Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays

Yes, I know I had a week away as we recovered from vacation. But now I am on a break from school - we have painting to do and some third quarter planning that needs to be done. And we want to rest and hang out and build Legos and celebrate birthdays and Christmas and all that good stuff. So, unless inspiration strikes and I have to blog, I'll be taking a break until after the first of the year. When I get back, we can see if I have come up with a new "word" for 2013 or if I will keep working on SAVOR next year and see what else there is to talk about.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a safe and happy New Year's! See you in 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vacation Observations

One more post about our vacation and I'll move on (probably!)

This was our third trip to Florida with our primary destination being Disney World. This time we did two days off-site - one for Legoland and the other for Universal Studios. Here are some of my observations about our trip.

*We splurged on our hotel this time around (we usually go cheap and stay at an All Star resort at Disney - and have had great experiences there) and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and got a room with a view of the savannah. It was well worth the expense. Our weather was nice enough that we could sit on our little balcony and watch the animals and just relax. The hotel does have some nice viewing spots if you want to stay there but don't want to spring for a room with a view.
*Since my son was old enough to not need a nap on this trip, we got tickets for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and the Candlelight Processional, two evening events. They were fun, and I'm glad we did them, but I'm not sure they would be "have to" activities next time.
*On the one day we started at Disney Hollywood Studios, we went to the new Toy Story Mania ride, got a FastPass, and then hopped right into the 30 minute line. The queue was a lot of fun which made the wait go pretty quickly. The ride itself was fantastic - you spin in your car and shoot at different fair-style games, hitting different objects for different point values. I would have ridden it all day, it was that much fun. But the lines were usually over an hour, so on the day we went, we did a few other activities, came back and used our FastPass for a second ride and that was it for the rest of our vacation. This will be top on my to do list the next time we go.
*Legoland was not all I had hoped for in my head. The Lego sculptures were pretty cool, but I had envisioned some great Lego-based merchandise and frankly, I find better things at my local Target than I did at the park. In fact, the Lego store in Downtown Disney had cooler/newer sets available and a great engraving service (get a personalized Lego brick!!) than the park did. Some of the things in the park looked run down/broken. My husband said the rides were not built for tall adults. Ask my son, and he will tell you the park was awesome. I was ready to get back to Disney World.
*Universal Studios was something I'm glad we did, but I don't feel drawn to return. We met the Grinch, saw the Grinchmas show (cute!) and rode some of the Seuss-based rides. Our primary goal was to check out the Harry Potter portion of the park, and we spent about 2 hours there. The themed pieces were well done - the merchandising, the setting. We didn't love the butterbeer, but we all tried it. We all rode the main castle ride. The warnings about people with motion sickness NOT riding it made me pretty anxious about the whole thing, even though I had already taken my Dramamine, but I really didn't feel sick from the bouncing around and climbs and drops. I did not care for the creepy parts of the ride and didn't feel the need to ride it again.
*I announced on this trip that there is nothing about being scared or sick that says "vacation" to me, so I happily skipped Test Track and Mission Space and several rounds of the Star Wars ride (I did go on that two or three times) and Tower of Terror, and I closed my eyes on anything I didn't like on the Harry ride. Call me a wimp, I don't care. That doesn't say "fun" to me. We all finally got to try Soarin' at Epcot and I loved it. My son was not a fan, so we only did it the one time, but I was content with that. It was great to finally experience it.
*I love that Disney has the PhotoPass system (although I have discovered several pictures that didn't get on our account) which allowed us to have lots of family pictures taken from our vacation without us having to bother other park guests. And we could get all of our pictures on a CD (for a price) whereas the other parks wanted you to buy each picture opportunity separately. (And our picture from the Harry ride was horrible. There was no way I was spending money for that kind of memory!)
*I also realized that the souvenirs are a big part of vacation for me - the t-shirts and the trinkets that will remind us of our adventure together once we are back into our usual routine.

Our vacation was a joy and I'm looking forward to getting our pictures back and getting them in books so we can look through them any time we want to re-live our trip!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Post-Vacation Recovery

Earlier this month, I went on vacation with my family. The "re-entry" process has been interesting. At home, there was a lot of recovery to do - bills to pay, souvenirs to sort out, Christmas decorations to pull out.

For work, I was back on track fairly quickly. I had kept up on my email while I was gone, and I had lesson plans in place so I knew what I was doing when I walked back into the building. The library itself was a little "off" - books not put back in the right spots or just left laying on top of other books, other things that weren't quite the way I would have them. I think it was just the idea that several other people had been running my space for awhile - there were little hints of it here and there for the first week I was back.

The hardest adjustment, though, has been emotional. The vacation was perfect - things went smoothly; the weather was ideal. On vacation, we did what we wanted. We ate what we wanted and we went where we wanted. If we wanted to chill at the hotel, we did. If we wanted to squeeze in a few more rides somewhere, we did. If we wanted to ride Space Ranger Spin five times in a row, we could. If I didn't want to ride something, I didn't. That meant while my family rode Mission Space - twice - I sat in the sun and soaked up the view of clear blue skies and palm trees. While my family went to Epcot one morning, I went to Animal Kingdom - alone - to take pictures and do whatever I wanted. I read two novels for grown ups - great, long ones that would have taken me a month to get through at home. I had really no complaints.

Coming home meant coming back to real life. Real life is messier than vacation. In real life, people wrestle with illness, death, hurt feelings, and betrayal - all things we came home to. Tragedy strikes half a country away and still feels like a kick in the gut. We're wading through projects that need attention and 1000+ emails that need to be skimmed if not deleted outright.

I have two things to keep me going - my pictures of our vacation together (ah, the palm trees), and the first hints of planning another vacation some time in the future.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Martha, Martha, Martha

I'm a doer.

I have little patience for people who want to complain about what's wrong but refuse to take action. It's one of the reasons I choose not to serve on church committees. I have sat for hours listening to people analyze a situation and talk about how it got to be as "bad" as it is, but not one wants to just address the problem and FIX it.

Because of this, I'm not a great intercessor/prayer warrior. I pray for my friends and for needs as I am aware of them, but it's usually a sentence or two, or I write the person a note, and then I move on. I pray more as the situation comes to mind, but I don't devote time to it on a daily basis. I keep moving, rather than sit and contemplate and pray.

I was thinking recently about a list of prayer concerns or focuses I had for my son as the school year started. I put the list in a nice journal I made, right along side the concerns from previous years. But I rarely revisit it once it has been written. I write the list down and then get busy with life. I don't quiet myself and pray over those concerns in a formal way. I "hit them" when I think of them or when something comes up and the need is pressing.

At teacher convention back in October, we watched a skit about Mary and Martha from the Bible. I have never identified more with Martha than I did while watching the skit. In fact, I had to work at not just sobbing outright as I saw myself in this character on the screen.

Martha is NOT held up as a role model in scripture. Her sister Mary is the one who sits at the feet of Jesus, soaking up his presence. Martha is busy making food and preparing the home - and she is quite put out that her sister isn't helping! In the end of the skit, Martha is heartbroken when she realizes that she missed her moment to just BE with Jesus. And she can't get the moment back. In my head, I know that is me and that there is a challenge and a lesson in the story. But I turn right back into Martha, to do list in hand, come Monday morning.

I like being a do-er. I like taking action to fix something that will make someone else's life a little easier. I like feeling like I can make a difference for someone else by taking one task off their plate, or addressing a simple-to-fix problem so they don't have to wait for the powers-that-be to work it out.

But I don't want to busy my life away, either. I don't want to miss the encounter with Jesus - or with a student in need or with my family. I don't want to miss the wisdom, the peace, and the personal depth that can come from choosing to just "be."

As often as I have this realization, as often as I think about "savoring" a moment, it does NOT come naturally. It's not the first response that comes to mind.

So, how do I re-train myself to slow down and just be?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bulletin Boards

Last year I felt like one of my (many) areas for growth in my job was the planning and use of bulletin boards. In fact, I can't really remember what I did with my bulletin board space for most of last year.

This year I have tried to be more intentional. I planned one to start the school year, and I figured out that if I keep the first one up until the end of September, then do a fall one for October and November and a winter one for December and January, I can avoid having to change my bulletin board during my busy seasons, like book fair and Christmas break. I haven't quite decided what to do for second semester, but here are the three from this year so far. I've painted on my bulletin boards twice this year, and I liked the result, although it is a little scary because if it turns out crummy I have to pull the whole thing down and start from scratch. So far I haven't had to do that (Phew!).

"A-B-Sea Read with Me"

"Fall into a Good Book"
[After I took this picture, I added some laminated pictures of book covers and had them leaning on the tree and on the pumpkins.]

"Reading in a Winter Wonderland"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Art Journals

Lately I've become a little obsessed with Art Journals. I have a whole pinboard on Pinterest just for pinning images from other people's creations.

It probably has to do with the fact that I don't build enough time into my schedule to be crafty and creative. But I would love to be able to draw and express myself through art in this really cool way.

Do any of you do art journaling or doodling? Check out my pinboard and let me know what you think!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

SAVOR - an update

I haven't forgotten about my word for the year - SAVOR - although I haven't posted about it in awhile. Once school started, I think I allowed the busy-ness to sweep me along from day to day and week to week and before I knew it, it was December!

I really don't want to wish my life away like that. To look back and wonder where the time went and if I did anything of consequence with the time that I had.

A friend was telling me recently that people in America often plan vacations and they know what they are going to do for every minute they are gone. When they get back, they are miserable. This thing that consumed them in the planning stage for months was over in a blink of an eye.

This I know from experience - it's like planning a wedding. A year of decisions and dreams over in 30 minutes. POOF!

But the thing that caught my attention as I listened to this friend was that even while we are ON the vacation, we wish ourselves into the next step of the trip rather than enjoy the moment we are in.


It's so true. I was so sure my Thanksgiving break would be spent reading and stitching and just "being." But once it was done, I couldn't really tell you what I did with my time. I did not have a stack of books to review for my blog, because I didn't read that much. I did finish a stitching project and I got some Christmas shopping done. But I was often distracted by what was coming, the coming week of school or something else.

I think my best moment of the 5 days I had off from school (5 days! They zoomed by!) was laying on the floor, playing cards with my son. We played only one game, but it was in a moment where I wasn't trying to get something else done or distracted about whatever was coming next. We just played. It was one of the highlights of the long weekend for me. I hope I can build more moments in like that one in the future.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God Is a Father to the Fatherless (Psalm 68:5)

Two years ago for Thanksgiving, we drove to my home town to see my dad. He was a few months into a chemo regime that was ultimately not able to return him to health. But at the time, we didn't know how the story would end. We went to spend time with him and so I could be a part of this part of his life. I took him to his appointments so I could see where he spent his days, and so I could be a (very small) part of the care he was receiving from so many people who were driving him to appointments and sitting with him through transfusions and treatments, etc.

Last year was our first Thanksgiving without him. I thought a LOT about how different things could be from one year to the next. It wasn't even the "day" so much as we often didn't travel home or see him on actual holidays. But it was the principle. He was the only parent - the only close family - I had had since I was 19, and he was gone. I felt a lot of support from folks who remembered that it was our first holiday season without him, but I was still lonely.

This year I think I felt the emptiness as much if not more than last year. Maybe last year I was just expecting it. Maybe the other things going on in my life right before the holiday, and the fatigue of a long school year were contributing factors. This year, Thanksgiving was a reminder that we were moving into a very lonely season in the year without Dad. When the phone rang on Thanksgiving Day, before anyone even looked at the caller ID, it was obvious it wasn't going to be for me.

I don't say that to say, "Please call me so I don't feel lonely on the holidays," because, honestly, I think that would make me feel worse. But there's something about losing both of your parents that can make you feel adrift. I felt it this summer as I was anticipating the family reunion, and I felt it from Thanksgiving to New Year's last year. I imagine this year will be much of the same.

I know the ache will lessen as the years go on. I remember how bitter I was about Mother's Day when I was in my 20s - without a mother to celebrate in person, with plenty of conflicted feelings about the mother I had, and without a child of my own to shift the focus. But those feelings resolved in time. And I'm sure these will, too. But they will weigh heavy this year, for at least a few more weeks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Emotional Whiplash

"Emotional Whiplash."

This is a phrase I coined in recent weeks. It is a good description for how I've been feeling lately. I guess I was operating on faulty assumptions in one area of my life, and when those assumptions were challenged, I wasn't sure what to do next. It felt like one of the planks of the foundation of my life was warped and wobbly and crumbling away all of a sudden. It still feels that way if I think about it too much.

Unfortunately, that is how I work. I think about things a LOT. I replay moments over and over in my head. I ask the same questions in several different forms. I plan out emails or blog posts or conversations in my mind where I ask my questions and raise my concerns. But if there's no real-life outlet for all that thinking, it can just be an exercise in frustration rather than something helpful.

I still would like my questions and concerns addressed. I feel like there is a kernel of doubt lingering that time by itself won't resolve. I'm trying to determine what my response should be to all the emotional upheaval - is it important for me to pursue the questions I have, or is it better to try to put it behind me and focus on the work to be done today? How do I care for others who have questions and are looking to me for answers when I still have questions of my own? I'm afraid the upheaval has changed some of the relationships I hold dear in my life and I don't know what to do about that, either.

I feel like a lot of my life the last couple years has been significant emotional ups and downs. I had hoped we were past some of that, so this one caught me by surprise and it's lingering.

"You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You 
because he trusts in You."
~ Isaiah 26:3

Hoping for that "perfect peace." Soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Break

I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago my growing bitterness that my family had enjoyed 2 four-day weekends in three weeks while I worked during both. Well, it is Thanksgiving break and finally I get to enjoy a few days away from school. I hope to spend them doing a smidge of Christmas shopping, a lot of reading, and very little else. So, I'll be taking a blogging break until next week.

May you and your family have a restful Thanksgiving holiday!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fail Boldly

We are trying to teach our son that it is okay to "fail boldly." I would rather have him bomb a test than cheat. I would rather have him admit that he did something wrong than lie about it or be sneaky.

But those can be hard lessons to enforce because, frankly, I'd rather he be perfect. I'd rather he never fail at all and always make the right choice. But that's not going to happen.

These discussions at home also force me to look at MY behavior. I recently heard adults in two different situations talk about being late for something and having it brought to the attention of others (in innocent ways, like wondering if the person was okay). Neither case was one where someone was trying to "catch" them doing something wrong or where a job was on the line. Both said something about wishing people hadn't said anything. My first thought, after all this conversation at home was, "Fail boldly." If you're late, you're late. "Sorry, I got distracted. I'll try to be more careful next time." But those words are easier to say than to live out. I hate screwing up in front of other people. I will rehearse that screw up over and over in my head, feeling the humiliation each time. I'd be much happier if I could keep people believing that I always do everything right.

But I don't. I have to work at saying, "That was my fault. I made a mistake. Thanks for being gracious with me."

I still think it is an important thing to teach my son. I want him to grow up to be a man of integrity - who can admit his mistakes when he makes them and then learn from them rather than try to hide them. But I have to remember that sometimes it's hard to be that bold.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lightning Rod of Hate

My husband and I used to watch a TV show called Whose Line Is It Anyway? It was a very funny improv show hosted by Drew Carey. In one episode, after being harassed in a sketch, one of the actors referred to himself as the "lightning rod of hate" and it became a running joke for the rest of that episode. (You can do a search for "lightning rod of hate" and get a YouTube video of the show - there is some mild swearing in the clip)

The phrase has stuck in my head for years, and it came to mind last Wednesday as I was reading election results and reactions to the election on Facebook. It struck me (pardon the pun) that the President - whoever happens to be in the office - is often the lightning rod of hate for our country.

When people struggle, the President often takes the blame - especially in an election year. When I hear from some folks who are having a rough time, the only person some seem to see at fault is the President, even though there are many levels of government between them and the President that could also be contributing to their circumstances.

Some of my students were doing mock elections and debates and were trying to convince me to vote for them. One conversation went like this:

Student: Who would you vote for for president - (names) or (names)?
Me: I don't know - what do you stand for?
Student: Republican.
Me: That doesn't work for me - I'm an Independent. I need specifics. What's your take on the issues? What do you stand for?
Student: I'll get you more pay for your job
Me: The President has no role in what I am paid at this school. Try again.
Student: I'll get you $1000.
Me: Where's it going to come from? How are you going to pay for it?

Granted, this was a conversation with a student rather than with an adult, but the students didn't quite seem to grasp what authority the President has over the things they thought mattered in the election.

I imagine the job of President must feel like wearing a target every moment of every day. While it is the pinnacle of political power in our country, the checks and balances limit how much the President can do on his own. So you get the title - and the target - but not always the actual power everyone perceives in the role.

And we see it time and time again, no matter which party is in power. It's almost like we forget for a moment that we are not electing a Savior. We already have one. We are electing a flawed human being - just like us. We are trusting this individual to surround him or herself with honest advisers who act with integrity rather than self-interest. We are trusting all of our elected official to put our needs over their own, and to work with one another to steer our country into the right direction for the future. Some get it right and some get it wrong - just like us.

I hope we can get back to the spirit I saw leading up to the election - the Facebook posts that said no matter who was elected, God was still on the throne, the idea that we are called to pray for those God places in leadership positions over us. Think about the responsibility they shoulder. Think of the accountability they will be held to. And then pray.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Seven Days of Book Fair

Every year, the teachers at my school get a "Partner in Prayer." This is a person you pray for, leave notes for, and some times leave a small gift. It's a fun program, but it can be hard in the business of the school year to apply your creativity to your PIP.

This year, on the first day of book fair, a student knocked on the library door before school started. She handed me a large cup of my favorite soda from a nearby gas station. Taped to the cup was a note that said something like, "On the first day of book fair, my Partner in Prayer gave to me a Caffeine-free Diet Pepsi."

How cute! And a very welcome treat (although, after having been up until midnight the night before to get book fair ready, the "leaded" variety of Diet Pepsi would have been welcome, too!). I thought it was a fun treat and didn't really expect anything more of it.

But on day two, there was another "verse" as well as two Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and a can of Diet Pepsi.

And every day of the fair after that, there was another verse and another treat. It was delightful. I felt so loved and cared for. It was clever and it showed some planning and effort on the part of my PIP - something my own Partner in Prayer was not receiving from me.

"Appreciated" is too mild a word to describe how I felt after these daily treats during book fair. And I am inspired to do better for my PIP so he/she feels just as valued and cared for as I did during book fair.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Fair Pros and Cons

*I get to talk about books with students and parents and teachers for a solid week and a half.
*I never sleep well during the fair - I'm thinking of things I need to get done or things I should have done differently.
*I get to know students and parents in a different context. I had some amazing volunteers this year. I had students who pitched in with diligence even though the tasks I asked them to do weren't thrilling. I was thoroughly impressed by some students and parents I barely knew before the fair.
*Book fair consumes me for the two weeks when it is in full swing, including set up and tear down. I don't check email, except at school, I can't deal with library issues, I don't see the people I usually see during the week, I can't spare the mental energy to make other decisions or deal with other life events until the fair is done.
*I get to enjoy watching students connect to books. Kids who buy a book we talked about want to come back and tell me what they think of it, and 95% of the time, they are happy.
*I hear students say they "can't" read something if it doesn't have an AR quiz or if it isn't in their reading level range. This is wrong on so many levels, but until book fair is over, I can't devote the time I need to change this perception.
*I see teachers receiving new books for their classrooms. Kids can access books in their classrooms that I won't be able to get on the library shelves until January at the earliest.
*I have more books to catalog for the library than I have time to catalog for the library.
*We raised a little money to go towards some new cushions for our reading spaces in the library. This was the goal for this fair and I'm looking forward to finding us some comfy pieces to make our space welcoming for readers.
*As soon as I think I have addressed all the mistakes I made last time, I discover all the new ones I am making this time around. (grumble)

All that said, our fall book fair was a great success and a lot of fun. In fact, the library looks a little forlorn without all of the bright colors of the fair. I'm enjoying a break from all the work, but I will be ready to do it all over again this spring.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Project Life

I've blogged before about Becky Higgins' Project Life materials.

A couple weeks ago I got to spend a few hours working on my scrapbooks. I had already put pictures into slots - I just needed to record stories and finalize the picture placement. Once the pieces were in place, and the journalling done, I was so happy with how each layout looked.

I fell in love with the system all over again.

Many people use the system to record a picture each day. That doesn't work for me. I needed something simpler. So I do a page or two per month. If I need more, I can use more. If I need less, so be it. If I want to use one page to talk about one event or one memory, I can do that. If I want to use 6 pages to talk about our vacation, I can.

This probably means I can unload most of the scrapbook supplies I still have. I think I'll be using Project Life for most of my memory keeping from now on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Divine Appointment

"I have become convinced that if God stands a child before you, for even just a minute, 
it is a divine appointment." 
~ Wess Stafford

I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Stafford at a conference back in October. He talked about his new book Just a Minute and examples of moments in which everything changes - moments like 8:46 am on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. There are also positive moments - like the moment when an adult speaks something positive and life-giving into the life of a child.

This portion of the conference has stuck with me. I have tried to be more aware of my students and ways to speak positive things over them. This can be hard. I am a task oriented person. I like to check things off the list. I have things to accomplish in the library with students in 40 minutes. It can be hard to balance both my tasks and responsibilities and the relational parts of my work.

A week or so ago, I was at a scrapbooking thing at school. A few women were working on our scrapbooks. I was really enjoying the grown up conversation and being able to make progress on my scrapbooks for the first time in ages.

The daughter of one of the women came by with her dad. She is a darling little girl - probably 4 or 5 years old. I don't think she's ever said more than two words to me when I've seen her - usually she is playing with friends or just passing through with her mom. But this night she climbed up on the seat next to me completely unprompted. 

A divine appointment. 

I could say hi and go back to my scrapbooking. Or I could treat her like she was the only person in the room. 

We had a fun little chat. She talked about things she likes to do, including drawing, so I handed her a card and marker from my scrapbooking supplies and invited her to show me her favorite thing to draw (a tree with a hole for an owl). When she was done, she said I could keep the picture, so I ran it to the library to pin it on my bulletin board.

It took maybe 10 or 15 minutes from my night - It wasn't a major time commitment. It wasn't an inconvenience. It was a delight. I don't imagine anything in our chat was life-changing for her, but it was good practice for ME in setting aside my agenda to just BE in the moment.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

She Did What She Could

At teacher convention a couple weeks ago a woman spoke on the passage in the Bible where Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointed Jesus with expensive oil. She zeroed in on the verse that said, "She did what she could."

Last weekend, I worked at school on book fair things. I received an email from the company that runs the fair showing the two restock orders I had placed already and how many items were enroute.

One of the things I noticed is that I wasn't going to be receiving all of the copies of a book I needed. I was down to my last copy, so I had asked for the maximum, 8 copies, both times I had called in a re-order. In one case, the operator only recorded that I wanted 4, so I was just getting those 4. In the other case, I was getting 0 instead of the 8 I needed. I had already sold those 4, so I wasn't going to have anything to put on the shelves on Monday, even though I had been telling kids I had more copies coming.

I had personally told almost all of my 250 students about this book - it works for the youngest in 1st and 2nd grade as well as the older ones in 5th and 6th. And it was a well-written and fun story. I have a LOT of kids who want this book. I even sold the library's copy (it hadn't been cataloged yet) and marked it for replacement at the end of the fair so I would have an extra copy to work with. I hate the disappointed looks on their faces when I tell them I have to order more and they can't take the book with them. The more I thought about the lack of copies of this book, the more desperate I started to feel. It started to affect my sleep. I would lay in bed, wondering if I could order more copies from Amazon and sell them myself (FYI - No, I can't. They are in hard cover, and more expensive, from Amazon).

Then I remembered the words of this speaker: She Did What She Could.

All I can do is what I can do.

I can keep calling in reorders for the maximum number of books
I can call my rep and ask her what my other options are (and complain about the rep who didn't place the order as I originally requested it).
But I can't conjure more copies from thin air. I can't force the warehouse to have more copies than they have.

I can only do what I can do.

It will have to be enough.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

God Sighting

As I was sitting down in my pew on Sunday, I heard snatches of a conversation a friend was having with the couple who sits behind our family. As the conversation wrapped up, the woman said my friend was a "God-sighting" for her that day - a moment when she was reminded that God cared about her and was involved in the things going on in her life.

My extraverted nature kicked in and I blurted out, "No pressure!" I think my friend thought I was hassling him, but I wasn't.

Think about that pressure - a God-sighting.

Now, maybe not every person is actively watching for God's hand in his/her life. But some people are. Some people have trained themselves to do it. Others are desperate for it.

Am I open to being that sign of God's hand?
Am I tuned in to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
Am I looking for ways to reach out to others who might need an encouraging word?

Am I willing to be used by God in a way where people see HIM rather than me?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Customer Service Matters

Two weeks ago, I ordered a decorated cookie from a local business for my son's class birthday party. I wanted to pick it up first thing in the morning, but the person who took the order said that wouldn't be enough time to get it decorated. I got permission to go during my lunch hour and scheduled the pick up for 12:15. If I left at noon, I could get there at 12:15 and be back to school by 12:30 - just enough time.

On the drive there, I started fretting. What would I do if they spelled the kids names wrong? Nothing is worse for making a student feel special than getting his or her name wrong! But all that fretting was for nothing.

The cookie wasn't even done when I got there.

I was furious! I was on a schedule. I gave them all the extra time they asked for. When a customer says they will be there at a certain time, the product should be ready - it's like a contract. I realized on the way there that I had to run home, so I said I would do that and come back. I grumbled the whole way there. "Not done?! What do you mean it's not done?! I have KIDS waiting for this - counting on this! I have to get back for book fair - I don't have the flexibility to come back later! The party is at 2 and it's almost 12:30! If I have disappointed kids instead of a cookie, other people are going to hear about this business that 'failed' me."

By the time I got back to the shop, I was determined to get some sort of discount for their failure to provide my order on time. I had even rehearsed what I was going to say.

What I didn't plan for was the baker offering to deliver the cookie personally to the school.

I was floored! All my demands for a discount and my indignation went right out of my head. I paid the full price for my cookie, left the address of the school, and said a prayer that it would show up in time for the party. Thankfully, my afternoon was busy the second I got back to school so I had no time to fret about what would happen if 2 pm came and there was no cookie.

At 1:30, my cookie arrived - along with a half dozen cookies for my trouble. Instead of ranting about the business' failure, I was raving to everyone I saw about the baker (not the owner of the business) who delivered it personally when it wasn't done at the appointed time.

This woman redeemed a potential business disaster by taking responsibility and offering to make it right - and she delivered on her promise (literally).

Customer service matters. It has the power to change a day and change an attitude.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I'm Such a Girl

This past weekend, my husband and I pooled our resources with some friends to have a laser tag birthday party for our sons.

We were looking for something unusual and memorable for this party. We had talked about rock climbing, but decided we wanted our son and his friends to be older before we tried that. Then my husband mentioned laser tag. For this particular group of boys, we couldn't think of a more perfect outing.

And the boys LOVED it. On the way to the place, the group in our car chatted about all sorts of things. On the way home (and for HOURS afterwards) they could only talk about one thing - laser tag. They replayed all their favorite moments, talked about trying to take out the group of "pros" who showed up for the second game, and congratulated themselves on their strategies.

And I was thrilled with the experience. The facility took care of everything - there was a plan to the party, they provided a cake and drinks, and they recorded gifts for each of the boys. I was so proud of how our boys behaved. The boys had an amazing time. It was a great day. When I asked my son to rank the party on a scale of 1 to 10, he said, "A Million!"

But I did have one moment....

It was the first game of tag the boys were playing. It was dark and smoky, and I was watching from an observation spot on the second floor. I watched our boys (every one a student of mine) work their way around the walls, watching for opponents, while a sniper (my husband!) was picking them off from the second floor.

And for a moment it became all too real. I was too aware that there are men and women who are in fire fights like this, but with real bullets and real risk, every day. While our boys could roam around without fear of what was around a corner or hiding above them, in real life, there are soldiers who live with that fear every moment of every day. The mom and the teacher in me was horrified to think of these precious boys in such an awful situation in real life.

Despite my best efforts from the day he was born, my son is fascinated with guns and shooting. No matter how many times I try to tell him that guns and violence are not something to take lightly, this is still his style of play - and the style of play of a number of his peers. It's so not my style - and not what I would choose for him if I could. But I believe this is part of his journey as a man. While there are many ways I can influence his development, this is still going to be a part of him. Boys and girls are different, no matter how much adults might want to believe otherwise. I know in my head that this is just play, but in that moment the play became all too real.

And my first thought was, "I am such a girl."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trying Something New

I am an elementary school librarian. I teach 17 classes a week to kindergarten through sixth graders. For my youngest students, I pull a selection of books for them to choose from each week. Kindergarten students choose one book from 3 tables full - fiction, non-fiction, picture books, early readers. First grade students choose from bins of fiction and non-fiction sorted by Accelerated Reader color. We do things this way to keep the library shelves in order until the students are in second grade where they are learning how to alphabetize and when I teach them to use shelf markers. I also thought the smaller number of books to choose from would help the students not be overwhelmed by shelf after shelf after shelf of books.

But week after week I would have students come up to me and say, "There's nothing on the tables I want to read." Or "I've already read all those."

This is especially painful to hear after spending a weekend getting a pile of new books ready for just this group of students.

So I've worked hard to change up the choices. When kids ask for a favorite character or topic, I have scoured the shelves for those so they were available the next week -- only to have that student decline the very book he wanted a week ago. As I would collect the books to put them away at the end of the day, I would marvel at the titles that were left behind. No one wanted to read these books?

Last week I was highlighting books that were going to be part of our upcoming book fair. Class after class of students would have to be batted away as they tried to run off with book fair titles that aren't part of our library collection yet. I wondered what would happen if I highlighted some of my kindergarten books before I sent the kids off to choose one.

It was a completely different experience. I told them what some of the books were about. I read the first page or two of some. I showed off some of the pictures. Most of my students checked out one of the books I had highlighted.

This week I tried it with my first graders, too. Again, more students chose the books I highlighted (many of which were new to the library, but had been ignored in previous weeks) than books I didn't talk about.

It made me wonder if even those smaller sets of books on tables are overwhelming for some kids. Maybe they are afraid they will pick a "dud" and be stuck with it for a week. Maybe the cover isn't enough to grab their interest.

Whatever the reason, my little book "chat" seemed to help kids connect with books more easily than leaving them on their own to discover what books are available and then to choose one for the coming week.

I will be highlighting books with these groups of students every week from now on!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Free Time

I do NOT knit.

But I love reading "The Yarn Harlot." I've gotten her books from the library before and I downloaded a sample of her book All Wound Up for my Nook.
All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin

This weekend I read through those few sample pages where she talks about how annoying it is when people see her knitting and say something like, "I might do that if I had your free time." The author's point was that most people have some amount of free time or down time. Whether we use it to read or watch TV or surf the internet or knit, we have some. We all make choices about how we use what free time we have. The people who look at her sideways in a doctor's office as she is knitting have chosen to use their free time (while in the waiting room) to fret about their wait or to check email on their phone or whatever. She chooses to spend that time knitting.

As I read her rant (which was completely enjoyable) about the perception that she knits because she has nothing better to do or has too much free time, I starting thinking about my lamentations about free time.

It feels like "I never have any free time." My weekends zip by all to quickly. My post-work time at home seems to be over in a blink. But in reality, I choose how I spend my time. Some Mondays I leave school as soon as my official schedule is over. Other days I get caught up in a meeting or I decided to stay and get some things done. My "evening" can start at 3:15 or 5:15, depending on my after school obligations and choices. No matter what time I leave school, though, my time is booked with mom-duties until 8pm. If I have to bring work home that I couldn't get to during the day, that has to be squeezed in as well. And if I don't go to bed by 10 pm, my students get a  grumpy librarian/lunch lady the next day. My evening free time is finite.

Even so, on a "bad" day or a busy day, I can usually carve out an hour of time every day that's just for me. An hour's not bad! Sure, I'd love to have more, but during the school week - four days - that's four hours to do what I choose - read a book, surf the internet, be crafty, read a magazine, blog, journal, draw, etc.

What I realized is my true problem isn't a lack of time.

It's an overabundance of hobbies.

There are too many things I want to do with that hour or so a day. I can't read a book AND a magazine AND do some scrapbooking AND check my email AND work on an art journal AND check out Pinterest in one hour. I can't read a book for the school library AND a mystery for me AND non-fiction book on a topic I want to study in the same hour. It just can't be done.

In order to be content, I am going to need to lose a dozen hobbies or lower my expectations for what I can reasonably do in a week.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

One of Those Faces

Have you ever watched a football game where one team is stomping on the other? Some times it's a come back moment and other times the team just starts hot and stays hot. Inevitably, the TV guys will zero in on a section of fans whose team is getting stomped. They are stunned. They sit there like zombies, wondering what happened. Their faces are slack with disbelief.

This weekend, I was one of those faces.

We had gotten tickets to an NFL game where the local team was playing my favorite team. We were taking my fourth grader to his first live professional major league sporting event. It was going to be great.

And for the first half it was. But then the tide turned, the home team found their rhythm and they beat my boys by 3 points.

As the home team was building their come back, play by play, first down by first down, I realized I was one of those faces I always pity on Sunday afternoons. One of the folks who had to sit by and watch other spectators cheer and high five and chant. It was painful. Far more painful than to watch your team lose in the comfort of your own home. At home, you don't have to watch your fellow fans get desperate, complaining about calls that are obviously accurate but just not in your favor. At home, you don't have to worry that some inebriated individual is going to make an issue of the comeback and start something ugly.

In the end, it was a great football game - lots of good plays (by both teams) and our family had a great experience together. My son got to cheer for the home team and watch them win. He was elated. But I'm ready to go back to watching my boys play from the comfort and safety of my own home, where I can yell at the TV and no one cares - where my family will cheer with me instead of against me. I am ready for some football.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


There's all sorts of research out there that says when you praise kids, be sure to be specific. Highlight what you want to reinforce. Generic praise ("That was super") doesn't get the job done like specifics ("I really appreciated the way you picked that trash up in the parking lot today. It wasn't yours, and no one asked you to do it. You saw something that needed to be done, and you did it. That's classy.").

Specific. Details matter.

If you want your child or student to keep up a desirable behavior, praise it. Last week when I was cleaning tables in the school cafeteria, there were three boys still sitting at the table waiting for their teacher. There was a big, white napkin still sitting on the table as well as straw wrappers. I knew the trash wasn't theirs - these are boys who clean up their stuff - but the trash needed to be thrown away, and the kids are responsible to clean off their own tables. So I asked the boys to clean it up. Immediately, two of them protested: "But, that's not mine." The third reached over (he was the farthest from the mess, and therefore the least likely of the three to have left it) and picked the things up and threw them in the trash. I gave him 5 blessings (in simplest terms, positive "points" for good choices and good behavior). He stopped in his tracks. "Five? I've never been given that many at one time before."

"Attitude matters," I told him.

It wasn't his mess, but he cleaned it up and he did it with a good attitude. I wanted it contrast his choices with those of his friends. The attitude was more important to me than the clean up at that point. I was specific about what was praiseworthy; I hope it made an impact.

Last week I was on the receiving end of non-specific "appreciation." I'll give the individual the benefit of the doubt (which feels generous - I'm still quite frustrated over the whole thing) and say the intention was to make me feel appreciated and included, but the content of the message made it quite clear that the individual has no earthly idea what I do. Instead of making me feel warm and fuzzy about the appreciation, I felt wounded, angry and belittled.

Details matter. If you are going to reach out to someone in a genuine way, if you want someone to feel cared for or encouraged or loved, be sure you know what you are talking about. Be accurate. Be specific. Otherwise, instead of making something better, you just might make it worse.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I Wish....

I Wish.... (9/24/12)

I wish I had time to read like I used to  - like I want to.

I wish I had time to be crafty.

I wish I had one more room in my house to deal with the clutter I don't have time to sort (I could just shove it in a room and enjoy the rest of my space).

I wish I could get all the books in the library office cataloged and on shelves so students could use them rather than look at them longingly through the door.

I wish I knew how to help my son click faster and better with his school work this year.

I wish I could "do it all" and keep my sanity - and have time to sleep.

I wish there had been two of me this summer - one who got work done at school and one who got work done at home. [I think I would be more content now if that had been the case. Right now, I can't even tell you where the summer went. I did a lot of work, but it doesn't seem like I did enough to match the time I should have had.]

I wish I could get back to a place of contentment with my life.

I know I'm not going to give up searching for that contentment.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Church Chat

Periodically, someone new moves to town and joins our Christian school family. Inevitably, as I chat with them, talk turns to church.

Recently I had this conversation with a new member of the staff.  She shared what congregations they had visited so far, and her impressions on which ones might be a good fit for their family.
It would seem this is a natural time to for me to extol the virtues of our church... And I can't - or don't.

In this case, the woman mentioned a church that preferred contemporary worship and their family seemed to be looking for something with a little more balance. We have that! I thought I might mention our church when there was a break in the conversation. Then she said another one they tried was too old. Oh - never mind our church then. My son is in a small Sunday school class of 3rd through 5th graders - if he isn't the only 4th grader in the class, he's one of only a couple. We have a older congregation. When my husband and I taught Sunday school, we had 25 students in a fifth and sixth grade class. My son has 5 or 6 kids total who regularly attend his class. A week ago, he was the only student in attendance that day. It's a hard sell for young families. I'm concerned it could become a hard sell for OUR family as my son gets older.

Another time, the person I was talking to mentioned their old church and how they loved the Biblical teaching and Biblical foundation of the congregation. Now, our pastor preaches Biblical messages, and The Word is spoken in our church. But we also have pockets of folks who don't think the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. We have people who don't believe in the Virgin birth. My school family is more conservative, politically and in faith, than my church family. Many days I feel as though I live in no man's land in between the two. And it makes it hard to bring the two groups together.

I feel like I should be a better advocate for my home congregation - I love the people at our church. I probably frustrate our children's program staff because I don't attend the meetings they hold for parents during Sunday school. But it's because I am not willing to give up my Sunday school hour - I look forward to that time every week. I look forward to learning from the women I meet with every week - learning from their life experiences and their insights as well as learning about myself. I am proud of the things our congregation has done in the last 10 years to reach out to our community - our After school programs, food pantry, community center, outreach in Africa, etc.

I guess I just need to find a place of comfort in that no-man's land between these two faith communities in my life....

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pause Button

Did you seen the "Easy Button" commercials that were popular a few years ago? I've decided I don't need an "easy" button - I need a pause button.

I want to press "pause" and stop the world moving around me while I get caught up - or even ahead - on the tasks that need to be done.

I want to press "pause" and stop the world while I tackle all of Dad's papers that are still sitting in boxes from last summer. I don't want to blow through them and end up throwing out something I'd want later. [And frankly, I'm not sure where I'd put anything I chose to keep.]

I want to press "pause" and stop the world while I clean my house.

I want to press "pause" and stop the world while I process new books for the library that are waiting (and waiting... and waiting).

I want to press "pause" and stop the world while I clean out old junk and make space for other... "stuff."

I want to press "pause" and stop the world while I catch up on the email that piles up by 40 or 50 messages a day.

I want to press "pause" and stop the world while I do some things that make me feel like myself again - reading books and being crafty.

I want to press "pause" and stop the world while I help my son get a handle on his school responsibilities so we can go back to enjoying some of our time together rather than wrestling over school work every night.

I want to press "pause" and stop the world so I can just stop and breathe.

See, I can do some of these things, but I can't do all of them. If I could hit pause, get something done, then hit play again, I could get twice as much done. I could sleep until I wasn't tired any more. I could do my household responsibilities and my parenting responsibilities and my work responsibilities without feeling like I'm only skating by on all of them rather than doing anything with excellence.

In the absence of a pause button, a Time Turner would do, but I know they were all destroyed in the Battle at the Department of Mysteries, so I guess I'm out of luck there, too....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Come, Holy Spirit, Come

This past Sunday, I woke up feeling sad and lonely. I'd had a bad dream about my dad, and the crummy feelings hung with me. I've been in a yucky place lately, anyway - running, running, running but feeling as though I am getting nowhere. Unsettled with my work (tasks that need to be done, not feeling confident in the map I've laid out for the next few weeks), unsettled at home (piles and piles, more stuff than space, things left undone because of more pressing things). Two steps forward, fifteen steps back.

Despite my grumbling, we all got up and went to church. I was the only one who showed up for my Sunday school class, which meant a morning of quiet reading in a bright, sunny spot (a nice contrast to my mood) and something I've done too little of lately.

In the service, I enjoyed beautiful music and a celebration of the gifts of friends. I heard a message my soul was longing to hear - about the restoration and the power and the change that is possible when we invite the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives.

The morning wasn't a fix for any of the things that wear on me these days, but I felt more at peace than I had in many days. And an element of that peace is still with me today.

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Myers-Briggs/Book Reviews

 Thursday I posted about my recent Saturday at a local Children's Literature Festival.

Being with other book people was a great opportunity for me to hear information that validates one of my theories about readers - and book reviewers. One of the woman at our lunch table was sharing a story about another librarian who read voraciously and could remember details - and page numbers - from everything she read. The woman telling the story said when she reads a book, she can remember impressions from what she read or impressions of what she liked and didn't like, but never the details.

Another one of my passions is Myers-Briggs personality type. I have a theory that people who have an "S" in their personality type are the ones who remember the book details and folks who have an "N" have more impressions about what they read rather than the details. I thought it would be a little awkward to ask this stranger at the lunch table about her personality type, but I did think this conversation could fit perfectly into my theory! I struggle with coming up the details when I review a book - I know what I like, but pinning down the exact things I liked can be difficult. (I am an "N") A comparison of my husband's reviews a couple months ago and my regular ones seems to validate this theory. I think it's fascinating.

I do love when my passions collide!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Odd Girl Out - Not

I recently attended a Children's Literature Festival at the local university. This was my second year to attend, but I almost didn't go. The week before, I debated. I was only familiar with one author/illustrator who was going to be there, but it was a passing familiarity. It was an 8 hour event - 8 hours that could have been spent on other home or school projects that are more pressing. It was an 8 hour even that started at 8am on a Saturday morning - the one day I can usually sleep in.

But, as my husband reminded me, I made a commitment to go. Chances were good that I would enjoy myself once I got there. And I did. The one factor I didn't think of in all of my debating is how seldom I get to be with other people who are as passionate about children's literature as I am. The closest I get is an occasional conversation with a parent who is looking for reading material for their kids or a student who really liked the last book they read. I live for those conversations in my week. But I don't have a lot of people in my circle of relationships who care about when the next Percy Jackson book comes out (October 2nd) or who know who Mo Willems is.

But the people at this conference were MY people. I sat by a friend from church, and we had a delightful conversation about her kids' reading habits. I met a children's librarian at lunch who told me about the last three books she loved (Wonder, Crunch, and another title I can't remember). In the afternoon session, I spied another librarian reading a book from my TBR pile (To Be Read). Talking about that book led to a conversation about the second book she packed (in case the conference was lame - she originally had 4 in her hand to bring along, but she settled on just 2 - a woman after my own heart) which reminded me of another book which she put on her reading list.

It was delightful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Art Journals

This year I introduced my students to the concept of a Writer's Notebook. We are still introducing the idea - I think it will go even better as the year goes on - and next year - once the kids (and I) get more used to how the notebook can work.

I made this switch because I read a great book (surprise, surprise) about using them in a classroom. I loved the idea of my kids having something they can take with them, somewhere they can keep their ideas, somewhere they can safely try new things and new expressions of themselves and their creativity. In our first week writing specific entries in the Notebook, my heart just swelled as I watched 24 heads bent over their notebook and listened to 24 pencils scratching across the paper. I almost couldn't contain myself as I listened to them share what they wrote. I love these kids. I love the stories they represent - the potential.

Just as I am getting excited about this idea of keeping a writing notebook myself, and helping my students get in the habit of it too, I found this - a pin board on Pinterest about Art Journaling.

It inspires me - it makes me want to draw and color and keep an art journal myself. I am NOT an artist and my stuff won't look a quarter as amazing as these. But - I think - an art journal could be a place to try anyway. It could be just for me - a safe place where I can be a horrible artist but not care - a place to experiment and try something new....

Maybe there's an art journal in my future....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Two Lost Weeks

Sometimes my husband and I toy with the idea of going away on a trip, just the two of us. Travel with just three people is fairly easy, especially at my son's age, so these ideas have never materialized into anything concrete. And I don't feel like something is lacking in my life or my marriage because of it. I'm happy to have the three of us together, to "do" life together.

The other day, I was thinking about the time I spent with my dad before he passed away. I was thinking back to the logistics we put together - the friends and family who helped - so I could go be with him for the last couple weeks of his life, and my husband and son could do work and school respectively until the school year ended and we could see where things were going to go from there.

I was dismayed to realize that I have a two week gap in my memory of my son's life.

I have no idea what his life looked like while I was gone. Sure, I talked to him on the phone and Skype while I was away, but I don't have a mental image of what it looked like to have a cousin come over and get him ready for school in the morning (what did he have for breakfast? how did things go when she dropped him off for school?). I can't remember what he did after school (did he go to after school care? did my husband leave work early?). I'm pretty sure I missed a field trip in there, and I know I missed a major school presentation (my in-laws came over so he had someone there).

I don't like having that two week gap. I know as he gets older, those gaps are going to naturally become more plentiful as he becomes more independent. But for now, I want to soak up as much time with him and memories as I can to compensate for those two lost weeks of his life and to prepare me for the gaps yet to come.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jealous Much?

This year I treated myself to a subscription to Publisher's Weekly, a weekly magazine about the publishing industry. It has articles about publishing trends, publishers, new books being released, technology and books, etc. as well as book reviews.

A recent issue highlighted some forthcoming young adult books that were getting a lot of buzz. Since the magazine is focused on the industry, the article said nothing about the plot of the books (annoying to someone like me who is reading the magazine mostly for ideas about new books my students might like) and focused instead on how the story came to be published in the first place - the author's background, how the story found it's way to a publisher, etc.

As I was reading the article, I started to feel jealous. Imagine the thrill of reading through a slush pile and finding a gem! I imagine it's like being a librarian and reading a truly well-crafted story that you just know your students are going to love. Except, in this case it's on a much larger scale - finding a story you know the world is going to love.

I started wondering, "How do you get a job like that? How do you get to be on the front line of discovering new talent or a perfect tale and bringing a book to life in that way?" What a dream career that would be....

But then I thought of times I have completely fallen in love with a book [The False Prince, The Candymakers] and then introduced that book to a student who has also fallen in love with it. Would I rather be on the front end - the first person in the industry to discover a story? Or would I rather be part of leading students to the story once it's published, getting to interact directly with readers about a brilliant character or plot, watching kids "get" what I got when I first read it?

I think the answer, for me, is obvious.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Spirit

"Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord Almighty." ~ Zechariah 4:6

Our pastor preached on this passage a couple weeks ago and it has hung with me since then. I feel like this is a message for me regarding school, especially this year.

My general nature is to charge through things on my own. God has given me gifts and skills and opportunities, and I just need to meet them. I prefer to just muscle through, put in the work, and make things happen.

But I know this isn't always the best way.

Sometimes I say yes to things I should say no to, which makes either more work or less time or both.

Sometimes I wear myself down trying to do things in my own strength, depriving myself of the power available to me from the Lord to do the things He has asked me to do.

This year, I want to try to remember this. I want to incorporate this principle into my life, both at school and at home. Less might. Less of my own "power." More Spirit.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Recently I was talking to a friend about the new school year. I was sharing my fatigue and adjustment woes (as I have enumerated here already) and she asked how things were different this year.

"Last year I had 14 classes. This year I have 17. I was actually part time last year but this year...."

I'm working full time.

I'm working full time.

I haven't worked full time like this (outside the home) in 9 years. Even then, it wasn't like teaching; I put in my 40-45 hours and then I was done. With teaching, you work 40 hours and then work at home on lessons and lesson plans and bulletin boards, and curriculum plans, etc.

I used to have hours if not days off - to myself - to go to the book store or do the grocery shopping or take care of chores at home. Now I have to do them on the weekends like every other mom who works full time.

I'm severely out of practice.

But this does build a larger degree of hope that this will pass - I will build up my endurance, my family will find new routines that work for this new schedule, and life will feel manageable again.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sophomore Slump

Sophomore year of college was my least favorite. The newness of freshman year was gone, the anticipation of graduation and the future that would come for juniors and seniors wasn't there yet. I hated my major. I didn't want to get out of bed. Many days, I didn't. I had my lowest GPA of my entire educational career during my sophomore year.

In sports, when a rookie goes into a slide in his/her second year, they call it the "sophomore slump." Some even use that term to describe my experience during college. I would like to apply it to the second year of teaching as well.

While this year is going well, the newness and energy of my first year is just not there. I think most schools do a good job of supporting first year teachers, but when the second year rolls around, some are less intentional about providing support. Folks think you are capable because you've done this already. Instead of feeling capable because I have a year under my belt, I think I am just more aware of all that I'm lacking.

I am hanging on to the idea that it is still early in the year. As a family, we are adjusting to the work load and expectations of a new grade. I am still laying the foundation for the rest of the year with my students, reviewing basic skills and learning new names. I trust the "slumpiness" will abate once second quarter is rolling along.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Earlier this year I retired from Fantasy Football.

For the last several years I had a team in a 12-team league my husband started with some folks from our church. And I enjoyed it. It gave my husband and I a hobby to enjoy together, it gave me football knowledge about more than just "my" team. 

But for me, fantasy football became too much work. Last year, once I started teaching, I didn't have the energy or the desire to research who to play each week. I feel like I "phoned it in" for the last season I played. So, when the season ended, I retired.

The others in the league have been very gracious, saying they are sorry I won't be playing this year. And I will miss the camaraderie because our group is hilarious! 

But I feel free now.

Free to come to the draft without pressure of who to pick first or dread that the player I want (Aaron Rodgers) won't be available when the pick gets to me.

Free to enjoy the banter without pouring over cheat sheets to figure out who to take with my next pick.

Free to root for my team and against all the others without feeling divided loyalty because I drafted someone on a team in the same division.

Time will tell if I'll miss it and regret my choice to retire. But for now, I am enjoying the freedom of retirement.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lesson Plans

Many (many) years ago, when my husband and I taught upper elementary and middle school Sunday school, I enjoyed lesson planning. I had a theme or plan for the year (Women in the Bible or Children in the Bible) and I had theme verses I wanted students to focus on. I loved plotting out the lessons, writing out my thoughts and observations on the scripture passages. I loved teaching the material and interacting with my students over it.

I am typing this post after over 2.5 hours of lesson planning for school. I am not yet experiencing the same joy I used to feel.

I teach 17 classes a week to kids in 7 grades. So I am "only" planning 7 lessons a week - far fewer than my dear colleagues who teach that many lessons in one day. And my lessons have to be short enough to fit in a 40 minute period where I need to check in returned books and check out new books for anywhere from 10 to 25 students in a group as well as teach the lesson. Right now, I am just trying to plot out all of the library orientation material I need to cover depending on the age and skill level of the group. I'm having a hard time even remembering what all I taught last year.

My main challenges are

  • My preference to plan a full week at a time. My first day of teaching classes was a Thursday. I have 4 classes on Thursday and 4 on Friday, so about half of my load. But in those two days, I taught two of my fifth grade classes. I didn't see the other one until Wednesday of the following week. So, during the first full week of classes, I spent three days (nine classes) covering our orientation material and two days (eight classes) covering Week 2 material (the always thrilling discussion of shelf markers!). After two full weeks of classes, we have a Monday off for Labor Day. It will take me about a month of classes to arrange the material so that the three fourth grade classes (which meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday) are all on the same lesson in the same calendar week. This problem continues throughout the year thanks to breaks and school events and book fair, etc. I've already plotted out the dates of meetings through December so I can see where my partial weeks are and try to plan around them.
  • Planning developmentally appropriate lessons. I am still learning what books and what concepts work with which ages. Two years in a row now, I have read Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? to my kindergarten students and both times it has completely bombed. I finally got smart and started keeping a file of books I am using, what lessons I do with them, and when they work and don't work.
  • Planning lessons that prepare kids for more than just finding a book in the non-fiction section of any library. Library usage skills are important to me. Not only do they minimize the cyclone-like appearance of the library when a class leaves, but I believe they are skills necessary for life-long learning. But I want my students to leave with so much more - a love of reading, an appreciation for the impact a well-written story or well-developed character can have on your heart and mind, an understanding of the world that can come from digging into a well-written non-fiction book, a new depth of understanding of Scripture that can come when you know how to read for understanding.
  • The overabundance of material available to me. I almost have too many choices as far as lesson material. I have the things I did last year (some of which worked and some didn't). I have fun things I have found online from other teachers. I have a file cabinet full of material from my predecessor that I haven't even had time to open. I have shelves of library magazines full of lesson ideas. 
  • The pressure of having to develop a scope and sequence by October. I knew this time last year that I had to put together a scope and sequence of lessons for each grade level by this October. I had every intention of doing it this summer, but it didn't happen. In part, that is because of the other library projects I was doing instead. But honestly, part of it is because I hate having to commit to a scope and sequence this early in my librarian/teacher journey. I have so much to learn. I have so much material (see previous bullet point). I'm afraid the minute I submit this curriculum plan I'm going to hate it and want to do something completely different (or I'm going to try to implement it and find it's a complete flop)!

What's sad is that I realize this 150 minutes I just spent was really just for formatting an outline of what I'm going to do on certain days - and I haven't even finished all of September yet - not even planning the exact lessons.


I am expecting to feel a lot better about the manageability of my teaching life by October. I haven't lost the hope of someday being able to leave school at 3:15 again!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


My school day officially ends at 3:15, but I rarely leave the building then. Either I have an after school activity to supervise or I am trying to make the most of quiet hours without students to get caught up on tasks that don't fit into the daily school schedule.

But one day, during the first few days of school, I left at 3:15.

It was glorious! We came home because we thought a service provider was coming and we had to be here to meet him. (I didn't know I'd come home to a message that he was going to have to reschedule.) I couldn't believe how much more time I had when I came home at 3:30 instead of 5:30. And for the two weeks leading up to the start of school, there were many days I came home at 8:30. Leaving at 3:15 was a completely foreign experience. And I liked it.

My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic. My only-child status ensures that I am a perfectionist who is not satisfied unless I have plans and materials in place at least 2 weeks out from today and that everything has to be done with complete excellence. The painful losses during the last year gave me an excuse to work like a manic woman so I didn't have to deal with all of the emotions and ups-and-downs of the last 18 months.

But I am getting to a place where I want more - or is it less?

I want to be productive and I want to do my work with excellence, but I also want to have a life. I want to have time with my family and time to pursue my hobbies, and time to actually sit down and read a book - something I seemed to have a lot more time for before I started working as a librarian, ironically enough.

Maybe, once I get "on top" of things at school and get back into the routine of my work, I'll enjoy the freedom that comes from leaving at 3:15 more often.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ten Apps I Love

This is the last in my series of list posts. I should be back to regular posting on Thursday. This one highlights apps I am enjoying right now.

  • - I use this a lot at school to look up how something is spelled if it isn't in the student dictionary or when I do my own writing.
  • Book Crawler - I discovered this when I did a search for book apps. I haven't really dug into it completely, so at this point I love it in principle. You are supposed to be able to keep track of your book library on it. If it actually does what I want it to once I use it more regularly, I'll be sure to rave about it.
  • Stack the States - this is an educational game I downloaded for my son. You answer questions (state shape, capitals, landmarks) and earn states. It really helped him when his class was learning the states.
  • Solitaire - there are bunches of different solitaire options on iTunes, but my favorite is the one from Tri-Peaks where the cards are set in different shapes, with cards layered on one another, and you have to clear the field. Awesome!
  • Kindle - I own a Nook, but it is super handy to have the Kindle app so I can jump on free books I read about on Twitter or Facebook. I also had a chance to read an author's upcoming book and she had free Kindle copies to distribute. She emailed it to me and I was able to download it on my phone/iPad
  • IMDB - I use this all the time to figure out voices in animated shows/movies and other actors I see and go, "I know this person from somewhere!"
  • Paperless - this is the to do list app I found that I was able to make work for electronic notes as well as my book shopping lists. It's not perfect, but it works better than anything else I have found.
  • Chicktionary - my SIL asked me to play Words with Friends. I stink at it! So I searched for other word games I could play and I found this one. There are two ways to play with time limits and goals, but the basic idea is you get 7 chickens, each with a letter, and you try to make as many words with those letters as you can. Love it!!
  • Scramble - When I mentioned on FB that I was playing WWF even though I stink, someone suggested I try Scramble. I still lose frequently, but I have a fighting chance on this one at least.
  • Lego Harry Potter - I don't have much time to play this because you get locked into a stage and need to finish it so it saves and you don't lose your progress. But I enjoy gathering studs and tackling the tasks.

Have you played any of these? Have any app suggestions for me?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ten Songs I Love Today

I hope these links work - I figure, what's the point of talking about music if no one knows the songs I'm talking about!

Where I Belong performed by Building 429
Unto the Lamb performed by Prestonwood Choir
Revelation Song performed by Kari Jobe
He'll Hold You performed by Selah
God's Not Dead performed by Newsboys (actually, I am a huge fan of Michael Tate and I think he is what I love about Newsboys these days)
Brandenburg Concerto 3, first movement composed by Bach (the audio and video don't line up, but it is a nice performance)
Power of the Cross performed by Sisters (link is to iTunes)
Fix Me Jesus from the Joyful Noise soundtrack
Morning Always Comes performed by Shelly E. Johnson (link is to iTunes)
Overflow performed by Beckah Shae

Did you like any of these? Have any recommendations for me?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ten Bible Verses for Encouragement

These are some verses and passages I go back to time and time again.

  • Ephesians 2:10 - For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
  • Romans 5:3-5 - Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
  • Psalm 16
  • Romans 12:10 (NRSV) -  love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (I love the whole section from vs 9 through vs. 21)
  • Galatians 6:9-10 -  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
  • Philippians 2:14-16 - Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
  • John 14:1-3 - “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come backand take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
  • Hebrews 12:2 -  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • Psalm 30
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts usin all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

What are your favorite verses for encouragement?