Monday, June 23, 2014

Dining - Many Plates, Few Ideas

My first "grown-up house" had did not have an eat-in kitchen but did have a spacious dining room attached to the kitchen. So, that room was used often. Since I was young and dumb, I bought fancy dining room furniture and filled the cabinet with fine Noritake china, never to be actually used... because that's what you did with dining rooms.

A couple of houses later, I had another eat-in kitchen and roomy dining room. By this time, I had sold the fancy dining room furniture and our kitchen table was centered in the near-empty room. The over-all effect was definitely underwhelming.

Fast forward a dozen or more years and a few more houses (I moved around a lot in my 20s), now the first home that I have actually "owned" (or will after half a lifetime of mortgage payments) has... a Dining Room... BUT also has a roomy Eat-IN kitchen with the perfect table that folds down for our family of four, or opens up to easily sit eight. So the Dining Room gets used... Not... At... All.

Ok, rewind, that's lie.

Our Dining Room is Relay for Life central, a storehouse of purple for weeks- if not months- prior to Relay. That follows weeks of being Key Club District Convention Headquarters, which this year mainly meant a mountain of rotating scrapbook supplies. It's also a great office for extended grading marathons, especially pre-craft room. I am particularly fond of this room during the holidays, from the space to sort decorations and tree adornments, to the china cabinet filled with nutcrackers, to hosting the baked goodness of the Community Cookie Exchange.

Mostly though, I do like when the Dining Room... looks like a Dining Room. I spent the afternoon clearing away the Relay debris, returning Craft Room supplies, and packing away the school project cast-aways (which are in neatly packed boxes, neatly cropped out the picture). Once upon a time, I fantasized about having a dining room table on which the settings changed monthly based on seasons or holidays. That little fantasy right there never moved out of the fleeting fantasy stage.

I saw a table set with these dishes at Pottery Barn shortly after buying the new house and fell in love with the whole setting (a typical Pottery Barn setting that is meant for artistic display and not actual dining). I saw the dishes on the clearance shelves a few months later and grabbed them and the centerpiece then did my best at other odds & ends places to finish the look (my look, not Pottery Barn's, which would have involved way more twigs and leaves and other pieces of earthy nature not belonging on a dining surface). That particular window in the picture is deep-set and houses the few nicer Longaberger baskets that I bought... when I thought buying Longabergers was something important to do.

The thing is I don't think I am so much a Colonial Blue, Birds, and Longaberger kinda gal anymore... or maybe I am somewhat, I really do like birds... and baskets... but not so much the matchy-match stuff and could completely care less about the names on the bottoms of plates, or baskets,  or anything else for that matter.

So, three years after moving into this home, I am really ready to MOVE-IN to this home. The paint throughout the house (except The Craft Room Studio) is still that contractor neutral and there is exactly one picture hung in the total 3600 square feet. There are several pictures leaning on or tucked away near where I think I might want them displayed, but I. just. can't. commit.

I have been contemplating again lately what I would like to do in the Dining Room. It is a very central and visible part of the house, fully visible from the kitchen by one set of entry doors and the living room by another set of entry doors, although both doors have lovely tinted white paneled glass doors that can be slid out of the wall recesses to close it off. Nonetheless, I cannot pick a paint color or décor scheme that would cause total disharmony with the rest of the house. For example, I have often pictured the room a deep blue... but that is completely disjointed from every other aspect of my house. An eggplant though... maybe?

I like this idea of using the same paint color and tone- painting a flat matte as an undercoat and swirling a design free-hand on top in gloss. I question my artistic ability in being able to "swirl a design free-hand" though and think I may have a far too critical eye to not look into the room and always see every mistake I made.

I am not sure I want curtains in the room. There are two large windows, but again the room is not functional often, there is very large shrubbery in front of the main window, and I could close off the sliding doors if I was worried about general privacy throughout the rest of the house. I think I overall like the exposed windows, but if I came to change my mind, I would look at Roman shades. There are a lot of DIY tutorials all over The Nets I would give a try because the windows are large and odd sized from being a restored home, and the custom blinds it would require could never be worth the expense.

The one element I know that I definitely want to add to the Dining Room is a Plate Wall. I have loved this decorating trend since I saw my first pic. (Love at first plate, I promise.) My coupled fantasy of going to yard sales and finding a large collection of cheap-cheap plates & platters throughout the day that coordinated perfectly has not come true though. I just can't see putting out good money for the sake of this display. I haven't put a lot of effort into doing it though and I have faith that I can find a way to do it on the cheaps. The top three are my favorite. I like the way that the first wraps around a corner. It is a corner in our Dining Room that I am looking to adorn in a similar fashion. The colors of the third I find attractive, but the nonadventurous decorator in me thinks about keeping them all white to maintain harmony, like the middle pic.

If I can't piece (or force) together a collection though, I have these to fall back on. As a matter of fact, I may be looking at these as the START of the project... and not the "fall back." The platter and bowls are LARGE. I would have to carefully consider how to mount them. There is actually a more perfect wall in the kitchen but the area is too high traffic for something so cumbersome. Jason brought these back from a deployment to Turkey and they are one of the most favored things I own... as they sit on top of the china cabinet collecting dust. In the box is a hanging of connected tin bowls that I imagine as an arch over a doorway.

My only hesitation for using these items, which I love and feel much more connected to than serendipitous yard sale finds, is...
What color would I paint the room???

The link-backs to borrowed pictures (plates, painting, shade) can be found on my "Decorating Ideas" Pinterest page.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Bucket List 2014

Last summer, I cheated a Bucket List and just copped Martha Stewart's Summer ToDo List. Needless to say, very little of that was achieved because, let's face it, I'm not Martha Stewart. Who is? Other than Martha Stewart, of course... and that chick on "Saturday Night Live," who actually makes a better Martha Stewart than the Domestic Mothership herself. So, this year I tossed around my own ideas for a while and comprised this list, which fits me, my family, and our lives.

1. Big Brother - When I feel the itchings of Summer coming on, Big Brother is one of the first things I start looking forward to, even sooner than I start looking forward to the end of the school year. I watched the first few seasons, missed years upon years of it, and then picked back up as a loyal (obsessed) fan during the past few summers. I've read all the negative feedback lately about celebrity cling-ons and a lack of diversity in casting, and I too wish it was a greater throng of different people as once before... I can't even remember who won last season (or even care enough to Google it, sad). (I do remember the nerdy little Ian that won the summer before though. I loved Ian.)

2. Steamed Crabs - I'm not all about "my Hometown" or "Where I come from..." but one way in which I am very much an Eastern Shore girl is my love of seafood, specifically steamed blue crabs (And thinking Crab Legs is the same thing as "real" Crab is as bad as thinking Diet Pepsi the same as Diet Coke... just, no.) So, I hope to have at least one good Crab Feast this summer. A few years ago I spent my entire (ENTIRE) Labor Day shucking crabs and froze bags of crab meat. It was great to have the crab throughout the year, but my hands were so cramped the next day from the shucking marathon! Still, I would do that again if we could get a good deal on crab.

3. Watermelon & Sweet Corn - These two foods say Summer to me and I usually let summer fly by too quickly without having some ice cold watermelon and sweet sweet corn while they are still fresh and plentiful. (When I googled "watermelon and corn," I saw several pics of a salad like this. I am intrigued by the mixture.)

4. Go Blueberry Picking and Try One New Recipe with fresh blueberries - Cameron and I did this last year and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I didn't have a chance to make it out to strawberry picking this year, so I do not want to miss blueberries!

5. Make Popsicles - A while ago, I picked up a Zoku, Quick Pop Maker, which you fill with juice or other liquid ingredients and make popsicles in a magical 7 - 9 minutes. I have not used this yet though Cameron and Jason have. I am not a big "ice cream person," in general, and hand-held ice creams even less so, yet I want to give a few concoctions a try. I've been collecting ideas and recipes on a Pinterest Popsicles board.

6. Visit the Farmer's Market - We've made it a few times so far this season and hope to make a few more times. I love the market and the town that it is in, but finding the free Saturday morning to drive an hour out of town to go can take some planning.

7. Go Yard Saling - I do love a morning spent Yard Saling, an entire morning. I do not like chit-chatting with sellers or running into people I know. I am on a mission when I am Yard Saling. The listing is a Treasure Map and I am on a hunt, preferably with a sidekick to feed addresses into the GPS. At least a couple of times this summer, I'd like to grab the listings for Virginia Beach and set out for the hour trek to Yard Sale Mecca. I can easily hit 35+ yard sales in the five-hour window of Saturday morning when I embark on these Treasure Hunts.

8. Craft - I really wanted to make another list, probably not as organized- not as definite or planned, just general ideas, about crafting goals this summer- dreams, hopes, maybes, possibilities. However, when I saw that this list was turning into a "Where to take the Boys," actually just a "Where to take Benjamin" this summer list, I decided to toss in a couple of general For-Me goals. Crafting something, sometime, somehow is definitely one of those.

9. Household Cleaning, Organizing, Decorating - Likewise, I wanted to jot down another list of fluid goals for the house, but decided to expand this Summer Bucket List beyond idea that which involved the output of gas (although that too would be associated with accomplishing most of this). So, like most teachers, I am sure, I have all kinds of vapid aspirations about cleaning and getting organized this Summer... but two concrete household fix-ups I would like to do are to make the Chalkboard Wall in the upstairs hall and to bring home the library catalogues I scavenged to create a front hall display.

10. Summer Reading - This is a given, but it merits mention. Soon, I think I will collect Summer Reading recommendations to post soon. Finding books is so easy by the looks of my bookshelves but so hard by the fact that I can never find something on them I actually want to read. I'm not sure if this is a new program, but our library is having a Summer Reading Program for adults. I almost don't want to share it and add to the competition because you can win Amazon gift cards weekly by just posting about what you've read! (English Teacher Nerd Heaven, I am in.)

11. Children's Reading Program - I also want to get Benjamin involved with the Children's Summer Reading Program. Cameron has also volunteered with this program over summers past. There are weekly events every Tuesday for the kids and you pledge to read 10 books weekly to get your card punched and enter prize drawings.

12. Regal Summer Movie Express - Better known (or at least, more importantly known) as "The $1 Movie." We've only done a couple of movies with Benjamin, but I'm hoping to catch a few more this summer on Wednesdays (since Library programs are on Tuesdays, the other day they are offered). One big suggestion from me to those of you new to this frugal find, is not to get there too early and when getting your tickets specifically ask for a theater that does not have a daycare/summer camp group!

13. Visit Two Out-of-Town Parks - I have two new ones in mind, and one we discovered last year to fall back on, as needed. Note to self: On very hot days, playground equipment is very hot.

14. Go to a Tides Baseball Game - Our wall calendar is (perhaps a little obsessively) marked with Every Home Game and Promotion for the entire season. I have wanted to catch a game for a couple of years now and not made it back. Free Jersey Night and Navy Night are looking like good options for our clan!

15. Visit the Children's Museum of Portsmouth - I love this place. Love. Seriously love. It is going to be hard to visit and not renew our family membership that I let lapse over a year ago. And that was even before I knew that teachers get in free! Super excited when I surfed around their website and found that a Wizard of Oz interactive exhibit is coming for the Summer. Super. Excited.

16. Visit the Living Museum - Also love, love, love this place. If only everything wasn't a flipping hour away! This one's a bit more pricey, especially given my goal of frugal finds this summer. However, the summer exhibit is all about Dinosaurs... and I do have a four-year old boy!

17. Visit Busch Gardens Multiple Times - We have season passes to the park that we do not use enough. Unfortunately I deserve a swift kick for not taking advantage of the free (FREE) Pre-school Pass for Benjamin before the deadline... and since I will have to pay for his pass (in addition to the passes we already pay for), we really need to be making the trek across the ferry to Busch Gardens this summer... often.

18. Visit Water Country Multiple Times - The Water Park partner of our 2-park pass. Ditto every statement in #17 for this one too. I really want to put a number on it, like say we will make it to each park five times or go to one or the other weekly... but I am hesitant to fake-commit to something I am going to feel like I fluked if it doesn't happen. We also need to look at pic'nicking and timing arrivals/departures so we are not spending $35-50 on food to use the "free" passes!

19. Visit the Beach a Few Times - I can freely and honestly admit that I like the idea of the beach much more than the reality. Trekking across hot sand that is tucked into unmentionable places for days afterward becomes less appealing as the years past... as does the crowded tourist beaches that I once preferred.

20. Spend some time with Justin - I haven't seen this face in real-time since Thanksgiving. I would like to plan an Eastern Shore trip but I don't know if that can happen. It may have to be a day trip or mayyybe a simple overnighter. There are lots of "back home" places I would like to visit and make a trip out of it, but mainly I need to spend some time with the first boy that made me Mom.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Storms and Naps

First day of Summer School. My class is small and the morning passed quickly. Thankfully, I made an organized notebook with day-by-day lesson plans, activities, and keys last year, so prep for the next day's class will be pretty smooth for most of Summer School this year. I will have to switch around and make some new plans for "Second Quarter" since the class changed format from last year, but there is time ahead to do that.

Out the door by 1:00 p.m. (Yay me! ). Lunch at Maryz. There's a comfort to small town dining where the manager comments that you are there "earlier than usual." Jason had a productive day- maintenance on both vehicles and Extreme Kitchen Make-Over.

Me? Not so much. Benjamin goes to Pre-School two days a week over Summer, so I was determined to take a nap this afternoon in the quiet house.

But, Jason was going to call if he couldn't get the vehicles done in time to pick up Benjamin from school.
So, I checked to make sure the ringer on my cell was turned on.

And checked again.

And checked again.

And then worried it might die, so I went to get the plug to keep it charging.

Then, I thought Jason might not realize the time and let me know to go pick up Benjamin, so I set the phone alarm.

Then checked to make sure the volume was on.

And again.

Then... there was a fly.

So, I turned on the ceiling fan.

But, I could still hear the fly.

And, let's not forget the parade of things I should be doing marching across my mind the entire time I laid down.

Yeah, in general, I am not a very successful napper... or rapper (just throwing that in there since it rhymed, and junk).

Big thunderstorms tonight. I am becoming someone who likes the peacefulness of rain and stillness of storms. The evening, after I gave up on the whole napping non-phenomenon, was spent being entertained by a 4-year old with an orange snake mustache.  We told Benjamin last night that "tomorrow you go to daycare." His emphatic response was, "Daycare is Jail!" We were quite taken aback by this and I asked him who had said that, thinking it was a comment from one of the pre-school workers. Then, he replied The Policeman told him and went into one of ramblings about policemen locking up people in jail. He is rather enthralled with police right now. So, it was another serendipitous moment when he just didn't realize how funny his response was.

Meanwhile this week, Cameron is five hours away at Radford University for Boy's State. I'm not sure what his expectations were going into it. The lectures and politics are a definite change from the synergy that is a Key Club event. He described it to a friend as "rigorous but fun." Mainly, I'm just proud that he is viewed as a leader among his peers, someone deemed a good choice to be among those representing our school with this opportunity. I worry to often that he's just seen as "McHenry's kid" and not as a young man that chooses to give of himself  to his school and community. I am particularly worried about this come scholarship time next year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Suspended

To return in approximately one month.
(I knowww I proclaim to be all "Don't wish your life away," but please let this month zoom by!)

My self-doctoring plan worked. I stayed in bed (for the most part) and ate little (for the most part) for 36-hours, and I am doing better today. I am not at 100% "healed," but I haven't been 100% gastro-healthy since my pre-teen days.

Over the weekend, I saw that some teacher friends were already making new Pinterest Board for "Back to School" nights and teaching next year and I scoffed, "Nerds!" Of course, before the dawn had fully set on the current teaching year, I too fell into the black hole of Pinterest and spent the greater part of my bed-ridden hours pinning ideas for school. I had planned to just clean-up and organize my  boards (That counts as being productive, right?), but then I got side-tracked by ideas for decorating...

I have a row of three filing cabinets that sit right behind my desk. They are the direct-visual upon entering the room. I would love to snazz them up like this, but looking at how the handle is on them today, I just don't know if it could work neatly.

I also looked at several ideas, even followed the links to read the blog posts (That's serious pinning there!) on ideas about taming paperwork. Paperwork in my albatross. To be an English teacher, the one that "makes kids write," I am quite ironically H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E about paper work, even attendance. And these days in teaching, there is a whole lot more paperwork on this side of this desk than that which goes across to the student desks.

Although it would be ADDING to the paperwork, not taming it, I am going to reflect the next few months over something like this- a "No Homework Form." I would mean changing my policy from No Late Work to Late Work for half-credit, but it's something worth considering. Of course, cheating on homework versus not doing it was the greater problem this past year. So, this would be like building an aquarium to house the chickens (yeah... no idea where that metaphor came from.)

I also added a board for classroom memes, cartoons, and videos. (This meme is sooo me, as my students would tell you!) I am deluded into thinking this will make me the "Cool Teacher" (not really), but it's a good façade for using technology in the classroom, right? (Ok, not really to that either.) 

I also found lots of general teaching material on units in literature, grammar, writing, vocabulary, and made a few other specific boards related to topics in my class. Now, time will tell if it becomes the Pinterest Dust Bowl, to be found during a pinning frenzy marathon... never to be looked at again (again) (again)....

Back on track.

So... went to Fred's for breakfast with the fam and then back up to high school to finish cleaning and packing my room. Summer School registration ended today at 3 so I was spacing out my tasks to stretch until then and figure out if/what class I had to get prepared for tomorrow's first day (short, sad, fleeting nonexistent break it has been).

Well, pretty sure I know what it feels like to be evicted now. Our custodians were all business. I could not get a desk cleared without them clearing it out of the room. I seriously thought I was going to be wheeled out on a dolly at one point (or three). Usually, I remove nearly all wall hangings too but since Cameron wasn't available to monkey around on desks to reach them, I have left them be for this summer.

I did not get exactly the Summer School class I wanted, which would have made for much longer, and much more stressful days... but more bank. The class I do have lets out at 12:30 though, which means I really need to not succumb to the "Summer Suspended" attitude I have already proclaimed and still make something out of the days ahead!

On a completely, unrelated note, once I finally laid Pinterest to rest last night, I was checking out the snark on GOMI ("Get Off My Internets") and adding all of their targets to my blog roll, which is totally counter to their purpose and I came across "Hey Natalie Jean."

I am utterly head over heels in love with this chick and her blog. I want to be her sister, her neighbor, her friend... her. This is the kind of newfound obsession that breeds stalkers. She says that her blog is
"a love letter from me to my family and from my family to New York City." (My alter-ego lives in a very small apartment in a very tall building in NYC. And she is very important in the best-selling fiction world of publishing... Reminding myself of why I do not allow students to use the word "very.") Anyway, I can overlook her refusal to use the shift key (annoying) (very annoying) because she is just the bohemian open-minded, free-spirited, adventurous embodiment of New York that I adore.

I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night reading through her old posts (stalker status, indeed)... and would do the very same again tonight if it were not for that blasted Summer School alarm going off in the morning.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Benjamin is FOUR!

Nothing makes me realize how quickly time is fleeting more than seeing how quickly Benjamin is growing and learning. I have to really stretch my mind to remember a time before he was walking and talking. These years have just flown by in a blur.


He is full of personality. All boy, equal parts rambunctious and loving. His favorite color is blue and this is a very popular topic right now. He likes to find out everyone's favorite color and always remembers when choosing things like plates and bowls or pointing out when someone is wearing a shirt in their favorite color. He remembers so much of the conversations that he has. He asks questions, takes in tidbits of information all the time, and then surprises us by mentioning something we talked about casually at unexpected times much later. (Will need to be careful around this one ;)
There is a Mexican Restaurant that is the traditional local place to go for birthdays. The iconic SoCo (Southampton County) Facebook pic for birthday celebrations is at Don Panchos in a sombrero. For Benjamin's actual birthday date, we sent cupcakes to his pre-school class and took him to Panchos for dinner. He was quite enchanted by the singing and birthday treat in his honor.
Jason was set on having a "real" Birthday Party for Benjamin. I was not. This dipped into one of my major social phobias of having an event that no one attends. Our social circle is small. We have no family close to us and no friends with children Benjamin's age. Jason was not deterred though. He actually polled another pre-school Mom in The Wal-Mart about which kids from the class show up to the birthday parties.  Eventually, I gave in to the idea... but thankfully had a late-coming and sudden inspiration to have the party at the local bowling alley and not in-home.
We timed it for 3 p.m., thinking that would sprinkle a little post-nap goodness over the event. It also worked out great because it was a "dead time" at the bowling alley and we had the place to ourselves during the hour'ish that the kids bowled, and danced, and ran around. I learned that the rule of one party guest per year of the child was a good one. Before I would have thought just four party guests was a failure but in this case it was at the brink a barely containable snowballing bundle of energy. (Did I mention they had the entire alley to themselves to run through?)
It was a good day. A good memory. Then, as perfect timing would have it, we came home to a big box from Ohio family with birthday presents too.
Sitting on top of the kitchen table (of course) "reading" his Birthday card in the Lightening McQueen (Bam Chow!)
 chair sent from Ohio family with Ninja Turtle pajamas and other goodies.
We also had our first dentist visit recently. He wanted to show me his "shiny teeth" as soon as I got home. I have to admit that I was thankful that our schedule led to Jason taking him to this appointment and not me, but I should not be surprised that he was a model patient. He is a curious child and this was just one more new experience that intrigued him.
Four has been a time of loving to be outside. Going for walks with Cameron, especially to see the peacocks down the road from our house. Going to the park  with Dad and seeing his friend, "Sheekah." The Big Four birthday present for Benjamin was a bicycle but he's not feeling too confident in those skills yet. Hopefully lots of summer days to practice will cure that quickly.
Four is a time when the world is divided into Super Heroes and Bad Guys and both are very real. Everyone is your friend, regardless of sex, color, or if your only name for them is "Hey Girl." It is a time to give a name to every encountered animal, in the pet store and stuffed, our favorite being "Dahma," the stuffed dog received on Valentine's Day. A time to give freely of hugs- good, strong, tight ones- but to be very reserved in kisses. Lately it has been a season of singing- remixing tunes we already know or just describing activities or latest thoughts in melodic verse.
Thankfully, Four is still an age of long naps- some so long that we have to wake him up. Also thankfully, Jason has such a routine set with Benjamin that he will usually go to bed without much fuss... now staying in his own bed for the night? That's a different story.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I surrender.

During 10th grade I went to a Winter Retreat for church youth in Pennsylvania, at Mount Pleasant, I believe it was called. It was in the valley of Amish country, something novel to my small life that I was too young and ego-centric at the time to appreciate. I remember that for several days before we left I would have self-talks to myself in the mirror telling Self, that she was NOT going to get too sick for this trip. It worked... mainly because talking to yourself in the mirror as a teenage girl possesses the strange image-altering power that is only equaled to how amazing you sound singing into a hair brush. I also remember of that trip (twenty-six years ago, although I can barely remember what I did in the last week), that we had not even made it out of the mountains before I felt the effects of a bad flu/strep/pneumonia/mono/plague bug settling into my chest and making me feverish, loopy, and completely robbed my voice before arriving back home in Maryland.
I am reminded of this seemingly random story today because it was the first in a long chain of intermittent times when my body (mind?) allowed me to defer illness until it was convenient. Yeah, I know how crazy that sounds. I am not proposing some mind over matter super power (because if so, I would use it for way cooler purposes than avoiding snot and vomit), but maybe the effects of adrenaline? Or a little psychological nudge to make it past a hurdle before crashing. I do believe greatly in the power of the mind over physical matters of health. For this reason, since teaching, I have spent many holidays, breaks, and unfortunately chunks of summer time... sick. It's like my body makes it past the deadlines and To-Do lists and then just crashes... because it knows it can.
This is not always the case though. Sometimes, my body will just through a Molotov Cocktail of contagions at me to knock me off my feet, when I refuse to give in to its cries for rest. For example, this winter when I had not just the Flu, but a Flu-Strep-Ear Infection Trifecta. Yes, the Husband liked to joke that I have to multi-task everything. I am not in any way suggesting that I am body or health-conscious (ha!), but I am pretty in-tuned with my body and can read the signals it sends me. I just choose to ignore them most often because there is always something I find more pressing to attend to. (This being the cause of my cancelled/not yet rescheduled dentist appointment to fill a cavity... or not having a "regular" physical in 12 years... or "that" physical in 4 years... or ever having a mammogram.) (Yes, I am ashamed of these things.) (No, the shame isn't enough to push me towards actually scheduling, let less keeping, these appointments.)
So anyway... I woke up this morning just thinking about how my summers are plagued with one sickness or injury or another. (Yes, I realize the lack of healthcare listed above... despite excellent, free health insurance from Jason's retirement... contributes to this.) (No, it's still not enough to push me towards doing anything about it... right now.)
And... it appears Summer 2014 is starting on the same path. Benjamin went to the doctor today for a rash issue. And me? I am officially surrendering to this stomach bug. I allowed myself to sleep it off Friday night and Saturday- for the most part, but then said I needed to move on and tried to get work done on Sunday and went into work today. I'm a fool. It wasn't until I talked to the bookkeeper at school today who described the exact same symptoms late last week and she went to the ER and diagnosed with gastroenteritis, that I thought "Oh, this might really be a thing. I might really be sick." That perhaps my frequent visits to the loo are not related to the dairy in my drink Friday morning or the flax in my toast Sunday morning and I just need to admit "I. am. sick." And deal with it. So, I am giving in. Tucking in. And giving my body 36 hours of rest and appropriate sick-person diet.
Because, come Wednesday, I have too much to do.
(No, I'm obviously not going to the doctor over a troublesome stomach bug... even if it's been four days...)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Finding Me

Finding Me, by Michelle Knight

We all know the story of the "Cleveland Kidnapping." The three girls kept captive in house, not far from their childhood homes, for ten years. The one, the blond, breaking free- with her child (who was far younger than ten... and all that alluded to), and her 9-1-1 call that brought freedom to the other two captives. We watched the viral remixes of Charles Ramsey, just a neighbor trying to enjoy a little McDonald's lunch on his front lawn tell cameras, I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms.
I watched the news stories, the interviews, read the articles, and yet I was left with so many questions. How could this happen? How could this go on for ten years? The more details that were uncovered, the more confusing it became. The story was surreal. I remember commenting at one point that if it were a Lifetime movie, I wouldn't even watch it because the story was just too unbelievable. Yet, it was true.
Reading this book did not make it less confusing, it only raised more questions. Michelle Knight writes from the perspective of wanting us not to forget all those who have been abducted and/or are missing. Instead though, I think her message should more directly hit those of us who often turn a blind eye or shrug our shoulders when something just doesn't "seem right." Over ten years, how many people in that neighborhood, in that terrorist's family, had just allowed this monster's power to grow by not asking the right questions or telling the right people. How many other victims in other situations could be saved if the right person in the right place reacted to that feeling, but how often do we for fear of being wrong, for over-reacting, for offending someone?
I watched Michelle Knight's 2-day interview with Dr. Phil. For that reason, I already knew much of the story that she told in the book. Also for that reason, I could really hear her voice telling the story. Although she had a co-writer, her voice is still strong in telling her own story. There are several parts of the memoir that are emotionally tough to ingest, such as the repeatedly induced abortions. For the most part though, the specific details of abuse are generalized- chains, coldness, starvation, rape, blows to the head. At first it would appear that perhaps Knight had to emotionally detach herself from the living Hell to describe it. Further into the recounts of her time in that house with the boarded windows, gated yard, and padlocked doors though, I came to think that there is just too much to detail. For over ten years her daily routine was abuse and lying in wait for more abuse. The last book I was reading before moving to this was a Holocaust memoir. The writer stated that a time came when life became one never-ending night. That describes the life Knight details. Time was only punctuated by the sweltering heat or freezing cold of their bedroom dungeons without clothes and blankets, or time was punctuated by Christmas songs on a small radio that made her miss the two year-old left behind.
In a way the ending is anti-climatic. We, of course, know how it ended. Know she was rescued- maybe even already knew that Ariel Castro was charged with over 900 crimes and killed himself after just a few months in prison, having lived just a shadow of the life he enforced upon the three girls. There is just no way to term this a "happy" ending though- from the stolen years to the long-term effects, mentally and physically, from the years of abuse, and the trails of neglect and abuse from her family even before abduction. It is deeply sad that there was no great effort to find her- no flier, no news report, not even a call to the police- details her captor loved to remind her. It is perhaps even more sad that Knight has to come to accept that the very thought that gave her the strength to sustain the decade of torture, a reunion with her son, was a fleeting hope.
Hope, though, is the pervading tone through this memoir. Sometimes it's a whisper from the grasps of death and at other times a shout from the pages of a rescued journal. It is a story worth reading because it reminds us what it is like to be human... and the depths to which humans can fall... to be filled with hope... and to be enveloped by indescribable evil. It is near impossible to understand how both can exist in human souls.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


My soul is a bit heavy with disappointment as I look back at how little I have written this school year, this new year. It's one of the many things that I didn't take the time out of the busy-ness that is life to do. A regret. The school year started rolling and the To-Do's started snowballing, and then most anything that wasn't the "Next Immediate Thing Needing My Attention" fell to the wayside. Writing was certainly on that list. I am not going to be a martyr and proclaim that I gave so much of by time-blood-sweat-tears-soul to community service that I did not have one.breathing.moment for myself. That would be a lie. I read plenty (some good books that I also regret not blogging about). I watched plenty of my Reality Junk TV ("Total Divas" - a new fave). But when it came to anything that required creative energy, such as writing- or crafting- it just didn't happen.

I'm not being very "creative" today either, I am afraid. "Status" is a word embedded in our family culture. I am sure its origin roots to Jason's military background. But a text simply stating "Status?" (although irritating it may be at times) can translate to a great many questions and requests for information depending on the current time and activity, such as "Where are you?" "What are we doing next?" "How long until you are home?" or even, "Are you picking up Benjamin or do I need to grab him?"

Status too is, of course, a socially trending term due to the constant cries for its updates every time we log onto FaceBook (and some people on my newsfeed take that way too literally- updating their every.single,status, that is). So, as a fast-forward overview of the past few months, I have cheated creativity by culminating some Facebook pics and statuses that summarize the time sucks that have been my life.

Family can be a generalized term in today's society. I have my "school family" and "Relay family" and "Key Club family." There are those I have walked away from, both created family units over time and those that were genetic/biological. I only point this out to say that I purposely did not include the updates that related to the boys, because I wanted to save family reflections for another day... although these pics and blurbs do represent the many definitions of "family" in my life.

Ah-mazing Kickoff for the 2014 Keys 4a Cure Relay for Life team. Laughs, tears, cupcakes, dance mobs. I am so very thankful to be at a place in life that I am inspired every single day.

Baltimore has been good to us! We swept the awards & are ready to head home. Thank you to all my Key Club alumni that helped build this legacy, Thank you to my Key Club parents that share your children's lives with me, and Thank You to Mr. McHenry who made endless round trips to craft stores & Wal-Mart & the school, and who opened our home to our second family week after week and night after night to make all this possible!

My favorite! Key Club teaches Leaders to fly, metaphorically... and literally!

Sometimes a Picture is worth... 10,000 words

This is what a Cure looks like! Getting the youth involved in Relay will evolve into a legacy of Cancer Fighting Super Heroes that will Finish the Fight!!! Queso, Chips & Relay Planning on the menu today!

Just starting to sort through Relay pics and this is my favorite right now by far... This encapsulates everything that is SoCo Relay "After Midnight!"

You just won Super Bowl, now what are you going to do? Go to Disney World!... You just finished Relaying, now what are you going to do? Grade Greek Mythology research papers!

Thankful for my well-stocked Key Club schwag closet that I could pull a coffee cup from. Thankful for school board gifted Keurigs right about now. Going to be a late school night ahead to make up for all the late Relay nights behind me.

Opened my laptop tonight and found a pile of letters from my Key Club Seniors (+1). Grrrr, dang these kids making me get all crybaby-faced before graduation!

Just a few snapshots. Memories. This doesn't, of course, begin to event step into the shadow of all that my kids are or all that they do to keep me busy. Since though, I believe it is inappropriate to friend students and am highly reserved in posting their pics on my Facebook page, here are just a few snapshots- that don't at all allude to depth of memories this year has been. 
Unfortunately my latest Update, sans photo (because a selfie just wasn't happening) was:
Is there such a thing as a Summer Flu? I feel horribly sick.

Friday was the last "official" work day of the school year. If all our work was done on Friday, in lieu of coming in Saturday for graduation, we did not have to return for Monday, what the calendar denoted as the "last work day." It is not unusual for me to fall behind on the day-to-day's, but between having lots of miniscule financial details to figure out for Relay (my team of 50 kids really "nickels and dimes" their way to $10k in 4 months) and feeling ill, I got nothing done... and SO much ahead of me tomorrow. I went to bed as soon as I got home early Friday afternoon and carved myself out of the sheets Saturday morning for graduation. I am so thankful to have another teacher offer to cover my "door station" for graduation morning and I slept in the Nurse's Office right up until it was time to march in. In retrospect, I should have just called out. I missed a graduation party that was important to me and thought I would be on the mend today, two days later... instead, I just have a slew of new symptoms that have me wishing I was just feeling flu-like and sleeping the day away again instead.

This is a rather ominous start to summer. A Summer "In Limbo" as usual this time of year, as I wait to learn if there are enough students enrolled in my summer school class to delay the break from school for another month.