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When Two or More are Gathered

Tuesday evening, I received a Facebook message from a gal I graduated high school with.

One of our classmates has a daughter who had been in a serious car accident earlier that day.  The young lady had been flown to a hospital in a larger city.

My friend was asking for prayers; she’d included nearly our entire class in the message.  All eighteen of us.  Because when you attend a small school in a tiny town, your graduating class doesn’t number very many.

Thank heavens for social media, though.  Despite our years apart and the distance that separates us, we are coming together and praying for our friend’s daughter.

She’s got some serious injuries and is not out of the woods yet.

All of my classmates have children.  Our mama and daddy hearts are hurting.

We are gathered together, though, as God’s Word promises, knowing that He does hear prayers, that He has a plan for young K’s life, and that He will work all things out for good.

Where two or more…say 18…are gathered, God is present.

Will you join us as we lift K, my friend Pam, her other daughter (not in the accident), and their other family up in prayer?

Thank you!!

Gut Check

This week is my Spring Break.

Normally, I’d be sleeping in until 9 or 10am, lounging by the pool, and taking a nap or two every day.

This year has been a lot different.

The Mr. and I have spent the past three days at the Mayo Clinic, where he is undergoing several procedures that will help his doctor formulate a plan for treating the severe complications discovered when he became very ill in January.

Tuesday was full of several pre-op appointments.  I do believe that we walked across most of the hospital’s large campus.  The view from the 5th floor was incredible!

We did have the afternoon to ourselves.  I spent the latter part of the day sitting outside at the hotel, toddy in hand, watching Dancing With the Stars on my phone via a streaming app by my cable provider.

Wednesday was an early day; the alarm clock went off at 4:30am.

Ugh.

Neither of us had slept well the night before, so we were d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g.  On top of being up early, we had to load up our car because we were going to be changing hotels when we were finished with the day’s itinerary.  The nightly rate at our hotel was going up, so we had reservations at another hotel down the road.

After getting the Mr. settled, I headed down to the cafeteria for some breakfast.  The cafeteria at the hospital is large and offers a great assortment of food.  No matter what your diet, you’ll find something you can eat.  This vegan approves!

On my way back to the waiting room, I couldn’t help but notice this…

There is an entire wall dedicated to the women pioneers of the Mayo Clinic.  I didn’t take pictures of the individual boards for the women on this list, but they were beautiful!  If you’re ever here, make sure you stop and take a look at them.

Then, I went back up to wait.

Now, let me tell you, the Mayo Clinic really does things right.  Patient care is exceptional!  They don’t only care about the patients, though.  They are very mindful of caretakers.

When we’d checked the Mr. in, I’d been given a paper that required me to put my name and cell number on it.  The Mr. had been given a unique number by which I could be linked to him.  I could look at an electronic board on the wall to see where in the queue he was.  The volunteers could also use the number and the information I’d provided to give me updates throughout his procedure.

I continue to be impressed with the professionalism of the volunteers here.  They’ve all been of the elderly sort and very tender.  In fact, the ladies who were at the desk in the surgical unit on Wednesday found me, without calling my name, in a vast waiting room that was full of loved ones.

At one point, I went out to my car to retrieve an item and was struck, once again, by the beauty of the landscaping.

When you’re anxious about your loved one’s health, fountains like this, along with all of the lush lawns and bright flowers, soothe your soul and remind you of God’s presence.

The Mr. got through his procedure quite well, and we were back at our hotel by 10am, which left me a lot of time to explore a bit of Jacksonville (once I got the Mr. settled into the room).

Later that afternoon, after a brief nap, I settled in by the pool, another toddy in hand, and read a few chapters of my book.

We had another quiet evening while the Mr. prepped for the procedures he’d be having this morning (as I’m typing this, in fact).  He wasn’t feeling well, but that’s par for the course with his health right now.

We were back up at 4:30 this morning for his last day of tests before we start the long drive home.

Rather than this post just being a narrative of our week, I really wanted to talk about something besides the aesthetics of the hospital.

Being around so many people who are so ill has been a gut check…literally and figuratively.

There are so many hurting people in the world…so many needs we just don’t know about.

On Wednesday, I was struck by the young woman waiting in a separate curtained-off section in pre-op, where the Mr. was also waiting to be rolled back to the operating room.

Not that I wanted to eavesdrop or anything, but when you only have a curtain between you, you can’t help but hear things.  She was scared about her procedure.  She’d recently had a baby.  Her precious husband, who I’d noticed in the waiting room, was by her side.

Scary, y’all.

In the waiting room, which was seriously huge, there was a large contingent of people who, it appeared, were there to support a patient having some kind of surgery.  I pictured that being my family when the Mr. has his big surgery soon (date still to be determined).  The love that came from that group reached out and enveloped me as well; their smiles and gentle laughter lightened a stressful and tiring morning.

I heard a man who was checking into registration shortly after the Mr. had gone back.  This man’s surgery was going to last twelve hours!  It made the Mr.’s hour-long procedure seem minor in comparison.

Walking through the hospital, I saw so many with masks…a lady wearing a scarf on her head…people with walkers or in wheelchairs.

We’ve had a lot of health issues since November.  Because of that, I notice things I never did before, and my heart goes out to people in a completely different way.

I am more empathetic than I ever was…more understanding…more aware.

What we are going through with the Mr.’s health is serious business, but we are not alone.  There’s a world full of hurting people…some better off…some not so much.

Is this what happens when you get older…this gut check?

Maybe I should have titled this post “Heart Check,” for that is really what this experience has become.

I know that I, for one, am feeling my heart beat a little faster with a renewed appreciation for God’s hand in my life and those around me.

Marching Through the Hodgepodge

Isn’t it crazy how quickly March is flying by?  Sheesh, Louise!  So, after a brief break, Joyce is back with another round of questions.  Link up with her to play along!  Oh, and thanks for visiting!

1.  Setting aside the real March Madness (NCAA Basketball) describe something happening at your house this month that might earn the title ‘March Madness’?

As I type this, I am at the Mayo Clinic with my hubby.  He’s got another round of procedures before his doctor lays out a plan for treating him for the complications his Crohn’s brought on.  So, we’re here this week (during my Spring Break), and we go back next week to find out results from these tests.  It’s a long drive too, so that adds to the madness.

2.  What’s a favorite made up word from your childhood or a favorite from your children’s childhood? Does your family still use the word today? If there’s a story behind the origin please share.

I’ve got nothing as far as my own childhood goes, but when my kids were growing up, and we had early wake up calls for soccer, we used to call the time o’dark 30.  That has stuck over the years.

3.  Will you be doing any spring cleaning now that the season is upon us? I read here a list of 15 quick (under one hour) spring cleaning tasks. They were-

clean out a drawer, vacuum furniture, whiten tile grout, dust the nooks and crannies you don’t get to year round, degrease kitchen cabinets, wipe down walls, go behind furniture, wipe down ceiling fans, vacuum the mattress, clean the range hood, wash baseboards, shine the stainless steel, clean out vents, tackle the windows, and wipe down gadgets

Of the fifteen ‘quick’ tasks listed which two most need doing at your house? Will you do them?

Spring cleaning?  Ha!  I’m barely keeping my head above water these days, so I’d say that all fifteen tasks on the list need to be done!  I will say that going out of town makes me clean my house like nothing else.  I cannot stand to go home to a dirty house.  So, there was a spur of cleaning on Monday but nothing crazy.

4.  A favorite movie set in Paris or New York?

The first movie that came to mind was The Devil Wears Prada.  I just adore that movie, and Paris during Fashion Week?  :::swoon:::

5.  What’s put a spring in your step this month?

The warmer weather and my ankle’s continued healing have definitely put a little more pep in my step these days.

6.  Did you ever want to be a teacher? Why or why not?

I, like most little girls, played “School” when I was growing up.  I even had a large, two-sided chalkboard!  I loved the idea of imparting knowledge.  The grading, as a child, was fun too!

I did fulfill my dream.  Instead of a chalkboard, I have a Smartboard (love, love, love)!  The grading isn’t as fun as I thought it would be.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I really enjoy reading what my students write.  Their samples give me glimpses into their personalities.  It’s the pressure and volume of the grading that gets to me.

My favorite thing about teaching, and something I really didn’t understand until I started doing it, was the impact the kids would have on me.  Teaching high-risk kiddos is a double blessing.  I soak up the loving I give them, and the return it tenfold.

7.  What’s your favorite floral scent? Do you have this somewhere in your home or maybe in a perfume? How do you feel about florals in food? How about wines with floral notes-yay or nay?

I have discovered that I really like lavender.  I find the smell very soothing.  I get migraines if I am surrounded by floral aromas that are too strong.  I don’t have flowers around my house.  I’d like to, but life keeps me busy, and I forget to buy them.

Florals in food…hmmm…I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced this before.  Wines with floral…did somebody say wine?  Please and thank you!

8.  My Random Thought

I have much to share, but those are things that belong in different posts.

Since we’ve just been talking about florals, I’ll show you a picture I took a couple of days ago…

My roses are in full bloom.  This was a baby one.  I didn’t mention that I love the smell of roses.  I don’t necessarily like the smell in perfumes, but fresh flowers?  Yes and yes!

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

One Year Ago

One year ago, we became a family of five when my Rooster said “I do” to his sweet girl.

The cold, windy day didn’t diminish the warmth in our hearts as we watched them pledge their love and commitment to one another.

Their excitement for the future radiated out as we, along with N’s parents and the judge, listened in.

Rooster would soon be shipping out for basic training; time was of the essence, which was why their courtship was a whirlwind…their engagement a whopping two days.

I love that they are doing things their way, albeit in the Air Force’s timing.

I’ve always said that Rooster marches to the beat of his own drum.  I’m thrilled that he found a partner who’s in sync with him

Happy Anniversary, sweet babes.  I know that you already value the gift of each day having started out your marriage where every second has counted from the very beginning.

You are much loved.

18 Weeks

Today marks eighteen weeks since I broke my ankle.  I say this every week, but it bears repeating…I am in awe of God and His healing grace.

First things first.  Remember when I posted last week and said that I had not done anything that Saturday…as directed by my physical therapists?

Well, let me tell you that I noticed a HUGE difference in my ankle this week…all because I took it easy last weekend.

Normally, Mondays are hell on my ankle.  Please pardon my directness there, but that’s the only word that fits.

I seriously cannot function well and hobble into PT on Monday afternoons.  The swelling in my ankle is usually pretty bad too.

Not last week!  I’ll admit that slowing down is not how I like to do things, but I can’t argue with the results.

It’s frustrating because this means that I am still further away from a full recovery than I’d like to be.  On the other hand, I’m closer than I was four and a half months ago.

During Monday’s PT session, they measured my foot to note my range of motion / flexibility.

I’d had this done during my first visit, but I was so overwhelmed with everything that I had not bothered to ask about the numbers.  All I knew was that I couldn’t move my ankle much.

When they measure, they’re looking at the way I can move my ankle four different ways…

During my first visit, my Dorsiflexion was at -5.  I couldn’t even get to neutral (90 degrees), y’all!  Now remember, this was only a week after I’d gotten out of my boot, and I was still relying heavily on my crutches.  On Monday, I was at 20 degrees!  Granted, that was with the PT pushing on my foot.  Ahem.  But the fact that it could move toward me that far was excellent!  Get this…the normal range is 20!!!  Woo hoo!

My Plantarflexion started off at 16 degrees during my first visit.  On Monday, it was up to 30!!  The normal range for this movement is 50, so I have a ways to go.  Nearly doubling in number though was GREAT progress!

My Inversion range started at 12 degrees; on Monday, it measured at 33!  The normal range is 35, so I’m just about there!

Now, the Eversion was not great.  During my first visit, I measured at 4 degrees.  Y’all, turning my foot outward is so stinking hard!  On Monday, I was at 7 degrees.  The normal range is 15.  This was discouraging, but I have to remember that most of my hardware is on the outside of my leg.  That’s where my plate and nine pins are holding things together.  I may never get full range back, but like the Mr. said, the only people who really need this motion are those who are making moves by cutting outward.  Still, being the overachiever that I am, I’d like to be able to get back as much of it as I can.

The most important of the above are my Dorsiflexion and Plantarflexion movements.  They are what I need to take simple steps…to walk up and down stairs…to step down off of curbs…to walk uphill and downhill.  That’s why I’m required to stretch on an elevated board every time I go to therapy.  I’m giving serious consideration to purchasing one for my house, because I’ve read on message boards where people continue to struggle with the Achilles tendon getting tight long after “recovery” is over.  The price is hefty, though, so we’ll see.

Overall, I was thrilled with my measurements.  Last week was my eighth since I started physical therapy.  The progress is slowwwwww, but it’s there, nonetheless.

I didn’t get any new exercises added to my regimen.  The only thing we did was to tweak one movement.  Up to last week, I’d been sitting on a bench while using my wobble board to work on all four of the movements listed above.  On Monday, my therapist had me start standing while holding onto a pole and doing the exercises.  Monday was easy, so on Wednesday, she had me stand on my tiptoes on my left foot to put more weight on my right ankle while standing and doing the exercises.  This was decidedly harder.

I’m doing better on the Bosu ball.  The balancing is getting a little easier, although I’m super happy when each minute is over.  My hips still aren’t strong…yet another source of frustration but part of the process.

My gait is continuing to improve.  I recorded myself walking across the house.

I’ve watched it numerous times and am beginning to notice a few things.  My right leg is still stiff, and I seem to still be walking with a heavier step on that side.  It also looks like I’m walking with that foot further out.

I also noticed that my right knee seems to turn in when I walk.  I’m going to ask my physical therapist about it when he gets back from his honeymoon.  He was an athlete in high school and college and knows a lot about this stuff.

Hey, though, my walking is FASTER than it was even a couple of weeks ago!  I still go slow, because I want to focus on my form.  I also go slow because my foot still hurts when I walk.  My big toe is still feeling some pain when I push off of it, and the top part of my foot closest to my ankle is sore almost all the time.  It cracks and pops a lot when I walk, which feels wonderful but can’t be exactly normal since my left foot doesn’t do this.

The word “normal” is such a subjective word, isn’t it?

My new normal looks like this…

In addition to the Juice Plus I’ve been taking for years, I’ve now added bone health supplements…D3, B12, and a magnesium blend.  I’m also taking a turmeric blend for inflammation.

My new normal also includes a lot of days ending like this…

Under the ice is my TENS unit, emitting soothing waves of electric stimulation.

#bliss

Did They See?

This morning, three principals (mine and two from other schools), along with three District-based people, visited my classroom.  They were there to quietly observe my students and take notes about what they saw around my room.

Although I’d been warned ahead of time, I was still extremely nervous.

The fact that my students were taking a test to end a unit we’d just finished made things interesting.  The observers were extremely kind, though, and I was able to speak to each of them, at various points during the visit.

As I stood in the corner of my room, keeping an eye on my students, I tried to see my room through the eyes of my visitors.

Did they look at the back counter and see a hodgepodge and somewhat messy assortment of books, or did they see a few dozen pieces of well-read, teenage-relevant literature?

As they neared the front of my room, did they see a very un-elementary-ish bulletin board and a mess of papers and notebooks below, or did they see the affirmations that nearly 80 students wrote about themselves the first week of school…their promises to ignore the negative words around them and believe in the potential inside themselves?

As they turned and glimpsed shelves of books, hastily stuck here and there, did they see more evidence of a teacher’s lack of organization, or did they exercise their Superman powers to see through the book covers and into the stories themselves…stories that are resonating with my students and the different life experiences they bring into the classroom every day?

I wondered, as they spied the table in front of my room…the one with extra copies of the day’s assessment (this was, after all, the beginning of the day with many more students to test)…if they saw only a teacher’s basic supplies…sticky notes, staplers, paperclips.  Did they possibly notice my “Hot Reads” books…the ones I spend time reading aloud to my kids each day…the ones we talk about…make connections with…learn more about life through?  And those sticky notes…they did think they were just for marking random things, or did they know that they’re used as bookmarks in the classroom, faithfully moved forward through so many books until they either wear out or students finish their books…the same students who started the year by claiming they weren’t readers.

I wondered, as they asked my students, “What have you been studying,” and my students answered, to my heartfelt delight, “text structures,” if they heard more than rote language.  Was it possible that they were able to glimpse that students were learning history while in an “English” class…that they were discovering how certain stereotypes were created and fostered over the years?

Then, as these observers left the room, I wondered if they might have taken one more look back and noticed the cap and gown near the door.  Did they see these items as just that, or did they see students gazing upon the cap ang gown, envisioning themselves wearing these items in the next couple of years?  Did they see the potential the cap and gown represent…the whispered promise that anyone can become anything?

As they closed the door after their fifteen minute visit, did they see this poster?

Fifteen minutes isn’t nearly enough time to observe my students being all of these things, because in my class, we don’t just learn about reading or English, and we don’t just take tests (hardly ever, truth be told).

We learn about life.

We learn how to have manners, how to treat each other with respect, how to work as a team, and how to stretch our brains beyond what we think we know.

We learn that no matter what our home lives are like, the moment we step into the classroom, we are part of a family where we aren’t judged by our skin colors, religious preferences, test scores, or reading levels.

We learn that everyone’s opinions matter and there’s something to be learned from everything.  We learn that nobody is better than the person sitting beside or in front him or her.

We learn to dream big, aim high, and try harder when we fall short.  We learn that we will be held accountable for our actions, our hard work, and even our laziness.

I wonder…did my observers see the real classroom…the real people…the real hearts beneath the surface?

That Moment

You know that one of my favorite things about teaching is watching my students change from being non-readers to kids who cannot put their books down.

It’s a metamorphosis, y’all…a process I am honored to witness every single year.

This year, I am teaching two intensive reading blocks.  These kiddos have the pleasure (ahem) of getting read to nearly every day.

This year, we’ve read The Honest Truth (gripping), Stuck in Neutral (nail biter at the end), and most recently Life Happens Next.

The last book is a sequel to the aforementioned one…both written by Terry Trueman.

Stuck in Neutral is about a boy named Shawn.  He has Cerebral Palsy.  Everyone thinks he’s a vegetable.  He’s not.  He has perfect auditory memory and can read, when his eyes will light on text long enough for him to focus on it.  He also thinks that his father is planning to kill him.

Is your interest piqued?  I know that my kids’ were.

So, we read the first book.  I didn’t tell them there was a second book, relishing their anguish at the cliffhanger of the first.

I am evil that way.  It’s one of the fun parts of being a teacher.

Anyhoo, the second book picks up where the first left off, introducing a couple of new characters.

My kids have been mesmerized.  Shawn’s personality comes through loud and clear…sarcastic but oh so relevant as a teenager.

I finished reading the book today, and I decided to share the author’s notes at the end.  I remembered being blown away by the fact that Mr. Trueman based his characters off of people in his own life.

My kids were in awe, and they had great questions about what happened to the “real” people.

So, being the fangirl that I am, I tweeted out to the author.

And he responded.

Don’t you just love being acknowledged by royalty?  In my world, authors rank right on up there with Prince William and Princess Kate.

For real, though.

Here’s what I received late this afternoon…

As I’m typing this, I am literally giddy.  I cannot WAIT to share this tweet with my kids.

It is a moment like this that solidifies their journey as readers…connecting with characters…reaching beyond their own lives in their quest to understand others.

I mean, y’all…you should have seen my kids’ responses when a character in the book passed away, unexpectedly.  The class had begged for “one more chapter.”  I had acquiesced to their request.

And then the character died.

And the room was dead silent.

For longer than a minute.

Until they blamed the gal who had finally convinced me to read that chapter.

Nobody saw it coming.  This would have ranked as a first class blindside on the show Survivor.

The fact that they were flabbergasted was “that moment.”

It was the moment that preceded today’s “moment.”

In the course of the year that I have my kiddos, we string many “moments” together that keep the kids coming back year after year until they graduate.  We often talk about books.  Sometimes, they’ll borrow some from me.  Mostly, our exchanges are about the bonds that we formed while they were students in my class…teacher to student…human to human.

So, I thank authors like Terry Trueman who stick their necks out and write about difficult topics to get us to think outside of the box…to ponder on things that go beyond the surface…to pick at feelings we didn’t know we had.

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