Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Global Perspective at Christmas

My brother, Evan has always been the global thinker in our family. He has his finger on the pulse of those less fortunate both in his neighborhood and abroad. He is a children's pastor who leads the kids under his influence to take action globally, especially in Uganda. Through a variety of activities, his children have become personally connected to the plight of the poor in Uganda. More than that, they are “learning to do good” while developing a global perspective. What a gift!

It was no surprise that Evan introduced the idea of “micro-financing to end poverty” to my brother Marc several months ago. I only have to hear “micro-” and my eyes begin to glaze over and by the time I hear “financing” I am totally checked out, but I will try to explain it in “Marsha-ese”. Micro-financing is LENDING funds to the rural poor in developing countries, usually in the form a small loans (smaller than banks are interested in loaning). This is often the only way they would be able to establish or maintain a business that has the ability to lift themselves out of poverty. Loans are repaid and can then be re-loaned to other individuals. The concept is quite amazing, and has real potential to put a major dent in extreme poverty.

Marc began to research this concept and came across an organization that actually connects people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating extreme poverty. Kiva is “the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe”. If you want more information check out the about page on Kiva's website (the video is great). About Kiva.

This Christmas, the Abla side of our family decided that we would take the amount of money normally spent on gifts for each other and instead invest at Kiva. So, last night all 12 of us, kids included, squeezed into our family room, sat around the Christmas tree began to invest in real people around the world.

Creating our family account was an ordeal in itself. What would we call our group? You can only imagine the suggestions with the names Cuttill Roat Abla Price (no, we did not select CRAP as our Kiva name, but you know it was discussed. Check us out anyway at Cuttill Roat Abla Price ). With the family photo snapped and uploaded, we only had one more step to complete our profile. We had to finish the statement, “I loan because...”. I don't think any of us had actually thought much about why, but our answer came when Evan recited Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good: Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” This scripture became our hymn, as well as our Kiva group slogan. We invite all to join this group at Isaiah 1:17

Once our family account was initiated, we pressed the much anticipated “lend” button on the site. Waiting anxiously for the multitude of needy folks to pop up, we became instantly disappointed when we found NO loans were available to be funded! WHAT? We waited and waited—still—none. Then, all of a sudden, one profile came available. In unison we yelled at the computer operator “CHOSE THAT ONE! CHOSE THAT ONE!” and that's how Jhudy, a small grocery owner from Peru, became our first investment. As we read about Jhudy's life and circumstances, excitement began to grow in the room. Jhudy was a real person with a real desire to make her life better and overcome poverty through entrepreneurship.

We followed the same process to fund the next seven loans and each time the kids would read about these people and become a bit more engaged in the process of investing. Once all of our initial monies were spent, several more loans became available. It was at this point that my sister-in-law announced, “Hey, Marsha. Here is a widow with a daughter from Tajikistan who is seeking a loan to invest in seeds and mineral fertilizer to improve the quality of her produce.” Well, she had me at “widow” and Begidjon Khairova became the first loan we were able to choose ourselves and the final loan of the evening. Funny thing was, everyone still had their laptops or iPhones out researching other loans on the site. Zack had created a “group” on Facebook and everyone had created personal accounts on Kiva.

You know, I don't remember our family EVER being so engaged during any Christmas gift exchange in the past. Somehow opening presents wasn't even missed and in the end we were able to say, “Merry Christmas Begidjon.” “Merry Christmas Norma.” “Merrry Christmas Riza.” “Merry Christmas Jhudy.” “Merry Christmas Cotzojay.” “Merry Christmas Mariela.” “Merry Christmas Sherali.” “Merry Christmas Olivia.” “Merry Christmas Zulma.” And a very Merry Christmas to our family who has always invested in each other, so it only seems natural to invest in others.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Best Young Adult Books of the Decade

As you all know, I am a strong believer that if you are to become an accomplished writer, you MUST read good literature. I recently returned from a BER seminar entitled “The Best Young Adult Books of the Decade and How to Use Them in Your Program (Grades 6-12)”. After posting the fact I was attending this seminar, many friends and educators asked if I would post the information on my website, so here it is. Dr. Scates gave book talks on over 75 books during the day, so the list here does not do justice to the great literature out there for young adults.

First, I will post the presenter, Denni Kay Scates’s list of:

Top Ten Young Adult Books for Grades 6-8.

  1. Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

  2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Adventure)

  3. Cirque Du Freak (series) by Darren Shan (Fantasy; Horror)

  4. To Dance by Sienna Cherson Siegel (Science Fiction; Graphic Novel)

  5. Death by Eggplant by Susan O’Keefe (Humor)

  6. Click Here and Find Out How I Survived 7th Grade by Denise Ve

    ga (Humor)

  7. Waiting for Normal by Leslie Conner (Realistic Fiction)

  8. Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka (Short Stories)

  9. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Realistic Fiction)

  10. A Baseball Card Adventure Series (ie. Babe and Me) by Dan Gutman (Fantasy; Series)

After listening to the book talks, I made a list of the:

Top Ten Young Adult Books I Want to Read”:

  1. Point Blank: an Alex Rider Adventure by Anthony Horowitz (Adventure)

  2. From Baghdad With Love: a Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman (Memoir)

  3. How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot (“Chick” Lit)

  4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Fantasy; Horror)

  5. Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac (Historical Fiction)

  6. Fire From the Rock by Sharon Draper (Historical Fiction)

  7. 24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley (Humor)

  8. Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters by Gail Giles (Mystery)

  9. Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Realistic Fiction)

  10. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (Mystery)

Here is my two cents; books that I have found to impact my students and my teaching:

Marsha’s Top Ten List of Young Adult Books

  1. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Michaelsen (Adventure)

  2. Running Out of Time by Margaret Petterson Haddix (Historical Fiction/Fantasy)

  3. Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher (Realistic Fiction)

  4. Jack on the Tracks by Jack Gantos (Humor)

  5. Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems by Kristine O’Connell George

  6. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar: (Humor)This book is below the middle school level reading-wise; however, is rich in humor and lends itself to impromptu plays

  7. Guts by Gary Paulsen (Biography)

  8. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz (Adventure)

  9. Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg (Realistic Fiction)

  10. Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine (Non Fiction): One of the best books to encourage young writers.

If you are interested I have a catalog of ALL of the books BER recommends for students 6-12. It is lengthy, but it gives a brief description of the books.

In addition I will also include Dr. Scates’s Top Ten for Grades 9-12. SOME, but not all, of these books MAY contain some mature situations, so use your d

iscretion. They are sure to ignite great discussion with your teenager (we could all use that). Most of the books on the list are perfectly fine and the reading level is greater than some of the 6-8 books:

Top Ten Young Adult Books for Grades 9-12

  1. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson (Realistic Fiction): Bobby’s carefree teenage life changes forever when he becomes a father and must care for his baby daughter.

  2. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen (Memoir)

  3. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (Fantasy)

  4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Graphic Novel)

  5. The Book Theif by Markus Zusak (Historical Fiction)

  6. 24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley (Humor)

  7. Click by Nick Hornby and others (Mystery)

  8. Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (Non-fiction: Picture Book): This book is about a man who was killed in a brutal, racially motivated lynching in 1955. It is told in sonnet form and has very sophisticated language-it should spark lots of conversation.

  9. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Realistic Fiction)

  10. Twice Told: Original Stories Inspired by Original Art by Scott Hunt

Now it is your turn, as readers of this blog, what are the young adult books you have found to ignite the love of reading and/or left an impact on you as an adult? Use the “comments” to leave your suggestions. Be sure to list the book title, author, and why you think it should be added to the list.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Contrived and Predictable Has it's Merits!

I love movies, but believe when it comes to choosing and enjoying them I have the maturity of a teenager. Case in point: I have been to three movies in the theatre within the last few months: Inglorious Basterds, District 9 and The Proposal. I must learn that if a film critic finds a movie “intelligent” or “a multilayered, rewarding work” I should steer clear of it at any costs. But if the review states that the show is “…as predictable and comforting as a Happy Meal” or “shamelessly derivative, contrived and predictable” these movies are right up my ally.

When I leave a theatre, I want to feel as if I have been entertained. I want to have laughed, cried, clenched my seat in fright, or even resisted the urge to cheer on the hero/heroine. I want to be engaged in the story—to be sucked in. I don’t want to feel compelled to think about what societal message the director might be portraying or what hidden symbolism embodies a character’s actions.

I pride myself as a “thinker”, but when it comes to the cinema—I seem more interested in piffle. Of the tree before mentioned movies, the only one I really enjoyed was The Proposal. Chucked full of contrived and predictable plot lines with a healthy dose of shoddiness, The Proposal made me laugh, caused me to forget stressors in my life for a moment and step into a bit of romantic fairy tale.

It is for this reason I am a terrible movie-mate. My best friends enjoy those highly intelligent, mind stretching, award winning films while I just don’t want to put that much effort into the pastime. Why does all this matter? Quite frankly, it doesn’t mean anything at all. I just felt the need to proclaim my propensity for mediocre movies aloud, accept it as a part of who I am, and cease guilty about it. There, I said it (or wrote it).

So, this weekend we purchased, On Demand, three movies: X-Men Origins: Wolverine; My Life in Ruins; and Ghost of Girlfriends Past. For the first time in a long while, I enjoyed every last one of them. I got my money’s worth, didn’t feel cheated of the time, and was entertained -- just like any other teenager on the planet.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Writing Wherewithal!

Writing is definitely a craft. Like an athlete, a writer must practice in order for their talent to be honed. It has been over three months since I have written anything for publication and it is quite obvious that by allowing this craft to become stagnant, it has become laborious to revive. But here I sit in the dark with my computer, and I wonder if restoration is possible.

It isn't that I have nothing to communicate, it is that I can't seem to find that allusive “balance” I am constantly seeking. Everything I see, do or experience is fodder for a blog, but lately I can't seem to compose. The words are there, but the wherewithal to do the work is not.

I have always been an advocate that teacher's of writing must write themselves. It is important that we understand what our students are experiencing when they write. Perhaps her lies an epiphany—sometimes it is simply too difficult to write, or too arduous or perhaps inconsequential. I am really not sure which tag properly identifies my motives, but I feel compelled to come out of the fog.

The lack of motivation to write is like being separated from one you love—it is a feeling of abandonment and torpidity. Salvaging this union will no doubt take hard work and practice. I am unafraid of either, but both take an incredible amount of time and energy. It is time to step up to the plate, but why does it seem so difficult?

The problem is simple and I know it. I have become lazy. Sometimes, it is easier not to write at all than to expend the amount of energy it takes to compose well. Perhaps it doesn't matter if the writing is great or significant—perhaps sometimes it just matters that you DO IT! Quite a lesson for writers, no matter what their age.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What a Fool Believes

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title. It's harder than you think.

YOUR ARTIST: Dooobie Brothers

Are you male or female: Evil Woman

Describe yourself: Minute By Minute

How do you feel about yourself: Disciple

Describe where you currently live: Chicago (or kindof close)

The first thing you think of when you wake up: Here to Love You

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: China Grove

Your favorite form of transportation: Flying Cloud

What is the weather like where you are at: Rainy Day Crossroad Blues

Your best friend is: Closer Every Day

Your favorite color is: White Sun

If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: Black Water

What is life to you: Dangerous

What is the best advice you have to give: Don’t Be Afraid

If you could change your name, what would it be: Mamaloi

Your favorite food is: South of the Border

How I would like to die: Dedicate This Heart

My soul's present condition: Echoes of Love

What are you going to post this as: What a Fool Believes

Now it is your turn---

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Theology according to “Saving Grace”

If you haven’t watched “Saving Grace” on TNT, it is an interesting spin on God and his relationship to us. This message is often conveyed through an angel named Earl. The premise of the series is that God sent an angel who offers a jaded Oklahoma City police detective (Grace Hanadarko) the chance to redeem her life following a drunk driving accident in which she kills someone. Her character is extremely flawed, which is why I guess I can relate to her so well. I don’t always agree with the theology expounded in the television program, but I often gleam some understanding through Hollywood’s feeble attempts. If nothing else, it often sparks major discussions within our household. The following scene takes place in a Jewish temple. Here is a short discussion between Earl and Grace concerning prayer.

Earl: All kind of prayers, popcorn prayers, Hebrew prayers, screamin’, cussin’, questionin’: all prayers
Grace: Prayers in here may be important, but ‘please let me score a touchdown, please help me find a parking place’ what about that crap
Earl: You don’t think God can handle the big and the small
Grace: Some dope prays for the light to turn green same time a family prays for their sick baby—light turns green baby dies—why doesn’t he save the baby?
Earl: I don’t know God makes the decisions not our desires.
Grace: Really, GOD makes the decisions?
Earl: Yes
Grace: So, ok God decides to kill 6 million jews, machete a million Africans?
Earl: God decided to give you all a choice the people who gassed 6 million Jews and Machete a million Africans made that call
Grace: But God is the decider he could have stopped them
Earl: He can do anything he wants. He could have created each one of you to worship him, but what would be the fun in that. He wants you to come to him on your own, to pray because you want to
Grace: But why would I pray to someone who stands by and does nothing when he could do everything?
Earl: Is that what you want? If God did everything then what would you do?
Grace: Dance…Laugh...same things I have always done.
Earl: Dancing has always been one of my favorite prayers.
Grace: I still don’t see the point of prayer
Earl: It prepares you to see God in any situation
Grace: I don’t feel it—not the kind of prayer you are talking about.
Earl: What do you think summoned me?

Prayer is an interesting aspect of our relationship with God. What is the point? I believe the answer actually comes from Earl “It prepares you to see God in any situation”. My prayer life was never as active as it was after Don died. Perhaps I was longing to see God in my situation perhaps I was in the cussin’, questionin’, screamin’ mode. What I learned is that we are not promised a life without struggle, difficulty, or suffering. What we ARE promised is that God will be there to see us through, so that what we go through isn’t in vain; so that we can not only see God in our situation, but we can find the strength to make it meaningful.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In the Most Unlikely Places

There are times in our lives when God seeks us out, grabs our attention and causes us to assess our walk. Sometime he does this in the most unlikely of places—let’s say, for example, on a cruise ship.

On the morning of our final day at sea, Kent and I headed to the dining room for breakfast. As fate (or divine intervention) would have it, we were seated next to a couple we had enjoyed the company of the previous morning—a career Navy officer and his wife (Tom and Anne). After exchanging greetings, another couple was seated next to them. Mike and Claudia were from Ohio, newly married, and on their honeymoon.

We learned Mike was a high school history teacher and football coach. Of course I felt an instant connection (it’s a teacher thing). We talked NCLB, IEP’s, PBIS and RTI—until we realized the others, eyes glazed over, were not following our acronym saturated conversation. The converstion then turned to more general issues about education and life in general. What impressed me about Mike was his obvious passion for his vocation. You might think this is normal in young teachers, but often it isn’t the case. It wasn’t long until I sensed that his passion went beyond the classroom into the lives of his students. I was right.

Routine conversation led to the fact that my brother was a children’s pastor and my father a minister. Mike openly shared that he and Claudia fostered a small group for high school students through “Young Life”. We then began to discuss ministry and the role it played in our every day lives. The Navy officer, Tom, began to speak about the church they had left in Memphis when they moved to Maryland and how they hadn’t found anywhere to land since the move. Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke of the purpose that seemed lost in his life. They had lead a Divorce Care small group in Memphis and were actively involved in their faith community, but since moving found it difficult to find a new church home. He spoke passionately of specific situations where he and his wife were able to minister to others going through the pain of divorce and how energized they had been during that time in their lives.

A fervent Mike, wanting disparately to encourage this Navy officer, shared the analogy that God was like the water flowing though a water slide. He is always there—flowing through our lives. We can either jump in and take the ride or sit on the side and simply watch the water flow. Tom responded with a grin that replaced the tears, “Seems we need to jump back in the water,” he replied.

As we stood to leave our two-hour breakfast, the standard, “Have a nice day” was replaced with, “I promise to pray for you.” WOW—right there in the middle of the Carnival Liberty dining room, God was present.

It may seem as if the Navy officer and his wife were the ones ministered to the most, but that just wasn’t the case. Each of us were ministered to, challenged and encouraged throughout the morning. My own spiritual walk had been in need of resuscitation for some time. Little did I know that God would provide the intervention my soul needed in such an unconventional way; providing a jumping IN point where I could capture, once again, a glimpse of the dream HE had for my life. It was time to redirect my actions to encompass the core values of my soul.

What did this encounter mean for me personally? It means setting new focus. leveraging my time, energy and resources (McManus). It means refusing to waste time on "stuff" that doesn't really matter and focusing on "stuff' that not only will matter today, but will have a lasting effect tomorrow. I walked away from breakfast that morning feeling more energized that I had been in a very long time.

When we got back to the cabin, I grabbed my iPod, towel and headphones then headed to the deck to grab some sun. The events of the morning freshly on my mind, I placed the earphones in my ears, hit “shuffle” on my iPod and laid my head back on the deck chair. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the song that began to play. It sealed my deal with God. Tears streaming down my face on the sun deck of the Carnival Liberty, God continued to minister...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SCUBA and Life Part II

My husband loves to SCUBA dive-it is truly one of his passions. He often teases that my willingness to become certified was a condition of marriage. I completed my certification at Crystal River in Florida not long after we started dating. It was an inland venue and though the manatees were quite awesome, the water was cold and the fish were—well—rather unattractive. It was at this point I informed my husband that if he intended for me to continue this diving business he would have to take me somewhere with warm water and pretty fish.

Fast forward two years and we sign up for two dives on our cruise through the Caribbean this past week. The closer the time came to dive, the more apprehensive I became. It had been over two years since my last dive. What if I forgot my training? What if I made a fool of myself, or worse one of Kent? What if something went terribly wrong and I didn’t know what to do? It was unmistakably clear: FEAR had its grip on me and was reluctant to let go. What “fear” failed to realize is that I am just obstinate enough to fight it. I understood it wasn’t necessary for me to be courageous—as much as it was to appear courageous.

Aboard the dive boat appearing to be calm, cool and collected, I donned my BC, regulator and tank. I strapped on what I thought to be enough weight to take me to the appropriate level to begin the dive. Hoping it would be like riding a bicycle; I jumped in with enough partial confidence to get wet. There were two impending roadblocks: #1. I wasn’t descending (not enough weight) and #2. I couldn’t clear my ears. After reaching 50 feet or so (only by pulling myself down a tow and feeling my ears push so hard into my brain that I was sure brain matter was oozing from my ears), it was apparent the dive would have to be called. I was disappointed in myself compounded with guilt that Kent would be unable to continue this dive (dive buddies stay together no matter what-at least the good ones do). When we finally reached the dive boat, shed our gear, and wiped the blood from my nose; I sat pensively.

When I am disappointed in myself—which is far too often—I need time to contemplate, hash over in my mind what happened and seek resolution. It was the encouragement of my dive buddy and that of the dive master that finally broke my reverie assuring me many folks have to call dives for similar issues. I wasn’t a failure; I just needed to regroup and give it another shot.

I have never been known to run from adversity. I do; however, tend to step back, regroup, and even distance myself. Not this time. If I was going to continue to be a SCUBA diver, I HAD to go on the next dive. I had to overcome the fear and press on.

Guided by the dive master, I added several more pounds to my weight belt. Stepping off the back of the boat with cautious confidence—down I went, gently clearing my ears with each breath. I was diving—success—at last.

Isn’t this how life’s difficulties can be at times? We intend meet them head on, but without much forethought or preparation expecting everything to go off without a hitch. We dismiss the importance of reviewing what we already know, accepting the wisdom and encouragement from friends and most of all we tend to press on without the “life Master”.

How much easier it is to navigate difficulties when we fully consider the wisdom of our past, embrace the support of those who have already walked the journey, but most of all pursue God’s leading in our circumstance. That’s when we triumph over adversity. That’s when we realize life is not about us. That’s when our reward is crystal clear, blue water and pretty fish.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marsha's Cruise Tips

This will begin a series of several post concerning our cruise. Some of them will provide practical information, some short vignettes and some musings from aboard the Carnival Liberty 2009.
will….” or “next time I won’t….”. This time I decided to make a list of Marsha’s Cruise Tips:

• Boat Drill: GO LATE, seriously wait about 20 minutes before going to your muster station. IF you don’t you will be stuck in the back of an extremely hot group of grumpy people with HOT lifejackets on. Save yourself the grief and be fashionably late.
• Get a cabin with a balcony if at all possible. I know you say you won’t be in the cabin that much, but it makes all the difference in the world when you are there.
• If you want good food all week—just plan on eating every meal in the dining room. This is one area that has really declined since my last cruise three years ago. The “Lido” deck buff
I have been on three cruises, but this was Kent’s first. Every time I go, I always say “next time I et style food was mediocre at best. They do have 24-hour pizza that’s pretty good, but the food in the dining room is always great.
• Buy only ONE soda card to share per two people. You might have to be a little sneaky passing the card back and forth, but it saves bucks.
• Don’t buy all those photos taken by the ship’s professionals. They are really expensive. Just buy one as a souvenir and take snapshots. Candid pictures will mean more anyway.
• Go to dinner the first evening about 10 minutes late. This will save you the hassle of the first night cattle call/find your table mess. Just wait and walk right in—fashionably late again.
• Room service is complementary—so take some empty Ziplock baggies with you in your suitcase and on days that you have shore excursions order pbj’s, fruit, chips for breakfast from room service and take them with you for the shore excursion.
• In Jamaica, don’t leave the boat too early for your excursion. You only need about 15 minutes and if you get there earlier you wait in a REALLY hot building.
• Remember that the shore excursions are reasonably priced comparatively, but what you get by booking them through the cruise is that you are covered under the cruise insurance (huge benefit if you dive) and the boat won’t leave without you if you happen to be late.
• Don’t forget to take cash (esp. small bills) with you on excursions for tips or emergencies.
• For those of you who enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage—according to our table mates they NEVER buy alcohol on the ship. Apparently, they bring their own—checked bags are never “checked”, so a little bubble-wrap protects the product and you’re set for the week.
• Remember you don’t have to do everything and doing nothing is doing something—at least on a cruise.
• If you don’t enjoy meeting other people, interacting with other people, sharing life for a week with interesting folks from around the world—find another vacation a cruise just wouldn’t be your “cup of tea”. On the other hand if you enjoy people a cruise can be the best vacation ever.

Feel free to add things I may have overlooked or forgotten.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

In Loving Memory...

Margaret "Mamaw" Ellen Abla went to be with her Lord Sunday July 5, 2009. She was loved passionately and will be greatly missed.

Here is the obituary for the newspaper. It is rather impersonal, but a more personal picture of "Mamaw" is forthcoming.

Margaret Ellen Abla, 89, left this world to be with her Lord Sunday the 5th of July, 2009 at Mckinley Court Nursing Home. “Mamaw’s” final days were spent surrounded by the family and friends whose lives she had touched in many ways.

Margaret was born in Lamar, Colorado to Ross and Maggie Curry, she was one of six children. In 1937, she married Glen Abla and began her life of ministry in the Church of the Nazarene. Following their retirement, Margaret made her home in Denver, Colorado. She moved to Decatur in 2003 where she was a joy to those fortunate enough to have shared her life.

She was a member of First Church of the Nazarene. Margie enjoyed family gatherings, shopping, discussing politics and Monical’s Pizza. Her love for the Lord was evident by her dedication to the ministry and her love for those around her. “Mamaw’s” smile often lit up a room, especially when sharing one of her many stories about her life as a pastor’s wife and evangelist.

A celebration of the life of Margaret Abla will be held at the Decatur First Church of the Nazarene 7:00pm Tuesday evening with visitation one hour before the service from 6-7.

“Mamaw” has left many memories to be treasured by her beloved children Edwin Abla, his wife Janice of Decatur, her daughter Sharon Miller and husband Bill of Parker, Colorado. Her memory will also be cherished by her grandchildren Marsha Cuttill-Price, Marc Abla, Evan Abla, Scott Miller, Lauren Miller, Lindsay Miller and Michael Miller along with her many loving great-grandchildren and friends.

The family appreciates your continued prayers and support. They request any memorials made in honor of Margaret Abla be contributed to Compassionate Ministries, Decatur First Church of the Nazarene.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Meme #978

Taking another break from an all-too-serious piece I am writing on nursing homes, I ran across this meme from Alicia and Ann. I am going to answer it with a few changes. I like the idea of an occasional meme as they are much easier (not to mention short) to write, but they still develop the craft. I am thinking of borrowing Ann’s Monday Meme in my classroom next year, but here it goes The Alphabet Meme…

A – Age: I am 47 (or will be in a few weeks). I have traveled a very complicated road to get here. Of course it wasn’t what I expected, but it has been fulfilling. Sometimes I feel really old and sometimes I don’t feel any older than I did when I was 20.

B – Band listening to right now: My iPod has the most diverse music on it and sometimes I hit shuffle just to see what happens. It usually goes: country, pop, classic rock, new age, contemporary Christian and classical (I even have some bluegrass).

C – Career future: My career is education; notice I didn’t say teaching because often I am the student. I thought I wanted to go into educational administration-even got the degree, but then I think your job becomes “beans, busses and basketball”-not education. I still want to be about education.

D – Dad’s name: It is Edwin-my son’s middle name as well.

E – Easiest person to talk to: Kent is the easiest person to talk to about anything, coming in a close second is Ginny, but that has developed over years and years. I am a pretty open book with my close friends and used to be with others, but over the past few years I tend to shut myself off more if I find I have trust issues.

F – Favorite song: I don’t have a favorite, but I can chronicle my life by songs. If a song comes on the radio or my iPod I normally have a life experience connected to it.

G – Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms: LOVE the Gummy Bears.

H – Hometown: This is always an interesting question. Technically I don’t have one. My father was a minister and we moved quite often, but I always say I “grew up” in Hasting, Nebraska. It is where I spent my teenage years – what a great place to raise a teen.

I – Instruments: I play the piano—not well, but can get by. I took violin lessons through high school.

J – Job: I have been working since I was 15. I sold shoes for the most part. I was a bank teller (not a very good one), walked beans and rogued corn—the rest have been associated with education in some form and I wouldn’t call them “jobs”.

K – Kids: I have 6 of those—two sons; 3 step-sons; 1 step-daughter

L – Longest car ride ever: I am not sure as we drove everywhere when I was growing up, but it would have to be the summer we drove from St. Louis, Missouri to Miami, Florida.

M – Mom’s name: Martha Janice, but folks only know her by Jan or Janice. It is also my middle name.

N – Number of people you consider your closest friends: There are about four gals who I trust explicitly and accept unconditionally. They have been there through thick and thin—life and death—and I am proud to call each of them my friend.

P – Phobia[s]: I used to have a dental phobia, but that is changing. I don’t particularly like to fly, but am stubborn enough to NEVER let it stop me from doing so.

Q – Quote: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
-Alvin Toffler-
This is what NCLB is NOT getting right now. It isn't about the "test", but about learning, unlearning and relearning.

R – Reason to smile: I am loved. (This is a great answer Ann)

S – Song you sang last: “Brave” by Jamie O’Neil

T – Time you wake up: That’s a good question: during the school year—5:50AM—during the summer: not so much.

U – Unknown fact about me: I am SCUBA certified.

V – Vegetable you hate: Peas—yucky—texture issues.

W – Worst habit: Biting my nails—I hate it, but there are several more bad habits I harbor

X – X-rays you’ve had: Over the years—about every x-ray known to man, but I have never broken a bone—yet…

Y – Yummy food: California rolls and crab legs are my favorites.

Z – Zodiac sign: I am a Leo—and I don’t get the zodiac thing but here is today’s horoscope—rather interesting for those of you who know me well:
“Because you may often be impulsive, concentrated and spontaneous, you could find yourself representing your company, lecturing or teaching. A well-trained sales person could do well to learn your techniques because you tend to rush in where others fear to tread. Your energy is magnanimous. There is something essential that starts or causes something else to happen--a reaction or response when you promote a product, instruct or lecture. Others will benefit from your experience and your leadership. You may be able to enjoy and value your own life situation today. There is much laughter and merriment in your home this afternoon and evening. A visitor may compliment you on your tastes or belongings”

OK--now it is your turn. Be sure to link back or let me know when you complete the meme.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


My 13-year-old has a subscription to “Electronic Gaming Monthly”. It is one of few written materials he actually reads. So last week, he received the following in the mail:

For those of you squinting your eyes to read, it says:

“Welcome to Maxim!
This note is to inform you that Electronic Gaming Monthly has ceased publishing with the January 2009 issue. The balance of your paid subscription will be fulfilled with Maxim. If you are already a subscriber to Maxim, the balance of your Electronic Gaming Monthly subscription will be added to your existing Maxim subscription.”

Now, here is my take on this absurd replacement:
There are going to be millions of extremely happy adolescent boys, but on the other hand a million really ticked off parents. Mark me in the latter group. Seriously, is this an equal substitute for a gaming magazine?

Besides scantily clad women on almost every page, the articles in this magazine include: “The Drinking Man’s Guide to Summer”, “Fantasy Island”, “I Like to Punish People” and “The Sex Checklist: What bedroom taboos should you encourage your girl to break”. So, apparently the balance of my 13-year-old’s gaming magazine with be filled with the adolescent equivalent to soft porn.

For those of you wondering, of course I have crafted a written response to this absurdity stating my mind and demanding a refund, but why should I have to…why wasn't there someone in the magazine’s marketing team intelligent enough to say “Know what guys—this is simply a bad idea.". Seriously?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Educational Alternatives Provide Opportunities for ALL

I have been a public school educator for 25 years. When it employs dedicated teachers and is the conduit for proven best practices, I believe whole-heartedly in the public school system. I am also unafraid to admit that public school isn’t for everyone. Alternatives to public education fulfill a void, yet are often viewed with disdain by those who do not understand the value of such options. There has never been a better example of this fact than my nephew. The middle of three brothers, he is one brilliant fourth-grader. The problem is that school just didn’t challenge him. The small school he attended didn’t offer enrichment programs and what’s worse his teacher didn’t like the fact that he “worked ahead” and would become disruptive because he was—bored. I was fearful the school was going to devastate his enthusiasm and his natural lust for learning. So, one evening while talking with my brother, I asked if they had ever considered home schooling him. Startled, he answered, “Oh my, we have been thinking about this, but were not sure if it was the right direction to go, but now that you as an educator brought it up, perhaps we need to think about this option more seriously.”

The choice to home school my nephew was not a haphazard determination. My sister-in-law didn’t think she was the “home school type”. She sold herself short—she is actually perfect for the job: organized, creative, intelligent and extremely resourceful. After researching curriculum, joining a local home school network and soliciting help from professionals, my nephew is now being home schooled and is thriving. He is encountering learning as it was meant to be for him. It is so much fun to examine the artifacts of his learning experiences including science experiments, erupting volcanoes, crystals, cell models and what not. He is learning “Grammar with a Giggle”, journaling, creating and exploring science. What’s more he is happy and enjoying his education once again.

My stepson is another example of the fact that “public schools are not one-size-fits-all”. He was an adolescent when his mother died. Life experiences, along with disillusionment with his high school academics left him without much success. After spending more time with him, I suggested to his father that perhaps my stepson should take the GED and get on with his college experience. He did just that and passed the GED the first time with honors-all this without studying (except for the writing, which after a 20 minute refresher he passed a couple of weeks later). Yes, the child is brilliant, yet public school wasn’t for him. He now can enter college at the appropriate age and continue from there.

It’s not that I think our schools are in dire straights and in need of massive reform, quite the reverse. My assertion, contrary to the tenants of “No Child Left Behind”, is that not every program, every occupation, every club is suited for everyone. Even with the best intentions, programs, educators, administrators, parents and students not ALL children learn the same way or at the same proficiency level.

Do schools need to be held accountable? Sure. Does the education system need to try harder to engage learners? You bet! But a government mandate that considers every child able to achieve at the exact same level is not the answer either. The answer lies in the fact that a child’s education is multifaceted. It should take into consideration the individual, the strengths of the school, and the expertise of the educators involved. We often sell short the alternatives to public education, when for some kids; those alternatives are the only way they will never be “left behind”.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Jungle Test

What to do when you have nothing to write??? Find a filler:

You Are Dramatic

You are colorful and charismatic. You get and hold people's attention.

Right now, you are seeking peace and tranquility in your life.

You are drawn to people who are energetic and blissful.

You feel like there are a few minor things in your life that need to be changed.

You find that any decision you have to make needs to be slept on... often for multiple nights.

Now it is your turn:

Monday, June 15, 2009


- Go to Google image search.
- Type in your answer to each question.
- Choose a picture from the first page.
- Use this website ( to make your collage.
- Save the image for use in this note.
- Tag the people whose mosaics you want to

Here are the questions...
What is your name?
What is your favorite food?
What is your hometown?
What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite movie?
What is your favorite drink?
What is your dream vacation?
What is your favorite dessert?
What is one word to describe yourself?
What are you feeling right now?
What do you love most in the world?
What do you want to be IF you grow up?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Growing Old--Gracefully?

I have been thinking about aging recently. I don't do this often. I am not in any way obsessed with growing older, but there are times in my life when the inevitability of aging wears heavy on my mind and heart. It isn't that the alternative is appealing either because I have no desire to relive youth, at least not without the wisdom I possess today, but lately I have been thinking about what it means to age gracefully.

I remember when my mother was the age I am today. I thought she was old. When my grandmother was my age—she was ancient, but when I look at my peers, they don't appear old to me. On the contrary, I think my friends are more active and in better mental and physical shape than they were years ago. We hold memberships to the health club, or at least have purchased Wii Fit. We buy whole foods, and take a multitude of vitamins and herbs researched to make our lives healthier. On the other hand, we do converse more about individual aches and pains than we did when we were young, although we speak equally of current events, politics, theology and education. We read books about how to keep our bodies and brains active over the latest John Grisham novel, but even that is not unusual. So what’s the deal with getting older?

My mother turns 70 this year, which seems impossible to me. Her life is inspirational. At 70, she still teaches kindergarten at an intercity school that boasts a 98% minority/95% poverty rate. The only signs of aging I see in her are that she complains more about being “tired”—well, I think she has earned that privilege. She walks on a regular basis, reads veraciously and remains active at her church. At times, she has more energy than me. She just doesn’t seem old to me, perhaps she really isn’t. Maybe age IS relative.

I am a better mother now than when I was younger. I know I am better wife than I was in my 30’s, and am convinced I am more conscious about my health than I was then. I don’t; however, obsess about the outward signs of aging as much the internal ones like the inability to remember someone’s name I ought to recall or where I put my car keys.

Aging gracefully has more to do with one’s mind-set than anything else. Perhaps what needs to be measured in aging is the significance found in the now; those who are touched by how we live and the value we’ve added to the world. As Joan Baez so eloquently stated, “You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now.” That’s aging---gracefully.

Give Me Words to Speak....

The past couple of months I have felt like the songwriter Aaron Shust with the lyrics to Give Me Words to Speak...

Give me Words to speak Don’t let my Spirit sleep Cause I can’t think of anything worth saying

Finding the words again has been my quest...and I think I have arrived at least temporarily. 50-Something Mom's Blog has been quite patient and I have two pieces ready to go for them and am working on a couple for this blog.

What I have learned in the midst of this dry spot is that I feel incomplete when I am not writing. There is a certain balance writing gives to my life. It isn't that I care about publishing, but I miss the interaction with words and the making sense of life that happens here (at least for me).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Project 365

A colleague of mine introduced me to Project 365. At first I wasn’t interested at all because I am “scrapbook challenged”. I seriously—HATE to scrapbook, BUT I love to take pictures and love to write--thus appreciating the possibilities of such an exercise. I contacted my BFF’s daughter, who is an Internet mastermind and an amazing photographer, with this idea. Of course, she had an electronic answer to my dilemma within 24 hours (thanks Nicole). So begins my project—365 days of photos and musings. I am amateurish when it comes to structure, but I hope this will help me organize and creatively present the mundane and the occasional profundity that is my life. If you are interested here is the link: Marsha's Project 365. If you would like to join us--simply sign up and add me as your friend.

Monday, April 13, 2009

UTube Monday!

I don't know why it is that the Britain's Got Talent always has some surprising stars, but they do every year. Check this out: The embeded feature is disabled so you will have to click on the site:

Susan Boyle - Singer - Britains Got Talent


Friday, April 10, 2009

Small Victories

We have been in Arkansas this week on vacation. It has been a lovely week of rejuvenation and exploration. Yesterday, we visited Devil’s Den State Park for some hiking. We hiked up to a cave which I explored partially as the boys, much more adventurous than I, explored in detail. It was one of those “I could have never done this in my former life, but wish I could have” moments.

The hike was not easy. I am sure it wasn’t the most difficult either, but with three 13-year-old boys we had to explore every cavern, crevice and waterfall on and off the beaten path. At one point the only way to exit the crevasse was to climb a tree vine. My son said, “Mom you shouldn’t go that way, you won’t be able to get out. You’re not strong enough.” He didn’t realize “them's fightin’ words”. As if I were 13 years old myself, I considered his words a dare. Now, I HAD to not only attempt, but also succeed; not only make it up the crevasse, but also make it look effortless. Why, you say? Because, my tender pride had been called into question and because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Waiving to my son from atop the chasm was one of the high points of my vacation.

He looked up with shock and asserted, “Mom, I never even thought you could do that.”

With a smile of total satisfaction, bravely concealing my labored breaths and sore knees I retorted, “Ah, it wasn’t that big of a deal,”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how big a deal this feat was for me to accomplish. Living most of my adult life overweight and sedentary, such a climb would have been impossible for me to achieve before. Not only that, I wouldn’t even have had the desire to attempt it. Thankful that I chose this second chance, I relish these small victories as a banner of the choices I have made.

Monday, April 06, 2009

UTube Monday:Goomoodleikiog

I want to be here someday---

perhaps this is the time....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Evidence of Christ

Here is the second of my Lenten devotionals.

John 12:37-41 (New International Version)
Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.

It is almost impossible to believe that these folks had difficulty believing in Jesus even though they had seen his works with their very eyes. They walked with him, saw numerous miracles; watched as lives were changed, yet still they did not believe. Like many today, they were spiritually blind. Lives are still changed; miracles still happen and yet man still struggles to believe.

The frightening reality for Christians today is that the consequence of continued unbelief is the hardening of man’s heart. When man chooses to reject God, even though he is presented with the gospel and sees the work of the Lord, it becomes more difficult for men to “see with their eyes” or “understand with their hearts”. Spiritual blindness is the inevitable outcome.

So, what are our responsibilities as followers of Christ? Matthew is pretty specific.
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. “ Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Aware that those who are lost often look to believers for evidence of Christ, should cause Christians to pause and search our hearts, confident that we are the beacons God can use to open the eyes of the lost. It means taking stock of our thoughts, actions and speech and weighing them against the holiness God calls us to. It means taking our commission to reach the lost seriously as a daily calling.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday - UTube: A view of 21st Century Students

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
-Alvin Toffler-

A friend of mine had to send the link to this YouTube video to my home email, because I couldn't view it on my computer at school. YouTube is blocked, of course. My question this; how are we preparing students for success in the 21st century? There is no way that educators, without a renewed commitment to the study of technology in the classroom, can adequately engage learners today. Gone is the "we learned it that way and it worked for us" mentality of the past. Gone is the "back to basics" mentality because the basics have changed dramatically. I teach middle school writing. I talk to my students every day about "real writing" and how what we are learning is transferred to situations in life that require writing skills, yet I am unable to access my blog at school to show the students, let alone allow them to participate in, the "real life" application of blogging. What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In Honor of 70

My dad turns 70 today. It doesn’t seem like it. I used to think 70 was really old, but he doesn’t seem “old”; perhaps that is because he doesn’t act old. He still works a 40-hour a week part-time job. He plays golf. He keeps up with technology. He drives a convertible. No, he doesn’t act “old” at all.

More than these outward signs, he is still compassionate, articulate and witty. He truly cares about the folks he ministers to and loves the church, which he serves. Growing up in a parsonage wasn’t always easy. You tend to be put on a pedestal and required to live up to other’s standards, but my father has never thought like that. He has always been his own person and allowed us; even celebrated, our individuality.

Memories I cherish with my dad are as deep as they are wide. I remember going with him to watch the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium, or tagging along to church softball games. We’ve watched Cornhusker football together. He is the reason I understand golf and hockey. His one failure was attempting to teach me to drive a standard transmission; to preserve our sanity and relationship he was wise enough to release me into the hands of a friend for instruction.

I know he prays for us, he continually guides our family spiritually and then without fear has released us to become who God has intended us to be. He has always been and continues to be my best council, chief supporter and biggest fan. He has loved our mother in a way that demonstrates undying love. He cares for his ailing mother with compassion and strength. How wonderful is that? But the greatest gift my father has ever given to me is the capacity to love people, to forgive without requiring penance, and to be devoted to God first and foremost.

So today I honor his love, his life and his ministry. Happy Birthday Dad!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday - UTube: It's Not On the Test

A bit of education humor. It would be funny, if much of it weren't true. The video would have been much better with---I don't know---Bono? Enjoy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Photo Meme

This was an interesting meme from Annie. Want to participate? Here are the guidelines:

Open your photo files and...
  • Post the 6th picture in your 6th folder.
  • Post that picture on your blog along with the story that goes with it.
This is a photo of two very special men in my life, my brother and nephew at the Don Cuttill Memorial Golf Tournament. It represents all the love and support they have given to me since Don's death. This is an annual event memorializing a great man and raising money for a worthy cause: Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lenten Season!

Easter is my favorite time of year. It speaks of hope and faith. It is a time of renewal and challenge. It was with honor that I was asked to create two writings for my church's Easter devotional. Here is the first of the two:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

As Lent begins, we, as followers of Christ, overflow with the hope of the resurrection and a renewing of our faith. Have you ever stopped to think how essential faith is to our Christian walk? Not merely the knowledge of Christ; not simply believing in Christ, but I am talking about radically and actively applying faith to our lives. Faith is not only vital to pleasing God; it is the very essence of our relationship with Him.

Many times those of us who call ourselves Christians lack the faith essential to pleasing God. This radical faith allows us to say to God, “Change me. Make me uncomfortable. Cause me to take action. Use me, whatever it takes.” Instead we are content with living a safe-faith, a safe Christian existence where going to church every Sunday and praying before meals is enough. The challenge for Christians today is to step out of the comfort of our “just enough” faith and seek the extreme faith of earnestly seeking God.

This faith is unwavering; it bears its foundation in actively, consistently, and passionately seeking a relationship with Christ. A relationship that demands more than the minimum from us; a faith that requires spending time in His word, in prayer and conforming to His will. This is not a faith of obligation, but an active, vibrant faith we choose because we long to know and please Christ.

Happy Birthday Mamaw!!

Grandmothers and roses are much the same. Each are God's masterpieces with different names.
-- Author Unknown

Happy 89th Birthday Mamaw!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at. ~Maya Angelou

I am not sure what I thought my relationship would be with my brothers at this point in my life, but I never dreamed it would be as it is. We are seven years apart which means that I am 14 years older than my youngest brother. Growing up I had little to do with my middle brother, and being so much older I was more maternal to my youngest brother (considering the countless hours of babysitting). With seven years between us, we grew up as three siblings each an only child. Fast forward to 2009. We are all adults (at least by age). We each have distinct personalities and have become great friends. It is quite amazing, even surprising.

Of course, we are shared characters in a myriad of “growing up” stories. Of Marc, I remember that he spent much of his time alone in his bedroom playing with Legos. Once I blamed him for pushing me over causing stitches; a lie which to this day he has difficulty forgiving. Evan was the baby, but in order to coax him to behave I would scare him into thinking the police would come take him away if he didn’t do exactly as I wished. Funny thing is that it worked.

As Maya Angelou so eloquently penned, “brotherhood is a condition people have to work at” and we have. We are three unique people. Marc is pragmatic, Evan idealistic and me; somewhere in-between. As in any relationship we have made many concessions, overlooked little annoyances, and continually commit to strengthening our bond.

I often wonder what makes our relationship so special. I trace this back to our parents and their notion of how children should be raised. Having a sense self, the ability to articulate your views, loving people for who they are and a commitment to God were the foundation of our upbringing. These tenets are now the cornerstone of the relationship between my brothers and me. Laughter and sarcasm along with deep theological and moral discussions clutter our conversations. It may seem an odd coupling, but it works.

Some say a sister’s bond is extraordinary, but I say give me brothers any day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

4:30 AM Musings and American Idol

I am finished with American Idol. In the past, I have enjoyed watching as the young, talented folks scratch their way to stardom. I have even tolerated Simon’s demeaning personality as “part of the show”. But how Nick/Norman got through and Jamar Rogers didn’t, is beyond me and Tatiana???---don’t even get me started. It is obvious that you can also be an American Idol if you appear to have that “psycho” quality which attracts viewers for the opportunity to see what nonsense you can come up with next. It’s not like the show is going to leave the air because I stopped watching; it is just at 4:30 am during a stressful workweek, this is what is on my mind. Crazy huh?

Friday, February 06, 2009

I Love Awards...

...especially when bestowed by peers. SO, thank you Ann at anniegirl1138 for sending the Premio Dardos award my way.

If I understand correctly, it is now my duty (and privilege) to bestow this award to other bloggers I find impact my life. With honor I tribute....

Julia at Aunt Jul's - I enjoy her creativity and her ability to connect the past with the present.

Linds, at Rocking Chair Reflections , who reaches out from across the ocean to touch my heart with each post.

Tanja, at Dutch Delights, fearless in the way she lives her life and shares it with others.

Evan and Julia , who I wish would write more--they are so insightful and challenge me to think in new and different ways.

and finally,

Janine, at One Breath at a Time, a new blog that I just began to read, for her honesty, inspiration and radical faith.

Now each of you can pass the award on to your favorite sites.

Happy blogging...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today!

My son was born twenty years ago today. I can’t believe how quickly time has past. He was born at 2:43 in the afternoon, which no one I worked with will ever forget as it was the EXACT moment the last bell of the school day sounded, my favorite time of the day=) I remember both grandfathers scurrying around the hospital nursery, twenty-pound video cameras in hand trying to out do the other at the art of video-documenting this momentous event. You see Chad was the very first grandchild on either side of the family.

For choosing to get married terribly young, I did make the decision to wait seven years before starting a family. Chad’s father and I had the blessing of cultivating our relationship before beginning a family and when it was time for the arrival of our first child, we couldn’t have been more excited or more ready.

The past twenty years have flown by. I have had the privilege of watching my little boy grow into an amazing young man. Life has been blessed, but not always easy. Forced to become the “man of the house” way too young, Chad stepped confidently into the responsibility with honor. Through thick and thin, he has learned to discern and accept what life has thrown his way.

Watching as he maneuvers each life experience and as he melds his knowledge of the world with what is good and right, has been a journey worth experiencing. Chad explores wholeheartedly his future; never dismissing any of life's possibilities. “Difficult” or “demanding” don’t seem to impede his vision. I also observe the way he loves, and am thankful for the years of influence his father obviously had upon the way he respects, honors and is devoted to another.

There is no instruction manual that accompanies children. You dedicate them to God in front of witnesses, knowing they aren't yours to begin with. You do the best you can, hoping they grow into stable, secure adults. You cherish each moment and pray you don’t squander the limited time you have to guide them, yet all too soon they are grown up. Today, I honor my son on his 20th birthday: a man who is one of the brightest lights in my life. I am sure his father is looking down with pride, cheering him on and knowing the impact Chad will have on his world. That is his legacy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning Styles and an Epiphany

Earlier this year, my students completed a portion of a learning profile to help me not only get to know them better, but also to guide my mode of instruction. As they completed an “All About Me” poster, a segment of the poster was set aside for them to record their learning styles. In a nutshell, they were to choose which analogy best described them as learners. Here were their choices with very simplified definition….

Paper clips are mastery learners, organized and attentive to detail.
Teddy bears are interpersonal learners and relationship driven.
Magnifying lens seek understanding through questioning.
Slinkys are self-expressive, creative and high-energy learners.

I shared these traits with my students; stressing that one was not BETTER than the other, only DIFFERENT. This may have been the most important lesson I taught all year. I then asked them to discern what type of learner they thought I was---99 percent said “SLINKY”. They were right. When analyzing other teachers in our building, the students were equally insightful and recognized where each teacher fell on the spectrum as a learner. We discussed what this meant for them as students (for example a Slinky in a Paper clip’s classroom) and especially what it meant about the way each of us learns. I had one student say, “Geez, this makes perfect sense. I sure could have used this information last year. It would have saved me a lot of time in detention.” Everyone giggled—even me.

What I didn’t tell them is how the “normal” (I know, that’s an oxymoron) classroom is made up ….
33-35% are paper clips
18% are magnifying lens
33-35% teddy bears
18% Slinkies
Interesting to say the least. These categories not only define the classroom, but also define the workplace, church, or social group.

Now, be this as it may, each learning-style brings certain challenges to the classroom. “Paper clips" learn step by step; "magnifying len"s learn doubt by doubt. "Teddy Bears "want everyone to feel comfortable and worry more about the emotional well being of others. "Slinkies" need movement and choice. Can you see the challenge?

Many dropouts are Slinkies, because school doesn’t tend to lend itself to their needs. With this in mind, I turn to my last hour class of seventh graders. After the first week of school, I was convinced that these students were going to be the end of me. Engaging them is exhausting and motivating them seems impossible. Now I know why---of the 15---12 are Slinkies. What’s worse—they have a Slinky teacher.

Now, several months later—we have grown to understand each other and I can’t wait for my seventh hour to arrive. Slinkies—unite!!!

Pushed Out of the Nest

My first post at “50-something Moms Blog” went up today. This is my maiden voyage outside of my personal “blog-sphere” and hopefully the first step to writing outside the box. I would like to give a BIG shout out to Ann at Anniegirl, for giving me this big push "out of the nest" and supplied me the connection to this fabulous group of women writers. Thank you so much Ann. You are a true inspiration.

I am contracted to write at least write two posts a month, so that means deadlines---I know what you’re thinking; “Marsha doesn’t do deadlines”, but this will develop the discipline I believe writing requires. The hardest task has been to write a bio for myself. Have you ever had to come up with an "essay" introducing yourself? It isn't easy. You want to include the important information while sounding chic and credible at the same time. You have to interject just enough humor (or sarcasm) without coming off as "trivial". Anyway, if you have a moment check out the site and let me know what you think. On second thought, let me know what you think as long as what you think is positive.