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Because You Can.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

With so much going on in this season of life (wedding planning, trip to Hong Kong, Christmas), I haven't been able to blog in a while. While I have many things to share (Hong Kong pics soon, promise!) today I wanted to share something extra special. It has to do with three little words:

Because you can.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jordan posted a video in which a police officer stumbled upon a man and woman living on the streets, about to shoot heroin. As if that is not tragic enough, the police officer realized that the woman was very pregnant as well. At first he said things to her like, "Why are you going to do that to your child?" but then he realized that what this woman desperately needed was for someone to take her baby.

The police officer said to the journalist:

“I just felt God telling me ‘tell her that you will do it ... BECAUSE YOU CAN.’”

Those words just hit me in the gut.

BECAUSE YOU CAN.

Was it convenient for this man and his wife to adopt this drug-exposed baby? No. Was it easy? No. Would their lives have been far less complicated had they just said no? Definitely.

But they decided to open their hearts and their home to this baby. Because they could.

As you all know, Baby Snicks, the love of my life, died in May. Even now, I can't speak or type his name without immediately tearing up. I miss his soft fur, his floppy ears, the way he moved. His loss was so profound that it changed me, and I won't ever get over it.

This past Saturday evening, the anniversary of the birth of my girl, Jane Austen, I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across the photo of a little black and white dog who was at the shelter and needed to be adopted. Something about her just pulled at my heart, and a name even popped into my head. Before I knew what I was doing, I was asking about her to see if she was still available.

She was. But not for long, they said. She was so sweet that she was sure to get scooped up.

All day Sunday, I thought about this dog. I thought of all the reasons that it was not a good idea to look into adopting her. (Getting married soon, Joe has a dog, out of town a lot, expensive, not the right time of my life, I have no idea how to have a dog, etc.) But then I also realized it was the 17th of the month. Baby Snicks died on the 17th of May. And those three words kept coming back to me.

Because you can.

I consulted Joe. I consulted my mom, whose help I would need when I would be out of town. They were both encouraging, especially knowing what I had been through losing Baby S and being so lonely these past months without him.

I called the shelter yesterday morning at 9:59.

They couldn't figure out which dog I was talking about. She didn't have a name or an ID number. Her photo wasn't on the shelter's page; it had been posted by a volunteer. Just when I was ready to give up because I was so frustrated, the person on the phone told me to hold on. There was a woman in the shelter holding my dog at that moment. This woman confirmed this was the dog I was talking about: black and white, two years old, about 10-15 lbs., some sort of terrier. She was interested in the dog too. I told the woman on the phone that I understood. The woman on the phone told me that the other interested person said the dog might not be 100% right for their family, but she wanted to know what kind of home I'd provide because if I didn't commit to her, she'd take the dog home. I told the woman on the phone that I am a teacher, I live alone, and, most importantly, my beloved boy died in May ... cue immediate sobbing.

After committing to her and paying her fee over the phone I FREAKED OUT. I immediately was like WHAT HAVE I DONE?! And I said as much to Joe. But what he said back was

It's going to be just fine! Relax, you've done a great thing. You've saved a life and we are going to give her a great home!

Because we can.

Would it be easier to just watch TV or read and not have to worry about training a dog that's lived on the streets and in a shelter? Yes. But I have the space for this dog. So why would I leave her in the shelter? Now I've given her a home and made room for another dog to hopefully find his or her new home too.

Joe has trained a dog and knows what he's doing. He'll be here later this week to help. He told me exactly what to get and do today to start off strong. Snicks has a great vet staff, and they will help me. (Also, I'm so happy to be able to see them all again!) My contribution was that I dusted and vacuumed because I did not want this dog to think we lived in squalor.

One thing last night was very hard though. Joe told me, kindly, that it would be best for this new dog if I were to pick up all of Snicks's things from the floor. His towels were still out, as was his bed and stuffed animals. I hadn't been able to bring myself to pick them up. But Joe told me that having his scent on these items on the floor would not help our new little one. So, while sobbing, I picked up that precious boy's things for the very last time.

The thing is, this dog has Snicks to thank for her new life. Because there's no way that this dog would be here had Snickers not been here first. I didn't rescue the dog, Baby Snicks did.

So, everyone, say hello to Jane Austen Lafferre-Kraft.



Joe now has not one, not two, but THREE Kraft girls to deal with.

Please pray that I do the right things with her. Please pray that we are a good fit for each other. And please pray that my heart will in no way compare her to Baby Snicks, but instead will make room for both of them. I'm not going to lie, this first day with her has been hard. But I'm trying. And I know she is too.

In loving memory of Baby Snickers. You are loved so much, sweet boy. Thank you for everything. You will never be forgotten. 




God Will See.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Last year, I gave my then-sixth grade students a test on verbs. Admittedly, this is harder than it sounds, as this unit covers everything from transitive and intransitive verbs to progressive forms to perfect tenses and everything in between.

The results were abysmal.

That might sound mean, but it is true. The students knew it, and so did I.

Through no fault of their own, they really did not have a foundation in grammar, and, as they admitted to me this year, they were mostly guessing on the exams.

Yes, I mean exams, plural.

The students took one verbs test the regular way. Then took the same test open book, and some students did even worse the second time. Finally, some were given a copy of the test to take home to work on, in an attempt to help them understand the concepts.

It was a low point in a year that was marked with struggles, which these particular students have worked really hard to overcome.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago ...

"All right seventh grade, we're going to start a new grammar unit today. On verbs."

Ten stricken faces.

"Verbs?"

I told the students that we were going to forget about what happened last year. They had a foundation now, and they had worked hard. We were going to start over.

I started teaching them the verbs unit again, the seventh grade version this time, in much the same way I taught it to them last year: a mix of notes, examples, activities, and practice sheets. This unit is long, and I could tell we were all getting stressed as test time loomed closer and closer.

Until finally ...

"Your grammar test on verbs will be Thursday, October 26, guys."

Thursday, October 26 came. Fourth period. Ten kids took their seats. Everyone took one deep breath in and then let it out. They started.

I monitored this exam more closely than any other in the past. I stood over the students, watching them work. Sometimes I'd stop and see a student having chosen the wrong response. Please change it to E, change it to E, change it to E, I'd think. I'd make a round around the room, come back to that student, and find that she had changed it to E. Slowly, the finished exams started trickling in.

I super secretly took out a note card and copied the answer key from the master book onto it so that the students couldn't see that I was grading their tests as they handed them in. I looked at the first one, and I panicked as I saw that this student was getting EVERY QUESTION WRONG. Imagine my relief when I realized I had accidentally used the sixth grade answer key and not the seventh grade one.

Shew.

I looked at the first test, then the second. Then the third and the fourth. The fifth. The sixth. Class ended, the kids left. I kept looking.

When I graded that last test and wrote 88% at the top, I sat back in my chair and realized ...

They had passed. All of them had passed.

I cried. I couldn't believe it.

And all I could think was T-E-A-C-H-E-R.

At the end of September we had a professional development session where my principal had us watch a video of a speech by Jonathan Doyle, who was speaking on the role of the Catholic school educator (but I really think his message could apply to a lot of different positions and careers).

It changed my life.

Jonathan Doyle said that, as educators, we have to own our purpose and understand that there's a reason God has put us where we are. He said we must understand the story we're really in. Meaning, we can tell people that our job is teaching English, or we can tell people that we are partnering with God Almighty to raise His children.

WOW.

He referenced the movie A Man for All Seasons, in the scene where Sir (now Saint) Thomas More is talking to Richard Rich. Basically, Rich wants to be in a position where he's highly visible and highly regarded by others.

Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher. Perhaps a great one.

Richard Rich: lf I was, who would know it?

Thomas More: You! Your pupils. Your friends. God. Not a bad public, that.

Interestingly, I received an email this morning from a priest friend of mine, in which he recounted this story:

Have you ever wondered how Michelangelo finished his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Was it really that he accomplished these paintings by himself alone?

Quoting Michelangelo himself: 

"After four tortured years, more than 400 over life-size figures, I felt as old and as weary as Jeremiah. I was only 37, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become.”

Working on scaffolding was physically demanding, and Michelangelo created image after image on an ever increasing scale. He eventually exerted all the power of his mind and spirit, using themes and motifs from past sculptural works in his glorious fresco masterpiece. The four-year ordeal proved physically and emotionally agonizing for the reluctant artist… Perhaps what has struck me the most was his response when someone asked him why he was so serious painting those images even on parts of the ceiling where no one could notice. 

And I also asked myself, “Yeah, why bother to exert your effort to paint something that eventually only a few could notice?”

Michelangelo’s reply to that inquiry was:

God will see.

Jonathan Doyle also said that God comes to us disguised as our life. Everything matters. Just keep going.

His point? We're doing much more than teaching. He quotes C.S. Lewis:

"God claims every square inch of the universe, and Satan counterclaims it."

We're in a daily battle for souls, and our classrooms are the front lines.

Doyle said that God Almighty could show up in our classrooms next week, of course He could He's God. But if God doesn't show up in person, how will our students experience God? It's us. It's teachers.

God, make me a better teacher today than I was yesterday. And help me to remember that the things I do and say to my students have eternal consequences. 





Persuasion.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It is no secret that I love Jane Austen. I love her, and I love all of her novels. Most people would probably name Pride and Prejudice as their favorite of the Austens. However, I'm not able to do that. The best I've been able to do thus far is put the books in an upper three (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma) and a lower three (Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey), which is not to say that I dislike any of them.

The other day, however, I was forced to pick up only one Austen, and, to my surprise, I just said it -- Persuasion.

You see, Persuasion is the novel that features Jane's oldest heroine. At the ripe old age of 27 (pretty much a spinster in Jane's time), Anne Elliot had given up on love and was destined to live her life alone. Jane Austen herself never found love and also never married (often mutually exclusive in her time). Indeed, Anne Elliot was the Austen heroine most like Austen herself. Anne and Jane were both spinsters who watched people around them settle down, marry, and have children.

The truth is, I think I've always seen a little of myself in Anne Elliot. I would love to be the witty, confident Elizabeth Bennet or the self-assured, playful Emma, but the truth is I am probably most like the introverted, mature Anne.

This past Friday, my dear friend Maggie took engagement photos for Joe and me. Her specialty is photos taken outdoors in natural light, and her photographs are beautiful. (I am so fortunate she is taking my wedding photos as well.) Maggie took some photos in Ritter Park, but then, because she is such a good-hearted friend, also indulged my desire to have photos taken at the Cabell County Public Library, even though that is not something she usually does. Maggie, knowing that my love for Jane Austen is real and eternal, told me to pick an Austen novel for the photos. Just one.

I picked Persuasion.

We used it in several photos, but my favorite was one where Joe and I were sitting in an aisle, surrounded by books, with him holding Persuasion and both of us looking at it. Although I am smiling in the photo, this was the moment during our photo shoot where there were tears welling up in my eyes, and they were real and big.

You see, as I sat there in the stacks, beside Joe whom I love, who will be my husband for life, and looked down at the copy of Persuasion he was holding, I was overcome. Overcome thinking about Anne, about Jane. Anne, who got her love in the form of Captain Wentworth in the end, and Jane, who wrote the world's greatest love stories but never found love herself.

Anne and Jane, who have gotten me through so many times in my life. Times when I thought, like Anne did through most of Persuasion, that love wasn't in the cards for me, and I was destined to be the favorite aunt instead.

Sitting beside Joe, who was holding Jane's story about Anne while I looked down into it, hit my heart in such a way that I still struggle to describe it, days later. My heart was so full that it came out of my eyes, I think.

Incidentally, Maggie gave us one sneak peek photo in advance of the others we are to expect in about a month. She got it to us Friday night, the same evening she took the photos. Which one did she choose to send?


Thank you, Anne. And thank you, Jane, as always.

T-E-A-C-H-E-R

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On Saturday night I had the pleasure and privilege of watching my dear friend Story star as Annie Sullivan in Marshall University Theatre's production of "The Miracle Worker."

I have seen all of the shows Story has been in (and have the autographed programs to prove it!), but this one was truly, truly something special. First, because Story was playing a role that was just perfect for her. Second, because Story was a star. And third, because Joe got to see Story perform, and he also got to meet her for the first time.

Story's mom, Jenny, had seen every performance, so by the time we attended on closing night, Jenny had seen the show from almost every angle. This time, the last time, she wanted to see it from the front row. Now, this sounds like a normal thing for someone's mom to say, but you must realize that this production was in Marshall's experimental theatre, so sitting in the front row basically put you on stage in the show. It was truly a wonderful and unique experience to see the show from so close a view.

I was taken in by so very many things that were said and done in this show. For example, Annie's lines:

Everything the earth is full of, Helen.
Everything on it that's ours for a wink.
And what we are on it. The light we bring to it and leave behind in words.
You can see years back in the light of words.
Everything we feel, think, know, and share in words.

I teach English, so I traffic in words. My life is words. I live for words. Amazing.

While many things about the show were very moving, there is one part where I just started crying and couldn't stop. Just. could. not. stop. I don't mean a few tears falling. I mean like sobbing, unable to get the words out to explain why I was crying.

It happened right at the end. Helen has just realized that the "w-a-t-e-r" letters Annie has been writing in Helen's hands stand for an actual thing, which is water. Helen "asks" Annie to tell her the names of many other things, including ground, pump, step, mother, and papa.

And then.

Oh, and then.

Helen "asks" Annie who she is.

Annie doesn't sign "A-n-n-i-e." (Which is what my family calls me, actually.)

Oh no, she does not.

What does she sign?

"T-e-a-c-h-e-r."

I lost it.

The thing is, I actually took a sign language class in elementary school, and, while I can't remember most things, I have always remembered the alphabet. So before Annie/Story even said it out loud, I "read" what she signed in Helen's hand:

T-e-a-c-h-e-r.

I was crying before Annie said the word.

Teacher.

Oh.

OH.

When the lights came up, and I was still crying, Joe looked at me and said, "You're crying! Are you okay?"

And I said, sobbing, "That's it. That's exactly it. That is exactly what it's like to reach a student who is hard to reach. That is exactly how it feels."

I told Story that, too, after the show, and she said she just knew that I would love that part. (Of course she did.)

Who are you?

Not Anna.

T-e-a-c-h-e-r.




A God Close By

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a former student. (He sends one every so often, about every month or so.) I love hearing from him, as he always shares not only what is going on in his life, but also his insights into things.

In this email, he told me about a situation where he really felt God speaking to him in a real way. The catch was, it was over something relatively small in the grand scheme of things. He wrote, "Now I know this is so insignificant in the whole scheme of life and the world ... but it was really nice to see Jesus and talk to Him and see that He can do wondrous things. It still amazes me. We know He can do amazing things, but we always like to be reminded."

I responded and told him how amazing this was, and how I really feel that Jesus really loves to be in the little things.

This past Thursday, my coworker asked if I'd like to grab breakfast with her during our mutual free first period. This was something we did a lot last year, but we hadn't done at all so far this school year. Truly, I had (have) a lot going on, and I wasn't sure I should go. I'm also trying to eat more healthful foods. But I told myself that this breakfast would be a nice way to catch up with this woman whom I view as a mentor and friend and check in with her about our mutual students.

Fast forward to lunch time, when, due to a triple-booking on my part, I didn't eat because I was busy helping a student with something he needed, followed by recess time of assisting two other students whom I had also offered to work with.

Suffice to say, it was a busy day. One of those days where I ran around nonstop, covered someone else's class, etc. We all have days like that. It was particularly hard because I had a pretty bad allergy-related headache (which I'm sure is causing a lot of people trouble right now!). I also just had a lot I needed to get done. I was stressed because I had an appointment scheduled for 4 p.m., so I'd have to rush out the door right after school instead of getting things done and feeling settled for the next day.

Fast forward to late afternoon when I received a text from the person I had an appointment with saying she had a migraine and asking if we could reschedule.

As I sat at my desk chair after school, it hit me that these situations I wasn't sure of (like breakfast) or what might usually be an inconvenience (like a rescheduled appointment) were actually God's way of preparing me for my day. My usual breakfast would have left me beyond hungry at lunch time, but the unusually large breakfast allowed me to stay full longer than I normally would. That appointment being rescheduled gave me the time I needed after school to accomplish a lot of things on my list, which made me feel a lot better.

And after that realization, I thought back to my student's words ... "Now I know this is so insignificant in the whole scheme of life and the world ... but it was really nice to see Jesus ..."

I know that breakfast and an appointment are not the most important things in the world either. Indeed, I read a blog post tonight (that led me to reading many more posts on this same blog) about a young lady in my area, a 14-year-old, who passed away from cancer today. Absolutely heartbreaking. A child dying of cancer is absolutely an important thing in this world. And I in no way mean to act like God should be spending His time worrying about my daily inconveniences.

I also think that, like my student taught me, it's okay -- dare I say, it's good -- to see Jesus answering small daily prayers, or even acting in your daily life to answer prayers you didn't even realize you needed to pray, like in my case. I do think God likes to be involved in all aspects of our lives, big and small. He has that time. He is above time. He is time.



Please join me in prayer for this young girl who died of cancer today. I don't know her or her family, but I do know her name is Katie. 

The Currency of Human Contact

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In the wake of yesterday's tragedy in Las Vegas, there have been an awful lot of articles, posts, and opinions all over the internet. Really, it's to the point where I am scaling back my already-scaled-back time on social media.

This evening, I saw one thing online, though, that really got me. It was this:


So many people expressed their agreement with this.

And I agree, too.

As a Catholic school teacher, we are lucky to have those extra opportunities to teach empathy in our classrooms through our faith formation classes and service learning.

But the more I thought about when I teach empathy, the more I realized --

it's novels.
it's short stories.
it's poems.

I teach empathy to my precious kids through literature.

I have better discussions with my students over literature than I do any other time of the day.

In "The Kid Nobody Could Handle," Kurt Vonnegut taught us to identify those who feel unloved and reach out to them, because everyone needs a connection.

In Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt taught us that some decisions that people have to make are not always black and white.

In The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton taught us not to judge people by what they look like on the outside.

In "The Raven," Edgar Allan Poe taught us how to sympathize with someone who has lost his love.

And, of course, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee taught us what can happen when we allow prejudices of any kind to infect our society. She also taught us what it means to be honest, fair, and good.

My friends, we teach empathy through literature. We teach empathy through examining these beautiful and broken characters and putting ourselves in their shoes.

And thank God for it. Thank God for these writers whose magic words allow me to have these life-changing conversations with my kids. (No exaggeration.)

The realization that I teach empathy through literature both warmed by book-loving heart and it also gutted me.

Because I remembered:

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with my "little sister" J. As I often do when I see her, I was asking her about school.

Me: What are you guys reading right now?
J: Nothing really.
Me: What do you mean?
J: Well, we get these sheets, and we read them and answer questions about them. And then we get another sheet.
Me: What are the sheets about?
J: Like history and stuff.
Me: Wait ... you mean you get passages about things, read them, and answer questions? Like on the standardized test?
J: Yeah. We fill in the bubbles.
Me: Okay. But, like, what are you READING?
J: Nothing. We haven't even gone to the library yet this school year.

I do not mean this as any sort of indictment against teachers or how they run their classrooms, as I know just how many regulations and restrictions teachers face from the state. I simply share this information because it made me sad. Jailuh is in eighth grade. I teach eighth grade. So far this school year, my eighth grade students have read Vonnegut, Stephen King, and Patricia McKissack, among others. They are gearing up for a fall of Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, W.W. Jacobs, and Guy de Maupassant. And it's not because I'm awesome, trust me. I am mediocre at best. It's just that my job is teaching English.

But, guys, I tell you, reading this stuff with the kids -- it's BEAUTIFUL.

I don't know any other way to describe it. It makes my life.

The conversations we have about plots and characters and ideas are just amazing. And, like I said, it's how we learn empathy. It's stories.

"Stories are the creative conversation of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact." -- Robert McKee

Our children love stories. We love stories. There is no amount of passages we can read or bubbles that we can fill in that can take the place of stories.

"Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion." -- Barry Lopez

Lessons in a Trash Bag

Friday, September 29, 2017

I put a couple of fleece jackets, a long sleeve shirt or two, and some sweaters in a trash bag today.

You wouldn't think that was the start of a compelling story about faith, but it is.

You see, my mom texted me today and asked if I was going to Walmart this weekend. The reason is that she is going out of town and she needed me to run an errand for her there. A man who is a big-time volunteer at one of our local food and clothing pantries, the Eastern Cabell County Humanities Organization (ECCHO), stopped into her office today and informed her that ECCHO is really in need of clothing for children ages infant through age 16. My mom wondered if she could give me a gift card so I could shop for clothes for her. Pick out things to donate with someone else's money? That sounds like a ton of fun! And it was.

I don't have a lot of extra money in my budget, although I do try to give where I can (like most people I bet), but I do have a closet that has clothes in it. In fact, I have two. (The big perk of living alone in a two-bedroom apartment, formerly shared by a rabbit who took up very little space. Except in my heart.) I decided it was time to take a look in my closet. Even though I am 33 and have one foot in the grave, I thought I might have something that a high school girl wouldn't feel totally embarrassed to wear.

Now, I love to clean my closet out, and, in fact, do it about every month or so because I pretty much live for throwing things away. (Well, not throwing things away, but getting rid of things.) However, I had done this pretty recently and wasn't sure what I'd find to give to ECCHO. But then I remembered, "... this was our one opportunity to give to this specific family, just this one moment in time."

You see, I love a blog called Tiny Green Elephants written by my role model and wannabe friend, Amy. Amy is about my age, and she has one biological son, and three adopted children, two of whom are from Russia, and the other is from Ethiopia. Naturally, when you're young (we're young, right?) and are paying for multiple adoptions and trips across the world to get your children, money is tight. So Amy has written a lot in the past about giving and what you do with opportunities to give. The quotation that I cited above is just one of the many times she's said something along those lines.

Her point is, sometimes our window of opportunity to give to a specific person or need is small, and we need to do what we can in that window. She says, "Even when you feel like you have nothing to give, you just say yes, and try, then God makes your gift bigger than you could make it, it’s really good."

That's what I thought about as I talked to Joe on the phone on the way home from Walmart. "Why should I hoard a sweater I might wear a couple of times this January when there might be a little girl IN MY OWN COUNTY who could wear the sweater all winter?" I said to him.

Fast forward to me getting home. I peered into my closet, and I immediately found a couple of fleece jackets that are still nice and in good condition. Because Joe has a huge heart and wants to make sure I'm taken care of even though he's far away, he has purchased me a couple of jackets in the past year, one of which is more like a really warm zip up sweater. I told myself that I do not need all these jackets, and those nice fleece ones could hopefully find a new home with a sweet girl. I found a couple long sleeve shirts that I also thought would fit the bill.

Well, this is fun! I told myself.

Until ...

(You knew this was coming.)

... I saw two sweaters in my closet that I have been contemplating donating for some time now. There's nothing really special about them. One is a cardigan (sort of, it's hard to describe) from the Ann Taylor Loft and one is a pullover by Lauren Conrad for Kohl's. So nothing fancy, just a couple sweaters I've had for a couple of years.

As I looked at them, I thought, "Well, I really like these sweaters. And what if I want to wear them? I will be so cozy ..." and then I had this fun dream sequence where I wore my lovely cream pullover sweater by a crackling fire. (In reality, I hate winter and will more likely be wearing the donut leggings Colleen bought me with a shirt that doesn't match whilst I pray for summer. )

I hope you read that in a whiny voice because I was totally whining.

Then, I heard a voice that cut into that whining, and that voice said, "DONATE THE SWEATERS, ANNA."

Yeah. That was God.

"What was that? I couldn't quite hear you ..." I said to myself, still around that crackling fire.

DONATE. THE. SWEATERS. ANNA. 

Yes, sir. Got it that time.

So the sweaters went in the bag.

And I remembered those exact words I said to Joe: "Why should I hoard a sweater I might wear a couple of times this January when there might be a little girl IN MY OWN COUNTY who could wear the sweater all winter?" 

I say all this to say, I am a sinner, and a materialist, and my first instinct is to keep my stuff because MAYBE I will want to wear it once or twice this winter.

Luckily for me, God (and Amy) was ready to step in and remind me about what giving is about.

Giving is not about getting rid of things you don't want or spending your "extra" money.

Giving is about actually GIVING someone SOMETHING YOU YOURSELF MIGHT WANT. I've even told the students that before. "If you think carrots are gross, then please do not bring a can of carrots as a donation to the food drive!"

Giving is about thinking about someone else before yourself.

Giving is about realizing that some of us are blessed to not only have more than one sweater, but to also have the ability to go and buy a sweater if we really needed one.

Bottom line: was Jesus hoarding sweaters like Anna? Um, no. Jesus did not hoard sweaters. Jesus literally gave his ONE life for us, so I can probably give a couple sweaters.

Maybe one day I'll learn my lesson.

I also wanted to mention how fortunate I am to have people in my life who, when I hear "ECCHO needs clothes," I can immediately text and know they'll come through. Thank you so much Kim, Dave, and Eileen for being three people my mind goes to when I know there is a need to fill at ECCHO. I am humbled to serve with you.






Two College Football Seasons.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Yesterday at school was Fatima Family Day. It's pretty much what it sounds like -- each student brings a family member or family friend to school. They spend an hour doing a lesson in class, and then we all go to an assembly in the gym.

Yesterday's assembly was about character. At the end of the assembly, the presenter told a short story. In a nutshell, a teacher wanted to teach her students about patience, so she put a jar on her desk and told the students that if they were patient and waited till the end of the year to look in the jar, they would each get a diamond. One student couldn't wait, and he knocked the jar off the desk and saw it was full of coal. The teacher, of course, puts all the coal back in the jar, except one piece, and, at the end of the year, every student received his or her diamond, while the student who knocked the jar over had to keep the coal. This story was told to illustrate the virtue of patience: the students who were willing to wait each received a diamond in the end.

And it hit me, I waited for Joe (sometimes not so patiently), and I got a diamond in the end too.

And I don't mean my ring, although it is beautiful.

I mean him.

This post is a couple of days late, but on September 11, Joe and I celebrated (although long-distance) the fact that we have now been together for one year. On September 11, 2016, Joe and I met for lunch at Black Sheep Burrito, which turned into a long walk in Ritter Park, which then turned into a very long talk in my living room. All in all, it lasted 9 hours, and it was the last first date I would ever go on. I think I even knew it that day.

Because Joe doesn't live here, we had to celebrate a week early, when he was here over Labor Day Weekend. We recreated that date, eating lunch at Black Sheep and walking in the park. (We recreated it so well that I put on what I wore on our first date, which Joe remembered I wore, and then I saw he was wearing what he wore that first day as well. :) ) Of course we had many conversations about how different our lives were last year, how quickly things can change, and how we can't wait to get married.

I think my favorite part, though, was this:

Me: "Can you believe we've been together for two college football seasons?"
Joe: "Is that how we're going to measure this? 'How long have you two been together?' 'Well it's been 13 college football seasons now.'"
Me: "YES."

Joe has said to me before that he couldn't believe I was still available, and I have said as much to him. And then we both agreed that we've just been waiting for each other.

And waiting.

And waiting.

But as I told him once, I'd have waited even longer for him.

But I'm glad I didn't have to.

The truth is, there were a lot of times in my life when being single was very hard. It was hard to watch friends couple up, get married, and have children, while I just got older. I didn't always handle it gracefully, and God and I had many talks about it.

And then, about two years ago, I just decided one day that if this was all my life was -- this school, this apartment, this rabbit (rest his sweet soul) -- then okay. I was good.

And I was.

And then I met Joe.

And then I realized what God had been doing for me all these years. He had been keeping me away from people who weren't right for me, while preparing my heart (and Joe's) for real love. The kind of love you hope for.

Joe is a good man. His aunt (my second mother) described him as "loyal and good-hearted," and that is what he is. For sure. He gives and gives and never asks for anything. He listens to me when I am happy, sad, frustrated, upset, and not being nice. When I get short or salty with him, he responds in kindness. Always. He's never been short with me. Not once. He's never even gotten an attitude with me. Never anger. I've never seen him angry. (Except when he's in traffic. He hates traffic. :) ) He doesn't raise his voice, and he's not scary. He's calm, he's constant, and he is whatever the opposite of volatile is. (I just looked it up. It's "steady," "enduring," and "steadfast." And that's what he is.)

The truth is, I could go on and on about him.

The truth also is, I do not deserve him.

But, he doesn't deserve me either.

And what I mean by that is that we are two imperfect people who are trying to do our best with this relationship that God has entrusted to us. (Originally I ended that sentence with "blessed us with," but I don't think I like that because I'm not sure it's okay to make people feel like God "blessed" me with a husband but is withholding that blessing from them.) Love is not something that you earn or deserve (truly, I know many women much more deserving of a man like Joe than I), and I have no earthly idea why God saw fit to bring the two of us together. But I hope and plan to spend the rest of my life not making God sorry. In fact, the Catechism tells us that the purpose of marriage is to get the other person to Heaven. (Amongst the many other things it has to say about marriage!)

When I was in elementary school, I remember that a teacher once told my class that God has our futures written on our hearts before we are born. She said that our hearts said things about what we'd be when we grew up and who we'd marry.

And I smile when I think of little first grade Anna who had no idea her heart said "Teacher" and "Joe."

Joe, you are magic. I love you so much.




Incidentally, I saw the following online today. I sent it to Joe. Isn't this written so beautifully? 


Stuff and Things.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I hope everyone is settling in nicely to their fall routines. It's been a bit crazy over here, getting back into a routine with school, the Junior League, exercising, and mainly just being back in town after a summer away. Here are some things that have been happening!

1. I would be totally remiss if I did not start with this.

So, last Thursday night I was anxiously awaiting Joe's arrival in Huntington for the holiday weekend. He had been sending me texts as he crossed various state lines, and, finally, I got the one that said, "West Virginia!" Having already send him a text stating that West Virginia is the best Virginia as he crossed the Virginia state line, I decided I need a fun gif to send. Therefore, I hit the gif button on my iPhone's text message app, and, naturally, I searched "West Virginia."

PLEASE IMAGINE MY UTTER SHOCK WHEN I SAW THIS



That, my friends, is my sister Emma, playing air sax, as the TOP CENTER iPHONE GIF on the West Virginia search. She's before the dang team!

Naturally, I text Erin and Emma immediately, asking them if they knew about this, etc. To make a long story short, this is a gif Erin created from Emma's WVU marching band hype video they made her senior year and showed before football games at Milan Puskar. Apparently Erin posted it on Imgur once, promised Emma she'd delete it, and that, "No will ever see it, Emma."

I pretty much lost my mind. The funniest part of the conversation is when Emma sent this text to Erin and me ...




... and literally one second later I get a private text from Erin that says:



Are you guys dying? It's pretty much the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. If you have an iPhone, you must search West Virginia in the gifs, find Emma, and send it to everyone you know. (Sorry Emma.)

2. It is no secret that I have encountered my fair share of wildlife in my current living situation. My most recent thing was that a squirrel had her babies in my bedroom window (a VERY long story for another day). They were eventually removed, only to be replaced by wasps building a nest. (The word nest now makes me want to vomit, by the way.) So I said to Joe the other day, "Do you think the wasps will keep the squirrels away?"

Then I said, "Do you think I'll ever get to a point in my life where I will look back and laugh about the fact that I was living in a place where I was hoping that the wasps building a nest in my window would help keep the squirrels away?" Like those are my options.

Maybe. Maybe I will.

3. Some ridiculously kind, thoughtful, and generous soul left this in my school mailbox yesterday.


There was a note, but it was typewritten and unsigned, so I figure this person wants to remain anonymous. At any rate, it totally has made my week. This person even marked a couple pages about writing, which I plan to share on the blog soon, as they really spoke to me. People are so cool.

4. I'm a couple weeks late on this, but I got my wedding dress! As I said on Facebook, because appearing in the doorway to walk down the aisle is the fashion moment of my life, the dress is staying under wraps till the big day! I took a cue from one of my peers on this -- Kate Middleton's dress was kept secret till the big day also. And since our lives are so similar, I thought I should do the same. :)

5. Speaking of the princess, Colleen and I can't wait to find out if we're having a new niece or nephew.

6. I have been known to enjoy a good murder or two in my life. In fact, it's become a joke among the students I've had for a couple of years now that the biggest thing I ever taught them was how to murder someone and then hide a body effectively. (Before you get too worked up, it's literature! Is it my fault that Agatha Christie, Natalie Babbitt, Robert W. Service and others love this topic? Is it my fault that researching the effects of cyanide on the human body is considered an English/Science cross-curricular learning opportunity? It is not.) Maybe I didn't realize how insane this had become until this interaction in eighth grade the other day:

A: *Tells a story about a golf match gone wrong, in which a goose is accidentally killed by a golf ball hit too hard in the wrong direction.*
Me: No!!! Don't tell me about animal murder! I don't like it!
L: But Miss Lafferre, you like human murder.
Whole class: Nodding.
Me: Point taken.

7. There is nothing that gets me going like a good West Virginia football hype video. "This is who we are."


"Almost Heaven. West Virginia. Welcome home."

Cue the chills. And the tears.

8. And, finally, just a note that I still come home every day thinking someone will be here. I miss Snicks as much as I ever did. Sometimes I talk to him when I get home, falling back into my old pattern -- "Baby Snickers, mommy's home! How was your day Baby Doodle?" -- before I remember. What a sweet, gentle soul he was. I desperately miss his company, and I have a very big little rabbit sized hole in my heart. Love you, sweet boy.

So this post doesn't end on a sad note, here's a funny Snicks story: I took a framed photo of him to school to put on my desk. Clearly the students aren't behind the desk often, so they're not seeing it from the front. A week or so ago, one of my students ends up on my side of the desk, and goes, "Miss Lafferre, I thought that was a photo of your fiance!" Nope. That's Snicks. (Love you, Joe.)

How are You?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Do you ever feel like you just want to give everyone a hug? Maybe sit down with them as an individual and just listen to them?

This was not the blog post I was planning to write tonight. I sat down to write about change -- and that post is coming -- but as I went to begin, my attention was diverted to a show on PBS called "Journey to Recovery," described by the network as "An examination of the opioid epidemic." The show is set in Kentucky, but it talked about counties that are very close to mine. (It was KET (Kentucky) and not PBY (West Virginia); here in Huntington we get PBS out of both states.)

According to the CDC West Virginia has the highest rate of death due to drug overdose. And there has been story after story after story about Huntington basically being the "epicenter of opioid epidemic" in the United States.

I have never written about drug use or overdose or anything like that, and there are several reasons for that, namely:

  1. I don't know much about it; I'm not an expert
  2. I don't want people who do not live in Huntington or who have never been here to think we're a drug-ravaged hell-hole (excuse my language) because we are not
  3. There's been so much written on the topic already that I'm not sure what I could add
However, as I mentioned, my attention was caught by the documentary I am currently watching on PBS. Something hit me as I watched, so I decided that, instead of writing about what I sat down to write about tonight, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I'm watching.

Two of the first interviews in the documentary were with a young man and a young woman, unrelated, but both had lost a parent to an opioid overdose. (The young woman lost her mother, and the young man lost his father.) Although the two teens would go on to detail their lives watching parents struggle with, and ultimately die of addiction, they both started by saying basically the same thing -- 

My mom loved me. I know she loved me.
My dad was a great dad. I loved him. 

Two teens, two children, who had watched their parents become addicted, steal money from their families, be strung out  -- The girl details having to pick her mother up off the floor and try to get her into bed many times after she'd passed out from drugs on the floor. Her father was in Afghanistan at the time. She also details how she would never, ever spend the night away from home, for fear her mother would die. One day, she finally decided to spend the night with a cousin. Her mother died that night. --  wanted to begin their parts in this documentary by telling anyone who would watch that they thought their parents were good parents and that they know their parents loved them.

Not that I haven't thought about this before, but it just really hit me tonight that people who are addicted to drugs and/or die of drug overdoses belong to someone. They all do. They are someone's mother or brother or cousin or son. Once upon a time they were just little babies in someone's arms. Somewhere along the line, something -- an accident, a mistake -- happened to them and put them on the path to addiction. Something in their hearts hurt so badly that they felt that drugs were all they had. 

In the September Issue of Vogue I just read, there was an interview with Oprah Winfrey. I know people have a lot of opinions about Oprah, and I'm not even sure how I feel about her as well, but she said something in this interview that struck me and that I really agree with:

"There's not a human being alive who doesn't want -- in any conversation, encounter, experience with another human being -- to feel like they matter. And you can resolve any issue if you could just get to what it is that they want -- they want to be heard. And they want to know that what they said to you meant something. Most people go their entire lives and nobody ever really wants the answer to 'How are you? Tell me about yourself.'" 

Isn't that the truth? Don't we all just want someone to listen to us?

I recently told Joe, because I just recently realized it myself, that I am already far less tired this year than I was last because I have someone to listen to me. I have Joe. He listens to me every night. I don't have to carry burdens alone in my heart because someone hears me. (This is not meant to make any of my friends or family members feel bad; I know you also hear me!) 

How often do we go through life -- and I'm pointing the finger at myself here -- saying, "How are you?" to people but not really meaning it, just hoping they'll say, "Fine" so we can move on with our shopping or get to why we started a conversation with them to begin with. I know I do it all the time. 

I wonder if we could just sit down with each other individually -- everyone on earth -- and just LISTEN to each other, how much better off we might be. How many kids may no longer lose parents to addiction. I know hugs and listening won't solve the addiction problem, but I believe our hearts heal when we can unburden them to someone who REALLY hears us. 

So I'll tell you this: I am going to work on truly asking people how they are doing, and not expecting/hoping them to say fine. I need to figure out a new question to ask that's not "How are you?" because we are so programmed to answering, "Fine" whether we are or not. I am going to try to do a much better job of truly listening to people and not trying to rush on to the next thing. Because every time someone talks to us about anything, they are sharing a part of their heart or their brain with us, and -- wow. How humbling is that? I have friends and loved ones who have seriously struggled with something this past year or who are currently struggling -- one beloved friend got some heartbreaking news today -- and I bet if you asked her or any of these people, it helps when others listen. 

Below is a preview of the documentary that I watched. It's a quick 3 minutes, but the first 30 seconds will be enough to get you. 



I love you, friends. 

Self-Help ... Books: Summer 2017 Edition

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

If Summer 2016 was The Summer We Read Austen (as if my whole life is not Austen), then Summer 2017 would most accurately be called More Alive and Less Lonely. Yes, I stole this title from a book of essays by Jonathan Lethem (more on this book at the end of this post). I saw it on the "new books" shelf at my adopted library Sharon Forks, and, although I don't read a lot of nonfiction, I couldn't help but pick it up because, upon reading the title, I thought to myself YES. Yes, that's it. "Anna, why do you love books?" "Because they make me feel more alive and less lonely."

Once again, I've decided to share the beauty of books this summer by compiling in a blog post some of the things I found and was inspired by. I hope you find something beautiful here as well. (I read fewer books this summer than last, but I think -- and told Joe -- it's because he's so cute and fun.)




__________

Those imaginary people, to whom she gave their most beautiful ideal existence, survive to speak for her, now that she herself is gone.

Read Jane's novels. They're there to speak for her: love stories, yes, though not always happy ones, but also the productions of an extraordinary mind, in an extraordinary age. Read them again.

- Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly



He understands that they want him to be special. It's important to people that he be special, because we need special things in our lives. We want to believe that magic is still possible.

- Before the Fall by Noah Hawley



In the depths of winter, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible summer. 

... we all know that you can't judge a book by its cover. You'd miss out on some very good books that way, all those Penguin classics with the orange covers for starters because they all look alike ...

The great surprise of the adult world had been that no one really knew what they were doing, and especially not the people who exuded impenetrable confidence.

- Invincible Summer by Alice Adams



Hello, frozen burrito, old friend. How I've missed ignoring your suggestion that I cook you on high for three minutes, flip you over, and cook you on high for three minutes again. 

Humiliation: what a salve for pain. Someone should just bottle Embarrassment, sell it next to the Advil, make a fortune.

... libraries were like doctors: it was time to see a specialist. 

In the past forty-eight hours, Victor had developed the swagger of someone who had no idea what he was doing but who had made a real commitment to doing it. 

It was a relaxing love, a love in his blood that was nowhere and everywhere at once.

- The Clasp by Sloane Crosley



Later, she'd be a girl you'd want to hang out with for an entire story, a girl you could love.

Hunter used to know what she meant about being in the wrong place; he used to understand how you just needed to be held util the feeling passed. He didn't have the right words for it any more than she did, but sometimes he called himself misshelved. 

That's the worst part of a book ... when you know nothing new can happen.

... certain lines of certain books ... he reread like prayers. 

I'd ask if you ever couldn't find the right words to say. I'd ask if you ever wanted a do-over. I'd ask, If you could go back and change something you said -- something that would make everything different afterward -- what would it be? 

... that's what all heroes are like -- so gung-ho about the saving that they don't always think about what it might take. 

... memory being a tricky thing that sometimes filled in gaps with exactly what you needed and sometimes what you feared ... 

... it seemed to me like cheating that the writers tricks looked like magic but now i think id rather have a story lie to me without my knowing it than have to keep sitting through explanations of how the tricks r done. sometimes you just dont want to know ur being tricked. [sic -- the speaker is a high school-age girl writing an email]

i get ur point about how people cant save each other for real. but I still think we need stories that tell us we can. just so we wont stop trying. 

... hugging a book to his chest as if there's safety inside it.

-  How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson



"I don't know a thing about wine."
"You don't have to unless it's your job. You just have to know if you like it."

- Restoring Grace by Katie Fforde



Austen, I realized, had not been writing about everyday things because she couldn't think of anything else to talk about. She had been writing about them because she wanted to show how important they really are. All that trivia hadn't been marking time until she got to the point. It was the point. 

Those small, "trivial," everyday things, the things that happen hour by hour to the people in our lives: what your nephew said, what your friend heard, what your neighbor did. That, she was telling us, is what the fabric of our years really consists of. That is what life is really about.

I was a regular person after all. Which means, I was a person.

You don't 'fix' your mistakes, Austen was telling me, as if they somehow existed outside you, and you can't prevent them from happening, either. You aren't born perfect and only need to develop the self-confidence and self-esteem with which to express your wondrous perfection. You are born with a whole novel's worth of errors ahead of you.

Feelings are also the primary way we know about novels -- which, after all, are training grounds for responding to the world, imaginative sanctuaries in which to hone and test our ethical judgments and choices. 

The job of a teacher, I now understood, is neither to affirm your students' notions nor to fill them with your own. The job is to free them from both. 

Adults are boring, Austen seemed to feel -- or at least, they all too often let themselves become so.

... the wonderful thing about life, if you live it right, is that it keeps taking you by surprise.

Austen is saying that it's important to spend time with extraordinary people.

Histories tell us what happened, but novels can teach us something even more important: what might happen.

... no one, before they do it, can imagine what it's like to fall in love. We can never reach the end of what's inside us, never know the limit of our own potential.

She knew that our stories are what make us human, and that listening to someone else's stories -- entering into their feelings, validating their experiences -- is the highest way of acknowledging their humanity, the sweetest form of usefulness.

People's stories are the most personal thing they have, and paying attention to those stories is just about the most important thing you can do for them.

For her, I saw, love is not something that happens to you, suddenly or otherwise; it's something you have to prepare yourself for. ... For Austen, before you can fall in love with someone else, you have to come to know yourself. In other words, you have to grow up. Love isn't going to magically transform you, make you into a better or even a different person ... it can only work with what you already are.

You never know the moment that you fall in love, in Austen's vision; you only discover you already have.

True love takes you by surprise, Austen was telling us, and if it's really worth something, it continues to take you by surprise. The last thing that loves should do ... is agree about everything and share all of each other's tastes. True love, for Austen, means a never-ending clash of opinions and perspectives. If your lover's already  just like you, then neither one of you has anywhere to go. Their character matters not only because you're going to have to live with it, but because it's going to shape the person you become. 

The essential requirement for love, in Austen's view -- before the work, before the courage -- is simply to possess a loving heart. And not everyone, she thought, is born with one of those.

Had she married Tom or Harris, she might have been happy, she might have been rich, she might have been a mother, she might have even been long-lived herself. She might have been all of these things -- but we would not have been who we are, and she would not have been Jane Austen. 

- A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz



All the stories, he thinks to himself, the world is full of stories.

- I Found You by Lisa Jewell



... but instead she was just ... herself. No, not even herself, because really, somewhere inside, she was someone else entirely. She just couldn't seem to let the person she was on the inside, out. 

Love songs fueled the music charts, but it was friends who were so often more deserving of the phrase. 

Maybe there are two kinds of change. One is the kind that involves transitioning toward something new. And the other is more like peeling away your own layers to find what has always been at your core. 

- Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue




In any era, we get the Batman we deserve. 

... and if you want to tell me that I'm yelling at kids to get off my lawn, my only defense is that I've been wanting them off my lawn since I was a kid. In other words, I know it wasn't better before. But it's certainly worse now. 

- More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers by Jonathan Lethem


And, finally, exactly what this post is about:

I followed the higher principle of pleasure, tried to end where I'd started: with writing I loved and wanted to recommend to someone else. That is to say, you. 

More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers by Jonathan Lethem



I think because I was outside of my normal reading environment this summer (shoutout to the Cabell County Public Library), I made the mistake of not taking pictures of or writing down the quotes I liked from some of the books I read this summer. Oh well, I guess that means I'll have to reread them at some point! Also, some books might be great but don't really have a quotable quote. So on those two notes, here's a list of books I read this summer and liked, not listed above. I won't subject you to the ones I didn't like, although you might like them I guess! For more info, follow me on Litsy at annawhoismagic

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (I think I liked it better than her follow up, The Woman in Cabin 10
The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
The Dry by Jane Harper
The Bones of You by Debbie Howells
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney


The Place(s) I Belong.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

At the beginning of the summer, on my first solo trip to the Walmart in Georgia, I ran into someone from West Virginia. Today, on what will probably be my last trip to the Walmart in Georgia, I ran into someone who wants to go to West Virginia.

The cashier who checked the birth date on my license today said, "Oh West Virginia!"

"Yes!" I replied.

"It is really beautiful there."

"Oh yes, it is. Very beautiful. I love it there."

"I've never been there, but I know two people who are from there, and they tell me how beautiful it is. I hope to go someday."

This exchange really made me smile. I'm very much caught between two worlds right now: my life in West Virginia, where my friends, family, and school are, and Georgia, where Joe is. It's a hard place to be in. But after I spoke to this woman today, I realized -- how lucky I am to have two places I want to be so badly. I am lucky to have West Virginia, my home, the place I was born, the place I became a teacher, the place that raised me. I am also so lucky to have Georgia, where Joe is, where Asha is, where sunshine and warmth are, where my future is.

How many people are so lucky to have all that love stretching from West Virginia to Georgia? (Via Michigan, where Joe's from, the place he loves and calls home, the place that raised him.)

So, although leaving here will be heartbreaking in so many ways (more on that, I'm sure), I am choosing to be joyful that I am returning to a place that I love so much. I am joyful that I have a place to return to.


This is a picture of West Virginia I took back in April on my evening flight from West Virginia to Georgia to visit Joe for Easter. (What would turn out to be the trip during which we got engaged.)



A Lesson in Poo.

Monday, July 31, 2017

I've written before about the many times in my life I've been responsible for picking up someone else's poo.

(Look, I hate to be crude, but what else do I call it?)

There were a few times I had to pick up random stray animal poo outside my apartment (hidden in the leaves ... sigh) and many times, especially toward the end of his life, that I picked up the poo of my best friend, Baby Snickers.

This summer, I've picked up a lot of poo belonging to Asha, Joe's (and now my, too, I suppose) dog. So he didn't have to get up extra early all summer to walk Asha, I have frequently been walking her in the mornings. I meet her downstairs, clip her leash on her collar, and get going. There's a path around the neighborhood we follow every day, and almost every day she goes to the bathroom and I pick it up.

Now, if you'd asked me if I'd prefer for the first thing I do every morning to be picking up dog poop, I'd probably have said, no thank you. And, although I do love Asha, it's not as though picking up poop thrills me.


But here's what I realized the other day.

Picking up dog poo is humbling.

We're the masters of the dogs/they're our pets/they belong to us/they live on our schedule. None of that matters when it comes to picking up their poo. They poo, they watch us pick it up.

(I don't know about you, but no one picks up my poo. Just saying.)

And as I picked up Asha's poo the other morning, I really thought about how humbling an action it is. It doesn't matter how cool I am (I'm not), what job I have, what I think about myself, etc., when Asha poos, I have to pick it up.

Starting your day every day by picking up poo is incredibly humbling. It's been an outstanding reminder (which I need) that the Son of Man came to serve and not to be served. Which means that I, too, am here to serve and not to be served. I am especially thankful for this reminder as the school year is getting ready to start.

None of us, including me -- especially me -- is too good to serve. No matter what that service is.

And that's the lesson in dog poo.

My Feet in That Moment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I climbed a mountain on Saturday. A literal mountain, not some sort of figurative challenge to overcome. Joe and I went to Stone Mountain in Georgia. Joe is a really outdoorsy person, and I am ... well, less so, but the weather was really nice in the evening, and we decided to give this a go.

There are a couple of trails you can take, but Joe doesn't like them because they are crowded, so we took the road less traveled that Joe is very familiar with. Now, Stone Mountain is granite, so the possibility of it being slippery is high. Also, the path we took was steep and definitely presented a challenge, at least for me.



While climbing, I realized I was spending most of my time looking down. It felt safer to me, to keep my eyes on where I was, making sure I didn't trip over anything or miss a step. It occurred to me that so often we get advice about keeping our eyes on our goal or looking ahead. But in this case, if I had kept my eyes on my goal (the top of the mountain) all I would have seen was the steep terrain -- the major challenge -- between me and the top. However, keeping my eyes on where I was allowed me to stay in that moment, to tackle my goal a little bit at a time, to not get overwhelmed by all I had to do. And I feel that there is a lesson in that. God tells us in Matthew, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Keeping my eyes on where my feet were in that moment allowed me to accomplish what I needed to accomplish in that moment. I didn't worry about how I was going to make it to the top, I just concentrated on taking the step I needed right then.

Sally the Camel

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I found out last night that I have betrothed myself to a man who has never heard the song "Sally the Camel."

...... what?

I mean, I guess, show of hands -- who's never heard of "Sally the Camel"?

It got me to thinking about the many things that might be regional (Joe grew up in Michigan ... is "Sally the Camel" not a thing there?) or generational, which is why people don't know them. For example, I do not think "Sally the Camel" is generational because Joe is only six months younger than I, and also I'm pretty sure that my sister Emma who is 10 years younger knows the song. (Right, Emma?)


But I do know that there are a lot of things that my sister Erin, only two years younger, and I are obsessed with remembering that Emma really doesn't know much/anything about. I have always been fascinated by this because Emma and I share the same parents, we're siblings, but we're far apart in age enough that we're of different generations.

For example, if I asked Erin what TV shows she remembers loving from childhood, I'm pretty sure that Jem and She-Ra would top the list. However, if you asked Emma, she might say Barney, and I'm sure some other things I don't remember because I was 14 when Emma was the same age I was watching Jem. Erin and I had Popples and Tamagotchis and Lady Lovely Locks. We remember when we first pulled out that Nintendo gun to go duck hunting and when McDonald's Happy Meal toys looked like this. Joe actually has a working Nintendo 64 and pulled it out the other day so we could play Mario Kart. He told me it looks even more outdated on newer TVs, and it did! But obviously we both remember when Mario Kart was the newest thing on the block.

But "Sally the Camel," really, though?

Instabook

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Last night I had a dream I went to the library. I was checking out books by Jane Austen.

So, yes, I'm pretty much dreaming about things I'm actually doing during the day. :)

If you, too, are someone literally dreaming about going to the library, and if you are an obsessive list maker like I am, then have I got an app for you! Now, I'm sure I'm forever late on this, and you might already know about it, but I sure didn't. So in case you're late on this like I seem to be, I thought I'd tell you all about ...

Litsy!

The short version is, Litsy is like Instagram for books. You can find people to follow to get recommendations, and you can also share reviews, blurbs, and quotes* from books like you like or are reading. Perhaps most fun, you can share the books you are reading, track the books you've read (your own personal reading log!), and keep a list of books you'd like to read. I decided to list the books I've read this summer since coming to Georgia (12), and Litsy informed me that I've read 3,792 pages this summer. Cool!

 *And you know I'm all about that!

You can keep track of the books you've read. (These are some I've read since the start of this summer.)

Litsy will keep track of the number of books you've read and also let you know how many pages that is. 


You can share reviews, blurbs about, and quotes from the books you read. 

I believe the Litsy app is available for both Apple and Android phones, so get to it!

Kiara, Tiffany, and Sabrina

Friday, June 23, 2017

It was finally sunny and warm today after days and days of clouds and storms and rain (thank YOU Tropical Storm Cindy), so I finally got to head to the pool.



I went around 11:30, and at the time I was going in, there was this young woman (mom? nanny?) and a little girl walking in the pool.

This would not be, of course, at all unusual, except for the fact that they were dragging in an inflatable unicorn.

I kid you not.

I have NEVER in my life seen a pool floaty this large and in charge. So,  of course, I did what any normal person would do, and I snapped a couple of discreet photos because someone else I knew other than I had to see this. Naturally, I texted these photos to two people: first, Colleen, because, well it's Colleen, and the second, Joe, because he needs to know the kinds of animals that live in his neighborhood.

#gladyskravitzneighborhoodwatch

Please look at this thing.




Right? RIGHT?!?

It took all I had to not get in it, especially because that poor thing seemed to spend most of its time at the pool floating around with no passengers. (As Colleen said, "Where is its owner?")

The little girl to whom the unicorn belonged was soon joined by two other little girl friends. The pool is not large and not crowded, so I could hear most everything the little girls were saying, and they really made me smile. From what I could hear, the little girls' names were Alexis, Ashlyn, and Caroline. However, every time Alexis would say, "Ashlyn!" Ashlyn would reply, "My name is Kiara!"

I definitely smiled to myself, remembering the days when we were all young and wished to have "prettier" names than we have. Names like Tiffany and Sabrina. You do you, Kiara.


Combined with the fact that the radio was playing songs by such artists as En Vogue, the Fuguees, and Mariah Carey, it all made for a pretty great day at the pool. :)
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