Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dear Mrs. Westmoreland

I cried the day I left you.

Summers were normally welcomed with an impolite yell, an excited dance down the halls of elementary school, and plans full of sleepovers and video games.

On the day I left you, the melancholy slammed into my ten year-old heart. As I sat on the bus to my friend's house, unable to control my tears, I thought about how I was leaving something I couldn't explain, something very real.

Something very indescribable.

I had teachers before - many wonderful ones.  But none of those teachers made me want to spend time in a classroom more than you.

To this day, I think about you.  I think about the day you cried when you heard about the student in class being abused.  I think about the day you told us that the father of one my classmates died - and the way you told us in your still, gentle voice.  Your eyes filled with tears.  I remember thinking, "she really cares about us.  She really does love us."

I think about how you chocked up the day we watched Charlotte's Web.  I think about the time you couldn't finish the end of the "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" without tears sliding down your face.

I remember all the books - tales of Fudge, a ghost named Helen, and a hurt, abused girl named Laurie.

No one could draw an image in my mind like you did.

I think about how you acted flat-out crazy, made me laugh hysterically, and encouraged me to be myself.  You embraced my quirkiness.  You gave me the "Best Actress" award in your class, and I felt like I won an Oscar.

The last day of school, when I handed you my bowl of homemade ice cream, you smiled and said you loved it, despite the fact that rock salt had somehow manuvered its way into the turbine.

I thought about this - all of this - as I sat in a heap of tears and misery on what should have been a happy, wonderful last day of school.

Though my childhood heart could not determine what it was about you that was so special, my adult heart grows more and more understanding each day.

You gave me the gift of a compassionate teacher.

I spent one of the best years of my life with you as my guide.

Each day, as I walk into a classroom filled with young teenage children, I think about my role in their lives.  I think about how one teacher, despite the cliches, really can make a difference.

I think about you when my students stress me out, when they talk back to me, and when they come to me for comfort.  I think about you when I sense an intangible moment - one where I know I can make my students think and learn.  You are, undoubtedly, one of the reasons I am the person I am today.

See, Mrs. Westmoreland, I didn't get to be an actress.  But I do get to stand in front of an audience every day.  Those two-hundred eyes look to me for a different show.  And despite my loud mouth, my impatience, my quirkiness, and my sassy side - I know how to be a good teacher because of your example.

I pray I give my students a Mrs. Westmoreland - a teacher who loves despite deficiencies, inspires beyond circumstances, and moves the hearts of students years beyond the reach of school.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Want to see my real life? Get on Pinterest.

Hello, my name is Dana, and I'm addicted to Pinterest.

If you haven't gotten on Pinterest yet, be glad that you haven't gotten drawn into its time-sucking vortex of crafts, recipes, and all sorts of other ideas.

It's a way to feel crafty without actually having to be crafty.  To feel useful without really being useful.  To categorize ideas without ever using them. 

Unfortunately, if there's one thing in this life that I am decidedly NOT, it is crafty.  I cannot cut in straight lines, draw anything, or make even the most basic crafts.  I got a frowny face on my papers in Kindergarten when I couldn't trace the curved lines.  When I "model" projects for the kids at school, my artwork is usually lampooned by my students in articulate fashion ("Dang, Miss!  You cain't draw!").   I am not one of those people who can look at a blank room and put together a furniture arrangement.  Honestly, the only things I like to arrange are words.  In sentences.

I'm basically on Pinterest to look at food, clothes, ideas, and to pin the things that look "pretty."  If it's a craft, I usually tag one of my other friends in it with the thought, "Kathi or Jennifer could make that."  It is really a glamorous representation of my not-so-glamorous life.

Apparently, I'm a very good at representing my Pinterest interests.  I must click on the right pictures.

I'm a Pinterest celebrity, yo!

I started a board to post cookies on for my annual cookie swap this Christmas.  What turned out to be a cute little board for my friends has turned into a pretty popular board.  It gains ten or more people a day.

Let's be honest: I couldn't count 278 people who actually like me, so seeing this board always startles me.

I also realized that it brings up other issues, namely:  1) who are these people?  and 2) do they expect an invitation?  I don't think I could make enough food to feed that many people.  I mean, I've got a big yard, but not quite that big.

Despite these odd little instances with Pinterest, I've actually used a couple of the things I've found on there.  I made sweet potato biscuits.  I did one of the "home help hints" and was able to unclog Jeremy's bathroom sink with baking soda and boiling water.  It was my greatest Pinterest success to date.

I haven't decided if Pinterest is a Martha Stewart-decried "good thing" yet.  I'm on the fence.  It is either the best or the worst thing ever.

I'd let you know more, but I really need to go start a Christmas board.

It's important.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lil' Pumpkin

Fall 2009:


Fall 2010:

Fall 2011:

What a big girl.  Sigh.

Earthquakes and Aftershocks

I've had a lot of responses to my "risky post."

It was a little overwhelming.

I don't like to be "the bad guy."  I don't like to cause drama/trouble.

But I don't regret the post.  I don't regret questioning something, even if I wrong.  I want to be a thinking believer.  I don't want to simply follow everything Christian Culture tells me to follow...and I won't.  I guess that's one of those skills that I learned as a historian and a teacher:  it's okay to question..  It's okay to investigate.  It's okay to search for a better understanding.

I'll give my thoughts on the movie when it comes to Netflix.  Until then, know that my prayer for believers is for us to be sustained by the person of Jesus Christ, to be sustained by grace and not works, and to be sustained by the word of God.

This youtube clip says what I pretty much wanted to say:

What is the Gospel?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Poor Nelly Baby

Amelia has learned a lot of things in the past two weeks.

In the midst of my teeth-induced pain, she's learned 1) how to turn on light switches (and, conversely, how to turn them off)  2) how to climb onto our island in our kitchen 3) how to find every candle in the house and 4) how to crawl onto our bed and jump on it.

This has not made my recovery easy.

Through all this, I've learned that while two year-olds are very skilled, they trip often.  Well, maybe just my kid trips often.  Maybe this has something to do with her size seven (no, I'm not kidding - true story) feet.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Amelia fell on the playground at the school near our house, and ended up with an unfortunate boo-boo.

While she's learning stuff, I'm learning things, too.

I learned I can't keep a two-year old from tripping, no matter how hard I try.

Today, I learned that Amelia has allergies.  The allergies have brought on a miserable cough.  Sorry for that little genetic gift, Amelia.

And, I've learned that I never feel good enough as a that normal?

(FYI - Just in case you were wondering, Amelia did not fall on purpose to make a mark so she could protest a relative in jail.  Thank you.)