Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Extremely Significant Day!

September 30, 2004 was a very difficult, life-giving day for our family.

In April that year, my husband was diagnosed with an adenocarcinoma of the lacrimal gland, a tiny tumor in an equally tiny gland that created incredible havoc. We lived in Miami at the time and although there were many excellent surgeons and oncologists in the area, and we visited four of them, no one seemed willing to take action. I was so frustrated. Everytime we saw a doctor it was for tests or more exploratory surgery. A moment came in June when my husband and I finally realized that no one knew what to do. We called a friend, a former family physician, who recommended that we self-refer to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a part of the University of Texas Medical Center. God ordained that conversation with our friend because it changed our lives immediately.

T began the lengthy process of obtaining copies of all his tests and records and by mid-July, had faxed everything to MDA. Within days we had a response. We were to be there by the first of August for a week. There we had an amazing encounter with Dr. Bita Esmaeli, a teeny-tiny, incredibly brilliant, Iranian, oncologic-oculoplastic surgeon. She was the first doctor we met who had treated patients with T's cancer. She had seen three before him. She ordered a number of tests and after a few days met with us again. She had one recommendation that she believed could save his life, not just treat him while he lived with this disease but cure him of it. She was wonderful! She exuded confidence and assurance. However, the one course of treatment would mean that T would have radical, disfiguring surgery. He would lose his right eye, eyelid, and all surrounding nerves and tissue. She hoped to save the bone structure that comprised the orbit. T was devastated. He wouldn't lose an internal organ or chunk of flesh that could be hidden under clothing, he would lose part of his face. It was not an easy decision for him but he chose life; he chose to have the operation.

Today, six years after that day-long surgery, I continue to bless Dr. Esmaeli and her team who used every bit of their knowledge and expertise to heal my husband. I thank God for His sustaining grace that allowed T to not only endure but to thrive as he inspired all around him with his dry wit, unfailing humor, and positive outlook.

T had only one fear, that his grandbabies would be afraid of him. They have been curious from time to time; sometimes they're worried that Grandpa might hurt but they have never pulled away or shown even a bit of fear. In fact, when Gracie and her family lived with us for a few months last year before moving to France, she became used to seeing Grandpa without his eye-patch or prosthesis. One afternoon he came in from work, took off his patch, and Gracie ran to his arms. He picked her up and she turned toward him, patted the right side of his face, and kissed his empty socket. It was a moment of incredible emotional healing for T.

So today I celebrate renewal of life. We treasure every moment we have with our children and grandchildren. We pour ourselves into our students, doing all we can to prepare rock-solid Christian leaders who will love others as Christ does. And we are thankful, not only each year at this time, but every day, every minute, for the possibility of living... together.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Yes, I am amazed!

Sunday morning dawned and I began to get myself pulled together so I would be ready for choir. We had just finished our iChat with adorable Gracie and her parents in France and I was feeling a bit sentimental. I gave a glance at my email, quickly scanning one that had come from the church. It mentioned a Christmas dinner for women's ministries. Anyone who knows me is quick to realize that women-only events are not my forté. In fact, I avoid them like the plague! That's why I was surprised to hear that still, small voice whisper, "Remember when they ask you to speak, and you say yes, that it is all about the child."

I was more than a bit startled. I have heard that voice before. It spoke to me just before a letter arrived asking us to consider moving from Martinique to Haiti. Almost everyone knew that Haiti was not high on my list of places to live. That God would speak to me to prepare me for that letter and move was huge but not super surprising, given my attitude. But why would his voice speak to me now?

I went to church, got through the first service then spent several moments visiting with friends. I was walking quickly to the sanctuary doors when a lady called my name. She informed me that women's ministries was planning a Christmas dinner and would like me to speak. I just looked at that lady, took a deep breath and replied, "Okay." I walked on into the sanctuary and joined the choir on the risers.

I have been in a bit of a daze ever since. I don't get it. I know I don't particularly like these kinds of events but why in the world would I get this kind of emphatic direction? I don't know. I may never know. But I do know what I'll be talking about - because it's all about the child!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poetry Friday - Good-by

This has been a tough week. Lots of emotional situations, too much loss. In addition to the death of my former student from Haiti, my local community has also suffered the loss of a cross-country coach and junior high teacher from ECS, a nearby Christian School. The students, staff, parents are all reeling from shock. The situation was incredible! He was returning from a running event, driving a van load of students (no other adult), came to a stop sign/light, and collapsed. Students shut off the engine and got help for their teacher. That was last week. This week, Tuesday evening, their beloved coach left this world for the life he constantly talked about in heaven. This particular school is our biggest rival for athletics. This week we have really tried to be supportive and caring. Our students have been terribly sad for the kids at ECS. So this week's poem is in honor of Mr. Newman, may he truly rest in God's peace.

Good-by by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good-by, proud world, I'm going home,
Thou'rt not my friend, and I'm not thine;
Long through thy weary crowds I roam;
A river-ark on the ocean brine,
Long I've been tossed like the driven foam,
But now, proud world, I'm going home.

Good-by to Flattery's fawning face,
To Grandeur, with his wise grimace,
To upstart Wealth's averted eye,
To supple Office low and high,
To crowded halls, to court, and street,
To frozen hearts, and hasting feet,
To those who go, and those who come,
Good-by, proud world, I'm going home.

I'm going to my own hearth-stone
Bosomed in yon green hills, alone,
A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned;
Where arches green the livelong day
Echo the blackbird's roundelay,
And vulgar feet have never trod
A spot that is sacred to thought and God.

Oh, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools, and the learned clan;
For what are they all in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet.

Too Many Nights

One of the responsibilities that teachers must assume, whether they like it or not, is attendance at evening activities. I think I've been to four in the first four weeks of school! It is tiring to work all day and then attend fund-raisers or back-to-school night or whatever other event someone thinks is good for teachers. Add to that a personal life and things can get out of control very quickly. Normally I have been available to babysit my grandkids on Thursday evenings but lately it's been one thing after another and it just hasn't happened. Singing in the choir means going to choir practice on Wednesday nights, the same night our school has staff meetings. I try to schedule quiet activities for Thursday because I'm usually so tired from the long Wednesday. I think I now have a couple weeks free of mandatory activities. I plan to enjoy my evenings at home, by the fire, reading some books that I plan to use in my classroom. They ought to be quick reads but I may fall asleep so who knows!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Protecting Integrity

What a tough situation. Students who fabricate incidents to their parents and parents who believe their students, even when proven wrong. When it involves character issues, I can get pretty angry. When someone attacks me, I deal with it - usually head-on and quickly. Either that or I totally ignore it; quite often I just don't think it's worth my time. But when people come after someone I love, I get so angry that I am almost ill. I just cannot get over how some people believe such s t u p i d i t y!!! They must be sensationalism junkies, gossip fiends. But how do we combat such idiocy? I'm afraid the only thing we can do is pray and move on. Usually these people don't change. They are often spiritual charletons who thrive on feelings of superiority, false superiority. Most of the time no one believes them but it doesn't make it any easier to hear that lies are being spread. Our integrity has value and I don't tolerate people who impune the character of others. Hopefully, they'll stay out of my line of sight. Help me Lord!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sadness and Loss

It never seems to end. My husband and I spent eighteen years working in Haiti. We lived there for twelve of those years. Last night I learned that one of my former students was shot and killed over the weekend. There was a home invasion and kidnapping, and shots rang out. A life was lost, one I knew and cared about. I am just so saddened over this on-going situation. Haiti is a beautiful country but it's small and incredibly poor. When bad things happen, they affect a lot of people because the duck pond is little and all the ducks know each other. This young man, age 30-something, left behind a family who loved him and a ton of friends who really cared. He also left behind teachers who invested in his life, hoping he would make a difference. There is now one less voice to be heard.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mondays - - -

I'm beginning to think Mondays should just be eliminated. Either that or I need a sub on Mondays. It seems my students need to relearn appropriate classroom behavior every single Monday. These students are quite bright but they just don't want to admit that there are things they are not supposed to do. I just saw one boy stomping on another's math book. Really? Why do I always have to show up when those things happen? I have to prepare Monday folders to go home and there's always something that gets dropped off just before the end of the day to add to that confusion. This week we're sending home progress reports so that means I need to verify and re-verify every document. It would not be good to send the wrong report with the wrong student. My two needy kids were especially needy today. I can do this... 22 minutes to dismissal, then pick-up duty, then I'm running away - to home! "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down" and today we have both!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yay for Brenda!

I love Brenda George! She just brought me three huge bins full of books, good books, for my classroom library. She is amazingly wonderful.

Poetry Friday - As Summer into Autumn slips

We have just come through one of the coolest summers ever. And I don't mean that it was hip - it was cold and wet! But August brought welcome sunshine and warm temperatures. The weather man says we still have some nice weather ahead of us and I am hoping that's true because our Washington summer was just too short! I shared this poem with my 8th graders today and they agreed that we are not yet ready for autumn, even if it is one of the loveliest times of the year!

As Summer into Autumn slips by Emily Dickinson

As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
"The Summer" than "the Autumn," lest
We turn the sun away,

And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved --

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life's Declivity.

Of course we also discussed the passage of time and the different stages of life. There was a fair bit of vocabulary analysis going on as well. But my students love Poetry Friday and I'm grateful to Ruth for her posts that have pushed me to include this in my already overcharged schedule!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pursue Excellence, Not Excuses

Each year I read the book Do Hard Things to my 7th grade bible class. There are several things I like about this book but the phrase that has lived on my white board each year is Pursue Excellence, Not Excuses. Generally speaking, junior high students are masters at excuses. Most excuses are slight alterations of the truth; some are just big, fat lies. It always amazes me when students come off with huge, outlandish stories that I know are not true. I kind of enjoy the process of watching them revise their stories as I inform them that parents will be called or emailed. One boy pulled the "my nana's printer ran out of ink just as we were starting to print my paper" excuse. And when I said that I would call nana and talk to her about her printer, suddenly, maybe, J wasn't at nana's at all... "it was someone's... now where was I working?" To which I replied, "Let's start over with the truth. Where is your essay?" And J answered, "I didn't do it." Okay. Finally. Truth.

I fight excuses. Students will start to offer their rationale and I will often stop them cold and let them know that I simply don't want to hear it. And I don't. I believe my students can give me work that will thrill my literary heart; I want to see that! Life will not give them constant 'do-overs' with no consequences. If junior high students can learn to pursue excellence and not waste their breath with excuses, they will become successful high school students... who will become successful college students... who will make a difference in the world. I deeply desire to see my students making a difference in the world so I myself will continue to pursue excellence and just admit my mistakes when they happen. It helps them when they realize that I am willing to acknowlege the errors of my ways. And as I often tell them "Don't do it again!"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Overworked by A. Schiller

Two very good friends of mine lost their jobs today. They were fired, probably because they knew too much. To say it makes me ill is an understatement. They are quality and they've worked themselves like dogs. To them, I dedicate my Friday poem:

Overworked by A. Schiller

I worked hard for you!
Got back what was undue.
Me you used to praise,
Then you ended my days.

At first I loved my work,
Then you had to drive me berserk!
I thought you believed in me,
But it wasn't meant to be.

Me and my hard work you betrayed,
Abused me and let happiness fade!
You didn't care how I felt inside.
You just pushed until I felt like I died.

Then you told a big lie,
Had to leave without a good-bye.
But at the end I felt relieved-
Never to return and be deceived,

Into thinking I was something to you.
Now I'm left to begin anew-
Get past the emptiness to a new day,
Where happiness will return and stay.

Monday, September 06, 2010

And the sin that so easily entangles...

Saturday my hubby and I worked in the yard - again. It has been a big summer for yard work. Last year we had our son and his family staying with us so we spent our time with our adorable granddaughter and didn't do a bit of yard work. That made it all the harder to do this year. Deferred maintenance means a lot more maintenance. While T mowed the lawn and all, I decided to prune some shrubs. One that really needed it was the quince. I tried to prune it but I just couldn't get the job done. T pruned it well... with the chain saw! Yep, we took it down. A quince does not appear to have a single trunk. From the ground springs up dozens and dozens of twisted branches that make quite a pretty shrub if it is kept in check. Ours wasn't. The individual branches were so entangled that we couldn't even separate them when it was time to haul them off! T had to use the chain saw again and cut them in half. Honestly, as we tried to pull them apart from each other, those words from scripture came to my mind. Hebrews 12 begins by telling us to get rid of everything that keeps us from completing our race successfully. It specifically refers to sin as that which entangles the runner. That's what sin does; it twists around us, tripping us up, causing us to fall. If I had only pruned that quince earlier, it would have been manageable. As it was, all twisted and tangled, it had to be cut down. Now I'm guessing that it will come back. I'm not sure I want it back but if I don't, I need to dig out the root. Again - great metaphor. It's not enough to deal with the surface symptoms, we have to get to the foundation of the issue and remove that which causes us to be defeated in our race. So don't put it off. Deferred maintenance in our spiritual lives leads to a lot of corrective work. Prune early, thoroughly, and let the Lord dig out that root of sin. It's much easier and a lot more fun to maintain a clean landscape than to revive one that has been neglected.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Poetry Friday - The Road Not Taken

Today is the first Friday at school and I shared my favorite poem with my 7th and 8th grade students. I love this poem! The inevitability of choice. And all choices have consequences, make a difference, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I'm hoping my students will see that and look down the road a bit before they choose.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.