A Letter to My Son on Your 18th Birthday

 

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This picture basically sums up our relationship.

Dear Son,

 You’re 18, officially an adult, with all its privileges and heartache.

It seems like just yesterday, you were riding your bike (with the training wheels) around James Street, wearing your superhero cape I made you (that lighted up) as well as a giant sombrero I brought you back from Mexico, wearing that giant grin–so much fun.

No, I don’t have documentation of this moment. I have so many regrets.

Confession: I never thought that tooth was coming in.

On the day that you turn 18, I want to tell you:

18 doesn’t change who you are overnight. You are still you.

Your life spreads out before you like an open road. It’s just that now, the training wheels are gone.

Now that you are a “real” grownup,  here are some things you are allowed to do:

You can move out legally. You can vote. You can take responsibility for your own decisions, your own body, even your own life (or someone else’s, if you become a husband and dad).

You can get married, or divorced.

You can join the Marines. I remember when you toyed with the idea of this, and even visited a recruiter. Do you remember your dad’s advice when he said, “It’s a man’s decision with a man’s consequence?”

As are so many things.

You can apply for a credit card. You can sign a will, or donate your organs. You can serve on a jury of your peers, potentially taking the life of another human being into your own hands.

You can file a lawsuit against someone, and you can be sued.You can take a trip without my permission. You can make terrible decisions, and feel the painful consequences. You can make wonderful decisions, and reap the rewards.

All. Of. The. Things.

Here are some other things you can do, no matter your age:

You can be kind, even when kindness is not returned.

You can help others, even when they cannot or will not help you back.

You can love with your whole heart, or reserve a bit of your heart out of fear.

You can make promises or break them.

You can take responsibility or blame others.

You can be truthful or be a liar.

You can give 100% of your mind, body and soul, or you can halfheartedly commit.

You can be someone others can count on.

You can give to someone in need, even if they cannot pay you back.

The choices are yours to make.

 

I don’t have any doubts you can do this: live this life you’ve been given to the fullest. You’ve always been good at tackling the hard stuff.

Only sometimes, the hard stuff will try to break you.

At some point:

You will be severely disappointed. You will feel crushed, humiliated, defeated.

People will gossip about you.

At some point, you will love and not be loved in return.

Someday, you will work hard, sweating and climbing, and cutting your hands on the side of the mountain. Sometimes, even though your desire is strong, things don’t work out.

You will lose, and it will sting.

There’s a temptation to give up. To stay home and hide. To say, “This isn’t worth it.”

Please, please don’t let it. Don’t give up. Step into the sunshine. Trust again, even if it’s a risk. Do the hard things, because difficulty shapes you. Don’t quit, even if others try to discourage you. Determination carves your character and teaches you that those who take shortcuts will only short themselves. Sometimes, the only reason the man on top of the mountain is there is because somebody else gave up first. Sometimes, showing up when you don’t want to is half the battle.

But you know what else?

You will also experience great joy–times of such success and pride, you’ll wish the moment lasts forever.

You will love — and be loved in return.

You will work hard–blood, and sweat, and tears–and you will complete your task. You’ll stand on top–experiencing the view you have earned–and you’ll bask in the moment.

You’ll do a job well, and know you gave your all.

You’ll face the life-changing moment, and you’ll nearly kill yourself with effort, and when you’re finished you’ll know you’re a bit tougher. You’ll stretch yourself to the very limit of your endurance, and you’ll push through.

But again, you’ve got to make the choice to keep going, even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.

In other words, put on that sombrero and Superman cape and take care of business. And that cape of yours will float on the wind.

And you will know that you have lived.

Love Always,

Mom

P.S.: I’m really glad that tooth finally grew in.

A Letter to My Son on His Graduation Day: On Being a Good Man

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Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”

Dear Son,

Didn’t we both think this day was never going to come? But here it is, and I am entirely unprepared for all the feelings.

Of course, we both know your graduation means the end of an era.

It’s the end of sack lunches and marching band.

It’s the end of school dances and football games.

It’s the end of me signing your report cards.

It’s the end of my making you eat your vegetables.

(Side note: it’s also the end of my paying for your car insurance. I’ve been meaning to tell you).

It’s also a marvelous beginning.

I am so very proud of you, not just because of your academic accomplishments, but your character. You are kind, sometimes to a fault, and you’re always the first to ask how you can help someone.

This is rare, not just for your generation, but for the world we live in.

We live in a world that says:

“Me first.”

“How can I get what’s coming to me?”

“I deserve the best.”

“Look at me! Here I am, being awesome again!”

It’s difficult to rise above these urges.

As you leave high school behind and move to greater things, don’t for a second underestimate your power in this world.

Power begins with choices.

You’ll be making your own decisions about your career, your love life, and what kind of person you want to become. Yes, I know you think you’re all finished growing up, but believe me when I tell you, this is only the beginning.

Because you’ve managed to overcome much of this “me first” mentality, many will try to take advantage. Please don’t let them. It’s difficult to balance kindness and self-respect, but it must be mastered. It is part of loving yourself and embracing maturity.

Another part of maturity is responsibility. We hear so much about what it means to “be a man.” Many inflate masculinity to the point it becomes vulgar: a caricature of itself. They point to their conquests as a mark of manhood. They brag about pushups and athletic prowess over intelligence and sensitivity.

I’ve known many weak men, many selfish men, many corrupt and vulgar men, and a few truly good men.

Do your best to fall into that last category.

I know your dad has been a positive role model to you, and you are fortunate to have him. You were also lucky enough to have known your Papa, my daddy, for a few short years (not nearly, nearly enough). You’ve also been fortunate to have met good men in the form of family, teachers, coaches, and pastors. But, before you leave my nest, I want to make sure you hear this from a woman’s perspective.

On Being a Good Man

A good man knows when to apologize. He knows when to own up to his mistakes. He knows when to dig in, and when to let go.

A good man also knows how to treat a lady. It’s not just opening doors, although that is a good start. He is a good listener, even when the topic is not personally interesting. He knows how to be authentic, true. He loves when she is unlovable. He takes up for her even when she doesn’t deserve it. He is on her side.

He is intelligent enough to listen to other’s opinions, understanding how and when  to disagree respectfully and without insult, but he is also able to not internalize the negativity.

A good man knows how to help others, not just when he will receive accolades, but even when he knows helping will not benefit his own agenda. He helps others when they are too proud to ask. He helps others who don’t know how to ask. He does not expect or demand to be “paid back.”

A good man lets his moral code guide him. He listens to his conscience. He doesn’t cheat others or himself. He doesn’t lie to others or himself. He never steals from others; he only takes what he earns or is given freely. This goes for money, time, or love.

Speaking of love: a good man doesn’t force his intentions, agenda, or affections on anyone else. A good man doesn’t have to try too hard to be loved. He knows what “no” means, and he respects the word and the connotations behind it. He never pushes his advantage. In this way, he earns love and loyalty. When you become a husband, your heart becomes one with another. If you treat your wife as if she is part of you, most of the time you will do the right thing, though nobody is perfect.

When you are on your own in this world, you will be tempted in every way. A good man knows when he is in over his head, and when to look away or walk away. He knows when he’s crossed the line and when to ask for forgiveness. He’s not too proud to admit he’s failed, and he’s not afraid to dust himself off after falling.

A good man is not afraid to love with his whole heart. He understands to love this way is to open his heart for potential pain. He will almost certainly suffer, because it’s difficult to go against the grain of this world. He doesn’t let the hurt scar him, because he sees the good in others and gravitates toward this goodness. To display courage doesn’t mean you haven’t been wounded. It just means you have determined to not allow these wounds to  be fatal.

Not all good men will be fathers. Although I hope this gift comes to you when you are ready; it might not. Nature makes no sense regarding who she lets father a child.

Some men want to be dads more than anything, and for whatever cosmic reason cannot.

Some men father children who should not be allowed to take care of a houseplant.

Many men are given charge of children but don’t know (or choose not to) to guide them. It’s really not that difficult to be a good father. You just need to show up and take care of business. You love with your whole heart. You do what it takes to pay the bills and put food on the table. Nobody is perfect; you will make many mistakes, but if you love your kids that is what they will remember. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

In a few days, you’ll walk across that stage, and you’ll move the tassel, signifying the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. You’ll leave childhood behind and take on adult responsibilities. You will make mistakes. you’ll fall and get up again. You will encounter great joy and indescribable pain. You will love.  You will lose: sometimes big and sometimes small. Some losses will be devastating–people you love. This, my son, is enough to make us want to give up.

I wish I could protect you from this, but I cannot.

I know you. You will, as Maya Angelou says, rise. You will stumble, and maybe fall again. But when you stand–you will run. You will fly.

You will not just fly–you will soar.

You’ll make your mark on this world.

The world has been changed by many men, both good and evil.

You will strive for the good, the pure, the authentic.

And you will be a good man.

 

 

 

 

Should You See “The Shack”?

 

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Dear Reader:

I did my best to not put any spoilers in this post, but you will learn a bit about the plot of the story. Full disclosure.

My friend Karen and I just returned from seeing “The Shack.” Well, that’s not altogether true: we had to go have healing pasta first. You didn’t know pasta was healing? Oh, dear one. You have much to learn.

Back to the topic at hand: I cried about five gallons of tears in this movie. I may need i.v. fluid in order to properly rehydrate.

This is a real thing. Mostly, i.v.’s are used to rehydrate sick people, or in “Grey’s Anatomy”, to sober up surgeons after a bus crash. I’m just saying, there could be other uses.

Another note: I barely touched my popcorn, and I didn’t even come close to finishing my Hot Tamales. This alone bears recording.

But I know you are reading this because you aren’t sure if you should see the movie or not. Here are my thoughts.

There’s been so much controversy about this book, and now about the film, both in favor and against.

Some people say it’s heresy, and anti-Christian, because of the unconventional way Paul Wm. Young represents the Trinity. Some believe it to be “sub-biblical” and “dangerous.” Others take exception with Young’s treatment of God’s wrath and judgement.

On the other hand, many people LOVE it, believing it’s a ministry. Brenda Elliot of CBN gave the movie a glowing review, and did not mind at all Young’s portrait of the Trinity. The very elements that bothered some were appealing to others. Some call it the new Pilgrim’s Progress. I can see that, to an extent. It did pop in my head.

A movie that makes us think about God, helps us to talk about God and dissect his scripture, probably has some merit.

I didn’t mind the representation of the Trinity. I don’t see it that way, but I don’t mind an unusual point of view. Because the Bible is meant to be discussed, picked apart, thought about God’s word will hold up to scrutiny, because it’s the truth. I love to go to the movies, and I really will go see almost anything. However, I didn’t really consider seeing this one, at first. I wouldn’t have gone to see it had I not been invited.

This is partially because I’ve read the book and thought I knew what I was in for, and partially because, I’m sorry to say this, but most Christian-oriented films are terrible. I WANT them to be good, but most of the time, they just aren’t. Sometimes, the writing isn’t very good  for example: I’m Not Ashamed. The story (which is quite true) is washed out by bad writing and so-so acting.

Another example is”God’s Not Dead” (and the subsequent “God’s Not Dead 2, and soon to be 3”, because God is still alive and we need to be reminded, while taking our bucks?). I know a whole lot of people LOVE this movie, and it’s not because of the stellar acting. It’s because they believe the farce that it is based on a true story, one in which an evil college professor pressures his young and naive class into saying, well, that God’s dead. There’s so much wrong with this, but the main problem is that it’s NOT a true story. Saying this is a true story is much like saying Buttered Popcorn Jellybellies are the same as real popcorn. If you want to read more about this, see my post: God’s Not Dead.

Anyway, getting back to The Shack, also claims it’s a true story. The author does get around to admitting at the end, it’s not. I didn’t think it was; again, I am a discerning reader.  Many authors use this technique to add intrigue (think Edgar Allan Poe), I know that many people will believe this actually happened.

It’s a good story, but it didn’t REALLY happen.

They will want to give this story the attention they gave the Left Behind series. I’m okay with these books as long as we agree that it’s just one guy’s interpretation, not the Gospel.

If you read The Shack, or watch the movie, go in knowing it’s just a story. It’s not a sermon. It’s not theological fact. It’s not claiming to be. It’s just one guy’s idea regarding God and the afterlife. If you are able to make this distinction, and you don’t mind super sad movies where terrible things happen for no reason, then you will probably like this movie.

If you have the idea that the only true way to view God is the way you view Him, then you probably should not see the film. You will be offended, and will feel as if you wasted $10.

Another thing I want to tell you is this: if seeing/discussing/thinking about children being hurt or worse bothers you or is a trigger somehow, you will want to skip this movie.

If seeing Tim McGraw without his black cowboy hat will bother you, skip this movie.

If you are like me, and will go to see most movies, and are not embarrassed to cry like a starving infant in public, then you will be okay. I sobbed, my friend. I began crying five minutes in, and did not stop until the credits rolled.

You have been warned.

Sidenote: bring tissues. LOTS of tissues.

 

 

A Review of Anna LeBaron’s The Polygamist’s Daughter

 

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All my life I’ve been fascinated by polygamy. I’ve read a dozen books  on the subject (including Ruth Wariner’s The Sound of Gravel–also excellent) and watched too many television shows and specials, always not quite understanding.

I didn’t know I knew a woman who survived it.

I “met” Anna about a year ago when I participated in Brandon Hatmaker’s book launch group promoting his newest blockbuster A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith. Basically, everyone in this launch group had at some point in time tried to be in Jen Hatmaker’s launch group for her  latest book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. Apparently, there were so many takers, the powers that be had to draw the line somewhere. EVERYONE IN THE WORLD cannot be on Jen’s launch group! Believe me, the 4500 (that’s what we call ourselves) were plenty pleased to be a part of Brandon’s fan club. He even mentions us in the acknowledgements!

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Me, after ripping open the envelope holding Anna’s book.

Anyway, when Anna mentioned she was writing her memoir, a story about surviving a polygamous cult, I asked her if she was related to the LeBarons, because I’ve read about them before. This particular cult was infamous for doctrines supporting blood atonement, and the stories are frightening enough to make your blood run cold. She was indeed.

Anna LeBaron was born into the cult–a dangerous FDLS offshoot that drove its members into Mexico to avoid the authorities.  Ervil LeBaron, Anna’s father, controlled the cult with an iron fist and violence–even murder.

Since she was a little girl, Anna remembers a confusing patchwork childhood, where moving in the middle of the night and at a moment’s notice were just daily truths she accepted. Extreme poverty, borderline starvation, long days of forced labor, and constant anxiety haunted her everyday reality. One daughter of many, she was taught her place was to obey and to learn how to be a good wife. At a tender age, she was already promised to two men.

Endless housework and babysitting of siblings and other countless relatives dominated her life, and going to school was a risky endeavor. Police raids in the middle of the night were not uncommon as the authorities narrowed down the whereabouts of Anna’s father and his followers. Anna didn’t understand most of this; she only wanted to be with her mother and to know her father.

Anna’s memoir presents a topsy-turvy reality where nothing makes sense. Each time she makes a friend, or a teacher or acquaintance reaches out to help, you’ll hold your  breath for little Anna, hoping this is the time she’ll be led to safety and redemption.

Click here to Pre-order The Polygamist’s Daughter. You won’t be sorry.

Easy Lasagna

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Are you intimidated by lasagna? You don’t have to be. It’s not as hard as it may seem.

Buy these ingredients:

1 pound of ground Italian sausage

1 small container ricotta cheese

1 2-cup bag of mozzarella cheese

1 cup real parmesan cheese

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1 12-oz can of tomato sauce

1 box lasagna noodles

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1/3 c. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. parsley

1 egg

Preheat oven to 375.

Fill a large pot with water. Set it to boil. In another pan, brown the sausage, onion and garlic together. When done, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and simmer while the noodles are cooking.

When the noodles are barely soft (they can be firmer than you think), rinse them with cold water.

Reserve 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, egg, parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper. The mixture will be thick.

Spray a rectangular pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with noodles. Next, put a layer of sauce. Top with a layer of ricotta cheese mixture. Continue this process until ingredients are used.

Top with reserved mozzarella cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly.

 

 

10 Must Haves For Family Outings: A Guest Post by Annabelle Short

10 Must Haves for Family Outings

When you have a family, it can feel like you have to cart your entire house into the car for a trip to the local park. There are some things you can do without while others are vital for the family for short trips to the local park, long road trips or even car rides to Grandma’s house.

  1. Entertainment

While you should have travel toys and games for certain situations, you should have an entertainment system in the car for them too. For example, have a supply of movies or video games as well as devices for them to use on long car rides.

  1. Restaurant Essentials

When it comes to well-behaved children in a restaurant or wild maniacs who can’t sit still, it often comes down to the type of entertainment you bring for them. Have crayons, travel games or toys ready to be brought into the restaurant at a moment’s notice. The dollar store has plenty of items that can keep your child occupied.

  1. Emergency Snack Pack

It can be quite expensive to visit a store or restaurant while on the road, so make sure to pack emergency snacks like nuts, dried fruits or drinks that can hold the child until you’ve made it to your destination. These items should be able to survive in the car for more than one day.

  1. Clean Up Fundamentals

There are times when there’s a huge mess that needs to be cleaned with more than the small cloths that might be in some of the other kits you’ve included. Have a large, absorbent towel or two in the car for large drying situations like kids who spill drinks on themselves after you’ve pulled away from the drive-through.

  1. First Aid Kit

This can be a purchased kit or one you build yourself. Bandages, cold compress, adhesive tape, scissors and gauze pads should be the basics that you include in the kit. You can add your own items if you find that the family needs them regularly like roller bandages for sprains or antiseptic wipes for scrapes. Bug spray is a great addition to the kit too.

  1. Extra Clothing

Extra sweaters, sandals, sneakers or pants can be an essential if a little one has an accident or tosses their shoes while you’re getting other children packed into the car. It can’t hurt to have items that can change with the weather too. It might be summer, but there are times when a hoodie is necessary.

  1. Nap Elements

Blankets, fluffy pillows, stuffed animals or their favorite customized stuff can make nap-time less stressful when you’re on the road with your little ones. Don’t forget to grab their favorite sleep soother like a snuggly teddy bear or favorite blanket.

  1. Play Surface

For long car rides or quick trips with bored children, a plastic play surface for board games or coloring can keep them occupied as you drive. You can purchase one or build it yourself by purchasing a tray from the dollar store. Metal trays can work great if you want to add magnets to the back of some of their items. It lessens the problem with dropped pieces.

You can also make the tray more appealing to your kids by adding some colorful custom stickers on it.

  1. Car or Plane Sickness Basics

Whether you have a little one who is prone to car sickness or an adult who doesn’t like plane rides, it’s good to have a sickness kit. It should have antibacterial hand sanitizer, latex gloves, vomit absorbers, scrapers and plastic bags for trash removal. The bag can include motion sickness pills as well as small hand towels for dampening.

  1. Bottles of Water

It’s not recommended that you leave water in your car that you plan on drinking, but you should have water for cleaning messes like sticky hands. Keep 3 or 4 bottles in the car for that purpose, and don’t forget to bring drinking water for the kids and yourself.

You’ll have to decide what your essentials should be depending on your family’s needs and the places you plan on going together. These should be items you don’t leave home without packing into your car.

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A note from Tina:

Good luck, Mama. We hope your trip leaves you with fond memories for a lifetime.

Slap Your Mama Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas

Tina Bausinger

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That’s right.

These enchiladas ARE delicious enough to incite mama slapping throughout the world. I can’t help it. It’s really your choice, you understand. Please understand that if you make these enchiladas, it’s not MY fault you slapped your mama and I take no legal or personal responsibility as you have been warned.

I’ve taught my daughters how to make these and it’s just sad that even living in Texas–the Tex-Mex capital of the whole stinkin’ world–we can’t find them this good at our restaurants. They have slapped me on occasion after trying them and I have nobody to blame but myself.

Ingredients:

10-12 corn tortillas

1 large can green chilis (whole or chopped, it really doesn’t matter)

1 onion, chopped

1 jalapeno (if you don’t like heat, then skip it and add another small can of green chilis)

3-4 cloves garlic

4 chicken breasts (or 8 chicken thighs–you pick…

View original post 430 more words

On Grief and Writing

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So take a pen to your grief.
Every word you write pours salve and healing on your wounds, whether fresh or distant.
There’s little you can do regarding the trials we endure.
So write.
Dissect them word by word, letter by letter. Be honest with yourself.
List your mistakes; chronicle your regrets.
Rage and scream and cry.
Bleed your pain on paper.
Use your pen to strip away all artifice. Be transparent with your anger, and brutal with your faults.
Let the bitterness explode onto paper, even if it is for your eyes only.
Then, you might just see the tiniest flicker of healing.
Not a fire, you understand, but a modest flame.
When the fire catches in earnest, it will burn away the anger and sadness one twig at a time, until the weight of grief transforms to mere ashes.
The ashes will always be a part of you, leaving an indelible tattoo of grief seared across your heart.
Most will not notice, but those who love you will see.
Ashes are so much easier to bear than the wildfire you survived.
But you–
You extinguished it with your very fingertips.

6 Must-Have School Supplies if You Want to Stay out of Jail and Not Commit Felonies

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I’m with you–it’s a bit of a bummer to take an innocent trip to the grocery store in search of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream only to have my eyes assaulted by school supplies in July. Assaulted: like a super violent Quentin Tarantino movie assaulted. Like a green polyester pantsuit assaulted. Like seeing your elderly neighbor’s thong when she’s gardening BY NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN assaulted. A part of me loves the smell of new pencils and choosing pastel-colored markers, but it has to be on my own time, and that’s not in EARLY MAY, MR. WALMART.

I know the C.E.O. of Walmart is not really named Mr. Walmart. I just put that in to be funny. Sorry if you are personally affiliated with the Waltons in any way. Please tell them I said hello.

Of course, most schools put out lists of what your kid needs, but as a teacher and a mom of three, I’m going to add a few things to your list to make your life a bit easier.

  1. A good set of quality, comfortable ear buds–for you and your kid. One of my kids has a touch of ADD, and it helps immensely to have ear buds plugged into the computer to silence the everyday sounds of the dog barking, the dryer spinning, computer games in the background, you get it. If you can afford sound-canceling ear buds, take my recommendation and BUY THEM FOR YOU. You won’t be sorry. Also, there are many “concentration” apps available, proven to heighten your attention span. Sleep Sounds can slide between concentration to relaxation depending on the binaural beats you choose. It helps me as a doctoral student to  block out conversations around me so I can finish my thrilling statistics assignment. It works, people
  2. Extra freezer packs for lunches. You can’t get too many of these. Nate was at marching practice and a kid became a bit overheated, so Nate took an extra from his lunch and put it on the kid’s forehead and back of his neck. I’m not sure if it smelled like ham or n0t, but it did the trick.
  3. Extra poster board and craft stuff. Maybe this has never happened to you. Maybe you live in a perfect, Everybody Loves Raymond kind of world where your kid never tells you at 8:00 that he has a project depicting the history of the German people due the next day that’s worth 2/3 of his grade. Lucky you. I perform the sign of the cross and bid you a good day. If it does happen, though, you are ready. You have two or three different poster boards, markers, scissors, glue, pictures of the German people (ok, you’re on your own for that one) and lots of coffee. If nothing else, buy lots of coffee.
  4. A stack of cheap magazines. Maybe this has never happened to you. Maybe in your perfect, Modern Family life, you’ve never had a kid announce that she needs to create a collage that represents “Joy” for her art class and all you have sitting around are Walking Dead graphic novels. Just in case, have a stack of women’s magazines (you can collect these for almost nothing at the Salvation Army or MeeMaw Jan’s coffee table. Come on, if Burt Reynolds is on the cover, she’s probably not gonna miss it.
  5. An extra printer cartridge and paper. If you don’t have a printer, get one. It’s a lifesaver. Unless you just love going out in the rain to your office to print off your kid’s Of Mice and Men essay at 1:00 in the morning, then that’s up to you. For the rest of us, I’d rather just print it off in the kitchen like a regular person. Sorry if you’re a weirdo.
  6. Try to buy all your kid’s English novels at the beginning of the semester. I’m sure this would never happen to you, in your perfect Breaking Bad life (wait, bad example). I’m sure your kid would always remember two weeks in advance that his teacher was assigning All Quiet on the Western Front, and the two of you could happily make a trip to Barnes and Noble, where there are three versions of the book to choose from, and you could buy your copy, all the time laughing and joking and drinking coffee and hot cocoa at the Starbucks inside the store and feeling proud of your kid’s planning and even admire his adorable grin.

If this has really happened to anyone reading this blog I want you to come down to Tyler so I can punch you in your veneered teeth.

Just in case it happens the other way: It’s 10:00 at night, you’re in your pj’s watching Gilmore Girls reruns, finishing a tiny glass of wine while coloring in your “De-Stress and Color Fuzzy Animals” coloring book and your kid casually strolls into the living room, coming up behind you on the couch when you didn’t notice and says “MOM” in your hair and you almost pee your pants and then he tells you he needs a copy of the Gutenberg Bible for class tomorrow or else he’s going to fail, well then you’re both screwed. Because Barnes and Noble does NOT have a copy, and apparently the only copy is in a traveling exhibit in Turkey guarded by six 300 pound men with no sense of humor and so you’re going to end up printing all 3,000 pages off on your printer (you bought that, right? No?)  violating international copyright laws and hoping and praying you’re not arrested because you’re not built for prison life.You don’t even stomach Quinton Tarantino movies very well.

Do us all a favor. Buy the books.

Have a great school year!pic1

 

The Hard Stuff: When Students Need Help

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I’ve been teaching for four years now. It’s really just a drop in the bucket compared to some of my friends who have been teaching 20, even 30 years.

Of course, I’m here to help students with writing and literature. That’s what I’ve been trained for. That’s why I spent almost seven years of my life reading and writing, studying and learning, sweating and praying for. I’ve paid dearly for my education, in dollars and time and sacrifice.

Here’s my secret:no program or lecture could have possibly prepared me for some of the conversations I’ve had with students. As their teacher, whether or not I deserve it, I am placed in a position of trust that I didn’t earn.

Sometimes, questions are a no-brainer. For example, in cases of abuse, I’m required to legally report it. I’ve never had to, thank goodness.

Many times, though, the questions are not so black and white.

Sometimes, the students who I perceive to be the most difficult (or checked out, or angry) are the ones who come to me with questions or situations I don’t know the answer to, like:

How should I tell my dad I’m pregnant?

Nobody knows I’m homeless.

Since I got out of the Army, I’m really trying to do my best in school, but I can’t sleep from the nightmares.

I haven’t been in class for the past two weeks because I was beaten so badly by my ex’s new girl I was hospitalized.

My husband doesn’t really think I should get my degree.

I’m gay and need to come out to my parents. What should I say?

I need to tell my mama I’m transgender. How can I do that?

I’m falling asleep in class because I work three jobs. No I can’t quit, or we’ll be out of our apartment.

I can’t come back to school next semester because I’m pregnant again.

These are hard questions, and sometimes there are really no right answers. As an educator, I’m expected to know the answers. Sometimes, I just don’t.

Sometimes, I just give the student a tissue and let them talk it out. I ask questions to try to guide them. I don’t judge them, ever, because nobody is perfect and there’s no way to tell what someone’s been through by one experience or one talk. I pray with them. I cry with them. I ask them what I can do to help. The ones I can’t help keep me up late sometimes, worrying. Sometimes I feel like I’m their mama and it’s up to me to make everything okay. But I’m not.

Sometimes, they don’t need a teacher, they need a sounding board, a counselor, a mom. I do my best.

Sometimes, I can help. It’s the ones I can’t that haunt me.