Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Official Tchotchkes Moratorium (Operation Christmas Child)

I have a love-hate relationship with crafting.

Love:  I enjoy making things.
Hate:  I loathe clutter.  I do not like tchotchkes (yep, that's how it's spelled).  Once I have the experience of making something I'm either "been there and done that" about it, or I'm so critical I can't stand to keep it around because I find its flaws.  I have donated many of my creations to Goodwill.

So with this ambivalence in mind, I went through my Pinterest boards a while back and unpinned a lot of projects.

That was a relief.

This past weekend I had an Operation Christmas Child box packing party.  It was fun, and together my girlfriends and I created 35 boxes. I think most women there want to go forward with this.  New to many, I heard, "Well, now I know what I'm doing, so next year..."

My friend Dori taught us so much about how to get the most into our boxes.  She was an inspiration.

The afternoon just warmed my heart. Of course, we were working and talking so much, I only took one photo--after everyone left, and that photo is even missing a few of the boxes...
My friend Lynette's are missing from above, she used Michael's photo boxes for hers.  How cute is this?
While sandwich eating (inhaling) and net surfing during my ten minutes of lunch "break" on Tuesday, something caused me to decide I should now craft for others.  I can't remember what I saw, but I started web searching and reviewing pins for projects with a purpose in mind.

Now I hope to make a few things each month for my boxes for '13, starting with these:

He's a chipmunk, but I might leave off the tail and make him a bear.

I couldn't find marbles this year, and at the last minute I remembered they sell them at Party City.  However, I have learned NOT to go there the weekend before Halloween. Perhaps I could do this next weekend for my class boxes...

My knitting sensei tells me I could even make these!

I'm pretty excited about this, and I'm looking forward to getting started.  

Also, I found a great OCC reference site, I think Dori had shared it with me before, but I came across it again.  Operation Christmas Child might turn me into a coupon user yet...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

He Gets My Vote

Normally, I shy away from politics.
Normally, I hold my thoughts because I don't want to get into a debate.
But this campaign season has not been normal; it's been uglier than others I recall.  
Name calling has run rampant.
People of different views have been unkind.
It's heartbreaking.

I am voting for Barack Obama.
This op/ed piece details why with much more eloquence than I could express.

I understand you may disagree with me.
I understand I am voting the opposite of many in my family.
I ask that you understand I am informed and firm in my stance.

It is essential that we respect, honor, and value the right to hold and vote our different opinions.
It is what makes this nation great, it isn't something that should divide us when we must remain knit together as one.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"The Boy" is Going Back to LA

My son has decided to move back to Louisiana come January.

Bearing in mind I have three important people in my life who have lost their children to death, I am trying to process this turn of events with perspective while still allowing myself to be sad.  It's been a less than smooth week.

Yes, I know my son is still alive, and I can and will reach out to him often.

But I am still grieving.  I'm upset that he's moving far enough away that I couldn't drive to see him in one day.  (Unless I suddenly develop the ability to drive for 17 hours without falling asleep.)  I'm sort of--and yes this is ridiculously petty--bummed about going on vacation to the same state each year, or even twice a year.  But mostly, and this is cart before the horse truth, I am already missing the idea of being the kind of gramma I hoped to be.

He is not married, not even engaged.  We know though time flies, he's 26--when did that happen?  Perhaps one day he will be a daddy.  (I mean, he had me save his Lego, there has to be a reason.)

He will be there.  They will be there.

I will be here.

That doesn't fit in with the image of me frequently baby-sitting, reading to, rocking, wagonging, swinging, painting with, chocolate sharing with, and reading to (I know, that's a repeat--I hoped to do it often) my someday grandchild(ren).

Admittedly, I'm sad that automatically I'd take a second and distant seat to the local grandmother.  Yes, I know this is petty, but it's how I feel.  I'm working through it, all the ugly of me.

For a number of years, it was just Mac and me.  He has been welcoming to Brad.  I was and still am looking forward to having a daughter-in-law one day.  I've always been open to sharing Mac around the holidays. I have lived without seeing him on Thanksgiving a few years.  I never wanted to be controlling of his time.  But this one, this move, makes me want to duct tape him to the couch and say no.

I know that's extreme, and of course, I'd never do it.  Convicted felons aren't allowed to be teachers. I just don't know how else to process all this other than to feel it and name it.  I lack the graciousness to just say I hope for the best and mean it because my heart's imagination is running rampant.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Zipping May Have to Do

This summer, a group from our church planned a skydiving event.  Brad wanted to go.  Apparently it's on his, I hate this term, bucket list.

Right then, I knew he was crazy.  And the idea terrified me.

But I didn't tell him no.  That just doesn't seem right, for me to forbid him to do something like that.

Instead I asked him to compromise.  You see, he also wants to go hot air ballooning. So I suggested we should plan to do that.


That idea and a conflict on the day the group traveled out west to jump made him give up the diving idea, for now at least.

Then, when were in Wisconsin for a weekend, I persuaded him to join me in doing something I've always wanted to do, zip lining.  (I think he wanted to do it all along, but he just made me keep on asking him.  What a tease.)

It was a gorgeous early fall day, and we had a blast!  We wore grubby clothes, but the young women who were on the towers with us were in glitz and flip flops.  They were adorable, and they were afraid, and so we found ourselves momming and dadding them along the way.  Brad took more photos of them (with their phones) than he did of me, and that was fine by me.  You all don't need to see close-ups of these ol' legs in shorts (suffice it to say I've changed up my workouts since then).
Heights are not my friend, but I loved zip lining.  Is it corny to say it's a rush?   I had predicted I'd do it once and be satisfied, but I want to do it again.  The climbing onto precarious perches had me shaking, but the letting go and gliding had me laughing and smiling. 

Which brings me to sky diving.  I started thinking, maybe I can do it.  Maybe I want to do this.  Maybe it's something we can do together.  But you'll never guess what Brad said.

He said no.  Apparently, I could get hurt.  Oh, yes, I could die too.


I'm saying, stay tuned.

Disclaimer:  Friends were worried, once some pics were posted on facebook, that this would be bad for Brad's back, but zipping is like sitting in a swing.  It's smooth and virtually non-jarring.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I have no recollection of my mother and father discussing politics except for the one-liner my father would trot out each presidential election year.  He would say mom cancelled out his vote. You see, he would vote Republican, and she would vote Democrat. He would joke they could save the trip to the polling place, as soon as they were done choosing, one ballot negated the other.   

Still they voted in every election.

The only time Mom voted as a Republican was when she voted in a primary against Richard Nixon who she "just did not want to be president."  When Hubert Humphrey died, my father mourned.  Even though my dad never voted for him, he had great respect for the man.  I remember them both reading Harry Truman's autobiography.

My father and mother respected people in public service, even when they didn't agree with their politics.  Perhaps around others my dad was more vehement, but he never assaulted the politicians' character that I recall.

I endeavor to do the same.

This week, the last big debate was aired.  I did not watch it.  I am not on the fence, I know for whom I will vote.  I would tag these moderated exchanges as informational programs for those who are undecided.  However, I understand folks watch them for all sorts of reasons.  I understand there are people who study the science of politics.  What I don't understand or appreciate are those who are steadfast in their opinion of their candidate yet, or maybe because of this passion, are driven to watch with the goal of dissecting behaviors exhibited and words chosen to use to mock the opponent.  That is not political commentary, that is just unkind and disrespectful.

In overheard conversations, tweets, facebook status updates, and on blogs, I've read all sorts of cruel  comments about the men themselves.  I don't mean criticisms of their stands, I mean criticism of the way they stand, look, act, sound.  I've read attacks on their character.  I've read name calling.

As a nation of media junkies, we claim we hate how the media shrinks speeches into soundbites, yet we create and perpetuate such soundbites--or wordbites--via social media (Big Bird and notebooks come to mind).  We claim we hate attack ads, yet we attack.   Such behaviors are divisive in ways we cannot measure.

President Obama and Governor Romney are two men of great intelligence and achievement.  The pressures they both face are those we cannot imagine.  Though guided by advisory panels, when they stand in front of those cameras, they stand alone as they work to encapsulate how they hope to restructure this country in short, timed presentations.  They seek to be understood.

Are either one of them all bad?  There is no hero, and there is no villain.   When Election Day has passed, when Inaugural Day approaches, history will continue to be made no matter which man is chosen.  Perhaps if we, the citizens, stand behind our President, pray for our President, and truly are patriotic, there will be more peace among us and commonalities would be valued more than disagreements.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lead On

I have a sweet, kind class this year, but one of my students (we'll call this child "X") behaves in a way that is unpredictable and inappropriate for a classroom setting.  I like this child very much, but the baffling behavior gets in the way of X's learning (often) and my teaching (sometimes). It upsets me because so much good goes on in our room.  I have a well behaved class in an organized room, and these distractions don't fit well with my outlined plans for each day.

Beyond that, of course, I cannot give more details.

Yesterday in church, because of these political times, the message was about leadership, specifically how to pray for our leaders and our potential leaders. The crux of it all was that we must pray that our elected officials recognize God is in control.  The United States is a great country, but we need to look to Heaven--our leaders need to look to Heaven--for guidance.

The story that was shared was from Daniel chapter 4.  King Nebuchadnezzar was surveying his kingdom and admiring it greatly when God stopped him in his tracks, and, well, turned him into someone who was more animal than human.  At the end of seven years (or so), Nebuchadnezzar turned toward Heaven and realized it is God who deserves praise for all our accomplishments.  He was returned to his kingly demeanor and went on to testify that God is the one who deserves all praise and credit.  (Eugene Peterson's The Message has nothing on my retelling!)

I recognize that if I were to bring a nonbelieving friend to church, this story might be scoffed at as magical thinking.  But to me it held truth.  Shrinking it down to my leadership role as the leader of my classroom, I must remember God is in control there too.  Thinking of this particular child, I recognize that a prayer I started praying just last Thursday is exactly what will be best for both of us, both X and me.

My prayer?  Since X's behavior may not change, my reaction to the choices X makes must be altered. My guidance must come from my God as I seek to help this child.  I must take a moment and listen to that still, small voice and heed its direction.  For this child is one of God's children too.  If I truly want X to flourish in fourth grade, I have to pray for this child and how I will lead this child with Love.

We all are leaders in life.  In what area might you employ Heaven and God's guidance?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Catching My Breath

This year's class is an incredibly well behaved group of kids who are also quite sweet.  I am enjoying my time with them.  However, I am not enjoying my time planning some really extensive reading curriculum.  I'm putting in as many extra hours as I did as a new teacher, but I'm sixteen years older than I was then, so I'm tuckered out.  I've been endeavoring to exercise four days a week, to spend time with Brad, and so this blog thing has fallen by the wayside.

After all those excuses, a fun little photo:
Brad's out showing houses, and so I've been puttering all day.  It's been a good day.

This morning I traced out an S and Mod Podged it to a pumpkin.  I'm allergic to pumpkin guts, so I love that there are other decorating ideas for the outsides that don't involve carving!  That's one thing checked off my fall to do list.

Also off the list: a visit to a pumpkin farm, a walk in a forest preserve (Brad's been working weekends so we opted to go only to the next county not the state park I hoped for), and I've been getting some reading done--four books this fall, though none were "good." Right now I'm reading FatherMotherGod.  I've torn out our impatiens and planted some tulip and hyacinth bulbs (a first), and I'm anxious for spring. I've adorned our berm with a pot of yellow and purple pansies.  No cider cookies yet, but I have made an apple crisp that Brad and Mac enjoyed.  So autumnal.

As for the fall martini, my birthday is at month's end, and I've asked my son for a martini shaker.  In the meantime, I have to settle on one recipe AND pick up some martini glasses.  I'm thinking dollar store stems will do.  Cheapo me.
While I am not looking forward to winter, I recognize each year how fleeting even that season is, so I can deal with it.  But I've concluded my blood thinned over this past summer of near 100 degree days, as 50 degrees is chilling my bones...I am definitely going to be a winter wuss.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Here's to Fall Y'all

A new blog plus less time than ever equals fewer posts (crazy busy school year, hello new curriculum and new meeting schedule).  I don't have today's math lesson fully planned, but I know that much real life math.  So it's time to link up with Listicles again to get my mind off school for a moment and onto something, well, mindlessly wonderful.

This week Stasha asked for our favorite fall must haves.  I encourage you to visit her blog, and then visit others who have linked up. They're much more pithy than I, no doubt.

Today starts October, what do I want around me?

1.  Butterscotch liqueur for hot chocolate (and for the chocolate butterscotch martini I'm going to concoct if Mac answers my birthday wish for a shaker.)
2.  Open windows for sleeping under many covers and waking up to cold.
3.  A scraper for my car windows--morning frost for those few times I can't pull into the garage due to a Brad project going on.
4.  Pansies.  Their bright yellows and purples stare down winter, they taunt it--"Go ahead, I'm frost resistant," until nearly and sometimes into December.  I moved some asters from a pot into a bed, and I now have a pot o' purple and yellow.  Love them!
5.  Mums, they remind me of Mom--they're in the backyard, but I'll get some for a vase near month's end.
6.  My weekend-not-going-out-of-the-house-baggy-in-the-butt-jeans.  (Okay, they're suitable for Home Depot or a WalMart run, and maybe a "the library closes in 10 minutes and I have a book waiting," run...) 
7.  My gray hand-me-down from Brad sweatshirt and my black-hand-me down (stolen) from Mac hoodie.  Wearing the latter as I compose this.
8.  Caramel anything  (Most recently a caramel chocolate martini.)
9.  A good idea for a class birthday treat, my 52nd (eek) is October 28th. 
10. Hikes in state parks, we have at least one planned for sure.
image courtesy of the Illinois DNR

And though it's supposed to be 10, I'm going for 11--
11.  Books that have nothing to do with lesson planning!