Monday, February 28, 2011

Why I get mocked

Friday I was surfing the internet as my kids were working on their form poetry. A couple of kids wrote some really good villanelles. Really good. It was awesome.

So I am clicking through my normal list of blogs and one of my funny latino gentemen says to me.

"Mrs. Norman, are you looking up how to be a good mom on the internet?"

"Ummm, I guess you could say that. Yeah."

"This is why we make fun of white people."

To which one of my black girls chimed in, "For real Ms. Norman"

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Attitude adjusted

So as you could see from this post I've been a little out of sorts lately. Wednesday I asked my small group to pray that I would get a celestial attitude adjustment. I had expressed some fear in praying for that for myself as God is usually as subtle with me as a two by four to the temple. It may have something to do with me lacking subtly myself. Y'all, those folks can pray! By Thursday at lunch I had realized I was feeling much better about my job, and decided to reward myself by heading Chick-fil-A and picking up lunch. The day was BEAUTIFUL and was even more beautiful when I talked to my Detroit sister and compared it to her winter warnings. (Seriously, why do people live there?) The perfect lunch run was topped off car stalling out in the parking lot. When I came back from picking up my original chicken sandwich,(McDonalds, please stop trying. Southern style is clearly code for Chick-fil-A rip off) my engine would not quite turn over, and yes I made sure it was in park.

I was freaking out. I was supposed to be back for a meeting at 12:25 and I had forgotten to tell anyone I was off campus! I also should have saved my two "must call if you are going to be out" people in my phone about a month ago but I haven't gotten around to it. ( procratination is showing out lately.) It hadn't even been running hot! How could this happen? I tried to sit there calmly and wait five minutes. But a few minutes into that patient five I just yelled "God, I really need my car to start!" and turned the key. No problem. I was back at school in five minutes flat. I was pretty pumped and singing praise.

Oh how easy it is to sing praise when your car starts. So my day ended and I hopped in the car, rolled my windows down and took off. Seriously, no traffic. I am officially out of my funk, Praise The Lord. When WHAM I got hit by a guy who had passed out and crossed the center line, and hit my drivers side door on the way to the tree on the other side of the street.

No major damage that I know of. I am going to get checked better on Monday because I am still really sore. This is what I know. If Memorial had been as bad as it usually is, it could have been a lot worse, with a lot more cars involved, and he probably would have hit me far more head on. Which would have been worse.

So praise God that I am not in the hospital, and maybe I will stop wallowing in the funk next time and be careful about praying for an attitude adjustment. Because I think I got one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Operator Error

So I hopped in my car last Monday, and it wouldn't turn on. I was a little annoyed, but not extremely. It has been running kind of hot lately and I had had a big weekend. I thought maybe I had left the light on or something. Seemed like a battery issue to me. Besides, Christian doesn't really need a car on Monday, we would figure it out when I get home.

Except me and my husband......we both procrastinate. He took me to school on Tuesday and my sister Jill came and picked me up and we got the peanut. We would look at it on Wednesday....but we didn't....and Calvin came to get me on Thursday. Finally, yesterday we got around to looking at my lovely Craigslist special.

We were stumped, until Christian went to throw it in neutral and found that I had never put it in park when I got out Saturday it wasn't in park when I went to start it Monday. So it wouldn't start. Christian was so glad it was a free and easy fix he wasn't that annoyed with me.

Man, this would be far less embarrassing if it was the first time it happened..........

Monday, February 21, 2011

Agape Fail

So it's about to get real. You have been warned.

Last week my principal, who I have a great amount of respect for, came to observe my classroom. He was unimpressed. It did not go well.

There were lots of factors that went into this bad day, as there are a million factors that go into every day. Essentially, I told my kids to do xyz, but they didn't and I simply did not have the energy to walk around and tell each kid individually to get it together. So I more or less let them off. Then my principal, who really puts his money where his mouth is and gives everything he has every single day, walks in the door. And my kids are pretty much sitting there.......and some are sleeping. Not my best moment. Easily one of my worst moments as a teacher.

I wish I could say I recovered beautifully, but I did not. Pretty much the whole observation was like that.Ugh. But I am not surprised that this all went down because recently I have been suffering from a lack of love. It is love my neighbor month at 1027 church. A time when we are challenged to step back from ourselves and take a look at the people around us. Reflect on how God is calling us to serve our neighbors and heed that call.

And if I am going to be honest for a moment (you know because I usually put myself in such a positive light on this thing.....) I don't feel like it. I simply don't feel like it. I don't want to be bothered with going above and beyond. I want to do my part, and have everyone else do their part....and if there is slack have someone else pick it up. When God puts on my heart to love my neighbor, I want to tell Him it isn't my turn. How about you  choose someone else to love my students for a change and let me teach poetic language and then go home?

I know that part of it is that I am a public school teacher and it is February. March is looming and looking long. Christmas break was so long ago and spring break is not coming fast enough. And I have one of  those professions where it is just really obvious when you are and aren't loving your students (clients, patients, whatever you call them). I know that the loving thing is to be patient one more day, give the kid one more reminder as to what successful behavior is, give every lecture 100 percent because not only is it the loving thing, but my kids are already behind, and can't afford anything less. And I am tired. And loving my students takes energy that I don't have and a hope that I am not sure exists in me anymore. It takes time that I would rather spend doing something else, something that didn't require me to look beyond myself.

Wow, that is ugly. But if I am honest it is how I feel right now. These sentiments accurately reflect what is going on in my heart. And it is I love my neighbor month, and I am suffering from some serious agape fail. Snap out of it Abby.......there are people with real problems in the world.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Essays from my esses

So I had the equivalent of a who's on first spanglish conversation in my class today. It was again by my three jokers in fourth period. The conversation that had me rolling today went something like:

Me: Boy #1, what are you doing? Get out your essay!

Boy #1: Hey! I'm the esse!

Me: No, esse I mean your essay, the one you are supposed to be writing.

Boy #1: You can't call me that. That is racist

Me: Fine, write your paper. Boy #2 where is your essay?

Boy #2: (Pointing to boy #3) Right there! Esse!

Boy #3: Hey! Esse!

Me: BLAH! Everybody get out a piece of paper and write on it!

That last bell can never ring quite soon enough.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

60 degrees and GRUMPY?!?

It has been a little chilly here lately. It even snowed on Thursday, and there wasn't even a two hour delay! What the heck is the point of that? But not this past weekend. This weekend the weather was so amazingly sunny, and reached 60 degrees. 60 degrees! In February! Evey year these random warm February days surprise me. Isn't it March that is supposed to be in like a lion and out like a lamb. Not south of the Mason Dixon baby!

For a short time when we first moved down here I had a job that made me tool around the city of Atlanta in prime gouge your eyes  out traffic hours. Coming down 400 at 4:30 on a Thursday afternoon? Comparatively water boarding doesn't seem that bad. But occasionally we would have these amazing gorgeous February days and suddenly the drive wasn't that bad. I could put the windows down! In February! Are you hearing me, I could drive around with the windows down before St. Patrick's day. (And not because the windows stopped working at an inopportune moment at the drive thru and the car you were driving was in lieu of a payment your dad's client could not afford to pay. Then you just had to pretend it was 60 degrees and sunny. Jill, Em, holler if you hear me.)

It didn't matter if it took 45 minutes to go 15 miles. I had my windows down. I would put my sunglasses on and smile. I would put my bare hand out of the window and start working on my ring tan. I could handle the traffic, see it as a blessing even because I had come from a place where I appreciated sunny, beautiful, February days. PEOPLE, I wanted to scream, SOMEBODY THROW A PARTY I HAVE MY WINDOWS DOWN IN FEBRUARY ON PURPOSE!

I will never forget the day I saw a guy in his convertible,  with the top down, in February, mad as could be because apparently someone cut him off. I started laughing. I could not believe that someone could be that angry when they were sitting in their amazing car with the top down in the middle of winter. This guy clearly did not know what it was like to go without the sun for a month at a time. He didn't know that there are people in the Midwest who lose their sunglasses every season because they go that long without needing them. He just didn't get it. He did not have problems, how can you have problems with your top down in February?

I wonder how many 60 degrees and grumpy moments I have in my own life. Not about the weather, but metaphorically. I mean, I have a great husband and a healthy, happy baby. I go to a job, that while tedious when it comes to paperwork, I mostly enjoy. I actually believe I am making a difference. I like my students and my co-workers. So when I roll out of bed and just don't feel like going? I need to recognize the blessing that is my life. I need to realize that over all my life is 60 degrees in February, maybe somebody did cut me off, but considering the overall circumstances, I can let it slide.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Be careful what you lick

A week or so ago we were all hanging around on the bed after we had folded some laundry, the husband, the peanut and myself. I was running in and out of the room, probably putting away the ridiculous amount of shoes I had out. Probably not. Probably thinking about how I should put them away while I walk past them repeatedley and avoiding the copious amounts of clothes I have been leaving on the futon re-organizing for a month and a half.

Anyway, the peanut was crawling around on the bed testing things out by, you know, putting them in her mouth. (My cousin calls this the dog stage.) She managed to pull the ac adapter chord out of the baby monitor and was staring intently at it. I then left the room and figured her dad would keep this day from turning into babies first emergency room trip. The next thing I know I hear a cry come out of the room....

From the husband! Turns out the peanut put the ac adaptor in her mouth and made a face like it didn't taste very good. I am sure it doesn't. Christian thought, surely if she is reacting like that it has to be no, or very little shock. Apparently the baby has a high pain tolerance? Who knows. But your tongue does in fact complete the circuit.

How many times have I done this in my life, looked at somebody else and said, "I know that is not the best idea, or exactly in God's plan.......but they haven't gotten burned by it! Surely I can get away with it too!" You can guess how many times that thinking has worked out for me......

Oh, and after we got done laughing hysterically about it, the husband asked me, "This is going to go in your blog, huh?"

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Oh, yes.....because I am not in charge.

Just moments ago I found myself hollering at my students "I don't like having to defend my choices to you! I am aware of what is going on in other people's classrooms. I know what they are and are not doing. I have a reason we are doing things the way that we are."

Then I thought about the conversations I have been having recently with God. I wonder if He ever wants to yell that at me. I am so glad He has more patience than I. But maybe I need that hollered at me.
"Abby, I don't like having to defend my choices to you. Don't you trust me enough to know that I make the best choices for you? Yes, I am aware how it has worked for your (sister, friend, someone you heard about once). Don't you think I set that up as well? I have reasons as to why we are doing things this way. Trust me."

Monday, February 07, 2011

The kid with the fish

I have a good friend who lives down the street. Brooke is a single woman who loves God and the city. Basically, she listens to God and then does what He tells her. It seems to be working for her

One day, through a series of happenstance (that can only be God when you look back at them) she started babysitting for a woman who had recently left an abusive relationship and needed someone to watch her three kids while she waited tables (lets be honest, how great of a shift do you have to have in order to make it worth coming to work after you have paid the sitter?) Brooke was initially torn about babysitting. Who wants to commit your Saturday afternoons? She considered farming out the job to me and my husband, or another couple that lives in the neighborhood. But the Lord spoke into Brooke's heart and she listened.

God told Brooke, you are single and you will never have more time than you do right now. I want you to do this. Can we pause there for a second.... I know that there are some serious struggles to being single. I can't imagine how hard some of it all is and I don't want to be one of those married people who is all "single is FUN single is FREE what the heck are you complaining about!" Single is lonely sometimes, waiting on God is hard, feeling a little like your adult life is in limbo must be kinda you are pregnant without a due date. I think it is cool that Brooke recognized that God had her in a circumstance purposefully. He wasn't all "Hey, when you are partnered up, then you can do something. Till then, chill out." And God doesn't say to me "You were of use to me when you didn't have all those husband, baby, house strings. But now that you have all those obligations I don't expect you to serve me." He uses the circumstances He put us in in the first place.

Anyway, so Brooke goes to babysit. She sees that this mom, Elizabeth, is doing everything she can, but seriously: not enough hours in a day (Lord, can you do something about that? 26?). She comes back to the small group we host at our house and asks if maybe a group of people can come over to weed wack her backyard. Brooke's heart is burdened for Elizabeth.

Elizabeth starts attending 1027 and bringing her kiddos. She feels loved their. I have the peanut and she finds the time to take her three children grocery shopping and then bring my family dinner. Meanwhile, Christian and I are trying to come up with the perfect childcare plan. We only need someone two days a week, surely, surely we can just trade with one of the part time mom's at the church, right? They have one kid, we have one kid..... then we started praying about it. Three days later Christian and I confered. It went like this "I got a name, did you get a name?" "Yeah, what name did you get? "What name did you get?" "You first." "No you." (We are so mature.) "I got Elizabeth" "Good, me too."

I called her and the conversation went something like this. "Do you want to swap two days a week childcare for two nights a week childcare?" "Yes." "Great."

And now? I hate using the term "babysitter" because that isn't what the relationship feels like to me. Bonus parent maybe, advisor, parenting mentor, really good friend. Bearer of wine and dinner after a parent teacher night from hell. Yeah that too. She adores the peanut, and we adore her kids. Her daughter calls the peanut her sister and makes up stories to the picture books as she holds the book out to show her the pictures.
I was talking to Brooke, about how blessed I feel. About how when I was still in the hospital the Lord put Elizabeth so heavy on my heart I asked Christian if we should change the peanut's name. About how she has blessed my family so incredibly by answering the Lord's call. She told me she felt like the kid with the fish. She brought what she had (three hours on a Saturday) and the Lord has multiplied that beyond her wildest dreams. The Lord has multiplied her gift to meet the needs of the people around her. How cool is that?

And that is my prayer. Lord, help me to hear you. And may you multiply the fish that I bring.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Good Daughter

I grew up in a house with two older sisters. The Lord deemed my parents as excellent girl-raisers. So they got three girls. A couple at my church is expecting their third girl, I believe it is a compliment from God. A sign that they are doing a remarkable job with the first two.

Anyway, while each sister has her different strengths and weaknesses, there is definitely a thick stripe in all of us that marks us as from the same tribe. We all marched in the marching band in some capacity, we all did the musicals, we were all in the high school choir at some point and took some honors classes. We all came to know the Lord at relatively young ages and were active in our faith by high school. This didn't escape the eye of many teachers and various peers.

One way that we attempted to distinguish ourselves, mostly in a joking manner, was being "the good daughter." I am not even sure how it happened, how we started yelling it. But one of us would announce, "I did the dishes, so I am the good daughter today!" or "I'm the good daughter because I helped cook while everyone else sat around on their butt!" When Em was the only bearer of the grand-babies, she had serious good daughter status. How do you compete with that?

Later it morphed into, I am the good daughter because I am the only one who didn't mess up today. I won't broadcast their business on the internet, but I remember the day that two major mess ups came in, one on each sister. I was the good daughter that day for sure. I remember it happening because it was so rare!

We still do it, joke about being "the good daughter." If you are the first one to call on a birthday or anniversary, or if you are the only one in town. You are the good daughter. It is all in good fun for us. But I agree with the sentiment that there is a sliver of truth to everything you joke about.

I think we, sisters...all of us, we like the idea of being favored. Who doesn't want to be the favorite? If you are the favorite then the good you do is extra good, and the bad you do isn't so bad after all. Who doesn't want to be seen through that lens? The part that makes it a little messed up, is the comparison aspect. If I am the favorite that means I am held in MORE favor than someone else. I don't think only children think being the good kid is any big deal. Of course they are the favorite, there isn't another choice.

That is how the Lord is different. He doesn't operate with a concrete amount of favor and once He runs out, sorry about your luck. God is big enough, His love is big enough that everyone can be His favorite. (Someone on the prayer team at my home church prayed that over me, I am not smart enough to realize this on my own.) No seriously, wrap your mind around that. This second you can start claiming that according to God, YOU are the good daughter. Somebody at work not treating you right? That sucks, but rest in the fact that you are God's favorite. Really hard on yourself because you can't lose the rest of the weight you are trying to lose? Keep trying, God favors you.

It doesn't make any sense if you think about it too hard. How can each person be favored, doesn't the word favor connotate picking something above the rest? (Whoa there English teacher I think you are taking your job a little too seriously.... What you gonna diagram the next sentence?) It does. Normally. But God doesn't have to operate within those rules. His love is big enough to allow me and you to be His favorite. So bask in that. You are favored by God. God favors you.

All of this is true, you have to believe it. Because today I am His "good daughter."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Enough already

I grew up in a pretty middle class exsistence. Two parents, two siblings, a dog. Sometimes things were tight, but mostly if we really wanted it, our parents found a way to make that happen. Even if that meant picking up a paper route to get to horse camp, or an after school office job to get to Spain. I certainly didn't know what it meant to not have enough food, even if it wasn't the fruit snacks and doritos that graced my friends cupboards. We got by.

At the lake, where there were more people to feed and keep happy but there were the incredibly generous grandparents, as well as some sort of system in place to insure everyone got their piece. A caper chart, a line going by age, an aunt telling the older cousins "only three meat balls till everyone has had some!" There was either so much that everyone could have as much as they wanted (candy on the porch), or some system in place to make sure that everyone at least got enough (half a pan is more than one serving, put the lasagna back).

In the fall of 2007 I started teaching at a "high needs" school. High needs is politically correct for poor. In this case really poor. Ninety-eight percent of my students were on free lunch. The other two percent had lives so chaotic no one bothered to fill out the form. It was my first experience with never enough. The books we were assigned by the county to read? There weren't enough for every tenth grade classroom to even have a class set. You had to anticipate the reading of them, and then sneak in and take them before the other teachers. Even then I only got 28 for my class of 34. We didn't have enough desks. In fifth period it was first come first serve. My kids would race to class in order to ensure they did not have to sit on the floor. In October we ran out of paper. This was a complete shock to me, but teachers (older and wiser than me) had seen it coming and squirled away as much as they could the previous months. They still ran out. I ran out of extra pencils and paper. There weren't enough expo markers or computer time. There wasn't even enough toilet paper in the student bathrooms.

It is crazy what always running out of things does to people. You are constantly scheming to get what you need. Constantly. If there are ten extra pieces of paper in the fax machine, you take them. If you find an extra dry erase marker on the floor you put it in your pocket. You do not stop to consider that it is someone elses. You need it. Do I have extra tape? Technically yes, but I am going to shrug my shoulders and say "sorry" because I can be pretty sure that when I do eventually run out of tape, there will be none available. When you get an email that says: come by the library if you want xyz, there is a stampede of grown people. It makes you stingy, it makes you take things that aren't yours. An incredible amount of your energy is taken up by figuring out how you can get what you need.

I think it is easy to judge behavior when you don't understand. I remember when I was seventeen and earning my gold award at a homeless shelter for families. Whenever we gave the kids anything, even if it was the same thing to every kid, they would steal it from each other. I thought this was ridiculous. Now I get it. Who knows when you are going to have a chance to get another pencil? Better take as many as I can get now.

It wasn't until I started teaching in this environment that I truly understood why God would describe himself as "enough" as "more than enough." If I believe that God is more than enough for me, (not just sing it, but really believe it) then I would act in a manner that shows I believe all of my needs will be met. I would give more. I could give away so much more because I wouldn't have to worry about stockpiling. So much of what I don't give comes down to trying to make sure I have enough just in case. But God says He is the enough. I don't have to scrimp and save. If someone else asks for something I have I can certainly give it to them.

I also don't have to take more than I need. For me right now that means food. I don't have to take a ton of something. I can take enough, and trust that that is enough, and I will have an opportunity to eat more of it at some later junction. (Isn't that weird? I am an adult. I do my own grocery shopping, I don't have to eat 15 packs of fruit snacks because I can buy them whenever I want. Why do I feel like I need all of them RIGHT NOW? I have issues.)

I'm not saying that I don't have to be responsible, or a good steward of what God has given me. I can act in a way that proves I have a never ending supply closet somewhere in my home. Because I do. Because God is enough.