Thursday, April 19, 2018

It Matters

I rediscovered this piece I wrote five years ago before I had taken my job permanently.  Even when I thought I was only there as a substitute, the kids had worked their way into my heart. I still try to make connections with them daily.  I still hate the paperwork and often dodge it in an effort to make more time with the kids; and still, it matters.

I continue to spend part of my week with middle-schoolers.  The maternity leave coverage I agreed to provide through January grew to a part-time commitment for the rest of the school year.  I’ve been asked if I would consider signing on next year, but to do that I would lose my substitute status.  The beauty of being a substitute is that it excuses me from some of the report writing that staff has to do, and I have been having the best time using that paperwork time with the kids instead.
The administration emailed us a video clip created by PBS on early warning signs a student is likely to drop out of high school.  Research has shown that sixth graders who fail one or more core subjects and have frequent unexcused absences are on the road to becoming a drop out.  It is alarming to realize the dye is cast for some kids as early as sixth grade.  It is horrifying to realize it when you have real live faces to attach to that warning.
So began my latest passion.  I scan attendance records each time I am at school.  I have a list of students I am concerned about.  Once I discover they are present I head off to their lockers where I slip a note, some candy or some sort of small token through the vents in their locker.  It is a sweet nothing, but its message is significant.  It says someone noticed I was here today, and it matters.
These kids are going to know me for five months of their lives.  For some of them I am a bandaid on a hemorrhage.  Will my efforts make a long term difference?  I don’t know.  But today-for this very day-some young people experienced school as welcoming.  Today I saw smiles where there had been none.  I noticed, and oh, yes! it mattered.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Corning Ware Hand-me-downs

Anyone who has closed down the household of elderly parents can relate to the walls of boxes that encroach on your own home during the process.  Things that have sentimental value or that could be useful add up until both the experience and amount of stuff become overwhelming.  A few years ago we were closing down the homes of my parents and my in-laws simultaneously.  We were inundated with stuff.  As boxes came into the house they were opened, and each of us chose the things that we wanted to keep. Things were reshuffled into boxes marked for each of the kids.  We repackaged as we went along which didn’t always lead to the most efficient organization of items for storage until the kids were ready for them.  
As things were finally reorganized and distributed I discovered an abundance of Corning Ware containers.  Suddenly, I had a cost-free solution to the large number of our plastic food containers that were wearing out.  I had been following the stories online about the potential hazards of using plastic for food and water storage.  Depending on which article you read plastic is either harmless or lethal.  Either way, it didn’t make sense to purchase new plastic when I already had so many glass containers in an array of sizes.

Corning Ware from three households now in one.

It has been a while now since I cleared the plastic container cupboard to make room to store Corning Ware.  I don't know if my body is any healthier for steering clear of the potential hazards of plastic, but I am sure it does my heart good each time I transfer something nourishing I have prepared for my family into a vintage Corning Ware container that was once used to feed my family or my husband's.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

TToT: European Sensibilities

Last night I attended the annual Holocaust Remembrance Service at our local temple. Afterwards, I went through old photographs I took during our visit to Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany.  I also ran across this Ten Things of Thankful post I wrote shortly after that visit and decided it was worth a second look.

Ten things the Europeans reminded me for which I am grateful…
SUVs and huge club-cab vehicles are a choice, not a necessity.

Water should be preserved.

(Run off from the mountain is captured in Salzburg, Austria.)

A person should walk—for his or her own good as well as the planet’s.

Beauty all around us improves life.
(Konstanz, Germany)

You make yourself rich, by keeping your needs few. (Apologies to Thoreau who said this better.)
             (Sweet little home amid multi-storied buildings in Lindau, Germany)

Honor those who have gone before you.
(Every grave we saw in Germany and Austria was immaculately kept no matter its age.)

Laugh much.
          (Top of a carousel at the Christmas market in Friedrichshaffen, Germany)

Celebrate what you have.
       (Scene on the famed Glockenspiel of Munich depicting a dance celebrating the     survival of those who made it through a dread disease that devastated the city.)

Do not let the past define you.
(Dachau, Germany Concentration Camp)

Make your faith known.
(Church in Liechtenstein)

Prayer from last night's memorial service...

Fully Compassionate God on high:
To our six million brothers and sisters murdered because they were Jews,
grant clear and certain rest with You
in the lofty heights of the sacred and pure
whose brightness shines like the very glow of heaven.

Source of mercy:
Forever enfold them in the embrace of Your wings;
secure their souls in eternity.

Adonai: they are Yours.  They will rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


I have been so frustrated with the spring that just won't spring this year.  Winter clings for dear life when all I want is a lawn scattered with colorful tulips and blossoming trees.  I had nearly come to believe that we would never see spring this year when I came across this post which tells how I felt these same feelings in 2013.  The good news is that I wrote another post about a week to ten days later celebrating the flowers that filled my yard. Maybe spring 2018 really is just around the corner.

Wiping sleep from my eyes I grab my phone and pull up Accuweather.  The screen displays a temperature barely above freezing and the words, “It’s much colder than you’d like.”
I am so ready to feel the dirt in my fingers, to breathe in its rich smell of life. I’m ready to stroll the neighborhood and linger under the blooms of the crabapple on the corner.  I dream of the heady perfume from the row of lilac bushes on 19th Street.  I want to see the promise held in the blooms on the fruit trees out back.  Instead, I satisfy myself puttering amid the potted plants and seedlings which line the countertop of the mudroom.  I look through the windows and imagine the beauty waiting to emerge outside knowing spring would still my restlessness.
My mind drifts to other potential things waiting to blossom in my life.  My temporary job has been offered to me permanently.  I didn’t anticipate the offer and am not at all certain yet what my best response would be.  All three of my kids are sifting through options and potential plans to determine where they will be this fall.  Their decisions will affect the courses of their lives and might take some as far away as Paris.  So much potential lies waiting to make itself known in our lives.  Anxious to know the answers, I fidget through days that feel suspended in time.
Every season brings its own lesson if we are willing to learn.  The lesson of Spring 2013 would appear to be patience.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Love vs Hate: TToT

The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies,  we and they, good and evil.  The easiest way to unite a group isn't through love, because love is hard.  It makes demands.  Hate is simple.  
                              Fredrik Backman Bear Town

The world is filled with so much hate these days.  Battle lines are drawn, sides taken on so many issues each and every day.  We have a tendency to approach the world with our heart set on war.  A heart at war sees others not as people, but as objects to either overcome or to use.  My own heart has been veering more towards hate than I want it to of late.  So, I spent the week looking for signs of love.  Love is hard, but it is very much worthwhile.

Ten Signs of Love/Things of Thankful
As the week began my husband and I were wrapping up a road trip from NC to KS.  I enjoyed every minute of our time together.
We added an unexpected detour and stopped at my sister-in-law's for a wonderful bonus visit.
When I spent a day in bed feeling puny, my son brought me a chocolate shake and TLC.
No cost dental care was provided several of our students at school this week.
Our pastor sent us into the week with the challenge to recognize a heart of love vs a heart of hate and to foster the heart of love.
The presentation of Bibles from my church to the 3rd Grade Sunday School class.
A spontaneous family movie and dinner night that brought me joy.
Friends who selflessly cared for their beloved family dog and ultimately recognized when the time came to let her go.
The peaceful demonstrations and calls for change led by young Americans last weekend.
Good Friday

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fredrik Backman's Britt-Marie Was Here

"You have to understand that when I was small my family and I went to the seaside.  My sister always found the highest rocks to jump off into the water, and when she dived and came up to the surface, I was always still there at the top of the rock, and she would call out to me, 'Jump, Britt!  Just jump!'  You have to understand that when one is just standing there looking, then just for a second one is ready to jump.  If one does it, one dares to do it.  But if one waits, it'll never happen."
"Did you jump?"
"I'm not the sort who jumps."

I have fallen love with Fredrik Backman over the course of the last year.  I devour anything I come across that bears his name.  It is his perspective of human nature that draws me in.  He possesses deep insight into what motivates and inhibits people.  His words paint his characters strengths and weaknesses as though by candlelight--in the gentlest of ways--making them appear lovely even though flawed.
In Brit-Marie Was Here we see the uptight, regimented main character slowly let down her armor so that others can finally come close to her.  With each tentative step out of her comfort zone she begins to conquer the fear that has isolated her. In loving others and allowing them to love her Brit-Marie finally dares to jump.  

Monday, March 26, 2018

Surely Goodness and Mercy

This was a weekend for reflection.  I came home Friday ready to relax my mind and body.  Instead I was greeted by the news that a neighbor and friend from church had died suddenly this week.  Two doors down and I had no idea.
I didn’t find his death shocking because of his age or general health.  I find it shocking because I hadn’t even considered it happening.  Because it was yet another death in that generation that separates me from death. Because he leaves a wife who loved him and shared his life, and her pain makes me wince.  And so my weekend began with a funeral, a farewell to a wonderful person.
Afterwards, I met with a friend to create a gift for another friend.  I took individual strands of silk and marino wool and through the waft and the warp, through friction and pressure and the saturation of water that reminded me of the tears of a lifetime, I coaxed those fibers into a silky woolen scarf that will warm my friend.
Sunday afternoon I met my sister at an estate auction where a lifetime’s possessions of a man she knew were being sold.  Table after table told the story of a life.  A love of photography. A well traveled, well read man.  A long marriage.  His life had ended and was on display for all to place value on.

On the way home I considered how brief life truly is, and how grateful I am that goodness and mercy really do follow me each day.