Story, Sarah, Postage Stamps, Humphrey Bogart, Colleen, and the Oscars

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Okay, I don't say this often -- really I don't say this at all -- but I'm willing to say it now, so here you go:

The past two weekend have just been really nice.

I mean, honestly, when people at school ask me on Monday how my weekend was, I'm usually just like, "It was fine, thanks." But last Monday, and I know tomorrow, I am all like, "You know what? It was really, really good."

Last weekend started with seeing my BFF Story in a play. (Okay, technically it was Thursday night, but that was just getting the weekend started early.) Friday brought a nice casual wine night in with  my dear friend Sarah (more about her later!). On Saturday I spent the gorgeous, unseasonably warm 70 degree day running around Huntington for my aforementioned friend Sarah and her fiancee Drew, who were doing a video shoot for their upcoming wedding. I also went to mass and had dinner with my parents that night. Last Sunday I got to go to Target to get a shower gift for Sarah and then took myself on a date to see The Maltese Falcon in the theatre. Man, what a great weekend!

Not a pic of Story and me at "Mauritius" but at her last show, "Ah Wilderness!"

This weekend was just as good, which is so amazing. On Friday night, I saw Story's play again (and now consider some of her castmates my new friends in that I am a theatre hanger on, or "appreciator of the arts" as Sarah would say :), and I think they are amazing and awesome. This time Sarah went with me to the show! Yesterday I helped man The Divine Intervention's Winter Warmth Drive (I'm on the board), and we collected so many things from our generous donors to help keep some of our neighbors warm this winter. Yesterday evening/night, I went to two parties for Sarah: a wedding shower and then a bachelorette party. Both were so much fun! I met some of her friends I haven't met before and just had an awesome time having fun. (Incidentally, now that I read this, I have done an awful lot of things with Sarah lately, which is so awesome. Love you Sarah!) Today I went to mass and the grocery store, did some chores and some homework (lame), but now I am live texting the Oscars with my best friend Colleen, who loves awards shows more than any other person on earth. (And who is hilarious.)

Me at the Winter Warmth Drive. I usually am the one taking all the photos, so this time Dave and Kim made me get in some, too. :)
I mean, amazing, right? Sometimes I'm not very good at sitting back and reflecting on how lucky I am to know the people I know. But I have been making a more conscious effort lately to say yes to things and love people. And it's not always easy, but I have been especially fortunate these last couple of weekends.

Bachelorette party fun with Sarah, Candace, Cindy, Becca, Lexi, Melinda, Lauren, and Carlie. Such great girls! (And, incidentally, doesn't everything look better in black and white?!)

 It just reminds me that we, as people, are made for relationships and human connection (as Amy has said a lot), and we need to value that and nurture it when we can. And if you have a choice, always choose people! So my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has made these last couple of weekends awesome!

There's Never Any Telling What You'll Say or Do Next

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The other day I was creating a webquest for my seventh grade students (my first one ever that wasn't for school!), and I needed a good photo of a detective. When I think "detective" I think "Sam Spade," so I googled The Maltese Falcon in order to find an image of him. Imagine my surprise when, instead of photos coming up first, it was a listing of showtimes for the movie in my area. What the what?!

TCM hosts a special movie in theatres once a month, and I've been to some of them before. I didn't know about The Maltese Falcon, however, until I happened to google it! I LOVE that movie. In fact, one of my favorite quotes of all time is from that movie: There's never any telling what you'll say or do next, except that it's bound to be something astonishing! Don't you just love that? I hope someone says that about me one day.

To be fair, I love most old movies, but there is just something special about The Maltese Falcon, isn't there? I mean, film noir, man -- they just don't make them like that any more.

So, I decided to take myself on a date today to see it! Here's the thing, sometimes I like to do this sort of thing. Sometimes I like to take myself somewhere where no one knows where I'm going. I go "off the grid" for a while, so to speak. Now, I know I do most things by myself (eat dinner, go grocery shopping, do the dishes, live), but sometimes I like to do special things all by myself. And today was one of those days. I like to think what I actually did was go on a date with Humphrey Bogart. :)

It was amazing to see this movie on the big screen. I just adore life in this era ... those hats, those dresses, that manner of speaking. Sigh. And I found myself wondering, right after Humphrey Bogart said, "I'm Sam Spade" -- did Humphrey Bogart ever sit back and think about how cool he was? I mean that guy was more cool on a random Tuesday than I will ever be in my whole life.

An Epic Day of Filming

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Today was one of those rare beautiful days that occurs in the middle of winter when it's 70 degrees, sunny, and breezy out. The kind of day that makes you think God actually does love you and wants you to be happy and, in fact, remembers that the great majority of us do not thrive on gray, cold, and snow (my friend Sarah Walling and my mom as the only (massively insane) exemptions to this).

I am super lucky because I got to spend the WHOLE DAY outside literally running around Huntington. My friends Sarah Hayes and Drew Navy are getting married in March, and they invited a bunch of their friends to participate in a video shoot today that they are going to show at their wedding reception. I don't want to give too much of it away, but I can say we ran all over downtown Huntington and the Marshall campus dressed in awesome costumes. I only knew one other person there, so I also made a bunch of new friends today! It was an amazing way to spend this beautiful day. Honestly, there is nothing else I could have done today that would have put me outside from 9 a.m until 2:30 p.m., and I am so grateful Drew and Sarah picked today for their shoot!

If you are going to Sarah and Drew's wedding, get ready for an awesome video! If not, I'm sure they'll post it on social media for all to see (and be impressed by!) after their wedding.

A little sneak peak:

Kicking Out My Roommate

Monday, February 15, 2016

On Monday nights I like to take a yoga class with my favorite teacher, Ashley. She always begins class with some sort of uplifting comment, idea, or reading to meditate upon and think about. I just got back from her class tonight and I really think God was speaking to me through Ashley's thoughts tonight because what she talked about aligned directly with one of the things I'm working on this Lent.

Ashley said she's reading a book called The Untethered Soul. She shared that one of the things she's been reading in it is the idea that we all have a roommate ... and that roommate is us. More specifically, that roommate is the voice inside us that provides ongoing commentary to us about how terrible we are, how ugly we are, how we make awful decisions, etc. Basically everything negative we think about ourselves. And Ashley shared that if we had a friend who did this -- followed us around telling us how awful we are all the time -- we'd basically punch that person for two reasons: one, they are saying mean things, and two, they never stop talking.

So very, very true, right?

Before Lent started this year I was thinking about things I could work on to draw closer to God. One thing that I decided I should "give up" this year is thinking negative things about myself. I am so very, very good at telling myself what a terrible person I am, so I decided that, to use Ashley's metaphor, I needed to kick out my roommate.

I got this idea in my head when I shared a certain "Thought of the Day" on my board at school a couple weeks ago. I always share a quote of some sort -- sometimes serious, sometimes funny -- and I get them a variety of places. I can't remember where I saw this one -- probably randomly on the internet -- but it was my Thought of the Day, and I took a photo of it because the longer I looked at it, the more important I realized it was:

Isn't this so true?

So my prayer for you is that, if you have a really mean roommate like I do, you kick that person out, too. You don't need someone being mean to you all the time.

You're awesome.

Ragtag Group of Weirdos

Sunday, February 7, 2016

For two years now I've had the same group of kids in homeroom and also in language arts. They were last year's seventh grade, and they are now, obviously, this year's eighth grade. That class has 11 boys and two girls, and we have been through so many ups and downs in the past year and a half that they'd be impossible to enumerate here.

They can be a real handful. They're not always the best behaved, they don't always turn their work in, they they don't always make the right choices, and, frankly, they are exhausting. But, to me, they are wonderful. They are HILARIOUS (seriously, I could write a book), they are rambunctious, they are caring, they are original. Truly, this group of kids could best be described as a ragtag group of weirdos (in the best way), and I absolutely love them dearly. Let's be honest, if there's any group of people I should be with, it's probably a ragtag group of weirdos. They're my people, and I'd do anything for them.

Last week was Catholic Schools Week, and if you talked to me at all last week (and some of you unfortunately had to), you know that my sole mission in life was to get these kids to win the spirit stick at Friday's pep rally. They had a hard job -- they had to cheer the loudest and be the most peppy while also playing volleyball against the faculty and staff.

I usually teach these kids right before and right after lunch, so from about 11:23 to 12:11 and then again from 12:44 to 1:29. The pep rally was to begin at 2 p.m. I made them do actual language arts work before lunch (God forbid they learn something), but then after lunch I let them get ready for the pep rally.

It was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me in my teaching career.

The kids asked me to turn on some music. One of my girls set up an assembly line painting faces, one boy took small groups of kids outside to spray paint hair. They were making signs, getting their game faces on. They all had matching shirts. I went around tying up shirt sleeves with string, making piles of props, and taking photos to commemorate the fun. Around 1:20 I told them we only had about 10 minutes left.

"Miss Lafferre, we really don't want to go to seventh period. Can we stay?"

"Let me ask Miss Saseen (the principal)."

Miss Saseen said they could stay, if I was willing to keep them, and I was more than willing. I was having a ball. They worked together. They came up with a game plan to walk down the hall and enter the gym. At 1:55, after a few rounds of Sandstorm (Incidentally, who knew that's what that song was called? I thought it was just called like Euro Techno Club Jam), Thunderstruck, and Eye of the Tiger, it was time. I kept watch in the hallway, making sure the other kids in the school were well on their ways into the gym, and then I opened my door.

"It's time guys!"

They walked down the hall in silence, following their game plan, and carrying the tee-shirt of one of my sweet kids who had had his ankle broken in a basketball game earlier in the week and wasn't at school. They were silent, except for this one thing they call their "Celtic chant" which goes a little something like "Ahh-ooh, ahh-ooh, ahh-ooh." It's great.

They ran into the gym screaming, then went into the locker room. They wanted to make an entrance, and I wanted them to have what they wanted.

"Miss Saseen, they want to run out of the locker room when everyone else is seated."

"I'll have the cheerleaders make a tunnel like we do for basketball."


I went to the locker room door and opened it. I could hear them getting pumped up inside, so I just stood there for a minute, listening to them and smiling. I went over to them and told them I'd open the door when we were all ready and that the cheerleaders would make a tunnel.

When everyone was seated, I opened the door. They went tearing through the gym, yelling and shouting, making tons of noise. All the other kids in the gym were cheering for them.


But not even the most awesome thing that was to happen.

First we took our spot on the bleachers and participated in some of the cheerleaders' crowd cheers that were part of the spirit contest. They did great! Then it was time for volleyball.

They took one side of the court, and other faculty and staff members and I took the other side. Playing against my own kids man, the worst. I played the first game with the staff and then my principal waived me over.

"They need a pep talk."

So I ditched my team for the eighth grade. I picked up a sign, took my place on their sidelines, and told them to pump it up. The ones who weren't on the court at the time would run over to the bleachers and pump up the crowd, yelling and high fiving. They were playing volleyball so hard. Hearing them during time outs in a huddle was amazing. They were pumping each other up and working together, all of them. What was awesome was that the kids in the stands -- the kindergarteners through the seventh graders -- were cheering for them USING THEIR CHANT. I was like "GUYS. Do you hear them chanting your chant?!"

Very sadly, they lost to the staff by the narrowest of margins (I'm still not convinced the score was totally accurate), but even then they kept up the pep. One of my quietest kids, upon them losing the game, said to the rest of them, "We have to keep it up guys."

And then, it was time.

"The winner of the spirit contest is ...

... the eighth grade!!!"

I. DIED. There were tears in my eyes.

They were dying too. They got the actual spirit stick and were waving it around.

Everyone got dismissed and they went back down the hall, so excited. I picked up all the stuff they left behind in the gym (one of the only two times I've EVER cleaned up after them ... time number two was after school when I cleaned up the bomb fallout that was my classroom) and went back to the room to join them.

I was like Guys. GUYS. I am so proud of you.

They wanted to do a victory lap. So, of course, "VICTORY LAP AROUND THE SCHOOL!" I took it with them.

We went back to class for afternoon prayer, and then I took a couple photos of them with the spirit stick. Then it was time to go home.

The thing is, we needed this so bad. These kids needed to feel like they were looked at in a good light by the people of our school. (Some of them. Some of them love them as much as I do!) Like I said, they have been notoriously hard to handle for YEARS, and that can be exhausting. But they have changed so much, and they needed that change noticed. Every single one of those kids contributed to the win. No one sat on the bench, no one was too cool. They all gave it their all. It was validation. Winning this spirit stick meant so much. It was validation.

In fact, one of my kids, one whom you would probably think really wouldn't have cared, said to me: "I have waited nine years to touch that thing."

If I hadn't already been pretty much crying, I would have cried.

And, as only this particular story with this particular group of kids could end, when I went back to class after parking lot duty I couldn't see the spirit stick anywhere. I was like REALLY. We have lost this thing after 10 minutes.

But then I quickly realized, what I am saying. These kids are the ultimate pranksters. (Turning things upside down, putting my class raven in the bathroom, etc.) So, after looking for about 15 minutes, I finally spotted it, wedged in between a metal cabinet and the wall.

I put it in its rightly deserved place of honor, in the front of the room.

Since Friday I have reflected on the fact that this spirit stick mission was truly my whole life. Like my current happiness depended upon whether or not 13 eighth graders. won a pep rally. spirit contest. And you know what? I'm okay with that. If that is my life, then I'm okay with it. Some people might think that is small when other people are out there saving lives and winning court cases and traveling the world and caring for their own kids, and maybe it is. But it was worth something to me. And the thing is, it had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with them.

I just feel super lucky to know them and to teach them. It was one of the best days of my life.

2016 Reading Challenge - February!

Monday, February 1, 2016

So it's February, which means it's time to choose a new book for the 2016 Reading Challenge

I posted at the beginning of January about the challenge I decided to embark on this year, and my theme for the month was "A book you should have read in school." You might remember I chose William Golding's Lord of the Flies for that category. And guys ...

... it was terrible. I mean, I know I teach English and everything, but no. In fact I texted my sister Erin about it on Saturday, and it went a little something like this:

Me: You know what is so boring? Lord of the Flies.
Erin: OH MY GOD I KNOW. It's all about stupid boys.
Me: Why am I reading this? I selected it for myself for January, and now I have one day to finish it. God.
Erin: I really think that was a bad choice for you.
Me: Yeah. The theme was "book I should have read in school" and it was on my shelf.
Erin: It sounds more like "book about rampant misogyny." 

I mean, I guess the point of this challenge it to branch out and read books I might not otherwise read, but Lord of the Flies was so, so, so boring. (No disrespect to any of you out there who love it! But come on. :) ) And what's killing me is I have this kid in class right now who's not the world's best reader who chose it to read for Accelerated Reader. And I want to try to find a covert way to see how that's going and to see if he likes it while hiding my lack of a poker face. I'll try and report back. 

Incidentally, on a related matter, would anyone like a copy of Lord of the Flies? :) 

And now it is February. A short month. (Although longer than most Februarys are!) After looking through the categories and my bookshelf, I decided on a category and a title.

The category I'm choosing for this month is: A book you own but have never read.
And the title I've selected is: My Grandfather's Son by Clarence Thomas

In a way, I guess this is cheating because I don't own this book, it's my dad's, but it's been on my shelf for quite some time, and he hasn't asked for it back, so ... 

I'm excited to make this happen! Even though my challenge is off to a rough start, I'm still really glad I'm doing it! 

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