Archive for October 2008

God Is No Fool

October 29, 2008

It was the fall of 1973. I was a very nervous college student. I was attending a small college about 40 minutes from my childhood home – Michigan Christian College. It was my first class on my very first day as a freshman. It was early morning. I settled into an old wooden chair desk in a small damp classroom at the end of row of rooms in a ‘cabin’ in the woods of the campus. Pencils lined up. Spiral situated nice and square on the desk. I wasn’t one to make friends quickly. Didn’t really have anyone to talk to. Then in walked the ‘professor’. He strode to a corner desk, hiked a cowboy booted foot to the seat of a desk and announced – with an Oklahoma drawl – that we were there for the ‘Fundamental Basics of Mathematics’…..other wise known as ‘Fun Math.’ My college career was off and running and that particular teacher set the tone for what were to be two of the most amazing years of my life. Ken Franklin introduced us to a poetry book in that class that became a campus cult favorite. He read a poem aloud at the beginning of each Math class. We all had our own copies. I remember purchasing one at the college bookstore for my Mom – who used to make mid week donut runs to our dorm with goods from the family donut shop. I had each of my friends choose a favorite poem and write a note telling her why it was a favorite. She treasured it for a good long while.

I lost my copy of the book. Actually I had given several away to friends YEARS ago not realizing that I was giving away my last one. I would think about it occasionally. Remember a poem that was particularly meaningful to me. Wondered where I could get another copy because I had discovered that it was out of print. Well…I found one on the internet several weeks ago and paid $30 for it. THIRTY dollars. And the inside flap price says $4.25. Go figure.

But it’s nice to have it back….no matter what the cost. Nice to have it on my bedside table again. It’s even as ratty and beat up as my own copy used to be. Thirty dollars very well spent. Just looking at it brings back fond memories of antiquated quonset hut biology classrooms, dormitory fun, late night devotionals, chapel services every morning, my roommate, pranks, prayers, my friends, duck weed on the lake, the totem pole, Faculty Firesides, chat sessions in the hall, term papers, all night study sessions, ‘Amazing Grace’, campus theater productions, cafeteria meals, Beautiful Days, Bible classes, ‘W Club’, psych class with Ron Luckett, Hebrew History with Terry Blake (who used to always call me his ‘beautiful, beautiful Lyn’), Stephanie and Casey… so many memories. Thirty dollars VERY well spent. And my favorite poem? I think it was everyone’s favorite at one time or another. They printed it in the year book one year. It’s number 43.

“Bits and pieces
Bits and pieces

People. People important to you, people
unimporttant to you cross your life, touch
it with love and carelessness and move on.
There are people who leave you and you
breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why
you ever came into contact with them.
There are people who leave you and you
breathe a sigh of remorse and wonder why
they had to go away and leave such a gaping
hole. Children leave parents; friends leave
friends. Acquaintences move on. People change
homes. People grow apart. Enemies hate and
move on. Friends love and move on. You think
on the many who have moved intoyour hazy memory.
You look on those present and wonder.

I believe God’s master plan in lives. He
moves people in and out of each other’s
lives, and each leaves his mark on the other.
You find you are bits and pieces of all
who ever touched your life, and you are
more because of it, and you would be less if
they had not touched you.

Pray God that you accept the bits and
pieces in humility and wonder, and never
and never regret.

Bits and pieces
Bits and pieces”

Lois A. Cheney
God Is No Fool

Michigan Christian College is now Rochester College and is located in Rochester, Michigan.

Raising A Reader

October 19, 2008

Okay….so I did everything right with this kid. Everything right that I would advise parents to do with their budding readers. I am a TEACHER, fer cripes sake. I KNOW what to do. I read to him from the very first day we got him. He had stacks of books at his crib side and then his bedside. We had a basket of books in the car. We had TONS of favorites. We used to write books together and illustrate them. We listened to music, sang along with the songs, played rhyming/letter sound games in the car. I invested in Sing Along video tapes that had the words running along the bottom of the television screen. We would read the backs of cereal boxes as we ate breakfast before school. I ‘modeled’ reading habits by daily reading of the newspaper, magazines and books myself. So how…just HOW….did I end up with a kid who hates to read?

Learning to read himself was a struggle. I know that. Just could not get the letter/sound hook back in Kindergarten and first grade. And then there was the time period when he was four and five when he would not allow me to read with ‘voices’ because it scared him. He took a particular liking to the DK books that focused more on pictures than words. Still loves’ em. His second grade teacher introduced him to research reading for report writing. He loved doing that. His third/fourth grade teacher read aloud book choices guaranteed to draw a laugh…and he loved that. HIs fifth grade teacher told me not to worry because his reading skills were in place. She didn’t enjoy reading herself so she was able to give me a new perspective. It still boggles me. How can you NOT enjoy reading?

He reads his Eurosport catalog from cover to cover when it arrives. He reads Sports Illustrated when he is in the bathroom. He has quite a collection of sports bios but I am not sure if he has managed to read any of them from cover to cover. He reads about other sports on line every evening before he goes to bed. I guess there is some hope……

However, he is in high school now and is required to read outside of the school day. They have a test on Mondays and a classroom discussion on Thursdays. Coupled with the drawing he is required to have in his sketch book on Wednesdays for his design class, our weekends are sometimes real battle grounds. VERY serious gnashing of the teeth and moaning and lamenting. And the book they are reading is Tuesdays With Morrie. Short. Sweet. Written by a sports writer. I gave six copies away as gifts for Christmas when it first came out. I love it. I thought he would love it as well. But alas, the words that get spewn around are things like ‘stupid’ and ‘who cares?’ I finally had to decide that it was going to have to be read together if it was to be read at all. I bought a copy for his dad. They are reading it together….when I remind them that it needs to be done. I’m saving MY participation for the next novel battle. If he thinks reading a short, moving book about a man’s ongoing relationship with his dying teacher is ‘inconsequential’……just wait till we have to tackle To Kill A Mockingbird. And it’s one of my absolute favorites. Heh.

Just got his report card. That English Lit class?? He has an ‘A-‘ and his grade was followed with ‘Outstanding performance’ and ‘Outstanding attitude’ comments. Go figure……

Hummingbird Cupcakes

October 11, 2008

Still caught up in the whole NYC thing. Still totally bamboozled by the coolest city I have ever been in. It simply never occured to me that Hummingbird Cupcakes could be made anywhere else in the world but at the Magnolia Bakery in West Village. It has become kind of my New York ‘thing.’ One taste and I was totally sold…and hooked. They are the kind of taste you can get a ‘hankering’ for on a cold winter night when nothing else will do. Hummingbird cupcakes…heavy with the moist fruit of crushed bananas, pineapple, coconut and pecans….covered with a creamy, real sugar cream cheese frosting. Yum. So, imagine my surprise when I ran across a recipe for ‘Hummingbird Cake’ in a large collection of cake recipes emailed to me by my sister. And imagine the equally stunned surprise of my children when they awoke to the smell of baking cupcakes this sunny fall Saturday morning. (DH was at work….serves him right for working on a Saturday!) Cupcakes they were not allowed to touch until they had been frosted with a buttery yellow cream cheese frosting.

But now I am crushed. I just did a web search. The Magnolia Bakery does not have a ‘secret’ recipe for these decadent items. Naturally, Martha Stewart has her own spin on them. With dried pineapple flower adornments. It’s an old southern recipe apparently. And the bakery even has it’s own cookbook. There are no ‘secrets’. You can buy them. Sigh.

But mine turned out really, really good actually. Not quite as heavy with fruit as The Magnolia’s. And of course I haven’t managed to master the Magnolia way of frosting with that cool little swirl….yet. But right now I have a counter full of the things. Gotta do something with them. Ice cold glass of milk anyone?

The Fifth Grade Caucus

October 4, 2008

I am a Technology Teacher. I was actually grading them on their computer generated letter writing format. I wanted to make sure that they knew how to insert a date, formulate a salutation, write a paragraph and then an ending. And I love reading things written by fifth graders. They know enough about changing fonts and colors to make the reading interesting. It’s easy on the eyes and I had 134 of them to read. So this task wasn’t any different than usual. Just tugged at the heart strings and twanged the recesses of my mind. The innocence and enthusiasm of fifth graders. Dang.

Their job was to write a letter to one of the four candidates – Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden or Sarah Palin. They were to tell them the three most important problems the new president had to solve. I didn’t really keep track of how many of them wrote to which one. I probably could have predicted the outcome of the upcoming election had I done it. The issues they chose included several references to school lunches and soccer field conditions but most were deeper. Thought provoking. Here are a couple of random selections.

“Dear Senator McCain, I think if you get elected you should stop global warming. You should also help kids get more exercise. You should make sure every kid gets and allowance so they can save money for their future. Sincerely, Billy T.” A ten year old…worried about his financial future?

“Dear Barrack O’Bama, You need to fix sending the troops back bcause if you don’t we’ll have another 9/11 and we don’t want that to happen again. You also need to make taxes the same amount instead of making rich people pay more and poor people pay less because it won’t be fair. You also would make a good president because you will make history and so would Sarah Palin but I am going to vote for you because my Mom is. You also need to stop saying bad stuff about McCain because it is rude and he is rude to because he says really mean nasty things about you. Sincerely your friend, Chris.” We play nice and fair on OUR playground.

“Dear Barack Obama if you become president please help the environment by stopping global warming before it reach’s durrasic measures. I hope you can accomplish this. Please also stop wars and terrorists before it can’t be helped. Maybe it would lead to world peace and with world peace people can accomplish anything. Please acclompish this or things could end badly. Sincerely, Jacob” Amen to that.

“Dear Barack Obama, There are two problems that I think are very important things for the new president to solve. One problem is Global Warming. One reason I think it is important is because the air we breathe is getting polluted. So for some kids, it’s hard to breathe. Another problem is how high the gas prices are these days. When we get our license the prices will be up to ten dollars. P.S. By the way, good luck in the election. Sincerly, Nathan” Love the post script… before the ending. We are big on encouragement and positive comments in elementary school. .

“Dear Senator John McCain, The one thing you could fix is all the jobs that families are losing people are going to other cuntries and gas is not a big deal to other rich people but it is to us and we are 11 and 10 years old so if we see it, you should….Thank you for reading, Stevie” Gotta love this kid but she is already aware of economic distinctions?? Did I even care when I was ten?

“Dear Senator Barack Obama, There are two problems I think are very important for the new president to solve. One problem is gas prices, they are very high and will probably get higher if the new president doesn’t change it. Another problem is global warming. I think more people should recycle, even though a lot of people all ready do. I believe there should be a law that says every single classroom in the U.S.A. should have a recycling bin in it. Sincerely, Julia” We are a green school. We have recycled paper, plastic bottles and foil/styrofoam packaging from lunch trays.

Then there was the kid that suggested stopping the gas price rise so he wouldn’t have to quit his soccer team. And the girl who wants new jobs in the USA so her dad doesn’t have to work in Sweden any more. And the child who suggested making hurricane proof housing in hurricane areas….and growing more food so people do not go hungry. And the boy who suggested the new president lower the voting age to 13 because ‘we have good ideas and we know how to problem solve.’

And lastly….this one from a challenged student….

“Dear Senator Barak Obama,
Help people in the streets. So people don’t die.
People stop littering. And globule warming just
So living things don’t die.
Sincerely, E”

Their world in a nut shell……Fifth Graders.

Are we listening?

To Bag or Not to Bag?

October 2, 2008

When we went to Disney World nine years ago, I wore a fanny pack into the park. Excuse me….a belly bag. It was convenient at the time. It held our tickets, my camera, a change purse full of money and a bottle of sun screen. Over the past nine years it has proven to be SO convenient that I never went back to using anything else. Oh sure, I carry a back pack that generally holds everything I need for school…lesson plans, papers to be corrected, hand lotion, camera, lunch, water bottle, paper plates, craft supplies…and generally my belly bag. Carrying everything in a back pack saved me from the infamous purse snatcher who unknowingly trip trapped through several halls in my old school taking money and check books and credit cards from every purse he/she could find….twice. Who would think of looking in a backpack when they were actively searching for…purses?

But I came home from New York City carrying a purse. A $19 purse I picked up at Meijer on my way to the airport. It was a practical decision actually. You are only allowed a carry on bag and a purse for the plane. The purse holds more. More room for a cell phone. M&Ms. Tissues. An apple. People Magazine. I seriously expected to ditch the purse again when I got home. Seriously. It bothers me to have the straps keep falling off my shoulder. But I never – ever – anticipated the excitement I would create by having this faux leather black bag.

“Hey, Mom…..I LIKE the purse!” she said. “Mom has a purse?” he said. “Hey, Hon…are your keys in your purse?” “I hear your phone ringing in your purse.” “Did you put the mail in your purse?” “Do you have any gum in your purse?” Yes…I do. Along with a cell phone, a wallet, a leopard print change purse, a hairbrush, antibacterial lotion, new school pictures, my Playbill, my key ring, school id badge, flash drives, my camera, cough drops, TicTacs, band aids, sticky notes, ink pens, two Sharpies, pony tail holders and an empty 16 oz. cranberry juice cocktail bottle. It holds a LOT more than the belly bag. And that is not always a good thing.

I had my belly bag contents down to a science. The wallet (a gift from a student several years ago…bless him) took the most room. Pens and pencils nestled in the bottom with several cough drops. The cell phone fit on one end and the digital camera on the other. The leopard print change purse could be tucked in front of the wallet. Tissues and several band aids were stuffed into the front pocket. Concise. Organized. Perfect. And cause for much less ‘excitement.’ But I decided to maintain the purse for a while to see if I could make it work with my current lifestyle. All told, it’s actually been kind of aggravating thus far.

Can’t tell you how many calls I have missed on my cell phone digging through the dang purse to find it. Pens never seem to be in the pocket you thought you left them in. One cough drop has already wormed it’s way out of it’s wrapper and adhered itself to a band aid. My camera has some mysterious scratches on the lens. Fortunately most of them rubbed off. I’ve lost a cover to one of my flash drves. TicTacs have spilled and roll around the bottom pretending to be solidified lint. And pennies are everywhere already. Everywhere.

So, I am left with a dilemma. To bag or not to bag? What is the big deal? Is there something more ‘normal’ about carrying a purse? More…adult? Something that makes me like all the other moms and wives out there? Eh…I can deal with falling straps if it makes my family happy. And the first time someone tries dipping in for money…or check books or credit cards…I can whack ’em with the purse. Right?