Saturday, March 31, 2012

Taking the Challenge

I am not normally one to take a challenge.  I don't like risk.  I hate failure.  So when Ruth challenged me to participate in the Slice of Life this month, I was hesitant.  I wasn't sure I could do it.  I am glad I did.

I found that I did have words to write.  I do have stories to tell.

I found that people would comment on my writings.  Some even seem to enjoy them.

I found out more about the people with whom I work.  I also discovered some new "friends."

I am not sure I will continue with the blog, but if on any particular Tuesday that the mood strikes, I might decide to post a slice of my life.  I'll also consider the SOLC next March.  Thanks for a fun ride.

As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sang, "Happy trails to you, until we meet again."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Anticipation making me wait.

Today is the last day before our school's spring break begins.  I am struggling to make it to the end.  The kids have been antsy all week.  Time has stretched out slowly each day.  I'm not really sure what I am anticipating, though.

The Boy and I aren't doing anything fantastic.  Last year, we took off Friday night to head toward Buffalo, New York, for my nephew's wedding.  After the wedding, we headed toward Florida for the rest of the week. It was crazy!  It was a good time.  This year, though, is rather anti-climatic, and yet I cannot wait for 3:15 tonight.

Maybe is just because I am needing a break.  The sun has been shining, and I haven't been able to really get out and enjoy it.  These four walls can become rather confining.  

Maybe I just need some rest.  I burn the candle from both ends most of the time.  I am a night owl and struggle to go to bed at night.  The alarm, though, beckons me at 5:10 five days a week.

Maybe I just need some new faces.  I see the same people most of the time...students and co-workers.  Even at church, I see a lot of the same faces.  I will see family this week on a couple different occasions.

Whatever the reason....I am ready for spring break.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Plan

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  - Jeremiah 29:11

These words weren't new to me.  I had heard them used with graduates who were ready to take that next step in life.  But I was not a graduate.  I was not a young person.  At the age of 43, I was suddenly a single mother of two boys.  I did not have hope.  I did not see a future.

I won't go into the sordid details.  Suffice it to say that divorce had never been in my plan.  My marriage was forever.  I found it takes both parties to make that plan work.

I fell apart.  Emotionally, I was betrayed, devastated, down-trodden.  Physically, I was sick, struggling to eat, to sleep, to wake, to function.  Mentally, I was frightened; how was I supposed to raise my sons on my own when I was barely functioning.

I claimed this verse.  I trusted in the promise.

I would be lying if I said the past seven years were easy.  There is nothing easy about divorce.   There is nothing easy about a broken family.  There is nothing easy about children emotionally torn between their parents.

"Plans to prosper you and not to harm you."  

No, we didn't suddenly become wealthy, but we have all prospered.  I have learned that I am able as an individual to care for my family.  I am capable of making decisions on my own.  I am okay.  My oldest son went on to be a starter on his high school football team, an honor student in his classes, a friend to many people, a university engineering student.  My youngest son has gone from a withdrawn child of autism to a warm individual with a heart as big as the sun, a student in regular classes, a new member of the vocal jazz group, a dreamer of his future.

"Plans to give you hope and a future."

Seven years ago, I had no hope.  I felt all of my dreams had been shattered.  Now I realize that it was just one dream.  I still have a secure job in a career that I love.  I still have family and friends to be with.  I still have my sons, who are growing and maturing in phenomenal leaps.  I have a Father who has kept His promises.  I have hope for tomorrow.  I look forward to what comes.  It is The Plan.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just Because

Three flowers displayed in a bright pink vase. 
Two daisy-type flowers, one pink and one white, surround a single red rose. 
They were left by a friend who came to help out. 
The card reads, "Just because." 
Oh, the depth of meaning behind two simple words.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Loss for Words

I am at a loss for words.
My mind is so troubled:
School things
Home things
Personal things.

I am at a loss for words.
My heart is so heavy:
Hurting friend
Worried friend
Stressed friend.

I am at a loss for words.
My spirit is burdened:
Need for prayer
Pause for prayer
Release to prayer.

I am at a loss for words.
My words are no longer needed:
Troubled mind relinquished
Heavy heart relinquished
Burdened spirit relinquished.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Magic of Words

I love reading.  It is that simple.  I always have at least one book that I am reading, and sometimes there are a couple going at once.  I know I caught the "bug" when I was in sixth grade.  Our class was allowed to volunteer in the school library.  As I shelved books, I discovered so many that I wanted to read.  And there are so many out there that I still want to read!  Although I read a variety of genre, I tend to lean towards the Christian fiction market.  Currently, I am reading a mystery/suspense.

It is the fourth in a series.  I really hate it when I find a series that I like and have to wait for each new one to be published.  That is what I am encountering with this book.  I read the first, second, and third books last summer.  I am spending a lot of time re-reading sections to remind myself of the various characters.  This author likes each chapter (and sometimes sections of chapters) to jump to different locales or characters.  All through the book you wonder how it all fits together, but that is where the suspense the wondering.

I am a word person.  I love how words sound individually and then work together into a flow of meaning.  "Warbling and indistinct, voices swam through the darkness. Taunting. Daunting. Haunting. Fingers reached through the thick fog, clawing at him. Flashes, sparkling - no, it wasn't sparkling, stabbing. Shooting! They were shooting."  I read those lines several times, not to gather meaning, but to enjoy the play of the sounds.

My imagination plays into the story.  I develop a picture of the charaters and setting in my mind.  If the author gives a lot of description, I feel I can sync with his/her mind as the story unfolds.  If the author leaves it to my own creativity, I can arrange my own idea of the scenery and players, too.  It is partly why I always read a book before I see a movie; I want to imprint my own vision of the words in my mind before I allow someone else's interpretation to smudge it.

I have a dream to be an author of books.  I think that idea came to me in sixth grade, too; I still have the short stories that I wrote at the time.  I want to develop ideas that will keep my reader wondering.  I want to weave a story with the words that I carefully choose.  I want my characters and story to develop a picture in the mind of the reader.  It is a dream for my future.  Right now, I have a full time job caring for my sons, which includes a full time job and maintaining a house, lawn, cars, etc.  It is a possibility, though.  You see:  I love writing.  It is that simple.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

China Cabinet

An antique china cabinet sits in my dining room.  It does not contain china.  It does contain memories.

The bottom shelf has a few glass items that have significance to me.  Two teacups with saucers were left to me from Great Aunt Edith.  A planter in the shape of a lady's head was from Great Aunt Wanda.  A couple pieces of some blue irridescent glass came from my paternal grandmother.  There are some glasses from memorable moments in my life, too.

The fourth shelf is packed with apples of various construction.  Some are glass; some are wooden; some are plastic.  For a period of my life, people gave me these apples because I was a teacher.  (If I had become a doctor, do you think they still would have given me apples??)  My "favorite" one was given to me by my parents.  It is made from the volcanic ash of Mt. St. Helens.  It blew its top the day I graduated from high school.

The third shelf contains an odd assortment of items.  The ones on the far left are Precious Moments figurines.  In the middle are antiques thimbles from various grandmothers and great aunts.  On the far right are three items that I have had since I was little.  The two tiny glass purses and the tiny glass vase have stamps on the bottom: Made in Occupied Japan.

The second shelf is cats, cats, and more cats.  If you have been following my posts, this does not surprise you.  There are mugs in the shape of cats.  There are salt and pepper shakers.  There are Avon bottles in the shapes of cats.  I have a pewter cat and a Garfield pin.  The most sentimental of all the cats, though, is one I made out of clay when I took Art for Teachers in college.

The top shelf has three main divisions of items.  In the center are thimbles, spoons, and other things from places we have vacationed.  On each side of these souveniers are where my sons' things are placed.  J-Man has less things because he kept many items that I might have placed in protective custody.  The Boy's things were bought home and safe-guarded instantly.  I have some souvenirs that he bought on trips, but I also have a couple things he made.  One of them is a dog.  It looks remarkably like the cat I made in college!

This cabinet was to be mine after my mom was gone.  When I moved out, though, she decided I needed it to store my "collectibles."  The items in it have changed as the years have passed, but they are each special to me.  I treasure this cabinet of treasures.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

High School Musical

Beauty and the Beast is being presented at my high school this weekend.  I haven't been to a musical since, well, maybe since I was in high school thirty some years ago.  My intent for wanting to go was two-fold.  I have a friend whose daughter is in the show; she is a senior, and it would be my last opportunity to see her perform.  The other reason was to show live drama to my younger son.  If you have followed my blog, you might have read about my Gentle Giant.  He has autism, but he has decided he wants to pursue broadcasting as a possible career.  Drama might benefit his goals, so I have worked on him for over a week to convince him to attend.  Finally yesterday, he agreed to go to the opening show last night.

I don't know what I was expecting.  Maybe I was still remembering my little high school's productions of the 70's, but I was not prepared for what I saw on stage last night.  These students with adult help had transformed the auditorium into a place of magic.  The many sets were impressive, but the Beast's Castle was phenominal!  Multi-layered with two large staircases and huge entry doors, it consumed the entire stage.  It had to be spacious to allow the characters in their extreme costumes a way to negotiate their way around the stage.  Did I mention the costumes? They were marvelous.  What creativity to make Cogsworth, Lumiere, Babette, Mrs. Potts, Madame DeLa Grande Bouche, and Beast come to life!  And could I forget a real person turned into a teacup!

The kids did an excellent job.  I'm sure there were flubs in lines because I remember my own days on the stage, but they covered everything well.  From where I was seated in the back (last minute tickets, remember), there were times I couldn't hear the singers very well.  But we laughed our way through the dialogue, swayed to the music with the dancers, and sat on the edge of our seats to see what would happen, even though we knew the story already.  My friend's daughter was great in the role of Babette.  A past student took on the role of Beast.  (I knew his antics in the classroom would come to something.  Plus, he has wanted to act since I first met him as a first grader in Reading Buddies.)

My goal for attending was met.  I was able to see Babette.  The Boy was able to see the musical.  I don't know if he will ever want to be in a show himself, but at least he has seen what the kids do.  In the midst of it all, I was reminded of the theme of Beauty and the Beast.  We have to look beyond the outer appearance to see what a person truly is.  As I go through my days, that is something that I want to remember.  I want to look for the true person in my students.  I want to look beyond the attitude, the words, the behavior, the clothing styles and to find the beauty in each of my "beasts". 

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Weekend

There are many things that need to happen this weekend, so here is my to-do list:

1.  Do not set an alarm for Saturday morning.
2.  Walk.
3.  Dust and vacuum. (I ended up hiring someone to do this!)
4.  Buy birthday, anniversary, get-well gifts and cards.
5.  Groceries. (I am about finished with all my left-overs from last week.)
6.  Grade papers so that grades can be updated. (worked on it, but it is a never ending cycle of papers)
7.  Go see the high school production of Beauty and the Beast.
8.  Write a letter to my marine.
9.  Start laundry (again).
10. If weather permits, mow my yard. (cannot do...mower broke!)

I am going to print this list, but I am also going to come back on and highlight the things that I accomplish.  We will see how productive my weekend will be.  Spring break is only a week away...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Ridley Scott Came to Live with Me

In the summer, we have many kittens born.  Some survive and some do not. They are outside cats - what my dad calls "barn cats," although I don't have a barn.  Since the mothers are domesticated (not feral), they usually have the kittens around the house where we can see them shortly after birth.  No one is allowed to touch the babies until their eyes are opened.  I have found that this allows the mommy to be more secure in leaving them in one place.  I also have the rule that no kitten is named until it is moving around.  It is hard to bury a kitten that is named.

Three years ago, Precious had a litter of three kittens who all made it to the mobile stage.  They became Callie, Trixie, and Ridley Scott.  My oldest son always has unique names for the ones he names - Ridley was his choice.  These three fireballs were just past the weaning stage when they all became ill.  Now, I also have the rule that I do not pay veterinarian bills for the outside cats. Experience has taught me that right after you pay the big bill, disaster strikes. These three, though, had stolen our hearts.

I took them to the vet.  All three had pneumonia.  Ridley and Trixie also had eye infections.  I had to set up a "kitten hospital" in my house.  They had to have breathing treatments three times a day.  Ointment had to be put in the eyes of two.  After a couple of weeks, Callie and Trixie were well enough to go back outside, but Ridley's eye continued to be a problem.  It had gotten worse and was a huge bulge on his face.

One afternoon as he was running around the kitchen, he bumped into my leg.  I felt moisture on my foot.  Ridley's eye had popped.  (I apologize if you have a weak stomach!)  We rushed him to the vet.  Dr. A told me that she would have to sew his eye shut to save the eyeball.  I gulped and agreed to the surgery. His eye was closed for two weeks, and then I had to take him back in to have the stitches removed.  At that point, we discovered that the third eyelid had adhered to his eyeball.  Although we knew he was going to be blind in that eye, he now had an "ugly" eye.

The boys and I talked.  I had put too much money into this kitten to let nature have its way with him.  Ridley became a new member of our household.  Mac, the current resident feline, (I might tell you about him later) was not pleased with this turn of events.  Even today, the two have little to do with each other!

Ridley is huge.  He sheds.  He rough-houses.  He climbs where he shouldn't.  He rubs against me when I am dressed up to go to work.  He is annoying when he thinks it is time to be fed.  He separates my piles of laundry.  He often sits at the top of the stairs waiting for J-Man, who is away at college.  (We finally gave him an old shoe of J-Man's for him to sleep on.)

Ridley is loving.  He sits near me in the living room at night.  He would love to sleep in my bed with me.  He bumps his head against my hand if I am not paying attention at the right moment.  He loves J-Man and allows himself to be tormented by him. He will jump up in your lap when you least expect it, just to have his ears scratched.

He is a part of the family, now.  We are glad Ridley Scott is here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Simmering heat upon the planet
Ultimate sphere in the sky
Nudges blooms to burst
Lovingly smiles on faces
Introducing a promise of summer
Giving brightness to earth
Healing our winter woes
Tempting me outdoors

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Action. Mystery. Drama. Humor. Camaraderie. Suspense. Gibbs.

Yes, I am talking about NCIS. It is my favorite show on television. I try not to miss an episode, but since I always purchase the season DVD, I know I will eventually see them all. I have told my sons on many occasions that only for them will I willingly miss my time with the investigative team. What is it that makes this show so popular? I think people are looking for a hero.

Abby blows me away with her quirky dress and attitude. She is a wiz at forensic science, but I love how she cares for the members of the team. Ducky determines the cause of death, and I am fascinated with his psychological analysis of what led to the death. Ziva is one tough lady, yet we see time after time how much she wants to be accepted by the others. Tony is so smooth; he handles each situation with light-heartedness and humor, which often gets him a smack on the head. Timothy has so much to offer with his technological savvy, and yet he struggles with his place on the team. Leroy Jethro Gibbs, though, is the "boss" in my book. Marine the your back...take care of his family person.

I don't really need the fictional characters of a tv show as my heroes, though. My family and friends face real-life drama daily.  Accidents, chronic illness, loss of job, loss of a loved one, and single parenthood are just a few examples of the things that they face, not for an hour with a script, but each and every day.  Occasionally, they allow the stress to show, but most of the time, they face each day with positive energy.  They handle the action, mystery, and suspense with love and humor and strength.  They are my true heroes.

(I'm still going to watch NCIS tonight, though!)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday, Monday...da da dadededa...

I have never been a fan of Mondays.  It is one of the things that Garfield and I can agree upon.  Today was a perfect example.

I decided to dress up a bit today.  I felt like I haven't worn a skirt to school since last fall.  When I went out to feed my many cats, Henry decided I wasn't giving him enough attention and decided to try to climb my leg.  Cost of a new pair of hose: $6.

I knew I had to take time to change my hose, so I threw a biscuit in the microwave for a fast breakfast.  The microwave suddenly started making a weird noise.  When I went to investigate, sparks were shooting all around inside.  Cost of a new microwave: $125.

This evening I went outside to throw some leftover chicken to Tom, our dog.  Something caught my eye on the roof.  It looked like something had been placed near the peak.  I kept staring through the twilight and decided I could see the board under where shingles should be.  I contacted a friend whose husband has worked on my roof before.  He came in the dark, climbed up, and fastened the shingles back in place.  For good measure, he added some caulk.  Cost of roof repair: $00.

No, I didn't miss a number.  He charge me nothing.  He said that friends help each other when needed.  No day - not even Monday - can be so bad when you have friends.  Thanks, K!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What He Did

My son just finished his college spring break. He didn't get to go any place exciting, but he spent the week at home.

What he did for others: He volunteered at my school, helping with the middle school PE classes. I found out yestserday that he also talked to some of the kids about high school and the classes they should take and going on to college.

What he did for himself: He rested. He spent time with friends, some who were also home on break and some high school seniors. He worked on class work so that he was prepared to go back.

What he did for his brother: He was present. That is enough for The Boy.

What he did for Ridley, his cat: He brought his smell back into the house.

What he did for me: He brought laughter and smiles and tormenting and hugs and conversation and activity and so much more.

He has returned to college.  It was hard to have him leave.  I will miss him.  He brings so much to the home when he is here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saying It with Less

The camera stalked the scene and captured it forever.

          The sun dropped piles of cats across the porch.

The blossom opened its petals and offered my nose a hug.

     The hands of the clock gestured a warning of the passing of time.

The novel wrapped its pages around me and pulled me into the plot.

                         So which catches your imagination?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Doing the Splits!

Until I reached the age of 45, I would do the splits.  It was a phenomenon that seemed to fascinate people.  I would be asked to "perform" at odd times.  I remember the day my principal had me do the splits for our superintendent in the hallway outside the office.  (How do you tell your bosses that you'd rather not???)  It was an annual event for us to gather the eighth graders at the end of the year...just for me to do the splits for them. They had been looking forward to it for their whole middle school career.  I think the fascination came from the fact that I am not athletic in the least.  (See my post from yesterday about the name Grace.)   The answer to this mystery is...I am very flexible.

As the school day ended today, I still had no idea about what I should write.  I was tired and still had things to do.  It has been a crazy couple of days.  Yesterday we took our seventh and eighth graders roller skating in the morning, with a stop at a fast food restaurant before returning to attend the last two periods of the day.  My planning time is in the morning.  Today I started my day with my own son's Annual Case Review at the high school, arrived at my school in time for a behavior meeting with one of our eighth graders, had ten minutes to set my room up, covered for another teacher who was at a meeting, and then taught my regular classes.  No prep two days in a row (and technology was down yesterday) equals the necessity to be very flexible.

We tell our students that flexibility is a life skill.  It is something that one must learn to go through the maze of life.  When schedules change, you have to be flexible.  When technology doesn't work, you have to be flexible.  When nothing goes as you had planned, you have to be flexible.  I am a planner and an organizer.  This type of flexibility does not come naturally to me.  It truly is a skill that I have had to develop over the years.  Being a teacher is a great training ground.  Being a mother requires it to be done at mastery level.  My life requires me to become flexible.

So I stayed a bit later after school to get my lesson plans ready for next week.  I am writing my post from home after we finished supper.  Give me a checkmark for moving out of my normal routine.  Give me credit for being flexible.

I wish arthritis didn't prevent me from doing the splits.  I'm feeling very flexible tonight!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Unknown Me

It seems that most of the people who are commenting on my posts are people that I already know.  So I decided to tell them some things about me that they might not know; the rest of you are welcome to enjoy these secrets of my life!  :)

1.  When I was born, we lived on a dairy farm.  My dad had a cow named Debbie.  In later years when we would be looking at slide shows of the cows, my brothers would always announce (with every slide), "Is that one Debbie?"  (Brothers!!)

2.  I took piano lessons for eight years.  Today, I can play the chopsticks.  (After buying a piano, I discovered that the nerve damage in my left hand would prevent me from ever playing again.)

3.  I was extremely afraid of the dark.  Once in second grade, the lights went off in our classroom.  The teacher felt there was enough light coming through the windows to continue the spelling test.  I was crying and never finished the test.  (I stopped in the middle of the word "breakfast.")

4.  I ran away from home twice.  The first time, I was lost in ten acres of woods.  The whole neighborhood was out searching for me.  The second time, my parents had made it a rule that I was not allowed to leave the property, so I hid behind the barn until someone came looking for me.  (When they finally did, I found out no one had missed me until supper time.) 

5.  The first book I remember reading was Caddie Woodlawn.  It sparked my interest in historical fiction, which ultimately led me to a fascination with history.  (And books of all kinds!)

6.  My elementary gym teacher called me Grace.  She said it was the only way I could have any gracefulness.  I went on to be on our high school drill team; I was the captain my junior and senior years. (A drill team does dance, pom, baton, and flag.)

7.  When I was in eighth grade, my two best friends wrote me a note and gave it to me at lunch.  In it, they told me that they didn't want to be seen with me any more because I was weird.  (Is it a wonder I have a heart for middle school kids??)

8.  I was shot in the face with a starter pistol?  The person didn't know the gun was loaded.  (It was a prop for our drama production.  The gal who fired on me was my daughter in the play!)

9.  At my high school, you will find pictures of my three brothers and me in the Hall of Fame.  We all graduated as either Valedictorian or Salutatorian of our classes.  (I will not add the comments my brothers have made.)

10.  My dad was the president of our school board and presented me with my diploma.  I told him ahead of time not to try to hug or kiss me.  (I regret that statement now.)

11.  I applied to one college, Taylor University.  I told my mom I would not go if I could not live in English Hall in the "cellar."  (My mom added a note to my application, begging them to put me in English Hall Cellar if I was accepted so that I would go away to college!)

12.  I was a flower girl twice, a junior bridesmaid once, a bridesmaid six times, and maid-of-honor twice before I was twenty-five years old.  (I had a rainbow of dresses at one point.)

13.  I have lived in Beaver Dam, Roanoke, Richmond, and Boston...(all in Indiana).

14.  My hair was so long at one point that I could sit on it.  (My mom washed it in the kitchen sink for me.  I would squat beside the ironing board for her to iron it straight for me.)

15.  I still have my very first stuffed animal, Kitty.  I received her for my very first Christmas.  (She is held together with threads.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Patience and Blood Pressure

Today's word is Patience.

I am a pretty patient person.  I wasn't always that way.  I remember tugging on a parent arm many times in the hope that said parent would realize I was bored and ready to move on!  But as I grew older (and hopefully wiser), I have developed a high level of "stick it out and wait" mentality.

Today I took the morning off to go to the doctor for another blood pressure check.  I schedule them as early as they will allow me.  I arrived fifteen minutes early in the hopes that they would get me in quickly.  I sat in the waiting room for fifteen additional minutes.  After the dreaded weight check, the nurse did the dreaded blood pressure check.  Are any of you surprised that it was high?  I wasn't.  Twenty minutes later, the doctor entered the room.  After a short conversation, she took my blood pressure.  It was better but still not where she would like it to be.  After a little more conversation, she took it again.  At that point, she didn't even tell me what it was.  My guess?  Not good.

When I take it at home, it is normally better.  My conclusion:  While waiting at the doctor's office beyond my scheduled time, knowing I have to get back to school at a certain time, not knowing how my students are behaving, I lose patience.  And that make my blood pressure rise.

On a positive note, though, I saw a robin on my way back to school.  Deep breath...the end is in sight....spring is coming...I can be patient and wait a bit more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Feeling Silly

Yes...I am feeling silly. I wrote a story. I revised and edited. I saved and reread it later. I revised some more. Published! Noticed two comments. Hit something. Story gone! title was more appropriate than I thought. Terri and Betsy, you are my witnesses that this post was originally a story.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Family Slice

I was blessed to be born into my family.  We were a unit of six; I am one of four children; I am the only girl.  These are my thoughts of my nuclear family.

Dad - I always thought he was larger than life!  He worked hard to provide for his family.  He encouraged my brothers in sports and had them working outside when things needed done.  He is a farmer at heart, but we left the farm in 1964.  Dad lost his right leg (below knee) in a work-related accident when I was in kindergarten.  Oh the stories I could tell!  Today, my dad is my helper, my adviser, my hero.

Mom - She is the glue of our family.  I know about unconditional love from her.  While we were young, she was at home.  Financial circumstances forced her to seek employment when I was in third grade.  She had wanted to go to school to be a nurse, but instead she made sure all four of her children graduated from college. When I think of Mom, I think of warmth.  She cares so much about her children, their spouses, the grandchildren, and their spouses.  My mom is my confidant, my friend, my hero.

D1 - My oldest brother is three years older than I.  He is a teddy bear of a fellow!  Music is one of his joys in life.  He works as a counselor at a high school; it is where his compassionate heart led him.  His wife is a teacher.  Their son is recently engaged.  Their daughter is still in college.  D1 and K1 raise puppies for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  It is their mission in life.  D1 is fighting a battle with two forms of leukemia.  Although he has his own battles to wage, I know that he is just a phone call or text away.

D2 - He is my "twin" born 15 months before me...according to my mom.  Growing up, we fought as normal siblings do.  I remember many times having to sit on chairs facing each other until we were willing to hug and make up.  D2 lives in Arizona now with his wife.  Both his son and his daughter married last year.  I joke that we get along now that he lives on the other side of the continent from me.  In reality, D2 would be my greatest ally and defender, if needed.

D4 - If a brother can be a best friend, that is where D4 falls.  He is three years younger than I am, but I look up to him in many ways.  He works a job that requires many hours of his time, and yet he always finds time for others.  His wife and three kids are right there beside him when it comes time to help.  Last year, D4 and K2 helped get my house ready for graduation.  Their family took over the reception so that I had time to focus on my son.  I turn to D4 when I need clear reasoning, sound advice, a huge hug, or a shoulder to cry on.  (And if he isn't available, his wife is a great substitute!)

I am D3.  Yes, our names all begin with the letter D.  I am loved and protected by my family.  They have brought me through some very rough times.  I never doubt I have a support system in place - any hour of any day for any reason.  Blessed, I am.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Laundry Blues and Blessings

Piles consume my floor:
Divided by colors (not a pretty rainbow)
Heaped high (college son is home)
Cat toys (is it the smell?)

Sounds occupy the house:
Water (running and churning)
Clinking (tossing and drying)
Load (after endless load)

Time spent:
Hanging (finding hangars)
Folding (which sock is whose?)
Stacking (building a tower)

I am thankful:
Washer and Dryer (going on 12th year)
Plenty of clothes (clean and odor free)
Family (together even in piles on the floor)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Silence is...

I went to the doctor today in an attempt to curb a bad case of bronchitis. After listening to my breathing and coughing, the medical professional decided that what I have is viral. He wouldn't give me an antibiotic due to my many allergies. He offered cortisone and an inhaler...I took the inhaler. His greatest piece of advice, though, was for me to not talk for two days.

On a normal weekend, that might not be such a tough plan to follow. The Boy doesn't talk much unless spoken to. The majority of my clever wit and conversation is directed toward Mac and Ridley, and cats don't really care if you don't talk to them. They just want fed at the appropriate intervals. This weekend is different! My college son is home for spring break, and he and I talk a lot! We have conversation...communication...dialogue. It takes my voice!

I am female, which stereotypically means I am a talker. Don't get me wrong; I have no problems with speaking. I even "spur of the moment" jumped up at a school meeting this week and spoke for an absent co-worker who was to present to the parents. I used to tell students in my career class that I had two options for careers: teacher or telephone operator, because those were two jobs that required talking. (Of course, kids today don't know what a telephone operator is!) BUT, I don't normally contemplate whether I talk or not.

This weekend is different. With J-Man home, I want to be able to talk to him whenever needed. I want to hear what he has to say about his classes, friends, plans for the future. I want to be able to laugh and joke with him. Those are some of the things I miss while he is away for weeks at a time. I value each moment with him.

The boys have gone to spend the afternoon with their dad, now, so I will give myself a few hours of vocal rest. When they return, though, I will break the silence and share this time with my child. Maybe if I ask the right questions, he will do most of the talking. I'll try to sit back and listen...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Marine Proud

I received a letter yesterday from my oldest son's best friend.  RJ is in boot camp with the Marines out in California.  His letter made me laugh and made me so proud.  For my slice today, I'd like to share a bit of what he said:

Dear Mama Collins,
     First off, please don't go crazy because of my spelling and grammer.  HaHa.  I know its bad.  The Marine Corps has taught me a lot of things, but proper english isn't one of them!  I appreciate the cards you sent!  They brought a smile to my face.  Its nice to receive mail.  Its like Christmas.  We go through a lot of crap everyday. The one thing we look forward to once a week is mail call.  People sending me letters reminds me about all the support I have back home.  I appreciate the letters, the prayers, and the support.  It feeds my motivation that I need to perform everyday...
     Life is extreme as a recruit!  One thing I look forward to is Mama Collins famous dirt pudding.  My whole platoon has heard about it already!  Its famous in all of Charlie Company!  If you would be so kind as to make a nice big dish of it for me.  It would be much appreciated!

The word is powerful.  It reminds a young man of those who care about him.  It motivates him to do his best.  I need to get another card and letter ready to go in the mail.  I'll be ready with that "nice big dish" of dirt pudding for him when he comes home, too!

Thursday, March 8, 2012



Leprechaun shenanigans
Turbulent weather shifts

Anticipated child lost
Forever love rejected
Herniated disk removed

A kite struggling to find its own way
Spring arrives anew

March on

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


In no special order...just writing as I think...

1.  Sudoku - I was introduced to this puzzle on a trip to Florida with a friend.  It is the only math I like.

2.  Facebook - I joined to find out what was happening with my nieces and nephews in college.  Now I keep up with lots of family and friends.

3.  Pinterest - I am a hoarder by nature; this lets me keep the things I like in cyberspace.

4.  Books - I like books.  I have over a thousand in my classroom for students.  I have several hundred at home that I can't part with.  I have a basket right now of about a dozen books waiting for me!

5.  Slice of Life - I am new to blogging, but this challenge has me sitting and reading blogs for hours.  I don't always comment, but I do enjoy them.

6.  Cats - I have loved cats since I was little.  Now I have two in the house and about twenty outside.

7.  My Boys - LOVE the J's!!

8.  NCIS - My favorite television show, currently.  I own all the episodes and am currently on Season 5 of my yearly review.

9.  The Big Bang Theory - Sheldon.  (Nothing more needs to be said.)

10.  Texting - The absolute best way to keep in contact with teenagers and college kids.  Oh, and now my mom, too!

I know that there are other things that occupy my mind and time, but I think I will stop at 10. (My favorite number!)  What I am wondering is...

Why can't I become obsessed with cleaning my house and grading papers?????????

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot!

For twenty-seven years now, I have given the state's test to middle school students.  I remember that first year: I had a group of 6th graders.  They weren't sure of what to expect on the test; honestly, the teachers weren't either!  I just remember a little guy named Artie.  He left the writing prompt blank...not a single word.  It wasn't that Artie couldn't write; he just chose not to write.  At the time, we shook our heads and said, "He is only hurting himself."

Fast forward to the present...  

We now prepare students for what to expect on the test.  Lessons are organized so that the students are exposed to the structure and vocabulary of the testing situation.  We stress to them the importance of the test: take your time, do your best, answer all the questions, check your work.  We want to see how well they can do, but it is only a glimpse of their knowledge.  We really only learn what they know about certain questions on a certain day.

I watched my students today as I circled the room.  Most of them were really putting a lot of effort into what they were doing.  No one left the writing prompt blank.  They truly are aware of the importance of doing their best.  But it isn't just for themselves any more.  People now look at their scores to determine my ability as a teacher.  That is scary when I could easily have another "Artie" in my class.  After all, they are still children.  I have no idea if they were able to sleep last night or have breakfast this morning.  Some of them enter my room each day with a weight upon their back that has nothing to do with school and learning.

But each day, I try to make a crevice in their lives and insert a bit of knowledge about reading and writing.  I will do my best and continue to encourage them to do the same.  Along with that, I will take time to talk to several of them throughout the be a part of their life beyond the classroom.  A past student wrote on the whiteboard outside my room, "U were the best."  That tells me that I do impact the lives of my students beyond what a test can show.  It is why I became a teacher.  It is why I still teach.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Son Shine

I just received a text from my college son.  He is not yet 19 years old, but he has made a very difficult "adult" decision.  What pride I am feeling...along with a little bit of trepidation.

The family joke is that J-Man was born a toddler; he weighed over nine pounds at birth.  Milestones followed quickly: creeping at six months, crawling at seven months, walking at nine months.  He was a pleasant little fellow.  People smiled at him wherever we went; he would smile and entertain in return.

His imagination was the master of each day.  He created plays to act out with his Beanie Babies, built machines with his Legos, and told stories with art work.  As he entered school, he met each task with ease and developed his own challenges.  I remember him teaching himself chess in third grade.  Year after year, he received a trophy for the many hundreds of points earned through our school reading program.

In middle school he branched beyond academia to join the football team.  I encouraged him even though he was not really athletic.  I knew he needed the male-bonding.  In high school, he became a starting lineman his Freshman year.  (At 6'3 and 250 lbs. he was a coach's dream!)  In his sophomore year, he played one JV game and then moved to a starting position on the varsity team.  His senior year: captain.

So with all of this history, why am I so surprised that today he accepted a coop job with a major company?  He will continue as an engineering student at Purdue, but his schooling will be extended a year to complete this coop experience.  It will require him to either be a student or be a worker for the next four years.  I am so proud of his visionary approach to his future.

But he will never really live under my roof again.  He has cut the strings; he has flown from the nest; he has stepped from the fold.  It is hard to let go.  Even though he will return for periods of time, he will come back as an adult.  I will miss this child of mine.  Sigh....

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Crazy Cat Lady?

We always made fun of the lady on the corner; she was called the cat lady because cats were all around her house.  You could see them lazing on the porch, strolling across the yard, or lurking from the roof.  It was a sight to behold, and since I love cats, I always enjoyed driving or walking past to see how many I could count that day.  I'll admit: I was a little jealous of her.

Fast forward about a decade.  I was told by a student last fall that I am now the cat lady.  It started out with a little stray that showed in the middle of our first winter.  She was petite and friendly and hungry.  I would sneak food out to her.  She had a couple of kittens the following summer; they neither one survived or stuck around.  But then Zippity had two litters the following summer.  Some of those had kittens the following summer, and the cycle was set.

When school started last fall, I was feeding twenty cats on my back deck and front porch.  (Yes, I had to feed them two places because the mommy cats had their kittens out back and ran off the males and older kittens.)  Yesterday I counted fifteen when I fed them, but there were several missing that I knew were just not around at the time...and there were a couple of strays hiding on the edge of the pine trees waiting for me to go back inside. is spring.  There will be new kittens born in a few weeks.  I am not jealous of the lady on the corner any more...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Gentle Giant

He stands about six foot three inches, yet as he moves through the crowded hallways at school, few people are aware of him.  He is a gentle giant amongst them.  He does not engage people in conversation; he will respond if you ask him a question.  He follows a routine that varies little throughout his day; he does this to get by.  He is one of the many children living on the autism spectrum.

Life wasn’t always this passive with my son.  He was born screaming.  I instantly asked what was wrong with him because it wasn’t the cry of a newborn baby; it resembled the cry of a wounded animal.  He spent much of his infancy crying.  There rarely was an identifiable reason for his cries, and I spent many hours walking the floors of our tiny apartment with him to soothe him. 

In his baby book, I noted that the doctor was concerned at eighteen months because he was not yet speaking.  My child wasn’t silent, but he did not speak words that were recognizable.  His obsession was Thomas the Tank Engine, and the only way he was willing to eat was to sit in front of the television watching a show. As time passed, he would say words but not form sentences; he was four before he called me Mommy.  I cried.

School was a challenge.  He didn’t seem to learn, yet routine testing could not identify a problem.  His teachers were frustrated, understandably.  They had a child who didn’t follow the routine, who acted out for no apparent reason.  As an educator myself, I knew their frustration; as a parent, I cried for this child of mine.  Finally, at age eight, we had a title to put with the issue – autism, but it offered no solution to the problems.

Today, there are rare outbursts, but he is now able to explain his frustrations.  He attends regular classes at high school, and with some modifications, he is making the honor roll.  He has joined the choir this year and seems to enjoy the camaraderie of the group; he even thinks he might want to be a part of the vocal jazz group in the future.  His teachers and fellow students know he has autism, but they are unaware of how far he has come.

How did he get to where he is today?  It took a lot of love.  He had a sitter who was willing to take him into her home and love him.  He had a couple of teachers in elementary school who were willing to work with him in spite of the challenge he presented; one of them followed him into middle school, which made that transition easier.  He has family who surround him with unconditional love.  And loving is a word that describes the person he has become.  He is a gentle, compassionate young man.  He is a gentle giant.  He is a joy in my life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

SOL: Mind Over Reality

This has been a very mentally exhausting week. The only thing I want to do is sit with my feet up. Loads of laundry are calling out to me. A new stack of papers needs graded to keep me from getting behind. Thankfully, I have the whole weekend in front of me to accomplish those tasks. With gas prices just under $4 a gallon, I won't be out running around. This homebody is glad to be a body at home. I will watch some NCIS episodes, read my book, check into other people's lives on Facebook, and pin obscure things with Pinterest. When I am ready to move, the laundry will get done...papers graded...and maybe, I will do something totally unplanned.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting Started

My original post seems to have vanished. I can see it from my page, but it has disappeared from the view of your eyes. Guess that is technology for you; if you don't know what you are doing, you can mess it up. Leap Day: It is a gift given every four years to allow us some of those extra hours that we always wish to have. At this point, I haven't done anything extra. It is just another day. I have things to accomplish...I need to get busy.