Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Fractured Five Senses Poem

My kids have all written what is called a five senses poem while in elementary school. It's not a poem that rhymes, rather one that focuses on using your five senses to describe your surroundings. I shall attempt to replicate such a poem with a Que Sara Sara spin.


I see: dirty socks lying like dessicated worms in crumpled heaps on the floor; pale tumbleweeds of dog fur that roll across the floor with the breeze; piles of notebooks, keys, and sunglasses that make an end-of-school-year mountain on the kitchen island.

I hear: the wet, slurping sound of the dumb dog's tongue repeatedly licking a spot on her dog bed; the thunderous kawunking thump of the washing machine on spin cycle, sounding like a Blackhawk helicopter in my laundry room, signaling the end of its useful days; the squawks and screeches of yet another battle between siblings over the blaring television.

I smell: the bitter, but lovely smell of mama's little helper coffee brewing; the stale, heavy, still somewhat appetizing aroma of bacon that was cooked days ago; a slightly musty, warm Frito odor coming off the dog as dozes in the sunbeam by the door.

I taste: the bittersweet hotness of the cappuccino as I guzzle it down while signing school papers; the bright, minty flavor of the sweet peppermint gum I chew to keep coffee-breath at bay; the bland, plastic taste of the tip of a pen as I compose yet another grocery list.

I touch: the gummy surface of a countertop left mottled and blemished by dirty cups, bowls, dishes, and wrappers; a slightly damp, highly stinky baseball jersey as I throw it into the dying washer; a wet shower mat with my bare feet, causing me to leap onto cold tiles. (Ick.)


And there you have it. It's probably not the A+ work my children received on their poems describing places like Disneyworld or the zoo, but it's my poem and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Baseball And Grace

Yesterday there was an enormous row at our house. My brave, baseball playing son decided he no longer wants to play baseball. He was dressed in his uniform and ready to go, yet digging in his cleats and refusing to go. There was yelling. There were tears. There were slamming doors. It was ugly.

Because we are the meanest parents in the world and believe that once you commit to a team you must follow through and finish the season, we made him go. He glared at us and told us that he wasn't playing next year. We told him fine. He huffed at us and told us we could make him go but we couldn't make him care about playing. He told us he just wouldn't try. We told him that was his choice. He could certainly go and not try and let his teammates and himself down. He told us he didn't care about his teammates. We told him that was his choice, but playing the rest of the season was not.

It was a very quiet 20 minute ride to the ball park.

When we got to the field, the coach was already on the field with some players having batting practice. Sean took his equipment and hustled onto the field. Batting practice hasn't been a problem. Despite the hitting slump in actual games, my boy has made some great hits during practice. Somehow it just hasn't translated to game time. So when it was Sean's turn to take some pitches, I was waiting to see if he would actually swing or if he would do as he threatened and not try but just stand and watch the ball breeze by.

He swung. He swung for the fences.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the fences he hit.

This is his coach's van. Ouch.

Sean swung hard and hit a pop up foul that went over the back stop. Waaaaay over. (This, incidentally, is not the first car to get hit. This is also the reason we never park in the front row.) It was like that ball was in slow motion. I could see it flying up, up, up, and then coming down, down, down. It looked for a second like it would hit between vehicles. Except it didn't. There was a loud *THUNK* and then a crackling crash as the window shattered.

Coach looked at my red-faced son and said, 'Nice hit.'

What happened next was a lesson in grace.

Sean apologized. Profusely. Coach told him not to worry about it because that's what insurance is for. (My beloved and I have already spoken to him about taking care of his deductible.) He told Sean that he knew he took a risk parking in the front row and that's why he parked with his back end in first. Then he told Sean that he knew he was a hitter. He told him that was a big hit, but next time swing faster.

Coach and my beloved swept out his van as best as they could and cleaned up the glass. Then coach called my brave, embarrassed, battling son over to his van. He said: 'I have three autographed balls in my office. I'd like yours to be the fourth. Would you autograph this ball for me?"

Sean grinned and took the pen. Then coach asked him if it was his first autograph. While I have always been faithful to my husband, I may have fallen a little bit in love at that moment.

As Sean and his coach walked back to the field to continue practice, his coach told him he wanted him to be three for three in the batter's box. He told Sean he owed him.

And my boy? He was two for two in the batter's box. (Never got a chance to bat a third time because our game was called due to the Mercy Rule in the 5th inning. We were throttling the other team.) He also caught a pop fly for an out and in the next play, bare handed a grounder and threw the runner out at first. His teammates were very happy for him. They also enjoyed ribbing him about the window. At the end of the game, Sean was given the game ball.

When my boy, my beloved, and myself climbed into the car for the silent, tense drive to the ball park last night, we didn't imagine the evening would end as it did. And it all could have ended differently if the coach's response had been different. I knew that in the course of the season my son would learn many things on the baseball field: sportsmanship, being a team player, commitment, athletic skills. I just never dreamed he would learn about grace.

What a lesson.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


He dons his uniform and cap, gathers his glove and equipment bag, and heads out the door yet again. It's baseball season and he has another game. He virtually vibrates in his seat as we drive to the game. He tells me about his teammates. He regales me with great plays. He tells me that he hopes he gets a hit.

It's been a bit of a dry spell in the hitting department. He's going great guns on the field. He's catching pop-ups, he's making double plays, he's aggressive. But when he steps into the batter's box, I can see it in his shoulders. I can see the tension. I can see the co-mingled hope and fear as he takes a couple of practice swings.

And I watch. And I cross my fingers. And my toes. And I whisper a silent prayer: Please, God, just once. Just one hit. Just to bring his confidence back. Please.

And I listen to his coach and his teammates as they offer encouragement: You can do it! This one's yours! Good eye! Big swing! Take it for a ride!

And I watch as he goes down swinging. And my heart aches as I see him walk dejectedly back to the dug out.

But then, when it's time to head back out to the field, there he is, all grins and freckles and joy. And when it's time to head back into the batter's box, he is there again serious-faced, ready to give it another try. Ready to swing away again.

And I think how hard this is and how strong he is and how brave he is to step into that box every time and keep swinging. And I am proud of his bravery.


She looks beautiful all in white. She is proud of her dress. She twirls. She loves her shoes; loves the clonking noise the little heels make as she walks across the wood floors.

She has been preparing for this day. She says she was practicing in bed at night. She says she is ready. She is aglow.

And I see her, in the same dress her sister wore, taking the flower wreath on and off her head, rolling her eyes as we tell her "one more picture" and my eyes prick with tears. My baby. The one I didn't know I needed until we found out about her. I can't believe we are at this milestone already.

We head to the church and there is milling about and more pictures and exclamations when friends are seen. And finally, it's time. We are gathered in the pew, like 8 ducks in a row, listening, waiting, watching. And I look over at her.

Her face has crumpled. She is crying. And I know. I know she is frightened. She is afraid of walking down that aisle. She is afraid of making a mistake. She is afraid of all those eyes on her.

And I begin to whisper. I whisper to her that it will be okay. I whisper that we will be right there with her. I whisper that there are others feeling frightened. I whisper that it doesn't matter if she makes a mistake--no one cares, God certainly doesn't. God loves her heart. God loves her humor. God loves her compassion. God loves her. I crack a joke. I cross my eyes. I make a face.

She gives me a tentative smile.

But then it's our turn. We rise and walk down the aisle. She is still crying. I see compassionate eyes in the pews, watching my girl. She checks my face and I offer her every ounce of encouragement I can summon. As she approaches the front, I see her panic. She wants to flee. She tells me: I can't! And I tell her: You can! You can do hard things! I am so proud of you!

And she does. She does it through tears, but she does it just the same.

We head back to the pew where the rest of the family is waiting with smiles and hugs and pats and thumbs up. And she settles back into the pew, relieved, as she watches others have their turn.

And I think how hard this is and how strong she is and how brave she is to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking down that aisle. And I am proud of her bravery.


I am doubtful. I question myself constantly; Is this the right decision? What if I mess up? What should I do next? What do people think of me? I am sometimes jumpy and uncomfortable in my own skin. Some days I want to pull the covers back up and say Not Today. I think I must be the only one: the only one who feels this way, the only one who struggles, the only one who hasn't got it all together, the only one who wishes she was someone else, was somewhere else. And I don't want any part of it. I think it might be easier to just stop. Quit.

But then they show me. Every day they show me how to walk bravely through this world. It's not always graceful. It's certainly not easy. But it's always amazing.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Before and After: Table and Tray

Good morning! Is it sunny where you are? If it is, would you mind sending a little my way? It has been so gray and rainy here in the past week that it's making me a little grumpy. Grrrr... But you know what doesn't make me grumpy? A good before and after.

I had this little black table that has been in my family room for several years. It was in my parents' house before that, but when they downsized to a smaller home, I inherited it. It's not a fabulous table, but it's sturdy and has good lines and it fits perfectly behind our couch as a depository for wrappers, empty glasses, pop tabs, dirty socks, pencils, random playing cards and other detritus of the feral goats that live in this house with me beautiful things.

When it came to me, it was light blue. I painted it black. It worked fine when my room was green, but when I lightened up the room and changed the curtains, I wanted something different for the table. Also, I had been dying to try out Annie Sloan chalk paint, so I decided that the table would make a perfect guinea pig for a chalk paint experiment. I figured if it didn't work out and I hated it, it would be easy enough to change.

Bad blogger! I started painting before I thought to take a "before" shot. 
Turns out, I love it! I used the Annie Sloan chalk paint in Greek blue. I used a 4 ounce sample pot and that was enough to completely cover the table. I used two coats, because I wanted good coverage and I didn't want the black to come through because I wasn't going for an antique-y look. The paint dries super quick and no sanding or prep is required, which is a great match for my need for instant gratification in crafty projects. I also used two coats of the Annie Sloan clear wax. The can is HUGE and a little goes a very long way. I barely made a dent in it and will be able to use it again and again on other projects. All told, with the painting and the waxing, the table only took 24 hours start to finish.  The blue is a nearly perfect match for the lighter blue in the family room curtains and it adds a nice pop of color to the room.

Perfect spot to sit your dirty socks refreshments.
The tray was a Goodwill find. I think it was $2.50? It was just a simple wood framed tray with a cork bottom, but there was something about the lines of it and the cork that I liked. So I sanded it and stained it with a dark stain (Minwax Kona), gave it a going over with some paste wax, and BAM! Just what the blue table needed to be complete.
I think the tray is pine, but I'm not sure. I wasn't fond of the orange-y finish, so it was given a sanding and some darker stain. 

I think the table and tray turned out great. Plus, because of the cork bottom, the tray does double duty in acting as a coaster.
Accessories were also found at Goodwill. Except for the cute kid. He's my own unique creation. :)

Now if I could just figure out a way to make my offspring understand that pretty things go on the table and tray and dirty socks go in the hamper...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Because My Mother Taught Me To Say "Thank You"

It's May. And for as much as I groused in my last post about dreading some things in May, well, today the sun is shining, the windows are open, and the birds are serenading me. (I can pretend, people.) In short, I'm feeling pretty blessed this morning.

While I was reading through my blog feeds this morning, I came upon this. Go read it. Seriously, I'll wait.

Mmmkay. Done? Having been a special education teacher for about 10 years before I started having children and having children of my own, I understand both sides of that particular coin. And today, I want to say a few words to the teachers who meant so much and made a difference in my own life.

Mrs. Fluss (Bertauski)--You made 3rd grade so fun. I remember the pranks you pulled on other teachers and the ones they pulled on you. That left an impression. It made me think that a workplace could be enjoyable and full of camaraderie. Your unit on space ignited a love of all things space related. Seriously--when my mom and I visited the Smithsonian Air & Space museum for my 40th birthday and I got to meet real live astronauts? I got all fangirl giggly and teary-eyed. Embarrassing-- but in a good way? You set the bar high for any teacher that came after you.

Mr. Espindola--You made this hypochondriac girl want to attend school. You were young and full of ideas. It also helped that you were cute. I remember your unit on government and the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution test we had to take. It was hard. You pushed us and encouraged us and made us believe that we could do hard things. And we rose to that and did hard things. (Because of you and Schoolhouse Rock, I can still sing the preamble of the Declaration of Independence some 35 years later.) And the time for the health unit that we got to make breakfast at school? That was unheard of at the time and our class was giddy at the prospect. I looked to your example when I taught my own students to try new and unheard of ideas.

Mrs. Carlton--You made me love writing. You made me love literature. You made me believe I could write. And you did it all in a way that made me love you.

Mrs. Moseley--I can't pretend to be a good speaker. I convey my thoughts much better through the written word. But your speech class was a comfortable, safe place to learn public speaking skills. Your critiques were always honest and encouraging, making getting up to the podium a little less intimidating. So even though I still get muddled when speaking to adults, when speaking to kids, I know my audience and I can rock that mother out!

Mr. White--Algebra was scary and hard. But you wouldn't let that stop me. I was intimidated by numbers and by you, but you didn't let that get in the way of trying to help me to "get it." That time I got a B+ on a test? I know how I felt as a student. And years later, when working with students who found things scary and hard--students who were intimidated--I didn't let that get in the way of trying to help them "get it." And when they would come to show me a good grade? I know how you must have felt when I got that B+. Well done, sir.

Mrs. McVey--When we were studying poetry, I was like just about every other student in your class and I inwardly groaned my way through it. I had no idea that studying poetry would plant a seed that would grow into a love for words of all kinds. I had no idea that the words of Blake, Housman, Chaucer, Coleridge, Cummings, Eliot, Frost, and Thomas among others would someday come home to roost in my head and my heart. Thank you for encouraging me as a writer.  When you selected an essay I had written to take to a conference/contest, your actions confirmed my abilities. And now, even though there are plenty of people who write better than I, I know that my words have worth and that I will write anyway.

Dr. Caldwell--You stand out among all my college professors. Your genuine love of and compassion for special needs students was evident in the way you prepared us to become teachers ourselves. You were encouraging and funny and wanted us to give our very best all the time. I will never forget when a student in our class was absent because his wife was in premature labor and you asked us to pray for them and drop them a card. Or the time when you loaned my folks your car to help them get home and then you gave me a ride back to the house I lived in. Of course it helped that you and my folks went way back, but I'm fairly certain that you would have done this for any other student had they called you. Thank you for teaching me kindness, generosity, and compassion have a place inside and outside of the classroom.

And to many other teachers that I didn't mention, but that touched my life in countless ways, thanks to you too, for your hard work, dedication, professionalism, and joy in your work. Your work has eternal significance. Well done!

Now it's your turn: Comment and tell me who were your favorite teachers and why?