Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Joys of Christmas

As my children have grown older, some of the traditional "magic" of Christmas has gone by the wayside. No more cookies left for Santa, fewer gifts that are surprises, more gifts that are chosen by them, and fewer craft projects. It has always made me a bit sad. Somehow I have always associated that special Christmas wonder with children: the twinkle in their eye as they wonder if the mall Santa is actually the real jolly old elf, their belief that reindeer really do fly, and the special joy that even the smallest toy can bring.

This year I was a bit more melancholy than normal. My son had hand-picked his big ticket item, a tablet for his use at college and he had even gone with me to hand select the traditional "clothes" items. He had lost quite a bit of weight this semester and we had to make sure that they fit him. My daughter had hand-picked her big ticket item too, a laptop computer and had been sitting right beside me when I ordered it on the computer. I really didn't expect Christmas morning to be as "special" as it used to be- but I was wrong.

When my son opened that box and actually got the tablet in his hand........

Well, you can see his smile. He was no less happy, even though he knew what was in the box.

As for my daughter, I did manage to spring a surprise or two on her. She loves sock monkeys and had seen some sock monkey pajamas at Target a few months back. I managed to find them for her and gave them to her Christmas Eve as her traditional "Christmas jammies". The big surprise came on Christmas morning though. I had been secretly working away for two days, crocheting a sock monkey for her. I finished it up at about 4 AM on Christmas morning. The smile on her face made the sleepless hours worth it!

In the end, I think I realized that the magic of Christmas could live in anyone's heart, regardless of age- even in the heart of this woman who is nearing the age of 50. Those little things that we do for each other, even when they are planned, that bright smile on the face of a loved one, a special moment shared together with family: that is the real magic of the holiday season. Just as Christ came to share God's love, it is our love for each other that makes that warm spot in our hearts.

As I watched my daughter dance around the living room to her "One Direction" cd, Keurig hot cocoa in hand, and bright smiling face I could never doubt that this was a truly wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sorry So Long....

It seems like literally AGES since I posted.
I have no excuse other than the typical "Life got in the way."

My father has been in poor health since sometime in October. He has been experiencing prostate swelling for years and has been on medication. A few weeks ago he began experiencing more prostate problems, along with some back and leg pain. The doctors diagnosed him with sciatica and began experimenting with various medications and treatments.

Nothing seemed to be working. Finally the doctors decided that it was time to just go ahead and do a procedure on the prostate. When they admitted him into the hospital and began the surgery they discovered that he had a complete blockage. This began an extended hospital stay, ending with the removal of the entire prostate.

Things were looking up and Dad thought that he would be coming home the next day, but it was not to be. He began vomiting extensively and they did x-rays to see if there was an internal problem. Once again they decided that he would need another procedure. They went in and placed a stint in the kidney to drain it.

FINALLY on Friday, December 21 they released Dad from the hospital. My sweet hubby and I went to pick him up and take him home. Dad is on several medications and is walking a bit carefully, but he is doing SO MUCH better! I thank the Lord that he provided Dad with some comfort and strength to get through this.

Dad is not one of those men who takes illness or being idle very well. He much prefers to be up and about, able to do whatever he decides he wants to do. At the age of 72, I am trying to convince him that it is time to slow down a bit and take a break, but I am not sure that he will listen. I am just grateful that he is still here with us to enjoy this Christmas season.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Time of Thanksgiving

The past week has been simply wonderful.

School ended on Tuesday and my son came home on Wednesday. We had Thanksgiving dinner with Glenn's family on Thursday and with my family on Friday. In between there were moments of self reflection, smiles, and feelings of contentment.

It wasn't the turkey or the ham. It wasn't the beautiful lights on the newly decorated Christmas tree. It wasn't even the bargains that we managed to grab while Black Friday shopping on Friday afternoon. None of those things make me smile.

It was the true feeling of Thankfulness that flooded my heart.

I am thankful for so much- too many things to list.

As I look around me at other families that are being racked by bitter arguments and divorce, I am thankful that I have a loving, caring husband who works every day to try to provide the things that we need. Though our date nights are few and far between, I never doubt that he does truly love me and would do anything that he could for me.

Though I do have arguments and disagreements with my daughter, I am thankful that God blessed our family with her. The times when we do get to sit down and actually talk or work on a project help remind me that she is a kind, creative, giving young woman.

Though my son is away from home at college and his phone calls are few and very short, I am thankful that he does come home. When things get difficult with his classes or when something goes his way and he wants to celebrate, he does call us, and that lets me know that he is still a part of our family.

My job, though filled with long hours, blesses our family with a paycheck for which I am grateful. I have colleagues who are helpful and who provide a listening ear and a comforting shoulder when I need them most.

I could go on and on..... but this blog would turn into a book. Let me just say that I give thanks to God for the MANY blessings that he has given me and my family. As we enter into the Christmas season I hope to share my blessings, my joy, and the love of Christ with all of those with whom I come in contact.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Incomplete Family Moments

Last night was the first Halloween without the whole family home at some point together. It didn't feel right, though we did try to put on a festive face.

The family costume thing was Kari's idea. I think that part of the reason behind it was that she knew it would just be the three of us. We all knew that Keenan wouldn't have dressed up, even IF he had been here, but it still didn't feel quite right.

Throughout the day it hit home with me that these "incomplete" feelings are just going to get more frequent in coming years. Both of my children are growing older and will be leaving the nest. My parents are older and I will lose them too. I don't know if I am quite prepared to deal with all of that.

In recent weeks we have lost a number of friends. We experienced 3 deaths within our community on the same day this past weekend. As I see friends deal with their loss I know that I will need their support and God's as these incomplete feelings enter my own life. For now, I am thankful that I can look forward to Thanksgiving and having my own family together one more time, God willing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


As promised last weekend, I decided to just make some time to do something I wanted.... scrapbooking of course!

I selected a photo that I really liked that had a good back story and worked a little at a time: selecting papers one day, beginning the design one day, and then continuing the work a little bit more each day until finally- this morning I finished it.

Now, this isn't my greatest layout ever, but it has an even greater significance for me. It helped me to realize that it is not HOW much scrapbooking I get done or even how "professional" the pages end up. What matters is the fact that I get to use my creativity and just DO SOMETHING! Selecting each piece of paper, brad, stamp, and element relaxes me and helps me forget about the stress and strain of paperwork. Of course, it is still there.... but for just a few minutes I am able to push it to the back of my mind and just have FUN!

This definitely won't be the last page for me. I may not get one done every week, but I will definitely make more time for this hobby that I love!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Plank in my Eye

Today at church the sermon really hit home with me. The minister was speaking about how we sometimes are so busy looking at others and their problems that we overlook things that we need to work on. He also discussed how God could not bless us unless we prayed and studied the Word. His biblical reference was from Luke chapter 6: 41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

As I listened to him I kept thinking of myself, lecturing my students about setting priorities in their own lives in order to make time for schoolwork. The thought came to me that I could not be a good example to them if I did not make priorities in my own life for what was important: family and self.

I really think that God may have been telling me that I need to step in and do something of my own to take care of this situation. Life itself isn't going to step in and say, "Take a break. Do it for yourself." It is really up to me to make it a priority. I truly think that if I do, then maybe my outlook on life in general will improve.

I have set a goal to begin a scrapbook page at some point this week (and hopefully finish it). I have also set a goal to sit down each night with my daughter and just talk..... maybe not about school, but just about what is on her mind.

Check back later in the week to see if that "Plank" is disappearing my eye.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lost in a Sea.....

There are times when I feel as though I am just drifting through life, lost in a sea of events with no real control over them. I get tossed about by the waves that are created : some of them tumultuous and storm driven, some of them calming.

I don't remember when the feeling started; I can't point at one thing and say, "That is when I gave up control." I wish I could. Then I might be able to figure out how to go back and reclaim it. Instead I keep drifting- another meeting that someone says I must attend, another task that is required of my job, another day with little or no rest.

There are some people who say that it will change- WHEN I retire. If I knew that would make the difference I might actually consider it, but I am not convinced. I think that I have been SO busy for the past several decades- being a wife, being a mother, being a teacher- that I may have just forgotten how to be the essential ME.How do I relearn that? Is it even possible? Until I find the answer, I suppose that I will stay here, drifting and allowing the waves of life to carry me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Will I Ever Figure This Out?

We have reached midterm- that halfway point at which Keenan gets to come home for a "fall break", Kari gets her 1st quarter grades from her first dual credit classes, and I get to post grades for my own students. I face this period of time with mixed feelings.

I am THRILLED that Keenan is getting to come home for a few days. It seems like forever since I got to spend much time with him. He hasn't been here since Labor Day weekend, and that seems like AGES ago. I am pleased that Kari has faced her classes with great effort, but I am nervous about how she will feel when she sees her grades. I have seen the stress and frustration that she has been under and I know how hard she has worked; I think she does too, but I am still worried that she will be disappointed.

And then..... there is work. I had hoped that, by this time, I would have made some headway in the "making my own time" department. I mean, I keep having people advise me that this is the time in my life when I should be rediscovering hobbies and setting aside time to enjoy my own interests. Yesterday at work, I got one of those emails that companies send out to us teachers, advising us how we can be a better teacher. At least half of the list talked about taking time to relax and making time to enjoy things that I want to do, not things that I have to do.

I keep hoping that things will settle down in my professional life so that I can actually have "ME" time. Then I find myself with another stack of papers to grade or a new week of lesson plans that need to be written. I am having a lot of difficulty putting things off or just letting things go...... I don't know if I will ever master that skill. Will I ever figure out the recipe of being a good teacher without allowing it to dominate my entire life? Will it really take retirement in order to find the free time that I can spend on something like scrapbooking, that I want to do just for me and for my family? Is it possible in this day and age to be a good teacher, a wife, a mother, AND still have time for myself?

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Working Class

I had an interesting conversation today at school. One of my students came up to me prior to the first bell and said, "I'm so embarrassed. My mom is working here at school today." Within only a few seconds, I responded, "Don't ever be embarrassed that you have a parent who is willing to work."

To understand the passion with which I uttered those words, you must first understand the geographic area where I live and work. Owsley County, where I teach, is usually found somewhere near the top of the list of poorest counties in the United States. A bit of research helped me locate the median household income based on the 2010 census: $18,125.

True, part of the reason for this low income status is that we do not have much industry or business within a several county radius. The nearest Wal-Mart, oftentimes used as a reference point for how much commerce is available, is one county over, and that one isn't even one of the Super Wal-Marts. There is no McDonald's to hire students after school or parents through the week and if you want to get a prescription filled, you go to a locally owned pharmacy because there is no Walgreens or Rite Aid.

There are adults who would work, if jobs were available, but there has been a progressively growing number of people who have become dependent upon the government for assistance. This laid-back attitude has been filtering down into the generation of students who fill the seats in my classroom. Any discussion regarding future plans, future education, or careers garners at least a handful of responses like these: "I'm not going to finish high school.", "I'm going to drop out.", and most startling to me, "I'm just going to go home and draw a check."

It is because of this handful of students and their apparent lack of appreciation for a good work ethic that I responded as I did. I think that the young man was probably more embarrassed by his mom's presence at school than he was by the fact that she was working. This student understands that his parent is doing whatever she can to work at every opportunity that presents itself. I just wish that I knew how to help some of those OTHER students who have no vision of working, of earning a living, of the self satisfaction that a paycheck, no matter what size, can bring.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It IS All Worth It

I must admit that there are days in my life as a middle school teacher when I find myself wondering, "Is it really worth it? Are all of the hours spent planning activities that students complain about and all of the time spent grading papers that get a cursory glance and then get thrown into the trashcan really worth the stress, headaches, and personal toil?"


I have those little minutes that make this job worthwhile.

A student shyly slips a handwritten note onto my desk as she walks from the room. As I glance at the paper between classes I see the words, "Best teacher" written in a wobbly, hurried script.

Another student asks if I am helping to chaperone a field trip. When he finds that I'm not because I have to stay at school for a training, I hear him mumble, "Why won't they let the teacher we REALLY like go with us?"

A parent runs into me and stops to take a few minutes to check on the progress of their child before telling me what a difference I have made for that child.

Lest you think I am bragging........... allow me to assure you that these moments are few and far between. It is because of this that I treasure each one of them. I try to somehow take that wonderfully warm glowing feeling that bubbles up inside me and store it away inside some hidden crevice in my spirit so that I can reach in and help it be reborn when I find myself feeling discouraged.

The last few weeks have been filled with just such discouraging times, but thankfully, I have also experienced those little warm bubbles of happiness that only my students can bring. Each little comment, note, or card is like an injection of encouragement that reminds me one more time why I chose this career in the first place.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's Wrong With this Picture?

As I have struggled to face this period in my life, with my son away at college and me at home preparing for an empty nest, one of the best pieces of advice I have received is to find a hobby to spend time on. There is only one problem---- I am not getting any spare time to devote to a hobby! I am speaking literally- I don't know if it just my chosen career in education that is creating this problem, but I am finding that more and more of MY time is becoming JOB time.

I am one of those teachers who truly wants to teach. I got into this career to make a difference. I will devote whatever time I need to in order to really do my best to meet the needs of my students. The problem is that there is now so much paperwork that I find myself working all of the time. I am up early in the morning and out my front door usually at 7 AM at the latest. When I get to school I sign in and head straight to my room to begin entering grades, preparing flipcharts, and printing supplemental readings. When my planning rolls around, I try to grade a few papers and enter a few more grades, that is, if I am not in a meeting. In the afternoon when the voice on the intercom says, "All students are dismissed," my students run for the door while I reach for more papers or attend another meeting. I don't think that I have left school before 5 PM on any day this school year and most of them have found me exiting the building at 6 PM. When I get home there is the typical routine: cook, do dishes, squeeze in some time for laundry, and try to help my daughter with some of her work. Bedtime is getting earlier and earlier, simply because I am so tired.

One of my fellow teachers asked me the other day, "So what were the good old days like?" (This is the point where I should tell you that I am the teacher in our building with the largest number of years of experience.) This forced me to compare the two time periods: back then and now. I remember grading a lot of student work back then; I actually probably do less of that now because the student work has gotten more in depth, with more final projects and writing pieces rather than skills worksheets. What I don't remember are all of the extra meetings or teacher paperwork. We had our faculty meeting as needed and we had the professional development sessions, of course, but we didn't have all of the add-on trainings. I think that some of that can be blamed on the extra programming that has been added on through the years. Every time we begin a new program there is a new training. As far as paperwork goes, I remember having a red gradebook and the green "Bird Book" where we kept attendance. We didn't have the several assessment tracking sheets, the pacing guides, and other forms.

You would think that technology and computerization would make all of this paperwork easier, but it hasn't. I find myself spending more time in front of a computer screen: typing parent newsletters, answering emails from students or parents, creating lesson plans, entering grades into the online gradebook, and analyzing student data. Just when I think I have learned a program and I can maneuver it, someone decides to update and I find myself learning something all over again.

I am sure that things will smooth out at some point....... I will get myself organized, I will learn to let some things go, or I will just have to stop and take a breath. I can only hope that the day I am speaking of comes VERY SOON!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Let Them Me Little

As I age, I am discovering that my views about certain things are changing. Within the past few weeks I have found myself developing a very sound opinion regarding our youth and the rate at which society is expecting them to mature.

While teaching middle school over the past couple of decades, I have seen a major shift in the expectations that we are inflicting upon teenagers. We flood them with images of young models with perfect skin, waistlines that are atypically tiny, and pounds of makeup. The fashion industry is creating clothing for girls that has become more and more revealing with messages written in very inappropriate areas. All of these things have helped reinforce the idea in our young girls that such things are okay and what you want to do if you plan to "fit in" with your peers.

More shocking to me, the teacher, is the amount of pressure that we are putting on our teenagers regarding college and careers. True, I graduated from high school quite a while ago, but I can remember taking the ACT a single time, and that was when I was a senior. That score, whatever if was, got submitted to the one or two colleges that I selected. My transcript that accompanied that college application did not contain ANY college credit. Instead, I attended the typical 4 years of college and lived the typical college "experience" for that time period.

In contrast, my son, who is a college freshman, entered college with 21 hours of credit that he had obtained through dual credit and night classes. My daughter, who is a high school junior, is already enrolled in classes that will, if she is successful, glean her 15 college credit hours. While the parent in me appreciates the fact that these hours are being achieved in such a way as to put less financial burden on me, I find myself contemplating the emotional toil that it is taking on her. I remember junior and senior year as two of the better years of my high school experience. I was on the college "track", so I did take classes that were a bit harder than those of some of my peers, but I still had plenty of time to be in choir and perform in the many concerts that we held. I recall being in a senior talent show, participating in Future Homemakers of America, and even several 4H events. I also recall enjoying those things. The time that my daughter is putting into these classes is keeping her so busy that she is not able to truly relax and enjoy many of the things that she loves. While she is still an active BETA Club member and cross country participant, the energy and enthusiasm with which she does these activities is diminished, largely due to the fact that she is mentally exhausted from the stress of her class load.

I talked with her about the schedule and whether she wanted to change it, but she almost feels like she is obligated to continue. I think that a great deal of this is because she is so focused on the "expectations" that have been placed on students like her in recent years. Students are taking the ACT earlier and earlier and school districts across the country are intent on getting those college and AP classes started as soon as possible. As a junior in high school, she is already focusing on her chances at college acceptance and scholarships. "I don't want a dropped class on my transcript," she said.

While thinking the whole thing over, I remembered a country song, "Let them be little," by Billy Dean. Maybe it's just the melancholy mother in me....... but the words of that song are becoming more and more a part of my personal mantra.

Let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little

So innocent, a precious soul, you turn around
It's time to let them go

So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while

Maybe it is time for society to step back and rethink this. Is it too late for us, as a society, to change things and just let our children be "little" for a little while longer?

Friday, August 31, 2012

One of those "Good Days"

Today has been one of those good days that I long for..... the ones that only come around once in a while. Things just seem to fall into place and even the bumps in the road are a little less rocky.

There are times in my career when I wonder if I am really getting through to my students the way I want to. I sometimes feel that maybe I have run my race and I should just go ahead and get out. Then there is a day like today. I stuck around after school today to grade some practice exercises that my students did in preparation for the upcoming EXPLORE test. At one point I was almost in tears, not from sadness, but from pure elation. I was so excited with how well some of my students did. I can't wait until Tuesday to tell some of them about their scores. It makes me remember why I went into this career in the first place.

After grading my papers, I hurried home to get supper ready for Keenan. He has a three day weekend too, so he came home for a couple of days. I can sense his enthusiasm and happiness with his experiences thus far at Bellarmine University just by looking at his face when he talks about it. This is the happiest that I can remember seeing him in a very long time. I think higher education agrees with him.

You know, I am sure that there was something, somewhere along the way today that didn't quite go right, but sitting here at this minute....... I just can't remember it. :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Settling In....

I am beginning to settle into a new routine, new roles, and my "new" life. I am still not 100 percent sure that I LIKE all of the "newness", but I guess I can accept it.

I have been going into work at 7:15 AM daily and staying until 5 or 6 PM. I am trying to stay on top of the paperwork connected with teaching, including lesson plans, creating assessments, and grading all of the student work. So far...... so good, though I am hoping that I can shorten the amount of time I spend at work and lengthen the amount of time I can spend with my family or on things that I want to do.

We got to visit Keenan at college Friday. I could tell by the smile on his face and the lilt in his voice that he is enjoying college life. I actually departed the campus that night without crying. I think I am beginning to accept the geographic distance between us, because I know that there is still a closeness in heart. He has texted a time or two, emailed, and phoned. I wasn't really sure that he would, because he is not much of a communicator.

And then there's Kari...... my "little girl", who, at the age of 15, is already taking college classes as part of her daily high school experience. I am beginning to accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, she is not so "little" anymore. The first week of College Algebra was a tearjerker....LITERALLY, for both her and for me. Since then, however, she has settled into a routine and appears to be doing quite well with the level of difficulty that she is encountering. She seems to be happy and is learning a lot. While I am definitely not ready to have both of my kids in college full-time, I am feeling more comfortable with the idea that both of my children are ready for the academic challenges they will face in connection with their college experience. Their teachers have prepared them, they have prepared themselves, and Glenn and I have been there to support them through the whole experience. Now it is our turn to stand back and watch them begin making their own decisions, experiencing their own successes, and learning from their own mistakes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I think that someone out there in the universe is keeping a watchful eye on me and is really trying to help me in my quest to rediscover myself and why I do the things I do.

I have experienced a turmoil of emotions in recent months. Between the new job that I had but couldn't take, the retirement that was on-again off-again and then not to be at all, and Keenan heading off to college my emotional stability has hardly been in existence.

Imagine my delight when I heard an announcement on K-LOVE, my FAVORITE radio station, about an upcoming webcast titled, "Unglued". Lysa Terkeurst and some of the ladies from K-LOVE will be sitting down to help women like me get a handle on what to do when life's stresses causes us to come unglued. The webcast is scheduled for Thursday, August 23 at 7 o'clock PM Central time.

I know that Lysa has also written a book on the subject. I have read some of her devotional materials and I have REALLY enjoyed it. I am sure that this webcast will be just as good. I only hope that life will cooperate and give me the time to actually listen!

If you are like me and you sometimes feel "unglued", why don't you put it on your calendar and join us? Here is a link to more info on the K-Love website. They even posted a chapter or two from Lysa's book to peak your interest.

Unglued Webcast

Friday, August 17, 2012

D-Day.....24 Hours and Counting

It is hard for me to believe that within 24 hours I will be driving my firstborn off to college. If it were not for the pegasus-size butterflies that are trampling through my stomach or the tears that I keep fighting back, I could possibly forget.
This week something happened that is going to make it a tiny bit easier to send him away. We got back his t-shirt quilt that we had taken to be machine quilted.

As I look at the squares I am reminded of the times that Keenan has spent in service with the 4H Club and the BETA Club. I think back to the days that he spent helping at Second Sunday fitness days when he could have been sleeping and snoring in bed like his peers. All of these things help me to be a bit more certain that he is well on his way to becoming a real life grown up, the thing that all parents dream about.

As he takes this quilt to college with him I hope it will serve as encouragement to him also. I hope that he remembers the leadership roles that have brought him to this place in time and that he continues to develop those as he goes on through college and afterward.

If I had to sum up what I know in my heart about my son, I think the Sidewalk Prophets said it best in their wong "The Words I Would Say".

Be strong in the Lord
And never give up hope
You’re gonna do great things
I already know
God’s got His hand on You
So don’t live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don’t forget why you’re here
Take your time and pray
These are the words I would say

Sure,I will shed tears; that is part of being a mother, I suppose; but at the same time I know in my gut that this is one of those moments that I have worked hard for the last 18 years. Keenan is ready....... and I ....... Well, I guess that I am GETTING ready.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Week the Women Went

Anybody else catch the premiere of this show last night on Lifetime?

I had seen a trailer introducing the series a few weeks back and decided that I was going to have to check it out. In the hustle and bustle of the first full week of school I almost missed it!

Just in case you don't know anything about it, I will give you a quick synopsis: This is labeled as a social experiment. Women in the town of Yemassee, South Carolina are sent out of town for a week, leaving the men to fend for themselves. The children must be cared for, the businesses must be run, and life must go on. We, the viewers, are allowed to sit back and watch the whole scenario unfold.

BLOGGER ALERT: If you haven't watched it and you intend to, you may want to stop reading at this point. There will probably be some "spoilers" within the next few paragraphs.

In the first episode we are introduced to some of the many townspeople who will likely be affected by this disruption to their normal routines. This includes a single mother, a fire chief who proposes to his girlfriend as she prepares to leave town with the other women, and the fire chief's mother who is none too happy about the impending nuptials.

My husband watched the episode too. (Well..... sort of..... He was sitting in the next room within eyeshot of the television, but far enough away that he didn't have to comment on what was happening.) I'm anxious to see what becomes of these couples. Lifetime is presenting the whole thing in a very lighthearted, fun manner, and even though I know that some of these couples probably won't come through the whole experience unscathed, I don't think the series will cause the uproar that other "Social Experiment" shows like "Kid Nation" did.

If you didn't catch it last night, check your television schedules. I'm pretty sure that this episode will be shown again, so you can catch up on all of the backgrounds of the families before the series continues. It's sure to be an interesting one. After all, the women's departure from town was delayed for two hours due to a storm with heavy lightning. They even threw the word "tornado" around.... I wonder if that was the producer's way of foreshadowing????

Monday, August 13, 2012

Forward into Battle......

This morning I got up and dressed myself, preparing for the first FULL WEEK of the school year. This is usually the one that gets us teachers the most exhausted. Our bodies aren't yet into the routine of five consecutive days in action. Top that off with our first full week of lesson plans, grading papers, after school faculty meetings, and back to school paperwork and this week can really take a toll on a body.

Perhaps that is why, when I was selecting the proper attire for today, I selected a camo colored shirt.

To be fair, when I laughingly mentioned to my daughter that I was wearing camouflage as I prepared to go into the battlegrounds of the first Manic Monday of the school year, she wasted no time in telling me that it was definitely NOT camo! (Being a true fashionista, I suppose I should take her word for it.)

Whatever the case, today was not as bad as I had expected. (I knock on wood as I type that.......) The students were on task, for the most part, the paperwork seemed to flow in at a smaller trickle than it would normally, and my classes ran fairly smoothly. Perhaps, after completing twenty seven years of this I am finally getting into a routine. (One would hope so.....) OR...... Perhaps this is the calm before the storm. Either way, I'm ready. After all, I can always wash my camo "uniform" and hide it away in the closet until I face another battle...........

Uh oh...... I just remembered that tomorrow is my first day of Early Duty. Maybe I should have saved the shirt for THAT......LOL!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mixed up Feelings

With back to school this week, I found myself getting rather melancholy. It was so strange to head off to high school with only one child. I felt sentimental as I watched my "baby girl" get ready for her first day of junior year.

Where's the little girl who loved to color with crayons and cuddle with stuffed animals? Now I have a daughter who is fascinated with her college level anatomy and physiology class.

The weekend brought even more emotional highs and lows as my son and I went shopping to get the last few things on his college list. Instead of looking for video games we were looking at desk lamps and small printers.

My one consolation was that, as I listened to Kari talk about her first few days of junior year and Keenan discuss his college classes and upcoming orientation, I could also feel pride mixed in with the "Mommy blues". I can tell that we have done a good job preparing both of them for the challenges that they will face in coming years. They are mature when they need to be, but they can also relax and slip back into that "kid" role when it feels comfortable. Kari keeps her large sock monkey on the bed, and Keenan can find pleasure helping me with a craft project.

 I guess this is what it must feel like when the Mommy bird has to sit by and watch as the baby bird takes wing for the first time: a bit of nervousness about whether their wings are strong enough to hold them up and happiness that they are prepared to try to find their own path.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Family Inspiration

Sometimes I find myself doubting the success of marriage in today's society. This past year I have seen couples that I thought would NEVER have problems experience all kinds of issues, with several of them ending in divorce. With next year being my twentieth wedding anniversary I admit that there are times when I feel that things in my own marriage, while happy, can sometimes be a bit "stale". I think it is very possible to get too comfortable in a marriage and to take your mate and their feelings for granted. Maintaining a long and happy marriage isn't easy! Sometimes it helps to have a bit of inspiration from a couple who has weathered the storms of life.

That makes me all the more grateful that I have one of those inspirational couples in my own life. Today is my parents' 50th Wedding anniversary.

Over the years they have been through a lot: loss of jobs, moving across the state away from family, moving back across the state to be with family, car accidents, hospitalization, other accidents, and the deaths of their own parents.

I can remember myself as a youngster, helping them both clean the church that we attended, going each week to sweep, vaccuum, and clean as needed. I can also remember returning to that same church each Sunday morning at their side, to attend Sunday School and church services as a family.

I can remember those hot summer evenings at home, no air conditioning because we couldn't afford it. My father would load us all into the family station wagon, with us children sometimes already dressed in our pajamas. We would get to select our favorite flavors of ice cream and lounge in the back of station wagon, enjoying each cool, sweet drip until it was all gone.

I can remember being at my mother's side as she waited patiently in a hospital emergency room while my father underwent eye surgery after he suffered a fall from a church roof. I can also remember the feeling of despair that I felt when the doctor came out and announced that my father would be blind in one eye. For a man who did construction and electrical wiring for a living I thought this would be a deathblow to his soul. It wasn't. Today, many years later he still does construction from time to time, though it is on a much smaller scale.

Through it all, the one constant has been that the two of them made decisions together and supported each other. Don't get me wrong- they haven't always agreed on everything, but they have manged to achieve that lovely state of compromise when it was needed most.

Today when one of us experiences a problem we can call on them and BOTH of them will come- whether it is a plumbing issue, a needed baby-sitter, or support during a time of crisis. As I sat at their side this weekend, listening to the friendly banter back and forth, it was very clear that the love is still there, 50 years later. My parents stand as a testament to the fact that marriages can last and that "Till death do us part" is still possible. I can only hope that Glenn and I can follow in their example and maintain that same loving, caring attitude and support in our own marriage.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An Olympic Battle---- Won?

No, I'm not talking about one of the track and field events in London or even the water polo matches- which I don't really understand, by the way. I am talking about that intense, never ending battle that I have with my hair.

I haven't had "good" hair for quite a while now, at least 18 years, possibly longer; but the hair that I did have was tolerable. Then last year, as I neared my 48th birthday my hair underwent a drastic change. The texture changed so much that my hairdresser even noticed it, asking, "What have you done to your hair?"

I'm not really sure what caused it. I had been taking prenatal vitamins, not because I needed them... but because a doctor had told me that it would encourage hair growth, something that had slowed down a lot for me. I had been using a flat iron to help style my hair, after years of using a curling iron. I had also been using a different shampoo, one that was advertised as making a visible improvement in hair. The particular brand shall remain nameless just in case it did NOT cause the drastic change in my hair.

Whatever caused it, my hair had begun breaking extensively and was very coarse with no shine. Of course there were also the expected grey hairs that had begun drifting in, particularly at the front and at my natural part. I debated just letting it go, but I am just not ready for that yet. Perhaps later, when I become more comfortable with the idea of aging.

The last twelve months have been filled with experimentation: trying different brands and shades of hair color in an attempt to find one that looked fairly natural, stopping the use of the shampoo that I had been using, trying other shampoos, and eliminating the prenatal vitamins from my daily routine. It seemed like a never ending battle to find something that would help bring my hair back to a "good" state.

Now, I don't want to turn this blog into an advertisement, but I do feel that I can offer a "review" of the products that I have finally decided may just have helped me win this battle of "hair quality".

A month and a half ago I saw an infomercial for Ken Paves "Self Help Hair", a sulfate free shampoo, conditioner, and intensive mask. I debated for a week or so and then decided it was worth a try. I was very skeptical when I placed the order, thinking that I would likely end my membership after the month trial period. As the month went on however, I noticed that my hair felt silkier and was shinier too. When the month did draw to a close I visited my hairdresser to see if she could tell any improvement. She DID!

My favorite piece of the hair care system is the mask. I use it 4 minutes on 4 consecutive days, once a month. Luckily for me, my hair is still fairly short, so I have plenty left over to provide "touch ups" throughout the month too.

This stuff isn't cheap, but it is definitely worth it for me! (That's saying a lot, considering that both of my children think that I am a cheapskate.) I would encourage any woman who is aging and has seen a change in the quality of your hair to consider giving this stuff a try. It just might help you too!

As for the greys...... well..... they are NO MORE, thanks to the Garnier Nutrisse foam hair color, shade 5AM. (I thought it was so ironic that the hair color that most closely matches my natural shade has this number, since I normally wake up on school days at either 5 AM or 5:30 AM.)..... Oh well, I digress....I love the application of the foam hair color. It is so much easier for me to apply than the traditional store bought dyes. The hair color seems to last very well too, probably partially because of the Self Help sulfate free shampoo that I am using.

Now that I have (at least temporarily) won the battle with my hair, I think I may move on to a new battlefield........ Maybe wrinkles?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Final Friday of Summer

The day has finally arrived.... the last Friday of summer break. This is actually the last Friday of the LONGEST summer break I have ever had as a teacher, but that doesn't change the fact that I am not quite ready to return to the classroom.

I think back to the goals that I set for myself at the close of the last school year and I find myself falling short: my house isn't as clean as I intended, I haven't lost those few pounds that I put back on since my last diet (to be honest, I have probably gained another one or two), and I haven't scrapbooked one single layout.

My classroom is clean and tidy, thanks to several short visits over the past couple of weeks; and I have attended the typical 7 days of teacher trainings that were meant to flood my brain with ideas to add sparkle into my lesson plans and routines. Normally at this point I would be a bubbly, energetic instructor just itching to begin filling the brains of my students with literary knowledge. Instead, I find myself feeling a bit empty.

This will be year 28 in the classroom for me. Over that span of time I have taught a little bit of everything and a little bit of every grade level spanning third through eighth. Things have changed a lot in education since I was a beginning teacher. Students have changed a lot. I have changed a lot too. As I prepare for my six classes of students, grades 7 and 8, I find myself being self-analytical.... I am less tolerant of the typical "foolishness" that is prevalent in many of today's middle school students. I am less accepting of a student who CAN do the work, but just chooses NOT TO. On the positive side, I am more flexible about many things. Twenty eight years in the classroom and facing my second round of major school reform have taught me a lot about flexibility and change! Another thing that hasn't changed about me is the reason that I got into this career in the first place: I want to make a difference for children. I want to take that student who doesn't think he or she can be successful and show him or her that EVERYONE can be successful, given time, effort, and attention. I want to take that student who enters my room saying, "I've never read an entire book on my own" and have him or her leave my room with a new-found love for the written word. I want to be a listening ear for that teenage girl who can't seem to talk to anyone at home and just needs to be heard by someone.

Hmmmm.... the more I think about it...... Maybe I AM ready for school to begin again. Maybe I just need to be with my students to really FEEL ready. Maybe the energy that only middle school students exude will help me find my own personal energy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hello..... Is Anyone Out There?

I know you are out there somewhere- the other women who are like me: nearing 50 years of age, getting ready to send a child off to college, and retirement looming just over the horizon- close enough to catch a glimpse of it, but not near enough to make a run for it.

I find myself at a crossroads- maybe not a crossroads, so much as a point on a timeline: I've put in most of my productive years at work, I've raised one child to college age and another is nearing it, I've spent almost 20 years trying to maintain a happy marriage. Now I stand here looking into the future and I see only a fog covering a large open area. I've never really thought about life AFTER 50 or life AFTER retirement or life AFTER the kids leave.

It seems like many of the things that once brought me pleasure just aren't cutting it anymore. For years I have scrapbooked and crafted, cutting and gluing photos and bits of paper, trying to document the daily happenings of my life. It was my therapy, my release, and my own personal artform. I must be truthful and tell you that I have not completed one page in a scrapbook album this summer. Don't get me wrong, I have tried, but all of my efforts have just seemed too BLAH. I didn't feel that inner joy that I used to get when the pictures and the papers came together in just the right way. I miss that feeling of personal satisfaction that I felt when I completed a project.

I find myself searching, digging inside myself to find the REAL ME, the one who will face the coming decades. That is why I am writing this blog. I want to document my search. I am hoping that there are others out there who will step into this journey with me. Feel free to comment. Support me, chastise me, laugh with me, or comfort me. Just be here to help me rediscover ME.