Sunday, August 15, 2010

Speaking of school starting . . .

[Sorry for the blurry pic -- again, it's one taken with my cell phone. I'll try to get a better one later, but trust me -- it's adorable! Meanwhile, this is the "new" chandy hanging in my classroom. And you can't see it in this pic, but, yes, of course, I covered the chain with fabric to match the bulletin board you see in the background! Absolute cuteness!]

I'm playing hooky this morning . . . from regular church, that is.

But not to worry, I am having church here at Casa St. Michael. Just me and Papa. Coffee. Oatmeal with French vanilla creme. My laptop. A Phillip's translation of the New Testament. (I've been marinating in Titus. It's about to kill me. More on that another time.) And we are celebrating Sabbath. A day of rest.

I don't know when my body has ached like this. (My misspent youth is catching up with me, and my bones are feeling VERY old this morning!) Orientation for my masters program (yeah, I'm starting that next week, and, yes, I have probably lost my mind) and a two-day seminar on Multisensory Reading and Spelling in the early part of last week just about fried my brain, and then working in my classroom at school for the past three days has just about finished off the rest of me. That's 'cause I don't work in my classroom like a normal person might.

First of all, I've got too much stuff. (I AM working on getting rid of some of it. Those of you that know me, stop laughing.) But that's not the main problem. The main problem is that I like to make everything look cute (the fun stuff) before I tackle the yucky jobs like actually putting books and papers and files where they belong. (Not to mention all of those storage boxes where I shoved no-telling-what at the end of last year.) Backwards from most folks, I know. But, alas, that's the price of being a weirdo a creative spirit. (Once everything’s cute, then I can start working on the rest of it because anyone who’s raised three girls knows that “Cuteness is everything!” The theory is that being surround by said cuteness will inspire, energize, and enable me to then wade through everything else. Okay, I said it was a THEORY.)

Plus, I’m creating new cuteness this year. After six years of a Texas theme, I decided it was time to redecorate. So, I’ve recovered bulletin boards, file cabinets (yep, they get recovered, too), shelves (yup), painted huge classroom storage cabinets, hung a chandelier (the kids are going to LOVE it – It’s the tackiest but CUTEST thing you’ve ever seen!), made a tablecloth to match one of the bulletin boards, rearranged furniture, and hung up lots of Qs (for “Queen”) . . . You name it – in the spirit of cuteness, it’s been done. (Of course, the room still looks like a bomb went off ‘cause I have to now go through all of those aforementioned books, loose papers, and folders, and assorted storage boxes, but that’s this week’s project.)

Sounds like a lot, huh. And it is. But, I do have a reputation to uphold. You see, I am the Queen. The Queen of the Land of Muz (the shortened form of my last name). And my children will come into Room 105 with certain expectations, and by God –literally – I plan to not to disappoint them. I want their experience in my classroom to be a wondrous thing. I want them to discover that even language arts (you’d be amazed at how many kids think they hate language arts!) can be a fabulously interesting subject. But most of all, I want them to feel special.

I want them to know that I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make the Land of Muz what it is – beautiful (okay, in a royally tacky kind of way), fun, safe (emotionally and physically)– because they are worth it. I tell them every year that, yes, I am their Queen, but they are my royal subjects, and as such, their well-being is my number one priority. And then I ask Papa-God to make it so. Because I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t do it on my own.

Oh, I can do cuteness all day long on my own, but loving my kids, truly loving them the way Jesus has called me to is way beyond my pay grade. He’s called me to step beyond the warm and fuzzies – most sanguines (of which I am; are you shocked?) can do the ooey-gooey, smiley, huggy stuff in our sleep – and to actually love them through the way that I teach the skills they will need to succeed academically. He’s called me to love them enough to teach them what it means to be responsible, respectful, compassionate students. He’s called me to love their parents and guardians (even the ones who question every lesson I teach or grade I record.)

And that I can only do as I empty myself of me and allow Him to fill with His Spirit the empty spaces left. I have to let go of my thoughts, words, and actions, and embrace and live out His in their place.

Good preachin’ and hard livin’.

And I fall so short on so many days.

Yet, I know that’s the ministry I’m called to these days. Being Him in skin in the public classroom. So I pray. A lot. And trust Him “to keep that which I’ve committed.”

Where has He called you to do the same? I’d love to hear how and where you are living out your calling these days.

Grins (with naproxen),


Friday, August 6, 2010

Muddying the Waters . . . It's not always a bad thing!

Because the phrase "muddying the waters" means to cloud an issue or to make something more difficult to understand or more complicated than necessary, it almost always carries a negative connotation. (Well, duh! Like any of us needs extra confusion in our lives.)

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, Bella and Boogie came over for some "Camp Pa-Ja" before Jaja heads back to the school house (and their mother, Middle Daughter, loses her mind . . . come on, moms of little ones -- you've been there. And then, of course, their mama will then pick them up just before Jaja loses hers! Lol!). And guess what . . . I let them muddy the waters. And they had a blast!

Last week, knowing Camp Pa-Ja was coming up, I scored a plastic kiddie pool off Freecycle, and I looked forward to filling it up and letting the grandbabies splash in it to their hearts' content. The only constriction was that Papa (the beloved co-director here at Camp Pa-Ja) said we couldn't put the pool on the grass. No problem. We have lots of dirt patches in the backyard here at Camp Pa-Ja.

Well, Boogie's no dummy. He saw that pool sitting in that big patch of for-the-moment dirt and knew it was the perfect place to park his big ol' dump truck. And did I mention he had a big ol' yellow plastic shovel? Dirt + shovel + pool + water + BOY . . . okay, you do the math. (Or would that mixing of the elements fall under chemistry?) Yup, before I knew it, we had just the right conditions for some genuine M-U-D .

No problem. As long as the mud stayed in the back of the dump truck. But just like his Jaja, Boogie is not one who embraces the "less is more" philosophy of life. I mean, if mud pie mix (" . . . for your birthday, JaJa!") looks delicious in the back of a little big ol' dump truck, imagine how much more deliciousness a big ol' blue plastic kiddie pool might hold!

Now, I can't usually even spell math (remember, I teach language arts), but this equation appeared right before my eyes (think Nebuchadnezzar and the writing on the wall): Globs of dirt in the business end of a yellow plastic shovel + nice clear water minding its own business in blue plastic kiddie pool = ARGHHHHHHHHH!

Just as my mouth opened to verbalize the end product of the aforementioned equation -- along with an added "STOP!" -- I thought Y, I mean Why? (Sorry, I had a flashback from college algebra there for a moment, but I think I'm okay now.) I mean, most of the time we steer kids away from mud puddles, dirt piles, and other assorted messes we might have to clean up after, and that usually makes sense seeing as how most of the time we'd be the ones doing the clean-up-after thing. But, it suddenly came to me that this wasn't one of those times. Heck, we were out in the backyard for Pete's sake -- I could just line those little mud-bugs up and hose them off before wrapping them up in their Lightening McQueen and Cinderella towels and hauling them back into the casa. No harm; no foul. There really wasn't any reason to screech NO! (yes, sorry to say, but I would've screeched) other than it's what most of us would've thought we were supposed to do in that kind of situation. No thought, just an automatic response.

So what's a Jaja to do? Well, I turned off the auto-Jaja-pilot switch, removed myself from the pool (despite what I hear the beautification benefits of mud at the local spa are), and let Boogie and Bella have at it! And they had a ball! And none of us were a bit worse for wear. In fact, I think all of those laughing-released endorphins had us all feeling pretty darn good. (Even Papa, who arrived home from his golf game right in the midst of all this fun.)

I couldn't help but wonder what we miss out on in life -- little things and big things -- when we react to so much around us from that automatic-pilot mode. How often do we say no without even thinking about what we're responding to? (Or yes for that matter.) And just because we've always done it this way or because that's the way Sista Susie does it or because we're more concerned about what others will say or think of us than we are about whether something is really right or wrong or if it is a choice that even matters one way or the other.

How often have you felt like raising your hands in a praise service but didn't because you worried what those around you would think? (Or raised your hands because everyone else was even though you didn't feel like it?)

Ever stifled the urge to clap or laugh or sing or jump up and down for joy or pick chocolate instead of vanilla or paint red instead of off-white or wear denim instead of khaki or cotton instead of silk?

I'd be the first to tell you that, no, it's not always appropriate to make mud pies (I promise that if you're ever invited over for dinner at Casa St. Michael, I'll have Baby Daughter fix lasagna or spinich and mushroom-stuffed manicotti) but sometimes, just sometimes, there's nothing tastier, nothing that hits the spot any better, than good ol' mud pie. Yummmmm!

Tasting freedom . . . and grinnin'!

PS Sorry for the picture quality -- pics were taken with my cell phone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Being Green

This little guy rode to church with me Sunday morning! (Okay, well, not exactly THIS specific little guy from the commercials, but one that was just as cute, to be sure.)

Okay, more like THIS little guy! (You have to look reeeeeeeally closely.)

For real!

In fact, he preached a whole sermon to me before I ever got into the building! Yup. For real. (And never once tried to sell me an insurance policy, though I'm pretty sure I'd a'bought one from him.)

Truth is I've had a hard time making it to the church house lately -- what with my having the D-word and all -- but I'd decided Saturday night that I really needed to make it there yesterday if I could at all manage it. (I'm a BIG woman, and I sit on the second pew from the front, so for that reason alone -- okay, and I'm kinda loud -- people notice when I'm not there for more than a couple of weekends.)

St. Michael had already left so that he could get to the church house early enough to get his ushering duties on, so imagine my surprise when I discovered on my way out of the neighborhood in the Queen Machine that I wasn't making the drive alone. No! The tiniest, cutest little Gecko Guy was riding on the hood of the Queen Machine with me! Not out in the front, like one of those bare-breasted wooden ladies would be on an old ship, but further back, closer to the windshield, and somewhat more centered on the hood, kinda like a . . . well, a surfer, I guess.

To be honest I felt kinda bad for him 'cause I kept thinking that any minute he'd . . . well, wipe out like a surfer, but there really wasn't any appropriate place for me to pull over, pluck him off the hood, and then set him free (at least not without one of us running the risk of getting squished by the other non-surfing-gecko vehicles breezing by us).

Good luck, and hang ten, little buddy!

Thirty miles an hour. Forty miles an hour. Then fifty on Space Center Boulevard. And still, this little guy hung on like a champ. Now, granted, he did start out a bright, dazzling chartreuse gecko-green, and by the aforementioned fifty-mile-an-hour mark, he was turning a sort of strange sickly brown color, but, still, despite appearances, he was there, holding on for all he was worth! (Fortunately, by the time I turned off Space Center onto Middlebrook Drive, traffic was lighter because by now I couldn't take my eyes off this little dude -- I was cheering him on, and the road markings were strictly peripheral.)

As I slowed and turned into the church parking lot, he actually appeared to breathe a sigh of relief, and for the first time since I'd noticed him, his head actually dropped down onto his little front hand-thingies (heck, I don't know what they're called, but you know what I mean). He seemed to have finally collapsed in exhaustion from the effort to get where we were. (And I know we both breathed a huge sigh of relief.) And yet, despite the odds, he was still there. Yes, a little worse for wear, but there, nonetheless.

Through no reason that he really understood, my little gecko guy's world had suddenly taken off and seemingly (to him, anyway) sped out of control -- certainly out of his control at least. And he had done the only thing he knew to do: He had held on. Held on until it all slowed back down.

He didn't try to stop the car. (Totally beyond his paygrade.)

He didn't try to jump off. (Not an option when jumping off meant unceremoniously going splat.)

He didn't even try to run and hide. (The space where the wiper blades rest was nearby, but the wrong move would've surely jeopardized his balance and sent him flying.)

Nope. He just planted himself right where he was and clung to the one thing he knew to be solid. Yup. He simply did the only thing he could: He hung on. And waited for the craziness to stop.

Love it.

He was gone when I came out of church. I kinda missed him, but I was sure he'd made his way through the rows of parked cars to the more gecko-friendly grassy areas of the surrounding neighborhood. And I bet he's looking like his old self again. A bright, dazzling chartreuse gecko-green.

I think I'm finally 'bout there myself.

Love it.