Sunday, November 28, 2010

And So It Begins

I love this time of year, mainly because we're focused on other people in our lives.  We spend our time thinking about that one special gift that will be special, that will speak to the person receiving the gift.  We look forward in anticipation of a fun-filled day, full of presents, food, fun conversations and memories.

One thing we don't forget, though, is what this holiday season is all about.  This is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ.  No matter what society has done to minimize what this holiday represents, for our family, the day begins with the reading of the birth of Christ so long ago. The first Christmas gift that was given to everyone:  God incarnate, coming to live among men, remaining sinless, and offering himself a living sacrifice for those who receive his gift.  So while we are shopping and thinking of others, it is always in the forefront of our minds that this is not really about us and what we want, it's about celebrating and honoring that original gift given to us.  We do that by giving to others.

I pray you enjoy this holiday season, and remember to celebrate Christ as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


A couple of months ago, I started listing things I'm thankful for.  It's something I've done privately, and I've noticed at few things.  At first, I really found it hard to list many things I'm thankful for.  I would get stuck.  However, I noticed that since I was making myself make a list, I started looking for things to be thankful for.  Now, it's pretty easy.  As it should be.  I live a very blessed life, and there's no reason I shouldn't be thanking God for what He has given me and provided for me.  So here's my list for Thanksgiving:

My husband.  His humor, perseverance, hard work and steadfastness keeps this family going.  We all adore him.
My kids.  They keep me humble and proud at the same time.  They are each growing and showing their individual gifts, and I'm always amazed at how well they are turning out, in spite of me and my parenting.
My parents.  One of my favorite quotes is "Many a promising future is ruined by a happy childhood."  I find it funny, but it doesn't hold true in my case.  I have a promising future, and I had a wonderful childhood.  Not without hardships, but also not without a lot of love and support.
My inlaws.  They have truly influenced and enriched my life, and shaped it in ways I never realized it could be shaped.
Relatives in general.  These family connections just add depth to our character and our relationships.
A nice home.  We've been in ours for about a year and a half now.  There was a time when I thought we wouldn't have a home, so I'm especially thankful for the memories we've begun here.
A job I thoroughly enjoy.  I am blessed beyond measure in this area.  Supportive administration, a drama free work environment (I've heard horror stories from other schools!) and an environment that supports risk taking and growth.
Cars that work
A fireplace
Good neighbors
Friends and the friendship they provide.  They meet my needs in ways family can't.  I'm always amazed at how God brings people together to work in each other's lives.  Lord knows my friends have worked on mine in unexpected ways.
Art museums.  I love being so close, and they're free.
Trader's Village.  My new love.  Introduced to me by a friend. :)
God and all that He puts up with in regard to me! 

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.  Just take a moment to count your blessings.  I'm sure you'll find you have more than you know!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holidays are Coming

It's no secret, even if you look at the background of my blog, that Fall is completely my favorite time of year.  I love the cool, crisp changes in the air, I love the buildup of excitement that surrounds the holidays, and I love how the holidays bring family together.

Thanksgiving is a special one for me.  I have many fond memories of this holiday from both sides of my family.  When we lived in California, all of my dad's family would get together for a big feast, and we would watch football, Thanksgiving Day parades, and end up playing a game of volleyball.  In Texas we would all go to my mom's parents' house.  That place is one of my favorite places.  Mamaw's house was small, but we would all converge there, and end up sleeping on pallets on the floor, on pullout couches, anywhere there was an empty space.  Then there was the comfort food at both places.  It was good, there was plenty of it, and it was all homemade. :)  Plus, all of us cousins would get together for a game of touch football out in the field.  It was always fun.

I'm looking forward to this year's feast.  I'm sad that Tim won't be there with us this time, but he's letting us head out without him.  He'll be working, and they will be feasting at work, but it won't be the same without his dry sense of humor getting the rest of the group going.  The rest of us will be playing horsehoes, sitting on the back porch talking, the kids will be playing hide and seek in the woods and we'll definitely have our after-Thanksgiving trek around the neighborhood.  I can't say I'm looking forward to the 4 am beginning to black Friday, but it seems that's become an annual tradition as well.

It will be a good holiday.  How are you spending yours?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Old, Dear Friends

I logged onto Facebook today and was browsing away (I was looking at the new pictures posted from my coworkers of our turkey bowl today.  That deserves a post unto itself.) when the little red flag popped up that indicated a friend request.  I usually don't get too excited from those because so many students try to add me as a friend.  (Sadly but wisely I let them know we cannot be friends on least not until they're adults, and I am no longer their teacher!)  I clicked on the red flag, and to my shock and pleasant surprise it was my oldest and dearest childhood friend.

Now, this friend went to church with me, and oh how we used to get into trouble.  I remember once we sat behind the people from the deaf ministry, because we figured with all of motion from signing, we probably wouldn't be noticed.  We must have been in our own world, because we were doing something when we both froze at the sound of my dad's voice, the pastor in the pulpit, saying, "I know two girls who are going to be in big trouble if they don't settle down!"  I had to be careful.  It would mean front row, piano side for two weeks if I got grounded.

You know how everything is funny when you have to be quiet in church?  Yeah, we had pew-shaking laughter just about every Sunday.  Once she brought in a handful of pop rocks.  We made it through the song service, and were to the quiet part of the service, when the sweat of her hand met with the popping element of the pop rocks.  We tried hard to keep them quiet, but eventually laughter won out and the lady in front of us eventually ushered us outside.

There was also church camp.  One particularly brutal year, there was quite a bit of dunking in the pool.  At the end of camp, we all had to step up to the pulpit in church and give our testimony of what God did for us at camp.  My friend stepped up to the pulpit, paused for dramatic effect, and said, "I just thank God I didn't drown in the pool," and stepped down.  It remains a classic to this day.

I can't wait to catch up with her.  She's one of those "Pick up where we left off" friends.  This should be fun.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Conference Time

OK, so I just got back from a conference last week, and I feel SO lucky the district sent me.  Have you ever gone to a learning environment like that, either spiritual, educational, or whatever, and have come away knowing you've just listened to some real leaders and innovative thinkers?  THAT's what this conference was like.  My head is still swimming.  The first day I spent with the keynote speaker, Dr. Robyn Jackson.  At the end, I remember thinking, "OK, I should probably just go home now, because I'm not going to hear anything better than that." 

I was wrong.

The next day we heard the keynote address, which was totally inspiring, and then visited workshops from everyday teachers all over the state, all doing extraordinary things.  If that doesn't inspire the educator within, nothing will.  Again, that day was better than the day before.

The last day, my colleagues and I were fried.  Our brains were on maximum overload.  But no.  We thought we'd attend one last workshop before going home.  Again....there it was.  We were nodding our heads, taking copious amounts of notes.  And we ended on a high note.  Which was good.

Because now we need to come back and teach it to teachers.  It's a little nerve wrecking, but in the end, the topics were so good and so exciting, I do believe they will teach themselves, and educators will be doing the same things we did:  nodding.....yeah.  You know. :)

Gotta go.  Gotta wrap my head around some more stuff.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Did I Mention My Amazing Colleagues?

There are times, at least once a week lately, that I have to stay late at school.  Tonight I got out at 6 pm.  But I would stay that late as many times as necessary if it meant doing what we did today.  Our venture today was the Intervention Leadership Team, which works to find ways to help struggling students.  The thing I love about being on this team is the problem solving part of it.  It's a no holds barred, get your hands dirty problem solving team that works to make kids successful, even if it means personal sacrifice.  I love that.  I love how each and every person on the team is willing to do whatever it takes to help children, no matter what their issue is.

We also get to see classroom teachers at their best.  The things they do to help children is nothing short of miraculous.  I know there's a backlash against public education right now, and against bad teachers.  But those in doubt just need to come visit my school.  I wish what they do could be shown on tv.  It would be a much different conversation about teachers.  Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I cannot tell you how literally starved I've been for good friends.  I didn't realize how much, though, until I've once again developed a good, strong circle of girlfriends.  I had some friends like that in Taiwan, and I miss those friends terribly, but since coming back to the States, I've been so busy that it's been hard to really develop friendships beyond working relationships.  Stacy was the first friend, and we have so much in common it's actually scary.  She's an uplifter and such a good and kind person.  I love her dearly. 

There's something about being around strong, intelligent and passionate women that makes you just want to be and do better.  My colleagues are like that.  They all love what they do, they share their passion with others and make it a joy to work with them.  And there's competition, but it's a healthy competition.  The kind that keeps us improving.  We're truly happy, however, when the other is successful.  We've developed a strong circle, this group.  We challenge each other, we laugh, we're accepting, and we instinctively know when each other needs prayer, support or encouragement.  I am truly blessed to work with such a wonderfully caring group of women. 

Janene, I'm so proud!  You truly killed it today!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Curse of Knowledge

The curse of knowledge is not remembering what things were like before we learned.

Just a little tidbit I heard today.  Still thinking it through.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Peach

I was just talking to another teacher of gifted and talented (GT) last week about how important it is for us, as teachers, to have a good relationship with our students.  The GT teacher/student relationship is a bit different than that of the average student because of the nature of the GT kid.  While they have close to an adult intellect, they are still kids with kid feelings and vulnerabilities, and they need someone who can reach both of those levels within the classroom.  They need the challenging subject matter, they need to have fun, and they also need to be able to act their age.

Then today, I get an email from a former student who is now an adult, working in the field of sports medicine.  Seems she was going through her mom's garage, cleaning out her things, and found a box of assignments from our class.   What I hear consistently from those kids from that class is how fun our Greek unit was.  They learned so much about Greek city-states, the Peloponnesian war, mythology, etc.  But they had fun doing it. More than a few told me their World History courses in college were a breeze because of that class. But I can't take credit.  I just presented the material.  It was them and what they did with the material that made the difference.  However, I will take credit for allowing them to be smart, but be 7th graders.  It's what mattered more.

See, there was more to that class than just that Greek unit.  We built a safe environment in that class, one that allowed them to be who they were.  I'll give an example:  let's call it the "Peach."  We were doing a study of poetry, and one of my students hated the subject.  After much prodding, and showing her how simple poetry was by reading Carl Sanburg's "the Fog", this reluctant poet got up in front of the class and quoted her own poem, "The Peach."  I don't remember the poem really, but I do remember it was a major catchphrase in our class from that point forward.  She reminded me today that I wrote on her report card that she was "a peach" in class.

That's the stuff they remember, and that's the stuff that helps them remember what they learned.  It's also the stuff that keeps me going back, year after year.  These are people in whom we're investing, with dreams and hopes, with fears and anxieties, and sometimes problems we'll never know.  But for those moments in our class, they are with someone who cares about them and accepts them for who they are and where they are at the moment, and that makes a difference.

All of this from a report card "peach" comment.  It's that simple.  I think I'm going to buy a poster of a peach and keep it in my class.  Just to remind me to keep it challenging.  And fun.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

It's a Perfectly Imperfect Day

Took some time to breathe today.  Planted some flowers, enjoyed the absolutely perfect weather, and listened.  Sometimes we just need to be still, breathe, and listen. And I did.