Posted in Changes, Memory

With Love, Paul and David

I started with six brothers.  I’m down to three now.  Three have passed on and all were sudden deaths without a chance to say goodbye.

My family is a blended one.  My dad had one boy and my mom had three when they married.  I’m the actual first child of my parent’s union.  Two boys followed me.  I’d like to say that I had the perfect secure childhood, but I didn’t.  My parents flittered job to job which means we moved more times than children should have to.  I was always the ‘new kid’ at school.  The gaps in our education from moving school to school took their toll on us.  I was the only child out of the seven that actually finished high school with a degree and graduated from college.

My brothers are all extremely hard-working, wonderfully smart, and full of common sense.  My parents made sure we all had a good work ethic.  It’s the only way we could survive in a household of our size.  We all had chore lists to do or if our parents were running a theater, then we’d be the janitorial staff, work the concession stand, and could run the projector.    Our parents both worked, which means we took care of each other a lot.  There never was enough money to go around for bills and food.  My parents did the best they could.

I’m looking backward as an adult and making speculations because as a kid, I never knew that.  We were mostly a happy lot.  We played and fought.  Sometimes the fighting got physical and punches flew or pushing happened.   I remember once throwing a toy at my younger brother, Johnny.  He had that small scar on his eyebrow for the rest of his life.  You should have seen us piled up in our station wagon.  I’m sure we were a sight, filling every seat and hanging out the windows when the car stopped!

I remember the good times.  Running around the neighborhood and playing in the woods, swinging on grapevine.  We’d play cowboys and indians or cops and robbers chasing each other and shooting each other with sticks.  Johnny was the one I remember playing with the most.  I can’t count the number of times, we’d play with those small plastic horses: galloping them on the floor and making neighing sounds.  As my brothers matured and drivers licenses happened, I remember riding with Paul and doing donuts in parking lots.  Timmy giving me a ride on the back of the motorcycle.  That happened just once because Mom was furious with him for taking me for a ride.

Sitting around the table at dinner and the boistious noise that ensued as bowls were passed and all were straining to be heard as we talked over one another.  Cleaning the kitchen was always done in pairs or in threes.  No one ever had to clean the kitchen by themselves.  These are the memories that make me smile.

Steven, the oldest, left the house when I was about ten.  My dad signed for him to join the Marines when he was seventeen because he seemed to always be running away when I was a child.  That decision changed Steven’s life.  He was a career Marine, staying twenty-eight years before retiring from the corp.  Steve would stop back in the family while on leave and I remember small gaps of time with him as I grew up.  The last was when I was a junior in high school.  After that, meetings were brief.  He always called me “Sis” never Becky.    I loved that he thought I was special.

David is the baby.  Enough said.  I think he got away with the most.  He’d say that wasn’t so, but I’d have to disagree.  I don’t remember him having to do many chores.  As an adult, David is precious.  He is generous to a fault and has a wonderful sense of humor.  I love his deep laugh and his love for his family.

Between those two, we have Timmy, Paul, Mike, Me, and Johnny.  The boys used to accuse me of being spoiled.  Maybe it was so, but I don’t believe I took advantage of it.  There has to be a perk to growing up in a household full of boys.

I don’t have much to say about Timmy and Mike.  I have to say I don’t like all my brothers.  Love, yes, love is there.  Some people are hard to connect with and the thought comes to mind, “How can I be related to that person?”   Simply personality differences.  Thankfully, the connection happens in a large group and we are a large family.

Johnny, one below me on the ladder of our family, was one of my favorite playmates as a child.  We shared a room when we were young and would hide under the covers when we were afraid of the dark.  We’d play horses and army men. Later, we were coconspirators.  We’d roll our eyes at our grandparents when they made silly comments.  He liked to tease.  When he hit about fifteen, the girls started to find him attractive.   He had the biggest ego.  I used to say, when he passed a mirror, he’d stop and say, “Damn, I look good.”  He left to join the Army not long after I married.  He was gone for long stretches of time and I missed seeing him mature.  When he did come back as an adult, he loved to cook.  He was the adventous brother.

Paul is the glue that holds us together.  He’s the humorist.  Need to calm a situation?  Humor is the best way to bring it back to normal and he’s good at it.  He doesn’t mind being silly and making us laugh until our tummy hurts.  He smart and can figure out how to fix a problem.  He is the hardest working brother I have.  He always has things to do.  His legacy is all the people named after him.  I don’t know how he did it, but there are so many of his kids and grandkids named after him that I tease him that the world doesn’t need any more ‘Pauls.’  He says, “Oh, no!  There’s always room for another Paul.”  He truly is our rock and I love him deeply.

Now there are three gone.  Timmy died of a heart attack.  Johnny died while scuba diving.  His offical cause of death was drowning.  This week, Steven, died of a heart attack.

My mind drifts back when for a brief time we were young and all lived in the same home.  That ended about forty-four years ago when Steven left and slowly, over time, we all moved away from one another.  It was rare when we were all together at the same place.  There are a few pictures with us together.

When Timmy died, we took a picture of us together after the funeral.  It’s become a tradition to do that after funerals.  Today, there were three of us.  Yes, there should be four and Mike is missing out of the picture and I don’t forsee him ever joining us.

So today, David, me, and Paul, took a picture and we smiled and laughed because we know how precious our time is together.

With love, to my remaining brothers.

Posted in Blessings, Changes, Memory

To Cam on Your 27th Year

For Moms … Babies are precious.  Toddlers are cute.  Preteens are awkward.  Teenagers can be exasperating and fun.  College students are inspiring.  Young adults are humorous.  When the other side of mid-twenties roll around, we stop and take stock of how fast time is moving.  I want to say ‘Stop,’ but then I wouldn’t get to move forward and see all those other stages ahead that, I’m sure, will be equally wonderful!

Cam…. It’s hard to grasp that your twenty-seven today.  Looking backward,   I’ve enjoyed all the stages of your life.  Who knew so many years ago, that time would move so fast?  I know …   All those mom’s who’ve gone on before me!

I’m appreciative of the person you are now.  I miss seeing you.  So much to miss; a hug, sharing meals, teasing remarks, your quirky sense of humor, hanging out watching television and making comments, simple talks, and watching you putter around the house and play with the dog.  I miss that Cameron smile.

Today, I’m remembering and treasuring the precious moments of your childhood.   I’m smiling recalling the joy of your birth and the fun of you growing up.

Your love of Trains and Thomas.  Playing with Legos, Pokemon cards, and all night video games.  Being creative making movies, going to church, and band filling your days.  Your first girlfriends and heart breaks.  Your strength as you grieved your dad.  How much I missed you when you moved away to college, but loved hearing about all you learned as you moved into independence.  Incredible determination dealing with kidney failure and the transplant.  Your first apartment.

I am awed by your positive outlook on life.  I never doubted that you would and will succeed in whatever you set out to accomplish.

That being said, thank goodness for cell phones!  I’m so happy that you share with me your thoughts and the decisions you’re making.  I like hearing about your work and what you’re learning and doing.  I enjoy listening to your views on politics and what’s going on in the world.  Believe it or not, I do appreciate your opinion.  It makes me happy hearing about the small details of your days.  I like talking with you about what you’re making for dinner and how roommate living is going.  Descriptions of Zipps and his antics makes me smile.  I can picture him climbing and scrambling around your room being his cat self, slightly annoying.

I appreciate when I visit, you giving of your time and entertaining me around town.  Sitting with you in coffee shops and having dessert is a ‘sweet’ moment in time.  (pun intended)…. walking our legs off and being a good sport about directing me through subways.  I thank you for these sweet memories.

I am simply a proud mom and I love you!  Happy 27th year of celebrating your birth.

Our ‘traditional’ pose

 I know your dad is proud of you too!

Posted in Around town, Changes

Barking Dogs Doesn’t = Welcome

My new neighbors’ dog is barking once again.  When they first moved in, I wanted to leap over the fence and throttle him.   The dogs … because I hadn’t yet met the neighbor.  He moved his three Pit Bulls in two days before they actually moved into the house.

The barking was constant and as annoying as it could possibly be.  By the time I noticed the U-Haul sitting in the driveway, I was ready to let whoever was unloading it feel my wrath.  My unpleasant self marched right over.

I have to say I’m a bit embarrassed how I ‘met’ the new neighbor.  My first words weren’t ones of welcome and I didn’t have a smile on my face.  Out of my mouth poured my complaint of how ‘Man’s best friend’ was a nuisance and how that barking had kept me awake two nights in a row.  Two of my neighbors had already voiced their complaint to me and had called Animal Control, but that wasn’t a solution.

My ‘neighbor’ didn’t apologize, but met gruffness with gruffness.  “The dogs would stop barking when they became familiar with the yard.”  I just had to be ‘patient.’  Our conversation didn’t end with a smile or ‘nice to meet you.”

To tell the truth, the day I put my “Easter” church sign in the yard, I cringed a bit.  “Hypocrite” echoed in my mind.  I hadn’t shown kindness or forgiveness.  I had let my tongue drip poison.  I knew I hadn’t handled the dog situation correctly.

Thankfully, just a few days later while out in the yard, I was able to actually meet my new neighbors and apologize for the awful way I greeted him the first time.  Justin and his wife, April, moved across town to what he described as a ‘nicer’ neighborhood.  I found out the name of the dog that is staked closest to my yard is called “Pappy.”  He has improved barking less, but hey, he still manages to let me know he’s out there.

Tonight, I heard a knock at the front door.  Two little girls stood there, still in their school uniform dresses.  One about seven and the other about six.  They wanted to say ‘Hello’ to their new neighbor….me.  I introduced them to my cat, Pippin, and my dog, Zoey.  They seemed more impressed with Zoey’s smallness than Pippin’s largeness.   Aliah and Peyton wanted to make my mom and I an Easter card.  “Would we mind?”  Those two tiny girls sweetly reminded me how neighbors should meet each other.

I feel a cookie baking spree coming on.  I think I’ll shower a few of my neighbors with sweets this weekend.   At this point, I don’t mind the occasional barking of “Pappy.”  Good Friday is a ‘good’ day to show kindness and welcoming.

Isn’t it funny how small things can make us smile or rile us up?

On Sunday, our pastor reminded us that God is always good.  He’s good in the good times and he is still good when times are tough.  God doesn’t change.

Our perspective changes due to circumstances.  How wonderful it would be to look beyond ourselves and our view of our own tiny life to see the amazing view God has of our world and how His plan unfolds.

I imagine going from a street view on Google Maps to a satellite view and zooming way out.  Only God gets to see the tiny details unfolding and zero in on both the street view and the satellite at the same time.  My mind is so miniscule, I can’t imagine it.

I only see a barking dog…. Thankfully, there’s God.

 

Posted in Changes, Inspiration

My Boot Camp Experience

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My goal…to have arms like Arlene!

I had dinner with my friend, Arlene, on my fifty-fourth birthday.   We’ve been friends since seventeen.

Not for the first time did she invite me to come to her ‘Boot camp’ exercise class at 5:30 A.M.   I’ve made excuses not to come before, but this time I agreed to come try one class with her.

I do have to say that she is looking wonderfully fit.

Two days later, I showed up on a Wednesday.  Not being a morning person, I had a hard time convincing myself to roll my legs out of bed at 4:30.  I took a shower, brushed my teeth, and dried my hair before class, so that I wouldn’t have much to do when the class was over and it was time to get ready to go to work.  I know taking a shower before working out sounds funny, but heck, I was trying to conserve my time between coming home and going to work at 7:10.

I made it through one day and the next day, I signed up for their special for three months.  I committed myself.  Arlene encouraged and partnered with me.

I tell you, it was a struggle to get myself out of bed that early in the morning for the first three weeks and sometimes, it still is over almost two months later.  If I do over-sleep and miss my morning class, then I make myself go to an afternoon class.  Which by the end of the school day with ten-year olds, I’m pooped and the last thing I want to do is workout.

Boot camp is a gym class with the trainer coming up with strange exercises that I’d never think of doing at home and many I’ve never heard about.  There’s equipment like weight bars, TRX straps, ropes, mats, kettleBells, sandbags, SandBells, Medicine Balls, and those dreaded gliders.

The exercises themselves have unique names.  There’s SandBell Slams, Mountain Climbers, and Russian Twists.

Funniest name…Burpees.  Which by the way, I can’t do.  I can’t seem to jump back two-legs at once, bring them back and jump up.

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The correct way to do a Burpee

Instead, I awkwardly step back one foot at a time and bring them back up, one leg at a time and forget the hop up!  Mine look nothing like they are supposed to do.  Arlene looks terrific doing hers!

Some mornings when I see what we are supposed to do, I want to just go walk on the treadmill to avoid doing some of those exercises.   However, I’ve hung in there and participated in all the crazy moves.

The one I dread the most is pushing SandBells or Sandbags across the gym floor with our hands on the bag.  I can’t get across the floor without falling two or three times banging my knees.  The exercises I enjoy doing the most is using the barbells.

I thought I had done all the exercises with strange names, but one morning, I get there and we do Bear Crawls across the gym width and then do ten push-ups.  Meanwhile, our partner is down on their hands and knees holding a bear Claw on tip-toes.

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Shhhh . . .    I grabbed a shot of those Bear Crawls!

I showed Robbi, my friend a work, these crawls and she burst out laughing!  Trust me…They are hard to do!

Nothing lasts forever, so for less than ten minutes, we do the crazy ‘whatever’ and then move on.  Some days fly fast and the forty-five minutes are over.   There’s a sense of accomplishment actually finishing the classes.

There are challenges and I’m thankful that Arlene is there to encourage me along.  We were working on arms with free weights.  We start at the end of the gym doing ten up-right rows and then move across the gym adding ten every time we stop.

At first it seems so easy, but as the repetitions grow, it feels as if raising arms is torture.  After the rows, comes chest presses starting at fifteen and adding another fifteen as we stop on lines.  Crossing the gym lengthwise for the third time doing first twenty overhead presses and adding twenty each time we stop on a line was our last challenge.

I’m at the last line to lift my final sixty.  When we finish, we are supposed to hold the weights over our head and walk to the other end of the gym without lowering the weights and then class is over.  By the time I hit thirty-five, I’m standing alone struggling to finish my overhead presses.  All the other people have crossed the gym with their arms up holding the weights.  I’m about to throw in the towel, when Arlene crosses the gym and stands in front of me.

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How I felt when finished!

At forty, she says, “You got this.  Do it by five.  Forty-five, roll shoulders…Fifty, roll shoulders….Fifty-five….roll shoulders.”  She encourages me to finish all sixty and then do the easy part by walking the length of the gym.  It felt like a ‘Rocky’ moment. The people who were still in the gym, clapped for me as I walked with the weights above my head.  Heck, I felt like Rocky!

Results?  Thankfully,  yes!  I can almost do ten complete push-ups (Still on my knees and not going as far down as I should), but my body is strengthening.  I couldn’t do one on my first day.  I still can’t do a complete sit-up, but I know my core is stronger.

I’ve had three full body scans.  I stand on a circle stand that rotates and the computer has a camera that scans my body and measurements.  Each time I get one, I cringe at my silhouette and look closely for improvements.  (Heck, NO! I’m not posting a picture).  I’m thankful that clothing covers my rolls.  I’m the apple body type where all my weight sits at my middle, so I resemble a plump blueberry.

I have lost five inches in two months.  It’s enough that I’m inspired to keep going.

More importantly than just losing weight, is to work building muscles, so as I age, I can remain strong.  I hope to avoid the diseases that plague my family; high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and heart problems.  To enjoy movement into my old age, and with God’s grace… live a long life here on Earth, as I age through my fifties and beyond.

Posted in anticipation, Changes, Memory

December Has Arrived

It’s hard to believe how time can fly by so quickly.  Another season is about to change while life seems to be puttering by without any major change happening in my life.  The beginning school months have come and gone and the Christmas season is upon us.

As a teacher, August is a whirl of activity preparing for the new school year as summer fades away.  September seems to drag its feet as new routines are taught and carried out. I become more accustomed to early mornings and working on lessons to be taught and the preparation that is involved seems endless.   Summer, now is only a sweet memory, and the next significant time off from school is the Thanksgiving break, which looms off in the distance.  I swear September and May are the longest months in a teacher’s life!

However, September finally lumbers away.  October, with the anticipation of Autumn activities, moves much faster.  Routines are now established and the classroom runs more efficiently, and maybe I have gotten used to those early mornings.

November arrives and the week of vacation beckons for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Counting down the days in anticipation, makes the weeks fly by.  Finally, the Friday before Thanksgiving came and joyously staff and students left the building, knowing how quickly nine days will fly by with activities.

For myself, I looked forward to staying up late and sleeping in without an alarm to prod me out of bed.  I love to watch morning television shows and laze around without any specific task to move me out of the house.

Just as promised, the days moved like The Flash on a mission and school started again.

Smiling, the Christmas break draws near.  Which brings me back to today.  Tomorrow is December 1st!  Fifteen days to our next extended break.

December… a month I get through.  With it brings all sorts of memories; happy and sad.  We’ve had the normal family Christmases and those sweet moments linger in my mind.

A little blond, Cam, singing carols in front of the Christmas tree.  The joy of his face when he got a bike or a train, and then when older, an XBox.  The passing out of presents and watching one person at a time open them, watching with slow smiles as the gift was received.  Hardly ever being able to surprise John with an unknown gift because…One, I have trouble picking out a gift.  Two because John and Cameron (had) have an uncanny ability to guess what I bought by shaking the gift!  So it was rare that I actually surprised those two.

My favorite memories; eating Christmas dinner with his family with all the noise and teasing going back and forth.   After dinner, the gifts and cards were passed out.  The Christmas card always contained a crisp fifty dollar bill from his parents and afterward, we’d go back to the kitchen for dessert.

I try to remember those sweet memories more than the shattering Christmas week that brought the grief.  It’s hard to believe that this year will be nine years since I held his hand and said goodbye.  Missing never stops, but with time comes healing.  The new normal becomes regular life and with God’s help, I learn to count my blessings because I do have joy in my life.

This year, I won’t be here to visit the graveside.  I’m heading to see Cam in NYC.  My ticket is bought and I’m anticipating spending time with him and seeing the city in all of its Christmas splendor.  Having plans does have a way of brightening the immediate future.

My tree is up and I don’t expect to have gifts under it, but I’m enjoying the twinkling lights and the memories of the ornaments on it as I count down the days until the break.  I’m smiling and listening to Christmas music and December is coming.

 

 

Posted in Changes

Sailing On

I’m feeling a bit emotional.  A bear hug and a firm shoulder to cling to sounds heavenly.  I thought about hitting the bag of chocolate that is sitting in my closet, but the sugar makes my knees ache.  I compromised by drinking a glass of chocolate milk.  Reaching out to someone by text crossed my mind, however, it is after midnight.  So instead, I picked up the computer to write.

Recently, I sailed on a boat with a person who wasn’t an experienced sailor although we had Pete, an experienced one, on board to give pointers as needed.  The couple sailing with Pete was there to get experience and I was there to simply sail.  Now myself, I know nothing of sail boats and only have been sailing a few times.

On this particular day there was a sailing race.  There were five boats competing.  The premise was simple: Sail around two markers three times without bumping into the marker.   We were sailing on a lake and we had good wind, not to mention a sky full of beautiful sunshine.

Out we sailed.  We gathered near each other and were given a five-minute warning to be ready to begin.  After five minutes, the flag waved and we were off.  This boat had a tiller to steer and it feels a bit strange because you pull it the opposite way you want to turn the boat.  Our helmsman steered (the not so experienced sailor) and Pete and the sailor’s wife were tacking (moving the sails) as needed for the wind direction.  I sat or stood at the back out of the way!  It’s pretty interesting listening to the directions because sailing has its own vocabulary.

We watched the telltale  (ribbons on the sail) to see if adjustments needed to be made in steering.  It was so fun when the wind filled the sails and we moved forward quickly, but when we were sailing against the wind, it seemed as if we were barely moving.  It was a job to tack the sails back and forth.  Sometimes the helmsman would move the tiller as we came about and we would lean over at an alarming (I thought) degree towards the water.  That’s when I’d move to the higher side of the boat or stand at the back.

Racing a sail boat is a great way to hone a sailors skill, but I think I like simply sailing around the lake rather than racing.  Give me the easy life of dipping my toes over the side and letting them skim the water or simply enjoy sitting on the deck watching the sails move.

My thoughts are moving around like the sails being tacked back and forth to catch the wind.  Sometimes I feel so confident that I think I know which direction I’m suppose to be going and then there are the other times that I flounder like a sail boat without the wind to move it.

The times that I flounder are the times that I let sadness blow me around.  It’s June 12th; our anniversary.  It’s a day that reminds me how much I lost.  Nine years since we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary together.  Nine years that I counted without him.  If he were here than it would be thirty-four, but now it is forever 25.  I miss John’s quirkiness, his green eyes, his sense of humor, that crazy sneeze, and his presence in my life.  I miss him as a husband and a dad.

I’ve wondered how different my life would be if he were still here with me.  I’ve tacked the sail to catch the wind.  My boat has tilted toward the water and my heart sped up as I waited for the boat to settle upright again.  It did.  Would he like the person I’ve become?

I’m not as soft-hearted as I once was.  That makes me a bit sad.  I sometimes wonder if it is because I’m older or because I have to be independent now.    Independence has its perks, but it also has its dark side.

Singleness is like carrying a heavy object.  It takes muscles to move, sitting it down occasionally, pushing it along the floor, and then re-lifting to move it into position.  Once it is in place; surveying the results alone without having anyone to celebrate the accomplishment.  It’d be easier if another person came along side to help lift, put it in place, smiling when it’s in place, and then admiring it together.  I know which one I prefer, but it is what it is.

So today, I’m remembering being married to John.  I tried to remember each of our twenty-five  anniversary days, but only a few of them shine out.  Our second, eighth, thirteenth, and our last one the twenty-fifth, I can clearly remember, but the rest…nope!

That’s a tribute because it didn’t take a single day to make me feel special and loved.  It wasn’t a boat race, but a pleasant sail; skimming toes in the water, enjoying the breeze blowing, and tacking the sails as the wind changed and then continuing along admiring the views until it was time to dock the boat.

Happy Anniversary Babe….

 

 

 

Posted in Blessings, Changes

My Friend, Sally

 

Sally, one of my sweet teaching partners and friend, is taking off to travel with her hubby, Joe.  I don’t mean simply for the summer, but she is saying adios to teaching.  It’s a heart-wrenching change for me, but I’m so happy that she gets to make so many new memories with him.

God must have been smiling on me the day I was placed with her.  Her previous partner of one year, Jane, took a job at Region 7 Service Center and my partner, Shay, was changing to a lead teacher position.  I can’t say it was chance that we were paired together as a team because I don’t believe in fate.

God gave her to me as a gift when I needed lifted and blessed.  John had just passed away the December before and we were partnered in May for the next school year.  I know that God put her in my life when I needed to be pointed Northward.  She’s lifted me when I felt low and helped me let go of trivial matters that hinder my growth as God’s child.

From the beginning we clicked.  There was no awkward moments of classroom management or styles of teaching.  It was as if we were made from the same mold.  I do think her mold is a bit more perfect than mine.  We’ve spent eight years together and I’m going to miss spending my work days with her.

Our first year, we giggled over our students making paper mache bugs, and sat out in our lawn chairs at recess while the kids had a fun day filling water balloons and then letting them fly in an epic water war.  I loved those sweet May days when testing was over and playtime kicked in at the end of the year.

The next year, Cynthia was added to our partnership and we’ve simply grown together.  Over the years we’ve shared students and life together.  Conversations weave from work to our lives and families and back to students without a separation.  We’ve giggled, cried, lifted each other, given each other space when needed, and hugged.  I know their families and they know mine because we share our hearts.

I estimate that we’ve shared almost 5oo students between us during these eight years.  I’m smiling thinking of those lock-ins that keep getting shorter as time passed.  Those first few when we actually stayed overnight, slept on the floor, watched movies, and made breakfast.  My favorite memories are watching them run around the building yelling at the top of their lungs, the infamous trashcan races, Nerf gun wars, and playing outside with flashlights.

She’ll be missed not only by Cynthia and myself, but by the staff.  I know she’s touched more than my life.  She’s leaving a hole throughout the Fourth Grade group.


What have I learned from Sally?

She’s taught me to appreciate good shoes.  (LOL!)  With her, I learned a bit of shoe fashion!  I’ve gone from boyish shoes to heels and painted toe nails.  Never will I buy cheap shoes over quality.  Shopping for shoes with her is a joy because she’ll buy the shoes that I never would even think of purchasing.  She loves color and heels!

Tactfulness and positivity are two important traits to bring to parent conferences.  She always finds the right way to make a parent feel better about their child’s educational gaps and she looks for traits to love and appreciate in the student.

Diction is important.  We should all learn to speak our consonants!  It doesn’t hurt that she has that perfect diction.  All her consonants are used and a ‘t’ pronunciation is never replaced with a ‘d’ sound.    A ‘cabinet’ is a ‘cupboard’ and a ‘garage’ is a ‘gar-age.’  Boy… can she replace our Texas twang with odd sounding vowels!  I love to get the kids to ask questions where she’ll have to use these words and she goes along like a champ.  My favorite question from a student to her since she’s from Scotland is, “Where’d you learn to speak American?”  It still makes me smile!

Making our students realize their worth is the most important part of teaching.  I think what I’ll miss most about not teaching with her is her heart towards her students.  She makes them feel special and spreads her love of writing over them like fairy dust.  I’ve seen her correct their manners in loving ways and they remember the etiquette, but she also encourages them and instills a love of writing when at the beginning of the year, they didn’t think of themselves as authors.

A small dose of guilt can improve behavior.  She does know how to tilt on the guilt just enough that intrinsically the students will rethink their behavior.  Sometimes, it doesn’t even require discipline for them to correct their conduct because they regret their actions.  That is a talent that she excels in and I wish I knew how to do better.

Tidiness and organization make a teacher’s life easier.  She is neat to a fault and loves her organization.  If I could be one-fourth as organized as her than my Math group wouldn’t be afraid to trust me with their originals.  : )

To let the trivial things not consume me because in the scheme of this life they don’t matter.   Giving them to God is the best action there is.  Working with people small hurtful incidents happen.  It’s how I react that makes a difference in the outcome.  I try to remember to lift it up and let it go.

Most importantly, she has been an example of growing in her relationship with God.  I’ve seen her trust in Him more and follow where He leads.  Her prayer journal and daily devotions have inspired me in my growth with my savior.  Thanks Sally for being my Christian sister.

I think what I’ll miss most is simply spending eight hours a day with Sally, five days a week.  She offers encouragement and adds humor to my life.  She greets me with a smile and a cheery ‘Good morning’ and often a hug and there is not a better way to start the day.   I love standing in the doorway smiling and chatting with one another as we begin our school day and being able to pop over to her room for a quick conversation or a silly wise crack!



Sally,

Thankfully, when you’re not traveling we will gather for breakfast or coffee and definitely shopping or nails.  I’ll pop over to your house for a cup of tea, words of wisdom, belly laughs, and conversation both serious and frivolous.

I love you my beautifully, honest friend.  I’m so incredibly happy to be not only a part of your life at work, but also in our life outside of work.  You’ve shown me a sister’s love and a friend’s devotion.  I’m truly glad that you stepped into my life those wonderful eight years past and am looking forward to whatever the future holds as we continue our friendship.

With love,  Becky

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A cup of tea would be lovely!

 

If you know and love Sally like I do, add a comment of some of your favorite quotes of hers or a funny story.

Posted in Changes, Inspiration

Martha or Mary?

Wednesday nights, I’ve been going to a bible study, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

Now, I once would have told you that I didn’t have ‘Martha’ bone in my body because I can walk away from services that need done.  A sink full of dirty dishes or stepping over dust bunnies doesn’t make me cringe.  The bed being unmade doesn’t make me flinch.  Too many women in the kitchen, and I’m out of there!  If a party is being planned and everyone wants to voice an opinion, I’ll just wait for someone to tell me what they want me to contribute.  In other words, I don’t mind not being in charge.  Okay, if I’m the only one there, then I’ll take on the job, but I’m not THAT person that has to spill out all the commands.

I’d rather sit in the sunshine, stop and admire flowers and take pictures of the beauty surrounding me.  I’m distracted by birds and frequently a couch or a hammock beckons me to enjoy a leisurely afternoon.  I’ve even used a top of a picnic table to bask in the sunshine.

So, it’s easy to see why I never thought I was a ‘Martha,’ but more a ‘Mary.’  However, I’m barely in chapter five, and I’m looking at the two women with new eyes.  Yes, Martha was THE one that hurried around moving from task to task like a busy bee and then complained that her sister was merely sitting at the feet of Jesus taking in his words.

I’m not sure if she snagged Jesus and pulled him aside to complain about her sister to him privately or if she boldly proclaimed it in front of Mary, but I can imagine how Mary might have felt being at the receiving end of the complaint.  This was her sister who loved her, yet berated her to a person she admired.  I’m speculating, but I believe Mary was an optimistic person who saw the good in people.  Did her lip tremble at the criticism of Martha?  Did her spirit sigh at listening to Jesus’ reply?

Martha felt under appreciated and struck out in her frustration.  Her complaint was judgmental and she wanted someone to acknowledge her feelings even if she had to throw her own sister under the bus, so to speak.  I do share that trait with Martha, the judgmental person.  That’s the ugly part of being on the outside looking in.   Martha felt like an outsider and left out of all the fellowship going on in her home while Mary happily wandered in and listened…at the feet of Jesus, no less.

Once, I’d never have agreed that I had a Martha connection, but I do; being critical.  I have a hard time turning that faucet of myself off also.   I am an optimistic person and whenever another person comes up with a negative, I’ll often try to come up with a positive for a situation.  However, I’m quick to judge people I don’t know very well.  Judgement starts in the mind, but comes out through the tongue and body language.

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Recently, I saw this sign.

Yes, my tongue has gotten the better of me; quick-witted jokes or sarcasm ~but, I’ve cut that one down quite a bit~ I’ve matured in my faith.  I am seeing improvement!

Language can be either unpleasant or lovely depending on our thoughts how we let those thoughts slip off our tongue and out of our mouth.   Of course self-control is a mighty force and comes when we practice letting go of those things that keep us connected too tightly to this world.

Self-control is the last in the list of those beautiful fruits of the spirit.  Most likely the hardest one to obtain without the other seven.  Love…easy for people we like, but what about the ones that we find hard to love?  Peace…I think that’s the easiest for me.  Patience…Well, it helps if I’ve had a good night of rest!  (Smiling)   I don’t question God’s working in my life.  I do question some of my reactions to it!   Kindness…I think is tied to love and patience.  Definitely a work in progress for me.  I’m sure no one hits the pinnacle on that one.   Goodness…Mostly what I witness in other people, not myself.  These are so looped together!  Faith…Always room for maturity.   Gentleness….Not my greatest strength, but I’m improving.  That one is so tied with patience and kindness.  Whoa!  Self-control binds them together in a beautiful package complete with a bow.

Those traits…love, kindness, goodness, and gentleness…These are the ones that we want others to show to us, but it’s harder to whip up the effort to show them to people when the busyness of life takes over.  It’s so much easier to put off helping others.  The golden rule.  Matthew 7:12  Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them-This is the Law and the Prophets.  

I know some people who do the ‘kindness and goodness’ so well and I’d like to emulate them.  Those two fruits don’t come easily for me.  I usually just want to tell people get on with life and don’t whine about situations… which is not good, kind, or gentle.

It’s hard not to be judgmental to people that we don’t connect with or critical of people we know inside and out like family or long known acquaintances.  We keep a mental list of all the history that has gone before and it taints our reactions.

I wonder if Mary and Martha ever forgot that day?  I bet not.  I hope Martha joined Mary and both sat listening to Jesus.  Later maybe both worked to finish preparing  whatever needed to be done.

Re-reading about Martha and Mary, not only in Luke 10: 38-42, but in John 12: 1-8 , Martha, once again, serves Jesus dinner and Mary is at his feet, as she was before.  This time she lovingly bathes His feet with precious oil and wipes them with her hair.  Once again her actions are questioned, but this time by Judas Iscariot.  Jesus, once more, defends her deed as being appropriate in showing her devotion to who He is.  She isn’t concerened about the cost of the oil, but showing Him her love and dedication to give Him her best.

In between those two meetings, he raised their dear brother, Lazarus,from the dead.  The reactions of the two different sisters before his resurrection seems to mirror their personalities.  Martha didn’t wait to see Jesus, but rushed out to meet him.  Mary grieved in the house, waiting.  Maybe Mary was in prayer.  It isn’t recorded as such, but I believe that she was looking for inner peace.  Martha told her to come and see Jesus and she came bringing a group with her.  Did you notice that this time she falls at the feet of Jesus also?  Mary always meets Him with reverence.  Martha once again questions if he really wants to open the tomb because of the smell.

I know that she believed He was the Messiah, the Son of God because of her words to Him.  However, knowing that she still questioned His command.  How many times do we do the same?  How joyful they must have felt seeing Lazarus come out of that tomb!

Oh my goodness, I’m more Martha than I care to admit.  I don’t openly question God, but with my reactions I show my reluctance to believe that He will take care of me even when I know that He loves me and knows my story.  “God, I’m afraid that if I let go of the reins of my life that it may fall apart!”

I wonder if I will ever get to the place where I become a Mary and fall at the feet of Jesus every time I know he’s near.  I just need to keep reminding myself that he’s always near.  Working on those beautiful fruits of the spirit also!

Martha, Martha, Martha……

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard you hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.     Philippians 4:7  (HCSB)

 

Posted in Changes, Memory

There Is Beauty In Our Seasons of Life

I’ve been more aware of the different stages in people’s lives around me.

Seasons…

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Most of my friends are married.  I have a few divorced or widowed friends, but the majority have a spouse.  I’m a bit envious.  That’s where I imaged my life would be as I passed middle age now.

Many of my friends are empty-nesters.  Their children are off at college, or graduated and starting careers.  Some of their kids are married.  There are a few with older children still at home, but they are getting fewer.

This past week, I’ve had a friend, Sally, turn 50 and another, Katie, turn 60.  I happen to fall between their ages.  Both are relatively new grandparents.  The love for their grand babies is apparent in the smiles, gushing, and general pride of their children’s offspring.

 My single friends who are divorced split their time with their kids between the other parent.  I don’t know how that feels.  I’m sure sometimes loneliness is their companion, but it does allow for some alone time for themselves.

This week, I had a friend from my single group, go camping with her boyfriend.  Her Facebook posts made me smile.  How sweet it is to discover the idiosyncrasies of another person.  I look forward to that.

I wonder about the few people I know who are haven’t married.  Do they feel as I do?  Precious time slipping away and the longing to belong to another before death comes.  Some singles never feel the need for marriage, happy plugging along with their life.  I do understand the freedom to do whatever with the free time without having to ask anyone opinion.  It’s a ‘me’ centered lifestyle.  I am experiencing it too.  I’m happy to spend time alone when I like and find activities to do when I feel like being with people.

This week, I watched a young couple enjoying the beauty of a child.  Conversations seem to be centered around eating, sleeping, and playing.  I smiled understanding that working and raising a family is a bit stressing, but the joy of experiencing each second is priceless.  How fast the time flies!  When you’re experiencing the daily routines, it seems as if it’ll go on forever, but before you expect it, they’re grown and off, and you’ll wonder how it went so fast.

I love being a mom, but a mom’s role changes as a child ages.  At first, we simply teach and love, but gradually a hand is let go and freedom is given.  Hopefully, we set forth an example to be followed and improved on.  Love is there, but adulthood is too.   I love the man my son is and the one I know he will grow to be.  A thirty minute phone call from Cameron to simply talk about work, pets, and what’s going on in our life connects us when distance separates us.

I’ve enjoyed looking at all the pictures of families doing things on Spring break.  Cooking with their mom, geocaching, cruises, movies, and spending time with grandparents.  So many little snatches of their lives posted, comes together like a mosaic of life.  Frozen memories on a timeline.

Transitions are bound to hit every one’s life.  Mine at this point makes me feel out of control.  I go from eating everything in sight to forgetting to eat.  I try to remind myself that from every situation I’ve grown toward God and that He holds me dear.  This change is bound to bring positive change.

I’ve spent the Spring break week working on the house to sell.  I’ve had a list to follow, but doing one thing on the list leads to doing another task that’s not on the list.  I’ve worked endlessly this week and I do see progress, but I’m so tired and my body is sore from going up and down the ladder, painting, and generally being on my feet most of the day.  My arms have been getting their workout!

Cameron came home for two days.  The first one, we simply enjoyed each other’s company, but the second one, we went through his room, cleaning out closets and trying to pare down what to keep from his childhood and what to let go.  I smiled as a few childhood books that we read to him when he was young was kept as mementos.  He handed them to me and I couldn’t help smiling.  Sweet memories.

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My Childhood Treasures

Going through plastic bins in the garage, I found my own childhood treasures.  As I opened the plastic tub, I laughed!  There were treasures from a very early season in my life.  What in the world possessed me to tuck these things away?

A much-loved stuffed tiger with one eye missing and matted hair.  A very sixties flower print Tutu, I just had to have from Goodwill when I was about five or six because I wanted to be a dancer.  A few dolls, now with very deteriorated eyes, had to go, except one.  A plastic jewelry box with tiny rings and junk jewelry, I picked through.  Baby clothes and blankets, I kept.  I have to admit, I rescued the tutu from the garage sale pile and it’s back in my room.

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The sign that led John to me

At the bottom of the bin, I found the sign that I wore when I met John.  (Yes, I’m a bit sappy!)  His name is to the left of ‘Dorothy.’  After 35 years, I finally threw it away, but I did take a picture to treasure.

Another week and I should be finished and ready to put the house for sale.  I’m glad because I’m emotionally and physically tired. Tears were an outlet at church today.  I could feel them bubbling up on Friday and I should have let them go.  Instead, I held them in and they found their way out when I felt the most vulnerable.  I hate showing that part of myself.  I’m the ‘suck it up and deal with it girl.’

Thankful for Cheryl and Ty who happened to walk to where I was sitting.  (Thank you God, I needed contact).  She held my hand.  Isn’t it funny that such a small gesture can have a huge impact on our soul?  God built us for relationships.  Congregation singing today of “Amazing Grace…My Chains Are Gone” made me think of John.  It helped.

Wisdom comes through the many experiences of our lives.  We learn that wisdom through trials and over coming them.  One of my favorite verses is Romans 5:3-4

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our affliction, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  (HCSB)

Sometimes, people share that wisdom.  Sometimes, the wisdom is kept internally until it is needed to be shared.   I can’t imagine being a Mom-in-law until that time comes.   I won’t know what it is really like to be a grandparent until that happens.  These are experiences that I’m joyfully anticipating experiencing.

Most of my friends have no idea the state of loneliness widowhood brings.  Divorce isn’t the same, except in its outcome of singleness.  There’s a heart wrenching ache that etched itself in the soul as we are separated until death.  Time does allow an adjustment to dealing with the hurt.  Just as I can’t imagine how hard it must be to say goodbye to a child that is gone too soon or a parent that has taken their last breath.  It’s these experiences that causes growth, and deepening our relationship with our Savior.  We look for guidance and peace.

There are also physical seasons and I’m experiencing them.  Gone are the carefree days of movement without thought and smooth skin.

Menopause…that’s probably a curse from Eve (my opinion only).  All the lovely conditions that come with it the change in our bodies.  My favorite;  hot flashes (sarcasm).  Nothing like the shared knowledge of smiles of women who are experiencing it too.  If you see fanning and it’s not hot…think internal furnace.

Aging…. Graying hair; we either color, highlight, or let it go.  Crows feet and wrinkles; I prefer to think of them as laugh lines.  Gravity; no sense in even going there!  The creaks of our bones and joints as we move and the groans that escape our lips as we bend, squat or sit.  Age spots on the hands!  Yuck!  They once were referred to as liver spots, which sounds even worse.

Eyes that won’t focus until we either hold the book or paper arms stretch way back or as close as we can get it.  ‘Cheaters’ are bought at the store to help magnify.  We look for the ‘fashionable’ kind because we don’t want to look nerdy.   Finally, we give in and actually go for an eye exam, only to find that we really do need bifocals to see.

Life experiences shape and change us, and age makes us appreciate what has come before and what is to come after.  Seasons…life continues and how beautiful it is.

Posted in Changes

Treasures in the Closet

What are we thinking when we put items in closets?  I’m not talking about clothing, but other things like papers, books, and boxes filled with trinkets.  Is it a place to simply hide mementos that we don’t know what to do with?   Perhaps with good intentions, we place them on shelves and over the years, we forget what’s inside.  When it’s time to clean out the closet, it’s like opening a bit of a time capsule.

I’ve been cleaning out the extra bedroom closet preparing to sale the house.  Keep in mind that I have no clothes whatsoever in there.  We lined the closet with four bookshelves and a filing cabinet.  That closet is an never-ending job.  Yes, I’ve hauled six large black trash bags out of there.  Many textbooks have been donated to Hope’s Closet and yet, I keep getting lost looking at the remaining things inside that small room.

Tonight, I was kidnapped by National Geographic maps and pictures.  The maps are mine; given to me by John’s dad, Pierce.

My first treasure was the two homemade boxes with the maps folded neatly inside.  I couldn’t help but smile because the boxes were made by my Dad-in-law who could organize anything with recycled boxes.

These small boxes were from Stemco; tops cut off and clear tape binding them together.  I pulled them out, sat in the hall, and like buried treasure, I pulled the maps out one by one.  Carefully unfolding them, reading the information on one side, and looking at the maps on the other side.

Obviously, they came with National Geographic Magazines over the years.  Dad had also given those to me, but about four years ago, I donated all but a few of them to one of the history teachers at the high school.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll sell the maps after selecting a few that I’d like to keep.

The maps ranged from 1970 to 1993.  I’d estimate there were about thirty of them.  Nat. Geo. maps are really beautiful!  I sat there imagining all the changes that have taken place in the world during the forty plus years since the maps were printed; the history, wars, social opinions that have reshaped us.

I’m peeling away ‘stuff’ that has been collected during my married years.  Weeding out ‘things’ that I no longer need.  Preparing to down size to a smaller place.

I’ve read papers that have been kept and thrown many of them out.  Some I’ve tucked away to keep a little longer.  I’ve found cards that have made me smile and cry.  I’ve separated books into piles to get rid of and to keep.  I’ve been astounded by the number of teacher books that I’ve bought over the years.  Did I really think that I’d need so many?

Still the closet isn’t finished.  It’s stacked in piles on the floor and on the bed.  I’ve got dozens of CD cases to go through to check if they are empty or filled.  There are photo albums and yearbooks that are over flowing on the shelf.  I have to decide what to do with those.

I’m beginning to think that the closet may be the hardest room to get through. After this one, I have another two to go.  As I’m considering those, the attic comes to mind.  I’ll have to think about that job at a later date or I’ll be overwhelmed!

Like these old maps, I’m feeling a bit creased, out of date, and on hold.  With all the modern technology like GPS, we hardly ever use paper maps.  When on my road trips, I stop at state lines to pick up a free one.  I also carry an Atlas book.  I love to pull out a map and plan a route running my fingers over the roads or highlighting them.  I like to see all the towns that I could stop and explore.  However, I still use a computer to search for the best things to visit along the way.  It’s the perfect combination of old and new together.

Which reminds me that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it isn’t useful.  These maps do make beautiful decorations.  It’s the sentimental attachments that make cleaning and getting rid of things…difficult.  

I am more attracted to old things than to newer items and I find myself holding on to them.  I can’t see getting rid of things that have been passed down to me by family.  Getting rid of things that belonged to John is also difficult.  Once those are gone, they can’t be replaced, so I’m trying to be careful with what I decide.  Yes, getting through this closet is time-consuming and emotional.

Like a map showing directions, I’ll plan my route; one step at a time.

One room at a time.

One memory at a time.