Glacier National Park 2010

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Big Changes

The first Sunday of my summer break is upon me...finally. I must confess this has been the longest, most stressed filled year at work that I have ever experienced.  There were times I didn't feel I could make it through to the end.  The stress and uncertainty acerbated my fibro pain to record levels and caused much anxiety.  Despite all that has happened, I am thankful.

The straw which nearly broke the camel's back occurred roughly two weeks before the end of term. Our administrator called a meeting earlier in the month of all the paraprofessionals to inform us of the superintendent's decision to move some of us to other one would lose their job....but the superintendent wanted there to be an equal distribution of support personnel among schools. Oh and tenure and seniority would make no difference in placement. What?!?!

I have been at PES for 16 years as an employee....27 years as a parent, volunteer and PTO member. This faculty and staff were my "family." It was my safe happy place....and now I might have to leave? Surely not. And so I began to pray.....I prayed for God's Will to be done in the decision making process.....I prayed for my precious EL students for whom I'd already begun planning next years' program.....but as I prayed I thought to myself, I know this is where God wants me....when I was passed over for all those English teaching positions this was where he kept me....I am content with being here.

Two weeks ago, I was called into the Principal's office and handed a letter from the superintendent informing me I was being transferred to another elementary school. I felt as if I'd had the breath knocked out of me! I couldn't breathe....I couldn't, angry tears rained down my cheeks. Yes I was angry....angry that absolutely no consideration had been given to what I do as an what I'd done over the years.....angry that I had no one to speak up for me.  My anger only intensified when I was told I needed to sign a letter which stated this was a voluntary transfer.....I said NO. I would go to another school....I would work for my students.....but it was not voluntary.

I cried and ranted at God for two days! Why had He done this? Why had He allowed this to happen?  My coworkers were as shocked as I and offered words of consolation and prayers.....many, many prayers. As slowly I began to hear the soft whispery words of God....

This is what I heard in my heart.......

You are My child and I truly want the best for asked for My Will to be done and this is it....there are children who need you at this school.....there is a job I need you to do.....I will be with you as always.....

And as His Words pierced the cloud of anger around me, I felt peace seep into my God's Will is not always easy....but after the hard part comes the good stuff.....I mean, when I was being turned down for what I thought was my dream....teaching English/Language Arts....I was so disheartened and felt like such a failure. But God reminded me I was doing what He needed me to do at that moment.....I accepted it and felt content.

Now He needs me in another place....with other students.....and I'm beginning to look forward to new lessons to learn, new joys to share, new adventures to experience. If what God has planned is better for me than what I think is better for me, well, all I can say is WOW!  It is going to be an interesting year!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Recipe For Happiness

Just dumped a bunch of ingredients in the crock pot and turned it on low.  What recipe you might ask? My response would be, "no recipe." I thawed some London Broil overnight. Sliced it into long chunks this morning. Sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper then tossed it into the slow cooker. Poured in some tomato sauce and Italian style diced tomatoes and a cup of Chardonnay. Now I wait expectantly. Thinking of adding a few capers and some chopped black olives. We'll see.

I used to thoroughly enjoy cooking for my family. But when I began to have only myself to cook for it was not as much fun for some reason. Since January I've begun to enjoy trying new recipes. The ones with four servings allow me to have a meal plus leftovers which I then freeze into individual portions for those nights when I am simply too tired to think about cooking. Its been great and my food budget has felt less strain. Facebook shares and Pinterest have been great resources for recipes.  Of course, my best friend will tell you I look at recipes as suggestions on how to proceed. More often than not, I veer slightly away from the standard ingredients to put my own twist on it.

One of my favorite recipes lately is for a delish tortellini soup. Here's my version:

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 (19 oz.) bag tortellini (I used three cheese but want to try others as well)
1/2 block of Neufchatel cheese cut into tiny cubes (called for cream cheese but this is 1/3 less fat)
1 can diced tomatoes plus liquid (I used fire roasted once and plain another time. Both were good.)
1/2 bag fresh baby spinach leaves
*I also added a 1/2 cup of wine but that is optional.

Put all ingredients in the pot. Cook on low heat for 4 hours, stir occasionally. Enjoy with some crusty bread or garlic toast or just on its own. Freezes well too.

The reason I share all this today is because I am feeling much more grounded and centered. I haven't allowed the negativity and chaos at work to bring me to a place of doubt and darkness. God has made His Presence known every day.....through the people with whom I work....through posts on FB....through lots of little mini miracles! I was even able to work through a pretty tough fibro flair which was a pretty big miracle in itself!

Looking back over the past months I can see very clearly how God has met every one of my needs! And in doing so, He's helped my wants to change as well. My life has become more simple and more enjoyable....I more often feel contentment than I do stress and negativity. Things I had given up, like trying new recipes, have once again become a part of my life. Reading through new recipes made me realize that I had found my own personal "recipe" for happiness.

Letting God handle everything.....sharing His love with others.....trusting in Him to provide for my needs.....acknowledging that His Way is the best way.....all these concepts add up to a truly flavorful and delicious life.  And I'm enjoying every "bite!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What A Day!

I tried really hard today to keep out of that "whirlpool of turmoil" I mentioned the other day....but it was so very hard.  When I'm tired and cannot seem to find enough minutes in the work day to get what is expected of me done.....and I'm reminded by thoughtless comments that I'm not hired "as a teacher," but merely an hurts. And then I'm very conscious of my meager paycheck....and my bills...and my health all just piles up into a big old pile of "poor old pitiful me."

Today was one of those days.  I could feel dark clouds of self doubt, worthlessness, depression, all beginning to gather around me.....then I felt anger welling up inside me at the unfairness of it all. But then a coworker said, "just let it go. Don't let the actions of another person do that to you." And she was so right.

I reached out and felt God's peace just wash over me. My job doesn't define the person I am! There is more to me than the work I do every day for which I am thankful. From now on I will focus on the parts of my job I love.....the preciousness of the children with whom I work....their triumphs and successes....the fun and laughter shared with friends and coworkers.

 I'm really blessed and I need to remember that....and always let my thoughts and actions reflect the Love and Peace shown me by God.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Grow a Giving Heart

Books have always been so important to me that I cannot imagine what life would have been without out them.  I must confess I am one of those individuals who just wants to know....anything and everything I can. For much of my life, books and periodicals and encyclopedias, have all helped me to feed that quest for knowledge.  My friends will tell you my mind is stuffed with all manner of bizarre trivia.....because I actually enjoyed reading encyclopedias and dictionaries as I was growing up! I know! Crazy right? And when I wasn't reading the articles in National Geographic, I was reveling in the amazing photography and dreaming of those faraway places.

I share all this because it wasn't until our school Book Fair that I came fully to the realization not all children have access to books the way I did.  And it saddens me. The little ones I work with may not have been exposed to books or reading until they began kindergarten....for some, there is barely money for groceries much less books.  The looks on their faces when they were able to pick out a book of their own are indescribable. Do you know most of them carry "their" book with them everyday? That is how precious reading, learning, growing have become to them.

For the past week I have been toying with a plan and I want to share it with you. When the school year ends at the end of May, I would like to send each of my ten tutoring students home with  a tote bag of books to have as their very own.....books of all kinds.....Little Golden books....picture books...story books.....anything that can be used as a doorway to imagining. Now I have no idea how I can accomplish this and am definitely open for suggestions but I believe it can be done.

The first thing I will do is pray....because if there is a way, God will help me find it! Then I'm going to count the change in my piggy bank....yes, I still have a pig shaped bank....and with that money I will shop the Ten Cent book sale at the Public Library....I'll go to yard sales....and I'll look for "gently handled" used books.

And I would ask, if you are a praying person, add your prayers to mine. Doing something for another without any expectations is a great way to grow a giving heart. I'll keep you posted! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Safe In the Storm

I'm hunkered down in my hallway........Southerners will know what that means but for others let me translate.....I'm on the floor in my hallway as rain thunders down and the tornado warning signal continues to sound on my phone....feeling a bit anxious since I live on the second floor in a corner apartment....not the best place to be in a tornado.  Do I actually think the tornado will touchdown? In my area of the country, especially in a town which has been devastated by a tornado in the not so distant just never know.

As I wait for the danger to pass, I find myself thinking of how blessed I truly am as I pray for the safety of my family who also live here.  My parents live nearby and are healthy and active and formidable card players.  My daughter and her husband live 40 miles away and my oldest son lives and works here in town. And I have great coworkers! And dear, treasured friends who brighten my life daily! Funny how the threat of a tornado makes one reflect on all the good in one's life.

True, my life has not always gone as I expected...still doesn't. I haven't always dealt with things, turmoil, plan changes very well....but lately...well, my attitude is changing.  A friend wrote this week quoting Exodus 20:21, "Moses approached the thick darkness where God was," and put so many things into perspective for me. Sometimes when the clouds around me seem the darkest, I wonder where God's Light is and never stop to think, He is in the darkness with me!

As my friend wrote, "Forge ahead in the darkness without flinching, knowing that under the shelter of the cloud, God is waiting for you." And He is! And always will be! That knowledge is how my attitude is changing. I try not to rant and rail against changes going on around me nor do I allow myself to get sucked into the whirlpool of turmoil which seems to surround the changes. My focus is on the knowledge that God is with me in the darkness which sometimes seems to surround me.

The sirens have stopped although dark thunderclouds still hover and threaten just like problems and turmoil still hover and threaten my tranquility. My strength comes from knowing that God is with me in both situations....and I count on Him to bring me peace.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Something Wonderful

I simply must share something wonderful which happened this week!

Brief back story.....part of my responsibilities at work this year include organizing and supervising a peer tutoring program. Our sixth grade Beta club members were given the opportunity to serve as peer tutors for our first grade EL students who were struggling academically. The little ones arrive by school bus at 7:00 a.m., have their breakfast in the cafeteria, and then work with their tutors.  That means that 15 sixth grade students arrive early every morning to tutor....because they want to do so....there are no grades given for their extra work....they simply have the desire to help.  That in itself is a miracle.

To say our EL students have benefited from this one on one tutoring is indeed an understatement. The two groups of students have bonded in a unique way....they've become family. When paths cross in the hallways, there are hugs and high fives....lots of love and laughter between students of very different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds.  I see bridges of understanding being built and for me, that is a good thing.

Because this week we celebrated Read Across America, our school library held a "Book Fair." A company set up displays of books and students and parents were given the opportunity to purchase said books with the proceeds going to our school library. Needless to say, our young EL students don't usually participate because of economic reasons.

 This year it really bothered me! I wished so badly to be able to put books into the hands of these precious first graders who were working so very hard learning to read and understand in a language which wasn't their 'first' one. Every day after tutoring they ask to borrow a book from a small box of discards from our library.....they take them home to read or simply look at the pictures.....and faithfully return them the next morning.  They do this because they do not own books of their own! Hence my desire to find a way to get them to that Book Fair and buy them a book...of their very own. But I had no extra funds and no idea how to accomplish this goal.

Wednesday I was approached by one of our school volunteers who is actually a retired teacher from our school. She asked if there were any of my EL first graders who would be unable to buy from the book fair. I shared with her that not one of the ten could afford to do so. This wonderful retired teacher then handed me "a donation", as she called it, which she hoped would be enough for each child to purchase a book at the Book Fair. Having observed how hard the students were working, having seen them ask to 'borrow' books to take home, had touched her heart. I was speechless as I hugged her, the tears threatening to overflow. We both looked at each other and nodded....joined in the knowledge of the good that would come from this simple donation.

The looks on their sweet young faces when I told them of the gift which would enable them to have a book of their own will remain in my heart for a very long time.  The care with which they made their selections affirmed how special reading and books had become to them. Because our benefactor wished to remain anonymous, they had no idea who their gift was from.  One little boy approached every adult I spoke with and said, "thank you for my book," and I know he did this hoping to thank the one anonymous stranger who had gifted him in such a wonderful way.

God knew the desire of my heart was to put books in the hands of these precious little ones....and He then touched the heart of one of His children who was able to do so....thankfully she listened and responded.  God's people can be so good.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

T.G.I.N.F. (Thank Goodness Its Not February)

The sun is slowly beginning to peak over the eaves of the building in front of mine. Birds are sluggishly chirping....yep, all things are moving in slow motion this morning. Good thing because I've been up most of the night coughing and hacking my way through a miserable cold. But all in all, life is good.

I haven't written in a while and I could pull out a plethora of excuses as to why. But I won't. The truth is February is my least favorite month and I spend a good many moments feeling grumpy and taciturn. First , there is the whole Valentines' Day debacle....I have become the "Grinch" of said holiday.

Most of my life I waited expectantly for an indication, be it flowers or candy or a sentimental token of some kind, to assure me I was cherished by the one I loved.........didn't happen. Being the optimist I am, I still held out hope that one day it might happen. However, since my divorce I've become more of a realist and know that it probably won't.

That brings me to the second reason I dislike February.  It is the anniversary of my divorce becoming final.  Regardless of how or why said divorce came about, it still hurts. And in February I am strongly reminded of all the tears and disappointments and lies and heart pain which led to the culmination of a marriage which began with love and hope oh so many years ago.

But there is a positive.....February is a short month. And I realized something about myself during the 28 days comprising this February. Although I've grown accustomed to being alone and rarely feel the pangs of loneliness anymore......I do miss having conversations with other adults....conversations about books and movies and amazing things we've seen or heard.....conversations that last more than five minutes. Perhaps during the 31 days which comprise the month of March I will find the solution to my conversational dilemma.

Friday, January 24, 2014

God Steps In.....Again

As I've gone through life, there have been an innumerable times when I've wondered about what I should be doing with my life....or if I am in the right career.....or how nice it would be to be able to support myself doing something I enjoy on a daily basis....although I know without any doubt, I cannot be paid for sitting around drinking coffee or wine with friends while we discuss favorite books or movies or the state of the world in which we live. For the past sixteen years, I've been in a job which I love or hate depending on the state of affairs....and there have been times when I've asked God why am I here?

Its no secret that I have tried to get a job as a teacher of English/Language Arts....have interviewed for countless positions, not only here in the town in which I live....but further afield.  And I've come home from most feeling as if I might actually be hired.....then wasn't.  So I've continued as an "instructional paraprofessional" read teacher's aide at the same elementary school. Those are the times I'd wonder if I'm in the right times I've even wondered if I had myself fooled and I wasn't that good at what I do. But no matter, I've always tried to do it to the best of my abilities and to always put the needs of my students at the forefront..........even when I feel the most negative about myself and my capabilities.

Of course, that is when God steps in and helps me realign my thinking, my perceptions, my attitude to be more in tune with how, I think, He wants me to see my self and my place in His Plan. This week was a perfect example.  My schedule had been changed....yet again....and I'd been moved into a different classroom. Mixed feelings about the transition because I felt I was beginning to make some real progress with the students in the other class and wasn't sure exactly what my role would be in the new class...and I began to think, "have I been moved because I'm not doing a good job?"...yes, I still struggle with self-esteem issues. Anyway.......

The new class is a third grade reading class filled with 8 and 9 year olds, most of whom I've worked with at some time or another during my tenure at PES.  Like all children, some are sweethearts and others can be real stinkers at times....but each one is unique. On the day in question, the students were a bit lively but basically well-behaved.  The teacher was leading a discussion on their vocabulary words for the week with the word in question being, "talent." I was seated at a table working on some assessments, not really listening, my mind wandering.

At the beginning, the class felt that a 'talent' must be something to do with singing, dancing, drawing, etc. They were made aware that a talent encompasses so much more and were then asked could one help others by using their individual talent and if so, give an example.

 This is when God stepped in and humbled me and reminded me how He uses those who love Him.....using the words and thoughts of a bunch of rowdy third graders. From my seat at the work table, I began to hear:

"Ms. Thompson uses her readin' talent to make books come alive for us.....Ms. Thompson draws good so she can help us know what stuff looks like if we ain't seen it.....When Ms. Thompson sings I feel like I want to sing with her......" and it went on and on as I sat there with my mouth hanging open and tears in my eyes.  When had this become a discussion about Ms. Thompson? Probably about the same time God decided to show me I am exactly where I need to be, where He wants me to be......

One final child raised her hand and spoke, "Yeah Ms. Thompson does that stuff but her real talent is making us all feel loved no matter what." Frankly, if I could only do one thing reasonably well.....then making someone feel loved is the talent I'd want.

  That's the comment that meant the most because that's how I feel about God, He finds a way to make me feel matter what.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

After the Wedding

My precious daughter became a wife nearly two and a half weeks ago. I've opened my laptop to write about the event every day since then.....only to stop. Why have I found it so difficult to write about? It certainly isn't because she was a "Bridezilla" nor did everything go horribly fact, the bride herself said it was the wedding and reception she had imagined.  High praise indeed...because it was simple and quietly elegant with everyone focused on a young couple so happily in love that they glowed.

So why the hesitancy to write about it?

Today I realized it has been because I'm caught in a place of transition....trying to figure out what my place in my daughter's life will be.  Up until about two years ago, we shared a rocky relationship....with my choices, my opinions, my feelings always being somehow not quite right. But I think I'm due a little credit for the fact I never quit trying to have a good relationship with my only daughter....and the persistence paid off.  We gradually began enjoying our time together....wanting to spend time talking and visiting rather than being in that situation of " I'm only here because I feel obligated to spend time with you."

And over the course of her engagement, I felt we moved beyond a mother/daughter relationship and added friendship to the equation. I enjoyed every hectic, worrying moment of helping her put together her Dream Wedding....and I knew my role...Mother of the Bride. But now...what do I become? Whatever she needs me to be....and will do so happily. For now I'll just smile every time she says, "my husband," knowing how long she waited to say those words and how gloriously happy she is.

As for 'her husband,' I love him and call him my son 3.0....