Glacier National Park 2010

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still Smiling

The work week is halfway over and it has been a good one. The Read Across America activities have been so much fun...for students and staff. Today was Wacky Tacky Wednesday with lots of crazy hairstyles...kind of looked like Whoville in the halls. But what I've enjoyed the most has been the student response to the writing activities.

As I said before, I decided to use quotes by Dr. Seuss as writing prompts this week.  At first the students were not quite sure how to respond....asking questions like "what am I supposed to say"...and "are we supposed to write about why Dr. Seuss said this?"  I finally told them to just read the quote, sit still and let the words just swirl around in their brains for a few minutes....then pick up their pencils and write. And then there was least for some.

A good many were stuck with the obvious meanings found within the quotes and approached their written response in a formulaic way.  But the others....the time the words spent swirling around in their grey matter served to knock loose moments in time...memories which reflected a deeper more philosophical approach to the words of Seuss. And even more amazing to me were the students who responded in that in particular.

Lionel* has been in and out of our school since Kindergarten....attending for 4-5 months then moving into another school zone...another city...another district for a while before bouncing back to us. He has always had difficulty with learning no doubt intensified by the constant movement between schools.  Now in the 6th grade, Lionel is generally content to sit back and coast through his classes not caring whether he passes or fails. There is usually no expression on his face other than one of boredom....such was the case this week at least at first.

The first prompt was "Don't cry because its over. Smile because it happened." Lionel sat for at least half the allotted writing time staring at the ceiling. He glanced over at me. I smiled at him. He looked away, picked up his pencil and began to write. The last time he'd written to a prompt all he wrote was "I dont wanna rite." So I was a bit curious as to what he'd taken half a page to say. Because I move from class to class, grade level to grade level, I didn't have time to read all the papers until later in the afternoon.

When I got to Lionel's half page of scribbled nearly indecipherable words I was stunned. This silent morose visaged student had shared a moment from his life....a painful, personal recollection of a moment of time spent with his father. When I read his words, ..."I felt one tear slide out of my eye and run down my face...." I put my head down and tears for the boy whose life was far from easy....for the memory he had shared.....and for the gift of his written word.

Today when I asked Lionel for his permission to enter his writing on our school blog, he looked at me in surprise. Then one side of his mouth curled up in a half grin as he said, "yeah that'd be okay."

Its moments like that one that keep me doing what I do.

*not his real name

Monday, February 25, 2013

Amazing Grace

I just have to say again how blessed I feel....and how thankful I am for feeling this way. Looking back, I know that a year ago I was not happy....didn't know what happiness was anymore.  I smiled and went through the motions of behaving the way a "happy person" should. In reality, I was miserable and didn't know how to fix myself.

Eight months ago I found the source of my happiness.....I found God and His amazing grace...and He reached inside and fixed my heart. Then I began to learn and grow and develop a relationship with my God. I was like a toddler learning to walk....God the Father held out His hands to me and urged me to come toward Him. I've stumbled and fallen.....cried out in sorrow and grief...and He was there to pick me up.

I learned to be happy with myself......and to have a desire in my heart to be the person, the woman God wants me to be. I am a work in progress for sure! But today, a co-worker commented that she was so glad to see me smiling again and to know I was happy.  That meant a lot. Because I pretended 'happiness' for so long, it was an affirmation of sorts for someone else to recognize that I was happy in a real and true sense of the word..

Its been a long time coming.....thank you God for showing me the way.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Smile Because it Happened

Where to has been a good week.  Honestly feeling pretty good physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. At school we were all busy preparing for Read Across America Week which begins Monday. The children have had a great time decorating classroom doors in anticipation of Dr. Seuss' birthday.  Next week we will all be wearing crazy hats, eating green eggs and ham, dressing up as our favorite book characters all in celebration of reading. It really is one of my favorite weeks at school.

My friend and I decorated the door of her office/classroom with some quotes from Dr. Theodore Geissell(Sp) AKA Dr. Seuss.  As we worked together deciding on color schemes and which quotes to use I was struck by how inspiring Seuss' words are...and not just for children. Take for example the following.

"You're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child."

 If you've ever had the experience of reading to a child and seen the wonder in their face as they take in the words and the illustrations,then you know the verity of this statement.  Not only are you sharing in a learning and growing moment with that child; you are also experiencing, if you are willing, the feeling of meeting those wonderful characters for the first time...the Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Clifford the Big Red Dog. And oh the memories you create for that child! I remember very clearly sitting in my Daddy's lap when I was three and four years old and having him read the 'funny papers' or comics from the daily newspaper to me....and I am convinced those special moments are what taught me to read so quickly and to instill in me a life long love of reading.

Another quote which also touched me was this one.

"Don't cry because its over. Smile because it happened."

What a great lesson to learn! I've spent or rather wasted a lot of time crying because of endings instead of cherishing the joy I experienced.  The past eight months I've tried especially hard to live with that kind of treasure each moment for what it is and not waste time worrying about  what the future may bring, whether it be good things or bad. Don't ever doubt that I've had moments of wallowing in self-pity because I have! But as time passes I find it easier to pick myself up and move on from that particular moment.....of course I have Help in the person of a God Who loves me for me....even when I fail.

I may still cry over the pain of 'endings' but I will now make time to remember the good as well....and to learn from both.   

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Day of Miracles

Today is a day of miracles! How do I know this? Because today is the day I pay my bills....except for rent because it is always paid on the first....but the other stuff.  You know, water, power, phone, tv/Internet, medical....all those necessities.  And I know miracles will be wrought because it happens every month.

I know my paycheck is barely enough to cover these and still pay for groceries and gas in the car.  But every month somehow...God makes it stretch.  Why? Because He has promised to meet my needs as long as I follow Him and trust Him to do so.  There have been months when I spent many sleepless nights wondering how I was going to do I would have the money to survive these basic monthly payments.....and I do mean basics because on my salary, there is no room for extras or splurges.

But I have gradually learned to let it go.  I've learned to take God at His word and trust Him to keep His Promises.  And He does....every single time. And as far as extras and splurges go....I've found that God has a way of surprising me with those too! Sometimes its "Buy One Get One Free" sales at the grocery store and sometimes its an invitation from a friend to go out for coffee-their treat, or a discount on a haircut from my hairdresser because I've referred so many new clients to her shop....always unexpected and always appreciated are these blessings from God.

So I will go ahead and say, "Thank You Lord for all that You do for me. Thank you for taking care of my needs and for loving me enough to do so. Help me to remember to share Your love with all those around me."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Technology and Humanity

It has been a good week! And I mean that sincerely.  Yes I spent Sunday evening listening to tornado sirens blaring off and on throughout the night....and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were punctuated by torrential rain and flash flood warnings.....Thursday and Friday saw temperatures dropping.....but it has all been good.  I've stayed healthy although I still struggle with fatigue and pain.....but overall, I'm okay.

Writing projects at school are still going well.  My sixth grade students (11-12 year olds) have been working on biographies of their class mates. Each student was paired with another by drawing names out of a they would truly be paired with someone they didn't know well.  Then the students came up with a list of ten to twenty interview questions with which they planned to learn enough info to write a biography.....albeit a short one. Once the written work was finished, they had to do an oral presentation about what they had learned.....this was the week those were presented.  I have to say they really did an outstanding job.....and many commented how glad they were to have been to get to know each other better.  Surprisingly enough it was not the oral presentation which made them the most nervous. Rather, it was sitting down with and talking to someone they knew very little about that gave them pause.

I found that so interesting....especially given the amount of time children today spend involved in social media like Facebook and Twitter and texting.  Yes I know a person is supposed to be 18 in order to have a Facebook account but I have received countless "friend requests" from students at my elementary school some of them as young as 8 years of age! Of course I do not accept because my Facebook account is for interaction with friends and family and some of them have a crazy sense of humor which may not be understood by children. I have gone to each student and explained that when they've graduated from high school they may "friend" me again and I will accept......but for now they are too young.

Does that make me sound like a grumpy old lady?  Maybe...but I feel their time is better spent playing out of doors or reading or being involved in the arts......not "stalking" people on the Internet! If they spend more face to face time with actual people I think they will have more opportunity to develop understanding, compassion, empathy, sympathy, all those characteristics which I feel make us better people. So much is conveyed by a facial expression, body language, the sparkle of laughter in some one's eyes, the sheen of tears in those same can't experience these things through words on a screen no matter how many Emoticons one uses!

Don't get me wrong...I think technology is amazing! And I'm always looking for ways to incorporate said technology into the work I do with my students.....but there is a time for both interacting through computers, phones and Ipads and face to face activities.  When I was a child, the kids in our neighborhood used to play "Star Trek" as that show had captured our imaginations in a big way.....because the technology was so beyond anything we experienced in our daily lives.  How amazing is it that so much of the technology we saw on "Star Trek" has become part of our daily lives?

So here we stand....on the one hand living in a time where such great strides have been made in almost all areas of science and technology......and on the other, running the risk of losing our ability to communicate as loving, caring individuals  when brought face to face with other human beings. For now, I will do my best as a teacher to involve my students in developing technological skills they need to stay apace with our ever changing world......but I will also give them every opportunity to develop the life skills needed to interact with real people in their day to day lives.

And as I tell my boss every morning, "I love my job!"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Open the Eyes of My Heart

I heard a song a few minutes ago and the lyrics touched my heart. I'd heard it before, many times but it pierced my soul today and became my prayer.

"open the eyes of my heart Lord, open the eyes of my heart, I want to see You, I want to see You"

That is what I want! I want to see the Lord in every part of my life. But I want not only to see Him......I want to see like Him! From my understanding, my perception, the Lord reached out to all people with His love.  He could see the hurts within and offered His Healing Love.....He urged us to love one care for each other.....without prejudice, without bias, without fear.

It isn't my place to decide who should or shouldn't be point out "sin" in others when I have been forgiven so, no,no.....He said 'by this will people know you are my disciples, that you love one another.' That is how I want others to know I love Him.....because I show His Love through my actions, through the way I treat those around me.

"Open the eyes of my heart Lord...."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Friends Are Gems

I am recovering from some form of flu.....I'm not sure which form.....the head hurts-stomach hurts-coughing-with fever kind. I received my annual flu shot back before Christmas so it isn't that particular strain.  I felt awful Monday-Wednesday but still went to work because I had no fever....what a trooper huh? Got home Wednesday and by Wednesday evening had 101 temperature. So I have spent three days neath the blankets with a box of tissues and plentiful cups of hot tea.  Today, I have decided I will indeed survive!

While burrowed deep into a cocoon of quilts and blankets, I had lots of time to think....and though the thoughts were random and jumped from unrelated topics and back again.....they were happy, joyful thoughts.  Usually when I am this sick, I am overcome with depression and spend lots of time weeping. Not the case this time. God used this time of stillness to remind me of how very blessed I am.

I thought about all the people God has placed in my life who continue to brighten my daily existence though I may not have seen or spoken to them in years....except via letters, then e-mail, then FB. I had as a room mate for one year in college a girl from was a great year and she became a dear friend.......even if we haven't seen each other since that time, I bet we could pick up right where we left off oh so many, many years ago. Our daughters were even pen pals and still keep in touch....and they've never met face to face.  Don't you agree that is a wonderful thing? I do! And I hope one day the four of us can sit down together and enjoy a good long chat.

I've another friend who has been part of my life since high school...we've shared a lot of things from cheerleader tryouts to the birth of children.  During the first Gulf war, I had the honor of coaching my friend through the birth of her second daughter while her husband was deployed.  That was 22 years ago this month and I still get teary eyed thinking about it. Our friendship is still precious to me even if we only see each other sporadically.

And of course there is my true BFF...MoMe! We've been friends, confidants, adventurers, dreamers and schemers since first grade.....that is a long, long time...and I am so thankful for each and every moment. I think it is a rarity to find a friend who knows me better than I know myself and who has been with me through all of life's ups and downs.  That kind of friendship is definitely a blessing.

So I had the flu...and it was yucky....God used my illness to remind me what gems my friendships are...they glitter and shine even in the darkness.....and my life is richer for them.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday, Monday

It is Monday morning and guess where I am?  Home.....enduring a full blown pain flair....sigh. After nearly two and a half weeks of feeling somewhat normal health wise, I awakened about four o'clock this morning with pain so deep within my muscles I wondered if I could even get out of bed and crawl to the bathroom!  Of course, I was eventually able to shower, dress and head to work.  Why? Well, I have morning hallway duty every morning with the first and second graders ( and most of the time the third graders since that duty person is always late but that's another tale).  And because I am an optimist, I like to hope that maybe after I've moved around some my body will loosen up and the pain will ease.  Not today apparently. 

The weird thing is not only am I in pain, I have a sense of anticipation! Because I know God has something to teach me through my fibromyalgia, I'm wondering what part of the lesson might be revealed today.  Crazy I know but don't you agree anticipating something wonderful is much better than waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak?  I know I am not suffering alone because the Maker and Creator of all things is with me.....He really back through my previous blog entries and you'll know why I believe that with all my heart.

Do you remember my three goals for 2013? Quick refresher.....I am going to write for the blog more....check,work on my Tangled drawings more...again, check, and most importantly, read all the way through the Bible along with my friend Melissa.  That gets a check also! One thing I've noticed about the folks in Genesis and Exodus is they have no problem believing and accepting God's spiritual, and sometimes physical, presence in their day to day lives.  Believers today seem to think those things no longer happen or at least no one talks about it happening.

I choose to believe that God is as powerful today as He's always been and that He can do whatever He wants.  That is why I know He hears my prayers, He knows my pain, He shares my joy.My problem has always been trying to do everything for and by myself so as not to "bother" God. And maybe that is why He has allowed this debilitating pain to be a part of my existence. I cannot do everything for myself anymore and must humble my proud heart to allow God to do what He needs to do.

 Could that be my lesson today? If it is then let me get out of the way and let my Loving God do what He needs to do with me.  And God?  Thank you. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

He's Not Finished With Me Yet

Saturday mornings are so nice....being able to actually savor my coffee instead of being in a mad rush to get out the door and to work. On mornings like this I move at a much slower pace. It is my one day to reflect, recuperate, and refuel for the week ahead. When I got out of bed  it was 27 degrees and actually felt like winter. Now I'm bundled into my soft and ratty robe with some thick socks on my feet ready to write and share.

The past two weeks have gone surprisingly well as far as my health issues are concerned. The pain has been bearable and I've not felt quite as exhausted after work every day. I must confess I did have a 'moment' yesterday. After work I stopped by the store for a few things....eggs, vegs, by the time I arrived home my energy was pretty much nonexistent. Got out of the car, grabbed my school bag, my laptop, the groceries and walked the few steps to my building. As I stood at the foot of the stairs leading up to my apartment looking up, I felt overwhelmed......and started to cry! Thank goodness no one was around to see. I wept all the way up the stairs and into my apartment.

After I'd composed myself, I put away my groceries and called my Mama.  I do this every afternoon because my parents like the reassurance that I am safely ensconced in my home after a long day.  We spoke generalities for the first few know, how was your day, what did you do, etc.....then Mama asked how I was doing and the tears came again. I think I gave her a bit of a fright because she couldn't understand me through the tears. When I finally got things under control, she comforted me with these words.

She told me she prays for me every day, every time she thinks of me she says a prayer and asks God to send me a that point I told her that God hears her prayers because my life is full of  miracles and blessings from God.  Sometimes that is hard for others to understand because they still think of miracles in all know MIRACLES!!! I used to think that way too. Not anymore.

Over the past six months I've experienced miracles and blessings enough to know without a doubt God loves and cares for me.  My son and I talked about the difference between miracles and blessings......miracles are things ONLY God can do......blessings are the things other people do because God is working through them. And just so you'll know, it is all wonderful.

I arrived at work yesterday morning feeling so full of joy I thought I might explode! And though I had a minor meltdown at one the end of the day, my joy was still complete. There is a song I heard on the radio that stayed with me all through yesterday and is still in my head this morning.....something to the affect of........God knows the plans He has for me, I know He won't forget, He's not finished with me yet, He's not finished with me yet.

I find much comfort in that thought.

Friday, February 1, 2013

An Invitation

I just had the most fun! Friday mornings at work I spend the first few hours entering students' writings on our school blog, Panda Passages. Our mascot is the Great Panda, hence the name.

Today the entry contains 3rd grade students' poetic thoughts on snowflakes. Living in the Deep South, where seeing snow is a rarity, did not hinder the students one bit. Also in the entry are the 2nd grade students' compositions after being introduced to the concept of Haiku. I think they did a pretty good job! Some are even exceptionally thoughtful.  Please take a moment to visit our blog following the link below. I think your heart will be lifted by the thoughts of our young writers....and if you feel moved to leave a comment, our young author's will be thrilled!

Panda Passages

Back to work now.....I have a display featuring Haiku about butterflies to!!!