day 314: my charge

His stomach hurts when he feels like he can't finish his work on time.

He stares up at the ceiling when I give directions.

He sighs a little when he has to turn his point card over.

He uses language that is inappropriate at least once a day.

When I tell him he is a good reader, he says he even reads in his dreams.

He is my student, and I like him. A lot.

day 313: food thoughts

Is it just me, or do a lot of you end a busy day with food on the brain? In a trance-like state I pulled out of the parking lot at my school at 12:45 and drove straight to Panda Express, where I self-medicated with orange chicken. Yes, I feel much better now.

Food is so connected to feelings and memories.

Seafood=growing up on the eastern seaboard.
Kale, soup= Vo.
Pastrami burgers=wedding night (hey, there was a burger joint between the reception center and the hotel and we were hungry!).

So, I sit here in the food court reading, writing, and breathing fire from my Kung Pao.

Musical Monday: Breakeven

I remember the first time I heard this song on the radio.  I thought it was Gavin DeGraw, whom I believe is underappreciated.  I had never heard of The Script before, but the tune was catchy and I thought it would be fun to record.   
Singing is such a great outlet when you are overburdened in other areas.  It opens the soul....

(click here)
Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.

day 311: a charmed life

I know these words are backwards to you, dear reader, but they represent my quest.  "Breathe" and "Wisdom".  I bought these charms last week and keep them on a chain around my neck every single day as I finish up my classwork this summer.  Can they co-exist?  I am finding myself exhilarated, and at the same time pushed to my limit.  I can handle pressure.  I can be pushed.  Today I mentioned to my husband that I am considering a master's degree?  "Are you....?  Really?"

day 310: old testament tendencies

Between the time my oldest son received his mission call to Kenya and when he actually left, I had an Old Testament time of it.  I am not one to get sick often.  As a matter of fact, I am usually pretty hardy, and don't use up my sick days.  But I have never been as sick as I was in September 2007, ever.  In my whole life.  Pregnancies added up, flu bugs, etc.  For three weeks I could barely leave the house, because of stomach pains and knots and convulsions.  You get the idea.  Fevers, chills.  I also had boils all over my body.  Boils.  It hurt to get dressed, to move, to sit, to stand.  Man.

Obviously I have not forgotten about it, even three years later.  I have written about it here on my blog before too, because it really affected me that much.  Big things coming = big trials to match.  Now, in this summer practicum I am killing myself over for my licensing, I have all of a sudden developed allergies.  Never had allergies before.  Ever.  No nose blowing.  No sneezing.  But now, when I am observed for 3 hours a day as I stand in front of students and deliver direct instruction I have a weeping eye that is itchy and swollen beyond words, and a nose that has all of a sudden turned into Vesuvius.

I guess these are meant to challenge my resolve.  Pass the Clariton and bring it on.

day 309: praise rates

 Praise rates.  A very important term we use in special education that has to do with the average number of verbal praises offered within a minute.  Today I was told my lessons I am teaching in my summer practicum are going well, but that I need to get my praise rates up a little higher.  The goal is 5-6 per minute, and my average at last check was 4.5.  One verbal offering of praise every ten seconds.  No matter how happy you are and how thrilled you are with someone's performance, that is a tough standard.  Think of your interactions during the day.  Can you imagine offering machine-gun-delivered praise over and over again throughout the day?  Yet, I know the principle is true, because every time I say to Reilly great job sitting in ready position, thank you for working so hard, I like how you are trying so hard, thank you for concentrating on your work, I like how you are responding when I ask you to he lights up a little and does even better. 

And thank you for continuing to come here to read my thoughts.  You are doing a fantastic job, and I appreciate it tremendously.  :)

ps Check out yesterday's post to see the kinetic typography Geo did on one of my recordings from last month. It was a lot of work, and he did a great job.

day 308: Mad World Video

My husband stayed up all night (not at my request) finishing this motion graphics video of my recording of "Mad World."

day 307: queen for a day

It was 1974.  I wore black and white checked polyester pants with permanent creases sown down the legs.  They were bell bottoms, and I was beyond cool.  Saddle shoes, and a tight shirt across the top.  I was a bit of a tomboy that still had a girly side (still am), and was partly thrilled when it was time to go shopping for my first bra.  Dark long hair that went all the way down my back with a slight wave, and some pretty killer eye lashes, I must admit.  It was fifth grade and I had just been named Queen of the May, with my freckle-faced boyfriend Keith Parrish sitting by my side as king.  We wore crowns and sat on fashioned thrones in front of the whole student body, while the younger kids did dances around the May pole and played games to entertain us.  Very pagan, dontcha think?

These elementary school flashbacks happen a lot as I spend time in a third grade classroom all Summer (not to mention my regular job as a special ed kindergarten teacher during the normal school year).  Paper, crayons, markers.  They all stir up these memories of my own time wandering halls, taking spelling tests, and generally loving every minute of it.  Cool business I am in.

day 306: a day in the life

Bed at 1 a.m. and up at 4:40.   I finished typing up my lesson plans and showered before heading to my Summer Practicum assignment 15 minutes away.  The day went well, and I was pleased.  My educational law class was starting yesterday at 4 p.m., so my decision at 12:30 was whether I should go straight to campus and work, or come home and rest.  5 minutes down the road the warm black leather in my car convinced me I needed a nap more than I realized, so I turned eastward toward home.  Geo was waiting for me with lunch made with a smile.  I ate, and was promptly tucked in for a 2-hour nap before my next engagement.  I think he loves me.

At the end of my long day yesterday, I pulled into my driveway around 5:45 pm and came inside to find my two youngest boys boys playing video games with a good friend.  Earlier in the day they and their dad, who was at a directors' meeting for a playhouse he is affiliated with, had climbed to the Y in Provo, and they were enjoying some down time.  Hi, Momfriend, said #3.  I smiled and put my bag down to greet them before heading into the clean kitchen, which had been shepherded over by my men.

Thankfully I had made much too much chicken and rice over the weekend, so I took it from the oven and put it into the stove to warm while I loaded a few glasses into the dishwasher.  Out my back sliding doors I could see the thick green grass a wet Spring had allowed, and the tall trees that we are blessed with here in this almost-seventy year old neighborhood.

It was then, in this little split-second, that I felt it.  A warm confirmation ran through me, very physically, letting me know that I am loved by my Heavenly Father.  That my life is right and good.  And I took a deep breath and stood over the sink for a moment, soaking it in.

Musical Monday: Break Your Heart

I have always loved Natalie Merchant, and this is one of my faves that she did. OK, I danced a little while I recorded it!   Enjoy.  Click on the song title to hear my recording.

Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.

Break Your Heart

People downcast, is despair
See the disillusion everywhere
Hoping their bad luck will change
Gets a little harder every day

People struggle, people fight
For the simple pleasures in their lives
But trouble comes from everywhere
It's a little more than you can bear

I know that it will hurt
I know that it will break your heart
The way things are
And the way they've been
And the way they've always been

People shallow, self-absorbed
See the push and shove for their rewards
I, me, my is on their minds
You can read about it in their eyes

People ruthless, people cruel
See the damage that some people do
Full of hatred, full of pride
It's enough to make you loose your mind

I know that it will hurt
I know that it will break your heart
The way things are
And the way they've been

I know that it will hurt
I know that it will break your heart
The way things are
And the way they've been

Don't spread the discontent
Don't spread the lies
Don't make the same mistakes
With your own life
You never will let love survive

I know that it will hurt
I know that it will break your heart
The way things are
And the way they've been

Don't spread the discontent
Don't spread the lies
Don't make the same mistakes
With your own life
Don't disrespect yourself
Don't loose your pride
And don't think that
Everybody's gonna choose your side

day 304: memories of bradley forest road

They would drive past our house in their family car, which happened to be a hearse, and they would wave.  All of the little girls leaning out the windows with smiles on their faces, arms flapping, not knowing there had been many dead bodies lying in the back of that car in the past.

After a rainstorm, of which there are many in Virginia, the little frogs would be jumping all over the road as the mist was coming up.  Not worms, like in other places, but little quarter-sized frogs that looked like green, wet, popcorn.

We rode our motorcycles all over the unfenced landscape.  Down the fire trail to the county fairgrounds, where we would fly down the dirt walkways over gentle hills.

Trees everywhere.  Places to build forts and take walks and imagine things.

Going with my friend to clean an old woman's house down the street.  The heavy smell of cigarette smoke on every surface.  The curtains, the furniture, the carpet.  And the sound of deep coughing that must have started way down in her toes as she sucked on another cancer stick.

The next door neighbors who had a huge garden filled with sweet white corn that they sometimes shared with my city-raised parents.  The fight my brother had with their son in that garden.  One swinging a rake and the other a hose.

Dragging the trash to the end of the driveway at night with a piece of board from an old ping pong table over my head to protect me from the ever-present bats that loved to dive bomb anything that dared move in the still, humid night.

Moths the size of birds that flew around the spot light we had aimed at the pool in the backyard.  So big they cast big shadows on us.

Walking to the end of the street to peek in at the pentacostal congregation singing and jumping up and down.  Being creeped out walking through their little cemetery with the leaning tombstones.

Lots of love in our house during the years we spent there.

day 303: a collector

I am an accidental collector, pretty sure that most of the things I have collected have just somehow, subtly, become important to me.  While some people are always on the lookout for things like coffee mugs, or those little spoons from different cities, the things that have mattered to me have been scooped up and treasured, and even cataloged, subconsciously.

The things I have collected that have changed me can't be touched or looked at through a glass case.  They can't have a sticker slapped on them with a date and place of origin.  And they definitely cannot sit on a shelf and gather dust.

I am a collector of relationships.  I enjoy people.  I know myself better because of people that I have found a connection with, and I get a little disoriented when that connection loses power.  I feel like a little strand of me is fraying at the ends.  Some people like to shut down, or turn inside, when things start piling up, but I crave interaction as a way to unfold and find myself again.  I am also that girl who can go to lunch and a movie all alone and thoroughly enjoy it, because my relationships aren't a necessity, but rather a luscious decoration.  And so I collect and am better for it.

day 302: sweet relief, please

All I wanted at 8 pm was a piece of dense, thick, chocolate cake.  I still can't get it out of my mind.  I have been planted in my living room for six hours writing lesson plans and weekly lesson outlines, and I actually picked up my phone a few times to beg a friend to get me out of here and to somewhere where there is cake.  But I always stared at the phone, without dialing.  Fear of someone saying they couldn't swing it, fear of all the work I would still have to do once I got home. 

It is 1:07, and I am going to bed.  I will be up at 4:30 to finish my preparations for this six-week practicum, where I am learning tons, but feeling completely swallowed.  I miss my kids.  I miss my husband.  I miss reading blogs.  I miss myself even. 

Yeah, it's late (early) and I am a bit downtrodden. 

day 301: your own flight

It would be an easier thing to step in and help solve your dilemma.
It would be quicker and make you feel better.
But solving things doesn't always solve things.
Rolling up your sleeves and thinking through your own problems is good for you.
You are becoming more and more able to plan and think about what matters.
And once we are not so close in proximity you will be glad you have had a chance to stretch your wings.
Because those wings will sometimes glide, but often will need to flap.  And flap hard.

day 300: a reason to be

When Geo and I were first married I have this specific memory of lying in bed looking at him and thinking, We have some real things ahead of us in life.  I am not sure what that was supposed to mean all of those years ago, but I do know we have, and may yet have, real things to do. Is it presumptuous to say that there are big things I am supposed to be doing?  Or that I have felt like I have a real purpose?  I have strong feelings in this direction, and I ask this in all humility.

My special ed gig feels like it is just, right.  Like it accidentally fell into my lap and fit perfectly.  Fate, I guess.  If you believe in that kind of thing.  But that is only part of the whole I-have-a-purpose thing. My kids, my husband, our family; all contributing factors in my sojourn. 

And I move forward in faith, knowing I have a reason to be.

day 299: like one of those moving walkways at an airport

I have gotten so used to not only standing on one of those moving sidewalks, but running on it, that I get a kind of panicky feeling when I am not facing a total time crunch/ deadline/ firing squad.

And not only am I starting to feel more normal with the firing squad, but I need to also haul a couple of carry-ons and a checked bag while I run.

And the bags need to be filled with bricks.

But soon the luggage will be thrown into the closet, and I will be home to make dinner for the family and sleep in my own bed.

Musical Monday: People Get Ready

With the big, emotional day we just had, it seemed appropriate to record a gospel song.  Our whole lives are centered around our feelings for God, and we understand that we need to be ready for Him. This was a meaningful one for me.  I hope you enjoy it.  Click on the title below, and check in the jukebox to the right. 

People Get Ready

Instrumental by ProSound Karaoke

Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.

day 297: thank you, bishop

 #1, Geo, #4 General Conference, SLC April 2010

Today, after 5 years and 3 months, my husband will be released as the bishop of our ward.  I am writing this post before the event, because I don't want it to be about the day itself, but about the experience up to this point. Over these years I have seen this good man become even better, as he has learned to love people through their problems and to practice patience.  He has always been an eloquent speaker, but during the past five years his eloquence has had a pleading quality which has been both encouraging and bonding for our congregation. 

There have been times when I have walked into our bedroom, unannounced, to find him kneeling, and sometimes crying a bit.  Because he is a tender-hearted guy.  Because he really has learned to love others.  Because he cares about the people that he will not be able to really follow through with.

I can only speak for myself when I say, Thank you, Bishop, for your service and your concern for all of us.  I am madly in love with you.

day 296: i am in the walls

In the hutch in my dining room I have a mixture of things that define me.  There are dishes from my Vo (grandmother in Portuguese) that are blue and creamy white with horses and carriages and scalloped edges.  More dishes from my other grandmother that are soft green and have pictures of Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop. 
Tea cups and saucers and sugar bowls.  Gravy boats and soup bowls.  There are also clay creations from my children and glass vases that I pull out when it is time for flowers on the table.

On the very top of the hutch are books we have collected in our travels.  Mostly old grammar books and some classics.They are not used, so they gather dust, but I like knowing they are there.  It is comfortable and warm. 

Down on the main part of the hutch is where the action is.  Papers stacked up from school, report cards, pressing mail, photos, letters.  Then there is our family portrait, a small black wooden clock, and black-stained sandalwood bookends from Africa. 

I am all over the place in this house.  Each room has a part of me spread around it, and I live in the walls and floors.

day 295: hope for the harvest

Dear Dr. Gibb,

Thank you for thinking teachers are good people that can change lives.  Thank you for inspiring us and for cheering us on.  And thank you for your closing remarks in class today where you quoted Albert Schweitzer, who said:

I will plant the crop and hope for the best.

Your fellow sojourner,

day 294: my nerdy missionary

My son's best friend for the past year before his mission was this beautiful young woman you see here, giving him a goodbye hug the night before #2 left on his mission.  This boy of mine is run by his conscience, which is one of the most sensitive you will ever encounter.  Because of this, we called this cute person behind him his "friend", even though I think it was more than that.

One of their favorite past times was to play Magic, The Gathering, and to draw cartoons that were set in medieval times.  Like the title says, nerds.  Hard core.  But the cutest, funniest, best-looking nerds you will ever know.  Today I got a text from #2's "friend" that said, I sent him a package with peanut butter and drawings of fish dudes!

Don't say I didn't warn you.

day 293: a vision

I was back in Boston with my cousin who was dying of cancer when I got a call from my husband saying that my bishop wanted to talk to me.  My mind was all over the place.  The swollen belly of Leigh.  The warm New England September.  And the kind Polynesian face of my friend back home.

Ever since my husband had called I couldn't get her out of my mind.  In the midst of learning about pain meds, cancered breasts and bones, and how to take care of my cousin's cats, Edris's face kept popping into my head.  Again.  Then again.

After I got home I was asked by my bishop to serve as the Relief Society president (leader of the women's auxiliary) in my ward (congregation).  I knew I was supposed to work with Edris.  I didn't know anything else, but I knew that.  And it was a great run.  I felt tapped in to her spiritual take on things.  I still do.  We did tons of crying together.  We still do. 

Somehow I have known her longer than I have known her.  She is my loving, smart, trusted friend, and she has been an answer to prayer more than once.  Like the time during a meeting when a woman said, for the third or fourth time, something that was completely against our beliefs.  I thought, Please let someone else make the correction here so I don't have to swing the heavy hammer.  Then there she was. 

Yeah, I love that brown face. 

day 292: wet mercy

Yesterday I was standing in the kitchen talking to my boys when I looked out the back glass doors and noticed that there was a column of rain coming down right in the middle of my backyard, on a sunny afternoon.  At first I thought it was a sprinkler from the neighbor's yard, but then I realized it was coming straight down and had an almost silvery dream-like quality to it.  I asked one boy to go out back and see if I was right, and the other boy to run out front onto the driveway.  Nothing.  No rain falling on the east side of the house, just on the west side, under a single puffy light-gray ball of fluff. 

I get rained on sometimes.  It is the glowing here-let-me-help-you kind of rain that waters me and leaves me a little better.  It is the kind of rain that quenches my thirst and reminds me that I need nourishing sometimes.  It is liquid mercy.

Musical Monday: Mad World

Geo has suggested this song to me a few times, so I was excited to record it this week.  Click on the title below, or listen from the jukebox.  Enjoy!

Mad World

Kazzy's voice has been silenced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act(see the details here). Sorry you can't listen to her sing directly. But send her a message and she'll try to work something out.

day 290: taking it to the next level

My youngest son turned 12 on Thursday and tomorrow after church we will celebrate his big day with lasagna, brocolli, bread, watermelon, and chocolate cake.  Twelve is a big birthday in our religion/culture, as the young man or woman is now done with primary (Sunday School for young children) on Sundays, and enters a new level of instruction, along with matching responsibilities.  There is more service expected from these youth as they perform duties that cause them to get outside their self-centered comfort zones and reach out toward others. 

Along with the advancement in the church setting, we as a family, are officially done with elementary school.  Kind of strange.  Kind of great.  My youngest two sons will both be in junior high next year, next boy up in Mexico serving a mission for the church, and the oldest taking classes at the University.  Am I old, or what?

Of course, sometimes I miss my babies.  I miss the hugs and the easiness of having them all around me with no real worries about peer pressure.  I miss having everyone tucked in around 8:30.  I miss the six of us spending lots of time together.  I miss the cute art projects that would come home.  I miss reading to them at night.  But the nice advantages include more time with my husband, no more babysitters, cool adult and semi-adult kids that have great independent thoughts and ideas, more laughing together because we all get the same humor, and watching them turn into good-hearted men.  Yeah, that's for sure the best part. 

I love the men that I have helped to raise.  I have been blessed.

day 289: letter to my student

Dear G.V.,

I hope you remember how much fun we had in school this past year and how hard you worked.  I hope you are practicing writing your name all by yourself, and that you are learning more letters.

Remember how much fun we had at our hundred-day party?  You looked so nice in your fancy dress!  And we plugged in that disco ball and played music and danced.

Your English got so good during the school year.  Are you practicing with your brother?  Please speak as much as possible so you can get even better at it.  You are a fast learner.

I hope you are having a good Summer vacation so far.  Maybe I will come visit you at your apartment sometime soon.  I miss your happy face.

You are my little abuelita and I miss you.

Miss Karen

day 288: 50 years and counting

She was married and widowed at 23.  He was married and divorced (green card grabber) at 30.  Together they led and played the music for Sunday School at church, and would then find themselves talking more and more about their situations, knowing they were each resigned to living single lives.  "Used goods" and all.

Eventually their story turned out to be a great love story full of hope, new beginnings and strong loyalty.  Like the way they petitioned and petitioned the church, after they had been married for 18 years, to have her first temple marriage cancelled due to her husband's early and untimely death.  For a year this went on, until finally the permission came, and this 52 year-old husband and his 46 year-old bride had their special day in the temple, in white, across the altar, where their marriage was sealed forever.  Their children were 16, 14, and 11 at the time, and remember it well.  A nice dinner after with close friends and family, including a wedding cake and celebration.

Tonight we gathered for the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary (the first one- they celebrate their temple sealing alone, as seems right).  These people are my in-laws, and my husband was that 14 year-old who watched his parents commit eternally to each other in 1978.  They are nuts for each other still, and I can't even tell you how many times we catch them kissing and deferring to each other.  Great examples.  Great love.

day 287: 3 lessons at post 500

Monday I put up my 500th post, but wasn't quite sure how to treat it.  See, I have personal feelings about this little place and want to honor some of the experiences I have had here.

I started this blog in the Winter of 2008, but seriously spent a good year trying to find out what I was supposed to be doing here.  Once I got a hold of a few readers, and discovered some other blogs that I enjoyed, I was slightly hooked.  A year ago I started meeting the people that were inspiring me, and then, fuhgedaboudit.

Here are a few things I have learned in the last 2.5 years:

One:  I enjoy writing.  I am a total late bloomer, but I like it.  I have found a part of myself that I didn't know was in there.  Writing has helped me to pay more attention to my life, especially during these past ten months as I have blogged everyday.

Two:  Women make incredibly strong connections.  It's not like I didn't already know this, but in blogging I have had it confirmed over and over again.  I have found places where my faith has been strengthened.  I have found places where my worries have been validated.  And I have found a spot to think out loud through all of it.

Third:  I have cried so hard I couldn't see the monitor (think NieNie's initial post-accident face shot).  I have laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe.  I am not kidding.  It has all happened right here where I ponder.  It still amazes me that although I have always been a person who enjoys people, that I have found a new way to connect here.  Did I mention that sometimes I laugh so hard that everyone in my family starts laughing (think DeNae)?  It happened just last night.  :)

When August 19 hits I will reevaluate if I will keep going daily or not.  It has been tough some days, but to me the challenge and the deadlines have been good.  I work well under those kids of conditions.  A big thank you to people who take the time to stop by and read.  It is nice to know what I write will be read by people.  And an even bigger thank you to those that have inspired me.  I think I am a better person for having known you, and for having written about it.

day 286: picking raspberries

My husband's aunt told me yesterday that when she was a girl she would walk down the street to her grandma's house, where she would grab a bucket and then start picking raspberries.  Her grandma would follow her with her own bucket, and at the end of picking Aunt Pauline was always shocked to see that although her grandma followed her in picking, she had twice as many berries. Years later Pauline learned the secret was that her grandma took the time to pick up the branches and look in hidden places, while Pauline herself only picked the more obvious berries.

I have been thinking about teamwork lately.  It is in action here in my family, in my classroom, and in my schooling at the university, as we work in collaborative settings.  I am developing an even greater appreciation for people I spend time with that pick up the branches behind me.

The sticky juice tastes so much better when at least two people are pickin'.

day 285: immersed

John Sutherland was made new through immersion around the year 1860.  This immersion took place off the coast of Maine after he was shipwrecked and thought dead.  He was married on the plains of Nebraska within the year, and has become a very important influence upon the lives of his posterity.

And today John and Ellen felt little feet dancing around their resting place, laying blood red peonies and creamy yellow buttercups across their names, while mothers cautioned them to be careful and reverent.  Talks about jobs and children hovered as great-great grandchildren looked at photos and heard stories and were more and more glad they had come.

ps  Don't forget to check out my recording from Monday in the sidebar jukebox.