Monday, April 21, 2014

A Watercolor Life

The paintings of Monet have always inspired me - the strokes that appear random upon close inspection of a canvas takes on a different appearance the further away you position yourself from the piece.  Slowly images begin to appear and make sense to the observer.  The strokes that appeared sloppily orchestrated up close or even appeared as possible mistakes, now create the delicate petals of water lilies on the surface of a pond.  Instead of images becoming clearer the closer you step, focus appears as you take in the entire masterpiece.

I've been contemplating the large masterpiece of my life recently.  For so long I've been focused on the individual brushstrokes that don't make sense.  I can't piece them together.  The blues, pinks, and purples that are smeared across the canvas - the heartache, the challenges, the questions, the difficulties - I can't see the entire canvas, yet.  But, I know who does.  The one who knows the very number of the hairs on my head.

6"Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. ~Luke 12: 6-7

By nature, I'm not a trusting person, I'm a skeptic.  I like to be in control and create my own brushstrokes, strokes that make sense to me, that paint a picture that I can see and can navigate the outcome.  The danger in this is the fact that my picture or masterpiece would be in focus only when I am close to it.  When I understand each stroke, my masterpiece would result in a very small creation.

The masterpiece that my Jesus and Savior paints is larger than I can imagine.  He is orchestrating each stroke and can see how each color blends in and connects to other colors and pieces.  He sees how the difficult situation can be used for a greater purpose than my postage sized piece of art, my color by number artwork.  I know where each color goes and what it will look like even before I begin.  

He knows how to minutely add sorrow and pain to create glory and gratefulness; how to mix loss and struggle to create joy and celebration.  He can take my brushstrokes that I controlled and calculated and fought to take the brush from his hand and still use it to create a glorious masterpiece that I may never see in completion, or know what the final image is. But, he knows.  And letting go and trusting him is the only way the pain and hurt can turn into a masterpiece full of beauty and glory.

How humbling to think that the God who created the universe takes care with the brushstrokes of my life.  The blending, smudges, and mistakes are intricately woven into a story that can have impact in my world.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Visits from the Past

This week I spent most of my days at school or in training getting ready for the inevitable start to school - next week!  I would leave early and come home around 3 or 4 to spend a bit of time with Cheney before he had to skedaddle to his class.  Each night this week he has been gone from 5:30-9:00ish taking a required class for a TN hunting license.  That small change to his schedule made a huge difference to mine and to Taku.  Normally, Cheney is always here for conversation.  Since we don't have television/cable the house became very quiet.  There was plenty of time to clean, read, cook, and reflect on the important things in life.  The last time I was here, my grandfather had just recently passed and we were preparing to move so there was no time for thinking to be honest.  Now there is.

When we left SC, we left with a moving van full of stories from Cheney's family.  We were blessed to be gifted furniture that had story from his family.  His grandmother's first dining room set is now in our dining room.  Every time I see it I think about all of the dinners that she hosted with her silver tea/coffee service and wedding china.  We went from having minimal furniture to a house full of it now.  We were blessed to receive a couch that was his great grandparents, 3 chairs that were great grandparents, a kitchen table and chairs from grandparents, a bedroom suit from grandparents, and countless other belongings that meant so much to his family. When my parents came to visit, they brought a truck load of items from grandparents to add to the collection - my grandmother's hopechest, oil lamps that go back 3 generations, cast iron skillets and pots, and a slew of glassware and mason jars that my grandmother used to can her delicious green beans.  This week, I've spent a lot of time thinking about all of the stories that were told in the rooms that held this furniture over time.

Friday night, I was in the kitchen getting things ready for supper and decided to make green beans. We had visited the farmers market and I had a mess of beans that needed snapping.  I pulled out my bowl and began snapping away.  Somewhere in the midst of this, my eye was caught by a napkin holder that had sat on my grandmother's table for as long as I can remember.  A wave of emotions hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt like I was standing in her kitchen.  The smell was the same, we were snapping beans like we had done so many times before.  I put all of the ingredients in the pot and began cooking them only to discover later that she must have been there with me because my beans tasted exactly like hers.  I've never been able to perfect her beans as many times as I have tried.  And I'm quite positive that I won't be able to do it again.  Thanks for helping out MawMaw Ruth!

Sometimes, its the small things that trigger those memories for me.  I have a picture of my grandfather on my fridge and a stash of old pictures of all of my grandparents that I go through from time to time.  If I could do one thing over in my life, I think it would be to take the value that I have on my grandparents today and return to my teenage years to fully take advantage to having them all alive and in my home town.  There would be more visits, more phone calls, more hugs to give.  More savoring of the moments that are so precious to me now.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Final Farewell

My last post was about my grandfather and the simple fact that I wasn't ready to live in a world where he didn't exist.  Today, I've been living in that world for almost a month.  Time has passed rather quickly since he said his final farewell.

My grandfather was a man to be admired. He lived through the Great Depression, served in World War II, witnessed the television revolution, and was a part of this great technology age.

In his late teens/early 20s, he was one of the thousands of young men drafted to serve his country in World War II.  He was young and somewhat innocent, I suppose.  He boarded a boat to the Philippines and served in the Red Arrow division of the US Army.  This division served 654 consecutive days of combat, more than any other US army division.  He saw many atrocities that most young men hope to never see.  At the end of the war, he became a part of the Occupation Forces in Japan.  He received 2 bronze stars, but never shared his story as to why he received them.  He simply told us, "I was only doing my job."

Upon his return from war, he met my grandmother on a blind date and was instantly smitten with her.  At her death last year, they had been married for 62 years.

Throughout my life, Paw Paw B was always there.  We spent many Sunday afternoons eating dinner with he and Maw Maw, gathered around the table.  His favorite dish was my mother's potato salad.  When my grandmother made it, he always made a comment about how it wasn't as good as my mom's.

Growing up, he was always outside working in the garden or fishing.  There were many trips to the fishing camp or walks around the pond.  I know I put in many hours picking vegetables and strawberries out of the garden with him.  The big green 5 gallon bucket would be overflowing with his Celebrity tomatoes in no time.  He grew the best I've had.

Every time I see a Dixon lawnmower, I think of him.  He taught all of the grandkids to drive it when we were old enough to reach the pedals.  There were many good times had by us all riding around the property.

Paw Paw was generous to anyone who needed help.  Each birthday and Christmas, unbeknownst to the grandkids, he and Maw Maw put money into an account for each grandchild.  When we graduated from high school, he gave us what had accumulated over the years.  He bought cars and even invited grands to live with him when they needed a place.  Out of 6 grands, I'm the only one who hasn't lived on the Kelly compound.

Since moving away, I didn't see him as often as I should.  I'm ridden with guilt from not calling as often as I needed to call.  But, I did talk to him one last time and told him I loved him.

My dad called me on Saturday afternoon to tell me it wouldn't be long.  I had laid down for a nap since I was going to have to stay up late to do lesson plans.  When I hung the phone up and walked in the living room, The Lawerence Welk show was on.  It was only fitting that at that moment that would play since Paw Paw watched it every time it was on.  I sat down and cried a hard cry while it played.

When we arrived in Louisiana, I walked in Paw Paw's house and life was different.  The house was quiet.  No one was sitting on the porch swing.  Life was not the same.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I'm Not Ready

Spring Break will be a year since my Maw Maw Ruth left this world. I knew that it would be hard on my Paw Paw B because he would be left alone in a house full of her memories. I worried that his health would decline quickly and his life would slowly diminish. Over the past year I've watched from afar as he has slowly declined in health. His kidneys are tested frequently, the circulation in his legs, his mobility has decreased, and things have progressed much quicker than I was prepared to witness. Last week, he fell and was put in the hospital. He has remained there for a week and hasn't shown much improvement. Today, he is being released if hospice care can be arranged for him at home. He has already told my mom and dad that he is ready to go and he wants to do that at home. I'm not ready though. When you live far away from those you love, your time is limited to visits and phone calls. I talked to him today for a few minutes and I heard the tiredness in his voice. I made sure that I told him I loved him and that I am coming to visit at Spring Break. Paw Paw will forever be the master gardener of the family, raising beautiful Celebrity tomatoes. Growing up the garden was a huge part of our summers. There were years when we couldn't eat the bounty fast enough - especially the year of corn. We spent hours shucking corn, shaving the kernels, putting it in the freezer. Green beans were always a speciality - the purple hulled kind. And through the years, I've never been able to find a replacement for those tomatoes. Even when I've grown the same kind. There was something about Paw Paw's tomatoes. He kept us stocked with fresh fish growing up and loved homemade ice cream. There were many spring and summer days spent under the shade of the carport in the porch swing. He would sit in the swing and sing "Swing Low" to us when we were little. I didn't hear him sing other than that. I've always been fascinated by his service in WWII, but I don't know all of his story. I know that he served in the Red Arrow division - one that had special honors for their service in the Pacific. He was the recipient of a Bronze Star and was a part of the Occupation forces in Japan. I'm not ready to say goodbye to him yet. I'm not ready to walk into the house without him sitting in the recliner reading the newspaper and watching Lawerence Welk. I'm not ready to live in a world without him as a part of it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No Words

It's been awhile since I've been here.  Labor Day to be exact.  Throughout my life I've used words to express my feelings in times of victory, disappointment, surprise, and the mundane every day life.  But, I often feel more compelled to write when tragedy strikes.  In honor of the recent tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, my teacher blog will be silent for the next few days.  But, I feel like I could not go any longer without putting pen to paper, or fingerstrokes to keys.

I've taught for 13 years now and my job has become increasingly more difficult each year.  The number of tasks that the typical teacher completes in any given day is astounding. From receipting field trip money, recording attendence, cleaning up vomit, calling the nurse, making sure a child has clean clothes, lunch money in a student account, one on one instruction, reteaching simple concepts until you can't teach them any longer, drying the tears of a child who has been physically hurt on the playground, or wrapping your arms around the ones who have been emotionally hurt by those they love.

There are many days where the thought of going to the bathroom doesn't even occur until after school and I sit for the very first time of the day.  Once my children arrive in the morning, it is almost like we have entered a time warp and the outside world disappears.  Our classroom becomes our world. 

Each year, I am BLESSED with a new crop in my classroom.  With that comes a new crop of parents, a new crop of personalities, challenges, victories, and love.   I haven't been blessed with children of my own, but I have been chosen to care for those of others.

Each morning, parents drop their children off at school thinking they are safe and will remain that way until those little faces return to the warmth of the car or the arms of a parent/grandparent/caretaker. Those children are given to me to nurture, care for, love, and educate.  A pretty tall order.

There are days where life isn't easy in our classroom.  Days where we need to a new start.  And then there are days that are beautiful symphonies of learning. 

I spend countless hours planning for learning in my classroom, but more than that, I spend countless hours investing in the future of my students.  I invest in their lives by attending sporting events, sharing their interests, writing them notes - pouring positivity into their little minds in the hopes that when life doesn't work out the way that they had planned in their future, they will remember that there was someone else in their lives who believed in them and LOVED them as if they were her own.

The teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary did the very same thing.

When I stop to think of the innocent children that were hurt yesterday, I cannot help but to think of the 22 beautiful children that I see every day.  The 312 children that I have taught over the last 13 years.  The smiles, the dreams, the excitement of life, the opportunities that are waiting for each of them.  That was all stolen from those at Sandy Hook Elementary. 

I've tried to wrap my mind around what happened in Newton, but it is impossible.  I've experienced lockdown drills and mock shootings to "train" me for a reality that I hope I never face.  I hope I'm never faced with a situation where I am unable to protect the children in my care.  I hope I never have to find hiding places or calm students who are very aware of the nightmarish reality that is occurring. 

But, I would.  If it meant sacrificing my life for those of my students, there would be no decision to make.  I would make that decision for the children who have parents who love me.  I would make it for the children whose parents disagree with me.  I would make it for those children who misbehave and disrespect and love me.  I would make that decision for each child I've had the opportunity to teach this year and every year before - those in my classroom or outside of it.

There were heroes in yesterday's tragedy.  Those heroes were teachers.  The teachers who read Christmas stories to keep their students calm.  The teachers who held each child's hand.  The teachers who muffled the cries of those huddled in their midst.  The teachers who hid students and then lost their own lives. 

When you enter your child's school this week, remember those heroes in each classroom.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Every Labor Day weekend, we make the short drive up to Hendersonville, NC for the annual Apple Festival.  Main Street is filled with craft booths and fair food.  This year was no exception.  We found many booths that appealed to our senses.  There was even a booth that claimed it was serving gumbo and jambalaya.  We didn't venture to try it.  If it's not in Louisiana, it probably isn't even close to the real thing.

I wish that I would have taken that advice to heart.  We walked by one food booth that had a fabulous display of homemade apple pies, cinnamon bread, and apple bread pudding.  Cheney's mouth was watering when he saw the apple bread pudding.  This was the first booth we walked by and he was determined to get a piece before we left.  At this same booth there was a little sign bragging about having New Orleans beignets.  Could it be?  Were they close to the real thing?  After pondering these questions, I saw another sign that stated "Apple Beignets."  At that moment I decided to abandon my typical purchase of a funnel cake for a stab at the apple beignets.  They smelled delicious, they looked divine, and even had carefully placed powdered sugar on top.  I hoped for the best.

It was in this simple hope that I made my mistake. These were not even close to a true beignet.  It was simply a slice of apple breaded and fried.

To make matters worse, these 3 apple beignets cost me $5.  Not only was I disappointed, but I had wasted a perfectly good, crisp 5 dollar bill on something that only tasted of grease.

Sometimes, it is better to never have tasted the good stuff.  For when you taste the bad, you will never be disappointed.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Need Some Help....

School started this week.  That one sentence should say it all.   As a result, this is all that we have eaten:

and this:

and lots of other take out places.  This time of year is murder on my cooking skills.  I am in desperate need of a cook, someone to fix my dinner while they fix theirs.  I promise I'm not picky - well not too picky!  I would even buy the groceries and pick it up on my way home.  

All kidding aside, I've made it a goal to cook in the crockpot during the week.  Today I put a pork roast in that will feed us tonight and then turn into pulled pork sandwiches for Monday.  But after that, I'm done.  I need new ideas - simple ideas.  If you have any, hook me up!  I see all of the gorgeous meals that you guys are fixing.