Friday, March 21, 2014

Eudene Done Bought a Malibu

About ten years ago, I married Jeremy (yes, it's really been that long...I'm getting old.  Hush).

When that happened, we began "the merge."

We merged bills, bank accounts, car payments - and of course, cell phone plans.

I hopped on his AT&T  mobile account and got a new number.

About a month after I obtained my my new cell phone number, I started getting calls from Annie.

For Eudene.

I always missed the calls - they would happen during school or when I was asleep- but Annie always left a voicemail.

"Eudene?!  Eudene?!  This is Annie.  You gonna pick me up to take be to the beauty salon?"

"Eudene!  Eudene!  Call me back - I gotta tell you what Sally did at church!"

"Eudene - I keep calling you!  Why aren't you callin' me back?"

"Eudene - I know it's too late for us chickens - but I just had to tell you about what happened this week...."

Annie was amusing for a while, but one day I felt bad for the poor lady because she could never reach her friend.  I finally picked up the phone one day.

"Hello, ma'am -  which number are you trying to reach?"

"Oh, Eudene!  Eudene, is that you?"

"No ma'am  --- this isn't Eudene.  Which number are you trying to reach?"

Annie rattled off my number - just with a different area code.  

Bingo.

After Annie figured out that she was dialing the wrong area code, she only called me by accident every now and then.   Eventually, the calls for Eudene stopped. 

Then, a few weeks ago, I started receiving calls from Rick Hendricks Chevrolet.

I found it odd, but I figured the Cheverolet place just dialed a wrong number and would correct their mistake.

Wrong.

The calls just kept on a-comin'.   Did I like my Malibu?  Was I pleased with my purchase? Would I like to take a survey?  Could I please pick up the phone the next time the survey company called?  Customer service mattered - was I pleased?  Knowing this information was apparently of dire importance.

Finally, one of the voicemails left a telling, sobering truth:

"Yes, this call is  for Eudene [last name deleted to protect the innocent]!  Miss Eudene, we were just calling to see how you are enjoying your brand new Chevy Malibu!  Please let us know how things are going in your new car!"

Y'all.

Eudene done bought a Malibu.

So, for the past week, I've received endless calls and voicemails about a Chevy Malibu that doesn't belong to me.  They've been difficult to intercept since I've been at school, so a couple of days ago I lunged for the hands of destiny and grabbed them violently.  It was time to do what every red-blooded American girl would do in such a situation.

"Rick Hendricks Chevrolet!"

"Yes, this is Dana Farr. Did you recently sell a brand new Chevy Malibu to a lady named Eudene?"

"Ummm...."

"Her name is Eudene [last name deleted to protect the innocent].  She gave you my number instead of her number. She gave you the wrong area code.   I've been getting her calls for years."

"Oh, wow.  Really?  What's your number?"

I told the nice receptionist.

"Oh, my goodness.  Yes, I have two area codes down for this number.  Would you like me to change this to 706?  I am so sorry about that!"

For some reason, at that moment, I drove past a little old lady in a Malibu.  I pictured Eudene, in all of her Chevrolet-embossed glory, grey hair flappin' in the wind, and laughing hysterically about this little hiccup.

I bet she can't wait to tell Annie about her new Malibu.

In the meantime, let's hope Eudene doesn't start applying for jobs at Waffle House.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Road Leads Back to You

Georgia is my home.  My state.

Its peach-scented Augusts run in my very blood.

I have the great privilege of teaching this state's history to schoolchildren, and I love it.  Sometimes, when I get in a random kid from California - from South Carolina - from El Salvador - from Delaware - I get the privilege of explaining why Georgia matters.

Her history is often broken and devastating - fragmented and peppered with stories of heart-wrenching loss.  Georgia has her nightmares written in history books - stories of Leo Frank, stories of Native American removal, stories of slavery and blatant and terrible racism.  Stories of Tom Watson, Eugene Talmadge, and the 1906 Race Riots.  Our story is definitely far from perfect.

And yet, there is an alluring draw to the redemption in our state.  For a state full of racism, we are also the home to one of the world's greatest civil rights activists -  Martin Luther King.  For every story about our backwards refusal to grow, there is a Maynard Jackson, who made our airport world-class.  For every racist governor, I find a Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter willing to buck the status quo. 

See, what I explain to my students who come from other places is this:  when you come here, you are part of Georgia's story.  Her spirit.  Her resilience to overcome.

Atlanta recently went through a snowstorm that had epic ramifications.  While a few wily Northerners scoffed at Atlanta's two inches of snow, our roads turned into a sheet of ice.  Suddenly, a city full of urban sprawl (with only a few major ways in and out) became gridlocked in hours.

While I could use this platform to point fingers, throw blame, and give my ideas to make things better, I'd like to talk about what really matters.  People in Atlanta took each other in, helped each other, and even used facebook and social media to keep each other's spirits alive.  The stories coming out of the storm are full of hope and life.  Stores took in patrons to spend the night, good Samaritans fed stranded motorists, people brought snacks to bus-ridden school children, teachers turned a nightmare into the best lock-in ever - these are just a few examples of how Atlanta persevered.

When Atlanta's transportation heart froze, her people kept her love beating - and moved into action.

Atlanta's motto - Resurgens - means "from the ashes."  This was a city annihilated by Sherman.  This was a city that could have evaporated after a war nearly tore the nation apart.  But it survived, then thrived.  It endured a terrible racist time period, but then emerged as a hallmark city - a "city too busy to hate."

Atlanta, Georgia's great industrial center and life-giver, will learn from this and get better.  You see, I will forever ignore the remarks of those who scoff at her weakness, because I know her story.

There are few cities stronger than Atlanta, and she has overcome too much to let ice (and even traffic) overwhelm her.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Rejected Age. The Redemption Age.

If you know me or anything about me, you know that I teach 8th graders for a living.

One of the things you may not know about my job is how many negative things I hear about my job from other people.

When I go out into the public world and I'm asked about my job, I usually hear the following myriad of responses:

"Oh my goodness, don't you want to teach high school?"

"Ugh.  I'm sorry. How do you do that?"

"Good for you.  You couldn't pay me enough money to do that!"

"Oh, wow - your life must be so stressful!"

"Do you hate it?  I bet you hate it."

These come from everywhere - people from all stations of life.

I used to just be polite and give a nonchalant answer, but I've decided that passivity is insipid.  I've decided to counter these generalizations and assumptions with logic.

So, the last time I was faced with the comment, I floored the salesperson by saying, 'Actually, I love what I do. I love my kids.  8th graders are amazing."

And they are.

I actually read an article a few weeks ago where the author said he couldn't think of anything worse than being a middle school teacher - that it would have to be the worst job on the planet.

I feel sorry for that writer and his ignorance.

Middle school is a terrible time in life for so many kids - and I was once one of those kids, so I speak from experience.  Things change, bodies grow.  Life is convoluted mess of friendships, emotions, and new academic pressure.  Insecurities run rampant.  Growing up and facing reality becomes inevitable.

It is also one of the most crossroads-driven times of life - many kids decide in 8th grade if they really want to take school seriously for the rest of their academic career.  It's the time when many of them begin to sink or swim. 

Middle school is a nexus of life - between full-fledged young adulthood and just being a kid.  I find it heartbreaking that some people look upon what I do - and these kids - with pity and with disdain.  These kids, quite frankly, need us.

I teach a critical age.  Is it a tough job?  You betcha.  Are there hard days?  Yes.  But I wish I had an 8th grade teacher that loved 8th grade me.  I wish I had an 8th grade teacher that invested in 8th grade me.  Don't you wish for the same?  Don't you wish that there would have been something in your adolencent life that would have made it easier?  That gave you hope?

I want that for my students.

Middle school kids are not easy, but they are so full of life, hope, and laughter.  They've still got just enough kid in them to embrace a little silliness, and yet, they're starting to explore social norms.  But here's what I've found:  if you can get them to laugh, you've won them over.  If you can get them interested, you can light them up.  If you talk to them instead of yelling at them, you can get some honest, breathtaking truth.

So don't feel sorry for me.  My job isn't easy. And no, it isn't for everyone.

But  in the past few years I've experienced seeing some of my former 8th graders grow into riveting, responsible adults.   I look back at these lives that defy poverty and comprehension -- and I thank God for being amazing.

Those, my friends, are the rewards of my job  - a job that is anything but terrible.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Water Under the Bridge

The other day was designated a "Mama and Amelia Day."

We don't get many of these days often during the school year, and I wanted it to be special and filled with fall fun.

It was a perfect, perfect day.

We went to Burt's Pumpkin Farm and hit it at a really good time.  The crowds were low and the pumpkin rolls were delicious.






Amelia and I got to ride the hay ride all by ourselves.  She sat in my lap, talked my ear off about pumpkins, and enjoyed the view.

I knew Amicalola Falls was just down the road, so I thought we would try it out.   I asked Amelia if she wanted to see "the waterfall," and she assured me that she did, and that she could handle all of the steps.  I haven't been to Amicalola in years, so I wasn't sure about the hike, but I thought if it got too rigorous, we could turn around and walk back down.

The park was beautiful, and the weather was perfect - crisp but not too cold, with a warm sun beating down on us in a promising manner.


When we got to the first little fall, Amelia shrieked in excitement.  "WATERFALL, MAMA!  WATERFALL!"

After she said that, I knew we made the right decision.

"You haven't seen anything yet!" I promised.

Once I explained to her that there were many more steps to take to get to the really big waterfall, Amelia determined to reach it.  She climbed those stairs like a pro, gingerly taking each step with excitement.  There were several elderly couples around us, and they all marveled at her energy and intensity.


And then - we finally saw it.  Beauty.

How can anyone see such things and doubt the presence of God?

We climbed to the little bridge that stretched across the fall and I stared for a second.

"Isn't it amazing, Amelia?" I asked pointing heavenward.

"Amelia?"





"Look, MAMA!  Water is under here! Look at that water!  Look!  Look!"

As much as I tried to convince Amelia that the real beauty was right before her, I couldn't take her head out that grate.  People walked by her and giggled and pointed at the sight.

It was borderline embarassing.

We were at this beautiful waterfall, and my child looked down?

She was more enamored with the water below the bridge than she was with the water above her.


And I snapped a picture, shook my head, and then felt in my spirit that God had something to teach me - that He would find the words to summarize this event in my head.

Sometimes words come to me in jumbles - in puzzle pieces - and I have to knit them together, but I knew there was something  in that moment that I needed to take with me.

When I prayed for this girl, I prayed for wisdom.  Leadership.  That God would use her in mighty ways.  And when He made her, He made her to see things that not everyone sees.

When the rest of the world looks up, she looks down, to see the beauty - the miracle - below her.

We all have bridges in our lives - things we've had to inevitably cross.  We all want to see the waterfalls, but sometimes, we forget that there is beauty in victory - in standing over bridges to watch the waters of despair finally, finally leave us.  Redemption's bridge is just as beautiful as waterfalls of righteousness.

I'll never forget that moment - when my daughter looked down when others looked up - as a reminder to take in the whole scene.

There is splendor in the extraordinary, sure, but sometimes there is something worthy to be found in observing the little things - the dirty things - the things that seem unlovable.

 May I never forget to be thankful for the girl that looks down.



Sunday, November 10, 2013

They Are Leaving Us

This year on the EHMS Veterans Day Panel, we had three men who were World War II Veterans (I've done a little research on this word and been told that the word "Veteran" is supposed to be capitalized, so there you have it).

These three men were precious, feisty, and full of stories.  Some were of war, some were of a soldier's day-to-day life, and some were of heartbreaking loss.





One of the younger Veterans turned toward the WWII Veteran from the Navy and asked sincerely, "Sir, how old are you?"

"I'm ninety-one!" He piped up happily.

Ninety-one.

I think I was just as shocked as the students.  Am I this old?  Are they this old? 

Many, many of our WWII Vets are in their nineties. 

Some of the students probably found that these older gentlemen told tales of war a little too boring for their ears.  Some students probably were thinking about their next Tweet or Instagram post.  But for many - they understood. I could see it in their eyes. They knew they were hearing stories they may never hear again.

I went home, exhausted from the events of the panel, to find that Jeremy found me an article about the Doolittle Raids.  Every year, the Veterans from this battle have a meeting to remember what took place.  Only four out of the original eighty soldiers are left, and one was too sick to attend this year.  It was decided that this year would be the last reunion.  I cried looking at that sad little picture of the three Veterans celebrating the very last reunion of the Doolittle Raids.

Folks, they are leaving us.  These veterans - these members of the Greatest Generation (and even those who are younger)- are falling away, one by one.

And with them go their stories.  Their tales of heroism.  Their tales of sacrifice.  Their tales of sadness.  Their tales of having nothing - and making that nothing into something extraordinary.

This year, the panel felt sad without the addition of one beloved Mr. McElreath - the Vietnam Veteran who went through such a tragic experience in war.  He was too sick to attend this year, and his health is declining.  I'm so thankful that he got to speak to those groups of kids last year - it gave his story new vigor.  It gave his story a chance to live.

So, on the eve of this Veterans Day, I ask that we do more than thank those Veterans around us.  If you know a Veteran, do more than say "thank you."  Ask them if they are willing to share their story.  Each story is precious, personal, and a gift of living history.  You never know when that story may fade.
 
"They know you appreciate them. They need you to learn about them. Tell them that you will." - Jarrod Chlapowski

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Orange Fever

I just bought this:



This is what Starbucks uses in its Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  I have yet to make anything or find anything that even comes close to this pumpkin sauce.  The other concoctions are good, but there is something really distinct about this syrup (that doesn't have a single bit of pumpkin in it...shocker). 

64 ounces of this goodness means I'll have my own PSLs for cheap, and I'll have plenty left for my Cookie Swap! How amazing is that?!

I took Amelia to two of these:



 I went to a pumpkin painting party and made these stunners (try not to be envious of my Sharpie skills):


I have five pumpkins at my house.  Six if you count the one Amelia made at school.  Seven if you count the one that started randomly growing the graveyard beside my house.

Think I'm obsessed?

Amelia's 4th Birthday

Amelia had quite a birthday this year, and I'm just now posting about it.

Haven't I already told you that August is a vampire?

Apparently, so is September.  Yowza.

I have a confession. I'm not crazy about birthday parties.  I realize they are a natural part of life, like wrinkles - inevitable.  I don't plan on having Amelia a big birthday party every year, but every now and then I do feel like one is necessary.

Pinterest somehow talked me into looking into a movie party for an option.  I have a great friends in the media business, and I asked them what it would take it pull it off, and how I could do it - and they did something amazing.  They VOLUNTEERED to come to my house, set up their awesome equipment, and take it down.  For free.  Seriously. (Don't be hating on my amazing friends!  I know they're awesome!)

I knew I couldn't resist such an offer.  

So, friends, we had a movie birthday party.

I borrowed a popcorn maker.  Throughout the summer, I picked up "movie snacks" each time I went to the grocery store.  I scoured Amazon for some deals on popcorn holders.  I borrowed red and white checkered tablecloths from my in-laws.  And, of course, I bought a few cupcakes.

We had the party right at the dusk of summer - on Amelia's birthday - before our break was over.  One last hoorah before early mornings and early bedtimes.

It was fantastic, and hopefully a party Amelia will never forget.  She loved every minute of it.  She danced in front of the screen, sang all the songs, and partied hard with all of her little friends.






It was truly a perfect night.