It Takes A Village

A colleague reminded me this week that we all have people in our circle who watch over us. She referred to the support system as a village, which has left me thinking.

In the world of teaching, we often feel isolated. It sounds funny, that a unit of like-minded people could work together, yet separately, and feel lonely. After all, we have little people all around us and we work with a large number of adults. However, the reality is that we have little time for personal social interaction.

Some people are perfectly happy being alone. I am not.

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My favorite time period of teaching was the 13 years that I team taught. My co-teacher and I worked like a finely tuned machine. Her strengths were my weaknesses and mine were hers. We complimented each other. We worked primarily in the portable classrooms, just outside of the school building, and renamed it the Learning Cottage. We created our own village. We all loved it out there. It was like a little 2-room schoolhouse that included 40 children. Quite honestly, it was at the highlight of my teaching.

We weren’t made to live in isolation. Even wolves travel in packs. I think we were designed to be part of like-minded groups. Those units shift and change, but I believe that I am a better me when I am around loyal people with like-goals, who sincerely want to be with me.

We live in a naturally competitive society and I am not competitive in any way shape or form. I don’t want to ever draw attention to myself. I don’t like confrontation. I want to blend in. I am a team player, and have very high expectations for myself and others within my small village.

I am faithful to a fault, and sometimes I get burned because I am so trusting. Sometimes in a pack, wolves turn on the old and the fragile. I am not old, but I’ll admit that I am fragile. Sometimes it takes my whole village to keep me moving forward. I am so thankful for them.

A small Gift Card is often left in my school mailbox to help with groceries. I am so thankful for the anonymous villager who is quietly watching over me. It helps to ward off the loneliness. You’d be surprised at how many times that card has pushed us through- the exact amount needed to get us to the next paycheck. Whoever you are, I pray that you are reading this. I am so thankful for your commitment to making me feel cared for.

Our world has become much smaller as my favorite man forgets people he rarely sees. I find it interesting that he talks about people as we pass by their homes. However, if those same people pop into our house, he often doesn’t know who they are. He is lonely, but he doesn’t want to see people. It’s too scary because they know him and he doesn’t know them. (If I think about it, if a stranger showed up insisting he knew me and I didn’t recognize him, I would be terrified and I wouldn’t want to let him in.) We don’t travel very far or for very long. It’s too scary. This means that our short outings are predictable, and generally places where he won’t run into anyone.

A few years ago, I shared our dilemma with our pastor. His response: if people (the village) don’t come to me, then I (because he won’t go) need to go to the village. The snag is that I am needed at home as soon as school is over. My guy paces and waits for me by the window every afternoon, waiting for my return.

So, to the faithful members of my small village: you know who you are, THANK YOU. You give me strength, encouragement, and talk me off the ledge when my nerves seem like they cannot withstand one more obstacle.

Today I am thankful for the sweet moments that I get to share with my favorite man and that I am not alone.

May the members of our individual villages be patient in tribulation, bless those who persecute us, and abhor evil. My prayer is that everyone is a part of a intimate village that lifts and encourages one another no matter what the time and the hour. May we use our individual gifts to strengthen each another. Together may we all rejoice in hope, cleave to what is good, and always display love. May we not go through the motions, but instead, be a wise and cheerful blessing. (Romans 12)

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Figuratively Speaking

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds. I am determined to grow flowers.

We’ve had a really great summer and Fall, a nice long stable stretch. As long as we keep my favorite man’s world predictable, quiet, and with enough projects to keep him busy, he remains happy as a pig in poop.

44284050_10216065718829808_8116275771711946752_nCoffee and candy make him as happy as a kid in a candy store and walks by the ocean keep him happy as a clam at high tide. It takes very little to make his day.

Nap time is most important for him, wrapped like a bug in a rug, he will saw logs for about three hours a day. This gives him enough of a second wind, to stay up until well past my bedtime. He seems to enjoy the quiet time. He thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

He continues to enjoy rewatching the last election from a variety of different networks and is thrilled with the surprise outcome every time. He also follows the local sports teams. He is still quite opinionated, so I say squat when he wants to fill me in about what he watches. Sometimes it takes a month of Sunday’s to get his point across, but if I remain cool as a cucumber when he is wound tighter than a three-day clock, he is happier than a pup with two tails. I remind myself to give eye contact, shut my mouth, nod my head, wait, and listen. That’s all he needs.

imagesMy problem is that I am generally busier than a one-armed paper hanger. I feel like I complete everything by the skin of my teeth and that nothing I do is done up to par. However, I’m learning the value of putting away technology and correcting, giving him my time. Nobody ever lays on their deathbed wishing they spent more time working. My undivided attention makes him happier than a butcher’s dog.

As we prepare for the third snow of the season, we are once again enjoying the pellet stove. Not only does it provide warmth, but it gives him something else to be responsible for. Everyone needs a job, and everyone needs to feel needed. It’s a good thing that he continues to be strong as an ox, and his rotator cuff is allowing him to carry the 40 pound pellets with ease. He really minds the cold, and so the stove is the cat’s meow.

We aren’t quite done winterizing. He still needs to put in the window inserts, the plastic, and the orange stakes out for our neighbors who plow for us. However, he is proud as a peacock that he is still able to do so much to care for our home. God knew that my favorite guy would need plenty of projects.

He can still write, although his handwriting isn’t what it once was and his speech, most of the time, is as plain as day. Sometimes he mixes up words or has a hard time getting his point across, but if we let him “warm up” he will generally make connections.

He putters and is often slower than molasses going uphill, but it makes no difference. There is no fire. Sometimes it is a day or two – and he needs to watch and rewatch YouTube to help him with a project snag, but soon the answer is as plain as day and the snaffoo is working slick as poop through a tin horn.

This year he decided that he didn’t want a vegetable garden or chickens. He has been determined to simplify, which started last summer when our goal was to go through everything we own and thin out. It was a challenge, but he tackled it like a champ, and was happier than a pig in a slop trough when he was able to make more room in the garage.

If he’s having “one of those days” and is meaner than a wet hen, we just remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat. If coffee, candy, and a nap doesn’t do it, we employ the toddler technique. Although our 22 month old granddaughter can run around like a tornado in a trailer park, she can take him from looking like something the cat dragged in, with a personality of a damp dishrag, to a a kid on Christmas morning. Nobody can melt his soul, like his grandbabies.

When the house lacks order and looks like a pig sty, I’m on it like white on rice. We will often clean and straighten together- especially on laundry day, since he has trouble separating the clothes.

If it’s too stimulating, we make like a banana and split, and head off like a herd of turtles to his get-a-way. His mood is never anything that a trip to the coast won’t cure, with a walk and to watch the boats . This makes him as happy as a fox in the hen-house and when he’s happy, I’m happy.

Although poor as church mice because nobody has found that blasted money tree yet, we know that we sow what we reap. Therefore, we want to be transparent, teaching others how to push through life’s challenges. We are not greater than thou. We are just normal humans going through challenges just like everyone else. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we try to meditate on life as a coffee cup, filled to the brim and enjoyed with friends. My husbands favorite reminder to others is that everybody has a story, we only need to listen and observe.

We miss people. Our world has become very small, but we’ve learned that life is like an elevator on its way up, sometimes we have to stop and let some people off. Instead of dwelling on who isn’t around, we are thankful for those that want to be part of our journey, and show us with their actions and prayers.

Life isn’t all peaches and cream. So, as long as we have air to breath, we will remind our family that, “They (you) are our (my) sunshine”, and when they ask if life’s challenges are over; We’ve hit our max; It’s someone else’s turn, we will tell them to dream on Alice, soon they’ll be in Wonderland.

More than anything we just keep reminding ourselves that love is like the wind, you can’t see it, but you can feel it and when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

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Happy National Coffee Day!

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“Buy one, get one free” brought a smile to my favorite man’s face and a put a twinkle in his eye today. This has brought me joy beyond all measure.

Today has been a foggy day. He has them once in a while. Coffee, a walk, leaf peeping, and a trip to the grocery store made my favorite man’s day. He is now peacefully napping and I hope that he is dreaming of LOVE. I pray that he feels the warm feeling of a family that insists on focusing on what he can do today, what he can remember in the moment, and that his heart and our hearts will forever be entwined.

Coffee is one thing that keeps him with us and makes all the difference. So from our family to yours, Happy National Coffee Day! May it be as good for you as it has been for us.

 

The Dementia World

I haven’t written about the world of Dementia for a while for a variety of reasons. One, is simply because there has been little to write about. Things have stayed rather stagnant for a while. Another, is because my children don’t like to read about it. It is our reality, but they try not have it be the focus of our existence, and I can appreciate that.

That being said, I share our story for two major purposes: to inform and to educate. I feel strongly that my responsibility is to be transparent in order to keep friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors updated so that they don’t have to ask. There are also followers who either have lived, are living, or will live through dementia in some capacity. The disease doesn’t show favoritism and you never know when it will come knocking at the door of a friend or family member.

A third reason, and the most important one for me, is for therapy. I process by communicating. When life’s circumstances bog me down, writing forces me to organize my thoughts. Strange as it might seem, it works as a sort of detox for my brain.

Today I wish to inform or educate, and at the very least, detox. So, here goes…

Five and a half years ago, I was angry. That was when my 47-year old husband was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia, most likely caused by too many blows to the head. But if it were possible to go back and console my younger self, these are some things that I might say:

Dear Younger Me,

I know that you are running around like an idiot trying to get those 25 things that the support group gave you, completed. They are right, you need to do them and many things are time sensitive. However, you need to know more than anything, that you will have plenty of time to regroup and reset. Time is on your side.

Medical challenges will erupt, and every person’s dementia story sounds different. However, there will be many similarities. Listen and learn from those who have gone before you. I know that makes you angry. You want to know the timetable. You want to know what to expect and when to brace for another pothole, but there is no way to plan. Everyone’s journey is unique. Stop planning.

View his time home as a sweet blessing and his lost job as a gift from above. Call it “Early Retirement” and learn to graciously accept gifts from friends and family. Do not deny them of the blessings that come from being a helpmate to a friend, family, coworker, or neighbor. Choke back your pride. There will be a day when finances will adjust to a “new normal” but it will take time and patience. You will not always live on bread and peanut butter.

Notice the blessings. God knew that your favorite man would need more projects than he could keep up with, That is why he supplied the house on the mountain three years in advance. He also knew that you would need help from well-trained children, who are natural caregivers. He supplied a home that was too big for two, and just right for six, and filled a need for two families. Enjoy the gift of family that provides help and grandchildren that fill you up.

Believe it or not, your relationship will become sweeter than it has ever been. You will feel needed and appreciated because he relies on you so thoroughly. Walks are precious. That is the time that he will open up to you and talk to you about changes that he notices and fears that he has about the future. It is a blessed time to reassure him and provide him with comfort. It is a beautiful gift of time that the Lord has provided.

He knew you needed a small support system that you could call on at any time, knowing that they would be there to hold you up when you won’t have the strength on your own. Don’t dwell on who isn’t there when you feel lonely. Instead, feel thankful for those who have stepped in to help and encourage you.

610546228-612x612The dementia progression will go in steps like a staircase. He will be on one stair for quite some time, before moving to the next landing. It gives you time to recalculate and regroup. Relax. You will catch up.

Some days will be cloudy and some days will be clear. Most days are just fine. He won’t be able to differentiate between a cloudy and clear day, so you will have to do it for him. He will be tired, confused, frustrated because he can’t do something he knows he should know how to do, or angry because he “did something stupid”. Just reassure him, and keep things light. You are his person and if he sees you upset, he won’t know what to do about it and his agitation will increase. Save it for the closet or the shower.

He will be quieter. Be prepared to do projects and errands alone. You will have to keep him safe, take over the driving, manage the finances, and monitor the medications. However, the good news is that he will still be an active participant in the family. He will still cook, mow the lawn, do laundry (after someone else separates it), clean, and make minor renovations 5 1/2 years after the diagnosis. Regression isn’t immediate, so relax. Just watch from afar to be sure that he stays safe.

He will be tired, have a headache nearly every day, and will be sore from a torn rotator cuff and an arthritis filled body. He will lose his desire to eat most meals. However, he will be drawn to sweets. Foods will taste bland to him, so they won’t be as enjoyable. He will be thrilled with Dunkin Donut’s coffee, soda, and sweet treats like ice cream, candy, and cookies. It will make you so happy to see him content.

You will have to worry about highly stimulating situations. He will no longer want to go to church, or crowded places, especially where people might know him, and he doesn’t know them. Even familiar places like the family farm will be a scary place. He will be happiest at home, riding in the car, or down by the water. The ocean brings him peace. He will love to watch the boats and the tide slapping on the rocks.

After 5 1/2 years, he will still be able to read, and retain what he reads if it is highly interesting. He will still be interested in politics, history, and the most recent election. It will bring him great joy to re-watch the surprise ending! He will enjoy watching Big Brother, Survivor, and 48 hours with your middle child via FaceTime and Messenger every Saturday night.

His children and grandchildren will continue to bring him the most joy. Although highly stimulating when all together, there will be nothing that makes him happier. Plan to have him respond much the way an autistic child would when he’s had enough. He will shake his hands, stare, shiver, rock, yell out, or bolt. Occasionally he might surprise you and rise to the occasion, and crash later. Most importantly, he will be looking for you. You are his person. Be there. Hold his hand, whisper in his ear, let him rub your arm raw, and take him for a walk. He needs you and it will make you feel so good to be his lifeline.

More than anything, live for the day. Stop planning. Don’t plan anything for more than 4-6 weeks out. Think back to when the children were little. Make tentative plans based on how he is doing at that moment on that particular day. Dementia makes no sense. Some days are good. Some days are not so good. Some things are forgotten forever. Some things come back after a period of time.

Celebrate each day as a gift. Stop worrying about the future. When it’s time, God will reveal what the next steps are. It sounds trite, but you really have to just live in the moment. Most importantly, stop holding your breath. Don’t waste one precious moment. You don’t want any regrets in the end.

Don’t doubt yourself. Your journey is your journey. It isn’t going to look like everyone else’s. You and the kids are going to be alright. He has taught you everything you need to know to keep going. When the time comes, and the Lord takes him home, be assured that you will one day be reunited. A physical death is not the end of your story. So relax. Enjoy the moment, seek joy, find strength and peace. You will be okay.

With love,

Older, Wiser Me.

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Poppins and a Servant’s Heart

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Ever feel like something exciting and terrifying is in the wind?

This year I have been challenging myself to live a “palms up”, take my hands off the wheel, and see where each day takes me kind of life. Those that know me intimately, know that this is a real challenge. I genuinely love to plan, organize, and sort. I’ve joked that in Heaven I’d like to have a label-maker at my disposal so that I can spend eternity helping my Maker to organize. If I were honest, it brings me more joy than it should.

For vacations, I research and schedule “must-do’s” and “must-sees”. I carry an agenda for my agenda. Honestly, two of my favorite times of the year are “nearly January” when I can start to plug-in important personal dates on the new calendar and “nearly the first day of school” when I get to plug-in important professional dates and events into my school planner. I brew a large pot of coffee, surround myself with snacks, and listen to my favorite musicals while I color code and break in my crisp new calendars. While you may be wondering what kind of medication I need to be prescribed, I sit here with a huge smile on my face. It’s true. All true.

However, as I anticipate the new planner in my mailbox for the fall, I have found myself wondering whether it was time for a CHANGE, which has been terrifying and exciting at the same time. It has dawned on me that I have about thirteen more years before I can dream of retirement. My children are all grown into independent young adults. My husband is stable and enjoying the sweet joys of summer weather and planting projects. Now just might be the time.

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It’s easy to become complacent and believe that life is what it is and that it’s too late to make a change. At 52, change is scary business. In my current profession, I can practically fly on autopilot. Most everything is familiar. I know the expectations and I feel like part of the furniture. But what if there is a blessing that is just waiting to happen if only I took a leap of faith? I have found myself wondering whether the Lord needs to see that I mean what I say?

Twenty years ago, I made a huge decision with my children as my main focus. This Spring I have been thinking that maybe it’s time to make a decision with ME being the priority.

Mary Poppins was originally released the year before I was born, and my mother, an avid Julie Andrews fan was just a year younger than the main character. Mom would serve us medicine singing, “just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down!” and would occasionally tell us to head to our rooms, “spit spot” after watching the musical together on the VCR. I can safely say that we have grown up together.

bb5e255f0f9819a61245e3d859cfb120As a teacher, I have often compared myself to Mary Poppins. I teach with a whole lot of no-nonsense, but there is always an element of fun. I don’t always show all my emotions, but my students know that they are loved, and that together, we will accomplish great things. Over the last 28 years, I have taught over 800 children. That’s a whole lot of lives impacted by my influence and a whole lot of responsibility. I figure that if I teach another 13 years to retirement, I will have taught well over 1000 young people. I’m so glad that while I focus on what needs to be accomplished, I work some good times in.

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So, as I have contemplated the pro’ and con’s of a great change, truly living a “palms-up” life, I have wondered what is best for me, my family, and my future students. What if I close my eyes and jump? What if I walk away from all that I know, can plan on, and what is easy, and take a leap of faith that something might be even better? I would desperately miss those left behind: friendships, long-lasting relationships, familiar families, but as Mary reminds me, it shouldn’t muddle my thinking.

Overall, I know that “all things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to his purpose” and in the end, I showed God faithfulness and He showed me that I am right where I need to be. Today I thank God for answered prayers and passing the test, because for the record, I would have jumped.

 

 

 

 

 

Time For A Change?

I am a 1984 graduate of our local High School. While there, I was involved in “all things musical” and I played field hockey. I was also a member of the Student Counsel all four years. As a loyal member of the school, I was the head of the spirit committee. I designed special days to encourage my classmates and to show class pride. These were the highlights of my (K-12) education. It wasn’t the long exhausting debates in Jr English, or the intricate math problems that we solved in calculus. The best times were interactive, creative, and exciting.

From High School, I followed the footsteps of my parents, and attended our state university. The first day was spent signing up for Marching Band. It was this team, this unit, that brought me the most joy: a community within a community, and they became my family away from home. Members attended our wedding, and sat in excitement in the waiting room of the hospital as our son was born. To this day, we keep in touch.

No matter where I have worked, it was the community, support staff, and fellow teammates that brought me the most joy and the most success. For twenty years. I have been filled to overflowing in the small town that I have worked in. They have been my extended family and I have been so grateful for all they have taught me about commitment, spirit, and pride.

I am a highly organized and efficient employee that is constantly looking to improve my teaching. My primary focus is to meet the needs of every child in whatever way possible. Working together with support staff, my goal is to create an atmosphere of learning, in an environment that is quiet and inviting. This year was particularly challenging, with four tricky children in my classroom. I didn’t hesitate to set up unique and individual plans in order to create success.

Movement breaks have been key to my classroom routine. Gonoodle, yoga, and activities to stimulate both sides of the brain have been extremely helpful to my students’ growth.

As a result, I traditionally have significant improvement from my students from Fall to Spring. This year my focus was to create differentiated spelling lists that follow strategic skills. I used progressive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (DSA) scores, weekly tests, spelling tasks on the iPad, and evidence from independent work to determine whether children needed a grade level, advanced, or a below level list. They also had an individual set of words taken from the Fry List. My goal was to have 100% of my class increase total stage scores by at least 10 points by May, 2018 as measured by the DSA. I am pleased to report that 90% of my students either met or exceeded their goal by as much as 24 points. The key was to involve them.

My Student Learning Objective focused on math this year. I noticed a weakness in the area of math in the fall, so I used the NWEA data to determine individual goals for my students. I utilized an on-line program called MobyMax to help differentiate for students and made it a goal to spend 20-minutes a day on the program, which would reteach and enrich. I involved children with goal setting, and as a result, they were more motivated with seeing the end result of their Spring assessment. 60% met or exceeded their goal, 10% missed it by 1 point, and 10% missed it by 2. The remaining 20% were identified students receiving extra services through Title 1.

I’m proud to say that I get results, but it isn’t without a whole lot of help from a whole lot of people using a whole lot of strategies.

However, I’m not perfect. One of my weaknesses is that I come across very business-like. I don’t waste a single second of my day. As a child who grew up on a large dairy farm, we were programmed to be working on a project at all times and using our every moment wisely. Sometimes I buzz around at such a speed, that I forget to interact with the people who are around me. I have to remind myself to make eye contact and to speak to others. It isn’t that I am snobby, or that I don’t want to be part of the conversations, I am just focused on what needs to be done. Another, is that I absolutely HATE confrontation. I am sensitive and hold myself to a very high standard. As a result, I often find myself compromising what I want or need in order to keep peace. This is a work in progress, as I learn to take the time to listen, reflect, and respond with possible solutions without getting an ulcer.

Twenty years ago, I interviewed and was offered a third grade position in the community that I grew up in. At that time, I was also offered a fourth grade position in the neighboring district. My husband and I had a “pow wow” with the children and asked them what they thought. At that time, our oldest was in the Fifth Grade. His input was, “When you come to school, we just want you to be Mom.” That was all we needed to hear. In the end, we had three children go through the school district, with the full support of Mom- not Teacher/Mom. Just Mom.

I have lived in and been a part of the area for forty-two years. It’s a place that my husband and I returned to after college, and where we have chosen to raise our three children. At this time, we are helping to raise a third generation and are here to stay.

I am not unhappy at my present place of employment. I just wonder if now is the time to be more accessible to my family, but more importantly, for a new challenge and a fresh start. My desire is to stay energetic and to keep the fire burning in my belly. Teaching is my passion. There is nothing like the feeling of a well executed lesson, with fantastic end results that we can all cheer about. I absolutely adore the community that I work in, the people I work with, and the administration that I work for. I simply wonder if it is time for a change and a new challenge.

My greatest accomplishments have been seeing the success of my students as they progress through the grades. Nothing brings me more joy than when past students visit. My heart sings when I see the accomplishments of older students, and to know that I played a role in their journey. I know that my role is foundational, and many children won’t remember me or my contributions. Instead, they will remember that they enjoyed coming to school, and that they felt safe, and loved. They will remember that they felt like they were treated fair and that no matter what, every day was a new day.

The most difficult situations in the workplace are extreme behavioral challenges in the mainstream classroom. This year I had four in my classroom. Typical behaviors included ripping assignments, throwing items that ricocheted off bookshelves and walls, climbing on bookshelves & desks, overturning chairs that were balanced on a student desk and trying to sit on the top. Classroom furniture was moved around and they refused to do academic tasks, by yelling, swearing, and kicking. They ran around the classroom, refusing to join classmates, interrupting during instruction, running in one door and out the other, slamming, hanging on, and kicking doors. In fact, the glass in my door, handle, and lock were broken. In the hallway, they kicked the heater, yelled in the entryway, flicked the lights, and ran up and down the halls. They tore and ripped items off the walls, and threw classmates’ personal items down the hallway.

Some strategies that I used with these four were preferential seating, a class behavior program,  and ”treats” when caught doing what is expected. I provided extra snacks, break times, and a nonverbal cuing system that indicated that they needed a break. I tried stress balls, and sensory calming tools. I paired them with peers and verbally rehearsed responses and graphic organizers before doing their work. I stated directions a variety of different ways and provided visual supports. I encouraged risk taking and pre-taught lessons giving children a chance to do assessments in a small group. I provided extra attention and verbal encouragement, placing them near a friend when they felt anxious or unsure of the academic expectations. I reduced work expectations. I allocated spots to take space, and worked tirelessly through Class Dojo to report to parents when children were accessing a safe place, staying in the classroom, and completing class work.

In the end, the best thing for these four were to separate them. They fed off each other and once one started to spiral, it was too easy for the others to join. It makes me wonder about what other districts are doing? My largest fear is that the remaining children do not get what they need.

I cannot imagine myself doing anything but teach. As challenging as the occupation is, I don’t see myself moving into any other field. At 52 years of age, I have at least 10 more years before I can even entertain the thought of retiring. Even then, I come from a long line of women who lived to be a ripe old age. I’ve still got a lot of life in me and a whole lot to offer.

As we continue to venture forward with the Common Core and standards-based reporting, my desire is to continue to provide opportunities for inquiry and allow for choice in how students demonstrate mastery of their learning. As the educational pendulum continues to swing, my goal is to remember that children need varied strategies and methods to attain the same common goal while maintaining rigor, recognizing that a whole lot needs to be accomplished in a very short amount of time.

So, the question is: Is it time for a change? If I’m truly to live a “palms up” life, I need to be willing to go where I need to go, and do what I need to do, trusting that it will be the best thing for me and my family. Maybe my Maker needs to see whether I would move and I would change if He asked me to? Maybe I needed to hear some really kind words from my supervisors and coworkers because it’s been a very challenging year, but I’ll never know until I put my pole in the water. I guess we will wait and see.

“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I (hope you) have had the time of (your) my life (Green Day)”

 

 

A Day To Remember

“I don’t think about my parents much anymore. I don’t really remember them.” So naturally, we went on a field trip to the old stomping ground…30714670_10214765476844571_7505032437215264768_n.jpg

Any good day involves plenty of coffee, so we started out on the right foot, before traveling through the back roads toward his home town. I told him what I remembered and talked about who lived where. He perked up, and the memories began to leak in.

First stop: to the cemetery to visit his mother and father. As we walked toward their stone, we walked past others with names he recognized, although he was surprised that they had passed within the past few years. He complained about the lichen on the headstones and the cold weather, but the memories remained few.

Next stop: the old homestead. We stopped at his mother’s old shop. He recalled his parent’s making the sign, and helping to build the structure. She sold lightly used clothes and treasures that his parents found at yard sales. She loved that old building and it gave her such joy to recycle, reuse items, and to re-home them.

The memories started to resurface one glance at a time. We looked down the road to the right and he recalled a neighbor that he loved. She worked as a sheriff and buzzed around the area on her 4-wheeler. He was surprised at how close the bridge looked, and how the area where he waited for the bus, looked smaller than he recalled. He talked about the grass triangle that he used to mow, and the trees that had been cut between the old homestead and the cemetery.

We drove onto the property that was once owned by his parents and stopped by the house. The new owners continue to use the pole barn that was once used to house animals, and is now used for storage. Now the house has a full porch, and the new owners have clearly insulated and turned the right side into living space. My husband recalled that the basement was once used for wood storage, the first floor contained an old 2-hole outhouse, and the upstairs held a pool table. The upstairs window over the porch was his old bedroom window. The old house jogged stubborn memories and the stories began to flow.

We drove on. We looked at the fields where the family hayed, and an old cement foundation where an old building once stood. We glanced at the tiny pond that once provided hours of entertainment during the long winters, and the hill where the kids would go sliding. He was surprised at how tiny the hill looked, yet it felt so big when he played on it as a child. He talked about walking through the dirt road to his grandfather’s house, while taking a picture of the brook that ran along the boundary line. He recalled cutting wood out back, and long hours of haying.

30713990_10214765479364634_3320257028319870976_nThe trip to the homestead was the best way to start the day. He talked about his siblings, his parents, and days gone by. It made my heart happy to assist him in remembering his family and the good times. He recalled the fact that they had little, but didn’t know it. He was proud to share about picking berries, being frightened by a bear, and enjoying the benefits of homemade jam on toast and his mother’s good cooking.

We continued our field trip past the dump and he recalled hours of dump picking and finding precious treasures. He said that the siblings would go together and how upset one would get if left behind. As we continued up the road, he named off who lived where, some long passed gone, making note of how the area had changed over the years.

We parked at the foot of the driveway of the home where his parents moved to after he joined the Navy. He talked about how it didn’t look like it did when his father tended it and how it needed a slap of paint. It was never his home, but it was theirs for about 24 years.

We continued to drive through the back roads of his old stomping ground, recalling fields that the family hayed, and a hot date we had while driving freshly baled hay home long after sundown.

It was a good day that continued with more coffee, meandering through local stores, and a lunch date with friends. I brought him home tired and without a nap, but happy. Today he visited with all 5 siblings and his parents, and although he may not recognize them or remember them tomorrow, he did today, and today was good.