Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Birthday Wish List

In a few days I turn the ripe old age of 27.

I'm not too thrilled.

27 sounds waaaay closer to 30 than 26 does. Plus, I thought I just turned 26 like an hour ago. Why is time zipping by at such an impossibly fast rate? How have I been out of college for (gulp!) 6 years?? How are all my friends having babies that now have birthdays of their own???

Anyhoo I've been dreaming up some perfectly unrealistic and selfish birthday wishes. Here's what I came up with:

1. A minion. Two would be even better. Preferably they would be super fast and proficient at grading papers, doing car rider duty, and ironing.
2. A birthday serenade from Blake Shelton.

Heck, since this is my dream list, how about just make it Blake Shelton's unmarried twin brother that wants to serenade me every day of my life.

3. A Zoe's Kitchen station in the school cafeteria.

4. A diamond cross necklace like Gwenyth Paltrow in Country Strong. But maybe smaller. Hers was a liiiiiitle ostentatious.

5. A starring role in one of the insanely witty and catchy Target "Back to School" commercials. I can't get enough of them.

6. An Anthropologie in Greenville (do I really have to wait 2 more years?)

7. This coat from Anthro (how fabulous is this, seriously?!)
8. An iPad. I have absolutely no need for one. No need. My 5 year old MacBook is trucking along just fine. But they're so darn COOL. And this is my wish list.

9. Getting to cross off "riding a mechanical bull" from my life list. Bet some of y'all can help me with this one Saturday night!

Now I know:
When it's that hard to come up with birthday wishes, you know life is pretty dang good.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stop and Tie the Shoelaces

To all you martians that weren't previously aware, today was the first day of school for Greenville County teachers and students.

I have to say that my first day back was truly exceptional. A red letter day. Not only are my 24 students sweet and smart, they are kind and cooperative and smiley. I know some of y'all are going to say "Oh...that's just the'll wear off..." And to that I say, "Hate on, haters! We're groovin!"

Anyway, this morning I was flying down the hallway downstairs to make a few copies before the day started. It was eeeeearly - probably 7:15.

I see a pitiful looking little boy shuffling down the hallway towards the gym to wait for the bell to ring at 7:45. He's sniffling and looking at the floor. His brand new black Nikes still have the little plastic thing that holds the tag. The laces are long and untied.

In my head I had a debate. It sounded like this:
Sweet Side: "Check in with this poor little guy. Find out what's going on."
Selfish Side: "You don't have time for this! You've got 374,243,999 things to do in the next 20 minutes!"
Sweet Side: "But he's so pitiful. And little. And he's gonna trip on those shoelaces."
Selfish Side: "Okay fine - but if you're not ready for the day, don't say I didn't tell ya so."

Clearly, Sweet Side wins.

I come to a screeeeching halt and bend down. "Hey bud, you might want to tie those cool new kicks," I said cheerfully.

"Yeah," he mumbles. He leans down and just tucks the laces down into the sides of his Nikes. Two steps later they are back on the floor, trailing behind him.

I ask if I can help him tie his shoes and he nods. I get down to help and ask him his name. He tells me, but is still looking at the ground.

"What grade are you in?" I ask.


"Who's your teacher this year?"

"I don't know," he says quietly. This time he looks me in the eyes. They were dark brown and kind of heavy looking. Sad.

"You don't know?!" I say with surprise. "Were you not here last night for meet the teacher?"


Ahhhh. That was why he was sniffling. He was freaking out! He didn't know who his teacher was or who his classroom was on the very first day of school!

We take off down the hall, find the teacher list, and I walk him to his classroom to meet his teacher before school started. I make sure to finish it up with a nice big pep talk about how he's going to rock out the second grade and take off to the copier like a bandit on the lam.

I tell this story not to brag about my Sweet Side winning out - because it convicted me in a huge way. I realized my Selfish Side wins out a whole lot more often than it should.

I realized how many of these opportunities I miss because I think I'm too busy.

I think I don't have time to stop.

And I miss out on reaching someone that may really need me.

For me, teaching is all about reaching kids and helping them become the very best version of themselves. How am I ever going to do that if I take my eyes away from them for one split second?

Teacher friends, my challenge to you this year is to keep your eyes on the kids. Between the morning duty, the behavior management plans, the long range plans, the daily plans, the faculty meetings, the professional development meetings, the team planning meetings, the IEP meetings, the conferences (I can stop now right?!) - it's almost impossible not to lose focus at times.

But our job is more than a paperwork shuffler. It's a calling. Let's do what we do best - let's focus on taking care of our kids.

Now I know:
You're never too busy to stop and tie some shoelaces.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


It's here people!

Back to school time!

Parents are dancing down the driveway, kids are trudging down the hallway, and teachers like me are giddily waiting at the classroom doorway with hojillons of ideas to inspire and motivate 26 moldable little minds.

As a teacher of course I delight in learning new things. I also delight in teaching things because sometimes - if you're really, really lucky - you get to witness a child learning something new. And their whole face changes. It kind of lights up and their eyes are smiling and you know that their little brain is getting wrinklier by the second. It's fantastic. Thrilling. It's a feeling that you can't forget. It's what makes you keep going even when the thought of grading another paper or planning another lesson makes you want to gag.

So I saw this video today that totally inspired me. It's called LEARN*. I can't stop watching it. Not only because of the simply dashing dimples of the starring traveler boy, but also because of the beauty and simplicity and directness of the concept.

And you know, this video really made me think. It made me think about my job and the irony that I really learn so much more from my kids than they ever learn from me. I see their resilience and creativity and imagination and kindness - and I learn that they are the ones teaching me.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Now I know:
I'm not just ready to teach, I'm ready to LEARN.

*Shout out to Amanda Armstrong for sharing this vimeo series with me!

How to Make a Beautiful Life

Someone gave me a birthday card a few years ago - is it terrible that I can't remember who it was?! - that has the message below printed on the outside of the card.

It spoke to me so immediately and so powerfully that I typed it up right then. I'm not sure why. Maybe I feared I would lose that card. Truth be told, I probably have. But I found it in a Word document document today and wanted to share it with all of you.

I guess the thing that strikes me is the power we hold. It's your life. Go make it beautiful.

How to Make a Beautiful Life

Love yourself.

Make peace with who you are

and where you are

at this moment in time.

Listen to your heart.

If you can't hear what it's saying in this noisy world,

make time for yourself.

Enjoy your own company.

Let your mind wander among the stars.


Take chances.

Make mistakes.

Life can be messy and confusing at times,

but it's also full of surprises.

The next rock in your path might be a stepping stone.

Be happy.

When you don't have what you want,

want what you have.

Make do.

That's a well kept secret of contentment.

There aren't any shortcuts to tomorrow.

You have to make your own way.

To know where you're going is only part of it.

You need to know where you've been, too.

And if you ever get lost,

don't worry.

The people who love you will find you.

Count on it.

Now I know:
At least one Hallmark card writer needs to be promoted.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Song Saturday #14 - New NTB

Ok y'all. I love this new needtobreathe single almost as much as I love Bear and Bo's forearm tattoos.

Immediately you hear this driving kick drum, driving the song forward like a heartbeat. Then the guitar comes in, bright and acoutic and punchy and perfect. And dare I even mention the xylophone? No one else could possibly make a xylophone sound so cool.

The lyrics are as good as the music. There's something so unique about the way they infuse their faith into their songs - take a gander at this little gem:

All these victims stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by

All the while your invitation

Wake on up from your slumber

Baby open up your eyes

Their new album "The Reckoning" comes out September 20th. The countdown is on.

Now I know:
This song would make the perfect alarm to wake up to.

"Slumber" - NTB
Days they force you back under those covers
Lazy mornings they multiply
Glory's waiting outside your window
So wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes

Tongues are violent, personal and focused
Tough to beat with your steady mind
But hearts are stronger after broken
So wake on up from your slumber
Baby, open up your eyes

All these victims stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes

Take from vandals all you want now
Please don't trade it in for life
Replace your feeble with the fable
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes

All these victims stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes

C'mon we'll sing like we used to
Dance when you want to
Chase for the breakthrough
Open wide

All these victims stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes
Wake on up from your slumber
Baby open up your eyes

C'mon sing like we used to
And dance like you want to
C'mon darlin' open your eyes
C'mon sing like we used to
C'mon dance like we want to
C'mon darlin' open up your eyes

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yeah, I Know It's Not Sunday

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
and the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you

This was the benediction that the pastor of my church proclaimed at the end of the service on Sunday morning. To me, these are some of the most simple, beautiful, precious words of the entire church service.

I look forward to the benediction every single week - not just because the words are thousands of years old, or because it's a blessing that has been proclaimed over God's people for generations, but because of something small that we are asked to do.

Before he says the benediction, Reverend Habig asks us to look up. He asks us to hold out open hands and receive this blessing.

I love that idea. All it takes for me to receive God's blessing is to look up, and open my hands.

Now I know:
I need to look up and open my hands to receive God's blessing every single day- not just during the benediction.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Public Speaking? Heights? Spiders?


My greatest fear - the thing that really puts me over the edge - is anything medical.

Needles, blood, surgery, antiseptic smell, closed in rooms, waiting waiting waiting in closed in rooms, infections, terrible paper gowns, those clear holder thingys for used syringes that you have to stare at as you wait wait wait, posters of diseases and risks of diseases - the whole experience of going to the doctor usually makes me freak out and/or pass out. I despise it.

Which is really ironic because one of my favorite shows of all time was/is Grey's Anatomy - at least until they killed off/kicked out of most of my favorite characters. Maybe I ignored all the medical grossness because it was so well balanced with shirtless McDreamySteamy physicians. Heck, if my doctor looked like that I'd probably feel differently about the whole thing.

So anyway I'm like a total nutcase today in the waiting room - yes my mom had to take me to my doctor's appointment today - and before you start putting on your Judgy McJudgerson pants about a 26 year old having her mom take her to the doctor just know that this was the "Lady Doctor" and you have no right to judge my anxiety until you're in a terrible nursing-home rose colored gown with your feet in some stirrups, mmmkay?

So my mom and I are in the waiting room, I'm half hysterical as I fill out my paperwork, begging her to go in for me because we look so much alike, pleading with her, telling her they'd never know the difference.

Then I get to the question, "Race" on my form.

I kind of pause and look up at her and say, "I think I'm just gonna put 'white' because I'm not sure how to spell 'caucasian' right now" (PS the spell checker totally just underlined that - so clearly I really don't know how to spell it).

So my mom starts trying to spell it for me, which makes me start to laugh because I already wrote 'white' and the more I start thinking about that the more it makes me giggle. I guess it was all my nervous energy.

Then a just a few short questions later it asks for "Ethnicity."

I turn to my mom and go, "What the heck am I supposed to put for that?! I already put 'white'!?!"

And she is laughing so hard she can't talk and squeaks out "American?"

I am a White American, everyone.

I feel a lot like this girl today.

Now I know:
Good thing I'm going back to school, so I can give the US American children maps to show them places like the Iraq and South Africa and everywhere like such we are able up our future...for our children.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bachelorette Blabberings

I only watched like 3 episodes the entire season because Ashley bugs the besneezus out of me, but I couldn't resist tuning in to see who'd she choose while I worked on writing lesson plans.

Man was this final episode a doozie. Those sneaky producers made us fall in love with JP, made us think that it wasn't JP, and then made us live through a painful, oh so painful breakup with Ben before the blissful proposal scene.

Here are my thoughts on the finale, in no particular order. Let me know if you agree with any of the following:

1) Ashley's hateful sister is a Kat Von D wannabe. Wouldn't be too surprised if they did a goth version of the Bachelorette and put her on there. (Shudder!) Also wouldn't be surprised if Jesse James picked her up since he and Kat are splitsies. Zing!

2) Ashley's pink dress rocked. Loved the glittery feathers at the bottom. Those producers really glammed her up this season. I also approve of her extinshiiiiins! She's never looked better.

3) Why in the world would Ashley and JP go running through the surf after the engagement? Was there really any need to ruin that fabulous dress??

4) Ashley's engagement ring sparkled my eyes out. Way to go JP! What. A. Dazzler.

5) "I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore" as the theme song for the recap of their relationship? Seriously?? That rivals "On the Wings of Love" on the cheesiness Richter scale.

6) "Ben! Ben come back! You're so interesting!" Seriously??

7) I like how ABC offers to send the couple on their honeymoon. I bet they do that knowing they'll rarely - if ever - have to pay up.

8) When they were talking about celebrating Hannukah, I told my mom I forgot JP was Jewish. Her response? "SHALOM BABY!" Agreed mom. Totally agreed.

9) They didn't announce the next Bachelor. I'm kind of surprised it wasn't Ben. Maybe it will be Brad Womack again. Heh. Third time's the charm right America?

Now I know:
Life after Bentley does exist, everyone!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Song Saturday #13

I haven't just broken up with anybody but I still sing this at the top of my lungs every time I hear it.

Red Light - David Nail
So this is how it ends
This is where it all goes down
This is what I don't love you feels like

It ain't the middle of the night
And it ain't even raining outside
It ain't exactly what I had in mind
For goodbye

At a red light in the sunshine
On a Sunday
Nothing to say
Don't even try

Some are coming home
Some are leaving town
While my world's crashing down
On a Sunday
In the sunshine
At a red light

I thought she was gonna say
Something about that couple kissing
Crossing the street
Or something about this beautiful day

But she just looked me in the eye
Said it's over
Didn't try to lie
Or pick a fight
I might have seen it coming that way

But at a red light in the sunshine
On a Sunday
Nothing to say
Don't even try

Some are coming home
Some are leaving town
While my world's crashing down
On a Sunday
In the sunshine
At a red light

There's a momma calming down a little baby
In the backseat in front of me
There's an old man dressed in his Sunday best
Just waitin on green
But I can't see, gettin past

This red light
In the sunshine
On a Sunday
Nothing to say
Don't even try

Some are coming home
Some are leaving town
While my world's crashing down
On a Sunday in the sunshine
At a red light

Car Crashes and Yoga

I know I've been gone awhile folks. Sorry about that.

In my defense (not that I should be defensive - I just practiced yoga for pete's sake!) I have done enough writing this summer to fill up a dozen trapper keepers. My poor pitiful brain just needed a break. Creating is hard work. Anyway, thanks to Miss Jennie Raff - who always tells me I have good ideas for blogs - I'm back. Thanks Jennie.

So this morning I'm laying on my cool new purple flowery yoga mat. I don't care what any of y'all think, yoga ain't for sissies. You've gotta be freaking flexible as Gumby and as strong as Hercules to hold some of those poses for more than 2 seconds. And believe me, they make you hold it a LOT longer than 2 seconds. I started doing yoga on occasion because it chills me out and makes me feel still. It is really nice to be quiet and still sometimes.

So anyway it's the end of class and we're all lying down in corpse pose. That's flat on your back, feet stretched out, palms upward. We're supposed to be relaxing, letting go of all stress and tension, focusing on nothing but our breath.

I'm doing pretty good, punching that nagging problem of what to put on my classroom bulletin board right in the face, when suddenly I hear a car driving down Stone Avenue zOOOOoooOOOoom by.

In my mind's eye I imagined an obnoxiously bright yellow Mustang with one of those stupid anti-muffler thingys that amplifies the wretched noise of grinding metal accelerating. Ick.

My weirdo brain immediately goes into overdrive.

I imagine that yellow Mustang crashing through the windows of the studio in slow motion, tires screeching, glass shards flying, horrified looks and screams coming from all the women in spandex lying around me. Isn't that terrible?!

And then I started kind of smiling because I heard somewhere that if you're ever in a car wreck you should be relaxed because if you are all tensed up it will cause more damage.

And then I had to repress a giggle because I thought it was dark but funny that we were all in corpse pose during this whole imagined scene.

I'm weird.

Not that any of you didn't know that already.

Now I know:
I'm okay at keeping my body still, but I need yoga for the brain.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Where I'm Really From

Where I Am Really From

By Jillian Grimsley

I used to tell people that my dad’s stage name was David Copperfield.

That made me feel better about him being a magician.

Cutting people in half for a living was a little embarrassing -

Unless your dad was a doctor,

Like all the other kids in my neighborhood.

No one else’s dad had a profession like mine.

We didn’t have a beach house like Liza, or a lake house like April

Nope, we just had one house - a funhouse.

Two pinball machines beeping away in the bonus room

A real antique telephone booth tucked in a corner of the living room

A fake hand propped up in the attic window,

Frightening people as they walked by

Thinking someone was trapped up there.

No one else had household decorations like mine.

Everyone else in my class had a dog, maybe a cat.

We had two white doves, Hocus and Pocus.

The perpetual cooooooo cooooooo coooooing

That emanated from the garage

Was more unpleasant than the noise made by a weed eater.

Houdini the white rabbit wasn’t much better

(granted I’m not an animal person)

But his beady red eyes and pellet like poops

Always left me feeling uneasy.

I think he had a lot of rage built up

From being crammed in the fake bottom of that box

All those years for dad’s magic shows.

No one else had family pets like mine.

During the summers, the family business boomed

So everyone in the family had to help out.

I would take turns making the snow cones for sweaty faced customers

Crushing the ice in the loud angry grinder

Scooping a perfect shaved sphere with a ladle

Striping the top with red and blue syrup.

It sounds okay, but you don’t know what sticky means

Until you’ve worked a snow cone booth.

By high school I swore I would be fine

If I never saw another snow cone again.

No one else had summer jobs like mine.

I have to concede – our birthday parties were the best in town

Bouncing for hours on a red and blue moonwalk

Or sliding down an inflatable water slide taller than our house

Or watching Tom Hanks play the giant piano in Big

On a theater-sized screen in beach chairs lined up in the driveway

Eating salty fresh popped popcorn and clouds of pink cotton candy

Deep purple snow cone syrup staining our tongues for days.

No one else had birthday parties like mine.

Everyone else in my class had boring family dinners

With normal small talk conversations about school projects and papers.

I quickly learned that my friends couldn’t wait to come over to my funhouse,

Where we all told stories and jokes at dinner simultaneously

And even though she wasn’t wearing sequins –

One time my mom even threw us the rolls from the kitchen.

It was a culinary circus with three rings.

No one else had family dinners like mine.

When I was little

I said that when I grow up

I want to be a teacher and a part time clown.

I think I made this decision because

My parents taught me the value of working hard

Of learning and studying

But also the importance of having fun

And laughing and playing

Until you fall asleep

A big snow cone smile stuck to your face.

No one else had a childhood like mine.

True, I may not be able to juggle flaming clubs

And my classroom doesn’t have a cotton candy machine–

But I love being able to clown around with my students

And help them to understand

That it’s okay to be silly

That learning can be fun.

No one else has a job as magical as mine.

Except maybe my dad.

Where I'm From

I Am From a House in the Mountains

By Jillian Grimsley

I am from a house in the mountains

Where leaves never stay the same color long,

Sweet tea is always in the fridge,

And front porches are rarely empty.

I am from a house that was the picture of Southern hospitality,

Where black shutters batted like Scarlett O’Hara’s eyelashes,

Where lush green hanging ferns sheltered the fragile lives of baby birds

Where the white wicker porch swing rocked in time

With the lazy rhythm of watermelon afternoons.

I am from a homemade house

Dinner’s on the table at 6:00 house

It’s not a dinner unless you have three side items house

Fresh corn and green beans and hashbrown casserole house

Leave room for a piece of cream cheese pound cake house

A house my mom filled as full of food as she did with love.

I am from a house full of strong women

A home where the girls outnumbered my dad four to one –

Five to one if you count Lucy the yellow lab

Katie loved her Barbies, Erin loved her stuffed bear in the pink pajamas

I loved to fix their hair, paint their nails, boss them around

and pretend I was their mommy.

I am from a house where the empowered sounds

Of the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain taught me that I have a voice

Where choppy chords from my first Fender guitar took shape

At first behind my closed bedroom door

Then a requirement at every family gathering and holiday.

I am from a house that watched me learn

All about American History and Calculus and The Count of Monte Cristo

How to serve a volleyball over the net in the backyard

To never wait by the phone for a boy to call

To put your own plate in the dishwasher after dinner.

I am from a house that included held hands and blessings before meals

Nighttime prayers, Bible verses on the dashboard of the car

An I know the plans I have for you declaring kind of home

A foundation that I’ve built my life upon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I haven't been writing much for my personal blog lately - mostly because I've been spending 8 hours a day reading and writing as a participant in the Upstate Writing Project.

So far I've written lots and lots of poems, started a mystery, drafted a professional piece (crossing my fingers to get chosen to submit for publication!), called my Nana to get stories from her life for a narrative poetry book (a la Out of the Dust - but happier), outlined a trickster tale, and collected snippets for about 186 ideas for various stories.

I am a writing fool.

Okay, mostly a fool.

Last Friday we went on a field trip to Flat Rock, North Carolina to visit Connemara - Carl Sandburg's Estate. Everyone else was writing poems about leaves and flowers and trees.

Being the stubborn individual I am, I was determined to find inspiration in a different place.

Here's what I came up with:


Dirt –

The carpet showcase of the forest floor

Where seeds snuggle into squares

Of burnt sienna berber

And sandy plush pile

Cushions the hooves of baby deer

Taking their first fumbling steps.

Leaves don’t mind falling headfirst

Into this cozy cinnamon carpet

A lovely place to nap

In the dappled rays of the autumn sun.

Tufts of tawny espresso give energy to

The swiping paw of the black bear,

The swishing tail of the rust red fox,

The busy bustlings of red ant architects.

Finer than any Persian rug

Is the mahogany topsoil that comforts a fallen oak

Providing a peaceful place

For proud old limbs to be put to rest.

Dark black loam cradles

Blushing pink earthworms

That weave a complex pattern

From decaying ground,

Transforming old life into new.