Teachers, Do You Know The Weapon You Wield?

20140413-172104.jpg

Dear Teachers,

I know you look at your students with disbelief at some of the things you overhear them saying seven feet away from you…because when you’re gone, I hear it, too.  It’s as though they think you can’t hear them, don’t understand English, or were never a teenager.  Ah, but that is where they are mistaken.  You, your colleagues, and I chuckle about it after they leave and sometimes catch them at something later because of a slip-of-the-tongue.

Yet, there is a contradictory factor at play in this scenario.  When you are seven feet away from your students, you talk to your colleagues about school being better without the students, you complain about a particular grade, and loudly (and laughingly) state other such negative comments.  Do you think they don’t hear you?

I am an observer, I see both sides, I’ve participated in both sides.  I remember sitting in that desk hearing teachers (who I liked) speak negatively about students (sometimes jokingly).  I now sit on the side of the teacher and hear the negative chatter–sadly, I cannot claim innocence from participating.

I beg of you, each and every person who claims the title of teacher, educator, aide, substitute, guidance counselor, and administrator, please speak words of kindness that uplift, challenge, and encourage our students to do their best and be the best “them” that they can be.  I don’t have to tell you that many of them only hear negative comments out of school, so let’s be a place of safety where they can learn and grow.  How many struggle with their self-image, confidence, eating disorders, abuse, drugs, alcohol, and so much more?  What if they want help?  Are you approachable?  Do they look at you and know you’ll listen without flying off the handle, love them, and offer them assistance with grace and compassion?

Our children are not problems.  They are precious lives that need guidance, discipline, and the space to grow with help nearby.  From preschool to the seniors about to walk across the stage, they all need to know they are loved, cared for, and approved of.  Those are all things that we can give.  Can you step up to that challenge?

Sincerely,

An imperfect substitute who has a deep love for her students

The Battle of Poetry and Prose

20140412-184359.jpgMy family is from Kent, thus I enjoy reading about it. Through this poem I learned a bit of history about Kent/England from 1803-1805.

Growing up we had a thick, red book of poems for children.  I remember looking through it, probably having poems read to me from it, and memorizing pieces out of it as part of my homeschooling curriculum.  During my few years at a private school, I remember memorizing various poems from the back of our spelling book.  Two of my favorites were: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and The Village Blacksmith (I can still remember the beginnings of both).

However, I was always fond of and drawn to prose.  I remember reading Little Women while listening to it on tape when I was six or seven, I raided the old books in my grandparents basement one summer, when I was about the same age, and took a lot of new-to-me books home, and then there was the chunk of time when I was eight that I would wake up (naturally) at 4AM, sneak out to the kitchen for a plain bagel, and go back to my room and read till whenever.

I think fondly on those times, as well as the years that followed, resulting in a book always being stuffed in my purse during high school…and read when I should have been paying attention to French.

In college I minored in English, aka, I took a lot of upper level lit classes.  In one we read lots of epic poems, in another we read and analyzed poems based on the time period we were studying, and for another I wrote a thirteen page annotation of female poets beginning with Anne Bradstreet and continuing into the 1930′s.  It took that thirteen page annotation to begin opening my eyes to the fun of discovering the depths and meaning of poetry myself.

Now, two years later, I still battle with poetry.  I so enjoy getting lost in a story rather than fighting through the fog of words that are hiding an elusive meaning that wishes to remain a secret.  Occasionally I’ll stumble upon poems I enjoy, like the book of poems on the poets travels to Russia shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union or the book of Wordsworth I enjoyed today.

A certain friend, who shall remain nameless, has prodded me to move towards poetry.

Dare I admit it’s working?  I have, but I still hold that I’m not there yet.

What about you?  Poetry, prose, or both?

Sheep and Strings

Over the weekend I took a 1,300 mile road trip–longest one by myself yet! (I got 48 mpg on my Tuscaloosa to Virginia stretch!)

It was glorious.  I drove through states I’d never driven myself through (Tennessee and Alabama are beautiful)!  Also, Alabama has the worst roads I’ve ever driven on, and their speed limits in construction zones are bizarre and not really followed (I had a plan in case I got pulled over–head straight to the police station to officially complain about the Bama Craziness).

I held a baby lamb for the first time.  Kristy chased one down that was too young to really run, scooped him/her up, and then the Mama came running.  I was a bit concerned about being bitten–but we all lived to tell about it.

Saturday evening I was reminded why playing tennis barefooted is a bad idea for any length of time, but I don’t regret it in the least.  Then, four of us gathered in the kitchen (where all things good happen) and made homemade pizza!  (Thanks to Lissy I now know how to quickly make pesto!)

Sunday I experienced the lingering hints of prohibition.  Four stops later, I walked out the door with pink champagne in hand!  The reason for the champers?  I got to attend a friend’s graduate violin recital at the University of Alabama (hurrah for having talented friends!)!

20140410-172421.jpg

20140410-172448.jpg

20140410-172455.jpg

20140410-184019.jpg

20140410-172504.jpg

St. Paddy’s Day the Classy Way

Yesterday was a SNOW DAY.
It was also the day I decided to stay in my PJ’s till three–I was productive, though.

Oh yeah, and yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day!  Duh.

I put on the green with everyone else and traipsed (drove) downtown to participate in the festivities surrounding “The Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Virginia” in Clifton Forge.  We had a ball!  From the moment I walked into Celtic 2, I had a grand time.  I saw a couple from work, enjoyed my first Irish Coffee (score for being 22!), tried Irish soda bread and enjoyed Jacobs Cream Crackers (yuuum!), and explored the newly opened Bannon’s Irish Inn B&B (very cozy…makes me wish I was a tourist visiting)!

Oh, and did I mention the Ugliest Knees Competition?  It was, in a word, hilarious (men in kilts, anyone?)!

After a little more celebratory preparation, we trooped outside, green hats and glasses in abundance, and paraded a little more than 100 feet to Jack Mason’s Tavern to enjoy green beer, regular beer, cider, soda, delicious food, socializing, and an all around fabulous time!

Here are just a few shots (all taken by me) to give you a glimpse of the fun we had (maybe you can make it next year!):

20140318-222023.jpg

Ugliest Knees Contestant

20140318-222200.jpg

Festive spread at the Tea Room!

20140318-222047.jpg

Parading across to Jack Mason’s Tavern!  Check out the decked out crowd!

20140318-222223.jpg

Must be excited about the green beer inside!

20140318-222102.jpg

Upon entry, we were greeted by many fellow celebratory folks!

20140318-223228.jpg

The parade’s 90 year old Grand Marshall chatting with Clifton Forge’s beloved Mayor

When Playing Librarian

P1030516

Photo by K.L.R.

*Written yesterday, while in the clutches of my librarian chair…waiting for the bell to ring*

I spent my day substituting for the high school librarian.

Translated: I had hours to research, play on the Vogue website, and think.

At this point I am ready to:

-enroll in the Conde Nast School of Fashion and Design in London…

-bake Chewy Earl Grey cookies with an orangey glaze…

-someday become the editor of Vogue or British Vogue…

-visit some redone jazz clubs in NYC…

-read Redeployment

-watch (and in some cases rewatch) some great movies

-and, you know, go shopping…

All in a day’s work, right?

Instead, I shall finish this library stint up, head to tennis practice, meet with the pageant ladies, and prepare for a very full weekend of serving pancakes, being a guest on a local radio show, and whatever else may pop up.

Have a fabulous weekend!

P.S. In case you missed it, the other afternoon, Vogue retweeted and favorited me…..I might have gotten a little excited.

The Right Way to Mourn?

Photo from Yahoo News

Photo from Yahoo News

As I skimmed the headlines this morning, I saw an article about thousands of Turks coming together to mourn a 15 year old boy’s death.  Curious, I clicked on the link to find out the significance of the young man’s life (all lives are significant, but not everyone pulls a crowd of thousands).  In a nut shell, the boy was hit in the head with a tear gas canister and died after nine months in a coma.

The details are not the point I find intriguing.  Rather, what is different in cultures that mourn, celebrate, and live life en masse compared to more reserved cultures that feign being moderately alright, when in reality they are hurting inside?

I remember reading a book in college that observed the grieving process of a particular tribe.  The people in the tribe did not quietly cry, keeping to themselves with the pretense of being alright.  Instead, they wept, wailed, enacted rituals, ever increasing their emotions, resulting in some becoming physically sick.

Diversity is a beautiful thing.  People learn from each other and other cultures.  While it seems haughty to cite a society as being wrong or bad, I cannot help but wonder what scares/intimidates certain societies about being vulnerable, intimate, open, transparent with each other, while others embrace it.

My senior year of college I took a class on the book of the Bible, Psalms.  The most important lesson I learned from that class was the value of emotion.  God created us to feel.  There are several types of Psalms, one of which is the lament.  While the typical “lament psalm” has the writer process through despairing feelings regarding a situation, they end by acknowledge God’s love and power and praise Him for it.  However, the exception to the rule can be found in one or two laments psalms in which the writer is so distraught that he does not close in love and honor of God.

As Psalm 103 reminds us, we are dust, and God knows it.  He created us to feel and does not expect perfection from us, as we are unable to give it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if any of this struck a chord in you!

Maple Festival Festivities

Two weekends a year in Highland County, VA people come from neighboring counties and states to visit the Maple Festival.

The most southern point on the East Coast where maple syrup can be made comes alive with people hungry for buttermilk and buckwheat pancakes, golden maple syrup, maple flavored fudge, ice cream, and donuts, and beautiful hand made crafts.

Two years ago I took three college friends up for the festival over our spring break, last year a friend and I went up one weekend to enjoy the festival and the next weekend to serve pancakes–equally enjoyable, and this year I took a friend who did not know the Maple Festival existed!  We concluded he must live under a rock.

The best place for pancakes is the Bolar Ruritan Club.  Made from scratch pancakes, hand made sausage patties, socializing, and supporting local scholarships, it is the place to come hungry and leave satisfied!

Our drive up was beautiful and filled with good conversation and lots of laughter.  Cortez said the Bolar Ruritan Club reminded him of something he might see in a movie and want to try, but it wasn’t something he’d choose to actually attend.  Needless to say, he was very glad I’d invited him along…and he was finally convinced to bring his family up next weekend!

A few highlights included:

20140310-225411.jpg

My first Maple Festival pancakes of the year.  One word: yum!

20140310-225400.jpg

Cortez about to try his first buckwheat pancakes (he LOVED them)!

20140310-225602.jpg

Fascinating wood work!

20140310-225514.jpg

Love masks!  Took me back to Venice.

20140310-225501.jpg

The yellow was working for him!

20140310-225535.jpg

About to try my first fried Oreos!  Delish.

20140310-231248.jpg

Laughter, maple syrup, and friendship…it’s what memories are made of.