Bastogne, Belgium and my 3 things

July 2, 2022

Today I am grateful to be an American – and so proud. I know we are not a perfect nation, and I know our nation doesn’t always do the right thing. But the soldiers that liberated this city in WWII, and the soldiers that died trying to do so are incredibly celebrated here. The memorials and dedications to them abound. Even the church bells – every day – on every half hour – begins ringing with the first five notes of the American National anthem. This town could teach some Americans a thing or two about patriotism and gratitude toward our veterans; I am grateful to have met Henry. He was a small boy when the Germans occupied his town and his home. He shared his experiences with us today and he led us from one memorial to the next. Thank you Henry; I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and have these experiences- and those soldiers made it possible. I am humbled.

This is Henry. This is the Sherman tank that stands in the center of Bastogne. That is one of two bullet holes that “knocked it out in December 44. It recalls the sacrifices of all the fighters for the liberation of Bastogne and Belgium”. (Plaque) ūüáļūüáł

I was especially moved today by the German cemetery. 6 men buried together under one cross. We were told this was German military tradition as in – leave no soldier alone. So many were just boys. So many unknown. So much death. I wondered why they were still here. 7000 in just that cemetery. The Germans just left the bodies. The Geneva Convention requires they be buried, handled with respect. They never went home because families could not afford to have them brought home. And again – so many unknown soldiers. So. Many. “Now, they’ll just be here forever” Henry said.

Freedom certainly is not free.

#choosejoy #gratitude #3things #usa #letfreedomring

Paris in July-3things

July 1, 2022

The weather has been so mild for us on this trip, and the people of Paris have been very kind. I am grateful for cabs when I am tired of walking – 7 miles today on a broken right foot and and left busted knee – I am so grateful I did not fall again; I am grateful for the river cruise tonight and for having been given the opportunity to see Notre Dame before it burned down. I hope to come again once it is rebuilt; I am grateful to be traveling with such kind and wonderful people. Tomorrow we head to Belgium – birthplace of my grandmother. #gratitude #3 things #choosejoy

A glimpse of Notre Dame from the Seine.

April 6, 2022 Gratitude should be spoken.

Today. Hmmmm – today the Lord gave me breath and pushed me out of my bed. I am grateful. Today I had food to eat for breakfast and a car to drive to a job (after a hot shower and fresh clean clothes attained) I am grateful. Today my feelings were hurt. It’s was shocking and made me hide in the corner so as not to show my tears. I am grateful for the friend that stood and listened and the other friend who offered a hug – not because she heard us talking but because she could tell I was upset and she cares about me. I am grateful. I listened to a play with students who don’t like to read aloud. I am grateful for the actors who recorded the words. I went to my second job after a faculty meeting and I was grateful to have a colleague inquire as to my health and day, rather than just walk by saying nothing. I am grateful. I did my job and was told thank you for being here and I heard the genuine gratitude in her voice. I am grateful. I got to enjoy a lovely dinner out with a lovely friend who shares many experiences with me. I am grateful God allowed us to find one another in all this chaos. My son called me. I am grateful. My daughter called me. I am grateful. I worry about the person who hurt my feelings today, who lashed out irrationally and unprovoked. I will pray for her tonight and I am grateful that it is my choice to decide how this will affect me. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts and it ruined my day because until now I thought this person was my friend. I believe she still is but perhaps needs some grace and prayer. I am grateful that I have the power and strength to give her mine, my grace and prayer. I’m in my bed now. I’m grateful for the comfort of my pillow for it has been a difficult and long day. I am grateful for my life. For my mistakes. For my loves. For my losses. For my wins – I am grateful for me. Finally, I am grateful for the medicine I take at night that keeps me healthy. This world is so crazy – speak your gratitude.

3 things: forgiveness; grace; prayer #choosejoy #gratitude #3things

a good day

I know many details have been left out as I sit exhausted at this computer tonight.  That young man, the one I helped so many years ago Рhelped me tonight. 

I woke up this morning and made it to duty sort of on time.

As I monitored the progress of my 1st period class and that of the 3 the day before I realized that not one student had managed to turn in the day’s assignment correctly or completely.  Partly due to tech glitches, but MOSTLY due to the refusal to read directions, the inability to follow directions, and the ridiculous notion that if the answer requires thought then it remains beyond their reach.

Moving on to 3rd period this morning, a student walked into my classroom, threw is Chromebook on my desk and said “You were my favorite teacher” and as he turned and made it halfway out the door he shouted “I’m dropping out!!!!”   Then he slammed the door as hard as he could.  I tried to cut him off in the parking lot only to run into the administrators also hot on his trail.  I had to return to the students in my room (well, at the door watching every step I took).  They wrangled him back inside.  My principal later informed me that they talked him off the ledge and he will, in fact, be returning.  Whew.

During lunch I covered a class for another teacher a watched one student cheat shamelessly on a test, while the others in the room poured their hearts and souls into the assessment. (Deep cleansing breath).

During the rest of planning I had to type up all the problems technology gave me the last two days and beg for a solution.  Tomorrow we will be reading from a textbook.

During the last class of the day I had the occasion to sit a student down in front of me to tell her that she is the reason I come to school every day – A wonderful project of our librarian.  She recorded it.  The student cried – and told me that I’m cheesy.  I loved it.

Also during that class we had to start off very harshly, as students have NOT been hitting deadlines for our yearbook publication.  100 emails and problems to address.  Finally, tech support showed up – God bless her at 3pm on a Friday afternoon, still chugging away to make my technology work for my students.

By the end of that class we were dancing, celebrating small victories of the day and embracing the weekend ahead.  Well, not the tech person – she continued to chug.

After school I sat in on a meeting of our student group that tries to bring coexistence to our school.  Their struggles are real.

Tonight at dinner I ran into a former student. As my husband and I sat at table next him. He looked familiar at first glance, but when I saw his smile all the memories from his 9th grade year came flooding back – everything but his name.  Ugh – I wish I could remember their names, especially when they weigh so heavy on my heart sometimes.  Of course later when he said it – I could not believe I could have ever forgotten it.  This young man had the kind of smile that made his whole face shine and you couldn’t help but smile back.  A young man filled with talent, charm, and whole lot of teenage angst.  That angst got him into some trouble that the charm could not get him out of, so he ended up going to another school and he was gone from our lives…like so many students that touch our hearts.  When I approached him at the checkout, it took a moment but then the recognition shocked across his face.  “Mrs. Bertram!!”   He looked healthy and happy and shared his excitement about his future.  Man, that made my day.

I know many details have been left out as I sit exhausted at this computer tonight.  That young man, the one I helped so many years ago – helped me tonight.  In fact, I think it is pretty safe to say that he inspired today’s post.  It’s the first time I have posted in over a year, I think.  I’ve been stuck.  Stuck in it all.  I am finding my way out.  If you write you know what a big deal that is; and if you don’t write – you’ll have to trust me.  When an individual can get you over a year long writer’s block – it’s a very big deal.   Thank you, young man.

It was a good day.

the few…the proud…the incredibly sore

Educator’s Workshop at Paris Island March 1-4, 2016 for the Recruiting Station of Columbia, South Carolina…holy cow…what an amazing experience. ¬†The sign that speaks 2016-03-03 07.20.02 (2)the mission of the base really says it all. ¬†“We Make Marines”

My participation in this workshop tops the list of professional development experiences and learning  about what I can do to help young people to find their paths, wherever they may lead.2016-03-01 15.26.41

Our group of 30 educators stayed in Beaufort and traveled to the base daily.  We met Marines and recruits and learned what it takes to be a US Marine.  We also were able to experience shooting the M 16, repelling down a 50 foot wall, running the obstacle course, and of course, visiting the pit.

The PIT – a sandy spot that looks like it is ready for a beach volleyball game, but I assure you this is not a fun spot. ¬†PIT, I believe stands for “personal incentive training”. ¬†Now, I don’t know if that is an official breakdown or one of affection. ¬†I know we all thought that some “personal incentive training” could be very effective in our classrooms.

The repel wall… one marine at the top and one at the bottom. ¬†These 2 men are there to make sure you go down safely. ¬†You could pass out and drop and still be lowered without harm. ¬†This did not assuage my fear AT ALL! ¬† So, here is the whole story. ¬†When we first arrived, they put us in formation and said “those that have no intention of repelling please go to the back fence”. ¬†I did not move. ¬†I was in. ¬†The instructor explained what was going to happen and told us to go get our gear. ¬†I walked with the group, but in the room with the gear – I bailed. ¬†I came out empty handed…I just could not do it. ¬†My fear of heights was going to win today.

2016-03-03 09.51.43The Marines that we were working with over the course of the 4 days expressed their dismay as I passed by to join the non-participants. ¬†I stood to the side for the 20 minute preparations of the group – anger growing and frustration brewing. ¬†Not only was I¬†battling my fear of heights, but I had just hurt my knee on the obstacle course (read about that here). ¬†Still, I could not take it any longer and I walked up to my Drill Instructor and said “I don’t want to wuss¬†out – is it too late?” ¬†No it was not. ¬†They went and got gear and got me ready in 60 seconds flat. ¬†As I climbed the stairs the shaking began. ¬†I tried not to think about it as I watched educator after educator disappear over the side. ¬†It was finally my turn.

Marine number 1 hooked me up, told me to step back, and then, just lean back. ¬†I tried and tried. ¬†We were to put our heals over the edge – half on, half off sort of thing. ¬†And then, keep legs straight and do a trust fall – 50 feet in the air – with the guy that is going to “catch” you 50 feet below. ¬†I kept staring into the eyes of Marine number one and listening to the voices of those below – trying to distinguish ¬†that of Marine number two. ¬†I had my first heal over the edge. ¬†As I tried to inch my other foot back, I rocked back and forth, left to right, not really making any progress. ¬†As the anxiety level rose, I had to step from the edge completely again. ¬†UGH! ¬†I repeated this twice. ¬†Seriously? ¬†I was so frustrated that I could not overcome this. ¬†I wanted it so badly! ¬†My Marine was so patient and so good and calming a woman on the edge.

Again, I get my right heel over the edge. ¬†“Now, just move your left foot,” he said. ¬†Sure.¬† ¬† ¬†“I’m trying!” ¬†I screamed. ¬†Mental note – do not piss off the Marine holding the rope. ¬† Deep breath. ¬†Finally, I edged the foot back and he said , “you are there – now just lean back.” and in one fell swoop I dropped over the edge. ¬†The exhilaration at all time high in this 46-year-old life – I made it half way down the wall before they stopped me. ¬†My fingers were dangerously close to the rig and we needed to reposition before they lowered me the rest of the way. ¬†Whew. ¬†When I hit the ground it was hard to even think straight because the adrenaline was so high. ¬†I do remember, however, giving a great big hug to Marine number two.

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I can see why they make recruits to this.  A trust and confidence builder for sure.  I am so grateful for the experience and to two very special Marines that I will never forget.

Batter up!

I just sat through the first scrimmage of our girls softball team for this season and boy was it cold! ¬† So, after coaching track and going on a run with my husband, the weather seemed tolerable enough – oh no — no, no. ¬†The lack of clothing on my body and the failure to stretch after my run, and the (what felt like) 20 degree drop – not a good combo – I have some tight muscles!

Anyway, I enjoy going to the sporting events of my students.  I try so hard so go at least once every season to every sport.  My goal is 2-3, but sometimes I just cannot make that happen.

As I looked at the softball team tonight I realized I either currently teach or have taught every girl on the team, by far the highest volume of students of any sport.  And, although my fingers maintain little feeling still as I type this post Рmy pride for these girls knows no bounds.  Although I left after 2 hours and they still had more game to play, at one point they were down zero to 7.  They fought their way back to an 11-7 lead.  Nothing makes me more certain that I am in the right place when I see young folks rise above and conquer.  It had nothing to do with me РI was merely a spectator.  But, boy it felt good to see them fight and find that success.

I do not know at this time if they won the game, but they definitely won my heart (too much?). ¬†Well ¬†it’s true – and I know that I am a big sap! ¬†If you get a chance to attend a sporting event at a local high school I encourage you to take it. ¬†These kids work tirelessly at their sport. ¬†We often hear comments like “this generation is so lazy”, “these kids are so entitled”, “no one wants to work for anything anymore”. ¬†But these kids go to school all day, maintain their grades with homework (sometimes hours), and practice every single day for 2 hours after school – not to mention friends, jobs and chores. ¬†And yes, I put friends on the list because, let’s face it, relationships of all kinds are work. ¬†These kids work hard. These kids have drive. ¬†I was so tired after work today…but then I just remembered how tired my students must be, too – and so I go and sit in the cold. ¬†Way to go girls!

***update РI wrote this a few days ago Рthe girls won the game.  I have since been to a few more games and they continue to thrive! Go Canes!

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Yanks out for a run in Killarney, Ireland

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Me and my travel buddy, Kelly

I love to grab my phone and go out for an early morning run while on tour with my students.  Unfortunately, exhaustion tends to take over and the rest becomes more important as we move through our 14 hour days of walking and sight-seeing while traveling abroad.

 

Still, when I am able to do this I am able to see a few things that I would have otherwise missed. ¬†Plus, running through town can really give you a sense of what it is like. ¬†I mean, you are on foot and don’t have the protection of a vehicle or a large group. ¬† You smell smells and hear sounds that you would otherwise miss – things that really add to the ambiance of a town. ¬† If it feels unsafe – you usually know it right away. ¬†Still, I would never run where I thought I might be unsafe. ¬†We always discuss the area with our tour consultant and folks at the hotel to ensure our safety – and I would never run alone.

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Our Hotel in Killarney

While in Killarney, our first stop on the Britannia with EF Tours, my travel buddy and I went out for a short run Рabout 2 miles.  We went away from town in the opposite direction from which we arrived.  It did not disappoint.  Our first lesson was to run on the correct side of the path.  We were running on the right and the running path/bike path follows the rules of the road.  We ran into only one person before we realized our error and began keeping to the left.

First, we saw a flock of sheep in a field with a lovely backdrop.  OUR FIRST FLOCK!!!2015-06-18 17.19.53

We ran to a bridge as saw this lovely view.2015-06-18 17.18.00

We went out a mile and then backtracked.  There was a lovely gentleman selling strawberries near this bridge and he gave us a taste.  They were fresh and yummy.

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Our tour bus never did make it this way.  I feel like I won a special prize when I get to experience these places with a short run.  Stinky clothes remain the problem.  I can put them in ziplock baggies with dryer sheets, but they really need a washing machine!

 

 

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Read about more group travel trip here.

Read about my first marathon here.

 

 

 

the wrong kind of goodbye

As a teacher I am used¬†to saying goodbye. ¬†Students move in and out of the district, always coming and going. ¬†Farewells naturally occur at the end of every school year as I pass along my¬†little cherubs to the next lucky soul that gets to touch their lives.¬†Often times I ignore my¬†feelings of loss and try to focus on the next batch of students that lie in wait. ¬†However, when I lose a student to death…well, that is just the wrong kind of goodbye.

I recently attended the funeral services of a sweet young lady named Danielle.  A senior at my high school, she had yet to see her 18th birthday, had yet to recieve her diploma, had yet to live her dreams.  I taught Danielle when she was a freshman and although there is a certain detachment that occurs between student and teacher when the student is no longer a regular in the classroom Рthere is always a connection as our life paths have crossed.

Filling the needs of students drives me as a teacher.¬†¬†Sometimes I fill their minds with knowledge and growth. ¬†Sometime I fill their heart with love and acceptance. ¬†Sometimes I fill their bellies. ¬†Sometimes, honestly, I don’t know what I am doing or if I am making a difference in their lives at all – but they always, always make a difference in mine. ¬†I carry¬†hope for all students that enter and leave my classroom that they live long lives, find joy and love, reach their goals, and live free from despair. ¬†So, when I say goodbye to them because they move on to another grade – I¬†never really say goodbye – until it’s the wrong kind of goodbye.

Danielle drove off the road and into some trees. ¬†Two passengers also died. ¬†One survived. ¬†Danielle’s speed led to the accident and an unforgiving road on a sharp turn sealed her fate. ¬†Our community loses too many young people¬†to these roads. ¬†We say too many of the wrong kind of goodbyes. ¬†As I sat at her funeral service and looked at all of the beautiful flowers, I was surrounded by current and former students. Oddly, I focused on a¬†wasp thavasflowers-colorful-sympathy-casket-spray_maxat had found his way into the chapel. ¬†This wasp, rather than hovering on the mounds of colorful blooms¬†that were gathered around the coffin, sputtered at the ceiling as if trying to escape the pain and suffering in the room. ¬†I remember thinking that his flight path was¬†staggered and haphazard; misguided and misdirected – simply all over the place, as if a strong, shifiting wind kept him from going his intended direction. It seemed so symbolic of life sometimes. ¬†Determined, however misguided, he pounded himself into the white ceiling again and again to no avail – no escape. ¬†Eventually, he gave up and landed on the chandelier and remained motionless, as if he had found peace. ¬†When the preacher began to speak I lost sight of the wasp as I focused on the words of the man. ¬†Tears do not scare me, nor do I shy away from public displays of¬†emotion, especially in a situation like this. ¬†But, I was trying to be strong for the students around me. ¬†So when I found myself overcome with emotion I searched for the wasp again in an attempt to distract myself. However, much to my disappointment, I could not find the wasp. ¬†The wasp was gone. ¬†The wasp had found his way out; he was free. ¬†Right then, as my eyes swelled with tears, I realized that Danielle is also free. ¬†She is free from all of this pain and suffering. ¬†Her struggles have ended and she has found peace with her Savior. Still, I remain, looking at her grieving parents, and cannot help but feel that this is the wrong kind of goodbye.

When I returned home I did as expected – I hugged my chldren, cried into their shoulders,¬†and¬†told them that I love them. ¬†I spoke to them about speeding and reckless decisions. ¬†They are teenagers, afterall. ¬†“Please don’t ever do that to me,” I told my son. ¬†“I would be lost without you,” I told my daughter. ¬†They heard my message; they felt my love and despair for Danielle and the wrong kind of goodbye.

 

**The featured photo is of a banner that the students signed as a way to help them greive and say goodbye to their friend, their classmate. Sadly, this has becomre tradition.

 

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Pompeii, Italy

DSC_0759Italy remains one of my favorite destinations.  After our journey to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, we took an expertly guided tour of the ruins of Pompeii.  Mt. Vesuvius destroyed this ancient Roman town in 79 AD, but the ash, evidently, preserved quite a bit of it.  There are lots of photos and I only saw, probably, a quarter of the town.  All of my information comes from our tour guide.  So, if there are any historians out there that think I have it wrong, please let me know. I am a tourist, not a historian.  Please enjoy my photos and the mini amateur tour through the ruins.

 

 

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Before we entered the walls of the city, we viewed the mass graves in what would have been right outside the city walls.  DSC_0762DSC_0763

We first entered the Gladiator training grounds Рa big courtyard, basically.  The trees are magnificent.DSC_0773

Then we made our way to the amphitheater.  You can see the courtyard we just left in the background Рand look at those mountains Рwow!DSC_0790

So, then we started walking through the ancient streets.  We were told that the giant stones in the middle of the road were for pedestrians to be able to cross without stepping into the sewage that flowed in the street.  Each of those gates represent a different shop.  This was the market street, evidently.DSC_0793

This is a wood burning pizza oven Рha!  Seriously, it was said to be a bakery.  They thought this because the fireplace was so much larger than that in the home areas.DSC_0791

Random street of Pompeii.DSC_0827

Me and my best travel buddy, Kelly.  We make a great team. She makes laugh and laugh Рwe have so much fun together.  We are standing outside the infamous Pompeii brothel.  The middle school group that walked through with us could not quite handle the artwork on the walls.DSC_0826

So, this is the brothel.  Do you see the upside down cross?DSC_0841

As we made our way from the brothel to the city square the tour guide pointed out the map on the ground carved into the stone.  It points to the brothel so that those visiting the city for the first time know where to go.  The brothel does, in fact, have artwork that survived on its walls, as well.  Images of people, men and women, in various sexual positions cover the walls of the brothel.  Our guide explained that a customer would simply point to the desired position.  Bed pictured below.DSC_0830

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Another random street.  We are on our way to the city square.  We just left the brothel.DSC_0797

You can’t really make out the walls, exactly, but this street was “apartments”.DSC_0800

An example of the residential fireplace.  DSC_0802

The courtyard of the gladiator school.  This area was one of the best preserved.  The photo below was the ornate, arched ceiling.  The photo does not do it justice.  The colors and the artistry took my breath away.DSC_0808

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This was displayed within the walls of the gladiator school.  I am not sure why he was separated from the rest of the artifacts that I posted below.  This was just mesmerizing.  The thought of all of those people being buried so quickly in the ash that they were frozen and then preserved.  Amazing.DSC_0821

So, a regular ally leading to a beautiful courtyard.  These small private courtyards were blocked off and we could not see them up close.  They were off of private residences.DSC_0863

The next several photos are of the many artifacts recovered from the ash.DSC_0865DSC_0867DSC_0866

Lots of vases and urns. ¬†The plastic crates in the background unfortunately detract from the collection. ¬†Did you see the dog in the glass box? ¬†I think that was a dog…I never did get a definitive answer.DSC_0847

If you saw my Mt. Vesuvius post, then this photo may look familiar. ¬†That’s it in the background – the devastating volcano that covered this city in ash.DSC_0870

More images of the city square.DSC_0871DSC_0872DSC_0877DSC_0881DSC_0883DSC_0887

DSC_0889Some of those last pictures really show the beauty of the area. ¬†So that’s it. ¬†My trip through the ruins of Pompeii. ¬†A very hot day that ended with overpriced frozen lemonade and a stroll through the vendors outside the gates. ¬†Oh – and we saw a demonstration of cameos being made from shells – then we went for the lemonade. ¬†They were¬†beautiful, but not for me.

If you have not seen my Mt. Vesuvius post you can find it in this link to the top of the volcano.

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Dear New Teachers:

Dear new teachers,

We need you.  This difficult job will reward you in many ways.  Please stick with it, even when  you want to quit Рit does get easier.  Well, not easier, but you figure out how to be better at it and find balance.  Our nation faces a crisis in the classroom.  We need good teachers, like you.  Compassionate, giving, selfless, hard-working.  Go next door, to the next classroom and ask for help.  If you mistakenly entered the wrong room, the room where that negative energy resides Рjust go to the next door and keep going until you find the support that you need. Do not try to do it on your own.  Also, make yourself leave on time and do not take work home with you.  It will get done.  I promise.

We have all been there Рhave all felt overwhelmed and wanted to throw in the towel.  Keep at it.  You are valued.  You are needed.  You are our future.

Sincerely,

the nation

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