The heart of a teacher, the imagination of a storyteller, and the faith of a daughter of the King
I have had the privilege of teaching elementary students since 1996 at Southwestern Elementary, in Hanover, Indiana. Born in Connersville, IN, my family relocated to Madison, IN, when I was in fourth grade. I've been a resident of Jefferson County ever since. Currently, I live in historic downtown Madison with my felines, RockyTop & BlackTop.
I admit. This is not the post I planned to write. My birthday was Friday. My poetry book was published on Amazon over the weekend. I started setting up my classroom on Saturday. There were LOTS of potential ideas. Nope. They were all vetoed.
Why? This morning, my alarm was set before 6. A bit after, as I did a HUGE morning stretch, my room suddenly started spinning. I laid there for a bit, then I sat up and remained in front of the fan aimed at my bed. Why? Sweat was running down my face. I stayed in that position until the room stayed put, then I slowly and cautiously made my way to the restroom. I slowly got dressed knowing that a walk would not be wise since the room would stop and start spinning with head movements.
Thankful to have a small bag next to my recliner to collect trash in the living room, I used it for other purposes. [My cats during this time felt compelled to get close to me, which I vetoed.] My early departure to Room 404 was delayed. Temperature taken – below 97*. Apple juice drank. By 9:00, the room had stopped spinning and I headed to school. Grabbing something to eat on my way.
Walked into the school to see that waxing the hallway would soon be taking place. I worked on cleaning the shelves behind my teacher’s desk, and I realized that something was still off. At 11ish, I loaded up my laptop and returned home. Breakfast decided to meet the bag next to my recliner. I set my alarm on my cell phone for 1:30 and I dozed off….with two cats napping with me.
Next thing I knew, it was 1:25 and I sat up and realized….it had passed. Whatever IT was…it was gone. Testing my theory I poured the last of my Diet Spirt into a cup and grabbed a couple pretzel rods. By 2:00, I felt “mostly” normal [as normal as I ever feel]. I participated in the initial meeting for next week’s online training without one spin of the room or grab for the bag.
And I thought to myself, “Man, I’m glad that’s over.” Boom! Blog post detour.
Life is like that. Isn’t it? We can have plans. Good plans. But… They can get derailed. A 2-mile walk this morning would’ve been beneficial, but that same walk with my messed up equilibrium and nauseated stomach and mega-sweats (worse than my ‘hot flash’ perspiration) would’ve been unwise. Working all day in my room would’ve accomplished a lot and decreased my self-imposed stress, but meandering around my room with several trips down the hall in the midst of occasional spinning environments wouldn’t have been productive. Plans change. Direction shifts. That’s okay.
Even from those “I’m glad that’s over” things in our lives, we can learn something important. Here’s what I learned from those awful seven hours: 1. If you wake up with the room spinning, go ahead and alter your plans. Most things can wait until you feel better. 2. Always keep some Sprite or 7-Up in the house for days like this. Diet Dr. Pepper is not your friend on these days. 3. If you run through McDonald’s on mornings like these, opt for an English muffin or Bagel rather than a breakfast sandwich. 4. Just slowly lean back and go back to sleep. When you wake up, it might be gone.
So, what was it? No clue. I asked Google. It suggested low blood sugar, vertigo, or an inner ear issue. I figure when I go in for my annual blood work, I’ll tell the nurse practitioner it happened and see what she says. If it happens again before then, I’ll schedule an appointment. For now, I’ll just appreciate the perspective it gives me.
You see, there are times in our lives when we travel a path we didn’t choose or possibly we chose to be on wrongly. During those times, gather what you can from the experience, but be glad when it’s over…or when you realize you’re on the wrong path and redirect your steps. Those seven hours this morning made me SO THANKFUL for a non-spinning room. That’s not something I’m usually aware of to be thankful. Being able to bend over and stand up without holding on to something is not something I generally realize is a blessing. Finally, I often list a good meal as something to be thankful for on my gratitude list #gratitudejournalofjodilea, I rarely would list pretzel rods or a Nutrigrain bar. However, at this moment of the day, those things calmed a growling stomach, so they rock!
Some things in life…aren’t meant to be cherished, but they’re meant to make us appreciate what we had before they came or after they left. Let’s face it. Mountaintops wouldn’t be as wonderful if we didn’t know how hard the valleys are. Sunny skies wouldn’t be such a blessing if we hadn’t endured the storm beforehand. And…calm stomachs, dry skin, and unspinning rooms wouldn’t be as loved if we didn’t experience being nauseated, sweaty, and dizzy. Just saying.
Sometimes, I have to think and think…and think about what I should focus on in a blog post. Other times, like today, something happens which triggers a thought that prompts me to say, “I need to write about this.” Yep, that’s how the title above came to be.
If you know me, you know that during the school year my alarm goes off around 4. Most days I’m out of bed before 4:30, but I’m rarely still in bed at 5. Why? I like to get an early start in my classroom since I often leave by 3:30 to go to the gym. When summer comes, I turn off my alarm clock (unless plans dictate otherwise). So far, my body continues to wake me between 3:30 and 4:30 each morning, but I lay back down and try to fall back to sleep. Some mornings, I’m successful and sleep past 6. Today, Whoot! Whoot!, I didn’t get out of bed until AFTER 7:00. I was proud of myself. That may seem like a little thing to you, since most wouldn’t consider that sleeping in, but to me…that was HUGE!
Off to the gym I went. I’m currently in the midst of my 3rd 100-mile-challenge of 2022. My goal is to have it finished by the time I meet my parents for breakfast on Saturday. This morning, with my late-for-me start, I gave myself permission to do 10 minutes on the rower, 10 minutes on the arm cycle, and just enough arm resistance machines to close today’s Exercise Ring on my watch. On the rower, I maintained my current “normal” and finished a mile in 8 minutes, but I was thrilled to add another fourth of a mile during the final 2 minutes even though I slowed for a cool-down before switching machines. Then, on the Arm Cycle, I generally finish a mile in 5.5 minutes. However, I cranked those arms around enough to finish two miles in the ten minutes. That added over 3 miles to my 100-mile pie chart and I have less than 6.5 left. So…I’m pushing my target to finish to tomorrow by lunch instead of Saturday. It’s just a day. Not a big deal. But…to me, it’s HUGE.
Heading to my parents’ house to pick up laundry and dog-jog Banjo, I swung through Hardee’s to buy my favorite fast food breakfast. However, it’s regular price is over $5, which I won’t pay for fast food. Yet, with a coupon that expires next week, I paid only $3.20. Yes, it’s only $2.00, but that little savings made my morning. Just saying, if you haven’t tried Hardee’s Frisco Breakfast Sandwich, you really should. Just make sure you have a coupon!
During my dog-jog, Banjo generally stops…A LOT. Today, as we were at the bottom of the hill, he heard the bark of a “new dog.” In dog-language, the new dog must’ve been threatening because Banjo jogged nonstop all the way up the hill and back to his house. He had my pulse elevated higher than any of our previous dog-jogs. Was it fast? Nope. But…it was jogging, uphill, without stopping. I was proud of BOTH of us. It may seem little, but it was…you guessed it. HUGE!
Next stop was Dollar Tree. I know, I know. It’s really the Dollar-Twenty-Five Tree now, but let’s face it…rebranding would cause the prices to go up again. I went in to find a clear bowl for the trifle I’m making for small group tomorrow evening. Of course, I can’t go into that store without looking through almost every aisle. Guess what ! I found a lot of little things that brought smiles to my face. Whether it was a new placemat for RockyTop & BlackTop’s feeding station, wall decals for Room 404, Butterflies for my teacher corner (If you don’t know why I bought them, read my previous post.), a light for my no-light laundry room, or a large bottle of bubbles for feline frolicking, each item made me smile. Some made me chuckle And…even with the increase of a quarter, my 15 treasures came to under $20.
Let’s see… back on Tuesday, I made dinner for friends. The husband was injured at work and is off for several weeks. The wife is working, overseeing medical appointments, and had a lot on her plate. I provided them comfort food for dinner: Cheesy Potatoes, Homemade Sloppy Joes, and Garden-Grown Corn [Not my garden but a gift from friends.] Besides blessing them with a meal, it also provides a meal or two for myself. Well, last night, I had some cheesy potatoes with Chick-Fil-A nuggets (YUM!). I had a dilemma. The practical side of my brain said I needed to eat the remaining sloppy joes and cheesy potatoes tonight. The goal-oriented side of me said I should try this week’s new recipe [Yes, one of my summer goals is to try one new recipe each week.]. The problem rose when my grocery pickup order had the ingredients for the new recipe. I awoke with this inner battle (I know…stupid thing to be overthinking, but that’s how my brain works.).
Anyway, I walk into the kitchen and see….the cheesy potatoes still on the stove from last night. Decision made. As much as I LOVE my cheesy potatoes, I figured eating cheesy potatoes that had been sitting in a warm kitchen for 10 hours…was probably not the brightest idea. Guess what! The new recipe was delicious! I strongly recommend it. I included it below.
Okay, my little things for today are about finished. I’ll end with an email from a colleague. I responded to an email about professional development. His reply asked me if I’d been in the gym lately since he and his significant other [What do you call a girlfriend when you’re an adult?] go each day and haven’t seen me. See! That’s why I share my daily workout posts on FB. I’ve quit too many times, and I want friends to do exactly as he did. I assured him that when I go to the gym in the summer it’s generally in the morning and when I’m not there I’m either walking or pedaling my boring bike. Be a friend. Hold people accountable. It may seem like a little thing, but….it’s really HUGE.
In conclusion, what LITTLE thing can you do for someone else that could be HUGE? That meal ended up being provided on an evening when my friend was EXTRA stressed and overwhelmed because of work. That $1.25 bowl will hold a pretty trifle to feed my friends at small group. That bottle of bubbles will bring entertainment to my Instagram followers of Tales_From_Two_Kitties. Little things REALLY can be HUGE!
Speaking of little things. Why not visit Amazon and purchase one of my books. You can give it to a child or an elementary teacher. It would be a small thing, but to me…it would be HUGE!
What’s up with that title? Besides being a HUGE fan of alliteration, it also focuses on three good things in my life. Granted, two of the three can be hard, but with the right perspective they all three prompt smiles.
First, I’ll tackle CHANGE. My mascot for change is the butterfly. Why? It goes from a caterpillar to a cocoon to a beautiful butterfly. [We’ll overlook that their lifespan is anywhere from a week to a year; I choose to focus on the positive.] In fact, I now have butterflies on my phone case as well as hanging from my ears as a visual reminder that change can be good.
Most people aren’t fans of change. For the most part, I’m not either. However, a change needs to be analyzed. Is it a change for the good or simply a change for the sake of change? The first – winner, winner, chicken dinner! The latter – it could still be good. For instance, a couple years ago I requested a change in my teaching assignment. After teaching third grade for 24 years, I wanted to try something new. Well, not super new…it was just a grade difference, but it’s been a good change. Why? It’s challenged me (Ahhh, see how the first CH leads to the second?). I’ve learned things (or relearned things) that I hadn’t done in years. I’ve spent time pondering how to improve various avenues of the curriculum’s instruction. It’s stirred up the “new teacher excitement” that had faded in third grade.
At the same time I requested that change, I started a new one. It was part of my mid-life crisis. I restarted my commitment to the gym and exercising. In the past, this urge would last for 3-6 months then it would fade again. Alas, not this time. Whoot! Whoot! It’s been over 2 years now, and I’m still going to the gym an average of 4 times a week but exercising 6 times a week and often 7. Has this CHANGE been a CHALLENGE? Of course, but my daily pics serve as a reminder that it has been a good change. The sole reason for my workout pics are to serve as a reminder when FB tosses them back up the following year. When the scale doesn’t budge, I try and focus on better fitting clothes and more energy. However, the pic comparisons are their own type of CHEERLEADER to my journey.
Ahh, the CHEERLEADERS! What a blessing they are! I would guess that none of them wake up and say, “I’m going to bless Jodi’s journey by encouraging her to keep going?” However, their choice to spend a few seconds to say that they see the change – whether physical, mental, or whatever….means SO MUCH.
Oops, I almost slid right past challenges. Most of us are not big fans of those, but…as long as it’s presented in a positive manner…I like a challenge. In my career, challenge me to try a new teaching strategy or technique. I’ll jump in quickly and give it a try or two or several. I may not stick with it if it doesn’t fit me or my class, but I’ll rise to the challenge. With my quest for getting healthy, I will pay to participate in 100-mile-challenges as a manner of accountability. I’m currently 3/4 of the way finished with my 3rd of the year. Last year, I completed 4, so this year I’ve challenged myself to complete 5 of these challenges. Why? I mean, no one calls me to say, “Did you push yourself today? Did you add a mile?” However, this morning, I left the house determined to walk 3 miles to add to my pie chart. By the end of my first mile, I had decided to push myself to do 4 miles since my “usual” is a 2-mile route and today I’m free to walk more. I’ve also challenged myself to step out of the box and to ponder beliefs. Whether it was trying my first drink last May (wasn’t a fan) or teaching myself that saying “no” to people is perfectly acceptable.
I’ve also challenged myself to grow in confidence. How? When I restarted my exercising, I wouldn’t go to the gym unless my sister or nephew joined me. Now, it’s my usual to go solo. Eating in a restaurant solo was never something I chose to do, but now…why not? Next up? I’m pondering going to a movie by myself…I mean, why not?
So, my friends….I encourage you to EMBRACE CHANGE….
Happy Easter! I love Easter. It’s my favorite holiday. I love Christmas (Don’t get me wrong), but when someone asks me what my favorite holiday is….my answer is Easter.
Easter, for me, doesn’t start today. It started over 40 days ago when Lent began. Then, last week on Palm Sunday I remembered how Jesus entered Jerusalem while palms were waved. This same crowd later would shout for His crucifixion. Last Thursday, we gathered at my church for a Maundy Thursday service. It was a powerful 30-minutes which had scriptures and songs taking us through the Last Supper that Jesus had with His disciples…including Judas. Yes, the one who would betray Him for a few pieces of silver was included in the final meal. On Friday, we returned for an interactive Good Friday service. Again, our pastors took us through scripture with readings and songs. Then, we closed with an interactive act of justification (nailing a paper with sin written on it to a cross), sanctification (clean water poured over our hands) and glorification (lighting a candle).
This morning, “my kids” (aka Calvary Kids) were able to help the praise team lead the Call to Worship. We ‘sang’ and (mostly) did the motions to “Glorious Day.” I’ll share the link at the bottom. Just so you know…if you sing the song while doing the motions, you can earn 2 points on your Smart Watch Exercise Ring. No joke. I earned 6 points today by doing the motions three times.
As kids were excused to go back to Calvary Kids’ Worship, I went back with them to help a visiting child make it back to the kids’ room. While there, I snapped pics of our three kids’ areas and even found myself in the nursery (NOT my place of natural service). Seems one of our little guys had to wake up a couple hours early due to the Easter schedule at church, and his little body wasn’t up to it. Alas, all my voices and sound effects and bouncing had no impact. He needed “mama” or “daddy”…and “Miss Jodi” just didn’t cut the mustard [Side Note: I used that piece of figurative language in my 4th grade class, and they didn’t get it.] Sometimes, no one but our Father will do when we’re hurting.
By the time I returned to the foyer, Pastor Mike was halfway finished with his sermon. So, I finished listening to it just a bit ago. The perk of offering our services on FB is that I can watch what I miss when I’m serving elsewhere. As he preached from I Corinthians 15, lots of parts stuck in my thoughts. One of the points I’m pondering is that the Name of Jesus has prompted more goodness and more kindness than any other. Schools have been started. Homes have been built. Children have been adopted. Why? Because as Christians, we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to His creation. His hands and feet…were nailed to the cross. Yet, Jesus rose from the dead to make us whole again. Nothing He asks of us can match what God planned for His Son. Oh to ponder the price He paid for my salvation. At the conclusion of our service, I returned to the door to extend wishes for a good week and a Happy Easter and to offer hugs to my church family.
Since my family had our Easter gathering yesterday, I enjoyed lunch with a couple of my friends before heading home and changing into exercise clothes. I headed out on a chilly afternoon for a 2-mile walk. As I walked, thoughts of the One I worship and whose resurrection prompts this holiday filled my thoughts.
When I stopped by the river, I imagined it not as the Ohio River but the Sea of Galilee and the One who is the Living Water on a boat speaking to His followers. As I looked at the trees with leaves that were beginning to pop out on their branches, I was reminded of the new life we have in Christ. When I walked past the home of a family who attends church with me, I thought of their three daughters as well as the nieces and nephews who joined them today at Calvary. The verses about children popped into my head as I thanked Him for gifting me in the area of working with kids. With a half mile remaining, I started a VERY SLOW jog home. Then, the verse about running the race started going through my head. Oh how thankful I am to have some verses hidden in my heart so that I can pull them out when needed.
As I finished my walk and sat down, I decided a few things. I decided not to “work” today. I’m not doing laundry even though I have a couple loads I could do. I’m not washing any dishes even though I have a few I could finish. I could grade some papers, but they’ll still be there in the morning. I’ve decided to just relax and enjoy this day. My felines will be happy as one of them has already napped on me. Why? This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and enjoy each moment.
Oh! I almost forgot. My first prompt to write a blog this weekend came on Friday as I listened to the passages being read at the Good Friday service. You see…I’m KNOWN for my love of purple. In fact, my former students remember two things…always. They remember I make “voices” when I read/teach and they remember my favorite color is purple. My favorite color at one time was red. At a different time in my life, it was pink. But….during my freshman year in college – the fall of 1988 – purple was planted into my heart and head. It imploded thereafter. Why? Our Comp 101 class had us writing a paper about our family’s holiday traditions. I wrote about Christmas and how at the time we had a white teddy bear on the top of our tree (because I loved teddy bears), and I shared that when I had a tree…it would have either a star or angel on top. Anyway, my friend Kelly decided to write about her family’s holiday traditions. Now, her family considered themselves Catholic, but they rarely went to church. So, she decided to write about my family’s Easter traditions. As she sat in my room, I talked to her about a lot of the things I wrote in this blog. I took her from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to Easter Sunday. As I shared my family’s traditions, I read her the passages in John. When I reached John 19, I read about the purple robe placed on Jesus to mock Him. Yet, to me…it wasn’t a symbol of mocking but a sign of Who He is. A sign that He is the Prince of Peace and King of Kings. You see, my favorite color may seem like it’s “just purple”, but it’s not. Purple reminds me of the One who gives me purpose and peace. The One who saves me and forgives me. The One who loves me and reminds me that I matter to Him. I mattered to Him enough to die on a cross. You matter too. So, the next time you see the color purple…remember. He loves you. He died for you. But…Sunday came and He came out of that tomb. And…one day…He’ll be back again.
It’s been a while since my last post. Apologies for those who read it. Life happens and schedules get full. Plus, sometimes…I’m waiting for the right inspiration. Today, I found it.
It’s spring break. Many of my colleagues are heading to Florida or Tennessee or elsewhere for a family vacation. Me? I’ve not taken a vacation since I was a kid. After graduating from college, I would travel to Tennessee a couple times a year to visit friends. However, when you are not a fan of driving and are a fan of sleep, your plans change.
I opt for STAYcations. They allow me to do some needed things and some relished things. First, I attempt to get my house ‘back in order’ and to go through STUFF to get rid of STUFF. I LOVE the feeling of filling a box with items I no longer need and for the second year…clothes I no longer fit. Well, I’ve done that plenty, but starting last year, the clothes are too big rather than too snug. Great feeling!
I also READ. I love to read. Yet, when school is in session, I find myself limiting my chapters to 1 or 2 each night due to my early wake up the next day. I actually have 3 books at home currently, and I hope to at least have two read before returning to school on the 21st.
Then, I also schedule lunches with friends…where I don’t have to swallow my food in less than 30 minutes. Likewise, I find a few recipes that I want to try, which I just did this afternoon and filled my grocery pickup order to pick up sometime next week.
However, it was the first item I shared that has inspired today’s post. Decluttering. Today, I only partially filled 2 boxes. One with decorations and books and the other with a couple of clothing items. I am confident that over the next three days…I will fill at least a few boxes.
That got me thinking. I need to declutter my heart…as in my thoughts and feelings. Let go of things that are weighing me down. Honestly, I want to channel my inner Elsa…and “Let it go, let it go, don’t hold it in anymore.” Get it?
What do I need to get rid of? The negative and critical voice inside my head. The voice that looks in the mirror and only sees the flab that needs to be gone or the loose skin that hangs where the fat once was (Guess what! When you’ve been overweight for decades, your skin doesn’t ‘snap back’ when you lose a chunk of weight…even if you lose it slowly.). The voice that sees my hair when it’s frizzy or untamed rather than when it’s curly and cooperative. I’m sure most of us have one of these negative voices, especially most females who struggle with self-confidence…but I really need to kick it to the curb.
Then, there are the thoughts that tell me I’m not enough. I’m not an effective enough teacher. I’m not a skilled enough writer. I’m not a perceptive enough friend. I’m not a worthy enough female. I’m not enough. See, I know that I am, but that thought lingers.
Goodness! I even bought rings that remind me that “I am enough.” I post quotes often to remind myself and others that someone else doesn’t have to make me worthy by their approval. Yet, I still battle the persistent thought.
I disguise it. I disguise it with laughter. I disguise it with self-deprecating humor. But…it lingers. It needs to be gone.
You see. I’m the daughter of the King. I don’t have to be “good enough,” as He sees me through the sacrifice of the Prince of Peace. My Savior loved me enough to give up His life to purchase mine.
So, please…I pray. God, help me get rid of the clutter that mars the mind and heart of the daughter you created me to be. Remind me that in Your eyes…I am enough. In your eyes, I’m a beautiful daughter. That truth. Is enough.
You’re doing a wonderful job! You’re stupid! Thank you so much! Thanks for nothing.
Yep. Words have power. I’ve always known it, but recently I’ve had a crash course reminder. As a child, they tell us, “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Let’s call that cliché what it is….an absolute LIE! Words may not cause physical pain, but they can cause mental & emotional pain. Anyway, I figured I’d share my experience to help you avoid getting on the wrong roller coaster ride in life.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email. There was one sentence that didn’t hit me right. Instead of focusing on the overall message in the email, my mind fixated on the one sentence. Those who know me well…know that I tend to think, think, and think some more on things. My methodical personality can be a great asset sometimes, but my skill in fixating and overthinking would definitely NOT be one of those assets.
As days passed, that sentence taunted my thoughts. It invaded my dreams. I pondered often going to speak to the sender about the one sentence, but alas…I’m also..51 and menopausal. I’ve reached that point in life where sappy commercials make me cry. Inspirational FB posts make me teary. Sad or sweet movies, well give me your box of tissues. [Perhaps it’s payback for making fun of Mom during her crying spells when we watched “Little House on the Prairie.”] Anyway, each time I had myself ready to speak to the sender, my eyes would water. A couple times…I even….ugly cried [During these moments, I remind myself it’s Eve’s fault that I’m a moody emotional roller coaster.]
On Tuesday afternoon, the misinterpreted sentence mixed with a huge self-annihilation of my skillset. I wrote out my thoughts due to my inability to speak without breaking down. I then….realizing that my emotions were a tidal wave of crazy, asked a friend to read it and either offer edits/revisions or advise me to delete or send. He read it and offered feedback. Then, I hit send. The next day I received a response. Today, a face-to-face conversation took place.
Words misinterpreted. Happens a lot in writing. The reader can’t ascertain the feelings/thoughts guiding the words. As I walked away from the conversation, it was as if a huge boulder was off my shoulders. My breathing had calmed.
I say all that to simply say…when writing….read and reread before sharing. I’ve unintentionally disrespected others with my reactive nature. It’s never my intent. If you’re not sure how it comes across….ask a proofreader to check.
Relationships are too important to allow words to mar them. Because I misinterpreted a line in an email, my Jodi-outlook was marred by doubt and negative self-talk. Since I blew up the message of one sentence, my smile faded for a bit.
Your words have power. Written words can be misinterpreted easily. One of the ways I teach this is with the word “whatever” and the phrases “Let’s go” and “That’s crazy.” I model saying the word/phrase with one tone of voice or facial expression. Then, I ask my students if they could say the same word/words where it would mean something totally different. Try it.
Let’s face it. Words matter. Make yours count. May they show care and concern or even comic relief rather than being caustic and cutting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
#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.
#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….
#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?
#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!
#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.
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.