Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Home Ec

At fourteen I cut the pieces carefully
According to the directions
And stitched that hideous
Kettle cloth jumper
That I would not wear
It did not fit
Nothing much fit
When I was fourteen

Written for Day 11 of Writer's Digest November PAD

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Off My Usual Topic

This was written for a "job" on Amazon Mechanical Turk.....

Mrs. Candle’s, was a much respected member of the local church whose life was snuffed out yesterday after a strong wind made its way into the sanctuary. Known for her elegance, she has graced the weddings of generations of lovers as she played a crucial part in the ceremony that united husband and wife. A pillar of the community, Mrs. Candle glowed as she worked, never tiring of shedding light in the darkness. A beacon of hope in the midst of trials, a shining light for all to see, her luminosity preceded her everywhere she went. Preceded in death by her first husband, Mr. Lighter, she leaves behind four votives and seven tealights. The candlelight service will be held at Radiance Gardens, after which Mrs. Candle’s remains will be melted and recycled according to her last wishes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's Next?

This will be a bittersweet posting for me and a complete change is in store for this blog. After eighteen years (five homeschooling and thirteen in the classroom) I will not be going “back to school”.

As a kid I loved school, especially the beginning of the year. There was the trip downtown to Sears to get a few new clothes, the excitement of meeting a new teacher and seeing friends again, the school smell that seems to be universal. When it was time for my kids to go, I loved picking out lunchboxes, buying them a few new clothes at the mall, and taking the first-day-of-school pictures in front of the house. And there was still that smell when I entered their classrooms.

When we homeschooled I enjoyed buying curriculum as well as making my own. I loved the planning and the teaching and the days when we read Little House on the Prairie. I was thrilled when I taught my youngest to read at five and saw her begin to devour books, just like her siblings.

In 1996, I took my first paid job teaching in a Christian school and then began the final leg of my education in January of 1997. Finally, in 1998, at age 39, I graduated with a BS in Elementary Education. I have been teaching in many diverse areas ever since, both in Polk County and St. Johns County, Florida. I’ve been in schools where over 50% of the students were Hispanic and whose parents could not speak English; and I’ve been in schools where some of the kids lived in million dollar homes with maids and nannies. I’ve taught gifted children as well as learning disabled, physically disabled and autistic. I’ve been praised by parents and put-down by principals, hugged by little ones and disrespected by middle schoolers. Over the years I’ve received many gifts, from hefty gift cards to a large pink rock. But the best gifts were the ones no one could see. Like the parent who told me her child had never like writing and now she had a notebook with her everywhere she went. Or the note thanking me for teaching poetry from the kid who then gave me a copy of an excellent poem he had written. Or seeing my students win awards for speeches so full of their own thoughts and ideas, delivered with excellent rhetoric.

Where do I go from here? I do not know. It is a bit of a grieving process. Earlier this summer I read these words from Psalm 6 and could definitely relate: vs.6 – I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I water my couch with my tears. vs.9 – The LORD has heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.

Then I came upon chapter sixteen, vs. 11 – You will show me the path of life: in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. It may be a trial or an adventure, or I may even return to teaching one day. But for now I will try to make the best use of my time and wait for what lies ahead.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

For Peek's Sake

What would you do for a peek? We’ve become a nation of peekers. We want to know what everyone else is doing. Photographers who peek get their photos on the cover of The Enquirer. “Peeping Toms” who peek and get caught are arrested. Students who peek and get caught get an F.

But, I’m peeker, too. I’m a Facebook peeker and it’s addictive. I don’t watch reality shows on TV, but Facebook is like the Ultimate Reality Show. These are people I know, or friends of a friend, or maybe I don’t know them at all. It’s like middle school all over again – who has the most friends or who has the most posts on their wall. For those of us who don’t have a huge friends list there are always photo albums. We just know everyone’s dying to see Uncle John blowing out candles at his 79th birthday party. Or Junior crying because he’s tired and doesn’t want his picture taken AGAIN! And what is with everybody sticking our their tongues? It’s just not funny anymore. Yet, I keep taking a “peek” thinking I’ll miss something important. Meanwhile, my dishes are dirty and I haven’t made those phone calls yet and where did the time go? It’s 5:30 and I have nothing to cook for supper!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

He Was in a Big Tree House with Him and His Self

There is no escaping ourselves. Wherever we go, there we are with us. Though the grass seems greener on the other side, when we go to lie down in the meadow we find those same red ants biting at our legs. To use a popular expression, we take our “baggage” with us most of the time. Be it problems, personality, habits, or the extra twenty pounds.

When we lived in Lake Wales, Florida we rented a house with a tree house about 10-12 feet off the ground. The way to get in was by climbing a rope, so that kept me out. Our three older children loved it! I imagine it was great fun to have a place to go to be alone, or play with each other – a place where the grown ups didn’t go. A place to pretend or read or spy on those people below. A place to escape the world for a while, but never to escape from self.

So, here I am now in this “big tree house” with myself. I am alone often, so I can read or daydream or spy on the neighbors. But, what can I do here to glorify God?

I thought moving would make a huge difference for me four years ago. And it did make some differences for the better. We were able to purchase a nice home, live closer to our parents and reconnect with family. We were here when our family needed us and I am thankful for that. I see, a little but not enough, that God’s ways are not our ways. I think of the story of Joseph and his brothers. They wanted to harm him when they threw him in the pit, and he did suffer for many, many years. But, God meant it for good. This was the way Joseph was placed in the right place at the right time and saved Egypt during the seven years of famine.

Oh, I wish I were like Joseph. I wish I could endure being in the pit without feeling sorry for myself. I don’t really know how Joseph felt – maybe he DID feel self-pity. But, I know he endured it to God’s glory. He stayed an honest and upright man and became the second in command under Pharaoh. This is my prayer – to be an honest and upright woman and to be used of God.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

“You want to Know Where Baloo is? He is in New Hamsterdam”

With the abundance of technology available to kids with the internet and television, it’s amazing that so many students still have no grasp of geography. I must admit it’s not my best subject, but it amazes me when a child in upper elementary school doesn't know that Kentucky is a state or Australia is a country. Recently, I had a sixth grader answer on a test that England was in West America!

As a teacher I wonder how to get this knowledge to them so they can see the big picture. I think they need to know where in the world they are to help them decide later on where they want to go and what they want to do. When I was growing up I never thought much about countries, except for the fact they were “foreign” and, I supposed, all backwards compared to the United States. I assumed most countries, except perhaps England, were still fairly primitive. I never knew about the big world out there. Now that I do, I want to see more of it. I want to visit the places I read about in history books. I want to see the wonders God created. I want to see Holland; not Amsterdam, or “New Hamsterdam”, but Delft.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Alen was Poor All His Life. It Runs in the Family.

Why is it that some family characteristics are handed down from generation to generation and some are not?

For instance, red hair pops up in my family, often skipping generations. Some of my grandma’s brothers and sisters had it, but then it was only passed to one of my cousins. Yet, two others of my generation, not red heads, ended up with a red-headed child.

Then there’s the infamous “Bailey head” as my dad ( NOT a Bailey) called it. The Bailey head is a bit large. And the Bailey nose is a bit wide. I was fortunate to be blessed with both. I don’t know where my little “chest” came from, but my unhappy daughters are also the recipients of this diminutive trait. However, these are all just physical attributes.

Sometimes poverty does seem to “run in the family”, but not always. Not in our family, though, or at least it didn’t use to. My parents were poor, both having been raised by single mothers. My dad’s father died when Dad was four. He had a ruptured appendix and gangrene set in before he could get from out in the country to Atlanta for medical attention. My mom’s father deserted his family on the side of the road when she was just a babe in arms. So, both of my grandmothers were the sole providers for their family. I never knew my dad’s mom as she passed away just before I was born. But my Grandma Bryan I did know, yet I didn’t understand how hard she had worked all her life until I was an adult. She worked in textile factories, raised five children, and would never divorce or declare dead the man who left her.

As a result, my parents knew what it was like to grow up without luxuries. They never went without food or clothes, but I know they often had very little. My dad would tell me about eating onion sandwiches. My mom was working and buying her own clothes on a $2.00–a-week plan when she was fourteen. They learned to work hard, make-do with little and do without a lot. As for myself, I never wanted for any necessities when I was growing up.

Dad worked hard to provide for us financially, allowing Mom to stay home and provide us with stability, security, and her time and talents. Their thrift allowed us to have a carefree childhood. We worked around the house to earn our allowance, but we were never worried about food or clothing.

We were very comfortable by the world’s standards. But, we were also rich in something that can’t be measured. That was the feeling of belonging to a family and to knowing home was a safe place of refuge. And love. We were rich in love. And love is one thing I want to continue to “run in the family”.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It’s Not About Money, It’s About How You Like Your Life

Money. So many clich├ęs. I do need some. I do like it. But it can become a burden. Getting money, having it, using it, losing it. All these aspects are often tangled up in emotions.

The way I get my money is by teaching. And I truly enjoy teaching but am getting ever tired of the tasks, forced upon me by the government, that take my time away from my students. I love planning lessons, I love it when a kid says, “This is fun!” and I’m thrilled when I see progress in their writing skills. I just wish it weren’t such a burden - the paperwork, the administration, the parental expectations.

Money seems to be the driving force. Money pits school against school to see who gets the money, er, excuse me, the A+ money. Now we are blackmailed into a program that would pit teacher against teacher for a bonus that’s just not worth it.

I don’t like my job, my life, when I feel like I’m being manipulated. I don’t like being part of such a corrupt system. It’s less and less about the child and more and more about the money. Show me the money? No thanks!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Poem a Day Challenge Day 28

Although this was day 28 it was my last one written. It's a sestina using iambic pentameter - whew - a real fun challenge - one of my favs!

By The Sea

Awakening to a morning glorious
She puts on the wide brimmed hat for a walk
Anxious for what she will soon discover
Three blocks down she can distinguish the waves
It’s early and time for the sun’s kindness
It’s early and time for the wind’s mercy

She walks in affection and in mercy
Bright gold hypericums are glorious
Surf immerses tender toes in kindness
So sweet is every novel morning’s walk
Slender sea oats on the dunes sigh and wave
Serenity is her discovery

Back at her bungalow she discovers
A basket of fruit left there in mercy
Looking around, her neighbor nods and waves
Pineapple, mango all so glorious
Sustenance to continue in her walk
Through friend and stranger both is warm kindness

At her desk she writes in simple kindness
To tell of wonders she has discovered
With her words they along her path, too, walk
Filled with her spirit of cheerful mercy
On page in syllables glorious
New and marvelous words appear in waves

Afternoon clouds roll on gently waving
The seagull’s chatter to her ears is kind
Her prayers are soft, soaring up to glory
Her joy refreshed, renewed, rediscovered
Praises sung to God for all His mercies
Grateful even now for the days she’s walked

Down this solitary road she has walked
Recollections flood over her in waves
She takes comfort now in tender mercies
Not lonely, surrounds herself in kindness
Her joy yet by others undiscovered
‘Tis faith and hope and love- ‘tis glorious!

How glorious are steps upon her walk
Discoveries of life appear in waves
Kindness comes to take her home in mercy

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poem a Day Challenge Day 21

On Haiku day
The boys love poetry
Simple and short

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Poem a Day Challenge - Day 15

For this one we had to take a poem we liked, alter the title and write another version. I took a go at this one:

The Roads Taken

Two roads converged in a Georgia town
And seeing that both I could travel
At the light I looked around
Nothing there could make me frown
But my plan would soon unravel

Mapquest said there would be a turn
Trusting still I ventured on
Many were lessons I had to learn
Though blessed by views of kudzu and fern
I felt my path was lost and gone

Backtracked that morning more than twice
Turned around on roads of clay
The air still crisp and oh so nice
With music as my only vice
I saw how way leads on to way

I am now telling with a sigh
At last I made my destination
O’er valleys low and hills so high
Beneath a cloudless southern sky
I found a bit of relaxation

Original tite: "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
I worked to keep the same rhyme scheme

Monday, April 13, 2009

Poem a Day challenge - Day 13


Bookstores lure me
I’m certainly vexed
With pages and covers
Illustrations and text

Paper or hardback
What to choose
A tome or trilogy
I continue to muse

Alphabetical order
Or tossed together
Stacked and sorted
I could look forever

History, romance
Classics, how-to
Gathered in my arms
Not just a few

Home to my bookshelf
The collection grows
They sit and beckon
Poetry and prose

What to read next?
Shakespeare or Dickens?
Steinbeck, Spinelli
’Tis no slim pickins’

Binchy has her own shelf
Now numbering eighteen
There’s Sparks and Sharra
Or The Problem of Pain

Do I want to laugh?
To cry, to learn?
Ah! I’ll read the borrowed
One I must return

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From the Poem a Day Challenge - Day 10

I Didn't Wait for Saturday

I cancelled
the hotel reservation.
Storms were moving in.

On the road home,
my music and myself
were pleasant company.
In a small Georgia town
I stopped.
The bookstore was beckoning me.

As I stepped into
a familiar world
of books and hospitality,
treasures and free coffee
awaited me.

On the road again
with caffeine and bargains,
my Friday night journey continued.

Friday, April 3, 2009

From the Poem a Day Challenge - Day 3

It's An Art

The problem with seventh graders is
They ask the wrong questions.
Why do we have to do this?
Complete sentences? Are you kidding me?
What did you say?
When's it due?

Is this for a grade?
Why can't I use pink ink?
What's wrong with that?
What homework?
When's it due?

Are we having a test?
When's the test?
Are we watching a movie?
When's it due?

Is there any extra credit?
What page are we on?
When's it due?

Can I get a drink of water?
When's it due?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

“He Heard a Ruffle in a Bush”

When did I quit seeing the little things? When did things cease to stir awe inside me? Some of my best memories are filled with small wonders, fleeting moments, little things.
I still find joy whenever I spot a dolphin in the ocean. The first time was when I was nine or ten. My cousins were visiting and our families headed out one summer morning for the beach. When we reached the parking lot, we kids ran to the walkway over the road that dead ends into the sand. Looking out over the sun sparkled sea we saw three dolphins curving in and out of the water. I was so enthralled as I watched until they were out of sight.
Even a small touch, a hand on mine, can mean so much. One night as a teenager, my dad was driving me home from a school function when it began to pour down. The rain and lightning were so severe that we sat in our car in the driveway until there was a lull in the storm. Dad reached over and took my hand. I don’t recall what he said, but I do remember it was a real surprise. Dad had never been very affectionate. I’m not sure what he was feeling, but I remember the tender thoughts that stirred within me. I let him hold my hand. I wasn’t scared of the storm, but I didn’t want him to know that. I wanted him to think he was comforting me. Maybe that night was the beginning. I know, for me, it was very revealing. Dad really loved me. I know because of that small touch.
I need to be more aware of these moments. I don’t want to miss the dolphins or rainbows or falling stars. I want to enjoy wind chimes in my backyard and the ducks in my pond. I want to hear the ruffle in the bush.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"People in his Town and Neighborhood Judge People on Their Cover"

Judging people on their cover. If we are honest, I think we all do this, often unintentionally. We may say,"It's what's on the inside that counts," but the inside stuff determines, usually, what the outside stuff will be.

A teenager dressed all in black has chosen that dark look for a reason. We often think Gothic or,like my mother, witchcraft. I think it can be many reasons. One is to draw attention, perhaps to worry parents, or to try to say "I'm different", even though many friends are wearing black, also. So it could be to belong - to fit in with others by dressing like them. It might be to hide, or to blend into the background. Or to camouflage a large figure. Perhaps it's an indicator of a persistent melancholy, teenage angst. No matter what the reason, the cover does project the inside even though we just can't see that inside.

This is similar to book covers. Dark covers with gold writing? Classics. Dark covers with dark writing?Mysteries or horror. Pink and white with cutesy graphics? Chick lit. A passionate embrace? Romance.Food? Cookbooks. You get the picture.We may not know the story until we actually read it, but perusing the cover will give us a big clue.

So, when you see a woman with a good figure wearing a short skirt, you know it's to show off the legs. Because she wants a guy? She wants to be hip? She knows she has good legs? Or,just perhaps it's her sister's skirt because hers are all dirty. And today she likes the way this skirt looks and feels and she may just try to keep it permanently.

Many people dress according to occasion, weather, or what's clean. Others let their mood be their guide. Feeling frumpy? Overalls and a tee today. Energetic? A running suit. Business like? A knee length skirt with heels. Bohemian? A broomstick skirt and peasant blouse. Nothing in particular? Then jeans it will be.

Jeans are the most versatile, long-lasting staple of the fashion industry. You can dress them up and down, they come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and shades. You've got skinny, embroidered with hearts, adorned with silver studs, bell bottoms,low-rise, high-rise,blue, black, even green. Age doesn't matter, either. From 6-60 and beyond, jeans are here to stay.

So, our cover is a matter of availability and preference. It says something about us. The only problem is, occasionally the meaning is lost in translation.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"All day you make beautiful things for the other gods, but you can't spare a minute to make something for me!" (said the sun god)

Now, that is some statement! All day I'm teaching, leading, reading, talking. Trying to make "beautiful things" with my students. I bring work home to read and grade papers until I nod off in fitful sleep. I spend hours planning lessons, searching the Internet, making lists. And it's now really to please the "educational gods". It's something I feel compelled -driven- to do. So, why can't I have this zeal for God? Why don't I crave His word and spend time in prayer?

Which is of greater importance? I know the answer to that one. God is higher than all things. Looking at my life,though, one would not guess I believed that. For, where our time goes, there goes our heart, to paraphrase a bit. I want my heart, my time, my love, to be in the right place. I want to make beautiful things for God. To have a beautiful time with God.


On occasion I'll be throwing in something off my original purpose. This is one of those.

Slips down her unlined cheeks
Salty tears hidden
Splash of boots on the sidewalk
Covers the gentle sob
Wind carries
The soft gasp
Where none can hear
By passers in the street
Don't see
This soul
No one knows
The desperation
Behind the smile
Of the young mother
At the flower stand
In the rain

It Was as Loud as a Rat Next to a Sissy Girl Screaming

Now, I wonder which was louder- the rat or the sissy girl? Probably, in the rat world, the rat was louder. Wouldn't it be far scarier if you were a rat and came across a creature multiple times your size with a high pitched scream? Something dressed in pink, although all you would get a good look at would be her sequined ballerina flats. Imagine two objects going up and down attached in the air to a wriggling ruffle. At that point I think the rat would scramble for cover. Now, if the rat happened upon a brawny boy it might be petrified by the face peering down at it blowing out lots of hot air that sounds like, "Hey, cool!" Nonetheless, either way I think the greater fear is with the rat.

So, what is the lesson here? I think it may be the misuse of similes. As a teacher I have fun with students teaching similes and metaphors, but this is a classic example of trying too hard to throw in a simile where it just doesn't work. Similes should enhance and not distract from the writing. So, the next time you confront a rat, perhaps you would scream as loud as (fill-in-the-blank) and let the rat run for cover.

Monday, February 16, 2009

He Shouted With a Gritty Look in His Eyes

Words that make other words sing.
Or shout or cringe.
How I wish more words would stick in some file box of my brain.
So I could draw them out when I want to explain
That weird loneliness that creeps over me.
How do I describe the combination of a smell and a breeze
That is like time travel?
Just a hint of fried chicken at 5:30
On a spring early evening
Takes me back to age nine and a safe feeling
Mom would be in the kitchen
And I would eat supper
And I never worried about having enough
It wasn't the crispness, greasiness, or warmth.
It wasn't just the sun and shadows and sprinklers running.
It wasn't even the thought of home.
It was somehow all these together but I don't know how to say it.
I felt secure, contented, sheltered,
But never then could I have said that.
At nine I'd have said
Hungry or happy or playful.
It's the looking back I can't express
I think it's complete, tender, soft, sweet.
I think it's innocence and green and light.
It's a dream and a wish and a reality.
No gritty looks, no evil eyes.
Just blue and love unspoken,
Yellow and love lived.

One Day There Was a German Man Who Wore a Turban All the TIme

Sure, I could envision Hitler in a turban – perhaps his moustache would need to be wider and thicker. A little Polka music to charm the snake out of the basket. Bratwurst on pita bread. Curried sauerkraut. And, for dessert, German chocolate cake washed down with Chai tea.

America is all about the melting pot, mixing cultures, varied cuisines. But, we do have SOME distinctly American traditions. We even have regional cultures as do many other countries. So, just as our children should learn that the turban might be worn in India, and the Alpine hat would adorn the head of a German gentleman, they should also know that the cowboy hat, created by John B. Stetson, is an American tradition.

Other things American include cowboys, blue jeans (especially Levi’s and Wranglers), sweet iced tea, Major League Baseball, and the NFL. We have our own holidays such as Thanksgiving and Presidents’ Day. We have what is known as parlor songs, such as “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and “Home Sweet Home”. Country music and hip-hip started here.

It’s okay to say ya’ll or youse guys. It’s fine to eat chittlins or clam chowder. One day, in the 1980s, I was visiting New York City for the first and only time so far. My husband and I had just one day to experience all we could, so we climbed the Statue of Liberty, went up the Empire State Building, saw a tiny portion of Central Park, rode the subway, and got a hotdog from a street vendor. That is where I got a dose of regional differences. The purveyor of the hotdog snickered and poked fun at me when I asked for mayonnaise on said hotdog. I didn’t know that only people in the south, and probably few of those, used mayo in this way. But, you can go almost anywhere in the USA and find a hamburger – and you can Have It Your Way!

I’m glad I’m an American from the south. I’m glad I’ve got friends who aren’t. And, as John Howard Payne penned:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home


As a teacher of twelve plus years I have gathered some amusing phrases and sentences from my students. Most of these come from 4th-7th graders. They always make me laugh, but then they make me think. So this is the beginning of some thoughts prompted unknowingly by children that one day I hope to put together under one roof, ie a book.