Saturday, October 26, 2013


For several months I have wanted to tell you about a miraculous event in my family's life, but I haven't been able to. Now that I can, I'm not sure I can do it justice.

On October 11, we legally and forever gained a new niece, Ivey Elise. 

My husband's sister, Mandy, and her husband, Chad, adopted the most beautiful baby girl, a child whose story grabbed our hearts and whose presence has changed our lives.

Mandy and Chad had gone through all of the paperwork and preparation for adoption, having their home inspected, fingerprints run, and lives dissected. Their names were placed on the list, and just four months later, they received the call. Both teachers, Mandy and Chad were at work when the call came saying, "There is a baby girl - if you want her, come to the hospital."

You have to hear Chad's story of running through the halls and parking lot - I picture it like the scenes of expectant dads in movies. Of course they wanted her. They were going to have a daughter.

Sweet Ivey had been dropped off at an upstate South Carolina hospital under what is known as Daniel's law. Under this special provision, parents may relinquish their babies, 30 days old or younger, at specified locations without fear of prosecution. Her mother gave no information, just handing over the tiny girl wrapped in a towel. Her birth mother gave her up so she could have a better life. I'm crying as I type this because I cannot, as a mother, imagine facing that decision.

There are people who ask, "How could someone do that?" I ask the same question, but with a tone of admiration - "How could someone do that?"

The story of Ivey is a story of grace in so many ways. Her birth mother showed Ivey grace by gifting her with a life that could have turned out so very differently. We shudder to think of what might have been for her - the options that were not chosen. God showed Mandy and Chad grace in bringing them a child that they, of course, would not have in their lives without His intervention. He has graced my in-laws with a granddaughter who lights up their lives. Grace at every turn. Grace in many ways.

What I love about grace, true God-given grace, is that it is so unexpected and unplanned. When God shows His great love, it is so rarely in the ways that we humans would have imagined it to be. It is often illogical, rarely on our schedule, but always a reminder of His nature.

Ivey-boo, we love you so much. We cannot wait to see you grow and learn, cannot wait for the first time you tell your parents "no," cannot wait to see the woman you will become. God sees something extraordinarily special for your life, and I know this because His plan for you has already been extraordinarily special. Every time we see you, we see God. Bear that image well, sweet girl. Your story will draw people to His love, as it already has, and He has entrusted that privilege to you. Make Him proud. We are so honored to be part of your forever family. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Random Thoughts of a Restless Mind

My earring fell out of my ear today while I was in the restroom and nearly landed in the toilet. What is one supposed to do in such a situation? Flush it? Reach in and grab it? Thank goodness I didn't have to decide. I wouldn't mind flushing it - it is a cheapo earring, but I would mind ruining the only adult female toilet in my wing of the building. I might never be forgiven.

I hate hand painted signs by the side of the road. What makes you think I want to vote for your candidate because you spray painted with yellow paint on a blue tarp? Professionalism you do not require, apparently.

The day before a teacher workday is tantamount to the day before spring break or Christmas vacation or the day of a full moon. They're nuts. And I need a nerve pill.

While we're on the subject of teacher workdays, is it too much to ask that teachers be allowed to really work on said workdays? I could get so much teacher stuff done - say, planning and grading! - if I were not required to be in meetings all day. Guess that's what the weekends are for, huh? (Sarcasm intended).

I did not cry when my husband went out of town the last time. Tomorrow when he leaves, I feel there may be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

I am having to end my friendship with a precious woman because she casually mentioned in a conversation that she loves cashews. Having forgotten the splendor of a cashew, I bought a bag. And since then? Approximately 274 more. And can we talk about the price of nuts, people? Good stinking grief. My little habit may require a part-time job.

I adore sweater weather. And boots. And scarves. But not hats. I just look like a weirdo in them. 

At what age do your children stop bothering you while you're in the bathroom? Because apparently we're not there yet. Door shut = privacy, please. (I realize I have referenced the bathroom twice in one post, which is twice more than I have ever spoken of it. But COME ON.) 

Enough with the Dracula commercials, already, NBC. Jonathan Rhys Myers is so doggone scary. I don't enjoy your attempts to cause nightmares in me when I'm innocently watching the last few minutes of Ellen. Give a girl a break. Real life is scary enough.

An incredible teacher I used to work with posted on Facebook that she recently was invaded by swarms of educational higher-ups including but not limited to the district and STATE superintendent of education. Hives. I would have broken out in hives - not just because of his presence but his policies. Oh, lordy. Better her than me! I'm becoming way too candid and outspoken in my old age to keep the old mouth shut.

I think today I have verbal diarrhea. Wait - does that count as a third bathroom reference? If so, I apologize. But not really, because sometimes it just has to come out. Am I lying? Let it out or explode. 

On that note, I'm done. For now. Enjoy your evening while I go pick out a cute sweater outfit and try to use the bathroom in peace.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Heaven That is Publix Super Markets

When my dear husband asked me to marry him and I moved into his house after our wedding, a tragedy befell me from which I might never recover.

I had to switch grocery stores. And not just from one store to another of its kind farther away... No, I had to switch chains. I know - the horror.

Prior to this wedded bliss, I had the great fortune of living approximately 90 seconds from heaven on earth, AKA Publix. For anyone not living in the southeastern United States where Publix fell from heaven like manna, I apologize to you and will remember you on my knees tonight as I implore our Maker to bless and highly favor you with grocery store blessing. In the meantime, allow me to paint with my words a picture of the heaven that is Publix Super Markets.

First, and not to be taken lightly, it is clean. And we all know that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Never have mine eyes seen stains discoloring its tile or garbage littering the lobby. Ah, but no. Publix sparkles. When those awe-inspiring automatic doors part and the aisles appear, stretching endlessly before you are endcaps glistening like teeth in commercials and air so fresh that Febreze wants to bottle it. My children could roll around on the floor in the bathroom and I would watch with nary a word. Cleanliness wins every time.

Also high on my list is the organization and logic with which items are placed. Where is the syrup? Near the pancake mix, of course. Peanut butter? Look no farther than the bread. It's as if someone thought like a consumer... "I'd like to make spaghetti tonight - so noodles, sauce, and Parmesan cheese should be grouped accordingly." Logic makes my heart pitter-patter. And not to be outdone - the stocking. High school boys in green smocks descend like locusts and ensure that items are not pushed to the backs of the racks, but are blocked, pulled flush with the front so as to be easily accessible to the mother with the toddler on hip and infant screaming in buggy. It's the little things, people.

Customer service is the priority at Publix, and its baggers seem hurt if you tell them you can take your own groceries to the car. Come rain, wind, or snow, they tell you that carry-out is their pleasure. Mine too, dear Publix. Mine too.

My husband makes fun of me to the point that I've developed a complex, but I cannot change my heart. I am just a Publix and Target kind of girl - one that he says is snooty. (Said with nothing but love, I assure you.) Try as I might, I cannot break my heart's will and force it to become an Ingles and Walmart lover. It's not who Jesus created me to be, and I will not change my identity. I will pay ten percent more - gladly - to have a pleasurable shopping experience, and nothing makes me happier than my dear, sweet Publix. Except for maybe my husband. So Publix, I'll be seeing you. But don't forget me. I'll be back.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What State is Germany In?

At first I didn't understand her question, her face looking at me expectantly from around her computer's monitor.

"What state is Germany in?"

I'm sure my eyebrow lifted as I contemplated what she meant. State? Germany?

It suddenly dawned on me that she wanted to know where in the United States Germany was. Germany, the country, in the United States.

Her neighbor looked at me, too. She had already asked him, and he wasn't sure either.

I gently (I think - I tried to be gentle) explained that Germany is its own country and that it is located on a separate continent from the United States.

I write this not as an indictment of this particular student (or her neighbor) or in a mocking sort of way, but rather as a very serious, contemplative question that must be posed in every educator's mind.

What in the world does this mean?

When two students who have made it to high school do not know that Germany is a country, we must take this seriously. If they do not know where Germany is or that it is a nation, they must not understand exactly what happened in the Holocaust or the implications of that event either. (Am I right? Is this too great a leap for me to make?) If they do not know of the Holocaust, they do not understand the conditions that allowed it to occur. If they do not understand how it happened in the first place, they do not know how to prevent it from happening again.

It's so much more than just not knowing geography.

Every day that I am in my classroom, I see students [some, not all] not knowing what should be basic knowledge for a well-educated student. They do not know how to find information without Google, they do not know that "it's" means "it is," they do not know the governor of our state. They do not know know the basics of the United States Constitution.

Here's what is sad to me - these are smart kids. They are bright, witty, and have unlimited potential. They are so much to fun to be around, but something stands in their way. Is it our system of education? Is it our culture? Just what is it?

I teach the 9th grade, and I have students who do not know (or perhaps just do not follow) the rules of grammar, such as the rule that states each sentence must contain a capital letter and have punctuation at its end. (To be fair, texting is teens' primary mode of writing, and it does have different rules. I get it. But don't they need to get that there is a time and place for it, and school assignments is not it? Why have they not learned this yet?)

 It disturbs me that they do not follow the rules (perhaps more than if they did not know the rules), because if this is the case, someone has allowed them not to do so. I am a tyrant when it comes to simple grammar, and my students fuss often about my deduction of points. Why am I a tyrant? For this reason and this reason alone - details matter.

When did excellence become irrelevant? When did it become acceptable to have access to information but no first-hand knowledge of it? Why is it not an issue when conventions exist but are habitually broken?

I am the first to champion technology and its place in education. The world is, literally, at our fingertips. But I fear much more is slipping away. We are a global society, but our citizens cannot locate major countries on a globe. Progress has begun to show its cost. Simple communication skills are suffering greatly; people do not know how to express themselves unless it's in 140 characters or fewer.

Without emoticons, people are losing the ability to express emotion through words.

Maybe I'm just a Chicken Little sky-is-falling kind of person, but things like this matter to me.

Perhaps I am to blame. I teach, and there are probably students who leave my classroom not knowing what others think they should. I don't know exactly where the blame should fall, but I suspect it's probably not just on one set of shoulders. Mediocrity has become the norm, with excellence the exception.

I just read a fascinating book by Malcolm Gladwell entitled David and Goliath, and he discusses how characteristics that begin as benefits over time can become liabilities. After a certain point, the cons begin to outweigh the pros.

His example - the influence of money on parenting. Too little money increases the difficulty of being an effective parent, but too much money can also increase its difficulty. He refers to this phenomenon as an inverted U-curve. (If you struggled in statistics, hang tight. I'm making a point.) He says, "Inverted-U curves have three parts, and each part follows a different logic. There's the left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. There's the flat middle, where doing more doesn't make much of a difference. And there's the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse" (54).

I think we might be on the right side of the U-curve. We have more, but it's making things worse.


How many of you have tried to have a conversation lately, only to become exasperated as the other person pays more attention to his phone than you? How many hours have you wasted on Facebook and Pinterest while the real-life relationships you hold are struggling? Our more is costing us dearly.

The vast majority of Americans are wealthier than the vast majority of the world, yet we constantly want more. More than enough is just not enough.

Maybe I should just relax and stop reading so much into the trends I see. The sky might not be falling, and we might not be making things worse.

But I can't help but wonder, "What if we are?"