Sunday, January 30, 2011

You've Got a Friend in Me

There's this energy, calmness, and security when you get the chance to just sit and talk to a good friend. I remember being on the phone when I was in high school or being with this friend and feeling this incredible connection. It was as though I had taken a huge load off each time I was able to talk to my friend. It was something new to me. I had never had a close friend before.

Since then I have been blessed with a few more friends who have this same ability and connection. One of them came to visit this weekend. I am so thankful for her. She is beautiful, wise, and calm.

She was so excited to go flat-footing at the Floyd Country Store and she got out there after just one song! We danced the night away doing the 3-step variations that a dear woman taught us. Yesterday we went for a short hike before it was time for her to head home and study for her biochemistry test on Monday. I am so thankful that she came and spent this time with me. It was a wonderful girls' night.

This picture was taken the day before our wedding.
We went canoeing with all of our friends who came up a few days before. It was a blast!
Thank you, Mere, for all you did to help us that week.

Thank you, Mere! You are incredible

p.s. Jim comes home at 1 AM! Counting down the time :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trusty Subaru

We just LOVE our Subaru! We bought it from my uncle the summer we got married. They were so generous to sell it to us at a reasonable price, well more than reasonable... it was a steal! Two weeks ago, we watched the odometer cross into 200,000! And (knock on wood) she still runs well.

This car has seen us through the big move south, horrible potholes and road in Louisiana, and now the snow storms of being back in Virginia.

Today I was sent home early from the teacher work day, due to the horrible (beautiful! awesome... those are better words!) winter weather that had already arrived. As I attempted to climb the mountain from Shawsville to Christiansburg, with golfball-sized snowflakes coming down, the trusty Subaru made me feel safe.

With all-wheel drive and the warmth of my heated seat, I made it safely and snuggly home. I will now continue the grading and work I had planned to do today, but this time I will do it with the dogs snoring behind me, snow falling, and the comfort of knowing that I don't have to get back on the road. In case I did, I would trust the Subi.

This picture was of the Subaru on our way to Lafayette, Louisiana. July, 2009.

Thank you Uncle John and thank you Subaru!

Bring on the snow (perhaps 2-7 inches) :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Benchmarks Smenchmarks

My students took the benchmark today. Though they did pretty well, I just get discouraged. Who says that a test on the computer with three passages is a good evaluation of student learning and growth?

That's all.

P.S. I miss Jim! He's making a difference in the lives of so many, though. So proud! Here's an excerpt from the email I received so far:
"I had a safe trip, though by the end of the day my body had just quit. I caught a couple hours on the Atlanta --> Tegucigalpa flight, but no bedtime until 9:00 or so. Today I feel much better. We shipped out in a couple of buses early this morning and set up in a clinic near town. It was a long day but really interesting. I neeeed to study my spanish for the next time. Luckily, our group had an interpreter and our resident doctor spoke pretty well also. It's especially tough to see suffering little kids and older folks. They just don't get the care that we enjoy, and it really takes a toll! Dean Sutphin said that we saw a record number of patients today, so it was good, despite my severe language barrier issues. Lots of good."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Squiddo!!!!

Happy birthday to my darling sister!

She shares her birthday with Edith Wharton who wrote, "Life is always a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope."
Phoebe is a beautiful person, through and through, who the epitome of vibrant. She is kind in everything she does. She has always amazed her immediate family in that she has never met a stranger. She is able to see the best in all people and therefore her friends come from all different walks of life.

I admire her strength, wisdom, love for life, passion for literature, and motivation to be better. Because of this she has already been an extremely successful and well-medaled friend, sister, daughter, student, and athlete.

So, today I recognize my sister. One of the most incredible people I know. Through all of the laughter and tears we've shared I wouldn't trade a moment. Thank you for your friendship and for sharing the tight bond of sisterhood. Though we had a few years of time apart, I feel that the last year has been wonderful in bringing us back together. Thank you for a second opportunity. I love being your sister.

You are beautiful. Much love always.

Happy 19th Birthday!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Honduras Bound

Jim has just boarded the plan from Atlanta to Honduras! I miss him a lot already. This is the first, full week that we will be apart since we got married. I thought that it would be easy to have a week on my own. I had (confession) even been looking forward to some time alone, but now that he is gone I feel sad and empty.

I hope that I can join him the next time.

On another note, I just went and saw "The King's Speech" with Jenae. Wow! It was an incredible movie. Definitely a must-see!

Now it's time to lesson plan. Until later...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No Day But Today

Where do we get our motivation? Throughout our lives we learn when to work and when to rest. We learn what our breaking point is and when we need to give more. We discover and determine our own expectations, so that we can feel good about our hard work and comforted that we could do no more. If we fall short, then we evaluate that and hopefully learn from those shortcomings.

But when you are in a classroom where students don't have the expectation of themselves to do well and there is no support at home, then it takes lots of encouragement, energy, conversations, consultations, and frustration to move through the day. It boggles my mind that students hand in a piece of paper that is partially ripped and not complete and feel that it was their best work. NO IT WASN'T!

How can that feeeeel good? But, perhaps they don't know how this "feel good" feels. How do teachers get the opportunity to talk about this and put thorns in the side of each student, without wearing down, themselves? I have 90 minutes every day with 70 students for a week. 70 students are a lot of children to love! And I realize that this number is small compared to most middle school and high school teachers of this era.

These students need to be met where they are developmentally, intellectually, socially, physically, and emotionally and I am attempting to meet them there. Each and every day I try to meet them there. If I affect at least one of them positively, then I try to remember that at the end of the day. But most of the time I think of the moments when I lost my temper, when I heard my name spoken five times within five seconds while teaching or talking to another student and became frustrated (my name echos in my head at night), when a student came up to me needing a pencil ten minutes after class started, or when I just needed some backup from services who are never present in my room.

Three students were sent to ISS today, one from each period, when none have been sent since the beginning of December. This is what I grieve over today. How could I have prevented it? Where did I go wrong? How can I get the opportunity to actually sit down and get to know each student, when there are expectations holding me to a barrier? I feel like a ball and chain.

As I sit here tonight, I don't think about the students who passed the spelling test with flying colors for the first time, or the beautiful poem one student wrote about the image prompt, or the excitement that one student shared with me about what he read in the book I gave him, or how one girl, who is insecure about her writing, is now on her tenth page of a mystery story and it is great! No, I only thought back on these things because of this post. These things weren't in my thoughts over the last few hours of planning, driving home, walking the dogs, or eating dinner.

The song "No Day But Today" comes to my mind, from the musical RENT. While it is important to think about both the pros and the cons of each day, it's also important to remember that today I gave it my all. That's why I am exhausted. That's why I have a headache. That's why I need it to be quiet. In teaching, you have to give all you have for the day. But you have to live each day as if it is the only day. You have to love each child as if it is the only day. You have to show them how much you care THAT day. Putting it off does neither of you any good.

So where do we get our motivation? How can I instill a desire to work hard and produce quality work? How do they begin to expect more of themselves? Those are the questions of the day.

Tomorrow will have it's own problems and highlights. And then there will be "No Day But (that) Today!"

Side Note: Jim's block ends tomorrow! Yay! He's almost done and then he's off to Honduras :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Today I had a really neat experience with my students. I used the image below to facilitate a writing prompt and discussion today. I gave the students three minutes to jot down as many words as they could in their Day Books. Then I asked them to write a few sentences using their words and describing the picture.

Some of them spoke of a family member who recently passed away, others about death and sadness, some zombies and ghosts, while others spoke of the beauty of the scene. In the discussion that followed, we spoke of how our types of learning (i.e. visual, logical, artistic) may affect how we view a picture. But it isn't just that... it's also our experiences and our associations with different images that guided our thoughts, notes, and descriptions.

We also used this opportunity to discuss how different people may have different purposes or reasonings behind describing an image. A news reporter may describe the graveyard in a more factual explanation, while a poet would draw emotions and feelings into his or her writing.

After completing this discussion, some students begged to do another picture. They couldn't wait for another opportunity to express themselves, through descriptions, and compare their notes to other students around them.

What picture will they see tomorrow? What emotions will it provoke?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dog Park

It is easy to say that the last five days have been more social than the last five months! It's been great, though I have realized that this also makes me (and us) much more tired. Here's my debrief:

Thursday night: We were invited to go to the Ruiz house for a dinner with Jim's friend Steven and his wife Ashley. They made us an incredible meal of Bangors & Mash, a classic English dish, and we enjoyed chatting the night away. It turns out that we actually share the same wedding anniversary, though a year separated! We also had a great time speaking with Ashley about her hometowns--- Lafayette and New Iberia, Louisiana! Jim knew she was from Louisiana.... but wow! Our parting gift from them was a batch of boudin from the freezer!!!! We'll be saving that for when we are homesick for ol' LA.

Friday night: After a tough day at school (trying to shove too much stuff into a Friday after two snow days and before our benchmark test on Tuesday, with no school for MLK day on Monday... can we say eeeeek?!) I came home to change and grab a snack before heading to Floyd with a friend from school. Jim needed the evening to meet up with a study group, prior to his final round of tests this week, so I hit the town with Alia. This was my first time spending time with her and we had fun! She took me to the quaint and artsy town of Floyd. There are lots of artists and musicians from this town and they host many festivals in the summer. I fell in love with the town! It's beautiful and simple.

We went to an artsy store (name escapes me), a candy shop (ooooh the chocolate options!), an art gallery (awesome!), and a restaurant for beer and pizza (yum!) with some of her friends. Then, the real fun began... we went to the country store for some flat-footing! It was quite the experience. People came out of the hollers and woodwork and all joined each other for a night of bluegrass and dancing! When I talked to Jim on the phone I told him... this may be where we end up! I loved it. The culture seemed so well preserved. So natural. So necessary. So untouched. These people came together to express themselves and enjoy the comfort of familiar music and people. Beautiful.

Saturday: Well, not too much to report. We went to scout out a house for next year and really liked it, but discovered that getting out of our lease would be too sticky. We're happy here, but we would have saved a bit of money. There were pros and cons to both situations. Then we went to Panera for our dinner date and then a few hours of work, grading, and studying. We came back and watched Princess and the Frog- such a good movie. We enjoyed seeing the Disney version of New Orleans and hearing the accent of the lightning bug, Raymond.

Sunday: We had WAY too much coffee at Panera the night before, so our day was a bit wiped by the lack of sleep the night before. Jim studied wildly for his standardized patient (SP) today and practiced with me as his patient with a knee injury.

Monday: Jim had his test and SP and I knocked off many to-dos. He doesn't feel too confident on how he did, but he does feel like he did well on the test.

THEN we headed to the Dog Park with Leif. Wow! We just learned about the park from Alia on Friday and decided to take him. He was NOT interested in playing catch or spending any time with his parents. He WAS interested in playing with every single dog. Some liked him and some didn't, but it was good for him to be put in his place and have the opportunity to be social with dogs other than Zeke. It was quite the experience for us watching how he interacted. It was a bit embarrassing for me as I saw how poorly he listened to me in front of other dogs and people. What he does at home definitely doesn't happen when given a new venue! I suppose we'll have to go back some more! He was a muddy mess, but after a bath and drying in the cold on the porch he is one tired pooch.

That's how we like it :)

After a busy weekend, we're a bit tired too. Jim just baked some delicious brownies, so it's time to indulge and relax. I cannot resist the smell much longer!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The New Day

Recently we borrowed a CD of the Kingsingers from my parents. The first song has really struck our fancy (that's for you, Pheebs!). We have listened to it every time we have gotten into the car. Often when we are beginning a new day, but sometimes when the day is coming to a close. It's beautiful. Simple. And a reminder of the fresh start we are granted each time the sun rises anew.

This picture is from our winter backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. The sun was setting, as we continued to hike in Shenandoah National Park. Although the trip was after a wild ice storm and freezing cold, we remember it as one of our favorite weeks. Everything we did went back to the basics... we needed warmth, food, and water. When those things are in jeopardy, you focus on what really matters. Returning from a trip like always changes your mindset about your daily routines and lifestyle :)

Since I am not so tech-savvy as to be able to give you the sound bites, here are the lyrics:

(sung a capella)

I will love you more than me and more than yesterday
If you can but prove to me
you are the new day

Send the sun in time for dawn
Let the birds all hail the morning
Love of life will urge me say
you are the new day

When I lay me down at night knowing we must pay
Thoughts occur that this night might stay yesterday
Thoughts that we as humans small
could slow worlds and end it all
lie around me where they fall
before the new day

One more day when time is running out for everyone
Like a breath I knew would come
I reach for the new day

Hope is my philosophy
Just needs days in which to be
Love of life means hope for me
borne on a new day

You are the new day

Hope you enjoyed the lyrics! We sure do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


In my classroom, as in any classroom, there is quite a variety of learners. Some students are performing grade levels below, while others are performing well above the expectations of a 6th grader. Striving to meet their needs as students of academia has been the theme of the year.

While I have students on varying levels, I also have students with difficult home lives. Extremely difficult home lives. For Christmas I asked Jim for the book "The Freedom Writers Diary." I have not seen the movie, but needed some inspiration for over my winter break. It seems that this couldn't have been a better choice!


Though the book takes place in the inner city in California with crime, drugs, and you name it, there was a striking parallel to the lives of my students in rural Appalachia. I've been inspired to encourage my students to use their "Day Books" as diaries, as well. Some of them already do use their Day Book as an outlet, but it could become so much more. I plan to use Zlata's Diary, one of the books Erin Gruwell read with her students, as an example of narrative nonfiction and as our next book choice.

We'll see how it goes next week!

Snow Days

Today marks my second snow day in a row for a total of 2.5 snow days this week!

Thrilled though I am about these snow days, I am a bit concerned that the prefixes, analogies, and newspaper/informational texts lessons I had planned for this week will be a bit rushed when we finally get back! My students take their SOL benchmark test on Tuesday, the day after Martin Luther King Day.... a three day weekend anyway... get the picture? Eek!

Yesterday, I must admit I lounged around and had my typical first day of vacation. I hardly got off of the couch or the bed. It was lovely! I did make a very cute, scarf-like flip thing. I don't
know what to call it, but I love it.

Today, the second day, has already gotten off to a vastly different start but it may return to a day like yesterday. I got up earlier, at 8 AM, but still "slept in" as I normally try to get up before 6 AM. I walked the dogs, checked emails, made coffee, ate cereal, washed the dishes (2 days old) and cleaned the kitchen counters, toaster oven, and stovetop. Apparently that wasn't enough for my motivated self this morning, so I swept the dining room, kitchen and bathroom and THEN mopped each of those floors! Yay me! This hardly ever happens, unfortunately or fortunately. I then changed out some pictures from frames and added new ones.

Now, here I sit at 11:36 AM. It's still morning? Yes!

Who knows what the rest of the day will hold? Relaxation or more motivation? At the moment I am thinking that I may find a new movie on Netflix (we started our free trial yesterday!) and begin knitting something new with the dogs snuggled nearby.

Unfortunately, Jim is in major study mode with a test this afternoon and then his final rounds of tests next week. A bit overwhelmed, he is plugging away. Send prayers and happy thoughts his way!

He heads to Honduras in less than 2 weeks! For those who don't know, he is going on a trip with VCOM (Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine) for a week. While there he will be working with a partner and meeting with patients in need. They will be collaborating with a doctor the entire time- great way to get field experience and discover that this is really where he needs to be!

I'll leave you with this....any suggestions for movies to watch? ;)

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Gift of Time

Today we were sent home from school 2.5 hours early and given the incredible gift of time. After recovering from the shock, since there is absolutely NO snow on the ground, I began to think of what to do with this miraculous amount of time given to me. I'm feeling crafty... we'll see what today brings! Perhaps I'll make one of those half, folded scarves. I have the yarn and it's been waiting for my busy hands :)

Well, what today brings until 5 PM, when I meet Jim for dinner. It's 2:35? Yikes. Not much more left of my gift, but at least the dishes are washed and grades are filed.

What would you do with a gift of time?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

1.5 years!

Today marked our 1 1/2 years of marriage! As the snow covered the ground, we both sat in our opposite ends of the cottage completing the necessary work at this point in our lives. Jim studying the endless powerpoints, while I grade papers and enter the grades into the online system. Romantic?


Because at 5 PM we dropped those tedious and burdening items and flung open the doors for a nice hike! We crossed the road, puppies in tow, found a trail for easy access and hiked as the sun was setting. With barely any sunlight we arrived home to change clothes and head out on a date! For the first time in a while, it seems, we sat back and talked. We moved away from the table, where we had eaten, and over to two comfy chairs to continue our conversations. It was lovely to relax in each other's company, away from our requirements, and dream about the FUTURE.

We were blessed to have this time. It comes when you need it most, I suppose!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Inspiration for a Name

If you've been thinking you're all that you've got,
Then don't feel alone anymore.
'Cause when we're together then you've got a lot,
For I am the river and you are the shore.

And it goes on and on,
Watching the river run.
Further and further from things that we've done,
Leaving them one by one.

And we have just begun
Watching the river run.
Listening and learning and yearning
Run river run.

Winding and swirling and dancing along,
We pass by the old willow tree.
As friend embrace as we sing them our song,
Rejoicing together as we greet the sea.

And it goes on and on,
Watching the river run.
Further and further from things that we've done,
Leaving them one by one.

And we have just begun
Watching the river run.
Listening and learning and yearning
Run river run.

Loggins and Messina

Those who know me well know that this song is symbolic for many different reasons. It was introduced to me, as I prepared a scrapbook page for one of my closest cousins and since then it has been used, reused, and recycled.
- My family sang it to my cousin, Marianne, and her husband, Christoph, during the talent show in their wedding reception.
- I sang it to Jim one day when we were kayaking to the waterfall (where he had previously proposed)
- Our wedding guests sang the refrain to us as we departed by paddling down the Clarion River!
- It was the opening song in a chapel that I led at Episcopal School of Acadiana (ESA) with a slideshow of river pictures for them to view while listening

Though it may seem overused, it has come to be a staple. It's melody sooths and the lyrics remind me of hope and new beginnings. Many metaphors can be used to identify the river and the shore. Take your pick :)