comfort of sameness. I rarely move around the furniture in my house. I find a brand of make-up I like and stick with it for years. Changing cars or hairdressers or considering joining a new group at church can bring on an incredible, almost silly amount of discomfort.

Often reluctance to change equals doing nothing new. I recently read, “Doing nothing is an option.” You can choose to do absolutely nothing…that is a viable choice in life. Keep the status quo and rock on. Many times it’s a good alternative.

For me, I found that doing nothing was no longer an option. I’ve felt it coming for years, this need to mix up my career. After lots of prayers and a deep whisper in my heart that begged for something new, I knew it was time. So this spring, I began looking in earnest for a new position. With the backing and steady prodding of my friends and family, I sent letters of declaration, delivered applications, and even interviewed for the first time since I was 22 years old!  (Talk about leaving my comfort zone.)

Last week, and with great excitement, I was offered and accepted an interventionist position at my current school! For the first time in 22 (working) years, I will not have a homeroom. I know the work load will be different and heavy, but I am thrilled for the opportunity. With more excitement than fear, with more joy than nerves, I am ready for this. I know the time is right…it’s time to embrace a change.

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Mackinac Island Girls Trip 

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Sparkling blue water surrounded our tiny, plastic boats.  We bobbed on the waves while pockets of teal twinkled from the lake floor.  The sun was warm, a gentle wind blew.  It was a perfect snatch of time.

Anthony, our competent and utterly patient kayak guide, stayed close to me. I consistently brought up the rear in our group, and he made sure I was never left behind. During our conversations, he asked me why I kept returning to Mackinac Island…he wanted to know what brought me back to a place I live 746 miles from. I tried to explain…it was the calmness, the silence, the cleanliness of the cool air.  I told him I was just sort of drawn to it…that it stirs my soul like no other place I’ve ever known. Anthony grinned a knowing grin as he nodded and told me he understood those stirrings.

Arch Rock in the background.

I was lucky enough to get to visit my special place this summer with my sister and daughter. I introduced sis to an automobile free, lilac filled place with lots of bikes, horses and fudge (we especially loved that part). Daughter has been there before and already loves it like I do.  We biked, we ate and then ate some more.  We picnicked on the beach and we shopped.  We gawked at massive summer homes and took in the panoramic views.  But mostly, we were just together.


The only downside to our trip was when my car, Brown Betty, bit the dust in Indianapolis (all of my cars are named Betty with the corresponding color word)…and she bit it hard. There were no injuries so all is well. A sweet girl asked, “Did it ruin your trip?” The answer was a resounding no. Yes, it was a scary moment but it will not erase the fun we had.  I’ll not let it mar the special memories we made together. I’m blessed to have spent time with two women who mean the world to me. We shared a special time, one I know we’ll never forget. Bumps in the road only make me realize (even more) how blessed I am to have them in my life each and every day.

The Grand Hotel porch

Our bikes

Mommy – Daughter

The Grand Hotel – the day started off cold but by early afternoon we were changing into shorts.

Since there are no cars on the island, bikes are used for lots of things. This one belonged to a home repair crew.

Everywhere you looked, flowers bloomed.  Still springtime there, irises stood tall, tulips had just begun to fade away, and peony blossoms were seconds away from bursting open.  The wildflowers lining the roads were incredible…every flower, no matter the color, was incredible.