Gentle Reminders from a Fridge Magnet

Yesterday I received an invitation in the mail from my step-dad’s new wife.  Yes, I said that correctly.  I have one of those families.  We aren’t quite Jerry Springer worthy, but there have definitely been some interesting turns.  I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the inside:


Your New Brother is Getting Married!

Until I got this save the date, I had forgotten about my new brother.  If you would have asked me, I would have probably not even remembered his name.  I think I might have remembered it started with a “C” sound.  Chris, Conner, Charlie?

His name is Cody. (I now know this thanks to his save the date fridge magnet.)

My “brother’s” wedding invite was a nice reminder, and I couldn’t help but smile as I stuck the wedding save the date magnet to my fridge.  God has a plan.  It is not always what we pictured or thought we wanted.  It’s almost always better.

As my own future seems uncertain, it was nice being reminded that it all works out.  Sometimes the journey is painful and confusing, but I have to believe that He has my back.

I wish the magnet included the other brother (there’s a 2nd one);  I really have no clue what his name is.


These last few weeks have been crazy.  I’m not sure if it’s the November blues (lack of a break) or daylight savings time, but I’m beat.  I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed in the morning, and my attitude stinks.  My glass definitely seems half full.

I’m angry.  Scared.  Bitter.  Recent events in my city have left a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like enough is enough.  Between the shooting down the street, the news of recent burglaries in my neighborhood, and the impending threats of violence awaiting a grand jury decision, I’m losing faith in humanity.  And losing faith in my city, neighborhood, and line of work.

It’s my own fault, I guess, for watching the news and reading the comment sections online. (The comments get me all riled up.  It’s so addicting, and I can’t stay away.)

The crime and ignorance terrifies me.  I’m not sure, but I think this is magnified for me because I am an educator.

The people arrested in connection with burglaries in my neighborhood were ages 21, 17, 15, and 13.  I can’t shake the 13 year old.  He could be in my classroom, but, instead, he is robbing homes down my street.  It’s heartbreaking.  I feel like I’m part of a bigger problem.  A failing system.

I can’t help but wonder if any of my students will someday protest over something they aren’t informed on.  Will they respect authority?  Will they know the value of hard work?

Does what I do matter?

Is it enough?

Are we preparing these kiddos to be upstanding citizens?

I love that despite my grumpy demeanor, there’s been a few bright spots to help me not throw in the towel:

  • One of my students brought me the third book in a trilogy series I book talked.  On Tuesday I book talked a book and mentioned in passing that I had read the first two books, but I hadn’t read the 3rd book because it was always checked out when I looked for it at the library.  When my student came in to class today, she said, “I have something for you.”  She handed me the 3rd book, and I almost cried.  She went to the library yesterday by our school and checked it out for me :).
  • Last night I had some time to kill before meeting with a new book study group, so I called my grandma to see if she wanted me to bring over dinner.  She was delighted, and we had a quick meal before I had to head to my meeting.  Today she left me the most beautiful message about how I made her day and how much she loved me.  I think someday I will write something about lessons from my grandmother.  Here’s what I’ve got so far: always dress your best (she was dressed to the nines just sitting around her house), keep a tidy house, send notes in the mail, tell people you love them, be generous and frugal, and don’t watch the news (this would have definitely helped me lately).
  • One of my coworkers told me the most beautiful story about his grandmother who raised 13 children.  Once the priest at her parish asked why she left mass early on Sundays after communion.  She simply responded and didn’t think twice, “I do enough.”  This statement was so profound for me.  She was setting her limits and excusing herself.  I am trying to do so much, and it often never feels like enough. I’m trying to learn how to let myself off the hook and to know whatever I’m doing is enough.

Trying What I’m Asking My Kids to Do

I hate when I realize that I’ve asked my kids to do something that I’m not sure I could do myself.  We’ve been writing a lot lately, and we are making some signs of improvement.  However, we can’t seem to dig deeper and share a story that’s meaningful.  I’ve asked them to answer: What makes me, me?

It sounds simple enough I thought.  I’ve given them plenty of Kelly G. type writing opportunities and we’ve generated tons of ideas.  I’ve left the last couple days not sure why they can’t stretch what they’ve done up to this point to start quality narratives.

I swore I’d never make them do anything that I wouldn’t be willing to join them on: reading 30 books, blogging (I need to step it up here), and any writing assignment.  So, as I sat tonight wondering how to alter my surefire plans to get them to do narratives (the ones I planned on Sunday that I was sure would do the trick), I realized I didn’t even know how to do this assignment.  I’m going to be ***cough, cough 30 something (today, actually), and I don’t even know something important to me.  Sure, I modeled tons of options that I could choose from in front of them.  However, I felt like a phony as I did it.  I knew I didn’t really care about any of those writing ideas.  Or, at least none of them were really things that defined me or made me who I am.

As I laid in bed tonight, I started thinking back to my childhood (where we generally develop into who we become, but also a great place I usually start so kids can relate to things I experienced when I was their age).  My first thoughts immediately went to parent arguments, me trying to keep the peace and tip toe around them, and my love of sports and basketball.  It’s far from perfect, but I think I finally have a draft (or a start) that means something to me.  I hope this will help them tomorrow.

What makes me, me?

Rough Draft

I remember wanting most to make the fighting stop.  I thought I could abate the arguments if I did things that would make them happy.  So, my perfectionism started.  I wanted the “perfect” grades and tried to exhibit the “perfect” behavior.  I thought if I made them proud, there would be less to fight about.

I walked around on pins and needles trying to be this perfect doll that calculated every move to try to not let down her parents.  Things only intensified though as I got older and got to choose.  This gave my parents a whole new set of arguments.

“It’s up to you who you want to spend your weekend with,” my mom said with a _______(need a word here) tone.

Yeah, right I thought to myself.  Torn between making my mom mad and my dad feel left out, I always seemed to get the short end of the stick; there didn’t seem to be a good choice.

Since I only spent every other weekend with my dad, this became fun time.  I longed for this time, which I’m sure only made my mom even angrier.

“I can’t believe you take her to all those basketball games,” my mom said condescendingly to my dad.

Looking back I’m sure my dad had no idea what to do to entertain a little girl.  So, he just brought me along like I was one of the guys.  He took me to every home Billikens basketball game.  It became our weekly “date.”

I’m not sure if I loved it at first as much as he did, but I know I loved spending time with him.  I loved that the game seemed like it was ours.  He would talk to me about the play by play and gently explain the rules.  I wanted to be nowhere other than in the stands with my dad.

I remember looking up at the time clock and calculating in my head just how long was left to play.  In addition to the time projected, I figured how much longer the game would likely last, factoring in timeouts.  I wanted to freeze time and forever be at the game.

Maybe it’s because it was time with my dad, or maybe because I started to love the game.

What started out as a way to please my dad or find a way to spend time with him became a true obsession.  As soon as fall rolls around (once football starts really), I can’t wait for basketball to begin.

(It’s far from perfect.  I need a way to connect perfectionism and extend the ending.)

It’s Saturday

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth, for reminding me to celebrate. Share your celebrations at Ruth Ayres Writes.

There’s so much to celebrate:

I love my job.  I keep pinching myself to make sure it’s not all a dream.  I never realized I was teaching above my 5th graders’ heads before, so it’s been a comfortable/easy transition to 7th grade (I can reuse most of what I’ve done before).

My kids make me laugh.  I made an amateur middle school mistake (they keep you on your toes) of labeling a paper with #2 when the first word was “Crap.”  I kept saying, “Look at paper number two, the one that starts with the word crap.”

My kids giggled and pointed out, “Isn’t it funny how you labeled the story with the word crap as #2.”  They were rolling making this toilet connection to my student examples for revision.  I couldn’t help but join them.

Yesterday I caught myself making that “What are you doing/supposed to be doing face?”  This is the face that makes me scrunch my entire face, especially my forehead as I give a little darling the stink eye to remind them to get back on track.  My coworker and I joke that this face is why we have fine lines between our eyes.  As I caught myself making this face, I couldn’t help but  laugh.  I jokingly told the student he was the reason I may need Botox someday.  He thought this was hysterical, and he walked out of the classroom smiling as he repeated, “I’m the reason Ms. F. needs Botox.”

I perused through old files to try to reuse something from last year, and I felt a pit in my stomach just thinking of how challenging last year was.  Even looking at old lessons from then made me start to feel sick.  I realized just how tough last year was, and I was even more grateful for my new situation.  I feel so blessed.  It’s like I hit the school lottery.

My parents are wonderful.

My mom bought me an Ipad “just because.”  There was a promotion when she upgraded her phone, so she thought of me when they offered it.  (Now I just need to learn how to use it and get a case so I’m not worried about dropping it.)

I called my dad to tell him my coworker asked if I’d help coach the girls’ basketball team. He now calls me “Coach” and has promised to attend all of my games.  It’s so sweet.

I must admit I’m as excited as my dad to help with the team.  Basketball is my favorite sport, so I love that I’ll get to help out.

I go to bed each night with a long list of things I’m grateful for.  I smiled last week when I couldn’t think of just one thing that was the best part of my day.

It’s Been A While

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth, for reminding me to celebrate. Share your celebrations at Ruth Ayres Writes.

I have so much to celebrate.  My recent trip has changed my view of the world, is making me crave more world travel, and has given me so many stories to someday share.  I love my new job.  (I can’t believe I ever taught elementary school.  My friends who said I should be a middle school teacher, when I was teaching in an elementary school, were right.)  

1. My new job is exactly what I dreamed of.  It reminds me to ask more for what I want and put it out there.  (Everything I want exists.)

2. Teachers are such a kind group.  I’m not afraid to ask questions (sometimes I might feel stupid that I don’t know the answer), but I’ve found a wonderful network of people who take the time to answer.  Thank you specifically to Christy for answering my calls, emails, and sharing your brain.  I’m already a better teacher because of our conversations. 

3. I’ve gotten to spend some unexpected time with my family this week.  My sister is playing softball for her high school, and all of her home games are a few minutes from my new school.  I’ve been wanting to spend more time with family and friends and to have a more healthy balance during the school year, and this has enabled me to do so.  Last night she got called up to play on varsity and had an awesome play at third base.  She’s become so focused on what she wants with this team and even her career.  She always asks my dad to practice with her and keeps asking me for phone numbers of people I know that are veterinarians (the job she wants).  I love that she is starting to take ownership of her life and what she wants. She reminds me of the value of putting in extra effort, and I’m in awe watching the amazing person she’s becoming. 

4. I’m slightly on top of things.  Although I’m unsure of units and specific details, I feel somewhat organized.  People have even come into my classroom and told me how neat it is!  This is so not the normal me.  (My mom would be so proud.)  I’m finally taking the time at school and at home to spend an extra moment putting things away.  It’s making a huge difference, and I really want to keep it up. Even if my list is a million things long, it helps me to feel less overwhelmed. 

5. My kids aren’t readers, well most of them aren’t, but they are starting to bite.  I do book talks every Tuesday and Thursday, and I raffle off the books I talk about to the interested parties.  They are getting excited and slowly, I hope, developing into a group of kids who might read.  I know they’re starting to see the value at least.  I displayed the startling “Why Can’t I Skip My 20 Minutes of Reading Tonight?” poster, and that seemed to at least get them to see that reading can, and does, make a difference.  I also used suggestions from Donalyn’s session this summer on how to conference.  It was so fun to begin that yesterday.  I love how honest my students are.  I used Donalyn’s question suggestions from her conference format, and I had small laughs with many who were afraid to tell me that they preferred video games over books.  I know I’m up against some tough competition with all the social media and tech gadgets, but I’m ready for it.

Unexpected Change of Plans


I wasn’t expecting to spend the night in Chicago.  After spending hours on a plane sitting idle  in Chicago on our way to Shanghai, they f canceled the flight due to maintenance issues.  They weren’t able to find another flight out until tomorrow.  While I’m glad I wasn’t flying on a messed up plane, I’m disappointed to not be on my way to Shanghai.

My friend and I have tried to remain patient.  We realized there was nothing we could do to change anything, so there’s no use in complaining.  Ugh, but it is definitely frustrating.  Carrying 2, 50 lb. bags plus carry-ons is not easy.

We’ve gotten a little taste of what the experience will be like just from the flight (sort of flight, by sitting on the runway for 3 hours).  There’s a definite language barrier, even with people who speak english.  I found myself just nodding and smiling to the man who was trying to tell me something.  I feel like I’m going to feel deaf and blind on this trip.  It’s going to be a challenge to communicate.  My little phrase book probably isn’t going to cut it.

I’m hoping tomorrow is a little more productive.  We did have a chance to eat at the food court with our vouchers from the airline.  Chinese seemed to be the best option.  I laughed and said it was an opportunity for me to perfect my chopstick skills.

Here’s hoping that tomorrow we make it there.




Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth, for reminding me to celebrate. Share your celebrations at Ruth Ayres Writes.

It’s been a week since All Write, and my mind is still buzzing with ideas for next year.  After returning I haven’t stopped going- I hosted a baby shower and had busy week preparing for China.  (I leave on Tuesday!)

There’s been so much to celebrate:

1. I loved seeing and connecting with old friends at All Write.  It was wonderful being back in Warsaw, and it was nice knowing more of what to expect.  It really is like summer camp like Ruth says.

2. I met new friends in person there that I connected with online (Leigh Anne).

3. I got the most beautiful, thoughtful bracelet from Elsie.  I’m still touched at the sentiment behind my OLW bracelet and love being reminded that I wanted to thrive this year.  Thank you again, Leigh Anne.

4. It was funny having a laugh with Christy as I realized we both were hoping our session with Kelly Gallagher wouldn’t end.  I yelled “NO” and she was checking her watch as we realized our time with him was almost finished.

5. I got some great new professional books suggestions from Christy, Mary Helen, Tammy, Elsie, and Linda.  I’m so excited to participate with Linda and others in a book study with Read Write Teach.  

I’ve been crossing my fingers that my last minute orders will arrive before I leave.  I’m wishing I could bring a book suitcase :).

6. I was reminded at All Write that I don’t always see myself accurately.  I am always so self critical, so it was neat to see myself from Leigh Anne Eck’s perspective. She pointed out how brave some of my travels were.  I had never thought of myself as brave, so it was interesting to consider this.  I couldn’t help but realize we don’t always see ourselves the way others see us.

When Ruth shared her personal story and acknowledged her past struggles, I couldn’t help but notice that she does this too.  I was in awe of her parenting and patience, and I wished she could see what we see when she doubts herself.   I guess we can all benefit from seeing ourselves from someone else’s perspective from time to time.

7. I feel grateful I have the most wonderful mom who always is looking for ways to help me and make my life easier.  She has gathered countless items to help me with my trip.  I don’t even have to ask and she’s ready to give.  I’ve left her house with everything from suitcases, Easter eggs for a lesson I’m doing, every toiletry imaginable, and much more.

8. I took some time this week to read even when I had a long to do list.  I read The Fault in Our Stars in one sitting this week.  I loved getting sucked into this book and sobbing out loud.

9. I went garage saleing with my grandma.  Her dry sense of humor makes me laugh, and it’s always fun spending time with her.

10.  I shared some ideas with a teaching friend who wasn’t able to make it to All Write.  We’ve come up with a list of important things we want to work on this year (a vision with sub categories), and we are swapping notes tomorrow.  I love having someone who shares my passion for teaching and pushes me.

11. I played in a golf tournament (first time playing in 5 years) and was not completely horrible.  My goal in a 4 man scramble being the only girl was to use one of my drives on a Par 4/5 hole.  I hit one right down the middle, and we ended up using my shot.  I also had the women’s longest drive for the first half of the tournament.

I was really nervous because my dad put me by myself with a group of his friends to play because he was already playing with another group.  He apparently told them I played in high school and was talking me up.  I almost died when I heard this.  First of all, I was horrible in high school and that would maybe matter if I wasn’t in my 30’s.  My high school days were a while ago.

I could go on and on, but I have to pack!

I Entrusted My Life to a $20 Piece of Metal


It seems pretty stupid now in hindsight, but I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment last week.  Who knew you needed to backup your backup (apparently everyone but me)!  Ugh- hard lesson learned.

Last Wednesday was my last day of school.  I was finishing cleaning out my room and preparing to check out with the Vice Principal. There was a laundry list of to dos mostly required by the school that I was hacking away at.  On my personal list was cleaning up my computer and making sure to copy all of my files to a jump drive before I had to turn it in.

That morning I couldn’t find my new jump drive I had just gotten, so I gathered some of my old drives: the one that has all my most important documents and an older one from when I was student teaching.  I assumed between the two of them they could hold what was on my laptop before I had to turn it in.

One thing I did this year was create several videos to flip my classroom.  This definition of flipping classrooms is being used differently everywhere, but in schools with behavior issues- it basically means taping yourself so there’s another teacher in the room (you).  This way you can walk around and make sure the kids are doing what you are asking them to do in the video.  Some days this was my only saving grace.

Anyway, these videos take up a lot of storage, so I kept getting an error that said that my jump drive was too full.  I remembered last year when I copied files onto my jump drive when I left my last school for some reason files copied twice.  So, I thought if I went through and deleted the duplicates of everything it might clear more space for what I wanted to save now.

It was a nice trip down memory lane as I went through these files and deleted what was there twice. I reminisced over past lessons and even commented, “Wow, there’s some really great stuff on here.”

Due to my organization (I can never remember what I title anything) I can’t always easily access my files, but they were there.  Four years of work and all my most important teaching documents and letters of recommendation.

After deleting the duplicate of many files, I tried to drop a file from my computer into my jump drive again.  Ugh- it was still too full.  I quickly clicked ok to something that popped up and pulled, let’s be honest- ripped, my jump drive out.  (This was my first mistake- no, I don’t ever press the eject safely button.)

I quickly grabbed my other older jump drive and was ready to try to make the files fit on there.  When I couldn’t remember what I had saved on my first drive, I put it back into my computer to check and NOTHING.  My heart starting pounding a little faster, and looking back I knew something was wrong.  A pop up said- your file has been corrupted and is unreadable.  What?!  My friend assured me it was fine and to try to bring up my documents on her computer.

So, I tried to stay calm and gently (now I decide to be gentle) inserted the jump drive into the left side of her laptop.  I released my hand and just stared at this little piece that stored all of my hard work I had seen just moments ago.  The drive flashed very faintly like it was giving its last breath, but nothing appeared.

It was gone.

Frantic, I called my mom’s friend who is very tech savvy and hoped she’d have some solution/trick to make my work come back.  She helped me stay calm and walked me through some scenarios of things to try.  When none of those worked, she gently told me it might be the end of my jump drive.  She even told me some crazy stat on how many jump drives are made in seconds in some foreign country.

At that moment I realized how stupid it was that I hadn’t saved this all somewhere else.  It was all on this dinky jump drive that she just told me was a piece of crap.

“You don’t have it backed up?” She asked.

“NO, I don’t do stuff like that.  I didn’t even know I needed to do that.” I could barely hold tears in, and she kindly suggested I take it to a computer geek to see if they could help retrieve anything.

My principal sensed my frustration/urgency when she saw my face a few moments later.  I think I looked like I had seen a ghost.  She immediately put me through to an IT person in the district.  He proceeded to say it sounded like I might need some lessons on using computers and jump drives.

It took everything in me not to snap at this poor man who was trying to help.  Yes, he was right.  But it was too soon for me to hear a lecture.  “Sir, you are right, but I can’t think about that right now.”  I told him and tried to remain professional.

He asked me to take my computer to one of his technicians with my jump drive to see if there was anything they could do.  He reminded me that it wasn’t likely that there was anything left.

I was still hopeful, desperate really, so I drove right to the IT department and begged the computer guy to see if there was anything he could do.

He didn’t seem optimistic, but he said he’d try.  He didn’t call me for over a day, so I kept telling myself that no news was good news.  He finally called and said it was in fact all GONE.  There was no longer anything on the jump drive.

At that point, I already knew.  I had slowly been preparing myself for the worst.

I keep trying not to think of what I’ve lost.  A few times a document comes to mind and my heart sort of slows, and I feel a tightening in my chest. Some things I might be able to retrieve from emails or my actual desktop, but  whatever else is on there, I pray I don’t remember.

I’m shopping for an external hard drive to avoid this nightmare again.  Take a lesson from me and backup your files or get a more foolproof method than my $20 jump drive I somehow thought would stand the test of time.

I Can’t Believe It’s Been Over a Month

Wow, I just logged on after a very dry spell.  I can’t sleep this morning, so I’ve been perusing the web and checking out my blogger friends’ recent posts.  I didn’t realize how much I have missed them and am sad I feel like I’ve missed out on sharing in their celebrations and weekly updates.

I’m not sure why I haven’t written.  I think I’ve actually started a few posts, but then I got distracted.  Life has been crazy this last month.  I got my back checked out after having persisting pain several weeks after my accident.  It turns out I have some damage from the impact of being hit, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the chiropractor.

I had no idea backs/necks were this complex.  On Mother’s Day weekend I could barely sit without crying, so I knew I had to do something.  I assumed I would just go and get popped back into place and that would be that.  Ha- I’ve spent pretty much the past month there.  I’m finally feeling back to normal on most days.  I love the doctor and his staff.  They are very welcoming, but I didn’t pick the most convenient location to my house (again because I thought I’d only go once).  My commute and visit take about an extra 2 hours each time I go.

At first it was 4 times a week.  Thank goodness it was the end of the school year.  Now I’m down to 3 visits a week (yay- making progress).  At first it wasn’t so bad, they adjust me (weird machine tapping on my back), and then I lay on a bed that rolls down my spine.  It’s pretty relaxing, and I sometimes even fall asleep.  But after the first few visits they made me start doing neck and back exercises too- ugh!  I don’t like that part, but I think it’s making me better.

School just got out the middle of last week, so it feels like summer hasn’t started and I haven’t stopped.  I’ve been busy getting ready for China and trying to get my paperwork and everything in order for my new job.

I enjoyed reading the celebrations on other blogs, and it was nice being reminded to slow down and reflect on all the things I have to celebrate:

  • All Write is this week!  I’m beyond excited to connect and learn.
  • I’m stopping off at an old friend’s house on the way to All Write.  It will be great to catch up.
  • I finally got my car back after a month and a half with a rental. (I will post pictures of my rental later.  It was the smallest car I’ve ever seen, and it made me laugh every time I saw it.)
  • China is so close, and I’m almost ready.
  • I’ve set up skype and viber accounts, so I can communicate with my family while I’m away.
  • I had a wonderful father’s day with my dad and family.
  • My former students and sister came over to help me organize my classroom library and put my books into an online checkout system.  We did 800 books in one day, but there are still more to go.  We made great progress, and my sister spent the night to finish the rest of the library today.
  • I’ve never been this on top of things and productive.  I’m a little overwhelmed, but I’ve been breaking tasks down into smaller parts and getting things done.


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us to share our celebrations from the week each Saturday.  Thank you, Ruth, for reminding me to celebrate. Share yours at Ruth Ayres Writes.

It’s nice having a reminder to celebrate and be grateful.  This week was tough, so I’m happy to have the chance to reflect the good that was in it too.

1. My roof is fixed, and I can finally put things back up on my mantle.  A bucket has been catching water for a few weeks, so it’s nice to look more like a home when you walk in and to not have to worry every time it rains.

2. I have rental coverage on my insurance, so I have a car for a month and am able to get around while they figure out whether my car is totaled.  The car is the same brand as my car, so I feel somewhat comfortable in it (even though I’m extremely anxious driving now).

3. We were able to make out more of the license plate that hit me (it is imprinted into the back of my car’s bumper).  I’m hoping this helps us find the guy who hit me and ran.

4. My grandma is in the hospital, and she has to have her thyroid removed.  The doctor told her that she will need to recover in an assisted living home.  My dad is thinking this might help her make the transition from her house to a home where she can be more safe.  Her memory continues to decline, but she has been adamant about not leaving her house.  My dad and uncles keep honoring her request, but it is no longer safe.  I’m hoping this might convince her to move and will help my family feel more comfortable about it too.

5.  It’s May- this means the end of the school year is near and China and All Write are getting closer!

6. My mom found several great books at a garage sale and called me and bought everything the woman had left.  I need books like I need a hole in my head, but I’m always excited to get more reading material for my class library.  I love how my mom is always looking out for me too.  She is so thoughtful like that.

7. I sold my first item on ebay- a college textbook I discovered in my closet.  It’s nice to earn some extra cash for something I didn’t even remember I had.