BOOST by Kathy Mackel *****

Today I want to share another book review with you! I just finished the book BOOST by Kathy Mackel, and LOVED it! While I'm not a hot-shot athlete, I do enjoy sports, and this book is a book for people who LOVE sports! Perhaps you don't have to love sports, just a story about a girl who is working hard to keep her family together, even while twists and turns occur in her own little world.

Told from the point of view of Savvy, short for Savannah, this book had me hooked from the beginning. I thought I had it all figured out at various parts of the book, and then another twist to the story would be thrown into it, and I would be stumped all over again! I LOVED IT!

I also love that it was told from the point of view of the main character. That way, I knew what she was thinking and feeling throughout the whole story! I loved it! I plan to read other stories from this author!

I encourage you to run out and grab this book! It will keep you turning pages, and wanting more even when you read the last page. *grin* It can be found at your local public library this summer! ENJOY!

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

God's COOL Shift to MY Day

When I awoke this morning, I had in my head several things that I had in mind for MY day. I was excited to see the people I knew I would see, and visit one of my favorite places on the planet. I had my own plan, and set out for MY DAY. Boy did God have a couple shifts that I didn't see for me, that made it one INCREDIBLE day!

First, I went and heard Mr. H. preach. I can honestly say that he is growing in his preaching, and it was definitely worth the hour drive to hear him preach. I look forward to future sermons by him, as it's clear God is shaping him into a very good speaker.

After that, I headed to Joplin. I had set up an appointment with Jay-man's Mom yesterday for me to see him today. She had told me to bring my swimsuit and that we would swim. Well, it was initially raining when I went into Joplin, so I figured swimming would be out, but I did get cash because I thought the arcade would be our activity. (Jay-boy, in case your new to the blog, is a former student who lost his home in the Tornado in May. He's precious to me!) So, after I ate lunch, I called to see if I could come pick him up, and as it turned out, he was sick. He was running a fever, and just wanted to sleep. Well, I obviously don't want to be sick, so I wished him well, prayed for him after we hung up, and I wondered what to do at that point.

So, I asked God. I was sitting in my car at McDonald's in Joplin, with four hours to kill until I went out to Camp, so I prayed and texted Karen! I expected her to be at work, and was going to see if I could just hang out at her air conditioned apartment, when she called and said she had the day off work! I was SO SO SO SO SO SO excited! So, we spent the afternoon together. We shopped a bit, but mainly got ice cream and sat and chatted. That's what we do best, is sit and chat! I grow in God EVERY time I sit down with Karen. When I left at 6:00 to head to camp, I was grinning and thanking God for such a blessed afternoon!

My main purpose in visiting Camp Barnabas for the evening was to meet Carley. I have been promising Carley for two summers I would go out and visit, and today I fulfilled that. Carley also has Cerebral Palsy and is wheel-chair bound, but that doesn't stop her! She has a smile that is beautiful, and she even played baseball tonight at the party! I can tell this is the beginning of a great friendship with Carley!

Another blessing was seeing several other gals that were in my cabin at Barn-A-Break. Emily & Kim were there, and that was REALLY neat. There were several others that I have seen before at Barn-A-Break, but didn't know their names. It was neat, I felt like I was at a family reunion and not at a camp. In fact, as I was walking down to the party, the "regulars" kept asking me, "Hey, have you been here all week?" It was really special to me. Of course, I told them I'd be back for Terms 6 & 7, which everyone was excited about!

Of course, seeing Laura is always special to me. We hung out for a few minutes before I joined Carley. I thank God daily for Laura. She's an ABSOLUTE jewel!

Finally, I guess I would honestly have to say the BEST part of the day was seeing Lauren! I didn't realize Lauren (Who was in my cabin this past spring at Barn-A-Break!) would be there this week! I love that gal, and easily see why she's one of Laura's favorites! The MOMENT Lauren saw me, she went crazy in that little chair of hers! I gave her a hug, and she just grinned. I talked to her for a little while, but then she had to go join her cabin. A little while later, I saw her leaving the game with a couple girls, but as she walked by she grinned at me. I just waved...I love that young lady! She's precious! *grin*

I left camp to drive back tonight as I wanted a day to relax tomorrow before Tutoring starts back up this week. But, as I was leaving camp tonight, there was a little boy camper that made me just *grin* ear-to-ear that I wanted to share with you. I have no idea what his name is, but he was headed one way, and I was headed the other way. He looked at me, and said, "Give me a high five!" And I did, and he replied with, "The day is over, see ya tomorrow!" and he just walked on. I stood there a moment and two thoughts occurred to me.

1. The real world really could learn a great deal from the way people treat each other out at camp.
2. I CAN'T WAIT TO BE OUT THERE!

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

Shopping

I am probably not your typical gal when it comes to shopping. I mean, I know ladies who LOVE to spend all day shopping. I'm not one of those gals. I like to go in, get whatever it is that I need, and leave. I'm not really one to browse, I just buy what I need and leave. Therefore, I had already prepared my heart for today's shopping trip.

For the past two years I have desired a new television. I have had the same television for the past twelve years. It is one of those TV's that weighs a TON and was top of the line at the time, but now gets me laughed at sometimes when people visit! In fact, my TV doesn't even have HD on it! Yeah, talk about OLD. So, today was the day!!!

I had set back some money for the shopping trip today. The only thing I get nervous about on trips like today is that it's up to ME to make all the decisions. So, when I arrived at my parents house, and my brother was there, I was REALLY excited. (Of course, I didn't show that. I mean, we're siblings!) We made a trip to the local NFM store and began our adventure.

I had it in my head kind of what I wanted, but I was really open to what was out there. While I had surfed the web, I haven't really shopped enough to KNOW what I wanted. I have to give my parents and brother credit, they were INCREDIBLY patient as I pondered and looked around.

When we had narrowed down the size I wanted, the prices kept holding me back. I kept thinking, "Ouch!" Then my Dad said something very good. He said (paraphrased) that I should buy what I wanted and that it's not like I buy a new TV every year. That REALLY helped. Then we walked over to the more expensive models.

I was thinking, "Yeah, I'll look, then we'll go back down to the cheaper ones." Then the salesman mentioned 3-D!!! I was immediately interested! Yes, it was the most expensive model I had seen so far, but it was on sale, and it had a couple other added things as a promotion, and next thing I knew I was saying, "Let's get this one!"

The whole time the salesman was putting the information into the system, I kept thinking, "I can't believe I'm buying a 3-D TV!" We entered in my stuff, then we went and found an entertainment center I liked too. *grin*

I'm so very thankful I have the family I do. My parents & brother gave great feedback and helped me make a really good decision. I didn't walk out of the store with the items, they will arrive in a couple weeks. I CAN'T WAIT!!!

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
SPIFFY!!!

AWESOMEKID!!! *grin*

Today I started tutoring with Awesomekid. Awesomekid is a really neat kid that goes to my school, and has been on vacation up until now. Today we met for the first time since school let out, and it was clear he was NOT happy to see me! I was really excited to see him though! He's one of my favorite kids at my school, so it was really good to see him.

We worked for an hour on reading and writing. He laughed some, and joked some. He still wasn't thrilled to see me, but I was able to get him to work, so it was good.

During the school year one of his words was AWESOME. That is one of his favorite words. I got a shirt for him that says, "I'm awesome" and can't wait to give it to him!

Don't get me wrong, I am LOVING Summer Break, but seeing Awesomekid was one of the highlights of my day!

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!

Feelin' the Love, via Texts

The highlight of my day was this afternoon when I texted a friend that I haven't talked to in a while. I sent a one line text to a friend, and it turned into an afternoon of texts back & forth. It was so much fun getting caught up and sharing life stories back and forth. I was watching a movie at the time, and we both know the movie really well, so it was fun to share quotes from the movie with each other.

It wasn't anything huge, I mean it wasn't like we hung out or anything, but I tell ya what, sometimes just chatting with a friend is the biggest blessing God can give us. I know today when we quit texting, I thanked God for the afternoon with my friend.

It got me thinking about how God could have chosen me to live in any time in history that He wanted. He chose me to live in a day and time when texting, email, facebook, and blogging are a part of our culture. For that I am thankful. Today's text exchange has had me *grinning* all day.

See, I keep telling people, it really doesn't take a lot to make me happy!

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

dodgeball champion of the world!!

or at least summer camp...

i’m sitting on the boyfriend's couch decompressing after a really long day. i need to ice down my shoulder and chest. today i became the queen of dodgeball. the little boys were surprised to have their little butts handed to them by a girl.
the first kid i got out was teased mercilessly; after all, his ball was caught by a girl. score one, anonymous teacher. i proceeded to rack up the kills. i was much better at catching than throwing, but i was told, “wow. this girl’s got a rocket.” i may’ve hit a couple kids in their little heads…oops. i also knocked two kids off their feet. i throw hard, but i have horrible aim.

time to vege out in front of the television for a bit before i head home to bed...

Eyes to See, Ears to Hear

I read a statistic somewhere recently, and I wish I remember where it was that I read it so I could know if it was an actual fact or not. Anyway, the statistic was that we have 3,000 thoughts per day. I figured it would be more than that, but the more I thought about it, 3,000 is enough! *grin* Anyway, it seems my head has been full of a lot of thoughts lately. Tonight I wanted to share a few of them.

The thing I have thought the most about is gut-wrenching life can be this side of Heaven. Of course, the first thought to that would be the Tornado in Joplin. That has occupied a lot of my thoughts on a daily basis. People who were living a normal life and "bam" homes were gone in 45 seconds. Okay, well, that's a natural disaster. I get that. I mean, I don't like that, but sometimes things get thrown at us that aren't our fault, and God is still in the midst of the recovery and re-building process. Okay, I have processed a lot of that with God.

The part I have really been pondering in the past few weeks has been tougher for me to wrap my thoughts around, even though I understand it at the same time. Tornadoes, floods, etc, aren't battles chosen by humans, they are situations thrust upon them. The past few weeks I have spent a day or two out at the local amusement park(s). I will admit that I LOVE the roller coasters, huge slides, etc, but at the same time my heart ACHES for the people that are absolutely LOST out there.

For example, I wandered off on my own for a bit yesterday to go ride two slides that I haven't been on in years, and I wanted to experience them again! Of course, both slides had fairly long lines, so I go to listen to conversations around me. What I heard ABSOLUTELY broke my heart, because people were stuck in their own issues and using words I was offended at hearing. I stood there at one point and prayed silently as these four kids were talking about their biggest issues and I was thinking, "You need God!" My heart broke for so many lost children, with issues that are not too big for God! I prayed, and found it humorous that right after I prayed I was singled out to go ahead of the line and go down the slide before all the kids who were in need of Jesus. I thanked God and went ahead down the slide. I walked away pondering life without God. And, I can't even fathom it. I knew it was time to go get ready for FCF.

On the drive home, I told God I was at the point I wanted to quit real life and be in a world like Barnabas. (For those of you new to my little world, Camp Barnabas is the one place here on Earth where people are serving Jesus to the best of their ability, people are treated like equals, no matter who you are, and words are not usually like the ones I hear out at the Amusement Park.) I knew I just needed some time in the Prayer Room. I was RIGHT!

When Matt came out last night, he did a couple songs I hadn't heard before. I liked that! He's currently my favorite leader on the base, and last night I received exactly what I needed. One of the lines in the song said, "I won't be overwhelmed." It hit me, I was simply overwhelmed by what I had observed out at the Amusement Park, but God isn't overwhelmed by it. I took time last night to ponder, and remembered that God knows each of those kids in that line, and He's got them taken care of.

The song went on to say something like, "Give me eyes to see, ears to hear." I'm right to intercede for these kids, and speak into their lives when I am led. For all I know, no one has spoken into their lives for them to even know what there is out there in a life with God.

Today as I drove shuttles, God reminded me that I don't need to be at Barnabas to be a part of God in an amazing way. With the team we had driving, I was blessed to be reminded that I'm running this race with some AMAZING people in God. *grin*

I'm still excited about camp next month, but it was INCREDIBLE to have God show me what I needed.

He's cool like that! *grin*

So, that's what I've been pondering. Eyes to see, ears to hear, yeah, that's right!

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

Worlds of FUN

For the third time this Summer, I went to Worlds of Fun. Today I went with a former student's family, which was really cool. Big Mike was in my class for FOUR years in elementary school, and I'm so PROUD of the young man that he has become. After finishing his first year of college, he is back in his home town working this Summer. He still wants to be a Special Education Teacher! His Mom was the one who invited me to join them, and I'm so glad she did!

Upon arrival, I was happy to see Mike, his brother Clay, his girlfriend, Loralynn, and his uncle. We proceeded to ride the Mamba, which was SO MUCH FUN! *grin* Then again, when I have I NOT enjoyed the Mamba coaster? *grin* Mike let me go on the coaster ahead of them, so I was done first. I headed down to wait, and found his mother, sister, and niece. I made goo-goo eyes at the 6 month old, and made conversation with them while we waited for the others to get done. It was GREAT to see everyone.

Throughout the day, we rode Fury of the Nile, which is a water ride. (I got DRENCHED!) We also rode The Patriot, which I LOVE as well. I didn't participate in The Monsoon ride, as I was already SOAKED and didn't see any point in doing another water ride and enjoyed talking to Lisa, his Mom. After taking a brief food break, we headed back out to ride The Patriot. On the way, Mike & Loralynn took some nice pictures. We also went in & out of the various shops, which was fun too! I haven't done very much of that, so that was neat. I even looked for a Raccoon for a young friend in Joplin, but didn't find one! *grin*

We rode The Patriot, which was a highlight for me. I REALLY enjoy that ride A LOT. I laughed a lot of the way through it. It was a lot of fun for me. I also enjoyed waiting in line for The Patriot with Mike & Loralynn as they told me their story of May 22. Everyone has quite a story, and when I heard that Mike & Loralynn were part of the search and rescue team, it didn't surprise me. Mike has really grown up.

When we got off The Patriot, Mike & his uncle decided to ride the Ripcord. That was when I said, "That's insane." (That seems to be a phrase this summer.) I actually said the phrase earlier in the day when we saw it, and I said that wasn't my idea of fun. I believe when his brother Clay asked me if it was a ride I would do, I said, "Nah, I'm good." *grin* Mike & his uncle did it, and I have to admit I was glad I saw him do it. Of course, I still wouldn't do it. *grin*

Overall, it was a lot of fun. I'm doing Oceans of Fun with them tomorrow too. Of course, that's if it doesn't rain. *grin*

So many times I hear people say "I'm proud of you." I know I've said it before about students from time to time. Today I was honestly reminded of how well Mike turned out. Yeah, he's human and has made some mistakes, but he's done a great job of staying on the right path. He plans on returning to school in the fall to continue his education and college football career. I'm proud of that young man! *grin*

LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

oh, the joys of summer...

summer camp has started...week one has, in fact, been put in the books.

seven and eight year-olds are a world away from my high school monkeys, but they are just as challenging. we had three bathroom accidents in four days. lots of lost clothes...you have to spell everything out for these kids...saying, "grab your things" isn't enough. you have to detail it for them: "remember to pick up your back-pack, your towel, your waterbottle, your bathing suit, your shoes, your head..." or they forget it then attempt to shift them blame: "but you didn't tell me to get my eyeball..."

i had the cutest camper on the planet...whenever anyone would ask him "what's up?", his response was "good". i finally got him answering "nothing" by the end of the week. i also taught him to say "two thumbs up like the fonz." he broke that one out in front of our camp director.

boyfriend head didn't think i'd do very well at this little kid thing, but they like me. i'm a little less motherly than the other counselors, but i'm not the babying type.

for example, a little girl walked up to me and held up her arm: "look at this" she tells me. i look. it's a little scrape. minimal blood. my response: "okay. and?" she just stood and stared at me. so, i asked if she wanted a bandaid, and she said yes...so i handed her one.

i am having fun, and surprisingly the smaller monkeys like me even if i am kinda gruff.

week one...down!!

It Really Doesn't Take Much...

...to make me happy.

Today I got up and tutored a student, and then came home and relaxed before the rain moved in.

Jay & I played a little. We cuddled a little. He slept A LOT. *grin* It was nice.

I read a little bit of my book, texted with a friend, surfed the net, and watched TV.

Productive?

Nope.

But it sure has been a nice day!

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

Unconditional Love

Night before last I awoke from sleeping soundly to needing to get to the bathroom super fast because I knew I was about to be sick. I hate nights like that. Don't you? I'll spare you the details of what happened in the bathroom, but suffice to say, it was a LONG night. Why is that? Why is it that during the day you can kill time in all different ways, and it doesn't seem long at all, but the nighttime hours DRAG? I don't know, perhaps it's just me. Somehow I doubt it though. *grin*

Over the span of the night I would say I got up and crawled back into bed at least ten times. Each time, Jay was laying at the end of my bed, and would raise his head to make sure I was okay, and then wait patiently for me to crawl back in bed. At some point in the night, he moved closer to me so I could cuddle and feel love. He was fine with me getting up over and over again. He knew I was sick. Jay amazes me. Perhaps you've always had a dog, and have always been blessed like that, but I haven't, and not a day goes by that I'm not amazed by the little guy.

I woke up about 9 o'clock and knew I needed to call my tutoring kid to cancel for the morning. Jay thought I was up for the day and was Mr. HyperDog. I just looked at him. He bounced down the stairs, as I realized my cell phone was downstairs, and I said something like, "AWWW, bummer." As I started down the stairs, I stopped and sat down. I was weak. I wasn't going to throw up, I was just weak. You know what the furry kid did? He walked back up to the step below me and just sat down. I petted him and prayed. I wasn't in immense pain, I just felt really weak. Shortly after the prayer I got up and came downstairs and made the quick phone call. After another trip to the restroom & letting Jay outside, I looked at Jay and said, "Okay, Jay, I'm going to sleep on the couch." He just stared at me. I climbed onto the couch, pulled the covers over me, and the furry kid climbed up on my feet and slept while I slept. He amazes me. He just let me sleep. He didn't bark at neighbors (Blinds were closed though, I'm no dummy!) or try to get me to play with him. He just let me sleep. Even now I smile at that. It's minor I guess, but it was HUGE to me!

I got up around noon, ate, and just stayed on the couch all day yesterday. He was a REALLY good sport. I apologized to him about not going on a walk, but he did really well. Normally not going on a walk means he's bouncing off the walls in the evening, but he cuddled with me instead. What a GREAT friend!

Today I have felt better. Not great, but better. (I gotta get to 100%, I have plans for Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun this weekend!) Jay did get his walk today, which was great! I also tutored both students today and have relaxed the rest of the day. Jay has cuddled with me off and on, which has been nice. He also PULLED on me at one point in the walk. I think he knew I was still not 100% and needed a little support. *grin*

Jay took GREAT care of me yesterday & today without even knowing it! *grin* I never felt alone. I felt unconditional love. I tell ya what, Jay can't talk but his actions say everything I need to know. I can hear it. "I love you Shannon!" *grin*

LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

Sharing Life

Yesterday I did a day trip to Joplin to visit with two of my former students. I would have seen more kids, but I ran out of time, which was fine. I know that God wanted me with the two boys I was with, and I REALLY enjoyed my day with both of them.

My first half of the day was spent with Dustin. Dustin was in my class two years, and has always held a special place in my heart. His family lost their home in the tornado, and they are living with friends just outside of Joplin. He's in a secure home, with parents that love him DEARLY, so I know he's being taken care of VERY well. I was touched a few weeks ago when I was asked to just spend some time with him. Initially I thought, "Yeah, I'll do this to help him." But, as usual, God has taught me just as much as I have taught him. We laugh a lot, which isn't something I expected going into this season with him. I don't know why, but I didn't. We laugh a lot, and talk a lot about the tornado. I think he just likes getting it all talked out. He talks about facts, not emotions, which still counts in my book. He's been diagnosed with Autism, but he's very high functioning. But the amazing thing is that we talk a lot about WHAT IS STILL STANDING. Meaning, areas of Joplin that weren't affected. He is happy that not EVERYTHING was hit. Of course, yesterday it was really beneficial to us, as we saw Kung Fu Panda 2, and ate at the Food Court. Perhaps my favorite part yesterday was wearing 3-D glasses and talking throughout the moving with him. We laughed a lot throughout the movie too, which was fun. After returning him to his home, we took a picture in our 3D glasses. It was a day full of memories I'll never forget.

After that, I went and met another family that I knew from my previous school. I haven't seen Michael, my former student, since I have moved. He has really grown up. He chose to just walk around the mall. We went into Vintage Stock and he taught me A LOT about Video Game systems. I wish I could say I was just humoring him in my lack of knowledge about the various systems, but I wasn't. Michael has always been a quiet kid, and his silence taught me a lot yesterday. Don't get me wrong, he talked, but it was just different than with Dustin. Michael was that student that didn't talk a lot, but when he did, it was always worth my time to hear what he had to say. He's also from an amazing home, with a family that is a true definition of SURVIVORS of the recent tornado. I'm praying like crazy for relief for this family of 6.

On my drive home, I thought A LOT about what a privilege it is to be walking beside these families in this season of their lives. I have other students I want to see during my future visits to Joplin too. (School started yesterday for Joplin, so there was one in particular I didn't see because of that.) I was thinking on the drive home about what an amazing role teachers can play in the lives of students. While I realize I've said this before, it really is true, once a student is in my classroom, I want to be a support in their lives for as long as they want me beside them.

That's what sharing life is all about. *grin*

LIFE.
IS.
GREAT.

ONE LITTLE SET *grin*

Last night I went to FCF (Church for those of you new to my little corner of the world) and was feeling a little blah. Not down. Not mad. Not upset. Just blah. I wasn't really sure what was up with me, but I knew FCF would be good for me.

Misty came out to lead worship, and I was excited. It's been a few weeks since I've been there when Misty has led, so that was cool. I knew that I would connect with God, and I did.

However, the real highlight for me came after FCF. After FCF, the church becomes the Prayer Room from 10-12. Meaning, you can sit and read, or sing, or whatever. You just can't sit and talk within that room. (You can move to the back or outside to chat.)

When Matt Gilman came out, I WAS SO STINKIN' EXCITED!!! I can't remember the last time he led during the 10:00 set on Saturday Nights!!!

From the first note until the moment I left, it was INCREDIBLE. It was a compilation of some of my FAVORITE worship songs. It was as if the Lord said, "Here ya go, Shan, you've been serving my kids, so here's a little treat!" I know it wasn't just for me, but it sure felt like it! I stood there in awe. Amazed. HAPPY.

God knew what I needed before I needed it. Go figure.

The coolest part is I LIVE HERE! *grin*

LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

In the Span of a Week...

I have really contemplated how special people can be in our lives. Okay, more specifically, I have been pondering how special each person is in my life. I tend to be a gal who gives 110% in the friendships God puts in my life. While that has sometimes gotten me hurt, as I have given more than I've received, I haven't let that hinder me in giving 110% anyway.

Last Friday I was blessed to be able to see some friends from my former school. It was GREAT to see everyone, and be a part of the end-of-year shindig. While some staff have been added and some have left, it was still GREAT to be there!

I also spent the weekend with a dear friend and her family. It is so neat to know that even though I live 2 hours away, our friendship picks back up right where we left off. I LOVE THAT! Her kids and husband are WONDERFUL too!

I saw an unexpected friend on Sunday afternoon, who saw me driving my car. She pulled into the parking lot I had just pulled into and we talked for half an hour. I haven't really sat down with her and chatted with her since I moved here. I smiled for the rest of the day whenever I thought about her. We were great friends when I lived there, and it was a real highlight to see her on Sunday afternoon.

I've already mentioned Mr. H. and his family in a previous post, but I mean it when I say that they have blessed me continually over the years. Mr. H. will never know what it means to me that I am a part of his little corner of the world. I can honestly say that I'm closer to God because of my friendship with him and his family.

My former students are ALWAYS special to me. Even after they leave my classroom and go on and become adults, they are still special to me. A few have stayed in touch over the years, and I am even walking beside a couple of them through the Joplin Tornado Event that happened in May. I'm blessed to still be invited into their lives. I don't count that as something minor. I hope to see them a few more times throughout the Summer.

Earlier this week I went to Worlds of Fun with some good friends. The day was full of great memories & A LOT of laughter. *grin*

This week I have also been reminded what a great staff I'm a part of here in L.S. I moved here and was nervous about the shift from a staff I had known for ten years to a brand-new staff. We've already been through a lot together, and we've truly become a family. That's not something I take for granted.

I am blessed.

Later this Summer I get to see my Barnabas Family too.

All these people in addition to the GREAT brothers I have and fantastic parental unit that God gave me!

I am blessed.

As I drove through the tornado area in Joplin, I realized how truly fragile life can be. It was something I already knew, but it was something that I had forgotten. I drove around Joplin and thought about how special people are in my life. I thought about how people can be seen as "Yeah, that person was once in my classroom" or "Yeah, I still stay in touch with so-and-so and they are in college now, going for a degree in such-and-such." Life isn't supposed to be a series of interactions, with people here today and gone tomorrow. But rather a series of interactions with continuous sharing of life's events throughout a lifetime. I am honored that my friends that are in the toughest season of their lives are letting me into their lives and letting me help, even if it's something as easy as taking my former students out for glow-golf or Tilt the arcade. I am blessed to be a part of their lives, two years later.

I am blessed. So many people are in my life and have invited me into theirs. Sharing lives with each other, what an amazing thing.

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

perceived myths in education

Okay, the book I was complaining about yesterday: Education Myths... by Jay P. Greene. (p.s. did you know educators get a 20% discount at b&n?)

Education practitioners, such as teachers, school administrators, and professors at education schools, are not necessarily reliable judges of an education policy's merits...[they] lack the proper perspective to assess questions of policy.


In his introduction, he devotes a bit of time trying to explain why people directly involved in education are poor judges of what works and what doesn't. He tries to say that we're too biased by our own "interests". I'm pretty sure one of my major interests is doing the best job I possibly can educating my students. So, wouldn't one of my main goals be trying to find the best ways to do so?

The first myth he attempts to dispel is the "myth" that more funding for schools means a more quality education. (also in this chapter he cites his own research after calling others with agendas biased...hmmm). He cites a whole lot of research saying schools get more money than they used to...that students haven't changed that much in the past thirty years...that increasing spending in education doesn't actually affect output. He even "dispels the myth" of the gap between spending in suburban vs. urban schools. Obviously a school without books can function just as well as a school with eight computer labs (note the hint of sarcasm).

I agree with him in that we are spending more than enough money on education; however, when one school can afford several golf carts to carry football players on and off the field, while another can't even afford books, there's a problem. Schools are adequately funded, but the money isn't distributed very well.
As to his assertion that the amount of money going into a school doesn't affect performance: duh. I agree there comes a point where it doesn't matter anymore (for example, will students learn more with $10,000 rather than $8,000 per student? probably not); however, tell the schools who can't afford to pay their teachers competitive salaries that spending doesn't affect education. And tell the schools who can't even afford the core classes, let alone the arts and extracurriculars that spending doesn't affect education.

I'm more incensed by this chapter than anything else. While I do believe Greene brings up several points that must be addressed (the idea of dispersing the funding, how much is too much?, etc.), I think he is a man with little or no experience in education who really doesn't fully understand what is going on. He looks at the facts and statistics, but he looks at them as a national average. When you look at facts in that way, it appears to be balanced; however, that's because there are schools that have money coming out their nose...then there are schools who are holding classes in a rollerskating rink because the building is falling apart (this is a fact he actually mentioned in this chapter).

I still have many more "myths" to read through, but I have to stop for now. I can only handle so much of the pompous, know-all attitude.

ugh!! so difficult to stay anonymous...

must. not. give. specifics. GAH!!

p.s. just bought education myths dennis has been talking about. read one chapter, and got so pissed off i had to put it down (by chucking it across the room nearly hitting my poor innocent by-stander kitten). the boyfriend has outlawed the book from his home, saying it gets me a little too worked up.

if you really want to get your blood boiling, read this book. even the excerpt amazon featured made me angry.

i'm sure i'll have a lot more to say about it if i can get through a page without throwing the book...or wanting to rip out the pages.

on that note, i think i'm going to write this man a nasty letter...

WORLDS OF FUN...AGAIN!

One of my favorite parts about moving here is that there is a lot more to do! Of course, that means that I am about 45 minutes from Worlds of Fun, the local Amusement Park. For the second summer in a row, I bought a season pass. Seems a little odd in a way, a single gal buying a pass, but it seems to be worth every penny this summer. Last week I went with my Dad and had a terrific time! Yesterday I went with Drummerboy and his family, and had a GREAT time too!

Drummerboy is 12, and his sisters are around (Please forgive me girls, I can never keep you both straight!) 9 & 10 years old. I honestly expected the girls to NOT want to do the big roller coasters. My initial idea in taking them was for them to experience Planet Snoopy, the newest part of the park. Boy was I wrong about that!

We entered the park and EVERYONE wanted to ride The Patriot! On the way to The Patriot, Shi and I rode the new Carousel. (We were the only ones on the ride!) I figured a lot of the day would be on rides like the Carousel. I was WRONG!

We rode The Patriot twice, The Mamba three times, and The Prowler (a wooden coaster, my first time on it yesterday because I don't typically do wooden coasters) twice! The girls did it all too! It was GREAT! Along the way we also did The Fury of the Nile twice, a few of the Planet Snoopy rides, La Taxitour, and the kids did the bumper cars (I wanted to just sit for a few minutes).

The most unexpected thing I liked was THE PROWLER. It was wooden, and I even told the kids, "This won't go as fast as the Mamba." Well, it may not be as fast, but it was a lot of fun! I typically avoid wooden ones because my back and neck normally hurt afterward. On The Prowler, they padded it enough that I haven't been in pain at all! It was so much fun!

The most fun part though was just sharing the experience with the kids. For example, I haven't run in YEARS, but we would run ahead of people to get in front of the line. *grin* I also hate the climb up the first hill on the Mamba, so we sang "Jesus Loves Me" on the way up. I'll never forget our first ride on The Prowler, and the two kids behind me (I think it was Drummerboy and Singinggirl) were screaming so much I started laughing. It wasn't just laughing, it was that silent laugh where nothing comes out at all. I haven't done the silent laugh in YEARS. I laughed the second time too, but it was because SingingGirl was going Oh-oh-oh with inflection in voice that matched each hill. Clearly you had to be there, but it was a day full of memories that I will never forget. In fact, I remember us getting off The Prowler, and Drummerboy said, "Now that was insane!" I just laughed.

Yep, another world of fun at Worlds of Fun. I can't wait for my next trip! Not sure if it will be with Formerstudentfamily or Dinosaurkid, but either way, it's gonna be FUN! *grin*

LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

SURVIVORS, NOT VICTIMS

In case you can't read the letters written on the wall of this former home in Joplin it says, "I SURVIVED THANK YOU JESUS!"

It was the only picture I took during my trip this past weekend.

I started my weekend by meeting a former student and his stepmom. I gave them the donations that I had gathered and they were very appreciative of what I delivered to them. After that I was blessed to get to spend some time with my former student. I am so glad that I was asked to be beside him during this season of his life. We had a great time!

At this point, I should mention that I went to Joplin with the idea that the tornado had affect MOST of Joplin. Well, while that may be true, the northern portion of the town was not affected at all. Therefore, our trip to the mall and back looked just like it has always looked. I felt like I was in Joplin, just like always. Of course, my student talked a great deal about the night of May 22, so I knew it was a real deal, but it wasn't real to me yet. I was praying though for the moment it would be real for me.

Following that, I went to the place where I was staying this weekend. A friend of mine and her family let me stay with them, and they are ALWAYS fun to be with! I was SO GLAD that God set it up for me to be with them. *grin*

After getting settled at my friend's, I went and saw some friends from my old school. It was a blessing to see everyone, hug them, and hear their stories. While I know I'm where I'm supposed to be, it really meant a lot to me to see everyone and hug them.

Saturday I got up and went and saw my former student again. It was SO MUCH FUN to just spend some more time with him. We went to the arcade and played several games. We talked a lot too, which meant a lot to me. He's still one of my all-time favorite people! I plan on doing several more trips this Summer just so I can spend more time with him! *grin*

After that, I called Mr. H. to see if he needed help at the church with tornado relief. He didn't exactly say he needed help, but he invited me over to the church anyway. I told him I hadn't seen any of the tornado area yet, and he asked if I had GPS on my phone. He said I might want to have it on as I headed to the church. Honestly, my stomach did a small flip when he said that, but I knew it was time to see the damage. I hung up, and said a prayer.

I started driving, and had my HERE FOR YOU CD playing as I drove. I drove down Rangeline and looked. While it was amazing to see, one main thought kept coming to me, SO MANY PEOPLE SURVIVED!!! I sang as I drove up 20th street, where there are not many street signs at all. I prayed and asked God to show me where to turn because Mr. H. wasn't kidding when he said GPS would help. I kept thinking SO MANY SURVIVED THIS DEVASTATING EVENT! I made it to the church without the GPS because I knew where to turn. It wasn't because I knew it by landmarks, but I knew it because He guided me.

I got to the church, introduced myself to a few people who took me to Mr. H. Mr. H. showed me their sanctuary that has been FILLED with supplies. It reminded me of Wal-Mart, honestly. It had EVERYTHING you could think of to start over if you lost a house, with the exception of a house. *grin* Then Mr. H. offered to give me a tour of the streets of Joplin. I knew it was time to see it all.

We drove down the streets and at first it wasn't as bad as I expected. Houses were affected, but standing down by his church. Then we went down by the High School. I had only seen the HOPE sign on the net, but from the front you can see inside the classrooms. It was amazing to me. We headed up 20th, and you could still see homes standing, but you could see damage too. It just wasn't as devastating as what was ahead of us. We turned into the neighborhood where my former school is located, and again, most homes were standing. Not necessarily livable, but standing. We turned and saw my old school. Just looking at it, you can't see damage, but as I learned this weekend, looks don't always tell the full story. We turned left, and headed toward 26th. As we pulled up to the stop sign, my stomach flipped. Words can't explain what I saw. My immediate thought was "That's where our students lived!"

I'm glad Mr. H. turned left and headed down 26th, I wasn't ready to drive through that part of the neighborhood. I had heard the phrase, "we lost our house" but I didn't have a visual to go with it. We continued down our path, and honestly I asked Mr. H. a couple of times, "What was there" to which neither of us could remember at certain points of the drive. All we knew was that SOMETHING was where there is now NOTHING. Bark was even off trees. It was amazing to see.

Mr. H. took several pictures, and I didn't. I just couldn't. This wasn't a vacation. I wasn't a tourist. This was my home for ten years. (Work at least, lived there 5 of those 10 years) As we drove, I just keep thinking PEOPLE SURVIVED THIS!!!

We got back to the church and there wasn't a whole lot to do. I eventually found myself useful at various times helping with the volunteers getting items for people who came in for items. It wasn't busy, but it felt good to help. I noticed that more than anything, people just needed to talk. To get their stories out. To process what had happened. I just listened.

Over and over again, the stories were similar.

"We were in a closet, and the house was taken except that closet."
"We were in the basement praying, and the whole house is gone except the basement."
"We went over to a friend's basement, and they lost the whole house, but not the basement."

Sometimes they admitted to praying, and sometimes they didn't. My guess is that in that moment, they were all praying in one form or another. I imagine a lot of people connected with God in some form or another that night.

Some people cried, some didn't, but no one played the pity card. EVERYONE I met this weekend was a SURVIVOR! That is something the media isn't sharing with us two hours away. I certainly don't mean to downplay the devastation or loss of lives on May 22. But as this weekend progressed & I drove more and more in the tornado's path, it became CLEAR to me that God was in the midst of it, keeping THOUSANDS of people alive. For that I Thanked God over and over again this weekend.

About 6-ish, I told Mr. H. I was going to check on another former student. I hadn't had contact with the family and after our drive they were heavy on my heart. I realized this meant a drive back in the devastation, but I was fine with that. I drove around, trying not to be in the way of all the AMAZING volunteers clearing debris with various tractors. There weren't street signs either, so it was almost like a puzzle to get to the student's house. Once again, I was playing HERE FOR YOU, which God clearly used to guide me through this weekend.

I pulled up, and my former student's sister and mother were there. I parked my car and walked up to the driveway. I spent HOURS in that house tutoring this family's son, and while there was a house standing, the roof was gone, windows gone, and furniture was gone. (I gave the sister a HUGE hug before I even walked up to the house. And after seeing the house, I was SO GLAD I had done that first!) After talking for a while with them, it was clear that God protected them as well. I said a non-verbal THANK YOU to God even as we stood there and chatted. They told me that they are staying in a hotel with the boy with Autism that I tutored. I asked if I could go see him, or if that would make it worse. They said it would be fine.

I went to the hotel room and saw a young man, not a boy. He has grown up in the two years I've been gone. He sat down and talked to me. He's shaken, but he's surviving. But, he didn't even play the pity card. He's a survivor & so is his family! I was so glad I got to see him. It was (quite possibly) the highlight of my day! His Dad said he was touched that I came to visit his son, and I said, "Hey, this is what sharing life is all about."

Yesterday I was able to go back and take him something that will definitely help him through this season of his life. I also offered to let his sister come visit for a little while this Summer. I hope she does, as she is an amazing gal and I don't want her get burned out this summer.

I did get to attend a church service last night where Mr. H. preached. It was a very timely message for everyone in Joplin, and it was even timely for me. Mr. H. & his wife are strong believers in the faith, and I'm so glad that my move north hasn't hindered my friendship with them at all. I am a blessed gal.

Mr. H. and I discussed at one point of our time together that Joplin is a town of SURVIVORS. Over and over again we hear the term "Tornado Victims". That's NOT THE CASE! There wasn't ONE person that I met this weekend without an appreciative attitude that they made it through alive. Everything else was just stuff.

I realize it won't be easy for them, but I will say that God is providing for those in Joplin. Most places are so inundated with donations that they're not taking any more. Several places aren't taking volunteers either, as they have too many already. (If you go to rebuildjoplin.org, you can help though! There are even some volunteer sites there too!)

Overall, I was blessed this weekend. While it wasn't easy to see what a tornado did to some of my favorite people on the planet, I know that God is in control & will take care of everyone!

As for me, well, I learned a valuable lesson this weekend. I went into the weekend wanting to help Joplin as in volunteer with a group and go out into the community. What God showed me this weekend is that there are people that can benefit from me going down and just spending some time with them and/or their children. After all, I meant it when I said, "This is what sharing life is all about." *grin*

My prayer has changed now. Not for the Tornado VICTIMS, but for the Tornado SURVIVORS.

*grin*
LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!

planning...

i've started my planning for next year...

if anyone has any really good ideas for teaching writing to lower-tracked students, please let me know.

i'm really excited for next year. i got all the classes i asked for--i suppose because no one else wants the lowest track...i'll have so much more freedom with them though. i've already come up with some ideas:

  • a slave narrative (non-fiction) in connection to to kill a mockingbird. i love looking at the social context of tkm. and the slave narrative will let me get into that a bit more.
  • also for the sophomores, we're going to do a lot of summarizing. once a week, i'm having them bring in a textbook from another class, and they're going to have to practice summarizing what they're doing.
  • i'm working on bellringers for all the classes.
  • my freshmen will be reading "the most dangerous game" in a short story unit...then we're going to move on to treasure island and talk about the adventure novel...also coming of age stories. then i'm going to have them write a coming of age story about themselves (narrative).
  • also, my freshmen will read a part of a christmas carol and write a compare/contrast paper about it and the film scrooged.
  • i'm going to begin both classes with a mystery story. i'd like to get them looking at "clues" in literature.
  • i have to find a play for my juniors to read for their literary analysis essay. i want something they'll be interested in but also something they can write about. suggestions?
i will be ridiculously prepared come august...

WORLDS OF FUN

Yesterday my Dad and I went to Worlds of Fun, here in Kansas City. This trip was a make-up trip from the one we were supposed to do last year. The day we were supposed to go last year, it was something like 118 degrees outside. Okay, maybe not quite that hot, but too hot for a trip to the amusement park. *grin*

After going to Worlds of Fun with Drummerboy last year, and experiencing THE PATRIOT roller coaster, I couldn't wait to have Dad experience it for himself. In case you haven't been on it, it is a steel roller coaster with the track ABOVE the riders. (Check out worldsoffun.com to see the actual coaster!)

Our first ride of the day was THE PATRIOT!!! I was pumped!! We waited in line, and made small chit-chat, and then it was our turn! We boarded the coaster, and I openly admitted to my Dad that the only part of coasters I hate is when you first go UP the hill. I'm fine going down, it's the going up that bugs me. (Seems backward, doesn't it?) *grin* Anywho, the ride was AMAZING!!! One of my favorite parts about it is that you don't know what's coming up next on it because the track is above you.

As we pulled into the area to get off the coaster, I was laughing and turned to Dad, and heard him say, "That was insane!"

I just laughed.

We looked at our pictures after the ride. I was smiling. My Dad was not. *grin*

After that, we headed for the other favorite roller coaster, The Mamba. My Dad had been on that one before. 205 feet high, 75 miles per hour of fun! I LOVE IT! Dad enjoyed that one even more than THE PATRIOT. I will admit, I HATE the uphill climb on that one, but going over that hill is AMAZING!

We didn't ride any other rides, we just talked and walked. We also split fries and attempted to have Pepsi, but they were out. (Who runs out of Pepsi at Worlds of Fun?)

We stopped and watched the dog show. Yeah, there's a dog show at World of Fun. The couple that do the show have 21 dogs. Yes, that's right 21 dogs! They are all rescue dogs! While I admire them, and they clearly take good care of the dogs, I don't know how anyone keeps 21 dogs. Jay keeps me busy enough! *grin* There was even a DEAF dog! It was so cool! *grin*

Perhaps my favorite part was just talking to my Dad. He's a great guy, and it was fun to chat and ponder life with him.

Maybe not though, I gotta admit, I LOVE THOSE COASTERS! *grin*

LIFE.
IS.
GREAT!!!