Monday, February 28, 2011

The Bead Project

When I was 7 I met my first best friend in Liza Morgan. Today is her 27th birthday, and it's only fitting that I pay tribute to Liza and to our 20 years of friendship!

Liza has heart like a radiator. She brings warmth to any conversation and has never met a stranger. She is a true friend to SO many people, and I have been lucky to always count her as one of my closest confidantes. Whenever we talk, she has this incredible way of making time and distance disappear. Liza's stories are hilarious, her encouragement is sincere, and her adventurous, gypsy spirit is an inspiration.

Well, Liza recently just got back from spending time in Uganda with Fount of Mercy, an organization that helps to empower the widows and orphans in this impoverished country. True to form, she made distance disappear by bringing the mission of the organization home with her. Just reading about her special project brings a huge smile to my heart.

Read about it here:

Liza, I am so proud of you and can't wait to see where this project takes you!

Now I know:
You couldn't pick a more fashionable way to show love than to buy some of these widows beads.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Red Lipstick, Red Carpet

When I waited tables during my college years, a girl affectionately nicknamed "Nazi Nikki" commanded me to always wear big earrings and bright lipstick. She told me it would guarantee me bigger tips. It makes me sound a little bit hooker-ish, but I'm telling you, Nazi Nikki was right. The nights I wore red lipstick to waitress I absolutely made more money!

When I wrote my post about our school's Big Show, I neglected to include the side story regarding one of my accessory choices.

No, it wasn't a necklace or a headband. Not a pair of brightly colored shoes with my mandated all-black ensemble. Because I had not showered that day, I decided that curling my hair and putting on some red lipstick would make me look a little more glam for my five minutes on stage.

Well, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the enthusiastic positive (and sometimes negative) responses of the students and even some parents to that red lipstick. Here's a quick recap of some of the comments I got last Tuesday:

"Ms. Grimsley! You don't look like yourself!"

"I think she look like a Barbie...kinda."

"You look so glamorous...just like Anne Hathaway!"

"I love that red lipstick! Wow!"

"Your face is scarin' me. You look like a vampire." (Gotta love kids' honesty!)

"Ms. Grimsley, You workin' the lipstick girl!"

"You looked fabulous last night at the Big Show with that RED lipstick and fancy hair-do!! I love it... you looked like a movie star!"

Well, as I sit here watching actors and actresses on the red carpet, I've been noticing myself criticizing so many of their wardrobe and accessory choices.

I think Reese Witherspoons' black dress with the white strip at the top was totally 90s looking. I think Amy Adams sparkly navy blue dress is frump-a-dump. Kirk Douglas's ears are HUUUUUUUGE! (I do realize ears are not an accessory, but his kind of could be counted as such!)

Anyway, being a 5th grade teacher is certainly not a red carpet job...and after my five minutes on stage, I'm glad it's not!

Now I know:
I'm thankful my normal wardrobe consists of khakis and a cardigan.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Song Saturday #4

Phil Hargrove is the contemporary ministries pastor at First Pres and the fearless leader of our LIFE group. He is engaging, dedicated, and caring - everything a pastor should be! Just so you know, that picture isn't of Phil. That's David Wilcox. We'll get to him in a second...

Last year Phil surprised his wife for their 14th wedding anniversary with a specially planned dinner and live music. I had the honor of playing a few songs for them as they enjoyed their meal. One of Phil's requests was for me to learn David Wilcox's "Show the Way."

At first I thought it was a funny request for an anniversary meal. It's not about love in the conventional, mushy-gushy, eskimo kiss, box of chocolates, dinner-and-a-movie type way. This song is about seeing God's redemption in a world that is full of hurt and brokenness.

After a little bit of thought, I realized it's the perfect song for an anniversary, because a marriage is not just roses and riding off in the sunset. It's full of ups and downs, hurt feelings and inadequacies and struggles. But mostly, it's full of love that redeems all that stuff. How cool to remember that Love is writing the play.

I love singer-songwriters in general, I have a special spot in my heart for David Wilcox, and I have just come home from a weekend full of community service. I saw hurt and brokenness in our community this weekend, but I also saw the God's people coming together to help.

This song says everything I feel today. I hope you enjoy it.

Now I know:
There is evil cast around us, but it's Love that wrote the play.

You say you see no hope
You say you see no reason we should dream
That the world would ever change
You say the love is foolish to believe
'Cause they'll always be some crazy
With an army or a knife
To wake you from your daydream
Put the fear back in your life

If someone wrote a play
To just to glorify what's stronger than hate
Would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late?
He's almost in defeat
It's looking like the evil side will when
So on the edge of every seat
From the moment that the whole thing begins

It is love who mixed the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we're alone
In this scene, set in shadows,
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play
For in this darkness love can show the way

Now the stage is set
You can feel your own heart beating in your chest
This life's not over yet
So we get up on our feet and do our best
We play against the fear
We play against the reasons not to try
We're playing for the tears
Burning in the happy angel's eyes

For it's love who mixed the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Though it looks like we're alone
In this scene, set in shadows,
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play
For in this darkness love will show the way

Trip to Nowhere

Right now I'm feeling a lot like one of those yellow dish sponges that sits on the side of your kitchen sink.

Exhausted, dirty, kind of rough around the edges - but full, absolutely full of purpose, peace, and perspective. Didn't even mean for that alliteration to happen...but wow, love when it does.

And you know how sponges like that are supposed to be full of germs? Well until I get a shower, I'm gonna say that is relevant to how I feel right now too.

Anyway, this weekend I participated in a LIFE event called the "Trip to Nowhere." The name of our community service project is deceiving, to be sure. Even though we stayed in Greenville, we went lots of places.

So, you're asking, where did our LIFE group go this weekend?
  • Surrounded by high vaulted ceilings, perfect acoustics, and dazzling stained glass windows, we worshiped in the Harper Chapel on Friday night. The lyrics of "God of this City," are still ringing through my head: "Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city!"
  • We split up around First Pres and prayed over the City of Greenville, the organizations we were partnering with, and the people we were serving. I could feel the Spirit of God just pumping us full of energy and anticipation.
  • We spent the night in the Junior High room at the church. You can't do better than a good old-fashioned lock-in. Even though I didn't participate in the 2:00 am game of Sardines, I still loved staying at the church. Took me back to my youth group days!
  • We cleaned trucks and shelves, painted poles, and put together snack packs for needy kids at Harvest Hope Food Bank. I was lucky enough to get to put together the snack packs with some of my dearest friends, and I had the idea of writing notes to put in each lunch bag that said YOU ARE LOVED. I am still smiling thinking about the kids getting a handwritten note in their snack pack.
  • This afternoon, we split up into groups and did projects at Miracle Hill, United Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, and again, I was lucky enough to help with a field day for Pendleton Place Children's Shelter. I convinced a skeptical 10th grade girl to compete with me in a sack race. I chased a giggling, screaming little blond boy around pretending to be a monster. I sang "Umbrella" to a fifth grader when she showed me her umbrella silly band and she started singing and dancing right along with me. I helped to raise a parachute high in the air for delighted toddlers. I saw the wonder and love and joy of these children despite their most horrifying and unbelievable circumstances. I was in awe of their resilience. I felt the presence of the living God.
  • Tonight I sat on couches back at First Pres with my best friends, my Greenville family, and processed through what was a truly amazing weekend of service. One thing I'm sure of is that serving others doesn't change those being served as much as it does the ones who are actually serving.
I am changed because I have learned for the millionth time that this life is truly not about me. It is not about my checklists or my goals or my dreams or my wishes. This life is about being poured out like a drink offering, about laying down your life for your friends, about helping the widows and the orphans. This life is about being the hands and feet of Jesus. I feel so very lucky to have had the chance to relearn that lesson this weekend.

Now I know: With a Jesus who loves me, a roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes bursting out of my closet, a family that loves and encourages and supports me, friends galore, and a job that is a perfect fit - I am blessed beyond what I could ask or imagine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sisterly Love

I was 9 years old when I found out that my mom was having my little sister, Katie. Big dork that I was, I decided to run around the house screaming with my hands on my cheeks like Macaulay Culkin does in "Home Alone." I was beyond excited at the possibility of having a living baby doll to dress up, feed, and rock to sleep.

And Baby Katie did not disappoint. With her chubby cheeks, head full of dark brown hair and ocean blue eyes, she was as calm and sweet as a Cabbage Patch Kid.

She never went anywhere without her paci and her stuffed lion, Simba. We have this video of her singing "Twinkle, Twinkle," and when I try to butt in she quickly tells me to "SHHH!". Smart girl, that one.

When Katie was just a year and a half old, my mom gave me another adorable living baby doll in Erin - who was tiny, rambunctious, and full of life from her first minute on earth. Erin was a baby with energizer batteries; she was seriously dangerous in her rolling walker! She would zoom from room to room, laughing her head off as I'd chase her in exhaustion. Erin would also crack us up by pooching her lips so big that they'd touch her nose. Then she'd snort. She was already a stand up comic by the age of 1.

Of course being so much older than my sisters, I liked to pretend I was their mommy. When Erin was about four, I made her sit in my lap wearing a bib. I’d take applesauce and would smash it all over her face, using the spoon to smear it all around and then stuff it back in her mouth. She pretended like it was torture, but I knew that she secretly loved this little game. My sisters taught me that the people in your family are the most important people in the world because they will love you even when you smash applesauce on their face and call it a game.

Just this week, Katie and Erin came down to Greenville to have lunch with me at school. They brought me Chick-fil-A - my FAVORITE - and brought Krispy Kreme doughnuts for everyone in the class. Seriously, how lucky am I?

These girls have brought endless laughter and light into my life. My little living baby dolls have grown up into high school barbie dolls. Both of them are smart, gorgeous, and have magnetic personalities. People love to be around them because they are kind and funny and interesting. They tell amazing stories and do hilarious impressions. Both of them make me so proud.

Now I know:
If I had to choose someone to be my sisters, I hope you NOSE I'd PICK y'all every time. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do Nothing for Two Minutes

It takes every fiber of my type-A, go-get-em, check-list personality to pass this test. Why don't you give it a go?

Now I know:
Doing nothing is not my strong-suit.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dr. Suess Gets Jiggy With It

Many of y'all know that I teach at an arts magnet school. You may have even heard me blabbing on and on recently about the phenomenal production that we put on every spring. We call it "The Big Show."

No...not THAT Big Show.

It's a singing, dancing, acting sort of show that stars 505 six through eleven year old children that go to Stone Academy. The teachers also have a special part in the finale song, which this diva absolutely loves.

This year's theme was "Oh, the Places You'll Go," which contained a script based on the Dr. Suess book. I'm telling you, these kids brought the book to life!

Now hold on a second. I can tell what you're doing. Please try to stop yourself from picturing that lame-o church play with the fat kid picking his nose on the front row, the girl twirling her skirt near the back, and everyone else in between waving frantically at their parents.

Oh no. That would never happen at our Big Show. This is no ordinary school play. This is such a big deal that we rent out McAlister Auditorium at Furman - which this FU alumna absolutely loves.

The kids are so well trained that if someone pukes or faints or falls off the risers - the rest of them just keep looking straight ahead and continue singing. I've watched it happen. Their focus is almost unbelievable.

I am a tough critic - very hard to impress - and every year I get teary-eyed at the finale. The angelic sound of those childrens' voices, the pride of their parents radiating out from the auditorium, and the combined sheer delight at having worked so hard to accomplish something so just gets me every time.

This year the finale song was "Climb Every Mountain," which is ironic since Liza just recently wrote a blog entry about The Sound of Music (one of my favs too Liiz, obvi!) :) As the kids sang out the last phrase, "Til you find your dream" their little hands went up and then out in perfect coordination.

They were all beaming as the audience bounded to their feet and gave a roaring standing ovation. We had to bow three times before the clapping started to slow down.

Now...I won't lie. Getting to this point wasn't easy. No way. This took months and months of practice and self-discipline. This took energy and effort beyond the scope of the average audience member's imagination. This took patience, oh-so-much patience from our related arts team of teachers.

And herein lies the message of today's post.

If itty bitty children can show that much self-control, practice that hard, work together beautifully, and produce and absolutely outstanding result - what is wrong with us grown-ups?

Why can't we get along?
Look at the mess in Libya. Look at the mess in Congress. Look at the mess in most of our families over the holidays.

Why can't we show self-control?
I know the devil on my shoulder wins more times than not when a kid is passing out cupcakes for his birthday. I talk myself out of exercising like an absolute expert. I put off grading papers until my book bag won't zip.

Why can't we work together?
Grown-ups become opinionated, prideful, and selfish. We all think we know best. Just think back to your last experience driving on Woodruff Road at 5:00 pm on a Friday. Uh huh.

Why can't we make beautiful things, instead of harboring selfishness, fueling hatred, drawing lines that divide, and sowing seeds of discontent?

Why can't we climb every mountain til we find our dreams - all while still considering that everyone around us has dreams, too?

Now I know:
Standing on risers ain't for sissies.
Neither is finding your dream.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tattooing in Green

Last summer I seriously considered getting this verse tattooed on the arch of my right foot.

(Just in case you can't read Hebrew, it says the first half of Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know.")

I am a lot like Rory from the show Gilmore Girls, so of course I made numerous pro/con lists, both on paper and in my head. They pretty much looked like this:

  • This verse commands me to BE STILL, which some scholars translate as LET GO. What a great permanent reminder!
  • By including just the first half of the verse I have the flexibility to BE STILL AND KNOW a whole host of truths. That God is God. That He has a plan for me. That He will give me the desires of my heart if I delight myself in Him. That no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. See? Flexible!
  • If it's on my foot it is cool yet discrete! People probably won't even see it for 6 months out of the year!
  • When they do see it, people will have to ask me what it says and then I can have an awesome segue into talking about spiritual things.
  • Ow. OW OW OW!
  • Getting it on the arch of my foot will hurt a LOT.
  • I hate needles.
  • Why are you even considering this?
  • What if they do one character and I flip out and they have to stop? Then it will look like a birthmark. Or a mistake.
  • Will parents at school think I'm a hippiefied freak that is no longer a good role model for their children?
  • Will I have to move back to Asheville, land of the hippies, just so I can blend in?
  • In 15 years I'm gonna be 40. FORTY! Will I want this on my foot when I'm 40?
As you can see, the con side won out. But I still absolutely love this verse, so I decided to figuratively tattoo it on my heart instead.

Well yesterday my LIFE leadership group had the opportunity to work on spiffening up our meeting place, The Block. This space used to be the Center Stage Theater. It is on Academy Street and has tons of potential - it just needs some TLC.

We cleaned out, cleaned up, and painted for hours. We decided to take two blank walls and decorate them with verses that meant something to us. Naturally I quickly decided on "Be Still and Know."

It was awesome for "my tattoo verse" to kind of come full circle. Leaving these words on a surface where they will be seen, where they will inspire and encourage others, was almost as exciting as body art.

And the best part is? No needles required.

Now I know:
Tattoos are temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Song Saturday #3

Several years ago, I had a great conversation with an old roommate over a big plate of fabulous pad thai about unique voices.

We tried to come up with a comprehensive list of singers that are true artists. We could think of a million singers that have been homogenized, processed, and sound-boarded into greatness. But we tried to name the singers that have created a sound that is all their own. Voices that pierce you with their honesty and their emotion. Singers that are true originals. The Picassos, Dalis, and Pollocks of the music world.

We could only come up with about 10 artists that fulfilled those requirements, and David Gray was pretty much at the top of our list.

The first time I heard him sing, I stopped talking, closed my eyes, and was moved. I had never heard anything like it. When I listened to him sing, I felt like hot tea was being poured all over my heart. The sound was as relaxing and comforting as a warm mug feels in cold hands. Even though I didn't know the words, I felt like my spirit was singing along.

I put on my Rainbows for the first time this season, and this song perfectly accompanies my momentary lightness. This is musical defrosting after a long, cold winter.

Will I enjoy this 70 degree weather, even though I know it won't last long?

Indeed I will!

Write it on the walls of your precious soul, yeah
Indeed I will
Indeed I will, yeah
Praise you to the skies every day I rise, yeah
Indeed I will
Indeed I will

Starting over, born anew
Finally the long lonely night has gone, now I'm walking through
Another world entirely with your hand in mine
When youre with me baby
Be happy to take it just as I find it
Indeed I will, yeah
Yeah, indeed I will

Got my
Love's decree
I'm clinging by my nails
Through the gales of my own sweet epiphany
Watching those long black shadows
Stretching out behind

When youre with me baby
Be happy to take it just as I find it
As I find

And every little moment feels like waiting an eternity too
Now my eyes are welling up in here
Just thinking 'bout the way that I feel, yeah
Every bone, every nerve, every fiber in my body screaming
Yes, indeed I will

Indeed I will
Indeed I will, yeah
Write it on the walls of your precious soul
Indeed I will
Indeed I will, yeah
Praise you to the skies every day I rise
Indeed I will
Indeed I will

Every little moment feels like waiting an eternity too
Now my eyes are welling up in here
Just thinking 'bout the way that I feel, yeah
Every bone, every nerve, every fiber in my body screaming
Yes, indeed I will
Indeed I will

Indeed I will
Indeed I will, yeah
Praise you to the skies every day I rise
Indeed I will
Indeed I will, yeah
Write it on the walls of your precious soul
Indeed I will
Indeed I will
Popping like a cork down in old New York, now
Indeed I will
Indeed I will, yeah

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Star is Born

Today I had the sweet privilege of holding a newborn baby girl. It was most definitely the highlight of my week, so I had to share a picture.

While I was holding Stella today, I silently wished babies would never grow up.

I am a sucker for those fat little feet. Those itty bitty fingernails. That death-grip reflex that connects their hand to your finger. I love their fantastic toothless smiles and butter smooth skin.

To me, babies are perfect. They are in a constant state of bliss. Sleeping and dreaming and eating is their world. Their mama is never more than a few steps away, ready to meet their every need with constant loving care. Babies are unblemished, unscathed by the upsetting, hurtful, broken world we live in.

But when I think about how much goodness Stella will add to this world, I know for certain that she has to grow. With her dad's free spirit and her mom's hilarious sense of humor, she will be a light to the world. She will bring joy and fun and caring wherever she goes.

So naturally this made me think about why God wants us to grow. He wants us to use our life experiences to enrich the lives of others around us. He allows us to make mistakes so we can learn from them. He allows us to face hard things so we can learn to trust Him fully. He allows us to be in darkness so we can be lights. And best of all - He is never more than a breath away, ready to meet our every need with constant loving care.

Welcome to the world, Stella Rae! Let that little light shine!!!

Now I know:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. -Philippians 2:14-15-

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wannabes with Wedgies

You win
It's your show, now
So what's it gonna be

Cause people will tune in
How many train wrecks do we need to see?

Before we lose touch of

We thought this was low It's bad getting worse so
Where'd all the good people go?
I've been changing channels

I don't see them on the TV shows
Where'd all the good people go?

-jack johnson, "where'd all the good people go?"-

Under recent financial pressure (Read: just received a special assessment letter from my HOA letting me know I owe $1,800 towards re-roofing the complex... awesome) I've seriously considered cutting my cable.

As I sit here waiting (im)patiently for the new episode of Grey's Anatomy to come on, I am getting more serious about actually making that decision. Because here I sit, watching the show "Wipeout" on mute. Have you ever seen this ridiculous, pitiful display of asinine stupidity?

Who actually watches this?!

More importantly, why am
I watching this?!?!?!

In case you're wondering, this particular episode of "Wipeout" has a winter theme and features a moving obstacle course that looks like a combination of a the old school TV show "Gladiator" and SantaLand.

The nincompoops that sign up to go on the show this fall off huge primary covered blocks into water that looks like it has fake snow all over it. Not only do they get hit in the head with swinging barrels that look like candy canes, knocked in the ribs with twirling poles decorated like icicles, and bopped with punching bags of various sizes and shapes - their pathetic trips, flips, and spills are shown OVER and OVER again in slo-mo and instant replay.

The producers especially love to zoom in on contestants' wedgies and falling-down pants.

This show isn't just bad. It's unwatchable. It's worse than America's Funniest Home Videos and The Jerry Springer Show combined. Kind of similar to both of these shows, actually. Trying to be funny, but failing miserably. I don't know how you get worse than Bob Saget, but congratulations "Wipeout," that's the one award you'll get from me tonight.

I don't understand why people think it's funny, and I certainly don't get why this train-wreck of a mess has a primetime spot right before Grey's Anatomy - a much more sophisticated, intense drama for the intellectual elite of our country (riiiiight). But I mean, I understand why Grey's would be a guilty pleasure. It has McDreamy, McSteamy doctors in it, unbelievable drama, and witty one-liners. What is so appealing about people getting concussions and wedgies?

Now I know:
I could do a lot of fun things with $60 extra dollars a month.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bell Tower Blues

Sometimes I get a little good-natured ribbing from some of my friends about how much Furman gear I have.

I mean, I do have a couple Furman sweatshirts, a pair of Furman sweatpants (I never REALLY wear them with the sweatshirts except for this pic, don't worry), a Furman hat, many, many Furman t-shirts, and a Furman lunchbox. Is that overkill? I think not.

That said, tonight I'm wearing my oversized navy blue Furman sweatshirt and am missing lots of things about my alma mater.

I have the Bell Tower Blues.

At the risk of looking like a washed-up co-ed desperately clinging to her college days, here is a list of things I miss about what I consider to be the best 4-year University anywhere. Maybe you Paladins can relate. I miss:

1. The view of the Bell Tower at sunset

2. Not having to go to a gym to run because a perfectly amazing park surrounded you. Doesn't get better than a run around the Furman lake.

3. Living with the three best friends a girl could ask for and spending every waking minute learning and laughing with them (Miss you Shannon, Amanda, and Lauren!!!!)4. Ubiquitous acronyms: DH, PAC, CLPs
5. Paladen Chicken Caesar wraps
6. A perfectly gorgeous library with fountain views to study in
7. Free movies with free popcorn
8. Free carnivals with free funnel cakes
9. Free concerts with free good sounds for my ears
10. Now that I think about it I'm still paying off 7-9 with interest...but they were free then ;)
11. Research papers - they were like a treasure hunt! (Yep, I'm a nerd)
12. Weeknights and weekends positively crowded with fun
13. My first semester freshman year, my first class was at noon. Those were the days.
14. Dancing to "It's Raining Men" at my Kappa Delta functions
15. The balconies on Lakeside housing
16. Intramurals
17. Walking everywhere I went
18. Turning things in to be graded - instead of having to constantly grade things myself
19. O-week - I want to go to My Tie again!!!!
20. Black Bean Cake Thursday
21. Writing for FUNet
22. Reading ridiculously dense articles and books outside in the sunshine
23. The feeling of complete and total freedom you get after finishing all of your exams
24. My little Mainstage performances
25. Hearing brilliant lectures from eloquent, passionate professors daily. They inspired me to be a critical thinker, a detailed writer, an engaging teacher.

Now I know:
Sweet memories last longer than student loan debt.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Education = Future

Quite simply, the video below rocks.

This speech, entitled "Changing the Education Paradigm," by Sir Ken Robinson, is well crafted, well researched, and well said. It is also accompanied by some incredible artwork. Go ahead.
You'd take 10 minutes to cruise Facebook or flip through the channels in a heartbeat.
Take 10 minutes to watch it. Your life will be the better for it.

What did you think?

What I truly love about this video is that it's not just about listing the problems in our educational system. It is also about creating solutions.

I saw "Waiting for Superman," I hear about the looming budget cuts coming our way next year in South Carolina, and I read newspaper articles about the dismal placement of American students' science scores compared to China. I know that it is truly time for some radical changes to be made, or our struggling economy is hardly going to improve over the next 50 years.

Remember that picture at the top of this entry? I truly believe that our future depends on the education of our children.

As a teacher I have very little sway in how many students are placed in my classroom. I can't do much about being furloughed. I don't get a say in how budgets are earmarked.

But I can help to develop my students' divergent thinking.

One of the ways I do that every day is through arts integration. As you'll hear, Sir Ken talks about that in his video. For the past two years, I've been privileged to be a part of the smartIDEA program through the Peace Center. The Peace Center is not only an incredible local venue for off-Broadway shows and amazing concerts, it is a nonprofit dedicated to developing the arts in our community. They bring in master teachers from the Kennedy Center to help teachers teach content through the arts.

So instead of just reading about the 1920s or listening to jazz music or looking at a collage made my Romare Bearden - we make our own collages inspired by him (while listening to jazz) to show what we've learned about different facets of the time period. Get it?

Through this program, I have learned teaching methods that don't just work - they work wonders. When I use arts integration to teach, my students don't just remember things. They understand them. They perform higher on standardized tests (another issue entirely).

But my point is - we can't let the arts fall by the wayside. We can't deny results that the arts irrefutably bring to the table. We can't let budget cuts dictate the future of our kids, our country, or our world.

Everyone has been saying recently how we need to send letters to our congressmen and let them know how we feel about the impact of their decisions.

I'm going to send them a link to my class blog instead.

I want them to see first-hand the high achievement of students that have had the benefit of arts integration and arts education. The proof is here:

Now I know (and I hope you do too):
Arts are not optional. They are essential.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Maybe it's because it's Valentine's Day and I've seen hearts absolutely everywhere. Maybe it's because I'm sick of reading all of the sicky-sweet "I love my pookie-wookie-ookie bear" statuses that keep cropping up on my Facebook news feed.

But tonight, I'm imagining a world without Facebook.

Instead, I'd like to see someone's Heartbook.

Isn't that a funny idea?

A Heartbook wouldn't just have our most attractive pictures tagged, our favorite song lyrics posted and a number of "friends" climbing endlessly higher. It wouldn't post what you want people to know about you. It wouldn't allow you to shape an image based around a persona you create with groups and favorites and likes and dislikes.

It would be real and true, revealing the very condition of our hearts. Instead of counting friends, it would count good deeds. Instead of posting superficial comments, it would force you to speak only the truth, what you really think.

It would be like in the movie "Shallow Hal" when Hal actually sees people for their character instead of for their looks.

Don't you think it would challenge you to act differently if the picture of you displayed what your heart is like on the inside? If the words on your page revealed your inner thoughts and feelings?

Isn't that a cool idea?!

But now I'm starting to wonder - what would my Heartbook look like?

What would yours?

Now I Know:
Just add truth serum, and I am the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Waxing Poetic

Sing a Song of Springtime
A sunny sunshine kind of day
Birds and kids and bumblebees
Come outside to play

White puffy clouds fill the air
Soft cool breezes blow
We say goodbye to icicles
Freezing rain and snow

Bare white legs are all around
Flip flops grace our cooped-up feet
How glorious when soft green grass
And winterized toes do meet!

But wait, what's that?
Another chill? Winter storms and skies so gray?
Yes, just wait til March, I warn to those
who think spring has come to stay.

I know the thought is pessimistic,
Upsetting and quite scary
That winter is not over yet.
But it's only February.

Now I know:
My Asheville-bred cynicism of an early spring runs deep.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Song Saturday #2

Somehow I didn't discover Will Hoge until after I left Furman.

I had no idea just how much I was missing. Will Hoge is a scruffy-faced, scruffy-voiced singer songwriter with a whole lotta grit. He writes poignant lyrics, puts a rock-and-roll twist on the melody, and sings it with all the passion and soul possible.

I chose this song today because it is all about having big dreams and never giving up on them. If you're living in green, that's exactly the kind of motto you want to have.

I just love Will Hoge. I also love that he always chews gum live in concert and also on this recording.

Now that's talent.

Even if it Breaks Your Heart

Way back on a radio dial
Fire got lit inside a bright eyed child
Every note just wrapped around your soul
From steel guitar to Memphis all the way to rock and roll

Whoa, I can hear 'em playing
I can hear the ringing of a beat up old guitar
Whoa, I can hear 'em saying
Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart

Downtown, where I used to wander
Old enough to get there but too young to get inside
I would stand out on the sidewalk
Listen to the music playing every Friday night

Whoa, I can hear 'em playing
I can hear the ringing of a beat up old guitar
Whoa, I can hear 'em saying
Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart

Some dreams stay with you forever
Drag you around and lead you back to where you were
Some dreams keep on getting better
Got to keep believing if you want to know for sure

Whoa, I can hear 'em playing
I can hear the ringing of a beat up old guitar
Whoa, I can hear 'em saying
Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart

Whoa, I can hear 'em playing
I can hear the ringing of a beat up old guitar
Whoa, I can hear 'em saying
Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart
Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart

Keep on dreaming

Don't let it break your heart

Friday, February 11, 2011

Marcel #2

I think this guy is super cute, hilariously funny, and endlessly quotable.

I like him a whole better than Marcel Duchamp.

Now I know:
If I was a shell I couldn't drink so much Diet Coke.
The bubbles would make me float up to the ceiling.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Marcel #1

I remember learning in Art History about Marcel Duchamp. The professor showed us a slide of his work titled "In Advance of the Broken Arm." You can see this "masterpiece" above.

Uh huh. It's simply a snowshovel.

"Did he make it?" someone asked. "No, he didn't make it," the professor replied. "Oh. Well did he change it somehow? Or paint it?" said another curious student. The answer was no.

Marcel Duchamp took a pre-fab snow shovel, gave it a title, and it ended up at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Check out another one of my favorites, "The Fountain."

Yep. That's an upside down urinal.

Anyway, I guess this really helped to give shape to what my mind considers to be art. It broadened my creative boundaries and helped me to understand that creativity keeps pushing those boundaries further. That's not to say that I absolutely love every modern piece, or that I think Marcel Duchamp was a genius.

But he playfully challenged the standards of his time. He got people talking. He made people think.

In my completely humble opinion, the truly great artists make you think.

I stumbled upon (literally, a website with some street art pieces that I consider totally brilliant. The newspaper is a perfect medium to convey the idea behind the series, called "Slowly Cleared Away by the Environment." Amazing, right?!

Click on the link to see more:

Now I know:
I want this blog to make you think.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tag...You're it

Today I learned about making a tag cloud ( Props to my sister-dork, Brett, for being as excited about technology as me!!

This one's made from frequent words on my blog. The more you use a word, the bigger it is in the tag cloud.

I really like how the two biggest words are "Share" and "Love." That makes me feel good about what I'm writing.

I made it into the shape of a four leaf clover because this week I'm feeling lucky.

Come back tomorrow and I'll show you why.

Green Colored Glasses

Maybe I'm just seeing life through green colored glasses.

But this...this has been a good week. I might even call it a lucky week.

One of my darling, thoughtful, adorable students, Rhavon, brought me a bouquet of gorgeous flowers for no reason at all. Actually she said "It's because you're the greatest teacher in the world."

I got to witness my kids' amazing creativity while they created collages inspired by the work of Romare Bearden. These collages show all they know about the new technology of the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Migration, discrimination, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. Just wait til they finish. These are true masterpieces.

I did a "Just Dance" dance with one of my sweet girls to her singing Ke$ha's "Tic Toc" at recess. We laughed and laughed and started planning a big end of the year party for our class when we can hook up a Wii to the Promethean Board!

I laughed until I cried at a Science Fair folder that had "Thongs" (see # 10) on the list of needed materials. (Second place goes to "Stuffin' Junk" as the most hilariously inappropriate title).

I had a fantastic interview for the Upstate Writing Project's Summer Institute and am already planning what kinds of projects I'll create if I get in. Absolutely can't wait.

I got ALL my grading done. I mean ALL of it. That never happens.

I made my mom's marinara sauce and enjoyed dinner with of my most favorite friends, Dan and Mollye. What a wonderful respite from "dinner for one!"

I ran 7 miles and did a kickboxing class at the gym. Feeling so sore that I can hardly walk. I love this feeling. It's a feeling of accomplishment, of growth, of progress.

My lifelong bff Liza "LuLu" Morgan chose ME as her "Friday Face" for her blog - which is AMAZING. Check it out: She is an incredible writer and friend. I feel so happy and so honored to be chosen!

And now...the pièce de résistance....the weatherman's calling for snow. This is my lucky week. I'm seeing a 2 hour delay in my future.

All this, and it's only Wednesday!!!

Now I know:
Life isn't just good. It's a gift.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mother Teresa and Brad Womack's Abs

I am a little pencil
in the hand

of a writing God
who is sending
a love letter
to the world.
-Mother Teresa-

At LIFE tonight the theme was about the connection between love and service. (Awesome job on the talk by the way, Jenko!!)

Ironically enough, when I got home I turned on The Bachelor. The contrast was so great that I couldn't not write about it.

Jesus's idea of love is to serve others.

The world's idea of love is to desperately seek someone who can serve you, who can meet your needs, and who ultimately will never let you down. The world's idea of love is spending time in Costa Rica with Brad Womack's amazing abs.

Hate it break it to ya, America, but those abs ain't gonna last forever. (His commitment issues, however, probably will. ZING!)

I feel like I am constantly sucked into the lie that this life is about ME. What I can get. What I look like. Who I will marry. What I can accomplish. What I want to do with my free time. How many things I can check off my to-do list while still getting plenty of sleep.

After LIFE tonight, I am reminded that life, real life - is not about what I can get.

It's about what I can give.

If I write a kind two-word note to one of my students on a post-it, I am showing love.

If I stop to thank the custodian and ask about her day, I am showing love.

If I tie a kindergartener's shoe at breakfast, I am showing love.

If I am vigilant about noticing the needs of others and trying to fill them, I am showing love.

Now I know:
God is writing the story. I am just a little pencil.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Eating an Elephant


I could make a list a mile long of the reasons why I love teaching. Sometime I might just do that.

But today, I want to talk about the biggest catch to the job that I love and adore. It is the bane of my existence. The robber of all my free time. The reason for my quickly failing eyesight.


Grading papers.

Seriously, grading is a real drag. You might think that grading sounds like a cinch. How many papers can I possibly have to grade anyway, right?? Well, let me give you a quick little math lesson before I get to the point of this entry.

I teach 5 subjects each and every day (math, reading, writing, social studies, and science. Also spelling, but for my purpose today we'll leave that out). So 5 subjects times 26 kids. That pans out to a nice little 130. I am required to enter into the grade book at least 9 grades per subject each quarter.

So that's 1,170 papers, four times a year.

At the bare minimum, we're talking 4,680 papers per school year. I've always been an overachiever so of course I grade LOTS more than that.

Today when I sat down with a toppling tower of manilla folders full of papers to grade, I felt completely overwhelmed. But suddenly I remembered some immortal words of wisdom from a very wise woman: my mom.

Whenever I started to freak out over a project, a paper, or the thought of cleaning my room, she'd simply ask me, "Honey, how do you eat an elephant?"

The answer?

"One bite at a time."

So this afternoon I decided to take my Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa papers out to my screened-in porch. I sat on my porch swing, turned on some chill music, and started grading away. One bite at a time.

Now I know:
Eating an elephant one bite at a time is much nicer on a screened-in porch.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Song Saturday #1

If my life was a play, I'd definitely want it to be a musical.

I go throughout my day constantly humming and singing to myself, have background music on whenever possible, and if a song comes on the radio that I am especially passionate about, I sometimes get frustrated that my radio can't go any louder.

It's always been amazing to me how a three minute song can instantly give me perspective, can make or break a moment, or change my mood in a millisecond.

In honor of that truth, today marks my baby blog's first "Song Saturday." I hope the songs I post here will have lyrics that make you think and melodies that make your ears smile.

Today's song teams up Joshua Radin (who I happen to be seeing live in concert tonight -WOO!) and the incredible Patty Griffin, whose brilliant harmonies bring tears to my eyes. In a good way, of course.

PS: This one goes out to all those boys that it didn't work out with - that still have growing up to do.


I’ve been down this road before
I walk out the door
Leave you on the floor
Sometimes you run and hide
Your foolish pride’s
What keeps me from giving you more

So the best thing
I can give to you
Is for me to go
Leave you alone
You got growin up to do

Some day I’ll return when it’s time
For payment in kind
The church bells will chime
You’ll stand before me surrounded by lights
Dressed in white
You’ll throw flowers in the air
this night

But the best thing
I can give to you
Is for me to go
Leave you alone
Cause you’ve got growin up to do

Looks like the rain’s pouring down on me
It’s drowning me now
All I want is to come back home
And this old corduroy coat it’s not keeping me dry
But I can’t think of what else to try

That’s why the best thing
I can give to you
Is for me to go
Leave you alone
You got growin up to do

The best thing
I can give to you
Is for me to go
Leave you alone
You got growin up to do

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dolly Parton Optimism

I think Dolly Parton is one amazing woman. (I dressed up like her a few years ago for Halloween, as you can see above. Surprisingly no one knew who I was. I got several Jessica Simpsons, a Pamela Anderson, and ironically someone asked if I was Taylor Swift).

In my opinion, none of those buxom beauties has a thing on Dolly. When someone inquires, "If you could invite 6 people living or dead over for dinner who would you ask?" Dolly is at the top of my list.

First of all, her style is impeccably cheap, and she knows it. The original Backwoods Barbie has a sense of style that is all her own. I love the glitter. I love the big blond hair. I love the bright colors she wears and the fantastically high heels that coordinate perfectly with her too-short dresses.

When I was little, I'd say, "Mom....Dolly is so BEAUTIFUL!" To which my mom would reply, "Oh honey, no! She is TACKY!" So then I'd respond with a huge smile and a sigh, "Yeah...she's so TACKY!"

From then on, I thought the word "tacky" meant "beautiful."

I guess my sense of style was always a little tacky. I had a pair of glittery pink jellies complete with a gigantic metallic bow on each foot. I had an Easter dress with puffy crinoline skirt and jingle bell hidden on the hem. I wore overall shorts with a big old belt, a pink and turquoise turtleneck, and hiking boots. Some of this was the 80s, but some of this was my desire to stand out and be original. Dolly inspires me because she is true to herself and wears what she thinks is beautiful - no matter what anyone else has to say about it.

The second reason I love Dolly is because she has voice as unique as her style. In my humble opinion, her version of "I Will Always Love You" trumps Whitney Houston's any day. She wrote that song, you know. She didn't need a team of songwriters to produce some homogenized hit. She took her experiences and channeled them into pieces of perfectly phrased poetry.

Anyway, the reason I was thinking about Dolly today was because of all this rain we've been having in Greenville lately. One of my favorite things she ever said was, "If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."

There are a lot of people - including me - that have been in a grumpy funk this week. The constant cold downpour has brought with it days of indoor recess and frizzy hair. I haven't felt like working out. I hate having to find an umbrella and despise accidentally stepping in puddles in ballet flats.

But Dolly sees the puddle half full.

Now I know:
Instead of shaking a fist at the heavens and cursing the nimbus clouds above, I should embrace the rain, throw on a pair of hot pink galoshes, and start looking forward to the rainbows.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dinner for One

So (one of) the (many) downside(s) of being single (1) is having to cook dinner for one (1).

I'm thinking of it like a math equation. Cook + 4 + 1 = BIG TIME BUMMER.

I try not to eat fast food. I certainly have a love affair with Chick-fil-a... but all those waffle fries aren't doing a thing for my "wobbly bits," as Bridget Jones would say. I try my best to eat healthy and include lots of colors in my daily diet. Not to wane esoteric, but do all the colors of peanut M&Ms count???

Sidenote: Tim Hawkins has written an extremely clever ode to the world's best fast food restaurant. Check it.

Anyway, I also have a lifelong hatred of leftovers. I'm not gonna make a casserole that I have to eat 3 meals a day for the next 10 days. Uh-uh. Not gonna do it. I always admired my old roommate Darsey (shout out! miss ya girl!) for making big pots of Brunswick Stew and eating on that thing til the pot was dry. She's a fan of leftovers. Me....not so much.

So, back to the idea of today's post. My quest to make myself dinner tonight.

I come home after a FANTASTIC arts integration workshop at 7:00 pm, wearily open the refrigerator door.

Close it. Open the freezer. Poke around at ancient bags of frozen vegetables. Gross.

Open the refrigerator again.

Since there is nothing to my liking I go for the canned goods. I notice towards the back a large can of Progresso French Onion Soup covered with a thin layer of dust.

I don't have any real bread to go in it, so I get out a stale bagel-thin from the refrigerator, tear it up, and find an almost-expired piece of sliced provolone cheese to put on top!

As I settle down on the couch to take my first bite, I nearly spit it out. The broth was watery and weirdly sweet. It also tasted like a can. I have a weird thing about canned soup tasting like a can. (Definite food issues....I know.) The bread was soggy, but not in the right way. It tasted like a yellow dish sponge. The cheese was also old and tasted musty. Like goat cheese - which always smells like gym sneakers to me.

Not to be defeated, I head back to the fridge for another look. Don't see a thing. Notice a bag of rice in the freezer that you can steam in the microwave. I take it out and also notice a bag of frozen grilled chicken pieces that have been in there forever. Perfect! Some protein!

Just in the nick of time I remember a bag of dusty can of black beans that was near the soup in my other cabinet. "Excellent!" I thought. "Black beans with chicken and rice. Totally carby, but at least it will be hot and filling. Just what I need after the soup du jour disaster."

So I put the chicken in a pan with some olive oil. It smells weird. I look at the date on the bag. Expired 5/2010. Oops.

The result was a bland beans and rice mixture that had me feeling like I was back in Nicaragua for breakfast. I ate about three bites and gave up.

Now I'm going back to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal.

Now I know:
Growing up eating mom's insanely delicious homemade meals really spoiled me.
I need to clean out my freezer more often.
I can't wait to have a family to cook for. :)