Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

From Israel! We are thoroughly enjoying our time in Jerusalem with our children, Brian and Erin, and our grandchildren, Grace and Eliott. We are staying with Erin's parents, who still live and work in this part of the world. They've been here over 30 years. That's pretty amazing! Erin's entire family is here, her two sisters, one who lives here in Jerusalem and the other who now calls Indiana home for herself and her family of four. Erin's younger brother is also here from Chicago with his fiancée. It is packed and such fun! Watching Gracie play with her cousins, Zoe (3) and Scarlett (20 months) is so much fun. She just cannot get enough of them! We are playing a lot as well, on the floor with playmobiles and dollies.

Today we went to Bethlehem, now part of the Palestinian area, visited the Church of the Nativity, Manger Square, and went to the Franciscan run Shepherd's Field. The most interesting thing to me were all the different nationalities converging on this place, on this day, to honor the birth of the Christ Child. There are many Arab Christians living in this community. Too often we forget them, focusing only on other faith groups. Today is a great day of celebration for the Arab Christians: Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, all come together as one to worship and celebrate Christ-mas. May we remember that it is about Christ, his coming, his sacrifice and celebrate with open hearts the greatest gift the world has ever received. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas International Travel

Yes, we are beyond nuts. We are hoping to fly from Seattle to Chicago to Brussels to Tel Aviv. Tomorrow. Anyone see the European weather reports lately? Yeah, so hold a good thought for us. Also, our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren were supposed to leave Paris this afternoon for Tel Aviv. That didn't happen. Brian stood in a line of over a thousand people, trying to get to the customer service agents when his brother-in-law called with the good news that they had new flights. (Reuben took care of it via the airline reps in the states.) Our kids are currently sleeping it out in a hotel near the airport and re-booked to arrive in Tel Aviv shortly after we arrive... if they leave... if we arrive... sigh... Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

School's Done in 2010

What a day! I am tired, no question about it. But it was a good day for us. The students were well-behaved, loud - but good kids. Several thanked me for the fun Christmas party but honestly, they made their own fun. After the party, the students helped me stack desks so that the floors can be steam-cleaned over the weekend. It's always nice to teach junior high when that kind of work is involved. I have some big boys who are quite strong! Then I headed out to dinner with my mother, did some last minute shopping and wrapping, and now I'm by the fire, in my leather recliner--so relaxed!

Not so with my husband. I think the early part of his day went well. At noon he took the students-of-the-month to Izzys for lunch and I know that was great! He always enjoys that monthly responsibility. Then everyone gathered for a Pep Rally. It was really going well, fun games, hilarious activities, cheering for the basketball team... all good... until one of the cheerleaders came down wrong after a routine and literally broke her leg in front of the entire school! NOT good! It was a severe break so an ambulance was called and as I type, she's in surgery. My husband is the game administrator tonight so he's still with basketball players, coaches, high school kids, and their parents. He won't be home for at least an hour, probably two. Poor guy, he's going to be wiped out. And tomorrow? Christmas with our kids and grandkids. That will be fun!

Junior High Christmas Party

So I am in my classroom, in the middle of chaos, junior high chaos! We are using three classrooms and the front walkway for our down time. One room (not mine) is the quiet room; "The Princess Bride" is entertaining those girls... of course. Another room (not mine) is the game room; organized sets of table games are being enjoyed by several. The last room (sigh... mine) is the hang-out room where students laugh and talk and act crazy. Of course it's my room!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Getting Smarter

The longer I teach, the smarter I become at managing the days before holidays. My 8th graders and I spend five days reading A Christmas Carol by Dickens and then the last three days of class we watch the movie, the George C. Scott version. It is a wonderful two weeks! The 7th grade classes are something else again. I work them harder than ever the last two weeks because calm is not part of their vocabulary nor personalities at this time of year. The last three days before Christmas break, I bring out a huge collection of children's Christmas and Hanukkah books. I do need some Kwanzaa books as well. The students have quizzes during these three days but they also have the opportunity to read these books and fill out a very short evaluation form, rating each book on its story-line, characters, and illustrations. We will tally them all on Friday, choosing the top ten books for Christmas 2010. It works quite well, gives them something fun to do that is also quiet. Sigh... lovely for me but they do take out their energy in other classes. So another year comes to a close. What an incredible year this has been - both in good ways (baby Eliott) and bad ones (Haiti-EQ, cholera, elections). I am praying that there will be far more good things in 2011. Joy to the World!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A week from today I will hold my youngest grandchild for the first time. I am so excited to meet young Eliott Ray! I will also be able to play with his big sister, Gracie, for the first time in a very long time. Oh, how my heart has missed her! But traveling over the holidays means that everything else must get done sooner. I need to have all my Christmas preparations for the three other dearly-loved grandchildren ready to go by this Saturday morning. I need to get suitcases packed, bills paid in advance, even lesson plans completed before I leave town. One thing I learned early on as a teacher is that the unexpected will happen. There is nothing quite like international travel to render all pre-planning irrelevant! We know that our trip home could be delayed; we have some very tight connections. And although we have planned for every possibility, there will be some sort of complication or interruption - count on it. So I have finished my lesson plans and the shopping for the grandchildren. I do need to shop for our children and for T's staff. Bills are also needing some attention... sigh... don't they always need attention? Regardless, I am joyously anticipating the holidays!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Like Mother, Like... I suppose so

I love my mother; I really do. But she is one independent person - even when she shouldn't be! Yesterday, after wrapping a table full of gifts for Christmas, I sat down to relax a bit and called my mom for a chat. I wasn't on the phone very long when I realized that she sounded extremely tired. She's 82 and sometimes doesn't sleep well so I asked her all the questions about her sleeping habits, kept getting the I'm fine responses and finally just asked her why she sounded so tired. It seems that she decided to have the inside of her house painted last week so she moved all her living room and dining room furniture, took down the drapes, rods, pictures on the wall, etc. The painter came, did his job (took three days because there were several cracks to repair) and then left mother with her freshly painted house. She started getting everything put back. When I called she had replaced all the furniture, drapery rods, and just hung the drapes. She informed me that she thought she was tired from standing on the ladder, hanging the drapes. I told her I'd be right there. I talked with her again as I was on my way and found out that she hadn't eaten much the past three days so I went by a fast food place and got her a chicken pita sandwich. I was more than just a bit upset. She promised her doctor over five years ago that she would stay off ladders. I reminded her of that but she just brushed my words aside. I stayed the afternoon, hung her pictures, helped her decide on lamps and table placements and did the rearranging. Once I got back home, I was still steaming a bit about it to my husband... and he started laughing! I was not pleased and asked him what he found so funny about my 82-year-old mother's independent streak! He told me flat out that I was just like her and that I'd be doing the same thing when I was her age so just get over myself! I represent - I mean - resent that!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Do Unto Others

My husband and I adopted a little family from a City Gates Ministry list. Shopping for these people was such fun! We decided to go to a local, large super store (no, not WalMart!) so that we could get clothes and toys and housewares all in one place and only have one gift receipt to include with the presents. I have a lot of wrapping to do today! I have to find out how to go about the next step of delivering the gifts. I don't want anyone to feel embarrassed or awkward by receiving presents from complete strangers. Regardless, the ones who are blessed by this... yep - it's us! My eyes filled with tears more than once as I looked for just the right thing for a little 3-year-old girl. Images of my own granddaughters kept coming to my mind. I am so grateful for my family, for the opportunity we have to do some small thing for someone else this Christmas. I think next year I will choose a bigger family and get the grandkids involved in this. How fun would that be!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Change can make a difference.

We made a homeroom switch today. There is a new boy (new this school year) in another homeroom who has had quite a negative effect on several students, especially one very promising young man. Last year the Young Man had a rough time, got into quite a bit of trouble, had a bad attitude. Over the summer, the Lord really helped YM find other ways to live his life and he came to school a changed child. That was before the New Boy became a part of his life. The NB is powerful, negative, uncaring, and for whatever reason, attractive to far too many students. His effect on YM has really been evident during the past three weeks, so we made a decision. We have moved YM from the other homeroom into my homeroom, and we called it like it was: YM was making poor decisions because he allowed himself to be negatively affected by others. What a difference today! Knowing he was getting a new start, a chance to once again be the person he became this summer, YM has already shown a completely different attitude. He seems... relieved... and he is grateful, very grateful. I'm so glad. YM has such a good heart as well as everything else he needs to become a wonderful leader; he just needs a bit of maturity. Surprisingly, NB also acted quite differently today. I think he was shocked to see that we would actually remove his friend (for the good of his friend) and NB is rethinking his own actions. He was respectful and relatively prepared for class today. I hope this helps both of them but I am totally committed to YM; I know it will help him.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Earthquakes, Cholera, Protests

They say things happen in threes. I hope so. I hope it is finished for a while. Haiti has experienced a horrible 2010! Beginning with the earthquake that killed thousands and left millions injured and homeless, then to cholera that has sickened and killed more people than anyone actually knows, and ending with rigged elections that resulted in her well-known manifestations, Haiti is a mess. Any country would be but in Haiti, life is already so incredibly challenging that three horribly tragic situations result in complete and total chaos. On a good day in Haiti, life seems chaotic but add the teeming black smoke of burning tires and random gunfire from people who have no means of expression other than causing havoc, and life goes from chaos to anarchy. It's all so sad. The potential in Haiti for beauty, goodness, and productivity is unmatched. I have never seen any group of people work harder than these people do. They toil and labor from sun up to sun down without ever getting ahead. It is time, it is way passed time, that Haiti gets a break and experiences re-construction, health, and prosperity. Any one of the three would be welcome. Please Lord, heal Haiti - from the inside out!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Dignity and Death

Elizabeth Edwards died today. Mother, mentor, health-care activist, the should-have-been candidate rather than her preening husband. (Every time I saw John on TV, I wanted someone to mess up his hair!) She really struggled with her faith and I am hopeful that faith won at the end. Losing her beloved 16-year-old son gave her every reason to question God. I certainly don't blame her for that but I do hope that she was finally able to get passed the pain and back to her foundational beliefs, especially as she has now joined that child in eternity. I do my best to refrain from criticizing people who have suffered that kind of loss. Who am I to say they shouldn't challenge God? I don't know about you but I figure God is big enough to deal with that kind of anger and pain. Admittedly the grace required to endure such loss is one that (thankfully) I have not had to experience. It's true that my father died eight years ago but that is not like losing a teenage child. I admired Elizabeth Edwards. I agreed with her stance on national health care. We should at least have something that can provide for those who cannot afford their medical bills. I have seen first hand what happens to people who are not covered and the result is usually bankruptcy and often homelessness. It makes me so angry. That - should - never - happen! Not in this country! But it does and we should be ashamed of it. But no, we're going to give millionaires their tax breaks because they want to be billionaires. Ridiculous! But, I digress... rest in peace EE and may God give your children a special sense of His presence as they suffer this loss of their mother at this young age.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thinking 8th Graders

I love it when my students actually think, mull things over, question, and come up with ideas. Today I explained their essay test over the book they've been reading in literature circles. Normally I create a real test based on their vocabulary words, questions, and observations during their group meetings. This time our group time was so disjointed. We had a day off for power outage and then two and a half days off for snow plus Thanksgiving Break the next week. Their discussions never got to the flow mode that I've come to expect in these meetings. So I changed it up. Tomorrow each student will write a 100-150 word book review in class. I told them to focus on three things: the author's purpose in writing the book, the content (did they think it satisfied that purpose), and evidence - particular passages that demonstrate the author's support of his or her purpose. We had such a great discussion over these three points. Students were talking about the survival of the fittest in White Fang and how nature demonstrates this element of Darwin's thinking. Conversation about utopian societies surrounded The Giver and how that idea came out of French philosophy. There was so much more but it just thrilled me that they got it! On the other hand, Mondays and 7th graders are definitely polar opposite nouns! These students simply cannot be contained today - and that's not a good thing!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Friday Night Surprise

Last Friday night was the women's ministries dinner and I was asked to speak. It went very well; the sanctuary was transformed into a beautiful winter scene. There were 41 round tables of eight ladies, each table hosted by a lady who decorated the table with her dinner-ware and favorite Christmas centerpiece. It was truly lovely. When I arrived and headed to my place, I got a big surprise. Among the ladies present was my granddaughter, Kayla, and her little friend, Zoe. They were with their mommies at a table quite near mine, but my back was to them so I didn't really get to watch them. Every 10-15 minutes I would feel little arms coming around my neck and get another hug from the girls. They were so sweet. I didn't think my daughter-in-law was going to be there, let alone my granddaughter. Otherwise I would never have used illustrations about them! ha! The speaking part went fine; it's something I've been doing for many years so I'm not afraid but I do want what I say to be relevant to those who listen. When I wrote my speech, I didn't have anything in it that was funny but as I spoke, little things came to me rather spontaneously and that provided the levity that these events need. It really was a lovely evening; the ministries team did a great job and I was thankful that the Lord was able to encourage the ladies to make a difference in the lives of others.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Countdown Is On

We will go to Israel for Christmas this year. Our second son married a lovely young woman, Erin, who was born in Jordan and raised in Jerusalem. With her entire family converging for Christmas, it became obvious that we wouldn't be going to France this year! And that is more than okay; my husband has had a deep desire to go to Israel for many years. My deep desire is to see my two little grandchildren; I don't care where they are - I'll go there! So the countdown has begun. If I count today and the day I finally see them, I have 18 days to go! Yes, I can wait that long, just that long--- I'm so excited!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Night

Tonight is the dinner that I wrote about here. I've been working on what I'm going to say ever since the ladies first spoke to me about the evening. Editing, rewriting, reprinting, all those things I've been teaching my students in Writer's Workshop are coming into play. The good news is that I like those things; I enjoy playing with words on paper. The bad news is that I never know when to quit! I cut, reprint, rework, reprint, find something else to add, reprint. I've been through a lot of paper! Right now the sun is shining. I need to get through my planning period, dismiss my class, go to the bank, change clothes, and by tonight - this will be finished! I'm glad; I can finally stop reprinting!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Magazine Readers

This year, more than any other year, I have a lot of magazine readers in my 7th grade classes. I always buy a few magazines to put on my library shelves so that the boys (generally) have something to read at the beginning of the year. Usually by now, everyone is engrossed in a book or two or three. However, this year, at this very moment, I have five of seventeen students reading magazines rather than books. I am quite disappointed but it does explain why this group has so much trouble with writing, parts of speech, and all the other details that prolonged reading of good literature enriches.

Not a good way to end the day

It was a long day. Staff meeting went late for me and even later for the one at T's school so we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant across from the school. We invited T's admin assistant and had an enjoyable dinner. Then she went to youth group and I went to choir and T paid the bill. Next he headed out to the pick-up where he discovered someone had broken into the truck and stolen his briefcase with his laptop inside. He had our entire lives stored on that thing. Everything he does, schoolwork, web-page management, 30 years of information about everything everywhere is on that thing. He is not happy. We spent the next four hours canceling every credit card, changing every password, and filing reports with police and insurance. The police said that there's a ring of thieves operating in the area who are breaking into vehicles, homes, businesses and grabbing purses, cash, briefcases, electronics with the intent to sell it all - fast. Fortunately T had every model and serial number for everything stolen and it will go on some hot-list that is circulated to pawn shops and other second hand type places. Guess who's getting a new Mac? And it can't happen soon enough!