Did 2021 Stink?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read and noticed countless posts or memes about how awful 2021 has been. As I would scroll pass, I would be reminded that there were almost the same types of posts and memes shared at the end of 2020. Were these years bad? Hmmm….

First, let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room? Or should I say the virus in the news. Covid-19 stinks! It really does. It’s tried to steal Christmas 2020 and Christmas 2021 from my family. In 2020, my oldest sister was battling for her life against the virus and its impact. This year, my vaccinated & boosted mother has battled it and her other health issues while isolating at home. A year ago, the rest of my family exchanged gifts and shared a phone call with Dianna while she lay in the hospital away from all of us. This year, I spent most of the day alone except for going to my other sister’s for dinner. We’ve postponed the family celebration until Mom is stronger and can be around others. However, I refuse to let IT be the reason I deem an entire year (or two) as awful.

Maybe…I’m too Pollyanna? Maybe…I have rose-colored glasses on? But, as I tell my students, there’s good to be found in every negative…you just have to find it. Let me explain.

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Spring, 2021

My sister Dianna was on the ventilator twice, was hospitalized from the beginning of December 2020. She was in two different hospital ICUs. She was in a step-down facility (I think that’s what they call the place between a hospital and a rehab/nursing facility) then a rehab/nursing center. She and her husband decided that she would be home by their anniversary in May 2021. Is she back to where she was before? No. But…I’ve seen a woman who couldn’t move her legs walk through her trailer with the use of a walker. I’ve seen her work in therapy until she could climb a few stairs with great effort. Yes, she’s still in a wheelchair currently, but last winter…someone had to hold the phone for her, had to feed her, and had to help her to the restroom. That’s the good. The progress she’s made. The story she can tell. The testimony she will be able to share about how God has helped her to regain strength.

As for Mom, she’s gone a couple days without a fever. She’s still highly fatigued and sleeping a lot, but a few steps forward and another step back. I could focus on the “step back,” but instead…I’ll focus on the steps forward. I’ll trust that she will continue to regain strength. If you pray, please join me in praying for her recovery.

But….2021 can’t be only identified as the year of Covid.

You see…my personal journey to “Finding Jodi” has continued. My “healthy mid-life crisis” has continued too. I’m not the same Jodi today that I was last year…and certainly not the one I was in 2020. So, as this new year begins….I will reflect on who I am now and the journey ahead.

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First, I’ve gained and lost the same five pounds ALL 2021. No joke. It was discouraging. Yet, mid-December I tried on my “next size down” in jeans. They fit. Granted, another inch off will make them fit more comfortably, but I was pumped. You see, last December, I remember going out to my nephew’s and wearing a pair of jeans that were one size smaller than the start of my “get healthy” journey. These jeans…were two sizes smaller than that pair. So, I decreased in jean-sizes two times…even though I didn’t lose more pounds. I joke with my nephew (who’s the voice in my head when I’m working out solo) that I’m “reconfiguring” just like a map ap when you miss your turn. I’m looking forward to the day when the scale’s needle starts moving again, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. I’m proud that my “mid-life crisis” has become my “normal”. For that…I’ll celebrate and acknowledge that there was some good in 2021.

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One of my favorite workout shirts is white (I’m not a fan of white shirts). It’s my favorite because it says #confident. Why? Because…I’m not. I mean…I certainly wasn’t when this journey started, but it’s gaining. Don’t get me wrong…if I walk past people while wearing leggings and a tunic, I still think they’re talking about how bad I look if they start quiet talking to each other. If someone doesn’t text back, I wonder if I’ve done something to make them mad. However, my confidence is gaining. How do I know? I’m glad you asked. First, I will grab a meal in a restaurant by myself. Not daily, that would be a waste of money. However, if I have an appointment and there’s time after my workout, I’ll go grab dinner before the appointment to avoid eating too late afterwards at home. Plus, when this started, I would try to always go to the gym when my sister or nephew could go with me. Now, I often go solo. It doesn’t bother me at all. My music and I go in and get’r done. Goodness, this morning I even shared a 18 minute conversation with an old friend while I was rowing. He noticed me as he was getting ready to leave, and he stopped by to say ‘hi.’ The greeting turned into catching up and my 2 miles were rowed by the time we said good-bye. In the past, I would’ve been too self-conscious to continue rowing while having that conversation. Progress. I mean, I still have a ways to go, but I’m getting there.

This past year, I accomplished something that I had never done before in 25 years of teaching. I picked me over an extra thing at school. When a book club meeting was required to attend a conference, it would’ve messed up my workout regimen with my sister. When told if I didn’t participate in the book club that I would need to give up my spot at the conference, I returned the book. Now, if you know me, I LOVE reading. I also LOVE my career. But at that moment in the year, it wasn’t worth it to me. So, I picked me. I had friends tell me they were proud of me because they knew it took a lot for me to do. In retrospect, I’m glad I made that call. I would’ve enjoyed the conference, but I see the time commitment that those teachers are expected to give weekly…and I’m thinking…nah, this was the right choice for me.

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Plus, the book I told myself I’d write back during my undergrad years at Carson-Newman College was FINALLY accomplished. I picked 25 lessons I have learned during my first 25 years in the classroom. I don’t know anyone outside of family and friends who have purchased it, but “Lessons Learned Behind the Teacher’s Desk” was a labor of love. It may be the book I’m most proud of writing…even if it’s probably sold less copies than any of the other 8.

Oh! A love that began in high school was rekindled this past year too! Now, if you’re my friends or family reading this, you’re probably shocked. But…alas…remember who’s writing this. That rekindled love is….poetry. Yep. I started writing poetry in high school. I continued writing poetry in college. However, after graduation, the busyness of life pushed that affection on the backburner. As I started typing poems I’ve written for “Kaleidoscope of Poetry,” I also started penning a few more to be added. One day, my book of poetry will be ready to publish, but I didn’t realize how long it would take to type them…and how often other things would pull my attention away from that task.

Let’s see…more positives?

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Oh, my favorite nephew “in the whole entire world” (who is also the illustrator of my picture books) graduated from Western Kentucky University back in May. He had a job in Louisville, KY, lined up before graduation. Plus, his girlfriend (Hmmm, they’re adults now. Is there a better word?), Sarah, graduated this past December and has a nursing job starting this month at Norton’s. Love them both, and those were certainly positives about 2021.

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Hmmm, I could sit here and list more positives of 2021, but…2022 has begun. New goals are set (I don’t do resolutions). Life is beckoning to be lived. So, my friends, make the most of your 2022. Don’t let Covid or politics steal the positives from your journey. Be a Light and shine bright!

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My goals for 2022…
1. Exercise no less than 3 times/week, but shoot for 6.
2. Decrease soda intake and increase water intake.
3. Increase confidence…do things by yourself without overthinking.
4. Publish “Finding Home” – first chapter book in “Tales from Two Kitties.”
5. Work on “Kaleidoscope of Poetry” and pen a few more poems.
6. Grow a new ministry – Calvary Crew for Kids – at church.
7. Accomplish 5 100-mile challenges in 2022 since I did 4 in 2021.

Voices as I Walk

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2017 & 2021 Route

Yesterday, I walked in a 5k. It was the third time I had walked in this particular 5k. It’s called “Run the Falls,” but anyone who knows me realizes that running isn’t in the game plan. As I walked it yesterday, there was plenty of time to think and those thoughts turned into a lesson learned. I knew I wanted to put the lesson into words, so here I am. But first…here’s my history with this walk.

The first year, back in 2017, I walked the course in over 55 minutes. I had started walking a mile or two here and there. My sister, Sherry, asked me if I wanted to walk it. “Sure,” I replied. Then, one day after a dental appointment, I thought I should do a trial 5k. As I walked, I texted my nephew who was a freshman at WKU to see how long a 5k was in miles. My trial run clocked me at a 23 minute per mile pace. I didn’t know if that was awful and just not good. Anyway, when I walked the event, I tried to set my sights on someone in front of me and to not stop walking until the end.

I had two goals that year:
1. Finish in less than an hour.
2. DON’T be last!

Then, I didn’t walk it for a few years because I had published my books. The weekend of this 5K is also the Madison Chautauqua which is an event that brings in craftsmen and various vendors. David Kummer, a local author, asked if I wanted to share a booth at the “Old Court Days” part of the event. Selling books kept me away from walking in 2018 and 2019.

Then, Covid takes over life as we know it. Last year, they did have the 5k, but they altered the route. I had started my “Turning 50-Time to Get Healthy” journey, so I had been walking more. My pace was around 20 minutes a mile generally, so my goal was to beat the 55ish minute time from my previous walk. I did. Barely. My time was somewhere between 54 & 55. Due to Covid, the water stations were taken away, so I carried a water bottle with me. You know..one of those 32 ounce ones that you’re supposed to refill once during the day to ensure you get your water intake. Never again. Carrying that thing was a nuisance. I’ve learned since then that walking an hour without water is feasible as long as fluids await you when you finish.

This past year, I’ve worked on stamina and pace as I walk. I have three different 3.11 mile routes that I walk whenever I want to test myself. One is in downtown Madison along Main Street which I walk in the early mornings. Another takes me from my house down to the Ohio River and back which provides hills for me to push myself. The final is an easier route in a neighborhood where several of my friends live. That one has no hills and little traffic. My pace has decreased to around 18, but it can be quicker when I push myself or when I walk with Sherry. You see, I’ve learned that having someone to keep your eyes on challenges you to “keep up” or to at least keep them in your vision.

So, yesterday, I walked the “Run the Falls” for my third time. Goals? Yep, of course.
1. Finish in under 54 minutes.
2. Don’t be last.
Then, I added two more….
3. Don’t fall & be under an hour [Fear Goal]
4. Finish in under 50 minutes [Wonder Woman Goal]

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Why the extra goals? I’m glad you asked. After I was dressed for the race in my #Confident workout t-shirt, I heard the dreadful news. “Rain is moving through this morning, but then bright skies for the rest of your day.” I uttered a selfish prayer, “If You could get the rain through before 8 or pause it until later today, I’d be so grateful.” Why was #3 my fear goal? Last October, I was walking my route to the river and it had rained that morning. As I walked down Vernon Street towards the river, my shoes slipped on the wet muddy pavement, and I wiped out. Leggings tore, calves covered in mud, and upon returning home I found my skinned leg had been bleeding. It wasn’t fun. It’s caused me to be a bit paranoid of any wet pavement especially wet hills. I feared that wet pavement would win the day.

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Now, the “Wonder Woman Goal” is something I set when I do my walks or try a new thing at the gym. At the gym, I tell myself when I can do a machine for a certain amount of time or do resistance machines or dumbbells at a particular weight that it’s my “WWG.” Likewise, when I go for my trial 5k walks, I’ll set goals for my miles as well as for the walk altogether. I did the same yesterday. I knew that a 16-17 minute mile was a pace I rarely maintained, so if I could do it for the event…it would be my WWG.

Now, to begin this walk, you first have to hike through a 0.1 mile trail in the midst of trees that had been covered with fallen leaves. Picture this…a 51-year-old overweight female with fear of falling on slick terrain having to walk it as it’s raining and seeing the wet leaves just taunting her…
“We’re gonna take you down, fat lady. We may be small, but we’re mighty,” their little mocking voices said in my head.

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However, as I journeyed this short trail, my friend Linda was walking with me. Her voice countered that this is probably the worst part of today’s trail and there was no rush, so I could take my time. Granted, the people walking behind me may not have agreed with my slow and scared pace, but in the end…we made it.

Linda & I started near the “14 minute” pace marker. Granted, I can’t fathom walking at that pace, but most walkers were in front of us, so I figured it was okay to dream a bit. The walk begins (if it was a gun start, I couldn’t hear it. But everyone was moving, so I knew it had started.), and my pace is okay. Of course, normally my “MapMyRun” app and my Apple Watch talk to each other to let me keep tabs on my pace, but I didn’t want to slow my start by messing with it, so I just pushed “start” on an outdoor walk.

Guess what? It told me how long I’d been walking. I could see how far I had walked. I could even see the elevation (as if I cared), but NOPE….there was no pace to see. Well, there went that plan on making sure I hit my target. Being the methodical person that I am, I had calculated that I needed to maintain a 17:15 pace to hit my goal. What would I do without my tracker?

It didn’t matter because the rain was falling. My #Confident shirt was now fully wet. My curls at times dripped water down my face. You know…wiping a wet eye with a wet hand does nothing to remove water rolling into them. I almost chuckled each time I tried to do it.

Then, the Voice of Fear started shouting, “This hill is wet. You’re going to go down AGAIN. You’ll rip your leggings. Your legs will be bleeding. PLUS you’ll be stuck on this road in Clifty Falls State Park where you won’t be able to avoid eyes for your journey home. You better slow down, Old Lady.”

I obeyed. I told Linda to keep going that I needed to slow down for fear of falling on the wet pavement. As I watched walker after walker pass me, I admit…I got choked up a bit. At this point, my own Voice of Reason countered the Voice of Fear. “Listen, Jodi, you bought NEW shoes for this very reason. You know the reason you wiped out was because your well-worn shoes had little tread left. These are new shoes. This pavement isn’t covered with leaves. There’s no muddy places for you. You are NOT going to let fear win so get going. If you do fall, you will get up and keep walking. You’ve worked too hard to let FEAR keep you from reaching your goal.”

My pace increased. Soon, I was passing some of those same walkers who had passed me. Then, all those things I had been doing the past year started jumping into my head.

“Okay, start your intervals. You do it all the time. Pick up your pace to that tree. No, I meant that next tree,” and I obeyed.

“Keep your eyes on the lady with the black leggings. Pick up your pace and try to pass her. Good, now see that tall guy with the bald head? He’s your next focal point. Don’t lose sight of him.”

Alas, the wet pavement returned. I had been successfully navigating to the “dryest” parts of the road, but another downhill arrived with no dry lane, so my pace slowed.
“Be safe, slow down, don’t fall,” Fear reminded.
“New shoes. You’ve got a goal. Don’t let the rain win,” my rational mind countered.

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At the one mile mark, I hear the glorious information, “15:46.” What? Wait. Omigoodness! That little statement made a world of difference. My methodical mind calculated that my 2 mile goal would be 32 minutes.

I reached the “turn”. Most of the hills were behind now I faced the “long and winding road” to the pool which was the finish line. I didn’t think this portion would ever end. I hadn’t even reached the second mile yet, and my umph was slowing. There were three walkers in front of me, and I couldn’t find a passing lane. I saw a curve coming up, so the math teacher in me said, “If you start walking in a diagonal towards your left, then you’ll be in front of them as they follow the curve.” Yep. I obeyed, and it worked.

However, I still didn’t know my pace, but I saw my time was nearing 30. That’s when my nephew started walking with me. Well, he actually was in Bowling Green with his girlfriend and her family, but his voice was with me for the rest of the walk. Why? I’m glad you asked.

MS Virtual Walk, May, 2021

Last May, we participated in the Virtual MS Walk due to Covid, that stinkin’ virus. My sister Sherry had warned him that my pace wasn’t the same as previous MS Walks. Anyway, he and I started walking. We’d walk a regular/fast pace, but then we’d do intervals of fast & push-yourself. No problem for the first half of the walk. However, on the way back to their house, I was less focused on maintaining the push-yourself interval. He’d say, “You got this. You can do it. Just to the next pole.” [When you’re not in the city, the huge poles are the easiest way to monitor intervals.] By the time we finished, if I remember correctly, our time was around 51 or 52 minutes.

Walking solo with Kelly Clarkson, Gabby Barrett, Carrie Underwood, and Lauren Daigle singing in my ears, I kept my eyes fixated on the tall bald guy. Then, the moment arrived, and I believe I heard this beautiful number uttered, “31:15”. Seriously? I was pumped. However, the umph from the time was countered with a 51-year-old-body that is more fit than a year ago but far from being in-shape.

Once again, Connor started saying, “Don’t stop now. If you keep it up, you could finish ahead of your goal. ”

The tired math teacher countered, “I could slow down a bit and hit my target.”

“You’re not slowing down. If I was walking with you, you wouldn’t slow down, so you’re not slowing down. Keep going. You got this,” his voice in my head urged.

The tall bald guy was pulling away. He must’ve been planning for an end boost of energy; I was planning on finishing without passing out. I kept going. Then, I saw the pool road ahead. I told myself to pump those arms. This made me chuckle as I remembered times I’d think walkers who pumped their arms were fanatics. “Does that mean I’ve become one of them?” Next thing I see was Sherry.

She was coming out to walk back to meet me. As she saw me approaching, she said something, but Kelly was too loud in my earbuds, so she repeated, “You’re going to kill your time. It just turned 48 minutes,” as I turned and saw the finish line ahead.

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“Get a picture of the timer,” I shouted to Sherry as I pumped my arms faster and tried to be Wonder Woman. She didn’t have her phone on her, but she said others took the pic. “Um, not of me…of the timer,” I replied. I was assured that the clock made the photo.

As the man with scissors started to reach for my shoe, Sherry announced, “She’ll be back, but she needs to keep walking.” Yep, last year, as they cut the tag from my shoe, the sudden stop mixed with body heat and lack of fluids caused me to become lightheaded, so we had a plan to avoid it from happening this year.

I was so pumped. I did it! I kept my pace under 17 minutes. No, I didn’t place in my age group (Sherry did! She was 3rd in our age group), but I won the race. You see, I wasn’t racing against any of those other walkers. I was racing against myself.

I tell my students all the time not to compare their scores or skills with the others. They should be focusing on their scores improving from their previous scores. Their skills should be increasing from their skills the previous week/month/lesson. The man (or woman) in the mirror is your only competition.

Oh. The lesson of the day. There’s always a lesson to learn, and this lesson is focused on voices.

  1. Don’t let the Voice of Fear have too much power in your life.
    When we live our lives with fear looming, we miss the joy and excitement that the day brings.
  2. Don’t listen to the Internal Negative Voice.
    A lot of times we talk more nicely to others than we do ourselves. Since leaving adolescence, I think I’m the only one who refers to me as a ‘fat lady.’ Perhaps those outside voices who called my that as a teenager created that monster or perhaps it’s the world’s perspective of what beauty looks like, but be nice to yourself. You were made in the image of a Holy God, and I have no doubt He’s not pleased with me when I refer to His creation in derogatory terms.
  3. Listen to the Rational Voice, to a point.
    Being rational is good. Being realistic is good. However, there are times to dream big dreams and set big goals. Don’t be so focused on logic that you lose the excitement of the “what ifs.”
  4. Listen to the Friendly Voice if it’s sincere.
    Linda’s advice was loving and insightful. It reminded me that even though the beginning trail wasn’t so great that better roads are ahead. The same is true of life. Sometimes your journey is rocky. Sometimes storms will come. Yet, we must realize that they’re temporary and we can look forward to easier paths and the brighter skies.
  5. Find your Barnabas Voice.
    Barnabas was Paul’s missionary partner for a while. His name means Son of Encouragement. Many are that to me, but Connor is certainly that when it comes to my journey to becoming healthy. When I’m on the Hip Abduction and Hip Adduction machines, his voice keeps me from going below 100#. In the walk, his voice kept me from letting tired legs rule the final half of the journey.
  6. Listen to the Voice of Encouragement and Protection.
    Sherry’s “You’re gonna kill it” statement arrived just at the right time. I knew as I turned that final corner that I was almost finished and that I was almost ready to taste the victory of reaching my goal. Then, her words at the finish line protected me from becoming lightheaded and enduring that experience again.
  7. Enjoy the Voices of Celebration
    Who took one of the pics of my crossing the line at 48:42? One of my “third graders” from my early years as a teacher. She posted it on FB which led to other affirmations. To be honest, I cried at one point yesterday afternoon as I read the exhortations from friends.
  8. Find the Voice of Truth
    In the end, it’s all for His glory. Whether I hit the regular goal, the Wonder Woman goal, or missed the mark completely, it would be for His glory.
Waiting for the 5K to begin as the rain was falling.

First Week Ponderings…

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Over the summer, several people have asked me if I like fourth grade better than third. I always remind them that I can’ t judge 4th grade by last year due to Covid guidelines, but that I enjoyed the year nonetheless. My first full week is finished, and lots of thoughts have been running through my head. I thought I’d share them in a blog post…

#1 – Some things don’t change.
I’m in year 26, but I still have spent the first two Saturdays in my classroom working on my lesson plans. I know in time I will be able to have my next week’s lessons & materials planned and prepped by the time I head home on Friday. Currently, I’m not there. Of course, part of the reason for this truth is by Friday afternoon my brain was “done” and couldn’t focus.

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#2 – New school years always bring excitement
A new class of students to build relationships with have joined me in my classroom. A new teacher, who is actually an old friend, has joined our grade level. A new “theme song” (parody) to go with my class theme. Yes, excitement always starts the year.

#3 – New school years always bring stress.
Yes, it’s not all fun & game or smiles & giggles. Test scores bring stress. New requirements piled on to our returning expectations. Having half of my class reading below grade level has it’s own weight added to the mix. Yep, stress is there…in abundance.

#4 – Bathroom breaks are not appreciated like they should be.
During the summer, I have the freedom to go to the restroom anytime I need to. However, unlike other professions, quick restroom breaks during the workday are not so easy to accomplish. They have to be taken during my students’ special class or when my kids take their restroom break. Normally, this is feasible, but when you’re also trying to drink a gallon of non-carbonated liquids a day and your bladder is 51 years old…my “teacher bladder” is getting tested. So, if you’re not a teacher, please appreciate the fact that you can use the restroom when you need to. It’s a blessing that you should appreciate.

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#5 – Planning meals is beneficial.
This year, the price for an adult school lunch increased more than a dollar a day. When I calculated the extra for a month, I realized that it was time to start packing my lunch. During the first two days, I took salad. It was good, but I had purchased the lettuce too soon, so by day two…I had to ditch some wilted leaves. My first full week, I took “adult lunchables” where I threw some salami & ham in a container with some mozzarella & Colby-Monterrey cheese. Then, I purchased some seed crackers…and voila. Day 1-Yum. Day 2–Yum. Day 3-Not bad. Day 4-It is what it is. Day 5-What was I thinking? So, this week…I’ve planned my lunches and the necessary dinners. Today’s lunch provides tomorrow’s lunch leftovers. I’m making pasta for Monday’s dinner, so I’ll have leftovers for Tuesday and maybe Wednesday. Then, I’ll throw together tuna salad for Wednesday’s dinner for lunch to be provided on Thursday and Friday. We’ll see how this plan goes….

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#6 – Summer messes up my routine.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my summer break. It’s great to enjoy morning walks. I look forward to lunches with friends. And…my early wake-up is changed. This summer, I thought I was being super smart. I didn’t allow my body to sleep “late.” I changed my 4:45 alarm to 5:45. Most mornings, I was out of bed before 6. With this beginning, I still found myself heading to bed on most evenings at my “school bedtime.” You’d think THIS would’ve made the transition back into “school mode” an easy one. Um, nope. You see, since I leave school twice a week at 3 to go exercise at the gym with my sister and once a week (or every other) I leave at 3 to go visit our other sister who is still working back to complete health from her battle with Covid…I’ve decided that my usual early arrival isn’t early enough. I’m attempting to get out of bed at 4:30 to be in my classroom by 6:00. So far, it’s worked once. However, I have arrived most of this first full week by 6:15, so I’m making progress. School bedtime is still strong, and most days I fall asleep easily.

#7 – Some things do change.
For as long as I can remember, the beginning of school would be accompanied with odd school dreams. Really, they’re generally full-blown outrageous. This year…so far…nada. No school dreams. Most mornings, I don’t even remember my dreams. Perhaps…#6 has caused #7?

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#8 – Buying school clothes is different as an adult.
Normally, I don’t buy “new outfits” for school. However, with the weight-loss of this past year and the decrease in clothing size, I found myself with a decreased school wardrobe. I remember several years ago how I would take my “little sister” shopping for 5 new outfits. She had a blast trying them on and picking what she’d like. Me? I went to two websites where I purchase a lot of my clothes. I selected “clearance” and picked “dresses.” Then, I filtered with my size and started browsing. Hand wash? Nope. Review says it’s easily wrinkled, Um, nope. Under $20? Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I ended up with, I think, five new dresses. The highest price was $25, so…my new school clothes are good-to-go. Plus, having a friend who can do quick alterations on the shoulders/neckline of dresses that are a bit big from last year doubled my dress closet. Score!

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#9 – There are more lessons waiting to be learned behind the teacher’s desk.
This summer, I finally finished my book, “Lessons Learned Behind the Teacher’s Desk,” and I’ve realized that each day so far…there’s been a new lesson. I may be starting year 26, but as I told my assistant principal last year, “I’m never too old to learn something new.” Of course, as I ponder the day as it ends each afternoon, I’ve realized that there’s probably “More Lessons Learned Behind the Teacher’s Desk” to compile by the time I retire…whenever that is.

#10 – We should all “Shoot for the Moon and Shine Like the Stars!”
Yep, that’s my class motto this year. Shoot for the moon and have high expectations and goals for yourself. Shine like the stars by making attitude & behavior choices that will allow you to sparkle and be a light in the dark. Whether you’re a fourth grader or a 51-year-old fourth grade teacher, you should do both. And…I aim to.

Now? I believe it’s time to take a nap. I mean, it’s Sunday. I’m a teacher. It’s what I do.

Birthdays, Ballgames, & Baptisms

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on August 7, 2013.

Birthdays, ballgames, and baptisms!

     Why would I lump those three things into one writing?  Well, they’re the main three ways that “my kids” invite me into their life outside of the school walls.

   Over the 17 years I’ve been in third grade, I’ve been invited to a handful of birthday parties.  Sabrina’s was at her house on a Saturday while I was in the midst of my graduate degree.  Fortunately, our professor at that point, liked to dismiss us early, so I was able to make it to her party, share a piece a cake, and visit with a few girls from my current and previous classes.  Then, Tiffany invited me to a birthday party that took place at Mr. Gatti’s during the weekend I was involved in DiscipleNow with my college kids.  At that point in my career, I was attempting to teach full-time as well as lead a Baptist Collegiate Ministry on Hanover College’s campus.  So, while my college kids had a few hours of free time, I skipped out and made a quick stop at Mr. Gatti’s to give a hug to the birthday girl.  There have also been birthdays at the bowling alley, neighborhood churches, and various homes along the way. If I can stop by with a card and a hug, I do.  Sadly, a few times, my memory has completely blanked, so an apology message goes out quickly…like last year when I completely forgot about Kenny’s birthday during spring break.  I felt like such an awful person for forgetting, but Kenny’s reply, “That’s OK, I understand.”  What a sweet kid!

     Then….there are ballgames…and dance recitals…and… (gulp) wrestling matches.  How many of these have I gone to?  Too many to count…or even name.  I generally tell my kids to bring me a schedule & I’ll try to attend one of their games.  So…I’ve seen soccer games, baseball games, football games, basketball games, dance recitals…and (gulp) wrestling matches.  I’ve yelled…taken pictures…given hugs…chatted with parents…and stood and applauded the extracurricular activities of my students.  Some are easy…basketball games and soccer games fly by.  Some are fine…football games (Please don’t get hurt) and baseball games (Please get a hit) and dance recitals (Aren’t they cute!).  Then…there are….wrestling matches.

     My nephew wrestled one year…maybe two.  That’s when I realized that I’m not a good audience for wrestling.  Why?  Well, I spend my career telling kids to “keep their hands to themselves” and to “be courteous and respectful of all others and at all times”.  So…then you come to a wrestling match.  You hear adults yelling, “Take him down”, “Pin him”, “Grab his legs”.  Ugh!  It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.  Now before any wrestling fans attack, I know athletes tend to get hurt in other sports more often than wrestling…I’m just saying….It’s hard for this elementary teacher to watch.  But…do I?  Of course.  When Joey, Jakob, Elijah, Cliffton, & Brayden all tell me they’re wrestling and ask me to come…I have no option but to go.  So, I watch, I clap, I hug, I take a picture of me and the wrestler…and as soon as all are finished…I hightail it out of there.  Pictures are posted, students are proud, personal discomfort is worth it for their joy.

     Of course, the down side of me attending sporting events is sometimes it hinders my students’ skills.  As I watched Katelynn’s coach-pitch ballgame, I’m standing behind her mother and another mother.  The other mother says, “She’s just nervous because her teacher is here.”  Oops!  After one inning of fielding and getting up to bat, I exit so her skills will improve.  From being an aunt, I know the after effects of a ballgame with no hits….no fun.  Then, there was the wrestling match where one of my boys who “always gets the pin” ended up being pinned within the first few seconds.  It was so quick that I didn’t even get a picture.  So…after the boys were finished, I left before the next round started.  Then, there’s the soccer game where every time the ball is dead a boy yells “Hi Miss Pflaumer” and waves.  Oops!  Paying more attention to your teacher than the soccer ball…not a good plan.  Oh well…the joy on their face shows I should be there.

     However, out of all the invites I’ve received, there’s two that stand out the brightest.  Twice in 17 years I’ve been invited to see the baptism of a student. Several years ago, Nathan invited me out to the church where his dad serves as pastor.  He and his twin brother were both being baptized.  So, I went to Sunday School at my church, and then went out to his church to witness his baptism.  Last year after spring break, Elijah told me he met with his pastor and accepted Jesus as his Savior.  I told him to make sure and let me know when his baptism was scheduled.  It ended up being on the same Sunday I was supposed to help serve a lasagna dinner at my church, but baptism by far trumps lasagna!

Yes, the new academic year has started.  Teacher-student (family) connections have begun.  Invitations are just around the corner, but I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

So, who have you invited into your life recently?  What child would be ecstatic to see you sitting in the bleachers or lawn chair?  What neighbor would love for you to give them a hug on his/her birthday?  What person has recently accepted Christ who you could witness being baptized and encourage in his Christian walk?  Don’t go home, lock the door, and put your feet up.  There are people who need you in their life…go be there.

Time Goes By…

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on July 24, 2014

There have been many times since my last post (months ago) that I’ve contemplated sharing my thoughts.  Alas, my home computer was…near death, so it would take me two hours to simply produce a one page flier.  Good news?  I buried said computer a week ago, and now am blessed with one that can think more quickly than me!  So, I’m hoping my outlet for sharing my “ponderings” will be more consistent.

But…it seems time has a way of getting away from us, don’t you think?

Since my last post, I’ve said good-bye to a class I loved dearly.  I found myself dreading the end of school and saying “good-bye” to them as my students.  Funny thing is…time kept moving.  It didn’t stop just because I wanted it to move more slowly, so I could remain their teacher a while longer.  Time…moves on.

Our school is currently on a “balanced calendar”.  For those who don’t know what that means, we have two weeks off in October, December, and March, and our school year starts promptly at the beginning of August.  For me, that’s no biggie.  I’ve always been “one of those teachers” who is more than ready to resume the journey when August roles around.   However, this year, I find myself asking, “Where did summer go?”

Two weeks working with third graders needing to take the I-Read retest…
One week serving lunches on the Gleaners “Lunch Bus”…
 The week of July 8th, I found myself at a Teacher Academy focused on science during the day and spending three evenings out at the county fair.
Two weeks setting up my room for my new crop to enter. 
Now?  I’m in my last week of “freedom”, and I am attempting to make myself avoid “room 302”.

Did I go anywhere exciting?  Nope.  Did I go on any thrilling vacations?  No.  However, I enjoyed time with friends, rested a busy mind, and reenergized for the upcoming school year.  One of my biggest goals of the summer was to “Be Still.” 

I find my schedule and mind during the school year tends to run, run, run.  So, my biggest lesson of the summer is to stop letting time race by and to enjoy the moment.

Over the past months, I’ve seen one of my mom’s close friends, Wanda, be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Recently she was told that the treatments this summer didn’t shrink the tumor and if she had “the surgery” she might have two years.  Without the surgery, they predict she’ll have one.   This sweet lady and her husband have opted for her not to have the surgery.  They want to have a quality year together without recuperating from surgery.  I am confident they will enjoy each moment and treasure their time together.

A friend’s sister was recently also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  They were able to do the surgery and remove the cancer.  She begins a round of treatment to kill any wandering cancerous cells.  Likewise, I’m confident that she and her family will have a new sense of appreciation for their relationships and their time together.

What has this shown me?  Don’t wait for a severe storm to rock your world, appreciate your blessings…now.  Cherish them daily.  What will it take to get you to “Be Still” and to appreciate what you’ve been given? 

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of singing and sharing at a friend’s church after their summer pitch-in.  Not being a member of the church, I opted to sing a Southern gospel and then a couple songs you’d hear on K-Love.  The first song I sang was “Count Your Blessings”, which was recorded by the Martins. One of the lines that hits me hardest is “It’s best to look at what you have and forget what you have not, and learn a lesson from old Job and give thanks for what you got!” That’s what we need to do.  Stop and be thankful for what we have and enjoy every moment.  The final song I shared was “Be Still and Know”.  This goes with the verse that God uses many days to still my wandering mind and get me to focus on what matters.  God.  Don’t let life and its busyness steal your joy.  Don’t let the stress of work keep you from appreciating your blessings. 

Be Still, my friends, Count Your Blessings! 

You don’t know what tomorrow holds….or if your tomorrow will come, so seize the day and praise the One who gave it to you!

Count Your Blessing, the Martins 
Be Still & Know, Steven Curtis Chapman 

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Histories, Hilarity, High-Fives, & Hugs

Originially posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on August 29, 2012


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   This morning before announcements began, one of my boys came up to tell me a very important story.  At least it was to him.  To be honest, I got a little lost as he told me about a PSD (not sure if that’s the name of the handheld game he was referring to) game he played and what the rocket or car did.  I’m not a “video girl”, so it was all a foreign language to me.  However, to this student, it was the best story ever and something he just had to tell me.  One of my girls told me all about her trip to Bristol for a race last weekend.  She shared the “best part” is the hotel, and she doesn’t really like to go unless they stay in a hotel.  She added, “You should’ve gone.  It was great!”  I reminded her that…umm…I wasn’t invited.  That just caused a chuckle.  Yes, students always have histories to share of something important…or fun…or gross.  It’s part of childhood.


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   This afternoon, as I sat at my computer working on updating my classroom Facebook page, one of my boys came back in to get his forgotten student planner.  As he spoke upon entering, I jumped.  This won’t surprise anyone who knows me, as I believe when God gave out the “gene” for getting surprised or startled He gave me multiple helpings.  Just like everyone else, my student found it quite hilarious.  As he left, he said, “I just about killed you, didn’t I?”  Of course, he was laughing at the time, so I’m hoping he meant it figuratively.    Then, there are the times when my students ask me to teach as “someone else”, meaning one of my voice characters.  We often chuckle as I teach with a sad attempt of an English, Australian, or elderly voice.  Of course, our economics activities involving play-dough and service charades have brought plenty of humor.  Yes, hilarity is something that we share daily.  I know when I leave in the afternoon that if my class hasn’t laughed at least once during the day, then I must be a bit grumpy.


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   Did you ever wonder who created the “high-five”? I did, so I googled the question, and it led me to a story naming Glenn Burke as its originator.   He was a Dodger in the 70s, and it was simply something he did…that ricocheted around the world.  Now, I use it frequently in my classroom as well as at church.  When a student tells me they scored a 100% on their AR quiz, high-five!  When my student showed me she was almost finished with her chapter book, high-five!  When the boy at church shows me the hole from his missing tooth, high-five!  To be honest, there are times when our 3rd grade teachers high-five…when something we plan or do goes especially well.  I mean, congratulating good things with a high-five is a good thing.  Have you high-fived anyone today?  No?  Give it a shot…what do you have to lose.

     Yes, I love the histories my kids share about their adventures.  I laugh a lot with the hilarity of life or jokes & stories of my kids.  High-fives are given and received daily.  It’s part of being a teacher.  Yet my final “H” seems to be in abundance this year.  Hugs!

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     You know…hugs just do wonders.  I have students who hug me daily when they arrive.   A couple students hug me daily when they leave my language class.  There’s even a few students I’ve not met by name who come up and hug me in the morning just because I say “hi” and they know my name.  In fact, one of the boys in my class probably hugs me a half-dozen times a day.  Of course, I can’t imagine a Sunday morning or small group without a hug from Bam.  He’s my buddy, and he always makes sure to give me “my hug”.  Hugs do wonders.

     Hugs remind me of when my nephew was little.  First, nothing would bring me more joy then when he’d come running down the hall at church to give me a hug.  I didn’t see him daily, but on Sundays…the hug always arrived.  Hugs…let people know you care and show them that all is well…even after “bad stuff” happens.  My sister and I would often chuckle when my nephew was smaller.  If she had to discipline him about a choice, he would reply with “Huggy, Mommy, huggy”.  He needed to know that even though his choice wasn’t making his mommy happy that the affection was still there.  Have you hugged anyone lately?

Well…those are my random thoughts for the week…So, share a story, tell a joke, give a high-five, and offer a hug.  Not only will the other be better for it, but so will you!

Missed by a Week…

Last week, I wrote a blog post about my year of being 50. I shared about various goals and progress made. I also admitted the one goal on my list that I didn’t achieve or begin….Learning to shoot a gun.

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Joy loading the guns

Growing up, I just always thought “guns were bad.” However, my grandpa and his brothers hunted. That was fine. My brother-in-law hunts and has thus taught both my sister and their son how to shoot. As I became an old lady…I mean, as I matured…I realized that as a single female, I probably should learn to shoot “just in case.” [Even as I typed that, I uttered a prayer that ‘just in case’ never transpires.]

For those of you who read my blog, you know I’m a Christian and that I am active in my church. Joy, who currently teaches our Sunday Bible study class, shoots…well. She serves on our church’s security team. She has taken several of the ladies in my class to learn how to shoot before they purchased a gun. This past Sunday, as she was talking to a couple of the other licensed gun owners about their meeting and shooting practice this coming Saturday, I uttered, “I want to go!”

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1 in bulls-eye was Joy; the rest were mine.

Rather than taking a total novice to a meeting of trained women with guns, she offered to take me for a 1-1 tutorial. Now, the teacher in me knew that was a much more appropriate setting for me to learn how to shoot a gun. Plus, I had plans already on my calendar for Saturday. Plans were made, and the week began.

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Thanks, Joy!

I enjoyed learning how to shoot. My eye protection kept fogging up, so I’d have to wipe and start again. By the end of my 30-minute (or less) tutoring session, I hit the target a few times. It was apparent that I needed to have many more practice sessions to gain mastery, but most skills require practice. When we called it a day, my hands were a bit numb from the power of the gun, my arms were a bit stiff due to the tension placed on them to hold the gun steady. As I showed Joy’s husband my targets when we returned, he offered encouraging words. Then, getting in my car, I smiled. Check another goal off the list, and I had been able to enjoy conversation with a friend which was a bonus blessing.

As I thought about today’s lesson and target practice, I pondered several things {Hmm, that’s probably why my previous blog was called ‘Miss P’s Ponderings’.} First, I remembered when my friend, Marge, was going to teach me to play golf. Their family was avid golfers, so I thought, “Why not learn?” Wisely, she took me to the golf course that the “intense” golfers didn’t frequent as much. I had fun. In the end, I never became a golfer. Her son, Todd told me, “Jodi, I think you laugh too much to be a focused golfer.” Yes, that comment made me laugh.

The next thought focused on guns themselves. An invention that can protect. It can provide. It can do good. However, it can also kill, maim, and destroy. On one side of the debate, people scream for gun control and more strict laws and guidelines. The other side counters with the second amendment. Me?

We do deserve to bear arms and protect ourselves, our family, and our property. Yet, in my 25 years of teaching, I had one former student die accidentally with a gun wound in 2012 and another died from a self-inflicted wound in 2017. Guns…. Powerful weapons which can be used for both good and evil. Some people say, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” True. However, sometimes it happens by accident. At times, it’s because of depression. Does that lessen the power of the gun?

Of course, as my brain is programmed to do, I saw an analogy between a gun and a person’s life. Both are created for a purpose. Both can be used for good. Yet, both can also do harm.

When God sees me doing harm or not doing good, does He wonder if I should have more safety features on my life? Does He think His creation is evil and should be banned? Thankfully, even in the midst of my sinful choices, He sees me through the blood of Christ who took my sins upon Himself. I thank Him for loving me even when I fall short of hitting His target.

And…I pray for all those who have been hurt by guns…may God give you comfort, strength, and peace as you walk this journey. A journey prompted by a gun used by someone in a way that doesn’t fulfill its correct purpose.

A Year in Review…

A year ago, I turned 50. As many people do, I pondered my life. I made some changes. I set some goals. I started on a “Finding Jodi” journey. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lost. However, I have so often become what someone or everyone believes I am that I wanted to ponder who I was, what I believed, and how to grow into the person I’m meant to be. Of course, you can also read it as my mid-life crisis. I hear that happens frequently.

First, I decided it was way past time to focus on my health and to become a healthier version of me. I’ve been on WAY TOO MANY fad diets that I haven’t been able to commit to long-term. This time, I simply decided to be “smarter” in my choices. I ate less fast food. I tried new vegetables. I would often take my lunch to work. I still ate chips & salsa and other items that some diets veto. But, it seemed to help me feel better and have more energy. I also tried to drink less soda and more water (or flavored water). Well, at 11:00 on my birthday, I went to my post-fasting-labs appointment. And….

Woohoo! Weight was down. (I knew that one.) My good cholesterol improved. My Vitamin D levels improved (I’m guessing thanks to spending time outside walking). My sugar level improved (last couple years it was in the pre-diabetic zone) to the point it was “normal” which, I kid you not, made me let out a “woohoo” in the room. The only negative was that my bad cholesterol increased a bit (must be those eggs?), but Amy wasn’t concerned due to the level and the improvement to my good cholesterol. I was PUMPED!

Part of getting healthier meant starting back, once again, to Planet Fitness. Since joining, I’ve had a handful of times when I would “get committed” only to be “too busy” a few months (or even weeks) later. So, after May 14, 2020, I started going three times a week. Then, I started going additional times or walking during the other days. I kid you not….there are times currently that I exercise all seven days a week. Not always. With my oldest sister battling back from a horrendous case of Covid, there are some Tuesdays when I opt to rest due to teaching and going to visit with her. I’ve stuck with the “need to” long enough that it became a habit. Plus, can you believe….when I don’t exercise now…it seems….odd.

Besides getting healthier, I also chose to try new things and explore beliefs. Now, if you’re one of my friends reading this, be assured…this does not have anything to do with my faith. I am certain that I am a child of God, and I strive to serve Him. However, at times, I realized I would do things or not do things because it was what I have always been told.

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It was pretty…but pricey. Not a fan.

What? Here’s an example. At the age of 50, I had never ordered a drink or tried alcohol. I am not joking. Well, I may have taken a sip of someone’s strawberry daiquiri when I was in college and a group of girls went out for dinner, but that was the extent of my experience. I simply would say, “I don’t drink.” Why? I was always told it was wrong, which in my walk-the-line Christian-girl mindset translated to drinking alcohol being sinful. Now, walk with me just a bit. I’m certain there are some of you who are thinking I’ve gone crazy. Others of you probably think that belief was crazy. Here’s the deal. I’m a smart person. I know Jesus Himself turned water into wine at a wedding. Now, I do know that getting drunk is a sin (Ephesians 5:18). I also know that I tend to have an addictive personality, so I always rationalized my not trying alcohol as…”If I like it, then becoming an alcoholic could happen.” However, in my “Finding Jodi” journey, I told my colleagues that whenever we finally went out for a meal together that I was going to order and drink my first beverage. We did. I did. I was not a fan of what I ordered (Peach Margarita, peaches are my favorite fruit, so I thought it would give it a chance.). Then, I saw the bill. Goodness! Before my “getting healthy” quest ever started, I stopped ordering soft drinks at restaurants because the price was too much. This means that the price of that drink at the restaurant is enough to deter me from EVER ordering another. However, if I’m at a friend’s house, I may try a glass of wine, just to see. Thankfully, I don’t foresee my addictive personality kicking in on this avenue.

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Another aspect of “Finding Jodi” renewed another old activity. Way back in the 80s, I started putting my feelings and thoughts into poetry. I remember thinking in high school that it would be “cool” to be a poet one day. Now, honestly, I realize that making a living as a poet won’t be happening. However, I’ve written a few poems along these past 365 days. Plus, I’ve started typing ALL of my poems from high school, college, and the few I’ve written thereafter. I’m hoping to continue to do this and self-publish Kaleidoscope of Poetry by Valentine’s Day 2022. I originally wanted to finish it this summer, but I didn’t realize how many poems I needed to type. Goodness!

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As I’ve shared previously, I did request last spring and was granted the opportunity to try a new grade level as an educator. When I was in college, I had hoped to do my student teaching in 4th grade. As a substitute, fourth grade was probably my favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching 3rd grade for those 24 years. I had accepted Christ as a 3rd grader, so I always felt that teaching third graders connected my two worlds (Even though as a public school teacher, I was unable to teach my beliefs). Granted, with Covid regulations, the year I just finished is not a clear reflection of how well I’ll do in fourth grade. However, I’m EXCITED about ideas for our grade level and instruction ideas & activities that beckon to be tried in Room 404. That change seems like a great fit.

Did I meet all my goals or dreams for my “mid-life crisis”? Nope. I had hoped to learn how to fire a gun. Why? I’m single. It seems like a smart plan. Of course, even though I’ve decided to learn how to fire a gun, I’m not as certain as whether or not I want to be a gun owner, so there’s that….

Oh, what do you do for your 51st birthday when you’re single? Well, first you go to Planet Fitness and have a 51 minute workout where you do 51 reps on the machines or exercises that you select to do. Then, you meet with the nurse practitioner to learn if your numbers have improved on your fasting-lab work. For lunch, you meet your parents before going to their house to train your mom on using Google. In the evening, you go with one of your sisters and brother-in-law to visit your nephew for dinner. Then, when you finally get home, you fall asleep a few hours later than your normal bedtime. And…my 52nd year is off to a great start!


Don’t Steal My Joy…

Originally posted on August 22, 2012, on Miss P’s Ponderings.

     If you haven’t read my posts consistently, you won’t realize how much I appreciate the joy I find through my Savior.  Yet, it seems that often in this life, things try to steal it.  Sometimes, the things that try to steal our joy…or which we allow to steal our joy…are small things, not life-changing things.

     Today, I’ve thought a lot about how easily we can let our joy slip away.  To be honest, there have been a few patches of time when I allowed a storm cloud to attempt to takeover.  However, the joy from within reminds me that “it’s all good”, and I need to consider it all joy.

     This reminds me of my first student teacher.  To be honest, I had my first student teacher probably before I should have.  At the time, we were told you had to be a teacher with a masters to have a student teacher.  I did not.  Yet the principal told me she saw me as a “master teacher” and signed me up for the experience.

     Now, to understand this little anecdote, you need to understand that the year of this student teacher was also one of my three toughest years as an educator.  The behavior and personality challenges in that class were quite trying. One parent told me during conferences that he’d like to request a room change for his daughter, but the daughter wanted to stay with me…regardless of the behaviors that at times took over our classroom.

     My student teacher came into the classroom befriending my students.  Now, being friendly to students is important, but students have to see you as a teacher.  This energetic lively teacher soon became overwhelmed.  I remember one day after she had been teaching for several week, her smile faded.  She looked at me as we walked back into the building after dismissal and uttered, “Miss Pflaumer, I just don’t know what to do.”  With her downhearted expression and weary heart, I simply said, “Don’t ever let them steal your joy.”

     Knowing she shared my faith, I went on and explained that as teachers we will have good days and bad days.  We will have good years and bad years.  We will have good experiences and bad ones.  Yet, no matter the obstacle or the storm we ride through, we must maintain our joy…the joy we find in the Lord.  Yes, we’ll have bad days, but my worth and my mindset cannot be mastered by my circumstances.  My mindset and worth comes from the One who made me and who gave His life for me.  We then discussed things to do to attempt to improve the situation.  Yet, to be honest, some years are just hard.

     Now, I will profess, this year is not one of those three hardest years.  The mixture of students I have this year both in my homeroom and language class is a blessing.  Yet, aren’t those challenging groups blessings too?  Yes, but it’s harder to see the blessing when it’s in the midst of the storm.

     Today, I learned that one of the kiddos in my language class will be moving sometime this semester, and it already made me a bit sad.  Then, it was confirmed that the routine and rapport I’ve established with my one-hour teacher’s aide will be restarted with a new aide at some point.  As a person who likes things to be “just so”, these things attempt to steal my joy.  And for a bit, I admit, they did.

     You know, I’m confident that all will be well.  I generally can get along with most people, so I’m sure I’ll be fine with the new aide.  It’s simply a change.  I’m not a fan of change…unless it’s a change I’ve requested.

     But, as I step back, I wonder….How is God going to use this to further mold me into His finished pot?  I mean, the Potter has a reason for making me uncomfortable by allowing change to occur.  I’m trusting that the irritation I feel right now will fade.  I’m confident the complaining I’ve done today will be replaced by rejoicing.  Yes, I will find my joy…not in my circumstance, but in the One who is control….even over my class enrollment and teacher’s aide assignment.  After all….I should consider it all joy.  Right?

     What’s trying to steal your joy?  Don’t let it.  Take a deep breath.  Say a prayer.  Reclaim the peace that only He can give and treasure your joy…day by day.

So Much Sunshine!

Originally posted on Miss P’s Ponderings on August 18, 2012

     You know, if I’m honest, I could complain about aspects of my job.  I mean, there’s a lot of testing.  K-Love has told us for a few weeks that teachers are the least respected profession these days. Government keeps cutting funds but raising requirements…or hoops we must jump through.  Government cutbacks put stress on local school systems. Changes in laws and policies cause a whole new dynamic in the field I was called to for my career.  Yes, complaining could steal my joy, but I won’t let it.

     Those things I shared are true.  Yet, they can’t overshadow the Truth.  The Truth tells me that children are a gift from the Lord.  It tells me that when I welcome one of these little ones into my heart that I’m welcoming  Christ.  It reminds me that I’m not to be a stumbling block in their journey.  You see, my calling is to children and the public schools are my mission field.  I’m to be a light in the lives of the ones He places in my room, whether for a day or a year.  Yes, my heart is a teacher’s heart.  I don’t teach to get two months off in the summer.  I don’t teach because I never work a weekend (Let’s face it…I work plenty of weekends…I just don’t get paid for my time).  I teach…because of my kids.

     I often refer to my kids as my “crop” for the year.  I have a year to tend the crop that’s been planted in room 302.  Oh, how I hope to be a good gardener! (Let’s hope I’m better than I am with real plants! Ha!!)  After only 11 days with my “new garden”, I can honestly say that I love the little ones He placed in my room.  I have already been touched by so many sweet things this year, and I anticipate my heart breaking a little when May rolls around.

     The title of today’s post…is due to the sunshine my kids and parents sprinkle into my days.  Regardless of the “storm clouds” that politicians try to push into my atmosphere, sunshine is stronger.  I thought I’d give you a glimpse.

     Let’s see, one little boy professes daily, “Miss Pflaumer, you’re the best teacher in the world.”.  On Friday, he didn’t get to participate in Fun Friday due to being a little too noisy one day.  As he was heading next door to the “Un-Fun Room” [where students work on their reading and math goals], he came up and said, “Miss Pflaumer, you really are the best teacher in the world, even if I don’t get Fun Friday.  You’re the best!” OK, how can that not put a smile on my face?

     After he went out the door, another boy was at my side, he wrapped his arms around me and said, “I think so too, Miss P.  He’s right, you are the best.”  Awww, it was such a sweet sentiment.

     Then, we can’t forget my girl who tells me every day after she returns from language arts’ class, “Miss P, I really missed you.”  Yesterday, when I went to get my kids from the “Un Fun” room she added, “I missed you, I’m glad you’re back.”  Wow!  Only 30-minutes later, and her sentiment was sincere.  My heart melted a little more.

     Of course, my language kids tug at my heart strings too.  As I stand outside my door at 7:45a.m., greeting the students as they arrive, one of my LA girls came up.  “Here, Miss P, I made these bookmarks, and I want you to have one.”  Of course, I pick the purple one, and her face beams.  As I finish reading a chapter and tell them we’ll read more later, the LA class lets out an “ugg” and says, “Just one more, please?”  [Umm, no…we have lessons to learn and skills to acquire, but it’s a sweet request nonetheless.]

     Does it stop with my third graders?  Nope.  Every afternoon, I take my students to their special class at 1:52.  On three of those days, I’m in the fourth grade hallway on the way back to my classroom.  I have to chuckle as I take my “celebrity” walk down the hall.  Last year’s crop dash out of their line for a quick hug.  I sure hope their fourth grade teachers don’t mind too much because I find it sweet.  A splash of sunshine!

     Then, there was another fourth grader who stopped by my classroom after school to bring me a packet of seeds.  If I can tend them well, they’ll grow into lovely purple flowers with some pink mixed in too.  It’s a small gesture, I know, but the fact that they’re purple is a demonstration of affection.  Again, my heart melts.

     As I sat typing my lesson plans yesterday afternoon, one of my students returned to give me a hug.  Her parent works in the school, so she just wanted to stop by and hug me before she left for the weekend.  I’m amazed as I had just had to talk to her about some behavior issues, but it’s forgotten as she demonstrates her feeling of acceptance in my classroom.

     Of course, I can’t share my sunshine without sharing that I’ve had some kind e-mails and FB comments/messages from parents too.  I’ve had conversations in my classroom, the hallway, and even the cafeteria that have been encouraging.

     I honestly get excited when I think of the possibilities of our school year together.  I have high expectations for what my crop will grow into.  I pray that by the end of May they’ll be able to be harvested as fourth graders eager for another “farmer” to develop them further.  Alas, I will not worry about tomorrow, but I will enjoy each day along the journey.

     So, as I ponder all the sunshine my kids and their parents have sprinkled on my first two weeks of school, I can’t help but see the Sonshine.  You see, I know that I’m a teacher because my Creator gave me a joy to work with children, creativity to help engage them, and determination not to let “storms” take away my joy.

     I pray He’ll use me to be the Light…and to shine His Sonshine on the lives of all whose paths I cross.  Have you been shining for Him this week?  This day?  This hour?  If not, start shining!

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