Monday, March 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye with My Markers

This is my journal. It is pretty big so I don't carry it with me. I love its blank pages where I can write whatever way I want to. I can write with fat markers or thin markers. My letters can be big or small. I don't have to worry about lines or spaces. If I feel like doodling, I can do that too.
The cover of my journal makes me want to discover new places or just sit at that cafe and have a cup of great coffee while watching people and getting new ideas for future posts. Just look at the cover. Do you see the night sky while the open air cafe is fully lit? This is how I see this March writing challenge; evening has arrived, some people have already gone to sleep, but for a portion of the writers, the light is always on. Tomorrow is Tuesday when Slice of Life will return to its regular day. Will you be joining us?

So how did I write this past month? These are the markers I use when I want to write small or be more precise. I call them my "thin markers." They don't bleed through the page, but leave a clear mark. They have colors that I like--even when correcting papers at school.

These are my "fat markers." Most of the time when I am writing in my journal I like to use these. They are bold; they make me feel strong. The colors are bright, but not neon. The color flows on the page very smoothly. I have two or three choices in each color. I can draw (technically I can't but as it is just for me, I still do it), doodle or write in different fonts.
These colors and these markers have led me on a journey of discovery. A discovery about writing, about who I am and what I want to do. These colors are part of my dream that I am working on discovering this year.

I don't write on my journal every day. But sometimes it is the best way to plan a post or just sketch a post that I might use in the future based on an idea or a quote that I have heard.

If I am at home, I might jot down ideas that I get while reading articles or blogs. If I am at work or at church (or just out and about), I usually write them down on my phone. Easy access everywhere.

Perhaps one day there will be an app (or I will know about it) that will make my typing look like writing with markers!

It has definitely taken me many hours this month to write my posts, read blogs and comment. This time has been well invested and the returns have been immediate! I have found new blogs and writers that have blessed me tremendously! The comments that many of you have left have been appreciated and read many times. 
I can only imagine how much time Stacey, Anna, Tara, Betsy, Beth and Dana along with all the other helpers have spent this month working and making sure that everything has gone smoothly. 
So thank you, to all of you who contributed to the Slice of Life March Challenge. I look forward to participating again next year! Until then, see you on Tuesdays!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dear Mrs A.

Dear Mrs A,

I am so sorry that we never had the chance to meet in this life. I would have loved to have tea with you and talk about life, love, children and living in the new country. But if we could talk in person, I would tell you about your children:

R. has grown into a beautiful young woman! I love to see her every day when she walks into my classroom. Yes, there are days that when I see the shadows behind her smile, and other days when it feels like the weight of the whole world is resting on her shoulders. Still she comes, she works hard, and she is always willing to learn more. She smiles. She tells stories how she helps her other siblings at home. She has become the family care taker. Perhaps that is why I love seeing her laugh with the other girls and just be a teenager for a while.

MR. walks into my classroom with either a smile on his face or a determined frown displaying a questions mark. He hates the tie he has to wear to school, but he is not shy to share his love of chicken! Some days I have to warn him that chicken jokes do not belong to every situation. I am sure you understand what I mean. Soccer is MR's passion, and school is just a necessity. Yet, he has learned to put his anger aside enough to study--at least on most days. I am slowly seeing more cracks in the shell that he has built around him.
He loves comedy and jokes! Need I say more? His laughter is so contagious that sometimes it is really difficult for me to tell him to stop when all I want to do is just laugh with him. I hope that you can still hear his laughter.

I see MA. walk the school hallways very determined. She knows her goal. She wants to be a doctor so she can help and heal people. She works really hard. She is independent. Perhaps as the middle child she has learned to build her own road to travel. I don't see MA as often, but when I do see her, she is full of spontaneity. I also see the love that she has for her siblings. MA 's big heart is evident when I watch her with her younger sisters.

ZH works with me on Monday and Thursday afternoons. She lights up my afternoons when she walks in! Through all the sorrow and sadness, she's been able to keep joy in her eyes. Is life easy for her? I am sure that it is not. School can be hard and difficult, but you loved her so much that is has sustained her. You would love her sense of humor and her ability to care for others. R. once told me that ZH is a mini MR; I think she was right:-)

ZA is the sweetest little girl ever! When I see her on Wednesdays after school, I just want to hug her and take her home with me. The few minutes that we have when I sit next to her and we work on homework together are very special to me. I love the expression on her face when she is working through a difficult math problem or when she is thinking how to answer a comprehension question for language arts homework. I also enjoy watching her interact with R and MA. They are her mini-mothers.

Mrs. A, I hope you understand how much I love your children. I truly wish you could be here to see them grow and become everything that you dreamed they would become. Are they perfect? No, but what I want you to know is that each one of them is special. If you could see your children today, you could be so proud of them! They are survivors! The road ahead of them is not easy, but I am certain they will prevail. They will make it. After all, they are your children; you raised them!



This letter was inspired by Bonnie's letter to her friend. You can read Bonnie's letter here. I also wanted to find a way for my students to share their grief on the anniversary of their mother's death. Perhaps we will write letters to their mother together this week when we meet after school.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Celebration Saturday

Participating  in the Slice of Life march Challenge has been wonderful. Check out many wonderful life stories at Two Writing Teachers.

Come join Ruth Ayres to celebrate your week. Share your post, link it at Ruth's website, and meet others who love celebrating!

Today I am celebrating:

pre-student teachers I have had five different pre-student teachers in my classroom during the last couple of months. They have been wonderful! They walk into my classroom ready to do whatever needs to be done. One day this week I had two of them in my class at the same time. We had planned for this. We were able to divide the students into small groups and really work on the students' essay writing skills. My students have responded to their presence with openness and willingness to work. Could I ask for more?

Shemar Moore You might know him as the actor on Young and the Restless or more recently on Criminal Minds, I, however, have never met him. As I was having coffee with my girlfriend this morning, she showed me the cover of MS magazine. Faith has had MS for almost 20 years. There are many things she cannot do anymore, but she loves finding books and articles to share with me when we get together for coffee. Today she talked about Shemar's mother who also has MS. The article in the Momentum talked about their life and raising money for MS. Faith was touched by this, and so am I. So, I want to celebrate Shemar; he is raising awareness for a disease that still holds too many mysteries. Do you think I could meet him and say thank you? :-)

really being done with testing On Thursday I wrote how I thought I was done with testing, but then one student returned from an extended vacation. I am happy to say that she came to school on Friday and we were able to finish our testing! My shoulders are feeling much less pressure right now. Perhaps I can now add a few more pounds to my weightlifting routine!

elite eight both Michigan teams are in the elite eight!!! What is the chance of that? Maybe the final four could also include both teams from Michigan? Watch and see!

What are you celebrating today?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is the Busyness Getting to You?

I have been really busy at school. Coming home late and tired. Can't even stay awake to read and comment like I want to. Falling asleep with the laptop still open, but screen gone dark.

I celebrated the fact that I was all done with the testing. Then I found out that a student that had been gone a month or more had just returned. Seriously???

I mean, I am glad that she has come back to school, but inside I am thinking, couldn't she have waited one more week?? And why did not anyone tell me that she was back? I found out when I went into our school database to look for her drop date! Ops! She was no longer "dropped" she was now "enrolled" again. I did not even believe what I was seeing.

Speed walking to the office. "Is N. really back."
"Yes, she came back on Monday. The family is back now."

We have families that don't believe in full school year. When it is convenient for the parent or parents to go overseas, they will go. If it happens to be during school year, well, "We'll be back in four to eight weeks" is a very common answer. Some even stay a bit longer before deciding to return.

What about me and my testing? What is there to do, get ready to test her. Oh, she is absent today. Seriously???

Friday is last day of the testing cycle. Will she come to school or not? I don't know.

A few minutes later a couple of my high school students walk in.
"Ms. I missed you. Wallah."

I smile. Life is good. My equilibrium is adjusted.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thankful Thursday #4 in March

I was watching the weather report on TV yesterday morning. The average high temperature in my area should be about 50 degrees. I laughed! It was so cold. It took a long time for my windshield to clear from the frost/ice that had built up over the night. Still, I could see the beautiful sunrise in the morning!

I am thankful for so many things this week. Here are a few of them:

First One
I am seeing some breakthroughs with my students! These are the ones that I have prayed and hoped for for a long time. Imagine a student writing his/her first essay!

Second One
I am finally done with testing all our ELLs.  I feel that I can actually breathe more freely now! Our school is over 40% ELL, so the time it takes to make sure that everyone is tested in all four domains just takes time.

Third One
Peace for both my daughter and I after her wallet was stolen. We have had many short phone calls sorting everything out. God has been good!

Fourth One
Being healthy!! After a couple of minor bugs I feel good again. I am so thankful that nothing turned into a big deal.

Fifth One
Meaningful conversations. I have been able to have a few very meaningful conversations with my high school students.

Sixth One
Inspiration! I am thankful for this blogging community that continues to provide inspiration to be a better teacher, and how to communicate better.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blogging Community

I love using my new markers two write in my journal. Picking colors that match my mood--it just makes me happy!

One night I was trying to think what this blogging community at Two Writing Teachers means to me, I just started writing words down. Words that I connect with slicing and slicers.Take a look:

This community really does give me so much! I think each slicer needs his/her own bazinga coupon! (If you don't know what means, you might want to check my post yesterday:)

Happy slicing for five more days!

P.S. I just read Deb's post about #engchat on Monday night! They were talking about words also! During the chat, Penny Kittle gave a writing challenge. Want to find out more, hop over to Deb's page to read more!

What words come to your mind when you think about this slicing/blogging community?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bazinga Coupons

I have been thinking about ways that I could encourage my students to try new things in class. Use a vocabulary words that is a little out of their comfort zone. Perhaps think for a moment and organize their thoughts before answering in the same way that the previous person just answered. Being mindful about one's learning.

In the middle of March, Laura wrote a post about words. You can read it here. She inspired me to create my "bazinga coupons" to encourage and also to reward my students!

If you are not familiar with the word "bazinga" it comes from the television show Big Bang Theory. In that show, the main character, Sheldon Cooper, uses it when his clever pranks succeed. In my class, the word "bazinga" has come to mean something spectacular! Here is an example, during our recent Of Mice and Men mock trial for George, one of my new students gave a spectacular testimony when put on the witness stand. All the students started clapping. That was a "bazinga" moment! Plus, everyone loves saying the word!

I have already given away a few coupons. Students are often asking if their response was a "bazinga coupon" worthy. My answer is usually to ask them their opinion. Most of the time the students in question will think for a moment and then reply: "No, not really. But wait till tomorrow!"

I am for anything that encourages learning and trying for your best! So when students have collected two of the "bazinga coupons" I will add and extra credit point for them in the gradebook. It is not enough to make anyone think they don't have to do their homework, but enough to encourage them to try a little harder.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spine Poems in March

My students had just finished three plus hours of ELL testing (our annual testing). I could not imagine giving them another book  essay to read or write. We needed a break. 

I love spine poems! This past week it has been fun reading the different spine poems that writers have posted on their blogs. I decided that I could tackle spine poems, and at the same time highlight different books for my students. Maybe a cover or a title would spark some one's interest.

Have you seen the Namesake movie?
One of my 11th grade ELL girls considers
My Perfect Life her favorite book.

Hostage has been a good choice
 for my lower high school readers.
Kendra and The Beast have been borrowed more than once or twice.
Soul Stealer is gaining interest.

We needed a little competition during the class time as well. After all, students were coming from a long test, and lethargy was settling in. So I wrote a list of book titles on the board in random order. Students had the task of creating a spine poem. They were allowed to add prepositions to their poem.

Here is the winner spine poem by S.G. without prepositions.

Now imagine how different this poem could be by using different prepositions. Which prepositions would you use?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Conversation Snippets at Parent Teacher Conferences

"If you have any problems with her (=my daughter), just contact my son. He is my consultant."

"Every time I ask my daughter if she need help, she always say no. What do I do? Wallah, I want to help her."

"Ms, could you just tell my dad something nice?"
"Why? Are you worried about your grades?"
"You know he does not like Cs. He's gonna take my phone."

"Where are the teachers?"

"Do you need Mr. A to translate?"
"My English better.  I study English at JFS for six months. I can now help my kids learn."

"How are my kids?"
"Your daughter is doing much better. She is working hard and I can see so much improvement in her."
"How about my son?"
"Does he do any work at home?"
"I don't know."
"He has so much potential, but he really needs to practice more at home."

"Does my son talk at school?"
"Yes, he is learning English, and he is already speaking a little bit."
"He does not like to talk at home. I get him a job this summer. You think this is good? I don't want him watch TV all summer."

"April 1st. That is the anniversary of their mother's death. The day is almost here."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Celebration Time is Here

Come join Ruth Ayres to celebrate your week. Share your post link at her website, and meet others who love celebrating!

This Saturday I celebrate:

A package that arrived from Finland yesterday. Finnish chocolate and new winter gloves. I hope to save the gloves for next winter, but otherwise, the timing of the package was a perfect ending for a busy week.

A wonderful pampering night for all the single moms that came to our Mom's Night Out at church

Great conversations at parent teacher conferences. I want to celebrate all the parents that came even though they did not have a car and had to find transportation with friends.

Wonderful lunch with my sister-in-law Cindy! It was great to catch up in a relaxed atmosphere. Thanks to half day at school on Friday.

These celebration Saturdays! I love looking back on my week and starting my weekend on a positive note! Thank you Ruth!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Poetry Friday

Sun shines through the gray window
Does it reflect my wintry soul?
Hot water, vinegar, newspapers and rags;
it's all I need to clean
my windows from their wintry grime.
How do I clean my soul?


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday #3 in March

It is Thursday.  I am thankful for:

  1. that after today's parent teacher conferences, I have have a half day tomorrow!
  2. that one of my six (that I wrote about in here) that I have been praying for did something remarkable the other day. God is answering prayers!
  3. that I have seen signs of spring (no buds yet, but I wanted my photo to be part of the promise)
  4. getting to the gym already twice this week
  5. that our testing cycle for ELLs is almost over!!!!!!!! I have to find a way to celebrate when we are done!
  6. plans to have lunch with my sister-in-law on Friday

What are you thankful for today? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Funny Thing about Melted Wax

Happy women. Excited women. Perfectly painted nails and toes. Eyebrows waxed. Hair trimmed and styled. Shoulders relaxed after massage. Tummy filled with wonderful finger foods. Conversation keeping spirits high.

We had our annual single moms pampering night at church. It was wonderful! Moms had just left and our cleaning crew was hard at work putting everything in their place. Chairs needed to be moved, tables folded and lamps put back in storage for another year. Ordinary stuff.

But then something unexpected happened: the eyebrow wax bowl fell on the floor!

It fell in the middle of the walkway. On the carpet, of course. And did I say, the wax was pink! I walked away. There were enough people to deal with the wax.

I came back a few minutes later. The wax was still on the floor. What was new? A group of young men surrounded the area. They were analyzing the situation. Contemplating what would be the best way to get the wax off the floor. 

"We could just Google it."

Maybe someone actually did it as the next time I walked by, there was now a brown paper bag covering the melted wax. Still, the contemplating continued.

"We could just iron it."
"Or we could put ice on it."
"How about using a wet rag?"
"You could use a cloth diaper when ironing over it."

There were so many suggestions, but at the end, the brown paper bag stayed over the wax. Sunday will reveal if the suggested methods worked!

As I was leaving, I heard this:

"I thought somebody had puked, but then I realized that there would not be a group of men staring at the pink throw up. It had to be something else."

"Do you think we will get hourly updates on the cleaning process?"

"That could be your first tweet; giving us an update!"

I went home happy and chuckling to myself. I wondered how long the men would stay and stare at the brown paper bag pieces over the wax. Could there really be an update on social media on the carpet cleaning progress? I guess time will tell.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pondering my OLW

DISCOVER is my One Little Word for this year.
Have I been welcoming to my companion on this journey?
Or are we only acquaintances?
Have I introduced OLW to any of my friends?
Hmmmm, I must ponder....

In January everyone was talking about their OLW
There were sparks, listening and enduring.
Faith and restore were among these new friends.
Strawberry and red came along with
be and purge.

I had a list of ideas I wanted to discover:
my creator
new places
artsy side of me
new knowledge

I have discovered new things about my creator
through people who write about him
I know he answers prayers
I have seen it happen just last week.

The new place a couple of weeks ago
was the bowling alley.
It was old but new fun!
I'm hoping for new, new places later this year.

My markers and notebook are helping me to
practice the artsy side of me.
I get to choose the colors to suit my mood.
I dedicate each page to whatever I want.
I have no limits or directions;
I am listening to the creative spirit inside me.

Through this March Slice of Life Writing Challenge
I have discovered new blogs
I have had new comments
and I've met new people.
I wonder what else I will discover in the next two weeks?

How are your life and your OLW working together? Do you have stories to tell?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Surprise Meeting with Fellow Bloggers

Sunday morning. Beautiful sunshine. Coffee mug filled. Ready to read a few blogs before church.

I read a few and commented on a few. Then I opened Melanie's blog. She starts by saying that she is spending a few days in Michigan with her daughter. I assumed that she is most likely at the Michigan Reading Association conference with many other bloggers. I read a little further on her blog, and realize, she is in MY town!!

I read a few lines again just to be sure.Yes, she and Larkin are really in my town. They ate at Zingerman's the night before. I hopped to her daughter's blog to read more about their visit to MY town.

Okay. Now I am thinking. Should find a way to connect with them? What would they say? How would I even do it?

TWITTER to the rescue! Send a message to Melanie via twitter to see if they would be free for coffee. It did not take long for me to get an answer back. We were on for coffee after church.

The only other blogger that I had met before is Terje. Now I was having coffee with Melanie and Larkin! We sat at Starbucks. Each with our beverage of choice. Watching the people around us. Chatting about Ann Arbor, blogging, University of Michigan, basketball, the Big House, and how far different places are from each other in this town. We discussed beaches and waves. Then we talked a bit more about blogging. We connected.

Next time I will read Melanie or Larkin's blog, I will think these are people that I know!

We hugged and said goodbye. There was an important basketball game on the schedule, and I was headed to the soup kitchen.

I am so grateful for these connections that are made possible through this blogging community!

Anybody else feel like visiting my town?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Letters in the Mail

A few weeks ago I received a letter from one of  my mother's oldest friends. My mother has been gone for almost six years, but her friend, now in her late eighties, still writes to me. I could not even read the letter first as it was bringing back so many memories, but as I finally read it, it brought me so much joy.                                                                                                                Liisa is a woman of God. She prays. She believes that God answers her prayers. In her letter she mentions that she has felt the need to pray for me. She really had no idea what  is going on in my life, but she knew that she needed to pray for me. I was touched.
I had to write Liisa back. I had to write her a good letter, after all, she had written me FOUR pages! I even looked for pretty paper at the store, but then decided that Liisa wouldn't care about the paper, she would care that I would write.

So I wrote about my life. I wrote about where my daughter is and what she is doing. I wrote about  my school and my students. I wrote on green paper, because green makes me happy. I am hoping that Liisa will be happy when she receives my letter. I don't know if I will still have a chance to see Liisa, but I can write with her. (Liisa lives in Finland!)

When is the last time that you wrote a letter? A letter that had to be mailed via post office?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Celebrate My 200th post!!

Today is a day of celebration! This is my 200th published post!!

How shall I celebrate? By writing, of course! And as it is Saturday, by linking with with Ruth's blog along with many others who also celebrate. Come join us!

Today I couldn't limit myself to just one week, so how about celebrating two years of blogging!

I published my first blog post in February 2012. But my first post that I linked was on March 1, 2012. I had two comments on my blog that day. I felt that I had arrived. I wrote about my Thursday volunteer time at my local library (you can read it here). The same place that gave me voices for Thursday's blog  post this week.

I celebrate that I have learned so much about other bloggers! I am no longer a lonely blogger, but I now have a community of writers around me. I have made connections. At the end of March 2012, I had connected with Terje, and then I had a chance to visit with her later that year. I am hoping that 2014 will bring me more face to face meetings!

I celebrate poetry! I think I need to get back to writing some more poems. As I looked back at my first March challenge, I realized that I had written many poems. Perhaps there is a 6-word story coming this week.

I celebrate my growth as a writer and member of this writing community. I look at writing, both at school and on my blog, very differently than I did two years
ago. I feel that I am a better writing teacher because I write.

I celebrate learning about OLW. Learning and selecting One Little Word for my year has enriched my life. Last year my word was "irrigate," and this year it is "discover." I am excited to see where it will lead me this year!

What are you celebrating today?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Voices from the Library Bookstore

"Hello there!"
"Hi John! How are you today?"
"Trying to stay warm. How are your students?"
"Not bad this week."

This is a pretty normal conversation with John on Thursday afternoons when he walks in to the library bookstore with his wife. After they have perused the books and chosen their purchases...

"Who is going to pay today?"
"I'm paying for my book. I don't know what he is doing. John, did you find anything?"
"Yes, one western for my friend."

John and his wife have become regular shoppers. John always wants to know about my students. He also wonders if I have read any Finnish books lately. Many times he has brought me a book that he has found at another secondhand bookshop just because it was in Finnish! Strangers that have turned into something more.

"Where is your cute little son today?" Kathy asked a young father last night.
"He is reading truck books with his grandfather in the library."
"Jaana, he has the cutest little boy!"

This young father selects a few books for his young son and leaves. Little while later he comes back carrying his son accompanied with the grandfather. He wanted to show Kathy his son!

"Do have Harry Potter?"
"Let's have a look. If we have, it would be right here."
"I just want to buy that series to a friend who has not read it yet."
"I'm sorry, but it looks like we don't have any today."
"That's okay. I'll stop by again."

"How much are the kids books?"
"Paperbacks are 25 cents and hardcovers are 50 cents."
"Can I get this book with this coupon?"
"Let's see. You can get one regularly priced book for free with your coupon."
"Any regular priced book? Even adult hardcover?"
"Timmy, I will get this book for mom with the coupon, and then I will buy that book for you for $3."

Wouldn't you like to shop at our library bookstore?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday #2 in March

I could not resist posting one more snowy picture! The snow on Wednesday made everything look so beautiful!

But hey, it's Thursday already! There is much to be thankful for. Here are my top five:

When I first started on twitter, I did not think that anyone would ever follow me! I am so thankful for the connections that I have made on twitter, and the wonderful people who have decided to follow me! Thank you!

For some reason I have been really tired this week. I could maybe blame it on the time change, I don't know. However, I am thankful for a snow day!!!! I got to relax, help a person that is one of my six (you can read more about that here), read more blogs and comment! So, I am thankful that I did not have to drive to school in the blowing snow yesterday!

One of my students was absent on Monday. I am not sure if this will make me sound like bad teacher, but I was so thankful that this student was absent. We were able to accomplish so much more on Monday. Everyone was on task. Everything moved smoothly. The day felt like a mini vacation. (Then I read Anita's post yesterday, and felt really guilty.) I am thankful that he came back to school on Tuesday.

I am so thankful for all the comments that the bloggers in this wonderful community are leaving on my blog! You are validating my writing! If I have not stopped by your blog, please leave me comment, and I will come!

Markers and pens are my small treasures! I am thankful for a newish set of makers that I have. I have been trying something new with my writer's notebook at home, and those markers are wonderful! (more to come on a later date). I am thankful for learning new ways to express my thoughts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Defines Family?


I am participating in the March Slice of Writing Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.

I am also linking up with Holley Gerth's blog on Wednesdays.

This past weekend as I was planning some of my writing for the week, I remembered all the blogs about families that I have been reading.
I was sad. My grandparents had all died before I was born. I came along late in my parents life as the only child. They are both gone now. So are my aunts and uncles. My husband died after only year and half of marriage. I was living on a different continent.

Years ago, I found an author that touched my life deeply with her books. Her name is Dee Henderson. I still remember reading the first book in the O'Malley series and feeling that I have found something truly special. Many times since reading that first book, I have been reminded that families are what we make them to be.

Let me explain:
The O'Malley series is about 7 children/young adults in a foster care system who decide that they will become each other's family, each others brothers and sisters. In the midst of their lives, they find love, God and plenty of struggles. But through all their struggles, they demonstrate their love and commitment to each other.

The Negotiator (O'Malley Series #1) The Truth Seeker (O'Malley Series #3) The Guardian (O'Malley Series #2) The Healer (O'Malley Series #5) The Protector (O'Malley Series #4) The Rescuer (O'Malley Series #6)

If you want to be encouraged and inspired, find these books. If you are struggling with the feeling of being alone and lonely, read these books and see how God is working in the lives of ordinary people. Ask yourself what it is that you could do to be that family for someone else.

Let me get back to my story for a bit. I live oceans away from my cousins and friends that I grew up with. I will never meet anyone at the grocery store that I went to school with. It would be a miracle to encounter someone speaking my first language at my local grocery store. My only daughter is currently also living overseas. I do not have a big kitchen or a large living room, and I definitely don't have a family room.

But I have a heart full of love. You are welcome for a cup of coffee or tea if that is your preference. I will cook for us, but you are welcome to help with the dishes. I will clean the kitchen table for us to sit, but please excuse the dust as I try to avoid seeing it. We can sit on the couch and chat, and I will even help you up if the lumps are holding onto you too tightly.

I have days that I am feeling lonely, but I know that I have friends who would drop everything if I called them and asked them for help. The O'Malley series keeps on reminding me that families are what we make them to be. My family might not be the ideal or traditional family, but it is my family. And I know that God loves my family just as much as He loves yours.

So, ask yourself today, could you include someone in your family (even if your family is just you)? Do you know someone who could use a family? Someone who could be invited for a coffee or dinner? Maybe a single parent? Or maybe it is the person next to you at church or synagogue. Or maybe it is the new teacher who lives really far from her/his family. Go the extra mile this week; spread some love with your family, and read an O'Malley book.

And when you are finished reading the books, pass them on!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Teaching Jouney

I have been very blessed on my career as a teacher. It all started with a very understanding supervisor for my student teaching. It took him only moments in my classroom placement to see that I would not be given much independence in that classroom. He was very encouraging. Told me to do my best. He never put me down or graded me down. He gave me confidence that I could be a teacher.

Before I became a full time teacher, I was a substitute and ESL tutor. I worked alongside with older more experienced tutors and teachers. They valued my experiences from around the world. They appreciated my comments about English Language Learners and showed great interest when I told of my own experiences of learning English.

I became the ESL teacher and coordinator for that district. The ESL tutors that had been there before never gave me anything else except encouragement. I worked with classroom teachers. That was not always easy as many of them had never had an English Language Learner in their classroom before. We built capacity. We asked administrators to place our ELLs in those classrooms with teachers willing to work with them and the tutors. I had a wonderful administrator at the central office who was my immediate supervisor and a great supporter of what we did. My office was at the back of a elementary library next to the most amazing librarian. Kathy became my mentor--not because she was assigned to me, but because that is who Kathy is.

Few years later I moved to my current school. I am still an English Second Language teacher. I work with wonderful children who come mostly from the Middle East. No, I don't speak Arabic, but I have learned so many Arabic words that I can (sometimes) convince my students that I really do understand what they are saying. I also have many Somali and Urdu/Pashto speaking students. I can read Somali with some success (because many letters have similar sounds as in Finnish), Urdu/Pasto, however, is still beyond me. In the last couple of months, I have also been learning Spanish as I have a new Spanish speaking student in my high school ESL class. Thank goodness many of the Spanish sounds are similar to Finnish sounds also.

Besides my wonderful students (and the few that also challenge me), I work with some amazing teachers. No, not everyone keeps their door open or lingers to chat with me, but our teachers are committed to the students that we have. I have had a chance to work together with both younger and older teachers. I have made long lasting friends among the teachers at my school. I have had a chance to advocate for the ELLs, present at workshops and PDs, watch my ELLs graduate and get into good universities, attend weddings and bridal showers. I have signed sympathy cards for many parents of fellow teachers who have passed away, I have had pre-student teachers and student teachers in my classroom. I have welcomed many new teachers and said goodbye to at least as many.

"Ms, do you really like it at this school?"

One of my 10th graders posted that question to me not so long ago. I did not have to think very long:

"Yes, I love my students. This is where I am supposed to be right now."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Phonemes, Phonics and Mixed up Names

When you are teaching English Language Learners you have to have a good sense of humor. My student teacher last fall found that out on a daily basis--and again last week when she came to help me with testing.

Her name is Mrs. Paul, but because many of my students struggle with the /p/ sound, her name became Mrs. Ball. Towards the end of her student teaching, students had mostly learned to say her name correctly or at least self correct with just a raised eye brow.

But last week, we laughed many times as students were excited to see her. "Ms Ball, you are here!" "I mean, Mrs. Paul." And when the younger students asked her why she can't stay longer at our school, she replied that she will need to go back to Mr. Paul. Students would almost automatically ask her; "What is Mr. Ball?"

Then there is my name. When I started at my current school, I introduced myself as Mrs. Terhune. It did not take long for my students to start asking me: "Why are you called mister?" It took me a little longer to get what they meant. Instead of Mrs. they automatically shortened it to Ms, and when you say that quickly with Terhune, it becomes Mister Hune. (Right now I am thinking about elsie's name story). Needless to say, I became Ms Jaana, and I have been very happy with that name for many years.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent Project

This is the third year that my church is participating in a Lenten project. We are encouraged to do three things:

1. Ask something BIG for myself
I know what I am asking, but for now, this will remain between God and me.

2. Pray for my six
These six should not be people that I pray for anyway, but additional people.
I chose my six to be a mix; some are my students and others are people that I sort of know. Our pastors are encouraging us not only to pray, but also to find ways to bless these people during Lent. "Spend some money or time on these special people.Bless them!" I am still praying and asking God how to bless my six this year.

3. Our BIG ask
This year our church wants all of us to ask that we could pay off the church mortgage as quickly as possible. Why? So that we could use that money for other programs at church.

As I drive to school in the mornings, I blast my radio with some praise music. Pray for my six and ask the big asks. It is time to have faith!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

So Much to Celebrate

This has been an interesting week. It is good to think about celebrations.

On Friday, the temperature hit 40°F! In the morning I was freezing the whole way to school, but when I walked out of school, I did not even need my gloves! I drove to dinner with my window open! If that isn't worth celebrating, I don't know what is! Make sure you take a look at the bold words and numbers--they have been missing in action for such a long time that I really had to make sure to give them their own special bold font today.

Amanda has been helping me the whole week with testing. All my students have loved seeing her again (she was my student teacher last fall). I have enjoyed chatting with her, tutoring with her after school, hearing her laughter, and discussing teaching in Korea. I hope I get to visit her when she has her own classroom. She will be a wonderful teacher! I celebrate the enthusiasm that she always brings with her.

I celebrate my coworkers! I work with some amazing people! Yesterday at PD, I got to be part of a group of four young men designing posters for IB training. I had fun! It was interesting to watch their thinking and logic in action. They all had a such a great attitude during PD; let's get our work done, have fun while doing it, and then go home! I hope I will have a chance to work with this group again.

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.

Friday, March 7, 2014

I'm so Glad I Saw You Both Today

"Life is too short. We have to make every moment count."

"You never know when something unexpected is going to happen." 

Last night I was volunteering at my local library friends' bookstore like I am on most Thursdays. Kathy was waiting for me there. She was sorting the youth books and putting new ones on the shelves.

Suddenly she asked me if I knew Mr. L at the local school district? I sort of vaguely remembered him at my daughter's school in K and first grade. Kathy explained that he had suddenly died that morning. He was still teaching. His death was a total surprise. Everyone that knew him was shaken.

Another friend stopped by and chatted about Mr. L. If you were lucky enough to have worked with him, you knew that Mr. L was special. I heard this many times last night. He will be missed. I kept wondering about his students. Wondering how they are. Hoping that they are taken care of.

When our friend left, she turned around at the doorway and said: "If this is it for me, I am so glad I saw you both today."

When Kathy and I closed the store at seven p.m. and walked to our cars, we said our goodbyes and promised to see each other again next Thursday.

I wonder how much we were each thinking about all the things that could happen between now and next Thursday?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thankful Thursday

Lent has just began. Many people are giving up something. One of my friends said she can't give up food, so she gave up Facebook.

Today I am not giving up anything, but I am trying to be mindful of all the good things that are in my life. I am practicing thankfulness.

Today I am thankful for:

  • My student teacher from last fall who came back for a week to help me with testing
  • All the wonderful and thoughtful comments I have received in the first few days of Slice of Life March Challenge
  • For the Diet Coke that a coworker brought me yesterday afternoon. It really hit the spot!
  • My newest student who is working really hard to learn vocabulary words in all of his content area classes
  • Sunshine!!!!!
  • Holley Gerth's blog (here is the link); she really does have the gift of encouragement
  • Memories--many slicers have written about family members that have passed away. As I have read those post, I've been reminded of many wonderful things about my parents. These have not been sad memories, but memories that you celebrate!
  • After reading Tracey's post about writing on the beach (and seeing her pictures), I am thankful for the promise of summer!!!! It must be on its way! And I now have ideas of what to do this summer. Check out Tracey's post here 

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A small thing that makes a big difference

Coffee for Your Heart 150

Today I am linking my post at: Coffee for Your Heart and also at Two Writing Teachers.

Many Sundays I watch couples and families walk into church together. They sit together. I used to sit with my daughter when she was younger. I used to sit with my mother when she would come and visit us. 

Last Sunday when I walked into church, I was by myself. I did not know if any of my friends would be there. I heard a hello in lobby. Someone else called my name, gave me a big hug, and asked about my daughter. She had been praying for her and her team overseas. Someone else wished me happy birthday and stopped to chat a bit.

I walked in to the sanctuary and sat down. I said hello to the gentlemen sitting on the same row. Little while later someone else sat in my row. I did not, however, see any of my single friends who I could sit next to. 

Little later, mother, daughter and a tiny granddaughter come and sit right in front of me. I am privileged to watch this tiny human being look around him with his beautiful eyes. He is so content. My friend Michelle also sits in front of me with her husband. I am so happy to see them. As I walk back to my seat from communion, I see Linda. I have to give her a message from a man that we have both helped feed at the soup kitchen. Last time I was there, he asked about Linda. She had made an impression on him.

I listened to Emily give the message. After the service, I saw Shashanda. I was so happy to see her. We go the same small group, but it seems that every time she can go, I can't.

So, I thought that I would be alone at church. I thought I would sit by myself and be lonely. But, did you see all the small things that made a big difference? The friends who called my name before 
and after church. The tiny baby in his mother's arms in front of me. The people who smiled, and I don't even know their names. The little hellos said in passing. So many little things that make a big difference.

I think now it is my turn to show how those little things can make a big difference. I will remember to smile, to say hello and stop to chat with someone next Sunday. Maybe a text before the service to see if we could sit together. It is not the loud announcements that make a big difference, but the small things. The things that show another person that they have value. They are recognized; they are appreciated. They are loved.

I want to be the small thing that can make a big difference.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Flowers and Some More Flowers

When my mother (and father too) had big milestone birthdays friends and relatives would come. It was not an option to have a party, people would come anyway. When they came, they would all bring flowers. On my mother's 70th birthday she received over 100 roses! If I remember right, the same was true on her 60th birthday as well. If I was not able to be at home for these birthdays, my mother would make sure that I received photographs in the mail. She loved flowers.

My sister-in-law Cindy remembered how I always talked about the amount of flowers that my mother would get on her birthday. So on Thursday night when my niece and her family (Cindy's daughter) walked into the restaurant where I was waiting for them, all five of them came carrying flowers! I wish I could have taken a picture at that moment. Cindy could not have dinner with me, but she wanted to make sure that I would get flowers on my birthday! I was so blessed!

The next day at work I was doing this and that in the morning when my dear friend Rindy walked in with a beautiful card and flowers!

I don't think Rindy had any idea how special it was that she gave me flowers! I am feeling so blessed!

I hope that these flowers have brightened your day (or evening) as well!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Have You Ever Tasted Finnish Chocolate or Mustard?

I am very blessed to have friends overseas who send me care packages. This week I received two packages from two different countries. What did they both have in common? Finnish chocolate and Finnish mustard!

 Fazer is a famous Finnish chocolate company. They have been in business since 1891! Their milk chocolate is my favorite chocolate. It melts in your mouth without leaving any waxy after taste. It is rich chocolate, but so worth every calorie!

This Geisha chocolate is also made by Fazer. It is my second favorite Finnish chocolate. It is milk chocolate with a soft hazelnut filling. I am not much for nuts in my chocolate, but this one is out of this world! I might need an extra trip to the gym this week, but these chocolates are a treat.

I did mention the mustard as well. No, I don't mix Finnish mustard with Finnish chocolate! But I also LOVE the taste of mild Finnish mustard. It is yellow mustard, but the taste is nothing like American yellow mustard. What is the taste difference? I don't really know how to describe it. Maybe it is just the way I grew up. Childhood memories that carry into adulthood. So tonight I had American sausage with Finnish mustard for dinner. And chocolate for dessert. What a great combination!

I feel blessed! I still have a few other Finnish treats waiting for me. Perhaps I will share a few more photos. Tuija, Kati and Riikka, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Celebrating the Beginning of March Writing Challenge

I am excited. It is the second day of Slice of Life March writing challenge. For the third year, I am committing to writing a blog post for each day in the month of March. It really is a challenge, but at the same time, the rewards far outweigh the challenges!


So, what are the challenges that I celebrate?

  • making sure that I have some time each day to write and comment
  • I have to plan ahead for those days that I know I will leave early and be home late--this really teaches me planning and being organized
  • discovering new blogs--sometimes it is just easy to find the familiar names, read something new about that blogger's life and leave a comment there (found a couple of new ones on Saturday already)
  • using  different lenses when writing my own posts--it is easy to follow the same pattern and format that I have used in the past (or use often)

What are the rewards that I know I will get to celebrate throughout this month?

  • I am sure I will many photos of wonderful places that people have visited (I already saw great photos on Saturday)
  • I get to hear about family celebrations (there might even be a baby or two that are born during the challenge)
  • I will be able to read students blogs and read posts written by the next generation bloggers
  • I will get to hear about new tools that I can use in my teaching (A post reminded me yesterday how to look at data as we have a PD coming this week)
  • There will be summaries of workshops or trainings that bloggers will attend (can't wait to read details about Michigan Reading Association conference that is happening in March, but I am unable to attend) 
  • I will be able to use my OLW--DISCOVER--as I discover more about myself as a writer (and see how others--like Julie--who share my OLW are using theirs)

I am sure there are many more challenges and rewards that I will discover this month. But the most important thing to remember is to enjoy the challenge! Let's have fun writing, commenting and celebrating blogging this month!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

50th Birthday Celebration(s)

Today is March first. This means the beginning of Slice of Life Writing Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. But I also have much to celebrate this week, therefore, I am also linking up with Ruth's blog for Celebration Saturdays.
Monday I was sick. I had a pretty busy weekend, and I felt I was getting more tired as the hours went by. I decided to stay at home on Monday. That was a good choice as by Tuesday I was feeling much better--I even went to the gym after work. I celebrate rest and better health.

Wednesday was a really busy day at school. I also had my tutoring students after school. It was a day that kept me walking. My pedometer was celebrating. Wednesday evening I celebrated with my coworker and the ladies from small group. Nice, relaxed dinner, and then bowling!!! My bowling skills are truly lacking, but I wanted to do something different for my birthday (discover new things to do per my OLW). My bowling ball had a magnet that drew it to the edges (or gutters/ditches) quite often. I rotated my hips this way and that way. Kicked my leg lower and the next time higher. I used a lighter ball and then a bit heavier. It was not until my last roll (I don't even know what to call it!!) that I had a strike!!!! Absolutely worth the laughs prior to that!

Thursday was my 50th birthday! I had a sub scheduled for my classes, lunch date planned with friends, and then a surprise visit from my niece's family (more about that later this week). Did I forget to mention that my daughter woke me up with a phone call from overseas. Soon after that, my cousin from Finland also called. Then it was my girlfriend's turn from Canada. I had an international morning. 

Friday I was back at work. There was a index card/birthday card waiting for me on my desk from one of my new ELLs. Little later, my coworker walked in with flowers and a beautiful card!

Today I get to have lunch with my in-laws (unless the snow messes with our plans). I feel like I have had a celebration week!

What are you celebrating this week?