Are You Ready?

That’s the question I hear almost daily from someone. Are you ready to go back to school? Well, here’s the parody that I posted yesterday sharing how I want to teach, so in that regard…I’m more than ready.

That question then leads to a discussion of the current situation of reentry and pandemic guidelines. It’s a lot to ponder. In fact, I’ve been pondering it ever since the 19-20 school year ended.

Am I ready?

My room is almost ready. I think I’d like calling it my home if I was a student. Currently, it’s organized, and I’m really going to try to keep it that way. [Now those of you who know me and have been in my classroom, you should quit laughing. It could happen. Maybe it’ll be another positive change for the second-half of my century.]

Am I ready to teach 4th grade?

To be honest, the math and language arts will just be a step deeper, so I’m good there. Social studies has more of a state focus, which should be fun. Between the two of us, I’ve never been a fan of social studies. I remember one year in elementary, my teacher wrote a chalkboard full of notes that we copied. I don’t ever want to do that. I’m hoping that I can add my energy and creativity to help it come to life. Plus, one of the 4th grade teachers from when I was in 4th grade contacted me and is sharing some books and a unit on our town with me. Shoot, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I was going to see if I could convince the rest of my new grade level to plan a Johnny Appleseed Day with me. I mean, that was my FAVORITE memory of 4th grade. Plus, the newness of the focus will be a great challenge for me. You know you’re a teacher when you become excited about finding and printing pics of the state seal, motto, flower, bird, tree, song, and poem. Honestly, I didn’t even know we had a state song, but you can be certain that my 4th graders will hear it…and we just may sing it because….some kids connect best to music. Science has some topics I’ve never taught in 3rd grade, so that will be another challenge. Thankfully, I have some connections to Hanover College that may come in helpful in those areas.

Am I ready to teach during a pandemic?

No…yes…somewhat..I think so. Clear as mud?

No, I’m not ready to do it, but yes I am ready to do it. There’s this study I participated in last summer called the Enneagram. It pointed out to me that I often let fear guide me. I never really thought about it until I read it. Then, as I analyzed my choices, behaviors, etc…I realized it was true. So, fear is there. Social media and the media itself do nothing to help that fear. So many differing views. So many differing truths. You can find someone saying it’s best to return, someone saying to start virtually is best, and another saying schools should remain virtual until a vaccine is successful. All of those “someones” are experts. All of those experts have evidence. See what I mean?

This morning, our pastor preached on the importance of learning and being lifelong learners. Now, as a teacher, I tell my kiddos that every single year. You’re never too old or too experienced or too wise to learn something new.

The sermon proclaimed that we should learn BIBLICALLY, BODILY, and BROADLY. Biblically is obvious…read the Bible, study the Bible, and learn its truths. The second reminds us not to just learn in our brain but to DO the learning. If we learn the importance of being kind, go be kind. If we learn to cook, share the skill with others by inviting them over, taking them a meal, or teaching them your skills. The final point was to learn broadly. It reminds us that we can learn from all people. Yet, when we learn from others, we must take that learning back to scripture. Now, I am certain that as easily as I can pick some scripture to support going back that someone else could share one that says to protect children and to avoid danger. My point is that….as I hear or read the experts, I know they’re simply making an opinion based on their evidence with their mindset. Me? I strive to focus on three things….

I have faith in the One who created me, who gives wisdom, and who will walk with me whether I’m on a mountaintop or valley….whether I’m in a cute classroom with tables, a rocking chair, and desk groups… or if I’m in a cute classroom without tables, rocking chair, or desk groups. He will be with me in that classroom.

Being a part of several education groups through FB, I read a lot of great ideas for education and can ask for advice. However, I’ve also been inundated with opinions. Some of those opinions are written with a heart of love and concern while others are written with more judgment and anger. Those opinions that are overwhelmed with fear are ones I try to bypass. Why? I know how fear can take over, so I need to put it in the corner. I need to stick with the hero of the story…and that’s my faith. My faith tells me to be obedient to the calling placed on me, and to have faith that regardless of where the path leads….that He’s got me.

Peace. You don’t find a lot of quiet peaceful moments in a school. The school day is often filled with laughter, loudness, and learning. I’m good with those three things, but I also know I’ll need to rely on a peace that surpasses understanding. A peace that comes from the Prince of Peace.

Some of you who read this will think my head is in the clouds and I’m not looking realistically at the year ahead. You can think that.

Some of you may think that I have it altogether and you can learn from me. Not really.

Some of you, especially those of you who know me, will probably think this sounds very “Jodi”. Well, obviously.

This morning in our Bible study class, one of the ladies asked about the upcoming year and how I thought I’d get through it. My reply sums up my thoughts.

“There will be plenty of prayer in my classroom to get me through the journey.” So, I ask you, pray for the teachers and students who are venturing back into the school buildings. Pray for those families who choose to learn virtually and the educators who will be differentiating instruction through a computer. Pray for those families who are giving homeschooling a chance in these uncertain times. Pray that the pandemic won’t be able to overthrow the learning. Pray for government that supports education. Pray for loudness, laughter, and learning to fill our days….

Well, maybe go light on the loudness.

Oh Be Careful Little Fingers…

Remember this song? I do. One day this past week, it started playing in my head, but my parody-minded-thoughts added a new verse that I’m sure would’ve been included if it had been written in the current age. What’s the verse? I’m glad you asked.

“Oh be careful little fingers what you post,
Oh be careful little fingers what you post,
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
Oh be careful little fingers what you post.”

Why did this pop into my thoughts? I’m sure you can guess. I see some things that are posted on Facebook and think, “Why post that? They’re just stirring up judgement and hatred.” Don’t get me wrong. There are most certainly times when we must post something that others don’t agree with. However, I believe that even when we post things like that we should do so respectfully. The teacher in me so often times thinks, “Now, Barney, is that really the character you want people to see in you? Read it from the perspective of someone who disagrees with you. Would they see your opinion or would they see your judgement and sarcasm? Would they see who you are? Or would they see someone who’s being disrespectful and opinionated?”

Then, you come across memes. Some make me laugh hysterically. I mean, I love a good pun. Seriously. Love them! Puns are fun! Yet, again, memes can so often times take a hateful turn. Is that truly the testimony you want to profess to the social media world? If your mom wouldn’t smile seeing it on your page, should you post it? Better yet…for those of you who share my faith, would Jesus agree with your meme’s message?

As a teacher, I’ve had countless college students learning and growing their instructional skills in my classroom. There are two teacher-lessons I often share with those college students. First, I advise females to bend over in front of a mirror. I tell them to realize whatever they see in the mirror is the same thing students will view when they bend by a desk to help a student and to pick their attire wisely….or be ready to keep their hand up on their upper chest to avoid issues. Secondly, I tell them to check ALL of their social media. Whatever you’ve liked, shared, posted on those accounts may be seen by potential administrators or even students and their parents! Have you posted a picture that you wouldn’t want seen by a student in your class or his grandma? Believe me…parents check out their kids’ teacher’s page to “see” a glimpse of this person that they’re entrusting their child to for a good chunk of 180 days of the year.

Plus, back many a years ago, a friend told me to try some Christian dating website thingy. Not the ones that cost money, but one that was supposed to let you connect with like-minded people who share your faith. I remember a guy from Carrollton being “matched” with me, and he started sending me messages. I replied. He share comments and platitudes that reflected that he was a Christian. Being the analyzing person that I tend to be, I found him on Facebook to get a glimpse of the real person. On his wall there was so much profanity and promiscuous content that I quickly realized that there was no connection possibility. Granted, that may not have been his “true” self either, but his posts portrayed a character that I certainly didn’t aspire to connect with. Be careful little fingers what you post. Don’t be fake but don’t create an image that isn’t who you are.

Of course, this sentiment doesn’t stop with social media, it can also go with emails. I remember a few years back, I accidentally printed a black & white paper on our color printer. This is a big faux pas when you have been told time and time again to not waste color toner. When I went to the copier and didn’t find the said assignment, I realized what had happened. I found the print out laying on the counter and someone had written a reprimand on it without signing it. I was miffed. I mean, I did it unintentionally, but whomever wrote the reprimand meant to write it, but they didn’t have the gumption to sign their name. I stomped back to my classroom (Okay, I didn’t really stomp, but I was highly irritated and hurt by the comment.) and started typing an email to send to the staff. By the end of my writing, a colleague came into my classroom. I relayed the situation to him, and he read my email. His reply replays in my head anytime I write a reactionary response to something, “Okay, you’ve written it. Now delete it.” Since then, I’ve written countless emails and made a multitude of posts that have been deleted. Why? I’m glad you asked…

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I find myself saying what GOOD will this do? Will this make someone laugh? Will it bring a smile? Will it help teach? Will it speak the truth in love? Will it point someone to Jesus? Will it start a positive conversation? Will it create a calm dialogue? If not….hit delete.

I don’t want to the be the reason that someone has a hateful view of God. I don’t want to burn the bridge of a relationship where I could shine His light. I don’t want to change someone’s smile into a grimace. If my words, memes, or “shares” will do those things, I choose not to post. So, I hit delete…a lot.

BUT….

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Bible verses…
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Pictures of my nephew…
Pics of my felines…
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Educational thoughts…
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And Puns!
I post those! It’s a JODI-thing!

Half a Century? Woohoo!

Thinking….

My alarm was set for 4:50 am. Why since I’m on summer break? I’m glad you asked. About 10 minutes ago, I finished my 50th year of living, and I didn’t want to be asleep during this momentous occasion. Plus, both of my parents were awake at this time 50 years ago, so it only seems fair that I experience a shortened night’s sleep to celebrate.

So, I figure I’d start my 51st year of life looking back at the first half of my century.

What have I accomplished?

All my teeth came in way back when, and now a handful of them are royalty….they wear nice expensive crowns.

I finished my first 14 years of education in Madison, IN, then decided to do four more in Jefferson County, TN. Later, I took a few courses at IUS and put it with 18 months of an Indiana Wesleyan University to finish my official coursework.

After four years of substitute teaching, I finally had a school choose me to join their staff. I gladly rebelled from my Madison connection to become a part of the Southwestern staff. My red & white upbringing added a patriotic blue to the mix. [Psst, if you mix the three colors together, you find a lovely shade of purple.]

I finished my 24th year teaching 3rd graders assisting their education from home. I’ve taught at least 500 students. When people ask if I have kids (because people are nosy that way), I can answer, “Yep, around 500 or so.” Because let’s face it, once you’ve been in my class you will forever be introduced to those I’m with as “one of my kids”.

After wanting Mom & Dad to have a 4th kid as a child, I finally became a “Big Sister”. First to Courtney and now to Lacie.

Oh, I also self-published 8 children’s books. There are four chapter books in a series called “Jasper’s Journey” and four picture books in the voice of Jasper.

Okay, it’s early….that’s enough looking back. What about the next decade or half-century?

What goals do I have?

I hope to keep the rest of my teeth from becoming snooty royalty by brushing, flossing, rinsing, and getting my 6-month checkups. I learned the value of the last three of those four things the hard way. Through expensive bills and uncomfortable sessions in the dentist’s chair! [Now, I’m finally to the quick and (almost) painless visits. I even wrote a parody after my first quick cleaning with my first “A” report.]

I refuse to be a teacher who just keeps going like the Energizer bunny without trying to improve or grow. However, I now choose not to spend hundreds of dollar on classes, I opt for online webinars that are free or offered through my SimpleK12 subscription. Yet, I also will attend teaching conferences if they’r offered on a topic I feel is worthwhile.

After 24 years in 3rd grade, I asked to be promoted to 4th. This was a transition that countless classes had requested, but this year I decided….why not. I’m thankful for administration who allowed me to make the move, and I look forward to the new challenge. Granted, I hadn’t planned on starting something new in the midst of wearing a mask, being armed with disinfectant, and being a Queen of Hand-washing, but I’ll roll with it.

I’m thinking I have another 10-15 years left in my career, God willing, so I’ll add another 250 kids to my teacher tree. Granted, I’m certain my memory will fail me at times when I hear, “Hey Miss P, remember me?”, but I will strive to improve my recall.

My second little sister will age out next February or when she achieves her GED. Not sure I’ll start on a 3rd, but you just never know what God has in store.

Currently, I’m not working on a picture book, but I have a folder filled with ideas. I’ve started my next chapter books series entitled “Tales from Two Kitties”. I’m attempting to type up poetry that I wrote in high school and college with a few I’ve written in the last couple of decades. I’ve just finished the first draft of “Lessons Learned Behind the Teacher’s Desk”, and I hope to get it revised and edited over the course of this school year. My goal is to put it into print at the end of my 25th school year. Plus, there are other goals for somewhere down the road in the arena of writing. I would love to give Christian fiction a try….where crime isn’t the focus and romance isn’t the central line. I’m thinking “Single Purpose” would be the series title….and the main character? She’ll be a Christian single who survives the journey by leaning on her faith not relying on a romantic relationship to give her purpose. Who knows…I may even giving writing a devotional book a whirl somewhere down the journey. I mean…I’m a teacher who likes to write not an author who teaches. There’s a difference. It seems authors focus on “one area”, but….I just want to write….so I will.

I left a few things off both lists…so to wrap up….

Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Child, Cat Mom

I have been a good daughter for most of those 50 years. Not all of them. I don’t think I gave my best when I was a baby because I was a …baby. Plus, Mom told me once that my 8th grade year was the year they just had to “endure” me. I tell this to many of my friends when their daughters enter into the challenging teen years. I assure them I turned out okay, so to have faith. I will strive to continue doing so by sharing Saturday breakfast, walking their dog, and doing or being what I need to do to support and love my parents.

I have been a good sister. I mean, I played Barbies with my oldest sister, Dianna, when growing up and would attempt to shoot baskets or play ball with Sherry. Dianna doesn’t live in town, but I’ll try to do better at responding to text messages promptly. Sherry still lives in Jefferson County, so I see her more often. I’ll plan on continuing to do so as this next decade begins. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep meeting at Planet Fitness to attempt to exercise after Connor abandons us for his senior year.

I am a great aunt. It’s like I was born to be one! Ask Connor; he’ll testify. I plan to still send cards and gift cards to him as he finishes his college education. Likewise, puns and cat pics will continue to brighten his inbox. I mean, it’s our thing.

Plus I’m a child of God. I’m thankful for parents who raised me in church, a dad who shared the plan of salvation with me, a church & youth pastors that discipled me as a teenager, and a church family who encourages me in my walk and appreciates my service to our church ministry. I’ll continue to sing, teach, and greet, but I’ll also strive to dive deeper into His Word in order to be a truer reflection of His love and truth to those I do life with.

Finally, I’m a superb Cat Mom. I’d tell you to ask them, but….they’re napping…on me….while I write. Now, I’m thinking….I’ve accomplished my first hour as a 50-year-old, so I might be due for a nap. I guess this Cat Mom should join her felines for a morning snooze! Thanks for reading my ponderings…

Stuffy Nose & Watery Eyes

I have no doubt that next Wednesday I’ll be writing another post.  After only 4 1/2 hours of sleep, I probably shouldn’t be writing one now.  However, I figure since my ponderings, as well as my stuffy nose & watery eyes, kept me from falling back to sleep that I ought to put my thoughts into sentences and hope that they make sense.  No promises. I mean, I’m most certainly an 8-hours-of-sleep-or-at-least-seven girl.

About 10 years ago, my friends Bev & Sherry and my sister Sherry had a conversation.  My friends told my sister that they thought my family would be throwing me a 40th birthday party.  My sister told my friends that she thought they’d plan something.  I wasn’t a big fan of turning 40.  I looked forward to 30.  I’m quite proud of 50, but 40….bluch.

I figured on my birthday, which is July 8, that one of the Sherry’s would invite me over for dinner.  I guessed that they’d have some extra people there for cake and ice cream.  I would’ve felt appreciated and loved.

That’s not what happened.

My sister called me last week to see if I wanted to come out yesterday to play games and have dinner and to help Connor with his “Hay Day tasks”.  [We compete in the Derby.  This is big stuff. hehe] Now for some, that may have been a reason to suspect.  However, Sherry’s known to call me and invite me out for dinner.  Connor’s known to invite me out to play games.  I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary.

Last Sunday, I went back to our SS room to get it ready for CBC Kid’s Worship.  As I cleaned up our monthly birthday breakfast, Loretta came up and said, “Next Sunday?”  I looked at her with a look of confusion, “What’s next Sunday?” She said, “I must be thinking about something with my church.”  I assured her the only thing scheduled for yesterday was voting on a potential worship & discipleship pastor.  However, as I went to sleep last Sunday night, I kept wondering if I missed an announcement.  I texted her Monday morning, and she assured me that I hadn’t missed anything, and she had just been confused.

On Saturday, Connor (my most favorite nephew in the whole entire world) and his girlfriend Sarah came to my classroom to help me hang posters and do a couple more things prior to me taking a few weeks off  [Even thought my parents and some friends are certain I won’t be able to keep out of my room.].  While talking of my oldest sister’s birthday and mine, I mentioned that Cara, a friend & colleague, had printed two 50 t-shirts for me and that they were really cute.  I said, “I’m trying not to wear them until the 8th.”   Connor said, “If you want to wear one, just wear it to the house on Sunday.  No one would see it but us.”  Sarah chimed in, “You can get your picture taken with Connor, so he can post it on your birthday.”  Yes!  An excuse to wear one of my cute t-shirts!  I saved my favorite for my actual birthday and wore the other one to their house for games & baked spaghetti.

Yesterday at church, as “the lunch bunch” and I were pondering where to go to eat, I suggested El Nopal.  They agreed.  Self-control is not a great skill when chips & queso are in the mix.  We went. I didn’t order queso because I was perfectly happy with chips and salsa.  Then, an order of arroz con pollo made up my lunch.  Have you been there?  Their order of arroz con pollo is HUGE.  Thankfully, I didn’t eat it all, but I did eat more than half which is more than I usually eat.  I was hungry. [Sherry’s dogs benefited from the uneaten portion.]

When I arrived home, I changed into some capris and my birthday t-shirt.  Sherry texted to come out about 2, so I figured they had some chores to accomplish before I arrived.  I told her that I needed to stop at Brandi’s house for a Color Street prize on my way.  No problem.  Then, I thought…..I’m tired.  I’ll just lean back and rest a few minutes before I leave.  Then, my furball Rocky jumped up and spread out on my legs. Next, we both closed our eyes.

A cat or the TV woke me, and I realized it was 1:58.  Oops.  No problem.  Games will just start a bit late.  I fed the cats, texted that I dozed off but was heading their way.  I didn’t want her to think I had car trouble since I’m generally early or on time.  LATE is not something I do often.

I stopped at Brandi’s.  We chatted a bit about July birthdays because she shares a birthday with my oldest sister.

As I pulled up to Sherry (my sister, not the other Sherry) and Matt’s drive, I noticed quite a few cars.  I approached hesitantly.  Then, I noticed I recognized most of the cars.  As I pulled in the drive slowly, I looked at the small crowd and clued in.  This was the surprise.  I saw one of my students from last year whose grandmas both work or worked with my sister Sherry.  I noticed Bev who several years ago had moved to the Cincinnati area.  My parents, oldest sister, Sunday School class, pastor and his wife, and a friend from work who thoroughly enjoys scaring me (Not that it takes much at all to do so) were all gathered in their yard.

She had done it.  Sherry, who had been my roommate for the first 2/5 of my life and is now my best friend, pulled off a surprise party.  My last birthday party was my Sweet Sixteen party when my church youth group were the attendees.  My oldest sister who plans events had brought balloons and flowers in the lovely shades of purple, orange,  & lime green.  My family & Sherry had put together a huge spread of food.  I told the lunch bunch they should’ve told me we couldn’t go to El Nopal and picked a place I didn’t enjoy. My sister Sherry made my favorite cookies.  Dianna brought fresh fruit.  Mom had made a cake.  Dad had made sausage balls.  Lots of other things filled the table and counter, but my chips, rice, and chicken from lunch vetoed me enjoying most of it until later.

As I looked at the tables, I saw pictures of me ranging from birth to just a couple years ago.  Each of the pictures reminded me of good friends or mesweet memories.  Well, not each picture.  I few were from so long ago that I had no recollection of when they were taken.  My ongoing joke about my baby photo is that I was always a deep thinker…even at birth.

Generally, at parties or celebrations for the family, Sherry & I work together to plan it.  As I saw the spread of food, my first thought was, “I hope she didn’t do all this!”  My second thought was “I bet her knee is killing her.”

So, as I woke up at 3:30 for my I’m-of-the-age-I-need-a-middle-of-the-night-restroom-break, I realized that I couldn’t breathe very well.  When I climbed back in bed, I realized my eyes were watery.  As I flipped and flopped trying to fall back to sleep, I connected my stuffy nose & watery eyes to spending hours sitting outside with family and friends laughing and chatting.

Yes, these are signs I have allergies.  But, they’re also a sign that I am loved.  Stewarts, Domeks, Pflaumers, & Sherry, thanks for planning the party.  Friends and family thanks for spending a few hours of your Sunday making me feel special.  My cup runneth over.

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Now, the cats are curled up on my legs, and I’m going to see if I can fall back to sleep.

The Dirty Truth…

I woke up this morning and plotted my Friday plans. friday I’m an adult.  It’s Friday.  It’s summer. What should I do?

If you guessed LAUNDRY, you are exactly correct.  Not only am I doing laundry, but the DIRTY TRUTH is….I’VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO IT ALL DAY!

laundryNow, I’m not crazy.  I’m not even a fan of laundry.  In fact, as a single lady with a closet and dresser full of clothes, I often go a couple weeks without doing a single load.  So, why was I excited?  Because….the last time I did a complete load of laundry (meaning washing,  drying, folding/hanging) in my house was on May 18th!

That was the day that my dryer quit heating.  A week later, a repairman discovered that my dryer was still heating but that waitthe outlet had burnt a prong on the cord causing it to “kick off”.  Then, I waited. And waited.  In fact on three separate afternoons, I waited for an expected electrician to stop and replace the outlet.  Fourth time is a charm, and on Tuesday the outlet was replaced.  On Wednesday, the repairman returned to replace the dryer cord.  So….on Friday, I was looking forward to washing a couple loads of laundry at my house.

Oh, did I mention that I did wash a load during that month and just placed the clothing leakon hangars in various rooms to dry?  Well, guess what I found out during that experience.  It turns out that there was a partial blockage somewhere in the pipes, so the drained washer water went into the shower as well as a bit on the floor.  GULP!

Now, I’ve lived here 20 years, and this has happened a few times.  Each of those times, the homeowner took care of it.  got thisAlas, I told myself, “You have almost a half-century of wisdom.  Man up and take care of this on your own!.”  So….some generic drain cleaner was split into Tuesday & Thursday treatment, and today…TWO loads washed and NO…I repeat NO water in the shower or on the floor.  I told the feline roomies the good news, but they didn’t seem excited.

So, why did I write this?  I mean lately my posts have been a bit bigger and deeper.  Today, I simply want to remind you to be thankful for the mundane papers bmparts of your day.  Be grateful even for those chores you dread.  I mean, I loathe cleaning the toilet, but I would most certainly miss having a toilet to clean.  Grading papers is not one of the highlights of my life as a teacher, but without grading papers I wouldn’t be able to know what my kiddos know and don’t know.  I hate the stench of gas on my hands when I fill my car’s tank, but not having a car would be a challenge.  Not having a job to buy gas for the car would be stressful.

So, the dirty truth is….the unenjoyable and unloved parts of our lives are still HUGE blessings!  So….what mundane chore can you be thankful for?

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What’s in a Name?

My name is Jodi Lea Pflaumer.  My surname shows that my ancestors came from Germany.  My middle name is after my father who is Jerry Lee.  Regardless, I’m rarely called Jodi Lea Pflaumer.

My students call me “Ms. Pflaumer”.  Honestly, they more often call me “Mrs. Pflaumer”.  To them, the Ms. and Mrs. are interchangeable.  They just show I’m female.  I’ve never once been called Mr. Pflaumer.  However, I have been called Mom and Grandma.  Why?  When kids spend a good portion of their waking hours with you 180 days a year, they can accidentally call you by the name of the lady who cares for them the rest of the time.  It’s all good.

At church, I’m called “Miss Jodi”.  It teaches the kids to show respect to elders while allowing a more personal or intimate connection.  Plus, it keeps me from going into “teacher mode”.

A friend in college, actually it was the friend I mentioned in my previous post, always called me “Lea”.  I always thought it was just his nickname for me, but one day I asked if he knew my last name.  He told me he thought my name was “Jodi Lea”, which was why he had always called me “Lea”. Hmmm, two perspectives.  To this day, he’s the only friend to call me “Lea”, so it always makes me ponder my years in East Tennessee.

Another college friends referred to me as JOdI LEA PflAUmer, making all vowels but the last as long vowels.  It would make me chuckle, and I have no doubt if I ever take  a trip to Atlanta and I hear that being said…I will know exactly who was coming.

Names.  Why have I been pondering names?  Well, it seems that the current protests for Black Lives Matter and for fair treatment has stirred the pot of discord regarding the school where I teach.  I teach at Southwestern Elementary.  I have for 24 years.  I am proud of my school, and to me the “mascot” simply was a reminder to “stand up” and not to be afraid to go against the flow.  Why?  We are the Southwestern Rebels.

There’s currently a group of residents in our county and elsewhere who have deemed Rebels an exclusive term referring only to the Confederacy and all the ideals they believed in.  Yuck!  Who would want that as their mascot IF that was what it was referring to?  To be honest, if I believed that we were the Southwestern Confederate Rebels, then I never would have applied to teach here.  But that’s NOT what we are or who we are.

If you go back to the school’s history, instead of the country’s history, you would learn that the name Rebels was selected because the group that started the school was being a rebel by not joining with the other schools in the county.  They decided to stand up for what they believed and make their own school system.  They rebelled.  They went against what others believed.

Please understand me, the Confederate Rebels and I have nothing at all in common.  But…I am a rebel.

You see, society says that high school students tend to try “new habits” that I have never tried.  I rebelled against the expectation.

I was told that education majors in college really are just at school for their MRS degree.  Nope.  I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to learn who I was in order to be who I was created to be.  I rebelled against the stereotype.

Sadly, in the times we live in, it’s normal to be silent about your faith if you are a Christian, but….nope.  My friends, my family, my students, and the social media world know that I am a Christian.  I rebel against being a silent Christian.

Personally, I think being a lawful respectful rebel is a good thing.  I tell my students if they disagree with something I planned or do in class that they can respectfully state their case.  I can’t guarantee the stand will change the plans or practice, but it’s worth a shot.  I teach them to stand up and be heard.  I have read posts by friends who only focus on the negative definition of rebel.  Yet, I teach my students multiple meaning words every year.  Some words have both positive and negative meanings.  We are not the Confederate Rebels; we are the Southwestern Rebels.

As I do often when reading social media, I googled this question. “Is Rebel a negative word?”  The response: “Being a rebel or being branded as a rebel does not always warrant negative inferences. Strong willed people who are indisposed to comply with rules, standards, or laws are often branded rebels-just because they don’t fall in with a situation – often a prejudiced or unfair or unjust or discriminatory situation.”

Maybe I have a Pollyanna view of life, but that’s with what I’ve always associated our mascot. I will admit that in the midst of the heated and sometimes hateful/disrespectful debate I’ve read on Facebook that I cringe whenever a Confederate Soldier or Confederate flag appear.  Please know, I’m all about learning from our history.  I teach my kiddos history, both the positive and the ugly.  We discuss how we’ve learned and can still learn and change.  Yet, the visual of those two things don’t cause me any joy.  But, I admit, the little old guy with the beard, he just reminds me of a crotchety old man…angry old men are still around, but I don’t want that to be our mascot.  That little man doesn’t look one bit joyful.  Hmm, I need to refocus and forget about that little man.

One of my friends posted a survey on whether the school should change “Rebels”.  I picked “no”.  The money involved with the change is a big deterrent for me agreeing when we’re hard-pressed to be able to fund teacher’s salary and various student activities.  It seems like a lot of money for “rebranding”.  I became curious as to whether this was only occurring here or everywhere.  From what I garnered from a quick search, it seems Old Miss and UNLV as well as high schools throughout the nation have faced the same debate.  In most (if not all) cases, the “old man mascot” was given the boot.  Some replaced him with a bear or dog, but the name remained.

What will happen?  I know not.  Names are powerful.  Words…are what you make them.

Yet, this morning as I was once again overwhelmed by the FB posts on this subject, I tried to think of words that get me “worked up”.

The first that came to mind was the N word.  That to me is more foul than any curse word.  When I hear it, it makes my heart sad.  Many moons ago or possibly decades, I had a student who said the word in passing.  Our lesson was quickly interrupted and a history lesson and a lesson on respecting others took over.  To be honest, the only way this 8-year-old would be able to use the word so haphazardly was if he heard it frequently.  I always wondered what he told his parents happened in school that day.  Did he tell them that I corrected him and taught the class how inappropriate it was?  Did his parents see me as a self-righteous teacher?  Or….did they realize that their habit hurts others?

Then, I was reminded of a word that hurts me personally.  It hurts my spirit and makes my heart cry.  It is a name that my entire being is grounded in and my world revolves around.  It’s the name of my Creator.  My Savior.  God.

Just saying the name prompts a feeling of admiration and adoration to my being.  Yet, I remember back during my masters program having to endure a professor who used it as often as others say “um” as he taught us.  Each time he uttered the word, my entire being wanted to scream.  However, you can tell by a person’s speech and attitude whether a dialogue can take place, and it was evident that this professor’s self-identify would not take well to a student offering constructive criticism.  So, each week of his course….I would become irritated, which prompted anger, which prompted prayer.  Sometimes for him.  Often times for my attitude check.  At the conclusion of each course in my graduate program, associated with an evangelical Protestant university, the university had us complete an evaluation.  To be honest, I would rank this professor as second in most effective, but I respectfully shared how his habit, which had no intent on hurting others, affected me.  I’d like to say our evaluations (I wasn’t the only one who shared it.) helped him to alter his habit, and perhaps it did.  Yet, I do know that it colored his view of our co-hort.  Our advising professor told us in one of the courses she taught, “I don’t know what happened in Dr. X’s  class, but he does not hold a positive regard for your group.  He said nothing positive about the course just that you were ‘whiny’.”  Ah, we whined when we reported his offensive habit.  Lesson learned.  Sometimes, people don’t understand your problem with something.  You shake it off and move on.

Why did I share that?  I keep asking myself….is calling ourselves Rebel like speaking God’s name without reverence?  Does it cause stomach-punching emotional pain to those who hear it?  I don’t know.

As I wrapped up my ponderings and prepared to put my thoughts into word format…I again read posts from friends.  I have friends on both sides of the debate.  These are people I respect.  The perspective of both sides deserves attention, and then let the decree be made.  Regardless of how this current debate plays out….whether we remain the Southwestern Rebels, change to the Southwestern Survivors, revert to the Southwestern Bulldogs, I will always be a rebel.  A person who does what I think is right even when the world doesn’t agree.

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My Friend Joe…

There is SO much going on in the world today.  mlk6Actually, there always is a lot going on, but media coverage puts the protests so consistently in our view and thoughts.  I’ve seen many posts on FB and thought, “You should write something.  But what?”

You see.  I’m a white female living in a small town.  Yes, there is crime in our small town, but if you compare life in our small town to that in a big city….it’s vastly different.  I’ve always known that I’m not a big city girl….unless God has some huge plan for me that I don’t foresee.  So….what can I write?  What could I share to impact the views of someone else?  Uncertainty of a direction prompted a prayerful pause….while I waited for the words and the wisdom to compose this post.

mlk7The pandemic saddens me because it claims lives and as of today there’s no vaccine.  The protests break my heart.  Not because they’re taking place, but because they’re needed. There’s no vaccine that can “fix” the issue.  This problem or disease must be fixed by policy change, government change, and…to be honest….a heart change in all of us.

In February, when I focus on Black History Month in my classroom, my heart is always gladdened by the disdain and confusion that our history (slavery, Jim Crow Laws, segregation, Civil Rights Movement, etc) prompts in my students.  It makes no sense to them, which is right.  There is no sense.  Sadly, it is our history.  Even sadder still, it is also still our present.

Have I ever experienced discrimination?  Probably.  Some look down on Christians.  mlk2Some judge a person by their weight.  However, when compared to what black people experience, it’s nothing.  People may not like me because of my faith or my weight, but they don’t fear me.  They don’t treat me like I’m unequal.  So, I obviously have no idea what a black person, especially a black adult male faces in our current situation.  I’ve never had someone lock their door or hold their purse tightly to their body just because I walked by.  How does that feel? I cannot fathom.

Looking back, I can count on one hand the number of black students in my high school graduating class.  I’m certain that each of them probably felt prejudice or discrimination even though I don’t recall it ever being addressed.  Then, I went to Tennessee.  East Tennessee… to attend Carson-Newman College & attain my degree in education.  This small town girl went to a small town in a state two states south.

On this small campus in this small town, my circle grew.  When a friend of mine hurt her leg, I met a football player named Joe.  As would happen, he always sat in the same place in the college cafeteria, and I would walk past him when taking my tray up or to go get in line.  It became a habit for me to greet him as I passed.  Soon, I would stop and we’d chat.  He soon became someone I’d call a good friend.  If he saw me having a bad day, he’d try and say something to cheer me up.  I never really thought about it.  We were friends.  Yet, I still recall many things said to me…

“You need to watch stopping at that table, Jodi,” a friend warned.
“Why?” the clueless blonde in me replied.
“People will talk,” she explained.
“Let’ em talk.  They’re my friends, ” I replied.

One weekend, I remember I visited a church that a friend attended with two others friends.  Joe was one of them.  As we walked across the parking lot, he asked, “Am I gonna be stared at for walking in here with the three of you?” When he asked that, I remember being confused.  Then, I realized that I never had to think things like that, and I was saddened.  Lisa assured him that if anyone stood out it would be the three of us with our pale skin tones.  We all laughed….on the outside.

mlk1When I graduated from college, Joe sent me roses.  NFL players can do things like that.  It touched my heart, but my heart was saddened by the reaction of some when they saw the card.  Why?  It simply said, “Congratulations!  Love, Joe”.  You see, I saw my friend congratulating me on finishing my degree and letting me know that even though time and distance separated us that we were still friends.  Yet, others read it and simply saw his skin color.  I said nothing, but my heart cried.

In the past 28 years (yes, I’m that old), there have been way too many incidents like what happened to George Floyd on May 25th. When a person is judged or treated more negatively than others due to their race, our hearts should break.  There have been instances where someone was feared simply because they were darker than another.  Each time these stories end up on the news, my heart cries.

As for Joe?  He and I are still friends even though I’ve not heard from him in a long time.  I think it was through LinkedIn that we were reconnected.  After reconnecting via LinkedIn, I “friended” his wife on FB because as a Christian single woman I won’t be friends with a married man if I’m not also friends with his wife.  I wish it wasn’t over 450 miles from here to there, or I’d go meet his lovely wife and handsome sons.

Today, during one of those interviews with George Floyd’s family, I reflected, “If George had been Joe, how would that have changed my reaction?”  Oh, how I pray it never is someone I know, but my true prayer is that it never is anyone.

Yet, I also pray for my friends who are police officers. I pray all police officers are not judged by the actions of some.  The four officers involved in the death of Mr. Floyd should face justice for the actions (or inaction), but I hope my friends Wayne or Josh (or others) are not judged harshly due to the hate of those four.  To be honest, I keep hearing Rodney King’s words in my head, “Can’t we all just get along?”mlk4

Taking it a step farther….can’t we all be judged not “by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character”?  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had it so right.  I don’t know how to fix it.  But….staying silent isn’t a choice I wanted to make. Silence means you either agree with actions or don’t care about it one way or another.  So, I write.  I may not have the writing skills of MLK, but I have a heart filled with sincerity and hope for a change in our current reality.

I will continue to teach our history, including the ugly parts, to my students.  I will continue to model acceptance and love to my kiddos.  And…if my path ever crosses my friend Joe’s (and his family), I’ll give him the biggest hug and remind him that friendship lasts even when time and space separate…remind him that “Lea” loves him and is glad to call him friend.

Did I accomplish anything with this post?  Not really.  I just needed my thoughts to get out of my head and written down so that maybe one person would consider to examine himself and see how he treats or judges others.

Justice is important.  Yet, I don’t see justice.  I see judgement.  My heart aches, and though I can’t do much.  I can write.

In closing, as I finished the first draft of this blog, I was listening and watching Mr. Floyd’s memorial service.  One of the speakers said something about not letting evil win or not being overcome by evil.  God has wired me with two habits that occur in times likes these.  Words often trigger a song in my head or a scripture verse in my heart.  Let us all “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  What good can you do to help overcome this very present evil of racism and prejudice?mlk8

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Mid-Life Crisis?

My 24th year of teaching draws to a close on Monday after I complete the permanent record folders.  This 24th year has ended in the most peculiar of ways due to that stinkin’ virus!  Over the past 10 days, I’ve been pondering the past year and grieving the loss of my final 9-weeks with my 19 kiddos. While packing up my classroom, I found notes from some of my kiddos declaring me “the best teacher in the world” and “the best teacher I ever had” and I smiled.

My room is packed up for summer, but this week…I even packed up the closet & cabinet contents.     I witnessed dust MONSTERS rolling out from under tables where boxes of LLI materials were stored until needed.  I look at shelves of “stuff” and think….”Maybe I should take the time to go through each item.”

getting ridI decided that next fall….I wanted a “fresh” look in my classroom.  So, I’m ditching my Peanuts decor (giving them to a colleague who’s also a Peanuts fan) for something new.  I’m going through ALL my stuff (I’m not a fan of that word, but it works in this case). Think of it as “spring cleaning” my classroom…

Guess what!  I turn 50 in 5 1/2 weeks!  Some people dread it, but I don’t.  I see it as a celebration.   I’m even having a friend make a t-shirt for me to 50announce that I’ve been blessed by God for 50 years.  During school,  I told my kiddos “I turn a half a century old this summer”, and they had to figure out what that meant.  One said, “500?”  Nope….not going to happen.

Often, when people hit milestone birthdays of 40 and higher or go into retirement, they make a big purchase or a big change.  I’ve heard of people buying that convertible sports car they always wanted but were too sensible to buy while raising their children.  Others have undergone some sort of plastic surgery to fight the look of their age.  Me?  I decided to act on another “one day I’d like to….” thought.

To understand….we need to journey to the past….my past.  The year was 1989, and I was assigned to Jefferson County Elementary for a practicum in 4th grade with Mrs. Word.  She was great.  The experience was wonderful.  In fact, I requested that I do my student teaching with her as I enjoyed it that much.  However, her mother was having health problems, so I was moved to 5th grade with the mother of one of my friends.  It was wonderful as well.  I enjoyed 5th grade, but I told myself I wanted to teach 4th grade.

Then, graduation took place and substituting began.  I was in so many grades, in so many memoriesschools, and in so many classes.  I was reaffirmed to NOT be called to kindergarten (God bless those teachers!).  As my subbing continued (for four LONG years), I realized that 3rd & 4th grades were the two I enjoyed the most.  Finally, in August of 1996, five wonderful 3rd grade teachers and the others on the interview committee chose me to be the sixth third grade classroom.  I’ve been in 3rd grade ever since.

I’ve enjoyed (almost) every single year.  Some of them have been quite challenging due to behavior issues.  Some of them have had quite a few academic hurdles to jump.  Others have had 18-25 third graders who have gelled into a wonderfully cohesive team/family/class.   Each of those years have been a part of my path to this point, and they’ve helped mold me into a stronger teacher (At least I hope so…).

Several times over the past ten years, when there has been an opening in 4th grade, I’ve pondered, prayed, and sometimes fretted over whether I would be moved or if I should offer to move. This spring, it started again.  I was “this close”thinking to asking to move, but I talked myself out of it.  Then, due to a couple teacher-moves by the administration, there was another opening in 4th grade.  Again, the thoughts filled my brain, and then they once again started invading my dreams.

Finally, I came to the point that I thought, “I obviously have wanted to teach 4th grade, so if I offer….the ball is in their court.”  I figured if they agreed to move me, then, God willing, I would conclude the final decade or more of my teaching career in 4th grade.  If they decide to keep me in 3rd grade, then I can let it go and trust that I was simply “made” for 3rd grade.

graduateI shared my interest & willingness to change teaching assignments and waited…..and waited….and waited.

Okay, to be honest, it took less than two weeks, but it seemed like an eternity.  You see….I’m not a big fan of change.  I like planning.  I like structure.  However, earlier this week, my building principal came in to let me know that they had decided to let me go to 4th.  I’ve always joked to my outgoing third graders that I’ve yet to graduate from 3rd grade, but now….I can say I’ve finally been promoted! Ha.bm grateful

For someone who’s not a fan of change, this is a big deal.  For a person who loves teaching, this is a great opportunity.  For a lady turning 50, this is a kick-start to re-energize my teaching.  I’m excited.  I’m overwhelmed.  I’m eager

Yet, for now…I’m tired….and looking forward to reading as much as I want, finishing a picture book, and writing some of the other four books I’ve started.  As I do so,  I will hope (and pray) that Covid-19 will diminish, a vaccine will be created, and the joy of my classroom can begin anew….with my next class, in a new grade, in a different hall, and not in Room 302….

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Tears Will Dry…

As a teacher, I’ve seen tears.  I’ve seen tears of students when their feelings have been hurt by another student or when they are injured in a playground fall.  cryI’ve also seen the tears of the child that was “caught” doing something they weren’t supposed to do.  I’ve seen the tears as well of the child who riddled with guilt comes to confess his wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness.  Regardless of the reason, their tears dried.

Yet, tears I’ve experienced in my career aren’t only those of students.  I’ve also seen the tears of parents.  I remember two mothers in particular who met with me after school to discuss their sons’ challenges.  Both moms shared the same heartfelt wish that their child would suddenly “get it” and start making more progress academically.  These two moms both had their sons in my classroom (I believe) the same bm booksyear.  One of them had her older son in my classroom previously.  While older brother was my third grader, he suddenly “clicked” into a desire to read.  Younger brother never did develop that desire.  Mom was saddened and worried. [FYI my nephew who is very bright and a mechanical engineering student at WKU has also never developed that connection to reading….for some….it’s just not their thing…at least not yet.]  The other mother and I are friends outside of the school building, and I’ve had the joy of seeing her son develop, finish his degree, and find his post-college job.  In both situations, their tears dried….and smiles of gladness were found.

Furthermore, I’ve seen the tears of my colleagues.  Whether it’s the tears shed because of a cancer diagnosis, after a less-than-respectful observation report, or the death of a parent or loved one.  The tears have fallen.  I remember when I was being scolded in the office for not turning field trip money in ahead of our trip….of course this was while my brother-in-law was in the hospital having suffered a stroke….the office staff didn’t know this, so she was a bit baffled when her correction turned into my emotional breakdown.  Guess what?  The tears dried.  The field trip happened without problems.  Life continues.

Honestly, way back when I was growing up and living at home withmovie my parents and sisters, I remember countless times when we would tease our mom for crying during movies.  Alas, those decisions come back and bite me.  Why?  Well, in this time of “stay home-stay healthy”, I’ve watched more movies than usual.  At least five of them SO FAR have triggered my eye ducts to leak.  Each time the waterfall starts, I think back to those times we chuckled at Mom.  Sorry Mom….I guess it’s part of our wiring.

hapy tearsWhat about vegetable soup?  Have you ever cried over soup?  Me neither….until Wednesday….when Steve & Robin brought me soup & biscuits from Bob Evan’s just to show appreciation and care.  There they went….dripping down my cheeks.

Tears didn’t stop there.  A week ago, I had the honor of singing on praise team at Good Friday and Easter services.  As I started the car on Friday night to head home, the eyes leaked AGAIN…this time as I realized how muchblessed I MISS being with others during worship.  I’m so thankful that we have the ability to worship together while they’re at church leading praises and preaching the Word.  Yet, I thoroughly miss being in the physical presence of my church family.

Need some more proof?  Last Thursday (4/9), I was talking on the phone with my girl who always chooses to “do a little dance” as her morning greeting at danceschool.  We literally talked for 30 minutes.  She was her same happy chatty self.  As I hung up, I cried realizing how much I miss seeing my kiddos in person.  Then, a few days later when I commented on a purple mask her mom had posted on Facebook, I said, “I love the purple one, but I already have 2.”  She quickly replied that her daughter said that I would like that mask when she saw it.  Then, she told me how her daughter’s disposition changed back to “normal” after our 30-minute talk.  You see, her daughter loves school, and she’s really having a hard time with not being there with me and her friends.  Tears fell….again.

You see….it seems like tears are plentiful.  Whether they’re happycry tears or sad tears.  Whether they’re confused tears or thankful tears.  Tears….are part of life.

And in the end, in the words of my sweet friend Melissa…..tears will dry.  So wipe your eyes and live life by serving others, being steadfast, and staying committed to your task. As a Christian, my task is pursuing righteousness to be more like Christ each day.  What’s your task?  What are you pursuing?  Whatever it is, I am confident of two things.  Tears will fall, and those tears will dry.

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TP vs. PP

Did my title hook you?  That was the goal.  I always tell my kiddos that they need to either have a title or opening sentence to grab their readers.confused

I have various random thoughts I wanted to share today, so this may lack focus….but in the end….it’ll fit together like pieces in a puzzle.

You see this morning I had to grab a new roll of toilet paper.  Yep.  TP.  Normally, I just grab one and go on with my day.  Those are not the times we live in currently.  We live in a stretch of weeks where toilet paper is like buried treasure.  I’ve not worried about it.  I mean, it’s just me and my two cats, and they opt for their litter box.  Yet this morning, I made myself count my remaining rolls (six).  I suppose I could find the “toilet paper calculator” to see how long it will last, but I’ll just take it one step (or square) at a time.

bm thinkAs I drove up to my church to get materials to teach a SS lesson online, I realized that I spent more time pondering the longevity of my toilet paper supply than I ever have.  Generally, when I start my final roll, I simply stop at Dollar General on my way home & pick up a new package.  Based on FB, finding it isn’t that easy anymore.  I decided when I have three left, then I’d start looking for a package to purchase.  When that time arrives, I suppose I’ll make that “Who has TP for sale?” post on Facebook.

The drive continued, and I realized I was approaching Circle K.  Normally, anytime I’m heading to church or somewhere on the hilltop of my old historic town, I’d stop and buy a Polar Pop.  That was my plan as I left home.  Yet, I’m a teacher….a rule follower.  Governor Holcomb said only essential trips/shopping.  Yes, I needed my teaching material, but a Polar Pop may have been nice, but not needed.  I drove by.

Seems my thoughts have changed on a lot of things.

Generally, I’m not a fan of being in front of a camera.  During the past week, I’ve recorded 22 songs.  Two of them….I wasn’t even hiding behind a costume.  The reason I faced my fear of being in front of a camera was the power of laughter….the need to lighten serious times with humor and music.  [Plus, it’s not a whole body shot, so that makes it a lot easier. Ha!]

Today, I recorded four songs as “Jade Verde”, then posted one.  I also recorded the reading of the next few chapters of one of my chapter books.  Then, I grabbed teaching material, a takeout meal, and transferred money from one account to another. washsanitize

During those things, I must’ve washed my hands a half dozen times and used sanitizer after touching everything and anything while in the car.  I spent an hour teaching/recording a Bible lesson and several hours trying to get technology to cooperate.

Then, right before sitting back to write this post, I checked Facebook.  I saw that a few stayapartfriends had shared some of my parodies.  Yesterday, I sang one as “Axel Ramone”.  Why?  To make people laugh.  To make a heavy news day seem a little lighter.  Anyway, one of my friends had a comment on her post from one of her friends.  He wrote, “Not much of a vocal talent.”  Apparently, he thought I was trying to impress people with my singing rather than make them laugh a bit.

I admit, my first reaction was to be hurt followed by being defensive.  “Well, of course the singing isn’t good, I’m a FEMALE trying to sing in the voice of a MALE.  Goodness!”

That was promptly followed by conviction.  You see, I don’t know that man.  My friends KNOW the purpose behind my daily parodies or songs. hugs I’m not trying to impress you with my vocal skills.  I’m trying to help us laugh in the midst of scary news.  I’m trying to help us smile when it’s really easy to let tears fall.

Did this come together?  I’m not sure if it did or not.  Here’s my big take-away.  NONE of us will be the same person we were a few weeks ago when this uncertain journey concludes.  Some of us will have learned to be kinder.  Some of us will be demonstrating more acceptance and forgiveness to others.  Some of us will have learned to be grateful for EVERYTHING….even our toilet paper.  How will you be different?  I hope….I pray….it’s a positive change.  Afterall, we’re all clay in the Potter’s Hands….got thisis64.8