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When Your Heart Hurts

My bff, Christina, is in need of major prayers.

A couple of months ago, I shared that her husband had been diagnosed with a recurrence of melanoma.

He’s currently in the hospital…his second visit within the last couple of weeks.

Things are looking very grim, and Christina texted me this evening to tell me that they are trying to get him home so they can call in hospice.

My heart is hurting for her precious family.

Allen, her husband, and I have had numerous conversations over the phone.

He’s a man who loves his family dearly.

I wish I was closer to her so I could something more tangible than pray.

She and I spoke on the phone earlier, and I cannot tell you how my heart hurt to hear her cry.

I shed some tears of my own, let me tell you, and I’m crying as I write this.

It’s so difficult to watch those you care about suffer.

I want to give her a hug.

For now, this will have to do…

Please pray for them.

Thanks, friends.

Showering in the Hodgpodge

Can you believe that it is the last day of April?????  I sure can’t!  In fact, as I am getting ready to tear this month off of the calendars in my room, I am absolutely amazed.  We have four and a half more weeks of school left.  I have no idea where the time went!  But alas, I do still have four more weeks, so I must hurry along so I can focus on my lessons.  Let me answer Joyce’s questions before returning to education-minded tasks.

1.  April showers bring May flowers or so the saying goes. Are you blooming where you’re planted as we begin the month of May?

Bloom where you are planted.

This was on a plaque my high school English teacher’s kept on her desk, and it’s always stuck with me.  I blogged about the motto, and her impact on my life, here.  I also blogged about this theme as I was getting my very first classroom ready nearly five years ago.

So, am I blooming where I’m planted?

I can answer with a confident YES!  In fact, it’s been the motto for my life.  In every job I’ve held, I have excelled.  That’s not because jobs have come easily for me, but because I’ve worked very hard to learn how to complete my responsibilities to my fullest ability.

My mom was never happy with shoddy work.  It didn’t matter if I was cleaning the house or fixing my hair.  Perfection was her goal and, thus, mine.

I have found teaching to be a difficult skill to master.  I’m not sure that I’ll ever quite master it, but I am most definitely blooming as my roots grow deeper into the soil of professional development, gentle nurturing by the mentors in my life, and a personal demand for excellence.

I can see the results on my students’ faces as they enter class each day…when we have discussions about their learning and my teaching…when they share their deepest concerns with complete trust in me.

Yes, I am blooming, and I give God all the glory for His sustenance and love that fertilize my soul every day.

2.  On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no big deal, and 10 being full scale panic, rank your fear of spiders.

A picture paints a thousand words…

3.  May is National Salad Month (who knew???)…besides lettuce, what are two must-have ingredients in your favorite salad?

I really like almond slivers, for the texture, and tomatoes.  I just love salads, so pretty much whatever you put on one (vegan-friendly), I’m good to go!

4.  I mentioned on my blog last week that my Daughter1 will be moving to Washington State after she is married. Of the following sites in the Northwest, which would you most like to see in person-Crater Lake (Oregon), Seattle (Washington), Vancouver (British Columbia), San Juan Islands (Washington),  Mt. Rainer (Washington) Oregon Coast (Oregon), Mt. St. Helens (Washington), or Olympic National Park (Washington)

I’ve seen Mt. Ranier, from the air, and it is gorgeous!  I’ve also seen Vancouver and Seattle.  Lovely cities!!!  I think I’d enjoy seeing Mt. St. Helens…especially after wondering about it many years after the volcanic explosion during the 80’s.  I remember reading stories and seeing news reports about the mountain’s healing.

5.  This coming weekend marks the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby…when did you last race (literally or figuratively) to cross a finish line?

This past Sunday, I worked feverishly to finish a blanket for a coworker.  We had her baby shower on Monday.

The blanket, hats, and wash cloth were much appreciated.

6.  What is something little you love?

I love my little Ravetar…my robes, so to speak, for the new Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup term.  Remember that I am a knitting nerd.  This term (the next three months), I’ll be one of two moderators for the Eye Candy thread.  I was asked to do this after someone noticed that I’d been giving positive feedback to the finished projects people had been posted.  I guess that’s just my teacher self coming out…wanting to kudos whenever possible.

7.  Would you say you are more of a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? Elaborate.

I am definitely a kinesthetic learner.  I learn best by doing, as evidenced by my many how-to posts.

8.  My Random Thought

Need further proof of my HP nerdiness?

Take a look at the picture I edited using pixlr.

I’ve also decided that I MUST have the following pair of shoes…

Sorry.  The new term officially starts on the 1st.  I’m overworked and desperate for some non-teacher fun!

Not Buying It

Last weekend, I began re-watching Lost.

Do you remember this series?

I sure did love it when it originally aired, and I sat, captivated, from the first episode through the final one.

I have sat, for hours, watching the episodes again and have, I think, finished through #14 of the first season.

I can feel my butt getting bigger from all of the couch-sitting I’m doing, but hey, I’ve been in desperate need of relaxation, and this is one of the ways I do it.  Plus, I can knit to my heart’s content.

Anyhoo…

It’s interesting when you watch something multiple times.  It’s similar to rereading a book.  You catch things you didn’t notice the first time around.  You’re able to focus on subtle themes.

The last couple of days, I’ve found myself drawn to the personal stories of each character.  If you’re not familiar with the series, each episode includes a survivor’s back story that explains the events that led up to that person’s arrival on the island.  The back story always has something to do with what he/she is currently experiencing on the island.

Now, allow me to switch gears a bit.  I promise to bring my different thoughts together.

In other areas of my life…

Every Friday night, the Mr. and I attend Small Group.  Our church has a bunch of different small groups that meet each week.  Each small group grows close as they work to draw closer to God through fellowship and discussion.

I’ve mentioned that my church is currently studying the book, Life’s Healing Choices:  Freedom From Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits

This past Friday night, one of the questions we went around answering was something like, “What lies have you bought into and how have they affected you?”

Oh yeah.

There were crickets, let me tell you, for it was deep and required much thinking.

It was an easy question for me.  I have bought into so many lies that Satan hardly has to open up his mouth before I find myself consumed by his deception.

My desire to overachieve is a lie the evil one whispers in my ear.  He tells me that I won’t be accepted unless my lesson plans are perfect, my emails are grammar-free, and I’m at least a solid week ahead in planning.  This has frequently led me to stay up until 1 or 2am working.

Body image is another area in my life that is filled with lies.

I watched my mom struggle with her own body image…to the point where, I suspect, she was bulimic.  She was always dieting, frequently threw up after meals, and was forever exercising or chewing gum so she wouldn’t gain weight.

When I was a teenager, I used to go on starvation diets during the summer.  They never lasted long…probably not more than a day or two, but I wanted to be skinny.

The older I’m getting, the louder the whispering has gotten in my ear.

“You’ve got a roll of flab around your middle.”

“Delete that picture.  Your stomach looks pooched out in it.”

Overweight people sometimes act as if they’ve cornered the market on worrying about weight, but those of us who don’t struggle with that still carry our own anxieties…all brought about because of the lies the devil feeds us…through the media and peer pressure.

Another lie I bought into was that if I behaved perfectly, did everything I was supposed to do, my mom would love me as much as my sister.  This resulted in years of unfulfilled expectations and great, great angst.

As I’ve watched each episode of Lost this past week, I’ve empathized with each character.

Locke was told he would never be able to do anything because he was in a wheelchair.  The island gave him a fresh start with legs that weren’t paralyzed.  He was free from the lie he’d been told.

Charlie was told that he would never be able to take care of anyone else because he was a junkie pre-island life.  Meeting Claire helped him reinvent himself because she spoke the truth of his kindness to him.

Jack lived in the shadow of his successful, yet extremely dysfunctional alcoholic father and never felt he was loved.  It’s going to take the entire six seasons before he discovers the whopper of a tale his father had told him…that in fact, he was loved and appreciated.

For the characters in this show, the island becomes the catalyst for change in their hearts.

For me, God is that catalyst.

He doesn’t whisper the truth.  He proclaims it loudly from the empty cross, on which His Son selflessly sacrificed Himself.

Christ’s death tore the temple’s veil in half and removed the barrier between God and man.

What that means for me is that Satan has no hold over me.

His lies carry no weight.

They are worthless.

God’s love is priceless.

His grace is endless.

That is why I’m going to work hard to remind myself not to buy into whatever lies the devil tries to throw my way.

Lessons in Skipping

Praise the Lord, I am finished administering FCAT!  After eight long days, 1,120 minutes, and the best testing partners around, I am done!

FCAT time is stressful, let me tell you.

The kids are on edge, the teachers are nervous, and the class schedule is c-r-a-z-y.

It was in this spirit that I began teaching students how to skip.

WHAT????????????????????????

I know what you’re thinking.

How could I, a teacher, instruct my students in the way of cutting class.

Well, folks, that’s not the kind of skipping I’m talking about.

When I say that I taught students how to skip, I mean literally…as in the following…

Students are allowed to take bathroom breaks during testing.  We don’t stop the time, and we escort them.

As each student and I exited the test room, I casually asked, “Want to skip?”

It never failed.

I got the same reaction…

Every.

Time.

First, the look…

Then, the question…”Skip?”

To which I would answer, “You know…skipping.”

I continued by explaining that skipping would help get the blood flowing…get the student energized after sitting so long.

Students who were agreeable (albeit skeptical) would link arms with me, and down the hall we would go.

Some students were surprised to discover that though they had not skipped since their early youth, they quickly got the hang of it again.

One young man and I were very synchronized.

I have to admit that two young men outright refused to skip.

They were baseball players with reps to protect.

I understood, but I was still disappointed and made it very clear.

heehee

One young man made me chuckle the second day we skipped (testing was two days per group of students).  He even told me, when we got back to the room, “This was strange.”

I responded by telling him that I bet he felt better, and that he probably won’t ever forget his 9th grade FCAT.

He smiled as he nodded his assent.

One young lady returned to the classroom, took one look at my fellow proctor, a teacher friend, and said, “She’s crazy.”

My friend said, “I know.”

heehee

I genuinely hope the students who tested in my room didn’t feel too stressed.

I hope they knew they were cared for.

In the midst of all the pressure, I was happy to put a smile, when I could, on each face.

Earth Day Hodgepodge

This week’s Hodgepodge has a decidedly earthy feel to it given that yesterday was Earth Day.  I’m not much on celebrating this “holiday,” so the day sort of passed without much ado.

What does deserve celebration is the engagement of Joyce’s eldest daughter.  Congratulations, friend!  I know you’re beginning to dream of all things wedding-related.  🙂

Let’s move on to the questions now!

1.  April 22nd is Earth Day. Are you inspired by nature? In what way?

God displays His beauty in nature, so yes, it does inspire me.  It’s difficult not to feel joy when I’m driving along on a warm, sunny day.  Because I live near the beach, I see all forms of nature…the good and the bad (hurricanes)…and I appreciate God’s power through it all.

2.  Down to earth, four corners of the earth, move heaven and earth, not have an earthly chance, or salt of the earth…which earthly idiom have you most recently encountered? Explain.

I’ll have to go with down to earth.  This describes me perfectly.  I’m definitely not haughty.  I’m a total goof and let my students see this side of me.  I have to with all of the stresses involved in education and statewide testing.

3.  Share one piece of advice you might give a newly engaged couple.

My advice would be to make sure you are best friends with your intended.  I don’t think this is true of many married couples, and it’s a sad thing when emotional distance separates them because they can’t or don’t want to talk to the person they are supposed to be best friends with.

4.  When did you last engage someone to perform a job, task, service, home repair, or improvement? On a scale of 1-10 (ten being the best) how would you rate their work and/or your satisfaction with the job or service provided?

My most recent attempt to engage someone to perform a task would be the project I am having my students complete right now.  I’d give most of them a five thus far.  Students seem to be rushing the work even though they have many resources and much time at their disposal.

5.  When did you last find yourself engaged in small talk? Are you awkward or an expert or somewhere in between?

I guess I engage in small talk somewhat frequently, whether it’s at church or at school.  I’ll be honest with you.  Small talk is awkward for me.  I’m more of a long-talk kind of person.  I like to finish conversations.  I like to hear a person talk about the small details of his/her life.  Small talk doesn’t allow for that, so it becomes awkward when the conversation seems cut off too quickly.

6.  What was the last historic place you visited?

Gosh, but this question has me stumped.  I can’t really remember the last historical place I visited, but I do remember a few places I’ve been.  I think my favorite site was Manassas, Virginia…the site of the Battle of Bull Run (both battles, actually).

I had just finished reading the Shaaras’ series (father, Michael, wrote Killer Angels and won a Pulitzer Prize for it…son, Jeff, wrote the first and third books in the series…seamless writing styles…a MUST-read).

 

I am an avid history buff and was beyond thrilled that I had my picture taken by Stonewall Jackson’s statue, which is placed prominently at the battle site.  What a godly man.  He led by example and was gentle to a fault.  He was a brilliant strategist who died too young.

7.  The world would be a better place if we just__________________________.

The world would be a better place if we just stopped caring what people thought, dropped everything, and danced whenever the urge hit.

Seriously.

This world needs a bit more cutting loose….everyone is so serious all the time!

8.  My Random Thought

Two words…

The

Blacklist.

Is Tom good, or is he bad?

Did you see the commercial that aired midway through Monday’s episode?  I tried looking for it online but couldn’t find it anywhere.  It was clever, let me tell you.

It sure doesn’t take much to make me happy, eh?

 

A Vegan’s Pet Peeves

Tonight, we went to a local hibatchi restaurant.

We’ve always enjoyed watching our food being cooked.  The entertainment is fun.

Everything was going along swimmingly.

I had ordered vegetable hibatchi and had swapped out white rice for the fried.

Remember, I am a vegan.  I don’t eat anything animal-related.

As the cook began preparing our food, I smiled.

Until…

He started messing around with the vegetables.

The first problem:  He slid the vegetables over to the area he’d just used to cook steak, seafood, and chicken on.

Not cool.

Sure, he had scraped the grill, but still.

The second problem was when he grabbed a pat of butter and stuck it in the middle of the vegetables.

I started seething.

The Mr. quickly looked over at me.

He knew that this was a problem.

Butter has milk in it.

I am lactose-intolerant.

I seethed.

The third problem occurred while the cook was stirring the vegetables.

Guess what he used?

Yep.

The same utensils he’d used to cook the meat with.

This is obviously not a restaurant that thinks about vegetarians or vegans.

Perhaps nobody has brought these types of no-no’s to their attention.

I picked at my food after it was served.  I had lost my appetite.

I realize that people don’t mean to cook in non-vegan-friendly ways, but seriously…if a person orders a no-meat dinner, shouldn’t that be a red flag?

One would think that further questions should be asked…

Are there allergies?

The restaurant industry is making strides to become more friendly as far as offering alternatives for those of us who choose (or don’t choose but must live with) certain diets.

Restaurants can go further.

If a person asks for steamed broccoli, don’t steam it in butter, and don’t add cheese to the top before serving it.

Ask before sprinkling cheese on anything for that matter.

Let customers know if something is cooked in beef stock.  A lot of soups that are advertised as “vegan” have an animal base and, thus, are not.

What happens to me if I eat non-vegan friendly food?

What’s the big deal?

I get sick.

As do others like me.

I watched a coworker get violently ill a couple of years ago after she’d eaten a salad that did not have cheese on it.

There was cheese in the dressing.

I learned this last weekend when I ate at the same restaurant and had the foresight to ask what was in the dressing.

I had to choose a different dressing altogether.  Actually, I think I went without because there wasn’t a viable option available.

But I didn’t get sick after dinner.

People wonder why I don’t eat much.

Consider yourself educated.

Officially Cool

It’s Saturday which means it’s Pampering Day.

heehee

I’m developing a bad habit of late…shopping on Saturdays…treating myself to goodies.

Today’s trip resulted in new Mason drinking glasses from Sam’s…

Each glass comes with its own band that velcros for easy removal.  The box also contained an extra set of solid-colored straws.

My other big treat was purchased at Journeys.  I had received a catalog and coupon in the mail a couple of weeks ago, but I had not found the right time to shop.

The Mr. loves shopping, so he happily went with me.

I’d been wanting sneaker-type of shoes for a while…especially after watching what my students had been wearing.

I would like to be stylish but struggle a bit.

My 6th period class had been insisting, for several weeks, that I purchase a pair of Vans.

I liked the Converse I’d seen in the catalog.

Here’s what I came home with…

It was quite the experience…trying on these shoes.  The kids who took care of me in the store were too precious…all high schoolers and very enthusiastic about the shoes.

I loved the Converse, but I had also fallen in love with two other pairs (above).  The Vans and Sanuk fit the best.

The Vans are AMAZING on my feet and look really, really good with my skinny jeans.

I cannot wait for school on Monday.

I’ll be sporting the new t-shirt I purchased at a friend’s boutique as well as the Vans.

I think I can say that, with this outfit, I’m officially “cool.”

It’s In the Details

Last weekend, I bought a puzzle at Sam’s Club…

I chose the Paris puzzle because my family, on my dad’s side, hails from France.

As I worked on the puzzle one night this week, I was struck by how closely I was having to examine each piece to properly place it.

For instance, I noticed the brown rectangle in the middle of the following piece.

I knew exactly where it needed to go…

This puzzle is difficult, so paying attention to subtle color shadings and shapes are very important…

It won’t surprise you that my thoughts naturally turned to my classroom.

This year, I’ve become even more metacognitive in my teaching.

I’ve mentioned how I’ve taught my students to “think about their thinking.”

Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because this is a strategy that I’ve been noticing myself using more and more as well.

This simple task of putting my puzzle together…noticing that I’m noticing the details…made me reflect on my teaching practices.

One of the things that I didn’t do well my first couple of years in the classroom was to notice the small details.

Students walked in and out of my room, and because I was too busy doggy-paddling my way through each day, I scarcely had the energy to, and this will sound contradictory, slow down and pay attention to the small things.

Last year, I began learning how to do so.

This year, I think I’ve become much more adept at it.

I know that some of what I’m about to say is repetitive, for I’ve been reflecting about my teaching ever since I dove into this profession four years ago, but I can’t help it.

Teaching is much more that spouting off facts that you want your students to memorize.

Teaching is even more than developing skills.

The foundation of teaching is about making connections with your students.

You can’t do that unless you pay attention to the details of their lives.

Your classroom will never form a complete picture unless you carefully fit each piece (i.e., each student) in.

In fact, lesson plans need to be made in such a way that they fit into each student’s specific-ness, for lack of a better word.

There are nearly sixty students who walk into my door each day.

Can you imagine the number of conversations that I overhear every week?

While I don’t process everything the kids are saying to each other, there are a lot of things I do pick up on and tuck away.

I’ve become better at remembering the small details that differentiate my students from one another…specific home-life situations, particular likes and dislikes, habits, good and bad.

I use my knowledge to weave together the fabric that becomes the background for our learning environment.

Ultimately, by noticing small things…a new haircut, highlights in a young lady’s hair, a new pair of shoes…and commenting on these things…I build my students’ self esteem and show them I care.

This year feels as though it’s been, for the most part, one continuous string of connections.

I’m sure that’s why I’ve smiled through most of the school year.

I would venture to say that most of my students have too.

 

FCAT Testing My Life Away

As you read this, I am finishing up my fourth day of FCAT testing.

This week, I was responsible for administering this test to approximately 75 students.

To help my assigned charges do their best, I went shopping last weekend…

A teacher who was also proctoring in my room gave me $10, which I used to defray my cost.

Students were appreciative…especially when we allowed them to take a stretch break midway through, replenishing with one bottle of water per student.

Monday afternoon, I stopped by my church and talked to one of the youth pastors.  He gave me several boxes of Goldfish and cookies.

I took the Goldfish to school the next day for Session 2 (same students as the previous day).

Being the lazy gal that I am, I managed to find a way to carry in everything at once…

If you’ve never had the pleasure of teaching or do not have a child who has taken a state exam, you probably don’t know how stressful exam time can be.

Teachers try to alleviate anxiety in a number of ways, including feeding our children.

You should have seen the looks on my charges’ faces when they walked in on Tuesday and saw the bags of Goldfish…one full-sized bag per student.

Several students exclaimed loudly in excitement.

One of the guys later told me that this had been his favorite testing year ever because of the class he’d been assigned to.

My heart warmed.

I’m used to hearing comments about how strict I am.

I hope the kids know that they are my highest priority.  I am totally about the kids.  Nothing I do is for me.

I’m happy I could be there for the students to help brighten what is usually an icky couple of days.

Unbroken – A Book Review

I just finished book #15 of 2014, and what a doozie!!

I originally purchased this book because I have a student who is very interested in military history.  While this student was finishing a different book, I decided to bring it home.

It is, hands-down, the BEST biography I have ever read (and I’ve read quite a few, let me tell you). I became interested in this book after a segment about Louie Zamperini aired during the Olympics. It appealed to my love for history as well as my appreciation for athletics.

This book really doesn’t read much like a biography. Hillenbrand’s storytelling skills are PHENOMENAL. There was certainly a lot of information poured forth in the book’s pages, but she presented the information in such a way that I didn’t want to stop reading! I could not put this book down and resented my need to sleep, eat, and work because I wanted to read it straight through.

Zamperini’s antics as a child and young adult made me laugh…out loud. His bravado during his time drifting at sea and in the POW camps was truly inspiring. His collapse after his return home broke my heart, and his restoration brought tears to my eyes.

This is a MUST-READ.

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