Sunday, February 9, 2014

today's faves

Inspiration for this post goes to Meg at Held By His Pierced Hands.  Her blog should really be in my sidebar....I just haven't updated recently.  I love, love, love her writing and thoughts.  In a recent post, she shared some of her favorites after someone had asked what her favorite parable was.

And since I seem to lack for ideas of my own lately, here goes.....

Favorite Parable:  The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:  11-32)  I think it is the story of most of us.  I also remember reading it during our First Confession Ceremony/Celebration/Liturgy all those years ago in third grade.

Favorite Image of Jesus:  The Good Shepherd  The fact that He leaves the 99 and goes off in search of the one lost sheep.  So, not only does He welcome us back when we come to our senses, but He goes out, searches for us, and carries us back.  See Matthew 18:12-13.

Favorite Bible Verse:  I'm pretty sure that can't be narrowed down to just one.  Tops on the list:  Be still and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10)  Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. (James 4:8)  Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.  (Mark 9:24).

Favorite Bible Study: Anything by Jeff Cavins and the folks at the Great Adventure.  I have studied James, the Bible Timeline, Revelations, Acts, and Matthew (twice).  Again it is difficult to pick a favorite, but James was short and had a great deal of practical application.

Favorite Liturgy:  This is an easy one....Holy Thursday...the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  It is beautiful.   It begins with an open, empty Tabernacle.  Even without the customary washing of the feet - an option that our pastor chooses not to exercise - there is so much symbolism and richness.  It is a Mass that doesn't least not right then.  It concludes with Adoration, at the end of which the priest removes the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle, leaving it empty as it was at the beginning of Mass.   A bonus on Holy Thursday is the Chrism Mass, which is held early in the day at the Cathedral.  Simply beautiful.

Favorite Prayer:  This would have to be the Prayer of St. Francis...Lord make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred..... I don't know why it's my favorite.  I'm pretty sure I don't know it by heart in its entirety,  nor do I pray it regularly.  Maybe it's the structure, the poetic nature, or just the simplicity, and the image of what we should all be.

Favorite Sacrament:  Of course, the Eucharist is the hands down (or hands-out) winner.  What is not to love?  Our God making Himself present to us - condescending to us - to be consumed in order that He can consume us.  But a really close second would have to be Reconciliation/Confession/Penance.  It is that one-on-one with Jesus.  That combination of nervousness and anticipation.  The grace, the encouragement, the warmth, the fresh start.  It is so worth it.  Every single time.

Favorite Penance:  I have had many that are thought-provoking and/or helpful, and my current priest never assigns the "say 3 Hail Marys" variety.  My favorite, though, "Go and bask in the silence and let Jesus speak to you."

Favorite Catholic Musician:  That would be Matt Maher.  Love, love, love.  And my favorite of his songs, "Deliver Me."  Loosely based on the Litany of Humility.

Favorite Catholic Devotionals:  This awesome series.  There is something for each day of the year that  matches up with the Scripture readings for the day.  Things that make you think, but presented so that normal people can understand.  In Conversation With God.  I got most of my copies from eBay.

Favorite "Catholic" thing to do:  Adoration.  This is the best thing ever.  Whether the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in a monstrance or simply present in the Tabernacle of whatever random Catholic Church you find yourself at.  What do you do when you go?  You can just sit in the Presence.  You can kneel.  You can kneel then sit.  You can pray prayers you know.  You can just sit and gaze.  You can tell God everything that is on your mind.  You can sit and listen to God whisper in your ear.  You can read.  You can write (one of my favorite things to do).  You can ask for forgiveness.  You can ask for wisdom.  You can ask for help.  You can surrender. You can praise Him.  You can thank Him.  You can do all of the above.  It is amazing the answers that come.  The peace that comes.  Amazing.

Favorite Lenten Practice:  The best Lenten "penance" ever was daily Mass.  I started part way through Lent one year, and committed to 3 days a week (because our parish had Mass at 6:30 am 3 days a week and I could go and make it to work at the required 7:05).  This was absolutely the best thing ever.  I was hooked long before Lent was over and felt like someone had been keeping this little treasure a secret.  It's not a penance.  It's a gift.  And it's certainly not just for Lent.

And that, boys and girls, are my favorites for now.  I'm sure there are more that I could add....and maybe I will....

Friday, January 3, 2014

13 for 13

I was going to compose something profound about the year in review, but this seemed like a better option.  Especially since its been a while since I've written anything bordering on profound.  Thirteen pictures...from 2013.

1. My boys at a wrestling meet.  It is such a hard sport to appropriately photograph in action.  I love that they enjoy it as brothers.  They say wrestling teaches a lot about real life.  It became a little too real, however, when one of their coaches had a heart attack and died during practice in early 2013.

2.  The Eagle Project for Son #1 was completed.  Merit badges remained, but at least this part was done.

3. In the spring, I made a decision that I never thought I would make, and elected to leave the place where I had worked for the past 24 years.  In retrospect, it was an unexpected blessing.

4.  This was the key to my sanity while working at that place.  Almost every morning, before work, I could find 10 or 15 minutes or more...sometimes an hour.... to sit in the peace and the Presence.  It was at Mass in this church that I first had an inkling that God might have something different planned for me for the coming year.

5.  It wasn't the school where I thought I might be going.  But I prayed to know the "right" one, and in the end, it met every one of the specifications (both serious and not so serious) that I had on my Perfect School list.

6.  Kid #2 got to spend 2 weeks at the National Boy Scout Jamboree.  He is a character.

 7.  Kid #1 turned 18.  I was so excited that he would be able to sign all of his own back-to-school paperwork when school started.  He also worked 2 jobs this summer:  a 7:30-4:30 internship with the computer repair folks at the school board and then a 5:00-11:00 or so job at Sonic as a carhop. We didn't see much of him!

8 &9.  Totally enjoyed a visit from the grandkids.  There are 6 of them...4 of them are seen in these pictures.

10.  We don't always get back-to-school pictures. Its a hectic morning for all of us.  But they let me snap one out of the car window as they waited for the bus.  I have a junior and a senior!  How time has flown.  Speaking of's about 6 a.m. in the picture, which is why they don't look too alert.

 11.  This was a long road - working on the Ad Altare Dei religious award.  But we finally finished it up and our pastor presented our little group with their medals one Sunday morning.  The lighting in the picture is not great, but we were proud.

12.  Son #2...full of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Smelling the sweet scent of chrism.

13.  A half-way decent family picture at Son #1's Eagle Ceremony.  Finally!!

Lagniappe:  Visiting with my Granddad.  He is 97 and looking good!

Gotta include one more bonus pic.  This one was a "selfie in the sacristy".  Altar servers before the Easter Vigil Mass.  I like the little guy looking up to the older servers.  My guys have served at the Easter Vigil for the past 7 or so years.  They do it willingly, but each year I think, "this might be the last time.".  That growing up thing.

It was a year.  Closed doors and new beginnings.  Goals achieved, gifts received.  Through it all, God is good!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

in all things give thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Several weeks ago, we had a homily at church, stressing the ALL in "In ALL things give thanks."  Most of us can say that we are thankful for the good things in our lives, and probably even remember to acknowledge God's role in that good fortune.  But that is precisely the point...we are to give thanks in ALL circumstances, not just those that we judge to be good.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not even sure I'm a 100% at giving thanks for the things that are "good", and I KNOW I've got a long way to go before I'm very grateful for financial problems, or backstabbing co-workers, or self-centered people, or aches and pains.  But as I knelt in church today before Mass, gathering my thoughts and trying to hear God's wisdom, that was exactly what I heard.  Doesn't God always take care of us?  I know that He does when we get out of the way and let Him.  However, it is not always in the way we would have chosen.  In the last month at church our sacristan has had a stroke and relocated to an assisted living facility and the lovely lady that does our schedule for lectors and ministers of Communion has been diagnosed with stage IV cancer in her lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Are we supposed to be thankful for strokes and lost independence?  For cancer and lives interrupted?  But from a distance, I know that God can take painful circumstances and work miracles in the midst.  An acquaintance of mine passed away in October...she had fought stage IV lung cancer for nearly 5 years...doctors had given her a 15% chance of surviving a year.  She had 3 young children.  The miracle was not a cure, but a witness; so many were inspired by her battle, by the way she placed everything in God's hands.  Good did come from trials and sorrows.  But being thankful seems like a stretch.

I remembered a scene from The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  Corrie and her sister were in a Nazi concentration camp, and are housed in a building that is infested with lice.  In all things give thanks. "Lord, we are thankful for the lice," they prayed.  Later they realize that the guards totally avoid the building because of the lice.  Lord, thank you.

In my own life, I can look back and see how good has come from things that I never would have chosen.  9-11 is what gave me the incentive or motivation to make things right in my spiritual life.  There have been other trials and losses and difficulties over the years that I would have preferred to avoid.   Yet, I can sometimes look back and think, "Oh, this is why I had to go through that!"   But even then, gratitude - if it comes at all - is often very much delayed.

Lord, help me to be grateful.  Help me not to ask you "why", but to understand "what" I am supposed to learn or to become from the difficult things in my life.  Help me to give thanks in ALL things.

1/2/14:  Updating.  My sacristan friend seems to very happy with his new living quarters, from what I've heard.

My friend diagnosed with Stage IV cancer is likely very happy with her new home, although we miss her greatly.  She underwent surgery on December 20 with great hope that the tumor could be removed and the remaining cancer successfully treated with chemo.  Her heart stopped after surgery, however, and could not be restarted.  She had told her husband that she might be "spending Christmas with Jesus" and she was totally OK with it.

The thing to be thankful for is that she felt had no symptoms from the cancer and never had any pain from it.  She had time to prepare for her death and to wrap up loose ends, and we got to hug her and tell her that we loved her.  The rosary held at the school where she worked and the memorial Mass held at our small parish were attended by hundreds.  It was beautiful.  She was beautiful.  Her husband told me, "keep praying."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

fresh starts

The school year has begun and for the first time in 20 something years, I am at a new school, in a new classroom, with a new staff, and new students.

The classroom I am now occupying is awesome.  If it had a sink, it would be just about perfect, but I won't be picky.  I have 4 window unit air conditioners.  I have an area along one side where my computers are housed, a main room, a closet, and another room, which can be used for small group instruction or a time-out room.

I spent a lot of time in the closet.  It was a mess!  Days were spent before school started...trying to make some sense of it....

It is better.  Not perfect.  I still have boxes of my own to unload...and school started before I could get them all unloaded.

Did I mention that I love my students??  I have 7 of them right now.  I think we will get along just fine.  Complete strangers have come up to me and told me how glad they are that I am in this class.  Apparently the classroom atmosphere was different last year.

I am struggling to find my feet, but that is always the case at the beginning of the year.  Moreso this year, because I don't have experience with the curriculum that other teachers with this type of class use.  Going to spend the day tomorrow with a friend who teaches this class at another school.  Hopefully, that will help...

I manage my way to and from without the GPS, now.  And I found the nearby Dollar Gen...bought some cleaning supplies there one day.

I have two teacher assistants, and that has helped me to feel comfortable.  I also have a colleague from my old school who is here...a familiar face.  People have been nice.  But as I sat in the auditorium for a faculty meeting after the first day of school, I wondered how long it will be before I could count some of those people as "friends". Fresh starts...

It has been an amazing journey - the last 4 months.  A journey I never planned to take.  Sometimes God has been in the driver's seat....other times he has sat in the passenger seat and navigated.  There have been plenty of billboards along the way letting us know we are on the right path.  My supervisor shared with me that the job was open for "only a few days" before she heard that I had filled it.  It made me wonder what had happened if I had been called on the first day they started placing us...instead of the third.  Maybe this job wouldn't have been available.  I marveled at God's timing.   But now it seems like we are pulling back into the driveway.  The let-down feeling after vacation....when you have to go back to the real world, when you still have laundry and unpacking to do.

But in the end...I have a sense that I am where I am supposed to be...and that was my prayer all along.  Things will happen when they happen.  And all will be well.  I am blessed to be where I am.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

a break in the clouds

This is long.  It is rambling.  And it is somewhat repetitious.  It is mostly a place for me to get things out of my head.  (Because there is already not enough room in there as it is!) The pictures are some I've taken this summer.  You can read as much or as little into them as you wish!

 The last year or so have had some rough patches.  But right now - and for the past few months - there seems to be a "break in the clouds" and I will take that for the gift that it is.

I have blogged about some of the events that have taken place in the last few months, but to do so as the tapestry is still being woven has left some gaps and missing threads.  I truly have felt like I was watching someone else's life unfold, and it has been amazing for me to watch.  

School has been bad for a long time.  It has gradually gotten that way, over a matter of years.  Our 'demographics' have changed.  A "failing" school nearby was closed a few years ago, and we absorbed many of those kids when we were already struggling to keep above water.  No one ever answered our SOS calls. The people I have worked with have, for the most part, been awesome, and that is one reason why I have stayed.  I think that happens in many struggling schools - the teachers band together and support each other because they don't get the support from anywhere or anyone else.  So while things were challenging, this school year was the first time ever in the 24 years that I had been at the school that I requested a transfer (requesting to transfer is NOT the same thing as actually getting a just opens the door for you to pursue it).

This past year, I regularly calculated the amount of days remaining until retirement.  The formula went something like (3.5 x 182) + r, if r = the number of days remaining in the year.  I never purchase alcohol and rarely drink, but this year by the Thursday of testing week, I was rummaging in the kitchen drawers for a corkscrew.  I was sure the pain in my neck and shoulders would require professional assistance.  I could barely turn my head or tilt my head back to drink.  

Married life has also not been all sunshine and rainbows for some time now. Without dragging all of that out, lets just say that someone's expectations exceeded someone else's capacity to give.  And that some people seem happiest when they are miserable.  And that misery seems to expect company.  

In  mid April our principal stood before the school board and explained that she needed to be able to pick her own team of teachers and that she needed teachers that could teach these "children of poverty".  The school board, by a narrow margin, granted her permission to "reconstitute" her staff.  We would all need to reapply for our jobs and be interviewed if we wished to stay.  Having been told earlier in faculty meetings that we need to "own" the students' lack of achievement, it was the proverbial final slap in the face for many.  All of the blood, sweat, and tears we had given for years was so unappreciated.

I assumed that I would stay.  I had my reasons.  I had *only* 3.5 years remaining.  I didn't want to start over somewhere else.  I didn't want to move.  Better to stay with what you know than to go with what you don't know.  But truth be told, you can boil those reasons down to two:  fear and laziness.  

The pain and stress in my shoulders and neck intensified.

Nearly a week later - on April 23 - I was at daily Mass at the church near my school.  The first reading that day was from the Acts of the Apostles, and the first few sentences were something along the lines of the good that happened because of those who were scattered by persecution.  The Gospel spreading because of those who were persecuted.  This resonated with me, because by that point, it had become apparent that many on our faculty (good)  were going to choose to leave (scatter) because of the attitude and treatment (persecution) they had received.  

It was NOT a lightening-bolt moment.  It was just a quiet, "hmmm, that's interesting" moment.  I was at a point where I didn't even realize that I had a decision to make.  I just assumed it would be made for me.  If the principal wanted me, I would stay; and if not, I would go.  There is adoration after Mass on Tuesdays, and I had a few minutes before I had to be at school, so I stayed.  I jotted a few questions in my journal.  I said a quick prayer to be open to God's plan.  But I wasn't planning on making any life-changing decisions - at least not that day.  I had no idea what opening the door just a little bit had done.

When I got to school, I chatted with a co-teacher friend about 8th grade math and inquired about her plans for the coming year.  She was not returning.  I went on about my business for the day.  I can not explain what happened, but sometime before lunch, the thought formed in my head, "You do not have to come back here next year." (Was it that quiet whispering voice of God?)  By the time I went on lunch duty, I heard those words coming out of my mouth, "I'm not coming back here next year!"  And it felt good! 

As I drove home from school that day, I noted that I could turn my head without pain.  That, alone, was confirmation of my decision.  It has been nearly 3 months since that day, and that pain, that stress has NOT returned to my body.  One of my co-workers noted later that it "sounded like a healing".  Maybe it was!

I walked into my house, dropped my keys on the counter and said to my husband, "I'm not going back there next year."  "Good," was his reply.

The next day I went to Mass at my own parish.  I am sure the homily was not very memorable to most who attended that day, but all I could say when he finished was "wow!"  My good priest, had chosen to preach on how we hear the Spirit.  It starts as a seed planted in the Liturgy (just like at Mass yesterday).  Then it is nourished by prayer (staying for Adoration) and in talking with others (like my friend before school and other teachers during the day).  "We seldom hear God speak to us in a booming voice" (I sure didn't), he went on.  The Spirit works through ordinary things.  The more he said, the bigger my smile got.  It was as if he had been following me the day before.  I had to email him and tell him "thank you", even though I'm sure his homily was in no way intentional...more like following the Spirit.  More confirmation.

As I told my co-workers of my decision in the following days, I received responses ranging from high-fives to sadness to questioning if it was really God that I was hearing.  One of my favorite responses was from our 80-something year old clerk...the only person who has been there longer than me.  "Good for you!" she said.  The next morning, I found a fortune-cookie sized slip of paper in my box from her.  I taped it to an index card and stuck it on the door to the cabinet behind my desk.

As the year drew to a close, my co-workers and I began to dream of what might await us beyond our current situations.  There were a huge number of resignations and retirements during the school year throughout our system, so chances were excellent that there would be some desirable positions available.  If we chose to be displaced, we had to be placed somewhere, and we had first choice of what would be available.

"Don't work for a woman." (that piece of advice from a woman)
"Get off of this side of town." (From our campus cop)
"It's a matter of you choosing who you want to work for."
 "Don't go to a 'D' or 'F' school."
"You might like a mild/moderate class."  (from my friend who taught the mild/moderate class at our school)
"I think I might like a school where children actually bring pencils to school."
"My dream school will have its own Brainpop account," I messaged a co-worker one night.  "Way to dream big," she replied.
"I want a  good boss," I had texted one of my old [good] bosses.

"Where are you going?  What are you going to do?" people would ask.  "I don't know," I would reply with a smile.  "They have to put me somewhere and I'm sure God has a plan that is better than mine.  I'm sure wherever I end up, there will be a reason."  I stuck with that line throughout.  "God has a plan."  People would tell me that they were praying for me to get a "good school" and I would ask them to simply pray for me to know the "right one" when it presented itself.  But truthfully almost anything had to be better.

On May 6, ironically the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week, at a faculty meeting that lasted past 5 pm, as a huge roach crawled across the ceiling in our library, we were given papers to sign indicating whether we would (a) reapply for our jobs (b) voluntarily be displaced or (c) resign or retire.  Nearly 2/3 of the faculty checked the second option.  Only 6 core teachers of 19 asked to stay, and one of those has since accepted a job in another system.  Words like "blindsided" were whispered in the coming days, but I don't know if that was really the case.  However, I am glad the task of filling the shoes of those that chose to leave is not mine.  Other schools are gaining some wonderful teachers.

The next day, I returned to Mass at the church near my school.  "Sometimes it is better not to stay," said the pastor in his homily.  The Biblical reference was to the Ascension of Jesus, who could not stay with His Apostles,  but the application to my life was too obvious to be missed.  I had to hug him after Mass.  After 24 years, I had chosen not to stay.  More confirmation.

Married life continued to limp along.  Things were seemingly calm on the surface, but the anger and resentment leap out of any writing I did at that time.  My good confessor had told me months earlier to offer the anger to God every day.  He said it wasn't wrong to be angry, but to offer it so that Jesus could help me channel it.  And every day, to ask God to help me be as patient with   as God is with me.  And so I did.  About mid-May, with all the other stresses of special ed paperwork and moving and planning my last Honors night, my frustration with married life was overwhelming.  "I can't fix it. Only God can," were the words that ended a long, ranting journal entry - I guess that is where I channeled the anger.  Those are true words.  In our weakness is often when God's power is shown.  

Maybe it was that day, or maybe it was a few days later, I stood in front of the tabernacle in the quiet, empty church, and told God the same thing:  "I can't fix it.  You show me what I need to do, but you are going to have to handle the rest, Lord, because I am fresh out of ideas. You made him.  He's yours.  You fix him."  I think sometimes God gets right on those prayers...the prayers of desperation or surrender.  It didn't take him long before he showed me what I could do.  It was something I knew already, but haven't done nearly enough of.  I have had the sense for quite some time, that "this kind only comes out by prayer."

Later that morning, I met up with one of my favorite substitute teachers at school.  She is an older black lady, and there has been a connection from almost the first time she subbed for someone in my classroom.  We have had good conversations, and I love talking to her.  So that particular morning, I went out of my way to visit with her while she was standing outside of a classroom.  She started to tell me about a book that she had gotten the night before from her church library (where I had just visited hours earlier)  that she could NOT put down.  "The Power of  a Praying Wife," she said.  "Please, you HAVE to read it," she begged.   "OK, God, I hear you," I thought.  When I got home that evening, I dug out the Amazon Gift Card I had gotten for Christmas, downloaded the book, and began to read.  It was good.

Sunset over the Mississippi River 7.9.13

The school year was wrapping up.  Packing picked up steam.  The week before Mother's Day, I had placed a box on one of the desks in my classroom and labeled it "Give Away Box".  I explained to my students that they could take anything they wanted out of that box. Two items that were placed in there early on were a half burned candle in a cute container, and a kind of ugly yellow flowery coffee mug that I had used to hold pens and pencils.  Things I neither wanted to throw in the garbage or move.  Two different kids plucked them out of the box, and each kid asked me if I had some wrapping paper.  They were so proud to have something for their moms for Mother's Day.  It was sad and sweet all at the same time.

The Give Away box became two, and then covered a couple of desks, too.  I have a friend starting her own homeschooling business, so her husband came and picked up much of it.  I emptied filing cabinets (except for one drawer I had no idea what to do with).  I bagged the contents of my desk in ZipLocs and wiped out the drawers.  The closet gradually emptied.  I threw away so many things.  Finally it was done. The room echoed. There was a little twinge of sadness, but mostly relief.

I had heard about a potential opening at a middle school 4 minutes from my house.  It met one or two of the requirements on my list.  It was a mild moderate class in the back of the school somewhere.  I dropped off a resume and a cover letter and even interviewed with the principal, but the teacher who was leaving had not yet resigned.  I did what I could to make that job happen, but it did not.  So I assumed God's answer on that one was "no".

When Human Resources began to make the long-awaited phone calls, I once again found myself in the quiet church.  All along, I had prayed to know the right job when it came along, but now it was crunch time.  "How will I know?" I asked out loud to the good Lord.  There was silence.  But I clicked open my journal (it is on my iPad and is one of the best things ever).  I made 2 lists:  Jobs I Would Say Yes To and Jobs I Would Say No To.  There were 4 on each list.

Finally, I called HR, because they didn't seem to be calling me, and they started fumbling around for openings I was qualified for.  There were not many.  A self-contained class at School J, I automatically dismissed because it was "too far" to drive.  Others I said "no" to because they were worse than what I had left.  Nothing on my "yes list" was offered.  There was one more - one that I had put on my "no" list. But it seemed like the lesser of the evils being offered.  So in the heat of the moment, I accepted it.

When I met with the principal that afternoon, I found out that I had not gotten the whole story from HR, and that I would also be teaching 2 regular subjects in addition to 2 Special Ed classes.  I regretted the choice almost immediately.  The planning and paperwork would have been epic.  The next morning, June 21, I set to work trying to find out if the spot at School J was still available.  I emailed the principal.  I called.  I put the address in my GPS and drove to the school.  Took the chance that someone would be there, and ran into the principal and another staff member.  It felt right.  By that afternoon, the change had been made and I was elated.

As the weeks have passed, I have had time to process it, and check the items off of my wish list.

  • Male principal. (Don't work for a woman.) Check.
  • On the other side of town.  I think it is the furthest point away from my old school.  Check.
  • Not a D or F school.  It's a D, oh well. (Editing to Add:  In October new "grades" came out, and the school improved to a "C")
  • A Mild/Moderate class.  Check.
  • In the back of the school, out of the drama. There is a garden outside my door.  Check.
  • At a school where kids bring pencils. To be determined.
  • With its own Brain Pop account. I checked it out, and it worked!  Check.  
  • Principal with a soul.  I have heard promising things.  Check.
  • Decent supervisor.  Again, I have heard good things.  Probably a check.  (Editing to Add:  Check.)
When I look at that list and see that God answered my prayers, pretty much down to the most ridiculous detail of having its own BrainPop account, I am in awe.  (There is still something in the back of my mind that thinks that may all go out the window when actual people show up, but for now, I am going with gratitude and answered prayers.)

Sometime in the midst of this, things began to be better on the homefront.  It is a superficial kind of better, but I will take that for now.  It is a happier attitude, acceptance, a smile.   I do not know why.  I don't know if it is prayer, or medications, or a reaction to my lack of stress.  But whatever the cause, it is something to be grateful for.

I am looking forward to the coming school year with hope, instead of dread.  God is so very good!

11/29/13 Editing to add:  When the "School Report Cards" were issued in October, my new school moved up from a "D" school to a "C" school.  Now even that can be checked off of the list.  Everything I asked for, I received, through no merit of my own.  Glory be to God!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

12 seconds

It has been a roller coaster kind of week.  When we volunteered to be displaced from our school, we were led to believe that there would be some sort of fair, orderly process in which new jobs would be offered.  We were led to believe that they would be offered in order of seniority, and since I have 25 years in the system, I would have been very near the top of the list.  But that is not what transpired.  Some of my former co-workers were placed on Tuesday.  They had many years less than me, and we assumed that maybe HR was going in alphabetical order.

Things continued on Wednesday shooting down the alphabetical order theory, and we waited for "the call".  Finally on Thursday, I called them.

They ticked off the few jobs that were available.  Nothing at the school 4 minutes from my house.  Positions at other poorly rated and alternative schools.  "Thank you, but I would have stayed where I was at...."  Positions at schools 20 and 25 minutes away.  Finally, I hastily selected a position at school A teaching special ed English, even though I prefer Math .  I called the principal and scheduled a meeting for that afternoon.  The meeting with the principal revealed that I would be teaching both regular and special ed English AND a regular section of Science.  I toured the school and he gave me keys to my room.

Sometimes the placing of displaced teachers is little more than a blind date.  Unfortunately it is often difficult to call of the relationship once you've agreed to the date.  But the more I thought of the requirements for this job, the more my un-ease increased.  I had prayed to know the "right job" when it appeared, but had no particular insight when I was offered choices.  I had done the best I could with the information given me.     I am used to teaching small groups of children...the thought of having classes of 25 was overwhelming. And Science....I would have been learning it along with the students.

Perhaps God thought it was "Opposite Day".   As Friday dawned bright and sunny, I realized that remaining in the job I had selected would be an injustice for everyone involved. I had picked the wrong job - not the right one!  One of the jobs I had passed over because it was a little further from my house was a "Mild/Moderate" class.  This was really what I wanted.  Your stereotypical "special ed" class.  I dropped my son off for his 7 a.m. driver's ed  class and then plotted my next move.

I texted my former principal who had spent the last semester at "School B".  No answer.  I texted my supervisor to see if she knew anything of the job 4 minutes from my house.  The job that was not yet open.  No answer.  I pulled up School B on my ipad and emailed the principal.  I tried calling.  No answer.  Finally, I put the address into my GPS and hit the road.  It was a 25 minute or so drive.  I arrived at a school in the middle of nowhere.

The architecture reminded me a little of the high school I had attended.  There were 2 cars in the parking lot, so I parked and made my way to the office.  Birds were chirping and I noted neglected box gardens in the front of the school.   Eventually, I met up with the principal and another staff member.  "Are you looking for a report card?" they asked.  "No, actually a job."  "Are you Karen?"  He had gotten my email and had already called HR to find out if the job that I was seeking was still open. (No answer for him, either.)  We chatted for a few minutes, and I left feeling like it would be a good match.

It took me until early afternoon to find someone at HR to reverse my decision, so that I could return the keys to school A.  In the meantime I talked to a few more people who affirmed my choice, so that was good.  Now I have that peace that this is the "right job".  All the pieces line up.  Good principal.  Good supervisor (so says a much-loved supervisor that I had years ago.)  The type of class that I wanted in a "quiet school".   I will trust that God has His reasons for wanting me to travel the 20 or 30 minutes each way, instead of 4.

After all was said and done, just for fun, I googled and mapquested to find the nearest Catholic Church.  Spending time in the empty church near my old school is something I have enjoyed in the mornings before school starts.  I put in the addresses and the result came back....12 seconds.  The church is 12 seconds from the school.  Not 11.  Not 13.  I had to laugh at the exactness of the answer.  Thank you Lord, for answered prayers.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


 It's been a few weeks since I locked the door for the last time and left the keys in my box.

Twenty-four years worth of stuff sorted through, purged, and packed.  We relived a few memories along the way of kids who had come and gone.  We made many trips to the dumpster.  We hugged some kids and wiped away a little snot the last day of school.  Some of them loved us...

This is the sign that was on my door for the last few weeks of school.  One afternoon, the bathroom, the copy machine and the coke machine all had Out of Order signs on them.  I decided to join them, and trust was v.e.r.y out of order in my room!

The days at the end were bittersweet.  I have loved the people I've worked with.  I've loved my cozy room.  I've even loved the kids.  But in the end, it was mostly relief that I felt.  We had a deadline of 9 pm on our last workday to have everything out, and we made it with hours to spare.  The later it got, the more we threw in the garbage can.  When the room started to echo, I knew that we were close.  

This was my corner of the room.  I took pictures when we were finished, but for some reason, none of them came out.  A friend took these for me a few days later, and my desk has been pushed against the wall and the student desks pushed to the other side.  The red cabinet door - a previous owner had painted them, and I thought the red was awful.  So we kept them covered with blue paper.  

The view from my desk.  I will miss my Promethean board.  

The side with my assistant's desk, the kids' desks, and the computers.  

The view outside my door.  Unique architecture for a school, but I always thought it was pretty.  Our custodians kept it nicely landscaped and clean.

I have defined "done" in different ways...the empty room, the boxes stacked in my garage, the pile of clothes that I won't wear in public again...

They say when one door closes, another opens, and I am looking forward to that.  I have had one interview, but hiring is frozen in our system right now.  Some teachers are waiting to retire/resign, so it is hard to get an accurate picture of what is available.  

The last five weeks of the school year - when I knew that I didn't have to go back - were the best ones of the entire year.  It feels great not to be stressed and to be able to turn my head without pain.  I feel for the people who chose to stay.  

In the end, I packed what I wanted and disposed of the rest.  But the most important things that I took didn't fit in a box.  Each and every person that I worked with touched my life in some way...and that is the real treasure of what I took away.