Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tenacity



Tenacity.

Persistence.

Stick-to-it-tive-ness.

Not my strong suit.

Look at my weight loss journey.  Years upon years of tried/failed attempts, with pounds added onto pounds onto pounds.

Look at my career journey.  Years upon years of hesitation to move into management, supervision, administration.

Look at my writing journey.  So personal. Gut-wrenching. Long-suffering.

Yet I have been willing to put it all out there.

Because what good is the struggle if there’s no lesson in it?  There’s so much joy to be shared. Not to mention pain, heartache, pathos…

Am I transparent?  Are any of us?

I’m trying to get there.

I put my weight loss journey out there, warts and all. Finally a trip to Mexico to have my guts carved out of me seems to have provided the solution.  I followed-up and followed-through. Cancer scares have a way of making you act…do.

I put my career journey out there, highs and lows together. Starting over, day after day, starting again, trying to make sense out of retirement and retooling or rethinking and rebooting.

And I’ve put my writing life out there. Turns out I’m another one who has a steel will.  

But what’s it all for?

Is the benefit all about me, me, me, or is there something greater at work in all of this angst, anxiety, and effort?

The Lord put something on my heart a couple of weeks ago. I was reading and meditating on the Psalms…37 to be exact:

From David we hear a plea…trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:  he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun… 
Such precious promises.  David gives us something powerful to cling to, hold on to, look forward to…with thanksgiving.
The psalm is all about God’s provision. He provides all for all.  We can dwell in this land and enjoy this safe pasture in the time and space that he provides. We can want for this and desire that, knowing that he will give us the desires of our hearts, in his time.  We can trust that he’ll give us a reward that shines like the dawn, and it probably has nothing to do with what seems important to us on this earth…it’s in the noonday that we’ll finally see his full, perfect, divine will.
I am grateful this season…so grateful.  For the life he’s allowed me to live, the children he’s allowed me to raise, the grandchildren he’s allowed me to love, the friends he’s allowed me to cherish, the air and wind and water and trees…I am so grateful this season. May we all be tenacious in our thanksgiving…may we take nothing for granted and with persistence come before him with praise, praise, and more praise.





Saturday, August 12, 2017

Progress

South.

Things trended down when my doctor uttered a couple of words I didn't like. Cancer cells.

And then, and then.

He offered hope in the form of surgery, recovery, and a challenge.

Hope is a funny thing.

And so is irony.

Years ago...I'm talking high school...I forgot to return a library book.

Okay, forgot is a strong word.  More like, refused.  Because I liked a quote and kept it.


Thanks, Em.

Turns out, this life is all about traveling from hope to hope. It's the thing with feathers, perching inside us, ready to sing, never stopping...it's the thing that gets us from cancer cells to taking in the joy of his smile, her chatter, his silly riddles, their slap happy laughter.   

I've spent the summer basically with my grandchildren.  After a quick trip to Mexico to get most of my stomach removed, I've been healing, and hoping, and reaching for a firm grasp on what the rest of my life might be like P.C.  Post cancer.

And it looks pretty good.  Actually, it looks way past good.  
I'm heading north, joy to joy.  Getting younger every day.  Not planning to stop at all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A New Year--Full of Possibility

Where does courage come from?

I've submitted so many manuscripts to agents and publishers over the years, and have many  more rejection letters than acceptance contracts.

Don't call me ungrateful...

Steel Will is still in the marketplace, and that makes me happy.

Not Alone is still in the marketplace, and that makes me happy.

Many of my journal articles are still out there.

But the piece that I'm rooting for is the piece I'm working on right here, right now.

It's like a new baby.

I want to show it off to the world.

I want others to ooh and aah at its beauty and wonder.

I want it to change the way the reader thinks, feels, or views the world.

Wishes and dreams surround my current work.

Wishes and dreams.

Thank you, friends, for your support.

You've believed in me when I've had little faith of my own.

Do I have something to say?

When do you ever feel confident or competent in your ability to write?

It's one of the few vocations that takes and takes and takes.

Yet I can't set it aside.

I can't not write.

So I'll keep going.

But would you cross your fingers for me?

And maybe a few toes?

Shout out a wish to a shooting star?

Toss some salt over your shoulder?

Kiss a penny?

Thank you...you're what I'm grateful for...xox

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fall back



Teaching.

Part parenting.  Part discipling. Part wizardry.

It’s November.

The time of year when teachers just get “tarred.”  As in very, very “tired”…

You see them in the hallways stifling a yawn.  

You see them dragging a duffel bag of lesson plans out of the trunk of their cars.

You sit across from them in faculty meetings and their pencils pop the table about a hundred times a minute, a reflection of their long to-do list that’s been on hold since the school year began.

It’s hard, fine work.

Here’s the good news.

You can help.

If you know a teacher, give him/her a word of encouragement. A letter.  A card.  Better yet, a gift card. Nails. Sonic. Groceries. Movies.  Relief.

If you live with a teacher, back up and back off.  Not the time to fall on your sword over any issues/events/drama. Be a partner, not an adversary.  Be her cheerleader.  Her champion.

And if you are a teacher, give yourself a break. 

You will not save the world.  Despite all the bookmarks, Tweets, and Pinterest posts.

All the superhero stuff probably just feels like more and more pressure to you.

Let yourself go to bed early or stay up late. 

Let go of your “perfectionist” tendencies.

Show yourself a fraction of the love you show your students.

Teaching is an art, not a science.  Despite your best efforts, not all students are going to learn what you set in front of them.

Developmentally, they’re all different.

Just like you.

They’re ready or not ready.

They’re learning today or learning tomorrow. They will learn. 

It takes time.

We’ve got time.

It’s November. 

...and p.s.  don't forget you get to set your clocks back on Sunday!






Saturday, October 22, 2016

Isn't she lovely?

This is a picture of a sixteen-year-old girl on her wedding day. Virginia Isabel Brooks Mortensen Overby. She is my mother. She told me that right after this picture was taken in Valley City, North Dakota, her young soldier groom would lean over to kiss her, swerve onto the shoulder of a lonesome country road, and get ticketed by a police officer the only $50 they had. He was charged with reckless driving, but neither one of these two were ever reckless. Not a single day of their lives.

My mother would spend the next 53 years married to her best friend, through many moves around the globe.  She'd finally earn her high school diploma in Japan,  after giving birth to her fourth child. She'd raise four children, love sixteen grandchildren, and welcome great-grandchildren into her world. She'd earn the respect and loyalty of hundreds of families and businesses who relied on her acumen in real estate. She'd fight breast cancer in her forties and win, play tennis in her fifties and win, and keep her revolving front door open for all of us to enter and depart. She'd knit and sew and paint and bake. She'd write and call and read and relate.  She'd bury her beloved at Arlington National Cemetery after a terrible battle with throat cancer.  And four years later, she would be laid to rest beside him, together once more.

My mother was always, at her core, a homemaker.  She shared that legacy with me, and with my children. She valued her role, yet was always her own person.

I miss her every day.

When I meet someone with eyes as blue as a summer sky, I think of her.  I'll talk with a store clerk with smile wrinkles on her face, and I'll think of my mother's deep dimples. There's a tiny feisty funny lady who comes to church who makes me long for my mother so badly I want to cry. I see my mother's dry sense of humor in one daughter;  her common sense in another.  I see her devotion to family in my son; her sense of honor in my oldest child; her beauty in another.

I was so lucky.

Today I'll go to a Hallmark store and pick out a mushy card that I'll never mail.  I'll reflect on all my mother gave me; none of it material.  I'll offer up a prayer, and another, and another, that I was given the gift of a beautiful mother.

If you have your mom on this earth today, go hug her, call her, reach out to her.  One more time.



Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Promises.

It's what a new school year is all about.

It starts with promises to myself.

  • I'll go to bed early.
  • I won't hit the snooze button.
  • I'll pack my lunch every day.
  • I'll stay positive.
  • I'll work as hard as I can. 
Then I examine promises I make to others.
  • I will be there for you.
  • I will be there for you.
  • I will be there for you. 
  • And you.
The new school year represents so many lavish opportunities that God places in our lives to be His hands and feet.  

I think about the little ones He's bringing back to us, or new children who've moved into our area over the summer, those we have not yet met.  

I grieve over the students who will not be returning...thinking especially of a precious little boy who was killed in a car accident over the summer.  Will all of our students return safe and sound?

I fret over students who will come back to us after a summer of neglect.  Unless the school doors are open, they may be unfed, unsheltered, unloved.  When they return to school, they need care immediately. 

I worry over students who are anxious themselves about a new year, as they have difficulty with transitions.  

I pray for our new teachers, who are about to embark on a life-changing year, a life-changing career. 

A new school year is all about promises.  

I love that I work in a district that puts kids first, even when it's hard. There are so many demands on our time, our talents, our folks.  Within a few short days, most of us will be stretched thin.  

But we have this thing called faith.  For so many who think they must go to church to find a Christian school, I would argue that search is incorrect.  I have met more Christians in a public school than I've ever met in church. 

And we have each other.  Oh how we need the promises offered to each other.  

They take the form of the smile offered first thing you walk through the gauntlet of parents and kids in the morning. 
The pat on the back given wordlessly.  
The treat in your mailbox from an anonymous pal.  
The knowing glance when you pass each other in the hall. 
The hurried sigh offered during planning time. 
The affirmations given with no strings attached. The deep exhalation when you've taught bell to bell. The high five when the last bus pulls away.

A new school year is about promises offered, proferred, and fulfilled, one at a time.

One day at a time.

One student at a time.

One.more.time. 





Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oh, teacher...



Teacher Appreciation Week is here once again, and I've been trying to show my appreciation to the teachers who've supported our library so well this school year.  Our school has been without a librarian for several years, and I was tasked with making the library a vibrant learning hub once again.  We're not there yet, but we're well on our way.  I decided to hold my classes this week without the teachers...normally they're required to stay so that we can collaborate on lessons or in order for teachers to assist their students as they search for "the right book" each week.  But this week I sent them away so their students could write and record the reasons their teachers are special to them.  I've seen lots of stick figures, hearts, flowers, and sentiments like, "You're the best teacher," or "Thank you for making me ready for the test..."  Our children are so ready and willing to spill the beans about what their teachers mean to them.

I have a couple of literature circles going at any given time, and while students worked in the library on their teacher appreciation letters, I had to break away to meet with one of my literature circles. The group of fourth graders discussed the last few chapters of a novel we're reading, Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate.


In the book, the main character, Jackson, is dealing with his family's financial issues by inventing an imaginary friend.  It happens to be a huge, black and white cat who shows up during critical emotional passages in Jackson's life.  Jackson is embarrassed by the idea that he has this friend he calls Crenshaw,  but he needs the connection in order to handle the difficulties of his father's MS, his family's homelessness, and his need for meaningful friendships at school.  As we read through the novel, we have done a lot of vocabulary work.  Some of our students have a limited lexicon;  there are many words we've encountered in the novel that are unfamiliar and we've done quite a lot of detailed work with understanding context clues to discern meaning.  

Today we had a term I wasn't sure they'd understand, so I'd highlighted it in my mind.  "Final Notice of Eviction" was the term, and as we reached that phrase in the paragraph, I paused for understanding.  The word final was clear;  the word notice was clear; but I expected some questions about eviction.  Not necessary.  Each student was completely familiar with that experience.  As I listened to their stories and followed the connecting threads that had become a part of this rugged tapestry called childhood, I thought of their teachers.

When you teach at a school that is classified as Title I, and that school is labeled with "poverty issues",  teachers must do so much more than teach. They offer more than an academic scope and sequence.  For teachers in Title I schools, the school day is full of diverse and challenging moments. 

Safety.  Security.  Stability.

Day in and day out, our teachers show up.  For the most part, they are not absent.  When they're sick or sick and tired, or when their children are sick or sick and tired, they don't stay home.  They come to school. They know that a day away from campus may threaten the very stability that their students have learned to trust.  They arrive early and stay late.  Each weekend they're quizzing each other via social media to see when "the building will be open" so they can go to school to work.  

They talk the talk and walk the walk, offering both leadership and friendship.

I'm very proud of the job they're doing;  I'm proud of the job we're doing.  The teachers around me make me proud to be part of this profession.  

As the week concludes, I'll convey my appreciation with my own letters and words, just like their students, but I have so much more to say than what I can fit on a card or in a sound byte.  

These teachers, they're changing the world.  
One child at a time. 
What they do is important. 
Vital.
Critical.
Their pay will never be commensurate with what they give.
What they offer our kids is priceless.
I'm proud to know them. 

Oh child, would you give me your smile, your burden, your story 
and trust me with the treasure of who you are?