Friday, May 31, 2013

5 minutes: imagine


I close my eyes in the dark, hot room each night and imagine His arms around me.  Lifting me up, taking these burdens, this fear and worry.  I imagine Him whispering that He had always known I was strong enough to walk this path that He put before me, and I had done well.

I imagine warm hugs and love as I see those who have gone before me, waiting to welcome me from His embrace.  My father's face makes me smile in the dark as I imagine his arms around me.  Lifting me up, taking these burdens, this fear and worry.  I imagine him whispering that he had always known I was strong enough to walk this path that was before me, and I had done well.

I wrap my arms around me in the dark, feeling the sweat on my skin in the humid room and as the oscillating fan chills it, I feel goose bumps rise.  I imagine his arms around me once again, holding me up, sharing these burdens, this fear and worry.  I imagine him whispering that he was strong because of my strength, and that this is a path we will walk together.

I imagine arms around me in the dark.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sweet ....

Sweet is the touch of Oreo's paw,
wanting me to wake so he can spoon under the covers.
Sweet is Annie coming to give me a hug and ask for a treat.
Her gentle ways, the look in her eyes.

Sweet is the smile on Trooper's face,
when I find his "sweet" spot to scratch at the base of his tail.

"Sweeeet!" is my exclamation when the month's bills are paid,
and I realize I've still got a little for next month's.

Sweet is the sorbet I savor on a hot afternoon,
long day, patience thin,
shoes off, feet up, and breezes blowing over the bay.

Sweet sounds his voice as he whispers "I love you."
Sweet feels his hand as he wipes my tears.
Sweet is his hug as we part once again,
wishing for no more bittersweet goodbyes.

What sweetness do you wish for?
Join me at Jamie Ridler Studios for a taste of wishful thinking.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

T is for ...

Image Source
T is also for ...
Trooper my pound puppy rescued dog...
Taking a stand against Texting and driving ...
my book Trooper's Run.

skewing the bell curve...

Color added by me, but the drawing is my student's.
I wish that all parents could afford to send their children to schools that will give them the time and attention to learn. To find ways to accomplish their dreams.  Instead, many are forced to put them into public schools and the small boxes required by state governments that determine what is or is not acceptable intelligence.

The picture on the left was drawn by an 8th grade autism student. 
Look at the detail of at least twelve different flower species!

This thank you note written by the same student after a sex ed presentation:

"Dear Mr. S,
I appreciate you teaching me about 'unmentionable' things.  And taking the time to painsteakingly quiet down the class.  I have learned something also, parts of which I already knew, I thank you for teaching us.  I know how hard it was to teach an entire class of snickering eighth grade kids.  You have demonstrated good, and you made it fun.  If you make it fun and they'll learn.  The only thing I didn't like wuz the write sheet you gave us.  I liked the little plays you did with the class.  I've tried the book work instead of the class, I gotta tell you it wuz hard!  I really appreciate the time you took for us.  I enjoyed 97% of the class.  The 3% is the homework and videos.  The freedom one eighty was a heck of alot less boring than regular science.
Thank you sincerely from XX"

His handwriting is very tiny and in the corner of the paper he drew a small triangle with a magnifying glass inside and a note that said "magnifying glass needed."

In his thank you note, he pointed out something very important that I think all teachers, school administrators, and those governmental organizations that determine who is or is not "smart" should pay attention to very closely:

"If you make it fun, they'll learn."

I found when I was teaching that learning must involve as many of the senses as possible in order for the brain to really grasp a concept.  Their eyes to read, their ears to hear, and their hands to feel or write are givens in most classrooms.  But what if you added something to smell and taste?  Even more important, if you add laughter, if you add the emotional sense of happiness, if you take advantage of that sixth sense of our emotions ... wouldn't we have students who learned better?

When we touch something that is hot, we "learn" not to touch it again.  Not just because it "felt" hot, but because it caused pain.  An emotion.  A feeling more than just the five senses, pain involves the brain telling the rest of the body that it really didn't like that very much.

This is a student who struggles with math, history, science, and language arts ... at least according the the set standards by the state and school districts.  In his thank you note, he has a grasp of language and while there were some mistakes and slang, nothing that couldn't be relearned.  He even had accurate math thrown in there with his percentages.  But because he doesn't measure up to all of their statistics, he will always be just outside of their box.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  All of the greatest thinkers, inventors, and artists have always thought outside of the box.

If students had teachers who made learning fun, who took the time to find out what they needed to learn ... if they found the right key to unlock the door to their worlds ...
Think of all the things they could accomplish!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day ...

I am grateful to live in a free county,
my freedom fought for by brave men and women,
who were not only willing to fight for my freedom,
but who were willing to sacrifice for others who were oppressed.
In countries far from their own homes,
far from their own loved ones.
Men and women who may have come home from those wars,
scarred, wounded and changed,
if they were lucky enough to come home at all.
I am eternally grateful to you for your sacrifice.

And while I'm not diminishing your bravery and sacrifices one iota
I really wish that one day the reason we have a Memorial Day 
becomes just a distant memory.
That there are no more wars,
no more sacrifices,
no more losses,
no more wounded,
and no more families torn apart.
Source: HBO

Saturday, May 25, 2013

rescue me...

  I know I've talked often about what an incredible dog Trooper is.  I'm not sure if I've ever really fully shared how incredibly intelligent he is, and how unique he is.  He was a pound puppy from a shelter that at the time was a high kill shelter.  I got him when he was eight weeks old, the same day he arrived at the shelter.  I was told he was a lab and pit bull mix, but later after DNA profiles were available for dogs I learned that he was a Premium Heinz 57 Blend instead.  A mix of Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound), Boxer, Collie, Whippet, and yes... Chihuahua.

  If you've never read my first book "My Best Friends Have Hairy Legs," let me give you the Cliff Notes version of how smart he is... when he was just six months old I introduced him to my now ex in-laws on a Christmas trip to south Florida.  I pointed to my fiancee's grandmother and whispered to Trooper that she was very sad because her dog had just died and he needed to be extra nice to her.  As soon as I unleashed him, he walked over to her, put his head on her knee, and stayed there without moving for four hours while she stroked his head.

  This picture was taken two weeks before that incident, the day I had the first of several eye surgeries.  He did not leave my side all weekend.

  If I ask him to "show me" what he wants when he comes over and paws my arm, he will either walk to where I have the dog treats hidden, or he will walk to the top of the stairs (or front door) to let me know he has to go outside.

  When we go outside, he knows the difference between "front yard," "mailbox," "beach," or "field" and will walk to whichever one I call out.  He knows which door is the front door, garage door, or back
door, as well as the pantry.  He knows all of our neighbors by name, and if he sees someone walking up to us, all I have to do is say that it is (neighbor) soandso and he will stand down his guard and go back to playing with Annie.

  His intelligence continues to amaze me, and at nine years old this year, he is still learning.  What is even more incredible about him is that he was a pound puppy.  He's not a pure bred dog.  He was rescued.

  Annie, whose story has her own page [here], looks like she is a pure beagle, but I think she is more of a mix of other hound breeds including beagle.  She was dumped and left to starve when someone couldn't continue to feed their hunting dogs.  She was rescued, and every single day shows me how grateful she is for that fact by continuing to give the sweetest hugs I've ever gotten.

  I share this because every day, thousands of dogs are abused and mistreated in puppy mills just to get a perfect pure bred dog that people will pay far too much money for.  I share this because every day, too many dogs [and cats] are put down in kill shelters, dumped on the streets, or abused by people.

  Best Friends Animal Society is working on puppy mill initiatives [click here to help or learn more] to try to stop the abuse.  But the best way you can help is to stop buying pure bred dogs from anyone other than a local, established breeder where you can see the parents and see the environment.  Even better than that, you can rescue a dog [or cat] from a shelter or rescue organization.  Each month, thousands of volunteers spend countless hours rescuing, fostering, and trying to find homes for these wonderful animals.  Like Karen, at This Old House 2, who works with a local shelter.  Or Amy, who works with the Richmond Animal League to find homes for some of the sweetest faces ever.

  If you can't open your home to a rescue, either permanently or just to foster this summer, then at least consider rescuing them from the confines of the shelter for a few hours by volunteering to walk the dogs or play with the cats.  What an awesome lesson in responsibility it could be for a student out of school for the summer ... walking a dog instead of playing Minecraft 24/7?

  Can't you hear them calling?  "Rescue me..."

selections # 122

Difficult to see, but there is a dragonfly on the tip of the stick to the left of the water lily...
I tried to get the dragonfly framed so it was on the lily, but it didn't show up as much as I wanted it to.
In a few weeks, I will share a dragonfly tutorial ... a cute craft courtesy of mom!
This house looked like it just had so many stories to tell.
There is a wreath hanging on the center of the door that can't be seen in the afternoon light.
It was a faded red, white and blue, with an American flag on it.
I wonder if it was from 4th of July last year ...
or a memorial wreath for a loss.

Sunday Selections was originally started by Kim, of Frogpondsrock ,
as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files.
It is now continued by River at Drifting through life and Sue at The Elephant's Child
The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent. 
Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.

Friday, May 24, 2013

things ...

... that just make me want to  ...
Reaching up to turn off the light to finally get to sleep at almost midnight and seeing a palmetto bug on the ceiling.  Sleep did not happen.

Four nights later, while taking a shower, seeing something dark circling in the tub, thinking it is just another string glob gift from Annie ... and it is NOT!

Thinking I'm going to get to work early so I can actually have a second cup of coffee and finding myself stuck behind an "SLTr" [Stop Light Texter] who is oblivious to the fact that the light has changed and the six cars in front of her are long gone.  By the time she becomes aware that the annoying honking noise is actually me, behind her, she manages to run the red light and leave me stuck until the next green light.

Parents who have gotten progress reports and report cards all year showing how badly their "perfect angel" has been doing in school, yet they wait until the last three weeks of school to panic and cry "what can we do so that he/she will pass??"  Parents, heed this gentle advice:  teachers only have your child's mind for six or seven hours a day.  The remaining seventeen or eighteen hours are out of our control and up to you.  If you don't care how they are doing in school, we can't make your child care either.

Students who think that because they can only be held back in the same grade one additional year (fail, repeat, fail, automatically pushed to the next grade) they can just do nothing the last two months of school except disrupt the students who are really trying to learn.  I realize that the "no student left behind" referendum might have had the best of intentions, but are we really doing a service to the students?  Work ethics are learned, and if we don't hold students accountable, how are they supposed to learn?  Shouldn't we start teaching ethics and work values in middle school?

Teachers who try to be the "cool teach" more than they try to teach, and just cannot understand why their classrooms are constantly, totally out of control.  If I had wanted to work in a Wild Animal Park, I would have moved to Orlando.  Teach now, friend later when they have graduated with a PhD and in their valedictorian speech thank you for giving them the incentive to be all that they could be.

Realizing that while the autistic kids I work with can often have their "moments," most often it is those "normal" kids who are the most disruptive, rude, aggressive, argumentative, and just flat out spoiled brats who think they are "above the law."  Today at lunch, an 8th grader very nearly punched me when I told him that he needed to turn off his [against school rules] cell phone.  I had 7th graders this week be disrespectful and again very nearly physically aggressive to me because I asked them to be quiet while other students were still testing and I threw away the spitballs one of them had been planning on using.  I would ask where they are learning their manners and respect, but apparently ... they aren't.

Okay.  I'm shutting up now and stepping down from my soapbox.
What makes you want to scream?

5 minutes: view


My life lately has been from a point of view that is filled with gratitude.

Each morning I wake up, grateful for another day.  Each time the dogs make me smile, I am grateful for their own unique sense of humor.  Each time my cat rubs foreheads with me to tell me how grateful he is that I came back for him ... I'm grateful that he survived.  Each morning that I drive to work, I'm grateful that my car started, that I could afford gas, that I have a job to go to.  Each afternoon when I come home, I'm grateful for the cool breeze blowing over the bay that comes in my open windows.  I'm grateful to have a roof over my head ... a bed to sleep in ... lights to see by ... running water ... and every month, somehow, the ability to pay my bills to keep it all going.

Each time I speak to mom, that she knows who I am, remembers what we spoke about the day before ... I'm so very grateful.

I've learned that when I view my life and each day through a frame of gratitude ... each day becomes something I long to remember and view again.

Source Unknown
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How do I wish to spend my days?

The sun was out today and it was a hot day, 
but this afternoon there was a breeze blowing that helped to cool the house.
I let the dogs run in the field until their tongues hung sideways from their open smiles.
Happy to be unleashed.

After not being able to have a coherent conversation with my mom since last Thursday night ...
I was finally able to talk to her tonight and hear her laugh.
She is not yet 100%, but she is getting there.

Tonight I sat in a room with people who were filled with faith,
and we prayed,
for those with needs, those with aching hearts, and those facing trials.
We prayed for healing, for relief, for wisdom.

Tonight I let the words escape until they were spent.
Found hope in possible full time job opportunities,
and thanked God that my financial needs will be met,
if only for this week.

This is how I want to spend my days:
Basking in sunshine, cooled by sweet breezes blowing over the water.
Unleashed and happy.
Laughing with the ones I love.
Wrapped in my faith, feeling the strength of fellowship.
Writing ... hoping 
and grateful.
I'm linking with Jamie Ridler Studios tonight.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Taps II

  I blogged [here] about listening to the sound of Taps as it floated over the valley from the Ft. Hood Army post.  A year later, it was something I blogged that I would miss when I left Ft. Hood.

  Sometime in the past year, the command at the Air Force base just across the bay from me changed ... and now I can hear the sound of Taps again being played late at night.  Hauntingly beautiful as it floats over the water.

  We have had a difficult year, as a country.  Terror attacks.  Tornadoes.  Wars.  Severe winter storms.  Flooding.  Explosions.  Fires.  Disasters both natural and man-made.

  Tonight when I heard Taps I thought of all the families that are hurting tonight.  Physically and emotionally.  Grieving for those lost ... missing ... injured.  Longing to touch a hand ... a face ... of someone fighting a battle in a distant country.  I thought of the worry and fear that we feel for those we love, no matter how close or far away they are.

  It also made me grateful for those who are safe tonight ... those found or rescued, those who have come home to be held tightly, loved deeply.

  It is a bittersweet sound across the bay tonight...

S is for...

Monday, May 20, 2013

and most importantly, have a nice day...

[Disclaimer:  This is an essay written by one of my autistic students for a 7th grade writing exercise as required by the State of Florida to ensure that students can read and write.  The situation given was that young teenagers often feel they can't get sick and they don't understand much about health problems that people can face.  The essay was to be about a health problem that they wanted to educate others about.  What follows is word for word what was written by my student, spelling errors included.  As you are reading, whatever you do, do NOT think about zombies.]

"What people should be worried about is rabbies.  Rabbies is a very common but Dangerous.  It can infect wild & domesticated animals if they don't have shots for rabies.  When an animal has rabies, it starts to get very ravinous.  The animal with rabies will soon start to hunt for humans &/or animals that aren't infected.

"My advice for people is very important.  You must first make sure that you have your rabies shot.  The shot will make you immune to rabies, but the shot will only last for a year & the shot will only protect you from only one bite.  If you see a man or creature with rabies, call 911 or animal control.  If you don't have a phone or communications are down, remain calm and hide, don't make any noise.

"When you hear the radio about rabies, inform friends & family about it.  If they know, be prepared in case of emergency.  If you or people you know live nearby forestes, be prepared in case of rabies.  When you see a person or animal with rabies, make sure you have the necessary tools to do so.  If not, please message people that do.

"If you know people that are disabled or elder, try moving them to someplace that is safe.  When there is an outbreak of rabies, evacuate the area immediately.  make sure to arm yourself when there is an outbreak.  You should also help citizens in case of outbreak.

"And that is my advice for rabies.  It is no laughing matter.  So be prepared for it.  Stay safe from rabies.  And most importantly, have a nice day."
Original image source
[red lettering mine]
[This was truly the smile that I needed to start my Monday.
I am so grateful at times to do what I do.]

Saturday, May 18, 2013

selections #121

I'd spotted a pond a few weeks ago that looked like it would be perfect
for some experimenting with the "dry brush" filter in my photo software.
It was quite a pleasant day ... more pictures next week.

Sunday Selections was originally started by Kim, of Frogpondsrock ,
as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files.
It is now continued by River at Drifting through life and Sue at The Elephant's Child
The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent. 
Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

You Are. I am.

I've heard this song quite a bit lately on the radio.

It makes me think of those punctuation tables that show how correct punctuation can save a life.
It is time to eat Grandpa.
It is time to eat, Grandpa.

The reference for the song comes from John 8:58 in the Bible.
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

But when I hear this song it speaks to me differently.
I hear it as affirmation that because He is ... I am.
I exist because of Him.
I am because of Him.
All that I have, all that I do ... is because of Him.
Because You are Jesus, I am redeemed.
I am loved.
I am blessed.
You are.
I am.

Monday, May 13, 2013

1 Peter 4:13

12-13 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
~ The Message ~

It is so easy at times to be overwhelmed by the difficulties we face.
We cry out "Why me, Lord?  Why me?"

Why not you?
The trials that Jesus faced were much harder than what we might ever face.
And yet, 
He suffered them willingly because He knew that there were better things in His future.

If we look at the trials in our life from that perspective,
wouldn't it make bearing them a little easier?

If we knew that the pain we felt now would one day be gone,
that we would be healed,
that there would be no need that was not met or filled ...
couldn't we face this day with much more grace?

Are we not loved that much?
That God sacrificed His Son for us,
so that we would know that our future was not here ...
but with Him?

Why not you?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

my heart is beating for you ...

My heart beats because of you.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
Love you.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

selections #120

Mother's Day is tomorrow, so I thought I would share some photos of my mother...
That's my mom.  Front and center and not looking at the camera.
Aunt Nancy is on the left, Grandma, and Aunt Susan.
Already I can see where I got my "oh look, a chicken!" issues.
Clockwise from left:  Aunt Susan, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Nan
Uncle Brian, and mom ... not looking at the camera again.
My maternal grandparents were both from German families.  
Grandpa was the first in his family to be born in the United States.
This picture was taken at a lake on a family outing.
I love how they are all smiling.
We had some great family outings when I was a child.
Volksmarches in Germany that I no longer have pictures of, traveling to Salzburg; Nice; Amsterdam.
Childhood sometimes slips by before we realize how much we are going to treasure those memories.
First day of school.
I love this picture of mom in her new school dress.
I wore this wedding dress the first time I was married.
I wish now I had waited ... in more ways than one.
This picture was taken in the late 1990's.
Love it.
Love her.

Sunday Selections was originally started by Kim, of Frogpondsrock ,
as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files.
It is now continued by River at Drifting through life and Sue at The Elephant's Child
The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent. 
Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.

Friday, May 10, 2013

5 minutes: comfort

I've been sick this week with a chest cold and allergies.  The inside of my nose is swollen, blistered, and raw as the oak trees by my house drop their blooms and pollen.  When I breathe, I can hear my lungs crackling and wheezing, sounding at times as if I'm under water.

I want comfort.

I want someone to fix hot tomato soup for me and float extra cheddar Goldfish crackers in the bowl, and bring me ice cold unsweet tea while I prop myself up in bed and try not to cough up a lung.  I want someone else to go do my job for me so I can sleep late, take naps, and go to bed early.  I want comfort.

A few weeks ago I realized that sometimes God will take us out of our comfort zones so that we stop relying so much on the world for comfort and turn to Him.

Today when I want comfort for my cold, what comforts me the most is knowing that His hands are on me.  His eyes see me.  His arms protect me.  His ears hear me.  I am always in His heart.  Always.

And that is comforting.
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, May 9, 2013

tattle tail ...

Every year, my mom sends me packages and cards 
for my birthday or for Christmas.

Every year, she marks all over the outside of the box or envelope:

Image Source: WeHeartIt
Dear Mom,
I have no adult supervision here.
When something comes in the mail and says "don't open until...."
It pretty much gets ripped open right then and there. 
Sorry, but I just can't help it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

better late than never ...

April was Child Abuse Prevention month and I don't recall seeing or hearing anything about it anywhere.
Shame on the media.
Every month should be child abuse prevention month.
Until there is not another abused child in the world.

weekend wanna do Wednesday ...

Source:  WeHeartIt

Monday, May 6, 2013

get busy!

No idling!

I saw this sign on Friday when I was in Tallahassee on a student field trip.
It was on the outside of a parking garage, so I'm sure was intended for car owners.
But it struck me as funny ~ on a late afternoon when I had lost my sense of humor.
If I was just idling around ... would I get a ticket?

Friday, May 3, 2013

5 minutes: brave

I went on a field trip today with the eighth graders from the middle school where I'm a paraprofessional.

Nuff said.

Okay, seriously.  It was an adventure in patience for me, and a lesson.  I saw teenagers acting all brave in front of their friends as they tested the limits of the boundaries set on them by school rules and regulations.  I heard enough boy belches and farts to last me two lifetimes, and not a single sign of manners among any of them.  I saw girls flirting suggestively, then stabbing each other in the back when they called each other on it, glaring at me with daggers from their eyes and hopes for spontaneous combustion as I asked them to be silent to respectfully listen to the docent at the Museum of Florida History, or when we tried to get a head count at the Florida State Capitol because some of these "future leaders" had gone elevator hopping.

Brave.  Because they were off the school grounds and presumed that there would not be any enforcement of the rules.

Brave.  Until I confronted them with their behavior, then it was "I didn't know!" or "I didn't hear!" or "Well soandso told me to!"

Twelve hours of my life I'll never get back again.

But tonight when I came home and tried to remain calm as my dogs who had been waiting for me to come home wanted to play while I just wanted to eat and go to bed ... I was forced to stop and think about the day.

Brave, I was when I made choices last year, blindly stepping out ... without faith ... without trust.  This year has been a lesson in humility for me as God continues to provide for me ... and continues to show me where I need to grow.

Brave ... I don't need to be.  But I do need to be respectful.  Obedient.  Honest.  Faithful.  Trusting.

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, May 2, 2013

tattle tail ...

There is a pattern here that I'm beginning to dislike.
I woke this morning 
~ an hour and forty minutes before my alarm was set to go off ~
with a sore throat that demanded attention.
Once tended to, I attempted to get what little sleep I could
before the alarm did go off.

However ...
Trooper came over and sat on me unexpectedly,
and refused to get off me.
Apparently, little Miss Annie, had found my shoes I forgot to put in the closet last night,
when exhaustion fogged my brain.
No harm was done,
but sleep was lost,
sore throat awakened,
and so my day begins...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Weekend Wanna-do Wednesdays...

I'm ready to start "making" a home again ...
Filling it with love ...
and things made with love.
I think it would be so awesome to make a few of these bowls from beaches I visit, 
fill them with shells from those beaches, and write in the bottom of the bowl 
what beach the sand was from.
I love the simple process to make this beautiful flower art, and think that it would be just fabulous to make seasonal and holiday versions to change out every month.  Wouldn't that just be such a welcoming sight in an entry way?
This wreath is actually similar to one that I'm hoping to make in June,
but this denim one just says "summer fun!"
I'd like to make it with flowers from different fabric ... 
maybe some summer calico colors... like the ones below!