Five Things I’m Grateful For Today….Prompt #10

  1. I am grateful that when I was nine years old my parents sent me to a Bible camp nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It was at that camp that I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior and then how to live life as a believer in Jesus.
  2. I am grateful for my family. I grew up in a home where I knew I was loved, there was a lot of laughter, and just the right amount of crazy. We celebrated holidays big, frequently went on trips, and spent time together.
  3. I am grateful for the ability to read. I’ve met so many interesting friends and traveled to fascinating places in the pages of books. I don’t remember a time in life that I wasn’t either listening to a book on my record player or lying on the couch, in the bathtub, in my bed, or in the floor reading a book. Reclining has always been the posture of reading in my world.
  4. I am grateful for my friends. I find myself laughing at least once a day because of something a friend has shared with me via text or email or in person. I honestly believe that I have some of the funniest friends on the whole planet. I sometimes can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to know the people I call friends. I mean, they aren’t famous or anything, but I think they maybe should be.
  5. I am grateful for sunshine, rain, cloudy days, rainbows, fingernail polish, fun colored pants, pets, technology, health, campfires, church, coffee, pizza, Chaco sandals, comfy chairs, unexpected afternoon naps, singing, hiking, games, movement, make-up, puzzles, comic books, writing, music, jokes, memes, stickers, and so much more. I know technically that’s more than one, but it’s my blog so I can do what I want, and it’s really difficult to just pick five things when you really start considering all the things for which you are grateful. That’s a nice problem to have.

#bloganuary, #dailyprompt, #prompt10

What Do You Like Most About Your Writing? Prompt #8

I’ve kept a journal for most of my life. The earliest I remember writing in my journal was when I was 14, sitting on my day bed writing about the events of the day. I am not sure where those journals have ended up, but I would interested to see what my 14 year-old-self found important enough to write down. It might give some insight into the brains of my current students.

All through college I journaled, and it’s a practice that I’ve kept up throughout adulthood. Through journaling I’ve realized that there is so much to my life that I don’t remember. Reading through journals will jar my memory about that moment which leads to remembering other things. It is a little troublesome how much I have forgotten, especially when I have a pretty good memory. I’m sort of the elephant of my friend group. I might actually prefer to think of myself as the keeper of the memories, rather than an elephant. When speaking with friends that I’ve known for awhile, I’ll ask if they remember when….and they won’t.

So, I don’t know if that’s exactly what this post was looking for, but I like that my writing reminds me about the big and the mundane of life.

#bloganuary, #dailyprompt, #prompt8

What Makes You Laugh? Prompt 7

It doesn’t take much to make me laugh. I grew up in a house where there was a lot of laughter. My dad used to read the comics in the paper daily. He would sit at the table, start laughing to himself, and then read the comic to us, sometimes with tears streaming down his face. While growing up I always heard stories of my parents playing practical jokes on one another. More than once I caught my dad coming from the end of an aisle in a store doubled over because he had passed gas on an unsuspecting customer. My mom and I have had several moments of laughter where we couldn’t even look at each other.

Which is why middle school is where I find I fit best. My students make me laugh everyday, without fail. Sometimes it is what they say, other times it is what they do. Most of the time they aren’t trying to be funny, but because they are in that in between stage called middle school, they are just that- funny. Social awkwardness mixed with immaturity mixed with individual personality quirks makes for some pretty humorous events throughout a day.

For example, I have a student who is an award winning gymnast. He’s a quirky fellow whose voice fluctuates minute by minute. On Thursday, he had drawn a different colored line on each of his fingers. I’m not sure what medium he was working with, but the most notable color was blue and it was a material that either didn’t dry or didn’t dry quickly.

Students were writing an essay, and I moved around the room helping where needed. My gymnast’s raised his hand, and while helping him, I noticed the blue line drawn on his pointer finger. I continued to roam around when I saw his hand again. This time his nose was blue where he had rubbed it with the blue finger. I told him that his nose was blue and if he needed to go to the bathroom to wash his hands and his face, he was welcome to do so. He didn’t seem bothered and went back to his work, so I went to the other side of the room to assist another student. I again saw the gymnast’s hand in the air, and I made my way back to that side of the room. I was thinking that I would easily have 10,000 steps in for the day at this rate.

When I arrived at the gymnast’s desk, this time one side of his face was marked with blue where he had rubbed just under his eye. Before answering his question about his essay, I told him to Google, “Mel Gibson, Braveheart.” When he pulled up the images, I pointed to one and said, “Look, you are about at this stage in the war paint. What in the world is on your hand? Are you sure you don’t want to go to the bathroom” He and his table group cracked up, but he continued to work, and I called him Braveheart for the rest of class.

Mel Gibson/ Braveheart (

That’s how my day started and that’s just not unusual when working with 12 year old kids. Laughter is found in abundance daily.

#bloganuary, #dailyprompt, #prompt7

Who is someone who inspires you and why? Prompt 6

I gain inspiration from a lot of people. I have been thinking about this post all day and can’t seem to narrow it down to just one.

I am inspire by my mother. She has not had an easy life, but she always pushes through and perseveres. She is funny, and intelligent, business savvy, beautiful, and fun to spend time with.

I am inspired by my students. They remind me that life is full of possibilities. That it’s okay to be silly 99% of the time. That regardless of your age, you can make a difference in the life of someone else.

I am inspired by my friend Pat Oaks. When I am in my 80s I hope to be as spry, witty, and active as Pat. I also hope that I’m just mischievous and joyful as she is.

I am inspired by many in the Bible, but especially Moses. I admire his relationship with God in so many ways.

I am inspired by the Apostle Paul and his boldness in sharing Jesus with the world.

There are so many others who inspire me in many ways. I consider myself beyond blessed that I had a crowd from which to choose.

#bloganuary, #dailyprompt, #prompt6

What is something you wish you knew how to do: Bloganuary Day 5

There are so many things in life that I would like to know how to do, so it has been difficult to just pick one thing. I would like to know how to speak Hungarian and French fluently, and bake real French croissants, and sing beautifully, and dance gracefully, and grow a garden, and quilt, and paint, and so many other things.

But, as I sat and mulled over what to write for this post, I quickly decided that something that I really wish I knew how to do would be to play a musical instrument.

I took piano lessons in college one semester. I had a light class load and I had room for the 1 hour elective. Several times a week I would sit in the practice room and tap out, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or whatever song I was working on for the week while my friend Scott would accompany me on the guitar. My playing was slow and typically Scott and I ended up doing more laughing than actually playing music together.

One day my piano teacher, Brenda, asked me to play the piece I had been working on for class. My fingers were poised over middle C, and I began to play the song. When I finished, I looked at Brenda and saw that she looked confused. Or dumbfounded. Maybe both. I started guessing at what I had done wrong, “Did I play the wrong notes? My rhythm was off? Is this even the song I was supposed to learn?” She replied, “No, you had the right notes, and this is the song, but you switched the treble and the bass and played with the opposite hands.” For a moment I wondered if I was some sort of musical prodigy, but the fact that I didn’t even hear that I was doing it wrong convinced me that this probably wasn’t the case. My class ended and my schedule didn’t afford time for the elective class, so my future as a pianist didn’t really get off the ground.

Several years later I started taking guitar lessons from my friend Mariel. We would drink coffee while she taught me basic chords. Our lessons were fun and since I knew her well I could ask my questions that seemed dumb. We spent afternoons learning new songs, and I even participated in a recital and played, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” Then I started teaching full time and my guitar gathered dust while I planned lessons, graded essays, and attended meetings.

I decided to take up guitar lessons again several years later and began meeting weekly with Patrick. If anyone deserves an award in patience- it’s Patrick. For one, I didn’t practice like I should have. Patrick also had to deal with my emotions. He would play a song that I really loved, like “Blackbird” by the Beatles, and have to wait to show me how to play it because I would get choked up and blubber on about why I loved the song so much. One day he was really excited to teach me a little music theory. He was so pumped, and I really wanted to be as excited about it as he was, but despite my best effort it was like he had been given the gift of tongues and there was no interpreter. After an hour of talking and drawing on the back of sheet music, I think I left even more clueless than when I had arrived. After three years, I hadn’t progressed very much and then my class load got heavier, and I finally had to put a pause on the lessons. I don’t think Patrick was too broken up about my having to stop.

As I write this out, I think I need to adjust the prompt a little from “What I Wish I Knew How To Do” to “What I Wish I Would Just Do With What Little I Know”. I would still like to play an instrument, but it seems the problem isn’t with ability, but with making time, practicing, being willing to stink at something for awhile, trying harder, being okay with making lots of mistakes, and applying myself. So maybe I’ll dust off the guitar, tune it up, and relearn, “Blackbird.”

#bloganuary, #dailyprompt, #prompt5

Bloganuary Day 4

Sylvester the Cat, age 44

I decided to join a challenge, called Bloganuary, to answer a prompt everyday during the month of January in the hopes that I would get back into the habit of writing daily.

Today’s prompt is: What was your favorite toy as a child?

When I was around two years old, I was given a stuffed Sylvester the Cat toy by my Aunt Gwen. Actually, I’m not sure who gifted me the stuffed cat, but I feel like that’s what I’ve heard over the years.

I always like stuffed animals and very small dolls, like Barbies, Strawberry Shortcake and friends, and the Glamour Girls. I was never a fan of life-sized baby dolls, although one Christmas I did ask for a doll that could eat and then pee in a pink heart-shaped toilet. I think this doll was pretty difficult to find that year, and my parents were not happy when they gifted her to me only to discover that I only wanted her so that Barbie could use the heart-shaped toilet as a hot tub.

There are many pictures of me in my childhood bed surrounded by 20 or so stuffed animals. I remember talking to my stuffed animals, teaching them how to do math in my pretend classroom, but only one went everywhere with me and that was Sylvester the Cat. I once even reasoned, when I discovered that plants were alive, that since cotton is a plant and Sylvester was made of cotton, then he might really be alive. There were some glaring holes in my theory, but I chose to ignore those.

Sylvester went on family vacations, weeks away at summer camp, and eventually to college with me. He wasn’t treated so well in college. I had a friend hang him as a practical joke and another friend kidnapped him for a brief period. Perhaps I’m using the term ‘friend’ a little too freely, because I was not happy in either instance although he was safely returned.

A few years after college, I moved to Hungary to teach English. I didn’t want to pay extra fees, and the airlines allowed two 70-pound bags and two carry-on bags, so I was going to make sure everything fit. I spent a few weeks packing and unpacking, weighing and reweighing, getting rid of unnecessary items and discovering new things that would be needed. The night before departing for 5 weeks of training in Pasadena, California, I sat on my bedroom floor and once again, reassessed. I had packed mostly clothes that would have to work for all four seasons and a few pairs of shoes. I tried to pack very few personal items and had selected a Ziplock full of pictures of friends and family, a couple of CDs, but I was debating if I should bring Sylvester.

As a 26-year-old woman, I knew that I should just leave him at home. He wasn’t exactly small, nor easy to pack. The longer I sat on my floor and thought about being gone for an entire year, and all the things I would be giving up, the more I convinced myself to put him in my backpack. I chose my backpack because I didn’t trust the airline to not lose my luggage, and my backpack was going on the plane with me.

Five weeks later, as 100 of us had completed training and were departing LAX to go teach in six different countries, I stuffed Sylvester in my backpack along with my passport, wallet, the pictures I had brought along, and a toothbrush. A change of clothes on a 36 hour journey might have been a better idea than a stuffed animal, but that’s what makes hindsight so useful.

It may seem silly for a grown woman to take a stuffed animal halfway around the world, especially given limited suitcase space, but on those days where everything seemed so different and foreign and I really missed home, I found comfort in seeing Sylvester sitting on my bed where he has always been.

#bloganuary, #dailyprompt, #prompt4


I love Christmas, Christmas decorations, and pretty much all things associated with Christmas. I start getting excited for Christmas around October, but I tell myself that I can’t begin decorating until at least November 1.

This year I was able to hold off until the weekend before Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November here in America. I knew I would be out of town Thanksgiving weekend, and honestly, I didn’t want to wait any longer to put up the tree and exchange my fall kitchen towels for my Christmas kitchen towels.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, I invited my mom, niece, and nephew over to eat pizza and then sip homemade hot chocolate while we decorated the tree. Well, while my niece and I decorated the tree. My nephew was over decorating before we began, so he settled for a Christmas movie, and my mom was tired from all that she had done that day, so she watched from the couch and made suggestions on ornament placement. I love a full tree and go so far as to hang decorations on the inside branches of the tree when I run out of room on the obvious branches. Izzy finally said, “I don’t think anymore decorations are going to fit on this tree.” Which was code for: I’m done decorating now. And she was right, there wasn’t anymore room on the tree.

I turned off all the lights, and we sat in the glow of the Christmas tree. I was giddy with excitement. The lights glittered off the many ornaments and while Henry, my cat, chewed on the lower branches, we enjoyed the arrival of the Christmas season.

For the next month, every morning after waking up I would stumble into the living room and plug in the Christmas tree- even before pouring my first cup of coffee. I would sit in my chair, sip my coffee, read, and enjoy the cozy ambiance of the Christmas tree. When I arrived home in the evenings, I plugged the tree up before putting down my backpack or hanging my keys on the hook by the door.

I enjoyed every moment of my Christmas decorations and so no one was as surprised as I was the day after Christmas when I decided to take my tree down on a whim before Church that Sunday. I neatly laid all the ornaments on my kitchen table in organized piles and then packed the tree away in its box when I came home from church. I spent the afternoon moving furniture back to where it belonged when I don’t have a tree as the centerpiece of the living room, cleaned the floors; packed away candles, Christmas CDs, and Christmas dish towels, and trekked up and down the stairs to store all of it in the basement.

I sat down that evening happy that I could spend the rest of my vacation without that chore hanging over my head. With that task accomplished, I decided to tackle my final goal of the year- to read 5 more books before the new year so that I could reach my goal of reading 100 books in 2021. As I settled down, I looked up and realized that I had forgotten to take down one rather conspicuous decoration- a bright read wooden sign that reads, “Joy.”

I thought about taking it downstairs, but I decided to just leave it up on the wall. I can certainly use the reminder to listen to the apostle Paul when he says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say it, Rejoice!” and again in I Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always” especially in those moments when I don’t feel like having joy. It’s also a small way to enjoy and be reminded of the Christmas season for just a little while longer.

Pig Tails

My niece Izzy is ten years old. She has long brown hair, big brown eyes, and a wide smile. She is forever making cards for everyone on holidays and is eager to do any craft like activity. For Christmas this year she painted me a picture of a fox. Izzy reminds me of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh because she pretty much skips or bounces everywhere she goes. She can be a little bossy. And by a little, I mean a whole lot. She’s pretty head strong and if someone isn’t doing something to suit her, she isn’t shy to voice her opinion. Izzy loves stuffed animals, always carries a huge backpack full of toys and activities around, and still believes in the magic of Christmas and Santa’s elves.

The world has never wondered how Izzy feels because she is very emotive. When Izzy was very small, she always wanted to pet my mom’s cat. The cat hated Izzy and would immediately run away and find a quiet place to nap. It always seemed that just as the cat would settle in and drift off, Izzy would ask me to help her find the cat. We would tip toe through the house, me whispering, “Now remember Izzy, we have to be very quiet so we don’t scare him. If you are quiet, he might even let you pet him.” I would locate the cat, tiptoe with Izzy into the room, putting my finger to my lips to remind her to be very quiet, and without fail, as soon as she laid eyes on the resting cat, she would throw her hands up and scream in excitement. She just could not contain her excitement. This always resulted in the cat going airborne and scrambling from his peaceful retreat with Izzy on his heels. Every. Single. Time. No matter how often I reminded her, or shushed her, or promised her that she could actually touch the cat if she were quiet- she would always be overcome with excitement and squeal. Honestly, it would always crack me up. She was joy manifested in those moments.

When we are going on a trip or to the theatre or some other adventure, Izzy’s parents won’t tell her. They just allow her to wake up and be surprised because she gets so excited about the events of the next day that she can’t fall asleep.

Izzy’s first Christmas as a toddler was loads of fun because whenever a gift was placed in front of her, she would throw her arms up in the air, squeal, and jump up and down- this was before the gift was even unwrapped. It had been awhile since our family had a little kid to experience Christmas with and her reactions really brought the Christmas Spirit alive. She still loves all things Christmas.

Izzy has never been a girly girl until recently. She prefers activewear to dresses, a sweatshirt to a cute coat, and sneakers to dress shoes. One Sunday morning she had spent the night with me, and we were standing in the bathroom getting ready for church. I was armed with a curling iron attempting to tame my hair, and Izzy stood nearby watching me all the while talking a mile a minute. Her own hair was a fuzzy halo over two long braids that were plaited the day before. When I mentioned that we needed to redo her hair, I was met with a, “Why? It looks fine.” I told her that it actually didn’t look fine since I had braided it over 24 hours before and she had slept on it, not to mention her fuzz halo. I suggested that I could curl her hair to which she was quick to respond, “No!” while dramatically shifting away from me.

Hair brushing is the bane of Izzy’s existence. She doesn’t like to brush her own hair, and allow someone else to do it, but not without complaint. As I unplaited her braids and dragged the brush through her hair, I offhandedly made the comment, “It’s about time for you to learn to do your own hair.” I regretted the words almost as soon as they fell out of my mouth because I am someone who is acquainted with how quickly time passes. I have two nephews that are 17 and 21, but I swear they should only be 4 and 8. While Izzy may be 10 today, I know that soon I’ll look around and teenager in her place.

As I brushed her hair, and she directed me on how I should be doing it, I got a little choked up as I thought about a wretched poem I heard years ago about all the last times you have with little kids that you don’t know are the last times. That poem has haunted me through the years, it just keeps coming back up reminding me that time with little people is limited because one day Izzy will just do her own hair, and we’ll only occasionally remember what a battle it was every day.

This Christmas I could already see the glimpses of Izzy growing up. This year she didn’t ask for toys. She still danced around the house, talked about the antics that her elves had been up to, and asked over and over when we were opening presents like a normal kid- but when it came time to open gifts, the hints were there. While 8-year-old Manny was irritated when he opened a box to find clothes instead of toys, Izzy was excited. She recently got her ears pierced and squealed with delight when she opened new earrings, a bracelet, and a necklace. She put them all on to pose for a photo.

It just goes so quickly and there’s not a darned thing you can do about it, except try to savor the moments of fighting to get her hair brushed and tamed instead of getting irritated as you are told, “That hurts. You’re pulling my hair. Dada doesn’t do it like that.” Hopefully the next time I’m helping her with her hair, I’ll remember to savor the moment.

Ode to Roald

About four years ago a skinny gray and white cat started showing up around my house. The cat wasn’t afraid of me, but it also wasn’t eager to be friends. Because I’m a sucker and already had two indoor cats of my own, I started giving the cat a little food when it would stop by for a visit. The cat was also painfully skinny, so I made it my personal mission to fatten him up a little bit.

Little by little, the cat starting hanging around more. I quickly discovered that the cat was a he, and so I named him Roald after the author, Roald Dahl. Soon, Roald was showing up every evening around the same time. He eventually wore a little path in the grass between my house and the neighbor’s house.

After a few months an eating schedule was established on the back porch. I would put out food and when he had his fill, Roald would slink to the front of the house and spend the evenings lying on my concrete front steps. The steps were warm and the twilight peaceful, so I would sit outside with him. He would sit close, but would not allow me to pet him. I would try to convince him that I was a safe person and really, if I’m feeding him I should at least be able to pet him. This was before I was bitten by the other stray cat, River and had to have Rabies shots, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have persisted.

Eventually, I gained Roald’s trust, and he allowed me to pet him. When I was home, I would often look outside around 6 pm and find Roald lying on the step, stretched out, sleeping. I would go outside and sit near him and pet him. We spent many evenings sitting on the porch watching the sunset or just enjoying the tranquility of the early evening.

One evening, I looked out the window and instead of seeing Roald lying on the step, I saw him lying half in the road and half in my driveway. My breathe caught, and I was overcome with sadness thinking that he had been hit by a car. My mind flipped through a list of people I could call who could come get him out of the road- I love cats, but I’m not a strong enough woman to go scooping dead pets up out of the road. I opened the front door to better assess the situation and to my surprise, Roald lifted his head. He hadn’t been hit by a car, but had decided that the warm asphalt was a good napping spot despite the close proximity to speeding cars. I was both mad and happy- one he was alive, but two he had frightened me when I thought he was dead.

Roald was a wanderer. He would show up almost every night at about the same time and then be gone for a few days. While driving home I would see him walking along the side of the road or chasing something in the woods. I would always warn him about the danger of the roads and feared seeing him lying in the ditch one day. Roald never brought me dead birds or mice, and I really appreciated that. He was a very docile cat. One day he was napping in the sun on the back porch and a little bird that must have been blind, landed on the railing and hopped right beside Roald’s giant paw. The bird chirped and hopped around as Roald opened one eye, and went back to napping.

I noticed a few months ago that Roald was looking more ragged than normal. He was always a little dusty and dirty from his outdoor living or would show up with wounds that I would try to heal. Recently, his fur was looking matted like he wasn’t grooming himself. He spent more time sleeping on the porch and less time wandering. When I would bring food out, he would hop off his chair, stretch, and allow a head scratch. He had invited a small gray female cat to join him on the porch, and I would find the two of them snuggled together in Roald’s chair. Roald was starting to look more and more sickly. I contemplated taking him to the vet, but wondered if I could even catch him to get him there. In all our years of friendship, I was only ever allowed a head and occasional belly scratch. There was never the offer of wanting in the house or to sit in my lap. Roald never really looked sick, but his behavior had changed. It has now been several weeks since I’ve seen Roald. I suspect that he, like most cats, wandered off to die privately. I look for him in the evenings, but I don’t think he’s coming back.

It’s troublesome how quickly you get used to something and take for granted that it will always be there. “Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.” Holden Caulfield, from The Catcher in the Rye said that in regards to how things and people are always changing. When I read those words last night, I couldn’t help but agree.

Middle School Part III

Most days teaching in a middle school seem pretty routine. I welcome students as they come into the room. I teach them things related to reading and English grammar. I drink coffee. I tell and laugh at my own lame jokes. I feign laughter at my students’ lame jokes. While all of this is going on, I monitor the room and decide if I need to tell Sam to stop talking or Payton to wake up, and then I wait to see if they correct their own behavior. If they do, we move on and if they don’t, I redirect them. And so the cycle goes day after day.

This past Friday was not one of those normal days. The night before I had invited several friends from work over to my house to enjoy a Hungarian meal and to decorate Christmas cookies. We sat around my table and told stories and laughed and ate and decorated cookies and had a marvelous time. When they left, I cleaned the kitchen and went straight to bed. I woke up on Friday morning wishing I had gotten a little more sleep, but was also excited to start the day because we are reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and since I have a student teacher, Ms. H, I only have to teach two of my four classes. This has made for some pretty easy days.

I stood in the middle of my classroom with my coffee in hand, and was teaching my first class about subject-verb agreement. I always point out prepositions and prepositional phrases because I think if students can pick those out, it makes labeling other parts of a sentence easier. I make a big deal out of prepositional phrases by declaring my love for them, and I tell students that when I was kid I knew it was going to be a good day if we talked about prepositional phrases. As we started to discuss subject-verb agreement, I said, “Okay, who remembers what Ms. K’s favorite part of speech is?” A kid quickly answered, “Sarcasm?” I stood speechless for a moment and replied, “Well. You aren’t wrong. So, anyone know my second favorite?” I didn’t point out that sarcasm isn’t one of the eight parts of speech, because I thought his answer revealed that I had done my job well.

The day continued to go pretty smoothly. During lunch I had brought Hungarian leftovers and ended up with a small party of teachers in my room. Much like the night before we sat around and told stories and laughed and shared a meal together. I really do work with some great people.

Ms. H took over the last half of the day during 6th and 7th periods. This has been my favorite part of the day these last few weeks. I can drink water with abandon because I can go to the bathroom anytime I want. I visit friends in other departments who are free. I take walks around the school. I make copies for upcoming lessons. I have never been so caught up on grading, lesson planning, and emails. It was Friday, so I was technically done for the week and was about to go visit my friend Beth in her office.

The moon must have aligned with an enemy planet or something because right before 6th period began, everything spiraled into chaos.

I was about to walk out the door to go see Beth and the nurse because I suddenly had a splitting headache. The kind of headache that makes you sick to your stomach. Before getting to the door, I was asked to speak with a student who had hurt a friend’s feelings. The offender was inconsolable. She sobbed and rocked back and forth as she explained what she had said. Her friend had verbally forgiven her, but this little girl could not forgive herself. After a few minutes of talking, she finally settled down and was able to return to class. We walked back in together. I then ended up taking a student into the hall to discuss why he thought it was a good idea to allow another student to apply mascara to his eyelashes during a brain break. After going for a walk down the hall and reminding him that applying eyeshadow and tweezing his eyebrows was also unacceptable behavior, we seemed to have an understanding, and he returned to class. Whether he paid attention is up for debate, but at least he didn’t get a manicure or a tattoo before packing up when the bell rang.

6th period ended, but a student refused to leave the classroom after hurling her backpack across the room and stomping it several times when she was asked about why she grunted in response Ms. H’s questions. As 7th period students lined up outside the door, the principal and assistant principal entered my room to deal with the student, and we took my class on an impromptu field trip to the library. I told Ms. H that it was good she was there to see all that, but that in 13 years I had never had a class period unravel so quickly and unexpectedly.

Once my classroom was clear of the angry student, my 7th period class settled into their seats and Ms. H began teaching about subject-verb agreement. I sat at my desk and started replying to emails when I heard her ask, “Is everyone aware of the s-rule?” A student replied, “Are you talking about the ‘you smelt it, you dealt it’ rule?” I snort laughed at my desk, mostly because the student was so proud of his wit and delivery of the joke, but also because I’m a middle schooler when it comes to humor. Ms. H asked me not to encourage him, but I struggled. The class continued in a more normal manner and the day ended without any other odd occurrences, thankfully.

We have two weeks until Christmas break. Here’s praying that the days are filled with more fart jokes and less erratic behavior.

Ballad Tuesday: Another New World

It has been awhile since I’ve written anything at all. I have the goal to write daily, but then I’ll skip a day and a day turns into a week and then a month and so on and so forth. My friend texted yesterday to remind me that it’s NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month. We had great fun texting back and forth about writing a novel together based on our experiences and the people we met while in college. So, I opened a document and began writing about disembarking from an airplane in Anchorage, Alaska at midnight one late August evening. I remembered how much I like to just sit down and write. However, I often stop myself because I worry that it won’t be well written, so I talk myself out of it before even beginning.

I ran across this from Ray Bradbury:

“The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week—it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done. At the end of 30 weeks or 40 weeks or at the end of the year, all of a sudden a story will come that’s just wonderful.”

-from “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University, 2001

I’m going to take on that challenge and attempt to write a short story a week. It’s ludicrous to think that I’ll become better at something just because I want to, without actually doing that thing.

Since my short story for today is in the works, I decided to share another one of my favorite ballads here. This ballad by Josh Ritter is lonely and creepy sounding, and since it was Halloween just a few nights ago, I’m still in the mood for spooky.

The leading lights of the age all wondered amongst
Themselves what I would do next
After all that I'd found in my travels around
The world was there anything left?
"Gentlemen," I said, "I've studied the maps"
"And if what I'm thinking is right"
"There's another new world at the top of the world"
"For whoever can break through the ice"
I looked round the room in that way I once had
And I saw that they wanted belief
So I said, "All I've got are my guts and my God"
Then I paused, "and the Annabelle Lee"
Oh the Annabelle Lee, I saw their eyes shine
The most beautiful ship in the sea
My Nina, My Pinta, My Santa Maria
My beautiful Annabelle Lee

That spring I set sail as the crowd waved from shore
And on board the crew waved their hats
But I never had family just the Annabelle Lee
So I never had cause to look back
I just set the course north and I studied the charts
And towards dark I drifted towards sleep
And I dreamed of the fine deep harbor I'd find
Past the ice for my Annabelle Lee
After that it got colder and the world got quiet
It was never quite day or quite night
And the sea turned the color of sky turned the color
Of sea turned the color of ice
'Til at last all around us was fastness
One vast glassy desert of arsenic white
And the waves that once lifted us
Sifted instead into drifts against Annabelle's sides
The crew gathered closer at first for the comfort
But each morning would bring a new set
Of the tracks in the snow leading over the edge 
Of the world 'til I was the only one left
After that it gets cloudy but it feels like I lay there
For days maybe for months
But Annabelle held me the two of us happy
Just to think back on all we had done

We talked of the other worlds we'd discover
As she gave up her body to me
And as I chopped up her mainsail for timber
I told her of all that we still had to see
As the frost turned her moorings to nine-tail
And the wind lashed her sides in the cold
I burned her to keep me alive every night
In the loving embrace of her hull
and I won't call it rescue what brought me here back to
The old world to drink and declines 
And to pretend that the search for another new world
Was well-worth the burning of mine
But sometimes at night in my dreams comes the singing
Of some unknown tropical bird
And I smile in my sleep thinking Annabelle Lee
Has finally made it to another new world
yes sometimes at night in my dreams comes the singing
Of some unknown tropical bird
And I smile in my sleep thinking Annabelle Lee
Has finally made it to another new world
-Another New World by Josh Ritter

A Student Teacher, A Book, and Hungary

Many years ago I sat at my big wooden desk in my bedroom. I had recently graduated college and committed to spending a year working at a group home for teenage girls in the mountains of San Diego, California. I had the night off and was sitting at my desk reading, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot. I had heard Elisabeth Elliot speak at a conference a few weeks before and had purchased the book to discover more about Amy Carmichael who had left her home in Ireland and worked as a missionary in India.

I remember as I was reading that I realized that at the time, the late 1800s, when someone left home for the mission field- they left. Their only hope for communication would be through writing letters that could take months to arrive at the intended destination. I sat at my desk and questioned if I would ever be brave enough or have enough faith to do something similar. Would I be willing to leave family and friends behind with no assurance that I would return permanently? I would miss out on my niece growing up, the day to day lives of my family, and I knew my college friends would settle into their careers and families and all of this would be changed for good. I sat and imagined the worst, but finally settled in my heart that I would do and go wherever the Lord called me because how could I not?

So I spent the next year a half not being called anywhere in particular. I worked at the group home and finished up my contract, and I came back to Tennessee and ended up living with my sister and her family while I worked as a waitress. After just a few weeks of waitressing I stumbled upon the opportunity to teach high school in Hungary. As soon as I saw the job posting I knew that was where I needed to go, so I spent the next several months reading and thinking and praying and talking about Hungary. Twenty years later and I’m still talking about my experience in Hungary to anyone who will listen.

Last school year I had a student teacher show up- I knew he was coming and was excited to get to share my limited knowledge with someone wanting to be a teacher. He greeted me with his name and followed that with, “I’m not even sure why I have to do this. It’s a complete waste of my time.” I’ll let you imagine how the next seven weeks he spent with me went. Needless to say when his assignment ended I wasn’t too broken up about it.

I was again approached this year about getting a student teacher. I figured there was no way it could be anywhere near as bad as my previous student teacher, so I agreed. I was contacted by Ms. H the week before she was the begin, and she asked if we could meet so I could answer a few questions, and I agreed to do so after school on Thursday afternoon.

I liked Ms. H almost immediately. She cracked a few jokes right away and thanked me for allowing her into my classroom. We walked up to my room and settled into the high table top chairs. I welcomed her and immediately started telling her about my students and each class and my philosophy of teaching- which is I love the kids and my goal is that they know that, and if they learn a little English along the way, fantastic. Ms. H breathed a sigh of relief and said, “I’m so happy to hear that. That puts a lot of my fears to rest.”

I asked what she wanted to do after graduation- step into the classroom? go to graduate school? teach high school? middle school? She replied, “Well, I’ve been offered a position at a school in Hungary that I’ll begin in January.” I’m guessing I must have squealed quite loudly given that she nearly jumped out of her skin as I told her that I had taught in Hungary. I then peppered her with all the questions my excited brain could come up with- where? what organization? how long? do you know Hungarian? how did this come about?

She then said that she had been reading a book that changed her life and opened her up to the idea of going overseas. Being an avid reader, and a little nosy, I asked what book and she replied, “A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot.”

What are the chances that a person has their perspective changed by a book (and obviously the Lord) and decides to move to another country and ends up twenty years later with a student teacher who has their heart changed by the same book and decides to move to the same country?

I love the Lord’s attention to detail.

A Bucket of Rattlesnakes

I stood in the new workroom as I waited for the machine to finish printing 104 copies of an assignment for my students. Our workroom has a sink, full-size fridge, tables to sit around, two microwaves, a new copier, and a coffee machine. It’s a serious upgrade from our last work area which was nonexistent. We met for lunch in Mr. Q’s science room and sat in old desks and wandered into the office or an upstairs classroom for a cup of weak coffee. When I made copies last year, I often had to lay hands and pray over it in order to get my copies without it jamming, running out of paper, or just refusing to copy.

A few weeks ago, while I waited for my copies, I decided to tidy up the place. I washed a few dishes that had been left in the sink, wiped down the counter, and then decided to empty the white paper circles from the electric hole punch. As I was bent over the trash can, cursing the design of emptying the punched holes, I was suddenly ripped from my quiet cleaning session by the battle cry of Coach T, the Social Studies teacher. I jumped about 10 feet in the air and yelled my standard, “I can’t work with you, Coach T!” as I watched him back down the hall, laughing so hard he could barely breathe.

Now that our classrooms are closer in our new building, Coach T has jumped out at me from around corners, screamed at me in quiet rooms, made fun of me for liking Bob Dylan, and even greeted me with his best Bob Dylan impersonations. I have jumped and squealed more these last few weeks than any of my combined years of teaching. Each time I’ve threatened him with a life-sized cut out of Bob Dylan placed in his classroom or a bucket of rattlesnakes dropped over his head.

We had Friday off this week, and on Thursday I told Coach T that my friend had sent a video of a woman who worked with someone who was constantly jumping out at her. It had made me think of him, and we both stood in the hallway and laughed after school. Last night I received an email from our school prayer list that Coach T had left the football game and was being taken to the hospital. I sent him a text letting him know that I was praying for him and he responded with a, ‘thank you.’ Today we learned that at some point he had suffered a heart attack and was waiting for a room at the hospital. Then tonight I learned that he passed away.

An hour after we received an email, my friend called in disbelief. I told her about how you could always hear a scream on the 7th grade hallway because he was either jumping out at me or pinching Mr. Q. She started laughing and said that he would always steal her office chair. She would walk into her office and have to go searching for her chair because he would hide it in various locations. Last year we had a counselor retire, and he would enter her office crying like a baby and on her last day he curled up on the floor in the fetal position and begged for her to stay. It helped to remember what a prankster he was.

My favorite memory though, is one day when I was making coffee during our planning period. I leaned on the counter and sipped my coffee as my heart rate settled to a normal level after Coach T had entered the workroom with his signature scream. He sat at the table, and we talked about the Lord and our favorite Scriptures. We both whooped as we left the room, and I told him I felt like I had been to church. One thing I really appreciated about Coach T was that he was very vocal about his love for Jesus.

Last weekend, we had a high school student die. As I talked and laughed with my friend as we remembered Coach T, she said, “Not many people know this, but Coach T led that student’s father to Jesus.” Wow, what a testimony. I hope and pray that my last few days on earth I’m telling others about Jesus.

Although it’s going to be difficult to go to school on Monday, I know that my school family will pull together to support each other and our students. I don’t exactly know how and in all honesty, I’d just like to skip work this week. If I stay on my couch, it won’t be reality, but once I enter that building and see that empty classroom and face those students Coach T and I shared, it’s going to be real.

I’ll miss the yells, the jumping, the Bob Dylan impersonations, and the laughter that permeated the hallways, but I’m sure now that Coach T is with his Savior, Heaven is filled with one more voice of laughter and praise.

Blue’s Clues

One of the best years of my life was getting to be a nanny to my then three-year-old nephew, Carlton, and my twelve-year-old niece, Jessica. My brother-in-law worked out of town and my sister worked 60-hour work weeks, so I spent my days dropping my niece off at middle school, cleaning house, doing laundry, and taking care of Carlton.

After just a few weeks, we had settled into a routine. I would drop Jessica off at school, tell my sister goodbye as she left for work, drink coffee and read for a bit before waking up Carlton. We would spend the day playing, eating lunch, and running errands. In the afternoons, right before we picked Jessica up for school, we would watch “Dora the Explorer” and “Blue’s Clues.” Watch is probably the wrong term. Carlton insisted that we be actively involved in watching those shows. When the opening lines to Dora came on, Carlton would make me come into the living room and run around in a circle, singing the theme song. Dora wasn’t my favorite, but I watched with him and always loved watching him answer when Dora said at the end of every episode, “What was your favorite part of the trip?”

After Dora, we would watch Blue’s Clues. Personally, I preferred Blue’s Clues to Dora. Carlton would get really involved in trying to follow the clues that Blue left us, and I’ve always loved getting mail and so did Steve and Blue- so I could relate on that level. We sang the songs even when we weren’t watching the shows. Carlton proudly wore Blue’s Clues sneakers until his toes were practically bursting out the front end of the shoes. My sister and I were so relieved when we were able to find the exact pair of shoes in the bigger size that he needed, because Carlton did not do well with change.

Although some would say that it was just a silly kid’s show, Carlton didn’t take it well when the main character, Steve, left for college and his younger brother, Joe, took over. We still watched the show and sang the songs, but it wasn’t the same. I think we both missed Steve. Carlton wasn’t old enough to understand that Steve was just playing a character and decided to do something different. I was definitely old enough, but still felt a little slighted.

Carlton is an adult now, which is just ridiculous. He works and lives on his own and has managed to keep a hamster alive for the last year, so I would call that success. He calls while he delivers pizza, and we talk on the phone about new music we’ve discovered, books we are reading, funny things we remember, and sometimes heavier topics like the death of my dad and how we miss our friend Chuck. We sometimes even talk about Dora and Blue’s Clues, and I always sing the Mail song. I still sometimes think of the song when I check my mail.

Today was a tough day at work. I’m finding that the learning loss and behaviors due to quarantines and lock downs and virtual learning are greater than I could have imagined. I have kids who have no interest at all in school work because they haven’t really been in real school for a year and half or they have some much drama happening at home that school is pretty far down on the list of things to care about. In one particular class, it’s a struggle to get through the lesson because of the behavior of a few kids. It’s difficult some days for me to leave work at work.

I came home today after 11 hours because of my live online class and a surprise after school meeting. It wasn’t really a surprise, I had just forgotten about it, but by the time I got home I was a little deflated. I sat down on the couch and tried to stay upright as I decided to see what had happened in the world while I was working. I opened a news app and scanned the articles, regretting with each one that I had even bothered.

Then I saw Steve, from Blue’s Clues. He recorded a video explaining, after all these years, why he left the show. Watching the video flooded my mind with wonderful memories of toddler Carlton running around the living room in his underwear, that he wore backwards because he liked to see the pictures of the characters, and singing the Blue’s Clues’ songs. I remembered us trying to figure out the clues, watching Salt, Pepper, and Paprika and Blue’s best friend, Magenta, and singing along. In the midst of all the bad news, I had unearthed a precious gem. This video was what I needed to see today. I can’t wait to hear what Carlton has to say about it.

The Joys of Middle School

The school year is in full swing and it feels as if summer break never happened. I find myself constantly thinking of all the things I could grade or plan, the parents I need to call, and the organization that should take place in my classroom, lesson plan book, car, house, life. It’s like a constant cloud that follows me around, hanging over my head threatening my time to relax.

I take a clogging and a tap dancing class each week just so I can turn my attention from impending school work and focus on something totally different. While I wonder why it feels like someone nailed my foot to the floor when learning a new step, I’m not thinking about how Joey has a 9% in my class because he won’t put forth the effort to lift a pencil. As I attempt to catch up with everyone when I’m three steps behind in a routine, I’m not worried that I have 103 grade notifications waiting for me to sit down and grade.

There are times I wonder why I chose to teach middle school English with all the essays and short answers that take half my lifetime to grade. Why didn’t I choose to teach math or P.E.? Math would be easy to grade, it’s the teaching of it that would be a struggle. P.E. would be amazing. because I could wear workout clothes to school everyday and drink coffee while telling kids to run or playing games with them.

I do love teaching English most days. I like to read stories and talk about the characters as if they are real and write poems and learn new vocabulary words with my students. Mostly, I just like my students. They keep me laughing daily. Sometimes I laugh to their faces and other times I have to hide my laughter until they are out of the room.

Here are just a few things that had me laughing these last few weeks.

  1. I have a boy in one of my class that is the quintessential middle school boy. He’s long and lanky and his movements resemble a baby deer learning to walk. He’s goofy and likes to laugh. He dances when he thinks nobody is watching. The other day I looked up and he was seated at his desk, reading his book, but he had the draw string of his shorts wrapped around his neck. He seemed comfortable, so I didn’t disturb him, but I wondered if I should remind him that he was in public and not at his house.

We are living in a time when people are wearing masks, bathing in hand sanitizer, and worrying about checking out books from the library because ‘other people have touched the books.’ One day I saw Marcus get down from his seat at the tall desks and lean over to pick a bright yellow something off the floor. For a moment I thought, “How nice that’s he’s picking up his trash .” Most kids think the floor is a place to put trash because it saves the 8 1/2 steps they would have to exert to walk it to the trash can. Marcus and I made eye contact just as he was putting the chewed gum that he had dropped on the floor, back into his mouth. I audibly gagged and told him to get that out of his mouth and into the trash. He was upset that he had to throw it away, but I reminded him that I probably saved his life because one look at the floor should convince a person that it wasn’t a sanitary eating surface.

While grading an assignment, I saw that David wrote his answer, “They met on a street in New York City.” Then he included, “Wow it rhymes.” Only it didn’t rhyme. Not even a little bit.

We were playing a class game where students enter their names and it flashes up on my TV. They love to put emojis with their names and as long as it’s school appropriate, I don’t mind. A girl put her name, ‘Kasey’ with a green sick emoji. I said, “Do you feel sick today, Kasey?” She answered with her typical deadpan face, “No, that’s just how I feel about everything.” Awesome. As the weeks march on by, I’m discovering that there isn’t much–or anything– that excites Kasey.

As a child, my parents would sometimes get on to me for clomping through the house. Apparently, as a preteen I Hulk stomped from the kitchen to my room regularly. I guess over time I’ve perfected a quiet ninja like walk. Multiple times this year, in different classes, I’ve been walking around the classroom, getting my steps in and monitoring student work, helping when needed, when I have had a student turn their head and jump three feet in the air. Each time they declare that I snuck up on them and scared them and how did I walk so quietly and wasn’t I just across the room helping that other kid? I always tell them that their reaction makes them sound just a tad bit guilty and they typically smile sheepishly at me. I think I can use this to my advantage when managing classroom behavior.

The Hunger Games, Fishing Line, and Kayaks

My last class of every day is made up of students who love to read. We talk books and characters in between assignments. It has been fun to complete a book and have people who want to hear about it. Many of my students in that class either are currently or have read The Hunger Games series. I find myself talking daily about Katniss, Peeta, and the evils of the Capitol.

It has been several years since I’ve read the books or watched the movies, so this week I started reading, Catching Fire again. Since I had today off from school, I sat down last night and turned on the movies, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

Katniss Everdeen is one of my all-time favorite book characters. I like that she’s just a regular girl, trying to protect her family, and inadvertently becomes the face of a revolution. Her humanity is relatable. Her archery skills and fight reflexes….not so much.

If there were a revolution and someone said to me, “This is the start of the revolution and you are the Mockingjay,” I would hope to emulate Katniss Everdeen. Unfortunately, as I delve back into the story and do a little self-reflection, I find I’m actually more like Peeta Mellark. Peeta is a good baker, but he finds himself in need of being rescued a lot. If I were in the arena fighting to the death in the Hunger Games, I would probably find that my cooking skills were useless and that I would need rescuing pretty frequently.

My being more Peeta than Katniss became even more clear this weekend as I was kayaking with friends. It was a gorgeous day on the lake- sunny and in the high 70s with low humidity. For a holiday weekend there weren’t a lot of other people on the lake. We put our kayaks in the water and paddled for about an hour, watching cranes and trying to avoid the waves caused by the occasional passing boat or jet ski.

Three of us were ahead of the other two, so we decided to row into a cove and wait for the others before having lunch. We usually just float alongside each other, eat lunch, talk, and take a photo. While waiting, my kayak started floating under a low overhanging tree. Laken pointed out that there was a fishing line stuck in the tree and for me to be careful. I told her that it was just the line and there wasn’t a hook. I used my paddle to push back to Laken and Jami. Pretty soon after we saw that Robert and Ethan were within eye sight.

While waiting for them, we chatted and laughed and before I realized it, I was back under the tree with the fishing line. Someone with fight reflexes might have calmly paddled backwards to get in line with the other kayaks and gone on to eat lunch in a quiet cove with the sounds of waves lapping against the kayaks while conversing with friends.

I took a different route to getting to lunch. While floating toward the tree, I noticed I was heading straight for the fishing line in the low hanging branch. Not a problem. I had already discovered there was not a dangerous hook to snag me. But then I looked up and saw a spider climbing up the fishing line that was really close to my face. As I watched the spider climb, I then saw a webby nest of some sort hanging a little above the fishing line.

My flight reflexes took over, and before I had time to process all these things, I found myself treading water. I guess my brain decided that abandoning ship was better than getting caught up in a line with a spider and a nest. And from the safety of my couch days later- I think I agree with my brain’s decision.

From my perspective it all happened so quickly. I saw the spider on the line and the nest and then I was in the water. Everyone else in my group said they were saying, “Audrey, watch out!” as they watched my kayak slowly tip over and dump me into the lake. I guess if I’m going to flip a kayak it’s best that I did it with three trained lifeguards.

I suppose the lesson here is should you ever find yourself with me, and I just suddenly disappear- whether on land or in the water- be aware that danger is lurking. I won’t have time to warn you, because I’ll already be gone.

Ballad Sunday Cont’d: The Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3

Yesterday I shared the story that inspired theses songs which are written and performed by The Decemberists.

The Crane Wife 1 and 2
It was a cold night
And the snow lay 'round
I pulled my coat tight
Against the falling down
And the sun was all...
And the sun was all down
And the sun was all...
And the sun was all down

I am a poor man
I haven't wealth nor fame
I have my two hands
and a house to my name
And the winter's so...
And the winter's so long
And the winter's so...
And the winter's so long

And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found

It was a white crane
It was a helpless thing
Upon a red stain
With an arrow in its wing
and it called and cried...
and it called and cried so
and it called and cried...
and it called and cried so

And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found

My crane wife
 (repeat 4x)

And now I helped her
And now I dressed her wounds
And now I held her
Beneath the rising moon
And she stood to fly...
And she stood to fly away
And she stood to fly...
And she stood to fly away

And all the stars were crashing 'round
As I laid eyes on what I'd found

My crane wife (repeat 4x)

My crane wife arrived at my door in the moonlight
All starbright and tongue-tied I took her in
We were married and bells rang sweet for our wedding
And our bedding was ready and we fell in

Sound the keening bell
And see it's painted red
Soft as fontanelle
The feathers in the thread
And all I ever meant
To do was to keep you
My crane wife
My crane wife
My crane wife

We were poorly, our fortunes fading hourly
And how she loved me, she could bring it back
But I was greedy, I was vain and I forced her to weaving
On a cold loom in closed room, down the hall

Sound the keening bell
And see it's painted red
Soft as fontanelle
The feathers in the thread
And all I ever meant
To do was to keep you
My crane wife
My crane wife
My crane wife

There's a bend in the wind
And it rakes at my heart
There is blood in the thread
And it rakes at my heart
rakes at my heart
heart (repeated)
My crane wife

The Crane Wife 3
And under the boughs unbowed
All clothed in a snowy shroud
She had no heart so hardened
All under the boughs unbowed

Each feather it fell from skin
Till threadbare as she grew thin
How were my eyes so blinded?
Each feather it fell from skin

And I will hang my head, hang my head low
And I will hang my head, hang my head low

A gray sky, a bitter sting
A rain cloud, a crane on wing
All out beyond horizon
A grey sky, a bitter sting

And I will hang my head, hang my head low
And I will hang my head, hang my head low

Ballad Sunday #4: The Crane Wife

My first year teaching I spent a lot of time in my classroom before and after school attempting to discover what exactly I was suppose to do with unfamiliar curriculum and 110 middle school students. I would have Pandora playing on my computer and a balled by The Decemberists kept coming up called, “The Crane Wife.” I decided that I really liked the song and would need to check out the band and the album.

Before I was able to do either of those things, I was sitting at my kitchen table on a Saturday morning looking through the textbook I had been given. As I scanned the table of contents I came across a story called, “The Crane Wife.” I read the story and immediately began writing up a lesson plan for my students to read the story which is told from the third person omniscient point of view and then listen to the songs which are told from one of the main character’s point of view.

This is one of my favorite stories, and I wanted to share it here. Today I’ll share the story and tomorrow the ballad.

The Crane Wife
Retold by Sumiko Yagawa
Translated by Katherine Paterson

In a faraway mountain village, where the snow falls deep and white, there once lived all alone a poor young peasant named Yohei. One day, at the beginning of winter, Yohei went out into the snow to run an errand, and, as he hurried home, suddenly basabasa he heard a rustling sound. It was a crane, dragging its wing, as it swooped down and landed on the path. Now Yohei could see that the bird was in great pain, for an arrow had pierced its wing. He went to where the crane lay, drew out the arrow, and very carefully tended its wound.
Late that night there came a tapping hotohoto on the door of Yohei’s hut. It seemed very peculiar for someone to be calling at that time of night. When he slid open the door to look out, there before him stood a beautiful young woman.
“I beg you, sir,” she said in a voice both delicate and refined, “please allow me to become your wife.”
Yohei could hardly believe his ears. The more closely he looked, the more noble and lovely the woman appeared. Gently he took her hand and brought her inside.
“Yohei has got some fine wife at his house,” the villagers gossiped among themselves.
And it was true. The young woman was modest and kind, and she served Yohei faithfully. He could no longer recognize the cold, cold dreary hut where he had lived all alone; his house had become so bright and warm. The simple Yohei was happier than he could have ever dreamed.
In reality, however, with two mouths to feed instead of one, poor Yohei became poorer than he was before. And, since it was winter and there was no work to be found, he was very quickly coming to the bottom of what he had stored away.
At this point the young woman had a suggestion. “The other women of the village have looms upon which to weave cloth,” she said. “If you would be so kind as to allow it, I should like to try my hand at weaving too.”
In the back of the hut, the young woman set up a loom and closed it off with sliding paper doors. Then she said to Yohei, “Please, I beg you, I beg you never look in upon me while I am weaving.”
Tonkara tonkara. For three days and three nights the sound of the loom continued. Without stopping either to eat or drink, the young woman went on weaving and weaving. Finally, on the fourth day, she came out. To Yohei she seemed strangely thin and completely exhausted as, without a word, she held out to him a bolt of material.
And such exquisite cloth it was! Even Yohei, who had absolutely no knowledge of woven goods, could only stare in astonishment at the elegant, silken fabric.
Yohei took the cloth and set out for town. There he was able to sell it for such a high price that for a while the two of them had enough money to live quite comfortably and pleasantly.
The winter, however, stretched on and on until, finally, there was very little money left. Yohei hesitated to say anything, so he kept quiet, but at last the young woman spoke up, “I shall weave on the loom one more time. But, please, let this be the last.” And, once more, having been warned not to look in on the woman as she wove, the simple Yohei settled down to wait outside just as she asked.
This time the weaving took four days and four nights. A second time the young woman appeared carrying a bolt of cloth, but now she seemed thinner and more pathetic than before. The fabric, moreover, was lighter and even more beautiful. It seemed almost to glow with a light all its own.
Yohei sold the material for an even higher price than the first time. “My,” he marveled, “what a good wife I have!” The money bag he carried was heavy, but Yohei’s heart was light, and he fairly skipped as he hurried home.
Now the man next door had noticed that Yohei seemed to be living far more grandly than he had in the old days, and he was most curious. Pretending to be very casual about it all, he made his way through the snow and began to chat. Yohei, being a simple and innocent fellow, told the neighbor how his wife’s woven goods had brought a wonderful price.
The man became more curious than ever. “Tell me,” he said, “just what kind of thread does your wife use? My woman’s cotton cloth never fetched a price like that. If your wife’s stuff is as marvelous as you say, you ought to take it to the capital, to the home of some noble. You could probably sell it for ten times—for a hundred times more. Say, how about it? Why don’t you let me do it for you? We’d split the profits right down the middle. Just think of it! We could live out the rest of our lives doing nothing but sitting back and fanning ourselves.”
Before Yohei’s very eyes, gold coins great and small began to dazzle and dance. If only he could get his wife to relent, if only he could persuade her to weave again, they could seize such a fortune as had never been known before.
When Yohei presented her with this idea, the young woman seemed quite perplexed, “Why in the world,” she asked, “would anyone need so much money as that?”
“Don’t you see?” he answered. “With money like that a man’s problems would all disappear. He could buy anything he liked. He could even start his own business.”
“Isn’t it plenty to be able to live together, just the two of us?”
When she spoke this way, Yohei could say no more. However, from that time on, whether asleep or awake, all he could do was think about money. It was so painful for the young woman to see Yohei in this state that her eyes filled with tears as she watched him, until finally, unable to bear it another day, she bowed to his will.
“Very well then,” she said. “I will weave one more time. But truly, after this, I must never weave again.” And once more she warned the now joyful Yohei, saying, “For the sake of heaven, remember. Do not look in on me.”
Yohei rubbed his hands together in his eagerness and sat down to wait.
Tonkara tonkara. The sound of the loom continued on and on into the fifth day. The work in the back room seemed to be taking longer than ever.
Yohei, no longer the simple fellow that he had once been, began to wonder about certain peculiar things. Why did the young woman appear to grow thinner every time she wove? What was going on in there behind those paper doors? How could she weave such beautiful cloth when she never seemed to buy any thread?
The longer he had to wait, the more he yearned to peep into the room until, at last, he put his hand upon the door.
“Ah!” came a voice from within. At the same time Yohei cried out in horror and fell back from the doorway.
What Yohei saw was not human. It was a crane, smeared with blood, for with its beak it had plucked out its own feathers to place them in the loom.
At the sight Yohei collapsed into a deep faint.
When he came to himself, he found, lying near his hand, a bolt of fabric, pure and radiantly white, through which was woven a thread of bright crimson. It shone with a light that the world has never known.
From somewhere Yohei heard the whisper of a delicate, familiar voice “I had hoped,” the voice said sorrowfully, “that you would be able to honor my entreaty. But because you looked upon me in my suffering, I can no longer tarry in the human world. I am the crane that you saved on the snowy path. I fell in love with your gentle, simple heart, and, trusting it alone, I came to live by your side. I pray that your life will be long and that you will always be happy.
“Wai-t!” Yohei stumbled in his haste to get outside.
It was nearly spring, and, over the crest of the distant mountains, he could barely discern the tiny form of a single crane, flying farther and farther away. 

When we read this story, most of my students are upset and don’t care for the ending. It leads to great discussions about greediness, peer pressure, honesty, etc. One year I had a student, who was an avid hunter, say at the end of the story, “I’d just shoot the bird. Then I’d have supper.” I guess that’s another way to look at it.

Fancy Peanut Butter Cookies

In my class this week we read a story about a grandfather and his grandson. I asked my students to either write about their grandparents or to write about what they thought a grandparent should be like. I then told them about my Nanny and Pawpaw.

I was blessed with the world’s best Nanny and Pawpaw. Growing up I spent a lot of weekends at their house. My Nanny would make me a snack of sweet sun tea and peanut butter and nilla wafer sandwiches. She and I would watch TV together or talk on the porch swing. My Pawpaw would take me on rides to town. He was a very slow driver, so what should have been a 20 minutes ride would be a couple of hours. He would make weird food or buy something a little strange at the grocery, and I would try it with him. I loved being at Nanny and Pawpaw’s house.

I told my students about a very distinct memory I have of being with my Nanny. One night we were in her basement kitchen making homemade peanut butter cookies. We mixed the ingredients, and I helped Nanny roll each cookie and put it on the baking sheet. Before we popped them into the oven, she did something that blew my mind. She took a fork and made a crisscross indention on each cookie. In my kid mind I couldn’t believe that she knew how to make that fancy design on peanut butter cookies. I was under the impression that only professional chefs and Keebler Elves knew how to do that. I thought she was a genius- the smartest woman in the world. I told my kids that story and they thought it was funny that I was so impressed by something so simple. I told them that it didn’t take much to impress me, so some things haven’t changed.

We continued with the lesson and by the next morning I had forgotten that I even shared that story with them. The first bell rang, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and I called roll. My students were busy putting their first unit into their binder when I noticed a Ziploc baggie on my desk containing four homemade peanut butter cookies with the fancy fork design. One of my students said, “Yesterday when you were talking about peanut cookies, I really wanted to make some. So, I made them last night and thought you might like a few.”

Isn’t that the most precious thing ever? It really touched my heart that someone would be so thoughtful, especially when I had sort of forgotten about even telling the story. What a great way to end the first week of school. Also, just so you know, I’m usually pretty picky about eating things that students bring me. In a previous post I told about a student handing me a cookie straight from her jacket pocket. Unwrapped and warmed from her body heat. I did not eat that cookie. This week’s peanut butter cookie student is a kid that I know her parents and taught her brother; besides- her cookies were in a Ziploc housed in her backpack and at room temperature.

Usain Bolt and The First Day

Today was the first full day of the school year. I slept surprisingly well last night; typically I wake up every hour worrying that I will oversleep and spend the day running on adrenaline and caffeine. Not this morning. I was well rested and fell easily back into my morning routine.

Yesterday I left school stressed. When I’m stressed I make stupid mistakes. Like parking my car at Wal-Mart and getting halfway to the door before realizing I was wearing my school backpack, complete with laptop, record book, and popsicle sticks. I walked back to the car and deposited the backpack. When I got home, I hopped in the shower. I washed my hair and grabbed the conditioner. My hair was suddenly super sudsy. I briefly thought something must be wrong with my conditioner, so I conditioned again and again realized something was off. I then noticed that I had just washed my hair three times because I was grabbing shampoo and not conditioner. I received a compliment on my hair today, and I determined that it must be because it is super clean.

After arriving at school this morning I decided to tackle the assembly of a floor lamp. While attaching part A to part B, part C fell over and smacked me right on the bridge of my nose. I spent the rest of the day with a big red sore on my nose. Soon after the lamp incident, I realized that I had forgotten to wear the staff shirt we had been given for the day. I only realized after I saw four teachers standing together and wondered how odd it was that they all wore the same shirt.

Surprisingly, my stress level declined as I met my students. It’s only day one, but I already feel like it’s going to be a good year. My classes were fun, and I really enjoyed getting to meet my students. The absolute best part of my day, though, was during third period. We were sharing stories and a kid looked at me seriously and said, “Hey, I know who you remind me of. You know the fastest man in the world, right?” I tried not to be insulted that I reminded him of a man, but said, “I’m not sure who the fastest man in the world is right now.” Another kid said, “Usain Bolt?” and the first kid said, “Yes! That’s who you remind me of! Have you seen that video?” The other kid quipped, “Um, sure, because they look almost identical.”

I didn’t know what to say. I’m a short white woman in my mid 40s with what I’m sure is the exact opposite body fat content of Usain Bolt. I’m also not quick, nor was I running in skimpy shorts when this comment was made. I’m pretty sure I was going over classroom procedures. And at a normal rate, not fast. So, instead of working on necessary lesson plans this evening, I’ll probably be spending the rest of the night wondering how in the world I could remind a kid of Usain Bolt.


I recently finished a TV series about a vampire with a soul. This is apparently a rare thing. In the last season of the show, one of the characters is taken from earth and later returns. Upon returning, she has no idea who she is or who any of her former friends are. As the viewer, I knew that she could trust the people who were filling in the details of her life- her name, occupation, etc. However, the character had to decide if she could trust the information she was receiving and the people giving it to her.

After that episode I wondered what it would be like to suddenly not remember my name, my address, my occupation and not recognize family and friends. It would be bewildering and terrifying ,and I would probably do whatever I deemed necessary to find out that information. It would be hard to know who to trust.

After I graduated college I had a little bit of an identity crisis. I, of course, wasn’t taken to another plane and didn’t forget my name, but I remember not being real sure of where I fit. I was no longer a student and yet I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I actually sometimes still struggle with that last one.

After graduation, I moved to Southern California to work at a girls’ group home. Through our church I met a lady named Joyce who agreed to disciple me and suggested we study what my identity in Christ was as a believer. Around that same time, my friend Matt and I were talking on the phone one night, and he encouraged me to read through the entire New Testament and write down all of the promises that we are given as followers of Jesus Christ.

Through both of those studies, I met Jesus. I had been a Christian for fifteen years at that point but being in God’s Word daily and seeing all that He gives to those who follow Him- well, that changed everything for me. I suddenly knew who I was when reading Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Despite my quirks and imperfections, I am fully known and fully loved by God. Mind blown. That’s an identity where I can find rest, peace, hope, and fulfillment. I know that when He tells me who I am, He can be trusted.

Ballad Sunday #3: I Killed Sally’s Lover

This week’s ballad is a good ol’ murder ballad. I don’t know what it says about me that I prefer a story with some dark twists and turns. A few weeks ago I read what I discovered was the equivalent of a Hallmark movie. Plot: Girl is committed to her work and has no time for romance, but has to go back home and settle the family estate. She plans to be in town for a week, but decides to stick around until house renovations are completed by off-putting man who turns out to be a really good guy, just misunderstood. They fall in love and all things fall into place beautifully. Gag. I rolled my eyes more than once before putting it away. Don’t get me wrong- I am a fan of romantic stories, just not cheesy ones with weak plots. Zero questions were raised as I read the book, and I didn’t really care to find out how things ended up.

I like this ballad because there’s some action. It’s obvious that Sally and the main character were once in love. Well, at least he was- that is before Sally got a wandering eye. This conflict leads to the main character taking matters into his own hands. This- this holds my interest to the end and even has me wondering what happened to the main character- how much jail time did he get? What happened to Sally? Did she get become faithful or continue with her reckless ways? Did he wise up and pick a different kind of girl later on?

I hope you enjoy this little ballad.

Somebody get my shotgun
Somebody get my blade
Sally's been layin' with another man
And he's sleeping in my place
Somebody get my shotgun
Gonna shoot him sure as rain
You can run as fast as you want to boy
I'll kill you just the same
Somebody get my pocket blade
Gonna cut him don't you know
You can try to hide all you want to boy
There ain't nowhere to go
Somebody get my shotgun
Somebody get my blade
Sally's been layin' with another man
And he's sleeping in my place
Now Sally don't go thinkin'
That you got off so clean
I'd kill you too if I had the nerve
But I just ain't that mean
So I go and get my murder tools
I throw them in the lake
Gonna steal me an automobile
And drive so far away
Now I am a fugitive
I'm always on the run
Sally told the policeman
Exactly what I'd done
I went and got my shotgun
I went and got my blade
Killed poor Sally's lover
And I put him in the grave.
Now all you ramblin' fellas
You listen close to me
That woman gonna bring you pain
Your heart is gonna bleed
But it ain't worth the trouble
The sufferin' or the grief
A bleeding heart is better than the penitentiary
I killed Sally's lover
One dark and dreary day
Sally got another
And I got sent away
Somebody get my shotgun
Somebody get my blade
Sally's been laying with another man
And I set him in his grave

- I Killed Sally's Lover by The Avett Brothers

Watch and listen to the song Here

Ode to the Green Coffee Cup

Teacher in-service began this past Wednesday and we’ll welcome students next week. I’m not exactly sure what happened to summer break. I know I had one, but it was so quick that I’m struggling to believe it really happened. We are moving into a new school building, so the last few days teachers have been busy unpacking boxes, rearranging desks and tables, decorating walls, attending meetings, and making phone calls to locate classroom phones, printers, and projectors. I went from working in a school that had only two hallways to what feels like a complicated labyrinth. This afternoon I entered through a new-to-me doorway and found myself in an unfamiliar hallway. I had no idea what wing I was in or even what floor I was on. Luckily, instead of having to battle a Minotaur, I found a teacher who was able to lead me to a familiar hallway. I left 15 minutes early for a meeting today because I knew I needed time to find the correct conference room. We used to only have one conference room to having about ten.

I enjoy the people that I work with, but if someone doesn’t teach on my floor and my end of the hallway, I have never had an opportunity to really get to know them. I often joke that the entire upper level could skip work for a month, and I’d never know.

Today we had a meeting at 8:00 am, which is actually a little late for us. We were given instructions yesterday to bring a tangible object of something that was important to us. If it was a picture, it couldn’t be on our phone, it had to be printed. An activity like this is not a strength of mine. I tend to forget all about it, and when I remember at the last minute I don’t have time to put a lot of thought into it and then I think of about 12,000 things I could have talked about.

I walked into our new cafeteria and saw all the chairs were in a circle. For the next 2 1/2 hours a microphone was passed around as people shared pictures of their families, rings given to them by their grandparents, teddy bears given when an adoption was final, baseball cards, a handmade lighthouse, a DVD given by a beloved brother, the Bible to represent a person’s faith, and many other items that offered a small glimpse into the lives of my co-workers. There were many tears shed as people shared about relatives that have passed away, but greatly impacted lives.

This time, I did put thought into what I would share. It wasn’t super profound, but I brought my $0.49 coffee cup that I purchased at Big Lots about fifteen years ago. I have three of the exact same cup. I think at one point there were four, but I vaguely remember breaking one of them. In thinking about what I feel like represents me, I thought of my green coffee cups. Every morning when I’m reading the Bible and praying, I drink coffee out of one of those cups. I then take it to school and drink out of it as I teach middle school kids because I don’t really like to drink out of travel mugs. When family and friends come to my house and we spend time together, I typically make coffee and I always choose one of my green cup if one is available. When I sit down to read or to write, I usually make coffee because a part of me thinks, “This will go better if I have something warm to drink.” And it does.

In a few days, my green cup and I will face our fourteenth first day of school. The years have passed quickly and pleasantly with my green coffee cup.

Ballad Sunday (on Monday) #2: The Curse

This is the second installment of Ballad Sunday where I share one of my favorite ballads.

Several years ago I worked at local college campus as a Resident Director. I worked with twenty-three Resident Assistants and helped them plan residence hall events. Several of the RAs became close friends and through those relationships I was introduced to the music of Josh Ritter. It didn’t take long for me to become a fan of his lyrics and style.

During my first year of teaching, one particular album, “So Runs the World Away,” was on repeat for awhile as I drove my daily hour commute. I had heard all the songs, but one day I actually heard the lyrics of the song, ‘The Curse.’ And then I listened again because I fell in love with the story of the song. It also helped that I’m a fan of anything dealing with a mummy, a curse, and a love story gone wrong.

He opens his eyes, falls in love at first sight
With the girl in the doorway
What beautiful lines, how full of life
After thousands of years, what a face to wake up to

He holds back a sigh as she touches his arm
She dusts off the bed where 'til now he's been sleeping
Under miles of stone, the dried fig of his heart
Under scarab and bone starts back to its beating

She carries him home in a beautiful boat
He watches the sea from a porthole in stowage
He can hear all she says as she sits by his bed
Then one day his lips answer her in her own language

The days quickly pass, he loves making her laugh
The first time he moves, it's her hair that he touches
She asks, "Are you cursed?" He says, "I think that I'm cured"
Then he talks of the Nile and the girls in bullrushes

In New York, he is laid in a glass-covered case
He pretends he is dead, people crowd round to see him
But each night she comes 'round and the two wander down
The halls of the tomb that she calls a museum

Often he stops to rest, but then less and less
Then it's her that looks tired, staying up asking questions
He learns how to read from the papers that she
Is writing about him and he makes corrections

It's his face on her book, more and more come to look
Families from Iowa, upper Westsiders
Then one day it's too much, he decides to get up
And as chaos ensues, he walks outside to find her

She is using a cane and her face looks too pale
But she's happy to see him, as they walk he supports her
She asks, "Are you cursed?" but his answer's obscured
In a sandstorm of flashbulbs and rowdy reporters

Such reanimation, the two tour the nation
He gets out of limos, he meets other women
He speaks of her fondly, their nights in the museum
But she's just one more rag now he's dragging behind him

She stops going out, she just lies there in bed
In hotels in whatever towns they are speaking
Then her face starts to set and her hands start to fold
And one day the dry fig of her heart stops its beating

Long ago on the ship, she asked "Why pyramids?"
He said, "Think of them as an immense invitation"
She asked, "Are you cursed?" He said, "I think that I'm cured"
Then he kissed her and hoped that she'd forget that question

-The Curse by Josh Ritter

Then I found this video and my love for this song only increased.

High, Low, and Wow: Cabin Edition #4

Last night I went to bed a little earlier than the previous days because I had a 6:00 am flight. Around 1:45 am the dogs were whining in their crate, and I woke up and checked my phone. I discovered that my flight was delayed by 3 hours. This wouldn’t have been an issue except that I would be arriving just as my connecting flight was leaving.

Suddenly, I was wide awake. I started to worry and then heard my friend Tommy’s voice, “Check and see if Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible.” I reminded myself that the Lord knew when I would be arriving home; I was just hoping He would let me in on the details. Heidi got up because of the dogs, and we discussed a plan. I called the airline about my connecting flight and after being on hold for an hour, the new flight was booked. This new flight meant that I would have a 7 hour layover. Good thing I like airports.

Although I hate to leave, I also need a job and that starts back up tomorrow. I was in the airport for awhile waiting to board and then sat in the plane as the pilot kept us abreast of when we might actually take off, always ending with, “in about 5 minutes.” I’m currently sitting on the airplane waiting for drink service and to begin my airport adventure, which I’m hoping includes some Chicago style pizza. All this waiting has given me time to reflect on yesterday as far as my high, low, and wow.

High: Heidi and I again started the day sort of slow, sitting on the porch drinking coffee, writing blog posts, and laughing at videos. Chris asked if we had made a plan for the day since it was nearing noon, but we hadn’t. We had plans to attend an Ojibwa Pow Wow later that evening, but nothing until then. I suggested we go to Biggby Coffee for a Butter Bear- a delicious iced coffee with butterscotch and caramel- before the Pow Wow.

Drinking the Butter Bear was a high for the day, and totally worth the $6 and daily calorie content. It was delicious.

After the coffee shop we stopped at a small grocery where Heidi bought gummy bears. We were snacking in the car on the way to the Pow Wow when Chris started reading Sugar-Free Gummy bear reviews on Amazon. Apparently ingesting several sugar-free Gummy bears leads to major digestive issues. The reviews were so funny that we laughed our way down the highway. A good belly laugh qualifies for a high any day.

High #2: We drove to Baraga, MI and attended an Ojibwa Pow Wow. We walked along the dusty crowded path and passed vendors selling everything from turquoise jewelry, t-shirts, animal pelts, and fry bread.

We found seats on the bleachers with a nice view and waited for the event to begin. None of us had ever been to a Pow Wow, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Again, thanks to Google, we were able to research traditional regalia, a recipe for fry bread, and the symbolism of the event.

The Pow Wow began with probably 10 or 15 drum circles performing songs of Red Bull (a man, not the energy drink) and proceeded with the entrance of over 400 dancers. It was quite the sight to see people of all ages, dressed in feathered headdresses, ornate jingle dresses, and brightly beaded moccasins dancing and chanting. One man wore a wolf skin and stood out to me, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a photo.

The rowdiness of the event was a stark contrast to the quiet orderliness of the monastery the previous day.

Low: Grumpy porch toad ran away a few nights ago after laying her fertilized eggs- or molting her skin, we aren’t sure which- in the dog dish. Heidi and I conducted some research via Google to discover they were fertilized, but further research showed it could just be a layer of her skin. We aren’t sure why she left Chris and Heidi responsible for raising her toadlets. Maybe she just wasn’t ready for motherhood. If it’s skin, maybe she just wanted them to have something to remember her by. At any rate she’s gone and left something behind, a cozy corner, and a nice dish complete with a diving board. We thought she had returned last night, but it turned out to be a male toad who had no interest in taking over Grumpy’s place on the porch.

Toad eggs or skin

Wow: The beauty and uniqueness of the Upper Peninsula wowed me daily. We woke yesterday to rain, which turned into sunshine and 85% humidity, which turned in a pleasant day and ended with us needing to turn the heat on in the car after watching the gorgeous sunset.

Last night’s time lapsed sunset over Lake Superior.

I love the wildness of the U.P. The dusty roads, the thick forests, the Great lake, the abundant wildlife, and the slower pace of living have made for a glorious vacation right before the crazy of the beginning of school begins tomorrow.

When I feel stressed next week- and that’s pretty much a given- I’ll have loads of memories and pictures to reflect on and revisit. I already feel my blood pressure decreasing.

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