Tag Archives: life lessons

My Felt-Board Message is Different than Yours, and That’s Okay.

2018 is here! Happy New Year!

As I sat home last night with my two dogs and 1.5 cats (Ellie was around somewhere, I suppose) waiting for my teenagers to come home from parent-chaperoned parties, I scrolled through Instagram.

I’ve done that a lot over break. Probably too much.

As much as love the written word, I love the images more. The whole “a picture speaks a thousand words” concept, you know?

I enjoy seeing the happiness of others – my extended family, my work friends, people I don’t even know – celebrating major life events.

Sometimes, I admit, it leaves me thinking, “What would I put on one of those trendy felt-boards if I owned one?”

What if I owned one when I was me ….20, 18, 12, or 8 years ago?

Would I have jumped on the felt-board bandwagon?

Would my life have been captured in public posts announcing the biggest moments of my life?

I’m sure it would have been.

We all want to share our happiness, our joy, and our life-changing moments with the world.

But what if my happiness this past year was different than yours?

What if the things you celebrated seemed like tiny accomplishments or things you wouldn’t carefully spell out on a felt-board, but they made you feel good just the same?

It’s ok.


We are all in our own seasons of life, and all the things that make each season exciting are going to look a little different in photos and on felt-boards.

It doesn’t mean my 2017 was less than, or greater than, yours.

My 2017 was just different.

I suspect my 2018 will be exactly the same – different.

May your 2018 be felt-board worthy, if not on Instagram, then simply in your heart.


Searching for the Connection

While we were doing Literature Circles in my inclusion class, I really started thinking about comprehension, reading strategies, metacognition, and connecting with the text. Not to toot my own horn, but I think one of my strengths has always been helping kids make connections with what they read.

However, it seems that for a while now the focus of my class has veered away from these much needed reading strategies and focused more only on citing evidence to answer constructed response questions.

Sometimes I think if I say the words “Find evidence from the text to support your response,” I might throw up.

If they aren’t understanding and connecting with the text, how are they going to be able to come up with a solid response with the right evidence?

When I step back and look at the big picture, I start to feel confusion, conflict, and a little bit of chaos in my mind.  Eighteen years of ideas, strategies, tricks, and educational jargon is swirling around in my head and I can’t figure out what to do and how to do it.

What is more important? What needs to happen first? What do my specific kids need? How do I get there?

I feel like I have temporarily lost sight of my beliefs and my philosophy.

Or is there a possibility my philosophy doesn’t work in today’s educational world?

I know I have strong opinions as an intervention specialist. I know that have my own beliefs about how kids learn best. I know that I have some great teaching strategies that work.  I know I have a lot of ground to make up with my students who are still reading far below grade level and state-expectations.

I just can’t find a way to put it all together.

I cannot make the connection.

I am searching for a connection between all that I know and all that I have and all that I read and all that I want to do and all that my kids need to understand to make it in the life that is planned for them.

So yesterday, when my 1st period class started and two of my girls started asking me tough questions about a young man in our town who just received a life-saving heart transplant, I had to veer away from my plans.

They had shown the news story on our morning announcements and once this small side-conversation started, my whole class joined in:

What if he didn’t get a heart?

How much did they have to pay for the heart?

What happened to the person who donated the heart?

How do they take his old heart out and put a new one in? 

Do you have to die to donate your organs?

Was he awake when he got his heart?

What was wrong with his heart? 

Do you have to donate your organs?

 How do doctors learn this stuff?

How did they find out?

Was he scared?

Could they put a new heart in my grandpa and make him alive again?

Is this a good example of being resilient?

If this is a happy thing, why do I feel so sad?

These are tough questions. Some of them may sound silly, but we all know there are no dumb questions.  They trust me and they wanted to know the truth. I answered truthfully when I could. I admitted when I couldn’t.  We stopped our conversation for 20 minutes to take the quiz I had promised them.

After that, I gave them the time they needed on the iPads and my computer to search for the answers and learn more. They found numerous newspaper articles about this boy. They found a website set up for people to donate towards his medical expenses. They found a place they could send him a message. They found video clips with interviews with his friends. They found his Twitter account, which held the most important and life-changing words this boy has probably ever tweeted: “This lady just came in. My hearts here.”

My own heart was filling with love for my students who just wanted to understand. My head was filling with ideas of the things I could teach them if only I had the time. Think of the skills I could incorporate into something they were so interested in and that so perfectly fit into the two themes we have focused on this entire year:

How can conflict change us?

Being resilient in tough times –  Do you have what it takes?

I do not know this young man who has made an impression on my students and my community. As I bounced around to different buildings in district, I somehow missed meeting him, teaching him, and knowing him.

We still have 7 weeks of school left, but this situation and this classroom moment felt like the culmination of the school year and the connection that I’ve been desperately searching for.

The answers to all my questions and all my doubts lie right here in my heart.


What a Difference a Year Makes

Today it has been one year since Ian was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Ironically, my resolution for 2013 was LEARN.  Not exactly the kind of learning I was talking about.

365 days of learning new things about how our bodies work and how his doesn’t.

Learning how to eat right, give meds, deal with sick days, analyze blood sugars, and make decisions based on what’s happening at the very moment.

Diabetes is an unpredictable and random disease, to the point you despise its sick and twisted games….you can never expect the same day twice.

Sometimes a 24 hour period leaves you with a chart that resembles a roller-coaster at Cedar Point.

But this roller-coaster never comes to a complete stop. Ever.

Somewhere in the middle of this past year, I came to accept that.  You have to live in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future.

I am not sure what we are going to do to celebrate today. That’s part of living one day at a time. I guess when he wakes up, he’ll make that decision. My guess is probably a trip to Friendly’s…or he’ll ask me to make cookies.

Enjoying a sweet treat in Feb. 2013

Enjoying a sweet treat in Feb. 2013

Here is the link to his Happy 1st Dia-versary! post on my other blog.


Under Construction – Part 2

(Previously, on All Access Pass….)

So…the owner of the nursing home was working the Chicken BBQ. Right away I ask, “So what the heck are you guys doing over there?”

And as she explains, the annoyance starts to subside.

The new facility will be a rehabilitation center for patients who need temporary housing after a knee replacement or surgery but don’t need to be in a nursing home with sick people.

There will be a dozen single rooms, as well as a double room for couples or siblings.

It will be named “Mary’s* House,” after her mother who lived there.

Another identical facility is being built in a nearby town and will be named “Grace’s* House,” after her grandmother, who started the family business.

I asked her why the chimney and the partial walls remained. (My dad assumed it was some building code that required only a partial demolition in order to rebuild.)

She said they wanted to keep something of their childhood home standing. And even with that, it was hard to demolish the family home.

Now when I see the rubble and the cement mixers and the cranes, I see it a little differently. (It is still frustrating when the kids are talking to me and I can’t hear them over the noise.)

But when I explained to the kids what they were doing over there, Tweedle Dee says, “Well, I bet the new neighbors won’t be so annoyed when they realize that they are doing something good over there.”

For the last few months, as school started and I adjusted to the busy life of a working mom once again, I couldn’t help but feel like that “Hard Hat Area” was a metaphor for my life. I felt like I was in the middle of a construction zone….a Great. Big. Mess.

Learning new material at school, working with new people, scrapping old ideas, managing a new crew of kids…the planning…the building…breaking my back to get the job done.

Now, with a month of school under my belt, things are falling into place. Some questions have been answered – like the reason for keeping the chimney and the walls. Things at school are clicking. I have a grip on our after-school schedule. Homework is getting done, dinner is being served, and we’re finding time to play outside.

The dust is settling – literally and figuratively.

A picture in my dining room – The kids with their great-grandma…before Tweedle Ian learned how to ride his bike.

Under Construction – Part 1

I currently live in a “Hard Hat Area.”


Seriously, this sign is less than 100 feet from my front door.

For the past two months what seems like eternity, the house that once stood here has been demolished and I have seen more construction destruction equipment come down our quiet street than I have in my entire life.

It started with what I thought was a roof replacement at 6 a.m. one morning this summer. By the afternoon, Tweedle Ian comes into the kitchen, “Uh, mom? They aren’t fixing that roof. They are tearing it off.”

Sure enough…the roof was not replaced and wall by wall, brick by brick….the house came down.

The only thing that remains today is the chimney…and partial walls facing in all four directions.

My house is on the main path of walkers and bikers and I see a lot of people go by in the course of the day. Grandmothers walk their children down to watch the bulldozers and diggers and other big machines I do not know their names of. (Tweedle Ian was never into machines and trucks like many toddlers.)

Several have asked, “What is going on? What are they doing?”

Until last Saturday, my reply was, “Tearing down a house???? I’m not sure.”

All I knew was it was dusty and dirty (To the point I dislike having my windows open.)

It was loud. (6 a.m to 6 p.m. loud – beeping, grinding, digging, pounding, men yelling)

It was inconvenient. (Many times semi-trucks and dumpsters were blocking the intersection and I’d have to back up and go around the block to get home.)

It was an eyesore. (From the plastic orange safety fence to the port-a-potty to the piles of dirt 20 feet high.)

It was invading my space. (Workers’ trucks parked on my curb, blocking my view out the kitchen window as I did the dishes.)


Behind that pile of dirt, you can see the remains of the chimney and the walls.

I feel bad for the people who lived directly across the street from this lot. They moved in this past spring with likely no idea this was going to happen.

Fast forward to last Saturday. I stopped at the Chicken BBQ at the park. The BBQ was sponsored by the nursing home near my house. The demolished house is on the nursing home property.

I have a few ties to this nursing home….First of all, a good friend of my dad’s is the recreation direction at the nursing home. She is awesome at her job and recently won “Rec Director of the Year.”

Secondly, one of the owners used to substitute teach at our building and she and I shared a room for a month or so when she did a long-term subbing position. She doesn’t sub anymore, but she works long hours and drives by every day waving at me and the kids when we are outside playing.

Lastly and most importantly, before I bought this house four years ago, my grandma stayed here on different occasions and lived here for the last few weeks of her life. I had driven by my house many times with no idea that our front yards would someday be so close.

Now I drive home every day and turn right to go to my house, instead of left to visit her.

I taught Ian to ride his bike in the parking lot in front of the nursing home. Cute. little, old people sat on the patio smiling and watching him, but not her.

It’s weird to think I am right here where she was.

The day she passed away I wrote a poem, which was later read at her funeral by my oldest cousin.

While I’m not up for sharing the whole thing….I will leave you with the last stanza….and finish this post tomorrow…..

I’m from a day that came much later that we ever dreamed, but still too soon.

I’m from the early hours of a September morning, dark and quiet,

the sun had not come up yet.

It was the beginning of a bright and beautiful day –

a symbol of the warmth that was felt when Grandma met up with Grandpa again

And he helped pin on her wings.

Grandma and Grandpa, who they called “Dee.” I have to believe it is not some weird coincidence that Tweedle Dee shares the nickname. (Sounds like a great blog post for the future.)

To be continued….

There is No Education Like Adversity*

Last Friday, on our way home from vacation, my dad’s van decided to act up (and by act up, I mean smoke violently).

After 6 days of beaching it up, we were barely into our 11 hour trip home when suddenly, we were stranded on a highway right outside of Maxton, NC.

I should explain that this vacation was the first big “family” vacation with my two children (Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Ian), my boyfriend (Admiral Bodee) and his two children (Delilah and Captain Kidd). I should also say that the week was what we considered a “make or break” situation. Fortunately, we had an absolutely wonderful trip and felt we made leaps and bounds in our relationship. (Whew!)

So, again, imagine four kids – ages 9, 11, 12, and almost 13 in a van, on the side of the highway, in the middle of an 85 degree afternoon, 10 hours from home.

Imagine two adults, both teachers, both single parents, both tired in this situation. Two adults who have dealt with drama and stress both in the classroom and at home, but who haven’t dealt with any “catastrophes” together. For the record, I know, things could have been so much worse and we were thankful it wasn’t, but this was still a big problem and a huge test of how well we could work together.

Long story short, (because it took 4 hours to fix the car and be on our way), as we were chugging/smoking into this tiny town unlike anywhere we’d ever been or want to be again, Admiral Bodee says to a van full of cranky and apprehensive children, “They say that the true test of a person’s character is how they handle adversity.”

In a moment of total chaos and silent panic, my heart gushed. Here was a man driving his girlfriend’s dad’s smoking van, keeping it together and doing what had to be done to keep everyone safe and calm.

There are many hilarious, scary, crazy details about this adventure, and I have preserved them on film and recorded them in my mind.

Fortunately, after a dinner of Lunchables, applesauce, and granola bars in Walgreen’s parking lot, a game of junkyard football, a photo shoot in a pile of old tires, and a flash-before-your-eyes 65 mph ride on an old country road with one scary dude, the damage was only $50.

Yes, a $50 repair bill, for a tiny little garage that worked three hours overtime on a Friday night. I should add that Admiral Bodee ended up giving him $80. A $30 tip seemed totally reasonable after all their help.

As stressful as this situation was, we will never forget the adventure, which is what vacations are all about!

Enjoy this “Wish You Were Here” postcard like pic and take these lessons with you:

  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
  • Find humor in all things.
  • There is safety in numbers.
  • Teamwork pays off.
  • Keep calm and carry on.
  • Be prepared.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Give to those in need and you will be richly rewarded.
  • Respond, don’t react.
  • Use the restroom when given the opportunity; You never know the next time you will come across a clean one.


*The title of this post comes from Benjamin Disraeli.

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