Archive for March 2009

Who Am I

March 17, 2009


This is Brittney Strom. I have never met her. She lived – and died – in South Carolina. She was a friend to my niece and nephew and the daughter of my sister’s teaching buddy. I knew of her through them. And yet a day goes not go by when I don’t think about her…..either a fleeting remembrance…or a wish to have her love of people and passion for Christ.

Our story together actually begins on January 7, 2005. My mother called me from her home in Florida to ask me if I knew my sister’s friend, Robin. Of course I did. My sister yakked constantly about Robin’s creative bent, her organization and love for teaching Science.  My sister was disappointed when their school split into grade k-2 and 3-5 buildings and Robin Strom would be moving with the upper el faction to a new building. And then my sister took a Science Lab position in her building and she and Robin were looking forward to planning and organizing together again. The next words from my mother cut me cold. She had just learned that Robin, her husband James and their children, Brittney and Bradley, had been killed in a small plane crash. She told me to call my sister….and to hurry.

And so I was a telephone confidant during that time.  Someone my sister could share with.  We talked every day during the next few days.   Sometimes more than once.  And I was tremendously stunned and humbled by the shock waves that spread through that small community in South Carolina.  I heard about Teachers who spontaneously came together to mourn a colleague and friend, students who sought ways to honor their teacher and their friends and plans for a funeral that should not have been.

A song that was used for the service was ‘Who Am I’ by Casting Crowns. It seems that Brittney had spent the night before she died at a sleepover teaching a friend how to sign that particular song.  The friend taught another friend and they did it together at the funeral.  As a tribute to their friend.

The song is on my i-pod and my computer. I listen to it every single day. And when I hear it, every time, I think of Brittney Strom.

She was just a typical teenager.  A high school student who had skipped a grade in elementary school, she was a soccer player, a gymnast, a cheerleader, a confident Christian and a loving soul.  She was not above challenging someone about their beliefs.   She knew where she was going to end up and wanted to make sure you did as well.

In June,  14 year old Brittney had gone on a church sponsored trip to work at a new children’s camp in Costa Rica .  She came back having made the decision that she wanted to be a missionary and work with children like the ones she had met there.

And that’s how her friends have chosen to honor her and the entire Strom family.   The Brittney Strom Foundation supports ‘Camp Brittney’  in Costa Rica.   It is a place dedicated ” ….to reaching out to the Costa Rican people to promote the word and love of Jesus Christ by providing a place where children, youth, and adults can go to learn more about God’s word…”  In a word, it’s a growing church camp.   Just what Brittney would have ordered.

You can read more about Brittney and the mission her death……no, her LIFE…..inspired here.  It’s the kind of thing that breaks your heart and at the same time sends your soul soaring. 

It’s amazing the kind of impact one person’s life can have on others.  Even if you have never met her.

Something new I learned…

March 15, 2009




     While going through her school planner, I learned that celery is a ‘minus’ calorie food.  The body burns more calories digesting it than the vegetable contains. 

Of course this means that you can’t stump the end in salt or stuff it with peanut butter and raisins or cream cheese or that vegetable spread that is basically cream cheese with spices and bits of dried vegetables.  And you can’t fill the center with a ribbon of Ranch dressing the way the Princess and I enjoy it the enjoy it most.   Sigh.

I am obsessed….

March 14, 2009

Thank you for the inquiries.  I am fine.  I am just obsessed with writing elsewhere these days.  I have about 40 pages on a worse that the worst of Harlequin Romance but I am SO loving the characters and what is happening with them.  Then there is the play I am writing about a group of adoptive moms who still get together even though their kiddos have outgrown the need for a play group.  I had put that one away because it was not going anywhere and depressing me…..but I have found a community theater group that I might want to approach about actually doing in in like a workshop form to see how it comes out – outside of my head.  And then there are the two new episodes of ‘Dipsey Doodles’ Flower Pot Shop’ that we will be filming during the upcoming spring break .  Sooo….even though I am keeping up with y’all (P’s IVF efforts and Mary’s sniffles especially)….I am obsessed with my writing right now.  REALLY obsessed. And the tips of  my fingers actually hurt from typing.  Gads.

The Woodwork

March 1, 2009

     I graduated from college in 1977 with a degree in Elementary Education.  There was an overflow of teachers at the time and I spent my first two years in the field as a substitute.  Actually it should have only been one.  After a year of a frustrating experiences as a substitute I had applied for a job with a new automobile plant that was opening.  I had decided that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a Teacher after all.  Maybe it wasn’t in God’s plan for me to be there.  So I decided to go to work for GM, make some money to pay off my school loans and look for something else….some other direction for my life. 

      An unbelievable amount of praying went into that decision.  And then came a crossroads.  Very literally. 

      I walked out to get the mail one day that summer and found a postcard requesting that I report for a physical and a formal interview for the position in the automotive plant.  When I walked into the house my mother was holding the telephone with a call from a teacher at one of the schools I subbed in the previous year.  She was looking for someone to take a long term position subbing for her team mate in a multi-teacher classroom.   She had heard from someone else in the building that I was an excellent substitute.

      A crossroad.  Literally.

     I took the long term subbing position and discovered that there is so much that determines a sucessful day in a classroom.  I had a chance to build a relationship with students and other Teachers….to establish myself in a building.  It was the best six weeks of my career. 

     From there I finished the year as a substitute, was hired the following year for a classroom only to be established as a ‘reserve teacher’ along with along with a number of other first year hires when the district discovered tht they had OVER hired for the year.  As a ‘reserved teacher’ we were guaranteed or full salary and a classroom every day.  We were eventually slipped into long term positions and I finished half the year in a sixth grade classroom.  Laid off again, and another year of subbing, I decided to expand my job search to California and Oklahoma (where I had attended college).  I drove home from Oklahoma mulling over a series of interviews and job offers there, only tohave my Mother meet me at the door at 2 am with a telephone message from my old school district NOT to take the job out of state because they had a position for me. 

    Second grade.  Which I loved.  And it was the first group of students that I had taught from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.  Bright.  Beautiful.  And so much fun.  We discovered the dictionary together.  We would have races to see who could find a particular word the fastest….or find a word that belonged to a specific definition.  We raced through the required Math text book so we could do the ‘fun’ math stuff like…geometry.  We explored writing genres and learning centers WAY before they became vogue.  In fact, my principal asked me if I didn’t think second graders were too young to deal with ‘learning centers.’  Poor guy must be rolling over in his grave to see what is happening in KINDERGARTENS today! 

     Laid off again I spent the next year running a day care center for school aged children at a nonprofit facility.  The program added four new schools, bus pick up and drop off  and over 100 new students in the first few months of my arrival there.  It’s still my favorite job.  I didn’t have to teach anything.  Didn’t have to make sure the kids had the skills to pass any standardized testing.  I just had to keep the kids safe and happy.   I had to make sure the program would pay for itself.  I did my own billing.  I did the payroll.  I did my own hiring.  I trained the people I hired.  I started a networking group with other Latch Key programs in other districts.  We got together once a month to share ideas for activities, snack ideas and billing issues.  My aides had ‘family groups’ that they were to keep track of, to make sure they knew when spelling tests were taken, to help with homework and to serve as a bridge between school, daycare and home to remind kids what to tell their parents about school that day.  We did plays, played softball, created art works to rival the Masters and had a campout sleepover.  They had snow ice cream for snack…and purple cows….and mountains of carrot sticks.  I scrounged grocery stores for slightly brown bananas on sale, peeled them, cut them in half, stuck popsicle sticks in them, drizzled chocolate syrup over them and froze them.  We ran 6 to 9 am and 3 to 6 pm.  We were open on snow days and during school vacations.   Being nonprofit and in a nonschool facility we were able to do that.   The summer was devoted to a full day program for children between the ages of 3 and 12.  And there were two hundred of them at various times during the week.  It was glorious and turned me into a freaking work-a-holic.  Seriously.  And the next year I added a ‘Kinder Key’ program for twelve  students.  They were dropped off at lunch time and we spent the afternoon playing.  And reading.  And exploring.  My parents for this group were awesome.  They never knew what muddied, dirty, painted state their children would be in when they picked them up and they never cared.  They loved what we did.  And I took pictures to show them.  One day, after a ridiculously  heavy and short spring rain, I noticed some marvelous puddles in the parking lot.  So I blocked off the lot and set them to work creating canals, dams and waterfalls.  We made paper boats to float in them.  And after a multitude of warnings not to get their clothes wet, I turned around to find five of them sitting in a puddle as if it were a canoe, splashing their hearts out.  What a mess!  What a wonderful time.  And fortunately we had just finished a play so I was able to send them home dressed in ‘Tom Sawyer’ costumes with their soggy, muddy outfits in a plastic bag.  Too cute for a parent to be angry.   Trust me.

      After that year I was recalled to a teaching position.  I taught Kindergarten for five years, first grade for six years and then back to Kindergarten for the duration.  Last year I became the Technology  Teacher in my building.  I see 733 students a week.


Sixth Grade


Second Grade.

Latch Key


First Grade



     After 30 +  years in ‘the  business’  this  Teacher has seen a lot of kids pass through her life.  Some kids I will remember forever.  And living on the outskirts of the community where I teach, I seem to run into them all over the place.  In the drive through windows.  In the grocery store aisles.  At church.   In the same community theater/music production audiences.  At sports functions.  Serving me at the Chinese restaurant.  Bringing their own children to Kindergarten round up.   Yeah.  That one in particular freaked me out the first time.  And it freaks THEM out when I can still pull up a correct name.  It amazes me  at times too. 

     And there are current reminders of my longetivty in the teaching field.  One of my favorite Kindergarteners is preparing to marry the son of my current school’s secretary.  Her very best Kindergarten friend is doing her student teaching in my building…in Kindergarten.   And the teacher I did that very first long term subbing position for is now the administrator in the building where I teach.  The baby that was born during that break, her son, turned thirty last fall.  I remember his name too.

 They come creeping out of the woodwork.

 And I forget that…..which is why this always makes me cry.  Always.[