Stonehenge and Day 13, 2015

20160215_154016.jpgDay 13 of a 14 day trip – one of the best and the busiest. I visited this site in June of 2015 with a student tour from EF Tours (Education First) .  I love using this touring company to lead student tours.  Anyway – this stop, one of the last on the tour, far surpassed expectations.  A bucket list item for years and years, Stonehenge and the surrounding area truly boggles the mind.    As you can see from my SMASH BOOK page we did quite a lot on this last day on tour.  In fact, because we had ditched the middle school group that had been traveling with us – it may have just been the best day on the tour!  I have difficulty in declaring this because I loved every country we visited on this tour (Ireland, Scotland, Whales, England).

 

DSC_0493 (2) I know the photo of Stonehenge does not look any more remarkable than any other photo you may see on the internet, but when I am able to take it myself something amazing happens.  Visualization becomes more reality based.  I firmly believe in putting the camera down and living in the moment.  I encourage travelers to encounter the environment and experience the wonders without looking through the lens (or phone).  Still, as an avid photographer, when I look around DSC_0460 (2)sometimes all I see is “the shot”.  Like this one of the teenager and the horse head at Stonehenge.  Why not?

The slide show contains photos of cathedral and smash book.

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We started our day in Salisbury with the Cathedral and the a viewing of the Magna Carta.   Displays of honor and remembrance of local veterans from WWI and WW II fill the halls and alcoves of the cathedral.  Also, a display on a wall  (in honor of the language of change) amazed us as the illuminated words and letters seemingly moved to avoid our touch – only to form new words.  I profess that words are power daily in my classroom.  So, to see this presentation and read first-hand about the Magna Carta felt somewhat cathartic and validating – just plain cool.  Amazingly, there was no security surrounding this precious document – not like our own Declaration of Independence.  It merely rests under glass in the center of an unguarded room in a small tent protecting it from harsh lighting.  It is all very unassuming.

The day’s journey across the English countryside revealed the fields of poppies to me for the first time.  So beautiful – and again – unassuming.DSC_0489 (3)

 

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We took the Underground to the fictional home of the fictional character and found a real store…221B Baker Street.  The statue of Sherlock stands nearby.

Next – we traveled a bit more to satisfy the dream of one of my travelers…visit Abbey Road.  My son and I – and the rest of the group – did our very best at trying to recreate the famous Beatles cover as we crossed this very busy street.  Our tour director, Steve, told us how annoyed the locals get at the tourists in this spot.  I try 1557269_10152980260361918_2424869840105685698_overy hard to be respectful of these types of things, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  The white building in the background was then and is still now a music studio.  We rode our first double-decker bus back to the hotel for the night.  Quite a full day.

 

If you would like to climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy or tour the ruins at Pompeii I would for you to take a look around!

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Decoupage Collection – Pretty in Pink

One of the things I love about crafting – the beautiful paper.  Paper can reflect my mood almost as wonderfully as words, music, and photos.  Expressive decorative paper brings me joy.

These all started at unfinished wood.  The pink with white flowers makes me smile every time.

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home

According to Merriam-Webster: home (noun)

  1. one’s place of residence
  2. the social unit formed by a family living together
  3. a familiar or usual setting :  congenial environment; also :  the focus of one’s domestic attentionDSCN2051
  4. a place of origin
  5. an establishment providing residence and care for people with special needs
  6. the objective in various games

Home 1. Piedmont, South Carolina;  Home 2. With my mother, so I may never find it again.  With my children – so it comes and goes as they do.  With my husband, till death parts us; Home 3. Beavercreek, Ohio – my familiar setting;  Home 4. Mishawaka, Indiana – from whence I hail; Home 5. all of the above – we all care for one another and each of us has special needs; Home 6. Home = base; a safe haven and hopefully, you can always go home again.  Ghosts in the graveyard, flashlight tag…all memories of home base.


The heartfelt, real meaning of home…sitting by the fire, watching tv with the kids.  Cooking dinner in the kitchen with the kids setting the table and telling me about their day.  Washing their clothes, watching the onesies turn into ripped jeans and sweatshirts.  Tucking them in at night, even as teenagers.  Going over the best and the worst of the day at the dinner table.  20160214_130831.jpgKissing my husband goodbye every morning and hello every afternoon.  Laughing with them all as we recall funny memories.  Merely looking at my hands and seeing the hands of my mother and my daughter. Bickering children in the backseat of the car (I used to call my two youngest the Bickersons).  Tears as best friends move away.  Cuddling, hugs and kisses.  Going to bed every night next to the man I love.  These are home to me.

Recently I found myself far from my current address while my family remained.  I experienced great nostalgia as I returned to the hometown of my childhood and adolescence.  Strong memories of my parents and my older brothers flooded my head, exploding into feelings that ran the gamut of emotions.  Mostly, the ultimate sense of comfort and knowing – knowing that I was loved, knowing that regardless of our dysfunction – love was iimg_3077.jpgn our home.  During a moment of sadness, however, I longed for so many things from my youth, mostly my mom.  The click-clack sound of my mother’s high heals out on the driveway as she left for work each morning, the warmth and comfort of her embrace, the smell of her Design perfume, the sound of her goofy Woody Woodpecker-like laugh, her sense of humor, and her model of undying loyalty.  As my sorrowful memories began to make me feel alone in the world my youngest daughter sent to me the image to the left with the message “I took this for you because I know you like the sunset with the black trees”.  HOME.

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Memory Keeper Box

Great for special occasions and trips!

When I had my Etsy Shop (Miss Elaineous)  I sold many memory boxes…they were so fun to make!  I used an unfinished wooden box from Michael’s Crafts to start.  I would decoupage the outside and the inside – leaving the inside side walls of box and lid bare and natural.  Inside, I would put an embellished journal and an original paper bag photo album every time.  Other items were usually jars of some sort to hold trinkets or souvenirs of some sort.  This one was for a honeymoon couple.  The jar pictured was for sand from the beach.

I wish I still had time to work on projects like this.  I loved working on that shop and its contents.  Maybe some day I will return to it.

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Successfully Setting Expectations for Group Travel

Group travel can be stressful when you are the one in charge of everyone having an enjoyable and positive experience – while staying in the group and remaining safe.  Most unhappiness in our lives comes from unmet expectations.  Sometimes that is because we did not know what to expect and we were left to our own limited experiences to set the level of expectation.  This is disastrous for group travel.  I do my very best to make expectations very clear before students and parents even enroll.  However, they need to hear them again and again – I promise.

I have three departure meetings for every trip.  These meetings serve several purposes.  First, the travelers begin to get comfortable with one another.  After all, it is going to be close quarters for about two weeks.  Second, the parents not traveling can begin to feel a little more comfortable about sending their student abroad – in their eyes alone.  Third, these meetings allow foparents late busr repetitive statements about the rules and consequences.  Fourth, multiple events still need to be decided upon as far as optional excursions, extensions and the like. They need to know they have a voice and are part of the decision making.  Fifth and final, all of the nuances of student group educational travel need to be addressed. (Like, early is on time, and on time is late.)

The two photos used in this post are of students and parents waiting outside of a Paris hotel for a bus that is over an hour late.  Preparing them ahead of time for such a possibility (of things sometimes go wrong) kept their attitudes positive and we all found a way to entertain ourselves while we waited.

The most important discussion I have with them is about the contagious attitudes of the group.  You can either choose to sit and nit pick every little thing, or you can find the beauty of everything around you, embrace the experience, and remain positive so that everyone can enjoy the trip.  Of course – I then point out that this a great way to live life, as well.   We had a choice – stand around and complain to one another about the wait – or make fun, unforgettable memories.

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Simply, love the child.

So, as District Teacher of the Year (DTOY) I was given several opportunities to address all the teachers in the district.  This particular occasion was the summer institute – the 2 first days of summer for the kids.  Every year these are optional staff development days immediately following the end of the school year.  Well, the second one is optional, and the first is required.  On one hand, the training provided can allow us to prepare for the following year with the new information/strategies/tech – whatever.  On the other hand, by the time the day comes the burnout rages through the crowd and enthusiasm remains elusive.  The purpose of this speech rests somewhere between inspiration, motivation, and exasperation.  With the 1:1 technology implementation at the end of its first year, teachers are ready for a break.  However, the theme of the event is transformation – not just using the tech in the classroom, but transforming the way we teach.  As you can imagine, the audience ranges from the technology proficient to the technology resistant to the straight up technology noncompliant.  After a year of mishaps, frustrations, network issues…and I am to bring them all together and motivate them to take the next step, now, on June 5th.  (deep sigh)

Our superintendent went about 20 minutes long – I was immediately told to cut mine short, the tech did not work right away for the next presentation (the technology department), several others spoke briefly.  It is unusual to have the DTOY speak at this event – so it was unexpected.  I was the last one on the stage, just when the whole group thought they were out of there.

Here is what I said:

Simply, love the child.

Good morning. So, today is about transformation. Wow, that can be a scary word because that means change. And what do we know about change? I know change can be downright horrifying. It can be exciting.  I know that sometimes trying to change the behaviors of others is like talking to a brick wall, right? We have all had those experiences.

But change from within – It takes effort. It takes risk. It takes perseverance. Change takes knowledge and learning, right? Well then – we’ve got this. Because I just describe the traits of every hard-working, life-long learning, stubborn teacher in this auditorium. We’ve got this – one step at time.

As you go through the next two days, feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, inspired, confused, enlightened, exhausted, satisfied, hopeful, and just plain tired…..just remember the reason you are here, the reason we are all here – and no I am not talking about your contractual obligation – I am talking about the child. We are here today and every day because we love the child. Now, I say child and not children because I want you to get a picture of one special child in your mind. That one child that you want to help or that you may have already helped. Take a moment to think about that one child you want so badly to reach – no matter how tired you are, no matter what new initiatives or new standards are thrown your way, no matter what extra duties you get at work or extra chores you get at home, no matter what the time or the date is – this child always stands out in your mind. This child may even haunt you.  Maybe you had him in class this year or maybe you are already anticipating him for next year. Perhaps you taught this child years ago – but he still haunts you. Keep that child in your mind as you go through the next 2 days and gain your motivation to transform and learn from him. One step at time.

You know, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to transform these little cherubs into productive citizens – from pre K to senior year – and to get them across that stage every year. And I am moved to tears every single year at graduation. High school teachers in the district are required to go to graduation. We may grumble about this that or the other about this requirement, but when it comes right down to it – that is the prize – seeing that child walk across that stage – I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It is a shame that every teacher, at every feeder school  does not get the opportunity to participate in graduation the way we do at the high school – to see that child cross the finish line. Now I am not recommending a change in policy – I am just trying to make a point. Each and every educator in this room had a hand in all of those success stories that I have had the privilege to witness and celebrate every year. So let me take a moment and say thank you. Thank you to all of you for giving me a better future. Thank you to all of you for transforming the child, that child in your mind, into a high school graduate and a productive member of our community – one step at a time.

So, over the next 2 days simply look within for your inspiration to change, to transform with this technology. You are all already able to inspire that transformation and change in the child. I believe the same power, the same energy will get you through these next two days and into the technology proficient classrooms of tomorrow – one step at a time. And if that can’t get you going, then just remember to simply love the child, as I know you do, and you will continue to accomplish great things.  Thank you and have a great day.

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loss

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David Cole Reynolds 1966-2016

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

Today I am attending the funeral of my childhood friend, Dave.  Much like a brother, Dave would taunt me relentlessly.  He would laugh with me and joke around.  He would often threaten to beat up misbehaving boyfriends or anyone that made me upset.  When Dave smiled his whole face smiled and his chuckle infected everyone around him until they, themselves joined in the laughter.  Dave was the first boy to ask me to marry him.   He would tell me that all he needs is a good woman and he would straighten up  and do right.  I suspect he slung his arm around many a young lady and professed the same.  That was Dave – but it was nice.

I have known loss in my life.  Great loss, in fact.  My mother, Grandparents, my mother – students and former students, my mother, other relatives and acquaintances – did I mention my mother?  But this one begins a new chapter for me – this is my first real friend to go to the grave.  It hurts and confuses me greatly in unexpected ways.  Of course it hurts.  But the unexpected confusion compounds the impact of the loss.

Dave died at 49.  49…my mom died when she was 49.  This age – this fact affects me and I do not understand why.  Maybe my being here has nothing to do with Dave at all, but with the loss of my mother. I remember him playfully hitting on her, too.

Even though he remained one of my bother’s best friends, I have not seen Dave in over a decade.  But his life so touched mine during our youth that it seems as if he just left my house.   I regret not visiting Dave in the last days of his life.  It seems ridiculous to make the trip for the funeral now, but not for the life last week.  Selfish, too, I suppose.  I could not bare to see him in any other fashion than what is pictured above.  Healthy, smiling, happy.  Surprisingly, his death brought me back to my hometown.  I moved from this town shortly after my mother’s death in 1993 and have not really been back since then.  The rest of my family lives elsewhere so there really has not been a reason to return.  Until now.  I imagine Dave’s family will be a bit confused to see me and not my brothers.  I need them to know what he meant to me.  I need them to know it, and I need to say it.  I feel the loss.

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Shadow Box

The ultimate scrapbook page – 3D and mountable.

My daughter fancied her shadow box first and I decided to copy the idea.  It rests on my desk in my studio, ready to be mounted.  As you may have read, I only recently completed my first marathon.  So, currently when I look a this shadow box I am reliving that particular race – only I am in a seated position and not straining myself to finish…well not straining to finish a race, anyway.  I mean, there is always something to finish, right?

This particular shadow box is cool because it has removable layers that allows for the contents to get thicker and thicker.  So, I intend to just keep adding my bibs from races.

Since all of my children are runners – I went ahead and purchased and started one for each of them, as well.  I love that we all share this activity and challenge with one another.

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Please Pull Up To The Cone.

Orange coneEach day on my morning drive I encounter three schools – elementary, middle, and high.  My commute spans four to twelve minutes, depending on the parents in the other cars.  The days of dropping off at the elementary school ended a few years ago.  I will save those days for another post.  Now, my youngest of three attends middle school.  I drive her to school mostly because of her large Baritone Saxophone that she carries back and forth to band and home.  Sometimes, it is so she can get there early to practice in the band room.

In the car circle at the middle school there is a very large, bright orange cone.  The simple, well established rule that we all learn during the first weeks of the sixth grade – pull up to the cone.  This very simple rule allows for the maximum number of cars to safely unload the precious little cherubs and keeps the line flowing at a tolerable pace. In the early part of the school year the administrator remains dutifully in the area, waving his arm, ensuring all parents learn the rule and all cars pull up to the cone.  This complex pull to the orange cone system has been in play for years at the elementary school, as Orange conewell.  So this concept should not be a shocker to anyone.

As the school year progresses the arm waver begins to disappear, leaving parents on their own to follow the rule.  Inevitably, parents fail to pull up to the orange cone in order to drop their own child off at the optimal point.  To be honest – the arm waver never really deterred the determined parents.  He served more as a reminder to those that try to do the right thing.  Clearly, not pulling up to the orange cone slows down the line, backing it up into the street, forcing unsafe traffic maneuvers by those not dropping off, and, quite frankly, takes a little more time off my life.  Rather than five or six cars unloading at once, only one or two let out their cargo before the line moves again.  This is not a new phenomena – parents thinking that their kids are too special to have to walk the ten to fifteen more paces than a less deserving child (see the aforementioned orange cone at the elementary school).

So why do we have rules?  Let’s go back to the basic of common courtesy.  Rules allow a society to function and exist.  At every school I see parents breaking the simple drop off rules for their particular school – and don’t even get me started on the chaos of daily pick up.  These are likely the same parents that get the email or phone call home that their entitled child cheated or cut class or hurt another child or was insubordinate….and they immediately take the side of the child, failing to even consider the ideas of integrity or honesty or true consequence.  Not only do these parents have the “not my child” attitude because they sit with blinders on, they also have the “my child is special and does not have to follow the rules attitude”.  After all, the rules are for the “lessers”.  Why should my child have to follow the rules?  They see me break the rules for them daily.  The rules clearly do not apply to us.

Orange cone

Similarly, why have rules in the house?  So kids know how to function within the parameters of the rules of society.  Life is not a free-for-all.  By not setting reasonable boundaries for kids and leading by good example – parents are setting their kids up for failure (or to be jerks).  True, there are successful liars and cheaters and jerks all over the world.  Everything in life is a trade off and I suppose, once again, it depends on perspective…what it means to be successful.  I want my kids to follow the rules, be considerate, have compassion.  I want my children to show empathy, help others, and be courteous.  I want my family to know love, security, and pride.  I do not want my children to think that the world owes them something.  I do not want my children to be entitled buttholes.

The demise of  our society begins at not pulling up to the orange cone. We teach our children through our actions.   We teach them humility and fairness, or we teach them entitlement. So I choose to pull up to the orange cone – every time – giant instrument and all.  She will survive walking the extra fifteen paces carrying that thing.  I promise.  This is why I pull up to the orange cone, every time – because it is such a simple and courteous rule to follow, to model for my daughter.  How could I expect my kids to follow the hard rules, if I can’t even follow such a simple one?  Pulling up to the cone shows my daughter that she is not the center of the universe; she is not entitled to any special treatment. Choose to pull up to the orange cone  – both literally and metaphorically – and teach children accountability, consideration, and humility.

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Two Black Shoes

So, I was trying to think of something positive to post because my first post with a student tag fails to exemplify my real attitude towards my little cherubs and my job.  I love my job.  However, exhaustion has set in after a long day of work, so instead of writing something new I decided that polishing off a short speech I gave last year would suffice.  In August 2015 I spoke at a luncheon to a room full of teachers that were named their schools’ Teacher of the Year.  It was to celebrate them all, of course, but to especially recognize the District Teacher of the Year.  Here it is:

“This morning as I left my house and hit the light of day I saw that I was wearing 1 blue and 1 black shoe.  Luckily I caught it this time.  I have gone to school like this in the past…so, having caught it – I knew it was going to be a good day – nothing can set a negative tone quite like mismatched shoes.

First, I would like to say congratulations to all of the Teachers of the Year today.  If you would please humor me, I would like for each of you to please take a moment, close your eyes and sear this day of celebration into your memory, because today we celebrate all of you. As you sit there – eyes closed and in your own head – scream, hoot, holler, and shout out how awesome your are.  You are awesome because all of your colleagues chose you to represent their school.  Your colleagues believe that you exemplify what it means to be a great teacher.  Now, when you open your eyes, tuck all that awesomeness away in a special place.

Then, during this next school year when you are dealing with that difficult parent, or trying to reach that far away child; when a frustrated colleague maybe forgot how awesome you are (pause for laughter), or if you accidently wear 2 different shoes to school…Just close your eyes, take a deep breath and unpack that nugget.  It should pull you through.

I would also like to thank Mr. Havird and all of District One for allowing me to serve on this leadership path of growth, humility, and inspiration.  It has been a true blessing and an honor.

Finally, I raise a (water) glass to Mr. Matthew Truesdale in congratulations.  One district teacher of the year does not always personally know the next.  I am very fortunate to call Matthew a colleague, even more so to call him a friend.  Matthew, congratulations – I wish you the best on this year’s journey.  Please know that you have always inspired me be a better teacher and a better person – and may you always wear 2 matching shoes.”

Short and sweet.  So, I really did don the wrong shoes that very morning.  And I wrote the speech in about 20 minutes – after they announced my friend’s name that morning.  Inspiration can be found in the darnedest places.

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