Thursday, December 30, 2010

Did This Cipro Work on Anthrax?

I had great faith in those antibiotics I began taking yesterday. This morning, I followed the Rx's instructions and skipped the caffeine. The day went downhill from there.

I guess I thought I was fine, fine, everything is fine! and decided to drop by my classroom to take care of pressing business. Like re-organizing the classroom library before school starts on Tuesday. Oh, the fun! of returning to the land of second grade. Until the Tylenol wore off, and I found myself laying on the carpet and staring at the ceiling wondering if I could just put all the books in a large basket, and call it a day.

I went home to collapse on the couch and napped while watching daytime t.v. for the first time in years or decades. (I have several observations about that: I recognized characters from General Hospital, and I have not watched it since 1985. Every new show on Oprah's new network is her Favorite! New! Show! Some of Dr. Oz's topics border on creepy. And Nate Berkus seems happily sincere, but unable to carry an entire show.) I fell into a deeper sleep until news was over, and decided I'd better eat or drink something. I drank a large glass of orange juice and belatedly looked to see if it was on the "foods to avoid" with my antibiotics after the fact. Sure enough: calcium enriched o.j. is not on the approved list. Neither is chocolate. I do not want to live in a world without chocolate, so antibiotic: KICK IN. Or else.

Or else I'll be watching a lot of bad daytime TV and I do not (I repeat loudly: DO NOT) intend watching to find out if Snookie is really in that ball over Times Square (like a hamster) on New Year's Eve. Maybe I just hallucinated that odd story in my antibiotic haze. Or maybe Nate Berkus should invite her onto his show to jazz it up a bit.

I also need to get well quickly because I have a date for New Year's Eve. (Settle down, out there: it is at Loyal Sister's house where she is serving king crab legs and our yet unseen "Toy Stories 3" DVD. Living large, but avoiding caffeine and chocolate.)

Anyhoo, four days until seven year-olds return to the classroom. I must be well and able to ingest large amounts of caffeine by then. And get Junie B. Jones, Cam Jansen, and Lilly and her purple plastic purse back on the library shelves.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning

I had a slight headache for the past week. I've been able to keep it under submission with Tylenol, Clariton D and copious amounts of caffeine. During this crazy-busy time of year, it's easy to explain away sickness as too much activity, too much rich food and too little sleep. Or all of the above.

But when I woke up this morning with a pounding head - again - I mentally counted the days until back-to-school: four. For some reason, that commercial featuring a teacher with a sinus headache flashed through my mind. Do you know the one? The teacher has pounding sinuses, is doing effleurage on her forehead, when a small child across the classroom pulls out Sharp Scissors. In slow-motion, she covers the distance to prevent the kiddy equivalent of hari-kari. I think she even leaps over a few desks. And all because of two brand name aspirin. Which were not cutting it for me.

So, this afternoon found me plodding back to the doctor's office that can see me without an appointment. I guess the office staff does not read blogs like this one, because I was allowed to sign in. And I was seen in a relatively short time. It was "only" a sinus infection, so I was only given two prescriptions this time but, alas, no magic shots.

The antibiotic of choice was Ciprofloxacin. You may remember it as Cipro during the anthrax scare. The good news? There is no shortage of it right now. The bad news? The instructions plainly state I should not "ingest large amounts of caffeine." Drat. The drugs or the caffeine?

Is there a door number 3?

Texted Married Daughter on the way home because I still feel the need to let someone know when I'm sick. Even if they live 1,321 miles away. Give or take. And then I took my meds and crawled under the blankets.

The good news? My Christmas trip to New York was cancelled when family came to my home instead. I could be blogging with a sinus headache right now while trapped at LaGuardia Airport.

The better news? I think I'll have this sinus snafu healed by the time I return to the Land of Second Grade. Home of permanent markers, sharp scissors, squeezable glue and potential critters lulled inside by leftover Holiday Party crumbs.

I don't claim the ability to leap over desks. Even on my best days. But I do know there is a party going on in my head while looking forward to going back to my 18 seven-year old best friends and their Yuletide Tales. Can't wait!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Return Trip of Over the River and Through the Woods...

Yesterday, I sent Married Daughter and Loyal Son-in-law off at dawn for their 30-hour drive back to Pennsylvania. They wanted to beat the much trumpeted blizzard heading that way.

I went to church, took a delicious nap, and looked around at all the cleaning that needed to be done.

And I walked out of the house and went to a movie. There are a few pluses to living alone. (And PS: the mess was still there when I returned and the earth did not shift on its axis.)

While I was gone I got a call from a precious teacher friend to go out for hot chocolate. We closed Starbucks down with our then-cold chocolate, and talked in the cold car until we could no longer feel our hands and feet. We're caught up, and a good time was had by all.

I spent the night sleeping and listening for update texts from the cross-country travelers. I'm writing this 29 hours after they left my driveway, and just got the message they are an hour from home with no road problems.

Thoughts? Thank you, Lord and oh! to be that young that you can drive 30 hours without stopping! ( I put in many years of 24-hour road trips to Chicago to see relatives in my 20s. I know that it takes about a year to forget the drive, and sign back up to do it again the next holiday.)

Plans for today? Still in my jammies. Totally completed the crossword puzzle. Preparing to go find the shovel to clean out the living room from the debris of Christmas. And loving the thought of one week off to do whatever I want. Oh, teaching profession, you are so good to me.

And my own Christmas miracle? Surrounded by friends and family in my home, I did not feel sad. Not even one time. The memories of D are becoming the Happy Ones, and I am so very grateful for that.

Looking forward to the New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010 from the O/C/S Family!

If you got a hard copy of my annual Christmas picture/letter through snail mail, move along. Nothing for you here today. I'm posting the pictures/letter here for my Merry Christmas wish to each of you.

I would say the word that best describes this year for each of us is "Milestones". We have all had some significant accomplishments and changes in our lives.
K (Married Daughter) and J celebrated their third wedding anniversary in November. They moved to Pennsylvania in March due to J's promotion. He is leading a team of engineers to design and complete a new factory. They brought a darling townhouse and learned to deal with large amounts of snow. (This picture was taken on our visit to Hersheyland in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the land of chocolate kisses.) Their dog, Tex is two years old.
H (D's oldest daughter) will graduated this May from Brite Divinity School at TCU in Fort Worth, where she received the Episcopal Studies Program Book Award for last year. She in a on-call Chaplain at Baylor All Saints Medical Center, and was approved by her Diocese as a Postulate to Holy Orders (her first step of three on the path to her ordination.) This summer she attended Gatecon in Vancouver and spent time camping in British Columbia. She is dating DB.
C (Young Son) graduated from Texas State University. His take on the year was: "Traveled to the northeast, saw family, visited Chicago, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, New York, Boston and Maine. Worked and saved for a bike tour and rode over 1,000 miles to Flagstaff. Pedicabbed for the Ranger's World Series, UT and Dallas Cowboy football games. Work at Flipnotics (a local Austin coffee house), looking for a professional job. Want to teach abroad in Southeast Asia and South America and WOOF (work on organic farms for a free living work trade in various countries.) Reading writing, hosting couch surfers from all over the world at least once a month." He and J have been dating for two years.
E (D's youngest daughter) and M became engaged in July and will be married next fall. THey live in Seattle and E is completing her education as a veterinary technician at PIMA. M is finishing his Political Science degree at the University of Washington. He will graduate in June, and is applying for government jobs on the east coast. After graduation, they hope to relocate to the Washington D.C. area.

R (that's me!) moved up with her first grade class to second grade, and loves having the same students and parents two years in a row. She traveled to New York in the spring as a chaperone for a choir tour of high school students who were in her kindergarten class many years ago! She visited Ireland with a dear friend last summer, and stayed with K and J at their new home in Pennsylvania. She and K took a trip to Seattle to see E and M. She helped facilitate a Grief Share group at a local church and will begin directing a Children's Church ministry in January. Those activities and a remodel of her home have kept her very busy this year!

We miss D, but we continue to honor his memory by moving on with lives full of love and purpose.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in a dark land, the light will shine on them" Isaiah 9:2

The Merriest of Christmases to you and yours. May the New Year bring untold blessings upon all of you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Takes a Long Time to Grow An Old Friend...

If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I love teaching. But I will have to admit, I also love the two weeks off at Christmas that allow me to spend time with lots and lots of friends I don't get to see as often as I like during teaching season.

Yesterday, Married Daughter and I drove north to meet some of our oldest friends. P (far left) and I (far right) are playing bookends to much of what we have accomplished over the past 25 years. We met as young mothers when we only had one toddler each. Since then, we have amassed 7 (now adult) children (and 3 in-law children) among us. The picture then tips toward her side because she now has 2 grandchildren ages (almost) 4 years old and 6 weeks. (No rush K & C, but we do need to do our share here eventually...)

We met at a Mexican food restaurant for chips, salsa and queso (because that's how we socialize in Texas), and continued the conversations at Starbucks. I am so very grateful for my friend, P. We've walked through a lot of life together, and I've been thankful every step of the way to have her near my side. Having her now-adult children as my friends, too? Icing. Just icing.

(An aside: My daughter asked me why all the children of the clan ended up as good friends. I told her she probably wouldn't want to hear my answer, but she assured me she did. It is because (lean in here, people, because I'm whispering): These children of ours? They have grown up to be an awful lot like us. And somehow? That revelation did not horrify her as it would have during teen aged years. She smiled, took it in calmly, and agreed. Oh, life: you are one perfect full circle at times.)

Today? Another small trip north to a breakfast meeting among high school friends I've know for over 35 years. There is nothing better in the world than someone who carries the stories of your life with them. I am blessed beyond compare looking at these smiling faces around me. I know that I have done nothing to deserve such wonderful companions on this road of life. This circle that has surrounded me is just a grace gift from the hand of God. (We missed you, Pat!)

We hogged a table for far too long, and caught up on life. (And I may have mentioned a time or a million that A (left front)'s son and my daughter are MARRIED. It still gives me such joy to say/type/IM/text and remind people continually of that fact.)

After a great visit, we may or may not have shopped at Cracker Barrel's gift shop (NO CLOTHES PURCHASES, however, so don't you be thinking we are Memaws...) and made plans for a future get together. Thank you friends for finding time among family plans for a visit.

Loyal Sister and I spent the rest of the afternoon perusing antique stores and generally having a wonderful time. I ran into someone who recognized me from this blog, and I got to visit with her and her sweet daughter. What a blessing that the world is so full of every type of friend.

Something I am not friends with on December 25th?
That's just wrong.

But, let's end on a positive note: I hope your holidays are being spent with lots and lots of family and friends. Take the time to appreciate what you have, because this life can be far too short.

Merry Christmas, bloggy friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Evolution of Family Photographs

We had one of our family Christmases yesterday. Young Son is accompanying his girlfriend to Mississippi for the holidays, so we grabbed the only window available when all the kids could be in the same room.

L to R: Girlfriend, Young Son, Happy Mom, Married Daughter and Loyal Son-in-Law (who look amazingly fresh after driving to central Texas from Pennsylvania.)

We ate, we opened presents and we set the A/C to "cold" so we could don Christmas apparel without losing consciousness in the Texas heat. And then? We took family pictures.

When the kids were babies, it was easy to snap random shots at will. Toddler shots were a guessing game of who was responsible for the lyrics for "you better not pout, you better not cry" in the famous Christmas song. I think it was my children. Early elementary pictures showed daughter under the table at birthday party cake shots. I don't think she like the attention focused on her. (This did not present a problem when she cut her wedding cake. Thankfully, that tendency was outgrown.) Many teen aged photographs showed a yearly array of happy hearted shots and/or straight lipped pictures. It was a yearly lottery of successes or failures.

But now? Take heart, parents of young children. My now-adult children will all pose and smile when asked. A miracle 26 years in the making. (Thank you J, C, K and J! I love having these memories captured for future viewing.)
And how could we leave out Loyal Sister and Brother-in-Law? A good time was had by all.
And I leave you with a shot documenting the difference between girls and boys. The ornament to the left was given to me by a female student. It is a delicate blown-glass, glittery angel. The ornament on the right was given to me by a male student. It is an alien elf, impressive for its attention to detail on both sides. (And they fill me with The Happy each time I pass the tree.)

On to more celebrating. Hohoho.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The One That is the 300th Post

I have a special window where I write this blog that you cannot see. Blogger calls it a "Dashboard". It includes oh-so-many useful gadgets, including a counter that numbers my posts. I'd noticed that my 300th piece was coming up, and I wondered where I'd be in my heart and mind when I wrote it. This blog has served as therapy for me through some difficult times. I still marvel that people read it regularly, and am blessed by the friends that I have made through this cyber portal.

Well, blog post 300 finds me creeping quietly around my light-draped home (thanks, KM for your decorating services) because MARRIED DAUGHTER AND LOYAL SON-IN-LAW FINISHED THE DRIVE TO TEXAS FROM PENNSYLVANIA and they are sleeping in MD's childhood bedroom. Tonight Young Son and his girlfriend will join us for an early Christmas dinner, as he leaves for Mississippi with her family tomorrow.

I had to brave the HEB yesterday (our local grocery) for copious amounts of foodstuff. (Is that a word? It seems to fit the list Married Daughter requested of childhood foods such as sausage balls, blintzes, Russian Teacakes and iced brownies that are a staple of our holidays, but probably contain no real nutritional value.) I digress.

While I was there, I stayed jolly despite loud Michael Jackson Christmas music circa 1970 (the high-yet-teetering-on-screeching voice in "Santa Claus is Coming to Town") and traffic jams on every aisle. The store was not crowded: there were just many shoppers in a hurry to rush home with their treasures. (I am full of the song references today.) They paid no attention to their carts blocking the aisles. I thought a lot of D, who had to use the electric cart when we shopped. He maintained that there should be a stripe down the center of each aisle to keep shoppers aware of their baskets. Because he believed that an ordered world was possible.

An engineer in every area of his life, his workshop tools were hung in order by size, his bath towels draped in neat rows, and his shoes perfectly lined up in the closet. I am organized but not very orderly. I must have driven him crazy sometimes/many times with my random tendencies.

He'd lay out everything he needed for his shower before he went in, including 3 Q-tips in a perfect parallel row. Sometimes just to mess with him, I'd add a few more crooked Q-tips while he was in the shower. I'd watch out the corner of my eye from my side of the sink. I wanted to see how he'd react to that little anarchy toward neatness. It would take him a moment to figure it out, and then he'd look at me and we'd both laugh. I miss those moments the most.

Oh, those moments.

One of his biggest pet peeves were waiters who said "no problem" when asked for something. He'd always maintain that he was a customer and not a problem; and what ever happened to "yes, sir" or "you're welcome"?

When we saw erratic drivers on the road, he'd always comment that it "must be a woman driver". When we'd pass the car and glance over, he was right 99.9999% of the time. Drat.

He just wanted order in his crazy world of cancer, I think. I have discovered in working with seven-year olds that I cannot have a perfect world. My existence in the classroom is more about the process than the product, where we work with sharp scissors and rivers of Elmer's glue.

So, on this 300th post I want to share a dream I had about D the other night. This is significant because I sleep very, very soundly and rarely remember dreams. To the point where I've wondered if I even have them at all.

He was sitting on the edge of our bed in the way that my bedroom is newly arranged. On his side of the bed by the wall was this perfectly arranged row of neat drawers and containers. He looked at me with total happiness and said, "I have everything just the way I want it now." And with everything that is in me I believe that he does. No more cancer; no more living in this imperfect world. I woke up feeling very happy and settled in my spirit for him. And maybe even a little envious.

And now, on to Christmas with bits and pieces of my family and friends in combinations that are different than usual. I've decided that life is not about stability and keeping everything the same: it's about having the ability to accept change gracefully.

Christmas this year? Anything but orderly. But always full of joy and love.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oh, the Weather Outside is...

I have a small confession to make, on my way back to a normal life: I just turned on the heat in my home for the first time this winter. And only because company is coming. You see, I just can't see warming a four bedroom house just for little ol' me when I have afghans, electric throws and all manner of flannel jammies for the few hours I am home each evening. In my defense, I live in central Texas where it rarely gets very cold, and my new energy efficient windows (coupled with the new attic insulation) keep the house pretty comfortable. I guess I've become used to dressing in layers, but I had a friend drop by today who noticed the pervasive coolness of the house. So, I changed the HVAC filter (I am handy like that) and cranked the unit up.

And while I'm on a roll, I will admit that I did a cooking marathon that involved turning the oven on as well. Cooking, using the oven, turning the heat on...what can this mean?

Married daughter and her husband are on the way here from Pennsylvania for Christmas!

The original plan had been for me to go see them. I'd bought my tickets and planned to ignore Christmas decorations in my home for one more year. There is some illness on my son-in-law's side of the family that caused them to need to come here for the holidays.

Screeching turn in plans, so I decided to rip off the bandaid and embrace the decorating, the cooking, the traditions. And apparently the heater. And oven.

And guess what? I'm loving it! I have more energy than I've had since July 2009, and I'm really excited about this holiday season in my home. Could it be that this unexpected change in plans was really a Higher Plan all along? One that would force me to open my home to guests and the holiday? I'm thinking yes.

It is time to resume my former place at the front door, throw it open and declare, "Let the celebration begin!" like I have in former years. With a big smile on my face.

Tribute to a Teacher

I generally have my digital camera near by at all times while I'm at school. Teaching is very blog-worthy. Our last day before the Christmas holidays was on Thursday, and through the craziness of end-of-day release (which was ramped up that day by sweet treats, excited good-byes and oh-the-freedom of two weeks off!), I glanced back and saw a dear friend and colleague at the end of her last day of teaching. Ever.

Mrs. B has taught on our campus for 22 years in several different grades. She is one of the most positive and professional teachers I have ever met. Each time I talk with her I carry away encouragement and/or a new teaching strategy. Her love for instruction and patience with children is inspiring, and her mind is continually set on her classroom and how she can improve it. It boggles the mind to think of how many children's lives she has touched, and what a difference she has made in their futures.

She decided to retire this year at mid-term, and while I am wildly excited for her decision, it is a loss for our entire campus to lose one of the finest teachers imaginable. I wish that we could somehow transfer all the educational knowledge she has collected and place it in the brains and hearts of all the new, incoming teachers.

My husband had a plaque in his office that said, "The life so short, the craft so long to learn." I know that Mrs. B mastered the craft of teaching, and we were all changed as a result of her dedication and everyday excellence.

Thanks for your love for our children, Mrs. B. Godspeed in your next new adventure.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One of the Many Reasons I Love Teaching Children

Putting all that knowledge together can often make for an entertaining Christmas card for Mom and Dad...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Lemonaid

Three months ago I wrote a post about a flood in my neighborhood found here. A block full of people lost virtually everything in their homes, and the repairs brought the houses down to bare studs. The bad news was, since it was in a 500-year flood plain, none of the homes had flood insurance. The worse news came when the national government did not declare it a disaster area for unknown reasons. Those poor people still have dumpsters in their yards and PODS on their driveways containing the precious few possessions that were salvageable.

Driving home yesterday, I spied some new Christmas decorations covering the POD, dumpster and RV of some homeowners working to get back into their homes. I'll have to give it to these people for their holiday spirit, and for making the most of a difficult situation. May they find themselves back in their homes soon, and may they have a Merry (little) Christmas.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thanks to a Christmas Angel, The Tree is Up

Guest blogger: The Grinch

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer.
Cheer to all Whos far and near.
Christmas Day is in our grasp
so long as we have hands to clasp.
Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we.
Welcome, Christmas, while we stand
Heart to heart,... and hand in hand.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Checking that Tree, Fluffing it Twice...

So, to continue an incredibly long and uninteresting story about my inability to put together my own Christmas tree this year...

Santa's Little Helper is coming tomorrow night to assemble my tree for me. And maybe spread some more Christmas magic around the house. I will walk into my home after dinner out with a friend and VIOLA! instant Christmas. Right?

Well, first I had to haul all my holiday tubs into the den for SLH to use tomorrow. And, then I may have dug through a cheery red tub or seven. Big Mistake. I ended up blubbering on the phone with Married Daughter, because I was considering taking all the tubs straight to Goodwill and pushing them to the curb. Married Daughter asked me to wait until she could look through the items I didn't want anymore. (All. Of. It.) She said she might take some back to Pennsylvania with her after Christmas. (Secretly? I think she knows I may regret the Christmas Purge of 2010 and is going to hide the red and green tubs in the attic until I come to my senses.) (Or maybe she really does want that Precious Moments nativity set circa 1980.)

Continuing on, I kept eyeing and circling the Christmas tree box. Why, oh WHY, does that box upset me so much this holiday season?

And then I remembered.

I was always the appointed tree-put-er-upper in our house. But, during D's last Christmas I developed walking pneumonia and he volunteered to put the tree up. When I awoke from a three-hour nap, he had just finished fluffing every single branch. "I don't think these branches have been fluffed in years!" he commented. (Wrong. They had NEVER been fluffed.That was up to me and I am not a fluffer.) D, ever the engineer, also noted that the different lettered branches were not sorted out together in the box. In Mars, they apparently sort fake Christmas tree branches for fun. Who knew?

I also remembered that year was also the only time D also took the tree down. Loyal Sister and I had flown up to see Married Daughter, and we were taking a side trip to Branson, so D did tree take-down duty for me, too. Call me crazy, but something about knowing D was the last one to have been inside that box makes it very difficult for me to open it.

I finally plucked up the chutzpah tonight to open the box and peek inside. And? I immediately burst into laughter. You see, D had taken zip lines and bound all the same sized branches together for easy assembly. And then laid them in neat order inside the box.

Thinking about me until the end.

When I put the tree away this year, maybe I will sort and organize the branches so they'll be ready for Christmas next year.

You know: the year that will be easier than this year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

O Christmas Tree...Assemble Yourself

The plan for last Christmas, my first one without D, was to (A) leave town and (B) not decorate. At all.

The plan for this Christmas was amazingly the same. In fact, identically the same.

Until circumstances stepped in and I will no longer be visiting Married Daughter and Young Son-In-Law in Pennsylvania after all. They will be coming here!

Except that means putting up my tree. Yea for everything except for the tree. Drat on the tree.

I finally hauled the artificial tree's box home into the living room. It sat there for a week, and I gave it a swift kick every time I passed it. But, amazingly, it did not set itself up. I've tried, goodness knows: I'VE TRIED to put that tree up, but it is a no go. How can I be emotionally attached to a box full of artificial branches?

I finally hired a 20 something sweet friend to put up and decorate the tree. The plan is she will come while I'm away, set up the tree, and I will enter a house that is tree-filled. Done. But not by me.

Baby steps back to that place called "Normal" during the holidays.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Long Winter's Nap

Among my friends, I am known as someone who is "(very) early to bed and (very) early to rise". I wake up without the alarm at 5 am each day, and go to bed hours before my peers, apparently. The other night I was talking to a friend at 9:30 pm. Her husband happened by and asked who she was talking to. When he learned it was me, he questioned, "WHAT is SHE doing up SO late?"

Anywhooo, I planned to take a personal day today because I have so many things I needed to take care of on weekdays between the hours of 8am-5pm. Which, coincidentally, are the same hours that I teach. So, I intended to make my customary predawn leap out of bed and totally eliminate the long to-do list on the kitchen counter. Maybe even have time left for a Starbucks run.

Good plan, except I ended up sleeping until noon today. NOON. May I type it again? NOON!!! Hear that loud thumping noise? I am fairly sure that my friends and adult children are falling over backwards throughout the nation.

I have not slept that late since the mid-1970s when I returned from a six-week European study abroad trip. When I am pretty sure I did not sleep a total of twelve hours. Total. You know: places to go, things to do, sixteen year-old European boys to meet. But WHY in the world would I sleep so long on my To-Do Day Off?

I can think of two possible reasons. One involves the five words that any teacher hates to hear on the Nightly News: "a new strain of flu". Symptoms? Sleepy, achy, dry coughing, runny nose and did I mention sleepy? Could that be me?

Or could it be The Other Reason, that involves oh-the-festive weekend I had? Friday night I helped host a table at my church's annual Christmas Women's Dinner. My co-host (and former fellow teacher) spent the night at my house because we also had a table at the annual Christmas Women's Brunch the next morning. And we may or may not have stayed up most of the night talking and catching up. The afternoon was spent getting the Christmas letter/cards out. The evening was spent with my date, Loyal Sister, at my grief class leadership dinner. (Oh, I live the fast life.) We later went to the Christmas Stroll on the Square in the quaint little town where the dinner was held, and arrived home pretty late. Sunday? Church, Sunday School, house cleaning and Family Group Christmas Dinner. Yes, rereading that list makes me understand why I may have been a wee bit tired today. Lots of fun things to do+ lots of energy expended + little sleep. Equation for The Tired today.

But guess what? With only half the time I expected to have, I totally finished the To-Do list. Woo Hoo!

I'm ending with pictures from my church's annual Women's Dinner/Brunch. We host a table for seven other women, decorating with our best Christmas finery. There are carols, fancy food, a great speaker, door prizes and fun. The event has grown so large, we have to hold it twice in one weekend to accommodate all the ladies who want to attend. Hope you enjoy the table settings. (Not sure why they lined up center/left, but you can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Friend is a Stranger You Haven't Met

This Christmas season is harder than I ever imagined anything could be. The Novocaine of Early Grief has worn off, and things Merry and Jolly are blunt force objects. Every time I feel a subject for a post rising up in my mind, it sounds like a long and annoying whine. I have considered suspending this blog, even though the processing it has granted me has been extremely therapeutic. I just don't want to be an assault on the hearts and minds of others.

As I've been mulling that thought over for the past week, I've also prepared to be a hostess at a women's Christmas brunch this weekend at my church. (Overextended much?) The guest speaker was a sculptor who shared with unflinching and unapologetic honesty about her struggle with walking out the Christian life. When she finished her talk I made a mental note that keeping it real is not a bad thing after all. As that thought was beginning to head downward from my head to my heart, a lady tapped me on the shoulder. "You're R! I wanted to come meet you. I read your blog and I can't tell you how much it has helped me. You write things that I wish I could write. It is like you say it for me."

I was momentarily speechless. Hard for you to believe if you are a real life, not virtual, friend 'o mine. But I recovered enough to hug her and ask her how she found my blog. She mentioned a mutual friend who blogs here. This blogger is the very friend who inspired me to start posting; she's also the parent of a former student. (One of the best fishing holes for great and lifelong friends.)

So, shout out to Susan. Thanks for taking the time for a few kind and casual words to a stranger. You've encouraged me to continue on. And reminded me that it is OK to be real, even if the subject is not always jolly.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Not So Black Friday

Sorry about the last blog, where I should have invited you to have a little cheese with that whine. (Or as my second graders would say, "Why don't you call the waaaaaaambulance?") The codeine in my cough medicine made the filter on my publish-button pushing finger a little too hasty.

So, here is a view from my happy chair this morning. A cold front blew through central Texas during the Thanksgiving festivities yesterday, and the 85 degree weather plummeted to near freezing. (It is no surprise we deal with upper respiratory conditions in my neck of the woods, no?) I cancelled my early morning shopping trip with my favorite shopping buddies to continue to let the antibiotics do their magic. I'll catch up with them for a late lunch at their Memaw and Pawpaw's house, amidst a multitude of their (I am told) crazy relatives.

A day of rest. I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks for the Z Pack and Codeine Infused Chaser

Thanksgiving Holiday. Five days planned to the hilt to include family, food and fun. And shopping. Except I find myself in the waiting room of my arch-nemesis family doctor. More on that little description later.

For the past few days I'd been feeling a little achy; a little warm. Oh, the many things we can write those symptoms off to: Lots of activity in the second grade classroom. Abnormally hot central Texas weather. A long to-do list. But last night, as I lay on the couch with the air conditioning on, watching a much too long version of the Dancing With the Stars finale (Come on people! The show was TWO hours for a 10 second announcement…), I realized this malaise might be a little more than tiredness.

Upon waking today, I was achy from my forehead to the bottom of my feet. Drat. This I have learned in the twenty-two years that I have spent in the incubator known as a classroom: any germ that can break my built-up immunity is particularly fierce.

So, here I wait, writing this on Word, because the doctor's office will not share their wireless code. Why am I so snarky about this place? (Besides the fact that I feel like a puddle of aches and fever…) Well, here is a little of my history with this office:

  • They buy all manner of expensive machines, and constantly find/manufacture reasons to use them. To pay for them, I assume. I know if I say my chest hurts or feels full, they will want to perform a lung x-ray on their in-house machine. That's a little extreme, in my mind. This is not the ER. I have also learned I can say "no" to this procedure.
  • When my then high-school aged daughter came in for a simple college physical, they kept her here for three hours running every test known to man. Or woman, as it were. Some of which should not have been done on an 18 year-old female with no prior experience to such procedures. I have since taught her the power of "no" in a doctor's office.
  • When my husband had the CT scan that revealed his brain tumor, we were sent through this office for the results. The way the doctor revealed the news was to face the wall and say, "You have a brain tumor. It is very bad. My nurse will set you up with a brain surgeon." He left immediately, and said nurse burst into tears. I'm not sure if it was because she was sorry for us or embarrassed to be working with a man with such poor "bedside" manners. Probably both.

Oh, I could continue because I have a 15-year war chest of these stories. I see in the local paper that this office has a continual turnover in doctors and nurses. I also see there are many, many investigations by the state boards brought on by patient complaints. I was not surprised at all when I called for an appointment to hear that the office now also has a Weight Loss Clinic included in its name.

Why, you ask, do I continue to come here? Because they can always fit me in. I figure patient complaints are between the state, the doctor and God. As a teacher who is around small children, speed in antibiotics is of the essence. I also only come in about once a year when new strains of germs pass my Super Teacher Firewall of Immunity. And I never think about seeking out a new doctor on my once-a-year visits until I am Really Sick.

So, here I sit. Awaiting the results of a swab stuck up my nostrils into my brain. And for extra fun the nurse twisted it. Kind of a lower lobotomy. I'll do anything if it produces the Rx for antibiotics that will kick these aches out of my body.

The results? Not flu, but a bad upper respiratory infection. Given two shots, two prescriptions and an inhaler, with a reminder to schedule a come-back visit in a week for another check. I decline on the double dip of insurance funded visits. I'll be back in the land of the classroom by that time. (I will have to give them props for no chest x-ray today. Maybe they sold the machine.)

Monday? I'm totally shopping for a new doctor's office. That sees patients same-day. Fingers crossed.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

In my second grade classroom, the students love when I read "circle" books. You know: books that end like they begin, with everything tied into a nice neat bow. Like the book that begins when you give a mouse a cookie. At the end? He is going to get another cookie. A full circle in life.

This weekend included a full circle experience for me. Exactly a year ago, I attended a seminar put on by my grief class on surviving the holidays after the loss of a loved one. I just reread the blog I posted about it (found here). Because, guess what I did this weekend? I attended the same seminar on surviving the holidays. Except this year I was a facilitator.

What is the difference between being an attendee and a facilitator? Well, this year I listened instead of talked. I handed out the Kleenex instead of using it. I patted and hugged. And I gave out the most precious commodity of all: hope.

Hope that the pain does lessen; that the cloud of grief does dissipate. Hope that life as you know it is gone forever, but that the new life replacing it can slowly begin to contain some joy. Hope that the brittle-as-glass heart will keep beating, the knot in the stomach will loosen, and the eyes will not always leak... as much.

Last year I was 4 months from loosing D; this year I am 16 months. Far enough down the road to still have a tender scar, but wanting to help others instead of being the one in need of intensive help. My heart ached for these people, but I knew this for sure: God was walking near enough to hear their words in His ear, and that He would bring about their healing in His time.

"Return to the stronghold, you prisoners who have the hope, even today I declare that I will restore double unto you." Zechariah 9:12

I do have the hope. But have I seen double restored to my life yet? Not exactly. But I have enough to share with others in need.

And for now? That is enough.

But I am holding out for the full circle in life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not the Village People Version

I may have mentioned a time or a million that I teach the most wonderful second graders on the planet. (Top that). I may have also reminded you ad naseum that I followed my first grade class up to second grade this year. The same students in bigger bodies and smarter brains.

Anywho, last year my class wrote and performed an assembly for our school's BookSpring kick-off. (This is an organization that puts books into the hands of children that would not normally have them in their homes.) Our school has won the city competition for five years in a row as the school that raises the most money for this organization through a Read-a-thon.

The performance of my classroom's tour de force can be watched on this link. (Scroll down and the video is on the right side of the page.) It will fill you with The Happy, and remind those of us who know these children personally how much they have grown in a year!

Enjoy the film. Then go R-E-A-D. And see if you can get that tune out of your head in the next week or so.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Trip to Wally World

When I began teaching five years ago at my present elementary school, there was a huge flap about growth in the neighborhood. Seems developers wanted to turn a former mall into an Upscale W*lm*rt. Can we just pause here and appreciate that little oxymoron? Upscale. W*lm*rt.

The parents at my school are highly educated and savvy. They took to the streets to protest this endeavor in many forms and fashions. This loyal bunch did not want the mom-and-pop stores in the neighborhood to be challenged, and it seemed that the Big Guys blinked. The building was delayed, and the size of the W*lm*rt was greatly reduced.

This week I saw in the paper that the neighborhood W*lm*rt was open for business. I didn't really intend to shop there. Loyalty, and all. But I discovered I needed brown paper lunch bags for a classroom turkey art project, and dropped in after school today.

And there it was: newly opened in the neighborhood that was not exactly welcoming it with open arms.

May I stop to say a few things here? This store is located in the greater Austin area, which has a population of 1,700,000 people if you include the surrounding cities. But look how empty the parking lot was at 5:00 pm today:
I remember one of the main concerns of the Neighborhood Association was that this business would bring too much traffic into the area. I'm thinking that may not be a problem if local people keep voting with their presence...
...or not. This is a picture of the produce department. You may notice one thing missing in this well stocked section. Customers. The store was a veritable wasteland of people.

I found my brown paper bags and walked around for a bit. The departments are very tiny and only offer a fraction of what you would expect to be sold. In the women's department, unless you were there for fleece and jogging suits, you would find little to buy. In fact, I thought of a few more things I needed while there. Not one of them was stocked at this miniature Big Box store.

The lady at the checkout chirped out, "Did you find everything you needed?" and was surprised to hear me say no, that in fact I'd found very little that I needed. "Oh. I can call another W*lm*rt and you can swing by there for your other needs." (Yes. Just what I want to do after 10 hours in second grade: "swing by" another large store.)

Will I return to this store? Well, since they only stocked the 200-bag size of brown lunchbags, I'm probably good on turkey-making art supplies until 2021.

Neighborhood Davids: I think you won this round. Goliath may be coming down.

Or at least heavily discounting large quantities of unpurchased produce.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I have decided that any extra money I have will be spent on travel and musical entertainment. Those are two interests I love the most.

Today, I went to see Broadway Across America's "Shrek: The Musical" with sweet friend, S. We clapped, we laughed, we sang along. And a good time was had by all.

We decided to memorialize the afternoon with a snapshot. Taken by a stranger. Who kept saying, "It's so good! It's so good!"

Ahem. I think she must have been talking about the musical.

Next up? "Radio City Christmas Spectacular: The Rockettes".

Dates me? Yes. Do I care? Can't wait!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Screen Play

So, the craziness that is the first grading period in second grade is officially over. I've decided to move on to my Next Big Goal for my classroom: updated technology. (Those words make you want to take a nap, no?)

I've had a document camera and projector for about 9 months, that have sat lonely and dejected in their boxes. (These pieces of equipment attach to my laptop so we can use all manner of online educational resources. And watch movies about Lilly and her Purple Plastic Purse and Giving a Mouse a Cookie.) calls to the district technology people are mostly a lesson in frustration. Their first words, however jokingly, are always, "GET RID OF YOUR MACS". Dear District People: We are a Mac campus. Get over it.

I have not been able to lure anyone into my classroom from their downtown portals, but two days ago a fellow teacher came in after school and volunteered to do the job. AFTER SCHOOL. She is very tech savvy and, more importantly, is kind and gentle with those of us who are not. She makes it all sound very simple, and gives me confidence that I will not destroy the world with techno-fiddling on my computer. (I'm convinced the damage I would do would be a felony and not a misdemeanor. This may help you understand my reluctance to attach cords and electrical toggles.) She also says very helpful things as she works like "Don't use this button" (NO! I will NEVER use that button!) and "Look how this fits in right here! It needs to stay here." (YES! FOREVER! I will NEVER move it.)

She completed the job in minutes, and heaven shone on my little corner of technology. I'm pretty sure Disney cartoon animals scampered behind her as she left my room, all the while singing amidst twinkling lights. And after she left? I turned the machines off, tried to turn them back on again all by my bigself and... THEY WORKED!!! Oh, the technology that can now take place in my second grade room.

But wait; there's more: I immediately emailed my principal and asked for a screen to be installed in my room. The next day at 9:30 am, district men with ladders and drills were in my classroom with a screen.

I am going to overlook the fact that they arrived in the middle of my reading period. And that drills can be quite noisy. And drilling into concrete walls is very messy. Add that to the fact that my 18 seven year old best friends acted like they'd never seen a ladder or drill in their lives, and you'll probably understand very little actual reading went on. (It's a student holiday on Monday. Perhaps they'll catch up then.) BUT: We were getting a screen!

I explained what I needed to the district men: a screen that would work and roll all the way back up each time. (Oh, you laugh. I take nothing for granted in my classroom any longer.) This was necessary because if it didn't, it would hide parts of the alphabet and the Word Wall Words. And my students would exit to third grade not knowing how to write V, W, X, Y and Z or spell who, what, when, where, why and were. Essential Information.

No problem, these sweet workers promised! After an hour, they were done. (Yes: One. hour.)

I took the hopped-up-on-drill-noise-and-ladder class to lunch and came back to try out my new technology and screen. I pulled down the screen and...(You've probably already guessed this is not going to turn out well. May I tell the story anyway?) pulled out to reveal red capital letters that said "STOP!" and the screen was sprung for all time. On closer inspection, I realized it was probably original to the building in 1950, and the teacher's name written on it has been retired lo those many years.

Drat. I called the office to see if our Secretary in Chief could stop those men and send them back. They did return at 3:00 pm to tell me they weren't sure about a new screen. Maybe there was one someplace in the district warehouse. Right next to the box from "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

All I want to do is teach my kids. Teach.My.Kids. I have shown great restraint in not already sharing about the carpet assigned to my room. I have wrestled with it since the beginning of August. It is much too large, so I have to fold it to make it fit. The students and I have tripped all over its fold and wrinkles for 3 months. I was repeatedly told I should not fold it, but can not cut it. After the third child tripped over it last week and slammed into a desk, I enlisted another teacher to help me drag it out to the ramp. Where it remains. May it rest in peace. And carpet time is now hard floor time.

You probably came here for a witty little post and a small chuckle. Instead, you ran full force into My Crazy.

A screen and a carpet. That is what I need. And I'm going to trust the process and believe I'm getting them. Soon, even.

But tech support: we are still a Mac campus.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Happy Post

Many thanks to bloggy friends who sought me out this week after my last pitiful post. Pain endures through the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.

And what a morning this is: Happy THIRD Anniversary to Married Daughter and my precious Son-in-law.

You married and moved to Missouri, and after two years relocated to Pennsylvania. You've had two homes and two dogs; two church homes and untold new friends. I'm proud of your ability to embrace opportunities, and always be on the lookout for the next new adventure in you life.
So many changes in the past three years, but believing that all things work together for good if we love Him, and are called according to His purposes.
May you be blessed today, and in all your tomorrows.

Happy Anniversary! May you always be madly in love.

Love, Mom (YBBM)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Wasteland

Yesterday, I decided to finish sorting out D's office because I apparently believed I was fine, fine, everything is fine. And why should these things bother me anymore? I knew it had been more than a year since losing him. That was my lame-o train of thought.

Denial: it's not just a river in Egypt.

When I realized my emotional energy was flooding out of my body after only 20 minutes of box rummaging, I did the math. Total? 15 months. Drat. I thought at least 15 years had passed since July 2009. It feels like that, anyway.

The question was not "Did I take a nap from emotional exhaustion?" on Saturday. It was "How many naps did I take?"

I decided after the second nap, I should just get out a little bit so Saturday wasn't a total waste. I went to see the movie, "Waiting for Superman", a documentary on the failing schools of America. As a teacher, I knew this was a risky choice. These filmmakers can tend to paint things with a pretty broad brush. But watching real children who lost charter school lotteries that doomed them to their failing neighborhood schools? Heartbreaking. I left in tears and decided I'd swing by a nearby Barnes and Noble that D and I used to enjoy visiting.

I was on a roll for bad emotional choices. Why not one more? A Saturday late night visit without D did not evoke the warm and fuzzy. Went home, gave up on the day, and hoped a good night's sleep would refresh me for a better Sunday.

That plan worked well through a good cup of coffee over the Sunday paper. It fell apart getting ready for church. I discovered that my new contact lens solution must be used in its tubular container and not my old-school flat container. Apparently the solution had not neutralized and: OUCH! I ripped out my contact and tried to make it to church. About halfway through the music service, I knew I needed to get home and flush out my eye with water. Or rip it out. Which ever relieved the pain first.

Many eye washes later, and I decided a nap must be coming on. Again. I consoled myself that the day would not be a total loss: trick-or-treaters would be coming by later.

I had my candy out and not one but FOUR jack-o-lanterns lit in the front yard. And I waited for the doorbell to ring. But it didn't. I finally opened the door to peer out into the night and saw five small costumed bodies heading down my sidewalk toward the street. Seems my doorbell wasn't working. When they returned to my front door, I piled the candy into their bags. "I LOVE CANDY!" one little fairy enthused. I told her she was out on the right night.

I put a note on my front door that said "Please KNOCK", and waited for more visitors. Again, I finally opened the door and peered outside. To see several disappointed small figures leaving my yard. Oops. Forgot three year olds can't read, and the parents wait out at the street. I just dumped the rest of my candy into their waiting bags and called it a night.

I did find one more new scrap of paper that D had left behind. I'll be carrying it with me tomorrow to remind me things will continue to get better. He'd written down II Chronicles 20:17:

"You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you."

Amen and Amen. Looking forward to a better Monday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Catching Up...

Long time, no blog. The world of teaching aligned into a vortex of paperwork known as parent conferences, report cards, TPRI/DRA testing, and who-knows-what-else. In 22 years of teaching, I never remember so much being required at one time. I could have easily gotten it done if it hadn't been for those 19 children in my classroom. You know: the ones I'm supposed to be teaching as the paper piles loom large.

You will be happy to know that the "Bossy Club" (highlighted in my last post) has seen the error of its ways. The students replaced the fledgling playground organization with the politically correct "Good Deeds Club". I don't know if conviction hit seven year old hearts, or parents read this blog, but good things are happening at recess these days. Perhaps I could slip them some of my paperwork to complete as their first good deed.

Young Son, who now pedicabs with his Mass Communications degree, has been offered weekend stints at Ranger Stadium in Arlington. You know: for the Texas Rangers who are IN THE WORLD SERIES. He makes a staggering amount of cash for a weekend of work. Hoping the lion's share of it will go toward student loans which are due about... now.

I had a migraine yesterday that sent me home from school an hour early. Wearing sunglasses in the classroom to ward off the painful light did not make for good communication with seven year olds. I had a moment of sadness on the way home, remembering that my migraine and I were going home alone to an empty house. Then I remembered: while there is no D at home, there was sweet friend B at school who stepped up to release me at a moment's notice. I'm covered in this life by friends. One, who found out I'd had to go home sick, wanted to know if the migraine meant I got to miss the faculty meeting. Doesn't take much to make teachers happy.

I have finished the Archaeological Dig of my home. It only took 15 months to go through every last drawer, closet, box, attic and storage shed. And last weekend? The garage sale to end all garage sales. I have empty closets, garages and cabinets to show for all my hard work. In the beginning, any scrap of paper with a scribble of D's was too hard to throw away. Now? Freedom from the stuff of life is mine. If I decide to sell the house and downsize, I'll be taking much less with me on this road of life. My Grief Class leader warned me that I might feel very sad after the sale. And? Maybe a touch of bittersweet, but mostly I feel unencumbered with the flotsam and jetsam of life.

Last, but not least, a few weeks ago my church asked me to do a short video. Our pastor has encouraged our congregation to come up with a one minute version of how God is at work in our lives. The series is called "The Power of One". You can see my film here on the 10-10-10 date. It's been 15 months since the world sharply tilted for me. But this I know for sure: there are more good things ahead.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Because I'm the Boss, Applesauce

And so, after 9 weeks of testing, paperwork, conferences and report card grades...the teacher in me retreated and took a personal day. Or, as we like to call it in The Profession, a "mental health day." Because what is not reviving about a perfect autumn day spent with Loyal Sister in a town that decorates its storefronts like this?
Or has restaurants that serve food like this?

Ahhh. A perfect day was had by all. I returned to school today revived, refreshed and ready to launch the second nine weeks of school.

And ran smack into a fellow teacher who had a story to report about my class while I was away.

Seems three of my seven year old best friends decided to form a club during my absence. "And what exactly will this club be for?" my teacher friend asked them. One little girl just stared with her big, brown eyes, not sure if the news would be well received by an adult. Her best friend just blurted it out: "We have a Bossy Club!" she all but shouted. (Small auxiliary male friend nodded furiously beside her.)

My friend was intrigued and probed the issue. "What exactly do you do in a Bossy Club?" she asked.

"WE BOSS PEOPLE AROUND, that's what! People are always bossing us and now it is our turn to be the bosses."

You miss one day and there is mutiny on the playground.

But there couldn't be three cuter bosses. Maybe I should just let them sub next time I'm needing a little break.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Locked Down

Yesterday as we were preparing to leave school for the day, an announcement went out over the intercom: "THIS IS A LOCK DOWN."

We've done the drill before. We know to close the blinds, go to the assigned corner, turn out the lights and stay quiet. Mrs. O puts a green card in the window to show that everyone is safe and accounted for in the classroom. And then we wait for the "all clear" signal. Which usually comes very quickly. But not yesterday.

My first clue that something was a wee bit amiss was the glimpse I caught of police walking down the second grade ramp. I quickly suggested we sing some happy songs, and hoped everyone would look at me instead of the parade of uniforms outside. I got a book to read aloud about the time the question was asked, "Mrs. O. Is this a REAL lock down?" Hedging the question, I continued to assure my seven year old friends that we were fine, fine, just fine. I could tell there were some skeptics in the crowd, and one of the children suggested we sing Christmas songs. (Oh, Rudolph: thank you for your calming way on children.) The crowd was getting restless, and one boy suggested we "sing softly to calm us all down". And when a few gave into tears after the wait got a little too long? One of my students crawled across the floor for a box of Kleenex to share with those in need. (Parents: You are raising your children right. They are compassionate and thoughtful in time of need.)

After about 30 minutes, the Lock Down was cancelled. We went outside to see parents anxious to find their own children, and helicopters buzzing overhead. We learned later there had been an armed robbery in the neighborhood, but that all three "bad men" had been arrested. Sigh of relief.

The last time I faced an unknown situation in my classroom was the "real" September 11 in 2001. I was teaching third grade at another school, and we were only hearing snippets of what was going on in the world around us. That day, at least half the parents in my classroom came to the school at various times just to give their child a hug. I think the parents needed those hugs more than the children. I let the adults come and go as needed, thankful that our little central Texas town seemed to be safe from any impending danger.

When my students returned this morning, the "real" Lock Down was all they could talk about. So, I did what any good teacher does: I seized the moment and had everyone write about it in their journals. There was a solid 20 minutes of total silence as my little scribes scribbled furiously. My favorite line from this missive: "Mrs. O told us, 'Would I be reading you this book all happy and calm if this was a real Lock Down?' Well, she was WRONG!!!!" (And the line was underlined at least seven times for emphasis. As if she really enjoyed writing that. A lot.)

So, I end this post thankful for my students who kept a level head, even when the teacher was clearly not fooling anyone. And praying we'll never have to really use Lock Down for a "real" reason.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Two Roads Diverged in the Woods and ...

I've had several bloggy friends ask me if Young Son ever made it to California on his bicycle. He'd bought a return bus ticket for himself and his bike. Just in case he had to get back to Austin quickly. He made it as far as Flagstaff, Arizona (1,100 miles) by pedal before hoping aboard the return transportation.

I'd love to think he cut the trip short because of my motherly concern involving a...ahem...desert on the way, and he was being cautious. Dream on. He was supposed to accompany his girlfriend from Austin to the Albuquerque Hot Air Ballon Festival, and the date was approaching. Apparently? Love wins out.

This weekend? Peddicabbing at the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival.

I bet you are thinking, "What a carefree life!" Had the same thought when I got a text: "Are you still serious about paying for my GRE and entrance fees for grad school?" Wow! You bet I'm still serious and bursting with pride at all this diligence and responsibility. And I texted him back that little thought o' mine.

His return? "If I get in grad school now my student loans are deferred." Deep breath. Still proud.

But I'm thinking he should take the LSAT for lawyers in training. He has always had the angle, the loophole, the paradigm shift. And the love for adventure.

The End? Not by a long shot. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dick, Jane and Sally Travel to Transylvania

Hello, Fall: you and your cool weather are so welcome in central Texas.

The calendar pages are continuing to tear off and we are nearing one of the favorite holidays of my seven-year-old best friends: Halloween!

When Young Son was that age, we were having some Halloween problems at my house. We had kind of taken a Halloween Moratorium for a few years because of some issues of the early '90s. Or of my fundamentalist first husband. The lines blur.

Anywho: we hadn't celebrated this end-of-October holiday for a few years, and we found ourselves standing in a store surrounded by costumes. Young Son was fixated on a huge plastic club. He turned to me and said, in his best lawyer-in-training voice, "All I want to do is dress up like Fred Flintstone for Halloween, carry a big club and get lots of candy. What's not Jesus-y about that?" Well, nothing I guess, since our Christmas card that year was a joy filled photo of Fred and his loyal sidekick, Wilma (aka now-Married Daughter) with big sacks of Halloween candy. And a good time was had by all.

The pendulum, for me, has swung back to the innocence of trick-or-treating. through the eyes of second graders. Until I walked through the children's book section at Barnes and Noble recently. Here's what I saw:

I have to admit that I laughed. Loudly. The characters of books that taught me how to read in the 1960s have apparently evolved. I flipped through the book and continued to chuckle because the book is just like the one of old, except for that pesky vampire.

Oh, look, look! What does Sally see? (A vampire under the bed, but no one believes her as it turns into a bat that flies away.) Oh, look, look! Run, Jane, Run. (From the vampire in the fort who is only seen by the children.) On some levels this book is VERY funny, but I'm not sure it should be in the children's section. I kept thinking about a nearsighted Grandmother buying it as a gift for her grandchildren, and missing the newest character and plot lines. Kind of like those monkeys chasing Dorothy, this could definitely make an impression on little minds in the formative years.

I've chilled out a bit about Halloween over the years, apparently. Enough so that Wilma grew up to be now-Married Daughter who dresses her poor dog like this for Halloween:

The crown of shame. (Run, Tex, Run! Your Nonnie would never make you wear that. Or read a book featuring Vampires lurking under your bed.)

The only bad thing about Halloween this year? It falls on a Sunday. Guess who gets to deal with the sugar high in a second grade classroom on Monday morning? Maybe I'll read that new book to them...

Kidding. I'll totally just give them more sugar to balance them out. Or beg for miniature Reese's and Almond Joys I know will be hidden in backpacks.

Who would deny that to a teacher carrying a big plastic club?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No. Nope. No way. No How.

One of the topics we discuss in grief class is how difficult it can be to fit into a couple's world after losing a spouse. So, I was blindsided last week when I was told to bring a date to the grief class' leadership Christmas party in a few months. You see, the rest of the leadership has moved on and remarried or begun dating. I'm the odd single. Even there.

I cannot even express to you how awful the thought of dating is right now. And yet, there seem to be stirrings around me that some people think "it's time" for me to "get on with my life." I think this is what it must feel like when someone loses a baby and well-meaning friends say, "You're young: you can always have another one." Unintentionally, yet heartbreakingly, hurtful. There is no "replacement" in children or husbands.

I have realized recently that I am surrounding myself at church with people who are at least 20 (and sometimes 30) years older than I am. I think it is an unconscious defense mechanism to hide away from anyone even remotely available. Yet I've been told I should look into online Christian dating services (NEVER!) and reminded of "good" single men in my congregation. (NEVER, NEVER!) I realize these people are good-willed and kind people who want to see me happy. But I also know that I've got to find "happy" on my own first.

I told my grief class I would not be bringing a date to the Christmas party. (But I may ask Loyal Sister because she is a lot of fun and I don't see her as often as I would like lately.) I also told them flat out I would not be seeing anyone unless God sent them to my front door. And only then if they stated God had sent them to my front door. The leadership told me I should be careful what I ask for. Because it could happen.

I feel safe in my declaration.

Because I'm totally not answering the front door right now.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Time Has Come to Talk of Many Things...

Long time, no blog.

There are multiple very simple explanations for that. One stream of consciousness would include new school year and grade level, standardized testing that was completed and entered online and followed by looming report card grades slash Fall Parent Conferences. And somewhere in there I am also teaching my second grade class.

But on the real life side? I've been visiting old friends on the weekends, which is when I usually find the time to blog. I'm constantly thankful for the long term friendships I've shared with so many. Certainly those relationships are among the greatest blessings of my life.

Last weekend my precious friend of 25 years, P, and I flew to Oklahoma City to recognize her Special Decade Birthday. (Don't do the math and we'll all remain friends.) We had our babies at the same time, and raised five precious children among the two of us. Her oldest daughter, A, was in my first grade classroom, lo those many years ago. A is now married and living in OKC with her Law School Student husband and almost four-year-old daughter. What better way to celebrate this special occasion than to go visit this sweet family with P?

We flew in Saturday at noon, and flew out on Sunday at about the same time. But those in-between hours? Perfection! We got to spend plenty of time with P's granddaughter, A. I now know there is even more to look forward to in my future: grandchildren! (No pressure Married Daughter. Don't even think about it, unmarried Young Son.) Here we are in a cupcake shop we visited while strolling on a perfect fall day.
Three generations that just fill my heart up. When P and I met and became fast friends, we were about the age that her daughter A is now. I love full circles in life, and I love watching children grow up well in the Lord. Who would ever have thought that one of my first grade students would now be my friend? (A is also the person who designs this blog and my classroom blog. She writes a blog here that will fill you with The Happy.)

And last night? Another former student had a Big Game. S was in my kindergarten and third grade classes. Though I find it hard to believe, he is now a high school senior and the quarterback of his football team. See number 10 below? I was taller than he was when I was teaching him how to cut, use glue sticks and write the letter "s" going in the right direction.
Oh, how the years go by! His mom has remained a sweet friend over the years and offered me a great ticket to S's Homecoming game. I was able to watch him remain grace under pressure all four quarters as he completed 22 passes for 283 yards.

(Another full circle experience? S had a cousin who played for UT, and I'd always mail S the newspaper clippings. Now I'm mailing S his own clippings each Monday. And hoping college scouts are seeing those same stats!)

I'm so honored to now know these grown-up versions of former elementary students of mine. My school year(s) with them was just a dot on their life's timeline. But the joy I get watching them grow into adults who give me hope for the future of our country and world? It is a lifelong gift.