Imperceptible unevenness

The black top shines against the gray and cloudy backdrop.

Misty rain falling softly, kissing cold cheeks and unprotected heads.

Puddles form slow and steady – revealing the otherwise imperceptible unevenness of the basketball court

Flooding the ground, making paths for splashing feet.

Puddles highlight the flaws which sunshine and heat hide so perfectly.

Smiling faces enjoy the clouds caress and call out across the space.

The laughter of childhood momentarily covering the discomfort that comes at cold night.

The scraping reality of exposure to the elements during damp and sleepless nights;

A damp which does not dry.

Sunshine comforts cold realities

Like a calm before a dreary, depressing storm,

Discomfort and fear are  currently covered by the imperceptible unevenness of their smiles.

Thoughts and Psalms

I’ve been thinking about creating a separate blog lately – about the fact that my blog tends to traverse three easily separated realms of my life:  school, family, religion – but the thing is – I want to live with these as things that are all part of me as a whole person. These aspects of my life overlap and grow together – informing my understanding of the world, my place in it, and my ability to sustain this life – and so I sort of rail against the idea of separating these things into different blogs.

I want and intend to write in a space that reflects my life experiences – not in any certain realm, but as a sum total of how I am becoming who I am.  Hopefully it is a place where my words might inspire conversations and not imply that I am unwilling to discuss my thoughts – So, my fair warning is this:  Please don’t interpret my words as fully me – but parts of the whole of my current thought processes and feel free to (I would love for you to) engage in the discussion and thoughts.

So, without further ado….from my Sunday sermon inspired ramblings.  Psalm 1 – Sept. 4, 2016

Wind blown,

Waves of grain.

The harvest upon us

Solstice wanes.

Magnetically, we-

Are pulled closer.

The equinox upon us,


Our faces burned

By the souls blowing

In the breeze-

A fiery baptism.

Our tears a sacrifice

His life – death – unrecognized.

Our fingers claw

Attempting to carry the chaff;

Collect the wandering grain –

But it’s godlessness alludes our grasp,

And our tears

Though sacrificial

Reflect our selfish nature –

And hopeless hopes bear fruit.

Forgotten love, lived

Fully – overflows

And out of the chaff, blown

Wide to foreign lands –

The barren lands  –

New life begins

And brings with it’s fresh

Young growth

The waters of Grace

Once again

Poured freely

Reviving the cracked earth.

Classroom Reveal – Year 2

This summer just zoomed right past and I haven’t had much time to post, but I thought I would take a moment to document my new classroom.  I moved after last year to the portables at my school, which to some people may seem like a downgrade, but I was so excited! (Still am)  I moved into a hallways of all ELA/ELD classrooms so that we teachers can walk across the hallway and find new and fun resources to steal – so awesome.

Continuing to venture toward my same teaching goals which are to provide to my students an education which encourages empathy and understanding,  I have designed my classroom space to be more like a comfortable living room.  I want my students to have compassion and creativity and I want to model that in my classroom and with my teaching – and honestly, I just to communicate to my students that they are human beings whose individual thoughts and ideas matter; I decided to create a classroom space which encourages students to be comfortable and choose seating and locations which feel appropriate to each of their learning style preferences (longest sentence ever and it’s probably not even punctuated correctly – It’s Friday is my only excuse).

There are studies I can link and there are classrooms (found on pinterest) that I

can reference, but because if I start, I may never post I am choosing to just provide the photographic diary of this years classroom.  Enjoy!

Front of the room:


Close up of far front corner – pictures are student work from last year’s “Favorite Part of Me” Haiku project
IMG_0591View from behind my desk:

View of the back corner of the room:


Growing classroom Library:


Looking from the Library back toward the entrance:


Looking toward the door from my desk area:


Side wall where desk/printer/storage (piano) are – students have the option to sit in the rocking chair:


Floor seating toward front of the classroom (pillows and laptop desks):


Middle of the room floor seating and low table seats:


Back wall – middle table is regular chair height but this table has only stool seating – there are two other tables with regular chairs on a side wall – the two outside back tables are bar stool/standing height.


In any case, thanks for checking out my classroom.  It’s been a fantastic first week and the students have been amazingly responsile about their seating choices thus far.  We shall see how this goes!

Sweet Summer Sound 

The buzz of cicadas blends
With the electricity in the pool house.
A breeze blows slowly-
The summer heat making even the air lethargic.
The stage is set.
The concert begins with a steady beat:
A patient parent persists
In a lap lane
Steadily smacking the water:



A whole rest as he reaches the wall,

The monotonously dissonant chorus
Of children’s voices becomes louder.
Engaged in their seasonal call and response,
Accented only by the shrill cry of the child almost caught.
No rest,



Economics of Creativity

“The art and curtains may have been out of necessity, but I remember it being beautiful.”

– Brene’ Brown The Gifts of Imperfection.

Brown writes about art and curtains as a memory retained from childhood, but it makes me question my current decisions – my lifestyle changes within the past few years. – ‘necessity is the mother of invention’; yes – and creativity – and it shows externally the beautiful creativity that each of us carries.

9 years ago, I made curtains – they were roughly sewn by my untrained self from fabric purchased at a flea market with no particular goal in mind.  They were rusty orange and beautiful because they incorporated my favorite color and creativity in which I felt not quite confident.  They  served the duel purpose of defending us from the sunshine while being thick enough to add an extra layer of protection from the cold when the weather swung that way.

Two houses ago (and only 3 years), when our destructive cats decided to shred the screens as a last ditch effort to escape the house, I up-cycled old lace into screen fabric, reused the screen cord and I loved them.  They were beautiful and I was proud of them.  Could I have purchased screen material to replace the broken screens? No, not at that point in my life.  The necessity of window screens and curtains inspired me to be creative and to cover the windows with what I had and what I loved.  The creativity reflected my own personality and style….

At one house, I painted the entire kitchen so that it would feel more like home – and it did.

Now – I find myself buying finished items because I have the resources to do so and lack the time necessary to create the things needed.  I honestly feel guilty creating things because it feels like I’m wasting time that I should be studying/grading papers/planning….

My kids have caught the creative bug this summer and I have had to do some serious self-talk to make myself willing to help them with it – willing to not tell them that it’s not worth it, or to complain that we should be doing something else.  I WANT them to be creative.  I WANT them to learn to make things and enjoy doing so – what is wrong with me?!

Last week, the girls (after watching what feels like hours of DIY videos), decided they wanted to make lip balm and lotion bars.  In the past, this would have thrilled me to no end – I would have researched what were the best oils and ingredients – which herbs could I add to make the lotions and lip balms most effective.  My first reaction, however, was “Ugh, this is something they want to do, that in the end I am just going to end up doing, because they will lose interest or not be able to complete the activity without me….”  Then I had to catch myself and reassess.  Do I like to make things?  Yes.  Do I want my children to be creative?  Yes.  Would it be easier to do this myself? Yes, but then they will never learn and never feel capable.  Man, parenting is tiring.  Parenting my own actions and then parenting my kids.

After a bit of research and some tracking own of ingredients, the girls (yes, mostly them) successfully made lip balm – In the microwave of all things, and they were thrilled.


We followed this recipe, in case you’re interested:

One batch of peppermint, one of vanilla, and one with a piece of lipstick cut up and melted so that it has some tint (remember all of those diy videos I mentioned?)

The lotion ended up more of a mom-made job, but you know what?  I enjoyed it, the girls were still thrilled, and now we have plenty of lotion bars to last the summer at least, and to act as last minute gifts🙂

lotion bar

For these, we used this recipe:



We made a half batch of the lotion bars because we did not have Vitamin E to act as a natural preservative, and because I didn’t have a mason jar big enough for 3 cups of oily things.

I know this must seem like a giant tangent, and perhaps proof that I’m still creative (which may be more for my benefit than yours), but I needed to write down some thoughts so that I could continue to struggle with them on my own time.  The idea of being creative only when necessary honestly makes me sad, and I am attempting to overcome this part of myself currently that reacts to creativity in a negatively associative way.  I want to enjoy creating for myself again  – for our house and family, for our kiddos needs, wants and benefit – and I want it to be something that doesn’t create guilt for lack of productivity.  So here I am.  I feel like I’ve come a little full circle – from creative necessity for physical needs, to creative necessity for emotional, physical and mental needs – can that be a thing?

Happy Tuesday Friends.

A Master’s Degree and Beyond

I finished the work for my Masters Degree in March.  Yesterday, my friends walked across a stage, and instead of joining them, I saved about a hundred dollars by not buying a cap and gown and enjoyed the freedom of dropping the kids off at school, being there to dance on campus to “Celebrate Good Times”, and spending the first hours of summer vacation eating ice cream followed by an outdoor movie night.  Bliss.

I chose not to walk across an academic stage for quite a few reasons, but the main one is this: I hate being the center of attention.  I do understand that graduating with many other people means I am by no means the real center of attention, I still know that my own people would be there to celebrate me; and as much as I try to be okay with that, I’m much more comfortable receiving congratulations on an individual and informal basis.  That explanation begin given, I do have some formalities to attend to. So, because I have not done so formally – Thank you all!  Thank you friends and family for being my support system.  Thank you for making these last crazy years possible for me – it’s been very hard for me, but I know it’s been hard for you too.  Thank you for supporting my kids, my husband, and me – for providing words and meals of encouragement, for sometimes picking up kids, sometimes answering random questions, sometimes listening to me babble on about my own comings and goings, and thank you too for forgiving my absences to  events in your own life for missing birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and for missing out on knowing the details of your life in this moment.  Thank you for understanding that I’m human and have not kept up well with human relationships while I sought to complete the work necessary to obtain this degree.

It is a bit silly to me that while I have not been able to be present, I have been studying and writing about how I should be – how we all should be.  My entire Master’s project is centered around creating a classroom space which encourages empathy and connection between teachers and students, and students and students.  When I first chose this topic, I thought it would be too big to cover in a one year Masters inquiry – and I was right. I did what I could in my classroom, but this work has just begun and I think that it’s something that will continue to infiltrate my teaching, parenting, and just overall living.  Figures.

In my classroom, I failed to detect what I had hoped the outcome of my inquiry would be.  I had hoped to show that through cultural and socially responsive pedagogy (ie: teaching curriculum that the students find relevant and relate-able to their own lives), my students would be able to express in writing and speech, empathy to characters in the stories we read, and ultimately empathy toward their peers with whom they interact each day.  What did I learn?  7th graders are mean.  They find ways to make each other feel bad.  Sometimes this is done under the guise of teasing or joking around, sometimes because they’ve realized how much weight their words carry and how badly they can wound their peers: break someone else down = build themselves up….. When 7th graders write about characters in novels or films, they are unable to connect to the stories – no empathy.  However, when 7th graders become vulnerable to one another, they are able not only able to express empathy through connecting their own stories, but to also extend that connection to the actions they choose to carry out – actions meant to NOT harm someone else.

What?! Didn’t she just say that 7th graders were mean and incapable of being empathetic?!  That they are intentionally mean to one another?

I know.  Those two sentences seem to completely contradict each other and right now you are probably thinking that my entire Masters inquiry is a sham and I’m some sort of idiot – well – you are entitled to your own opinion, but I do not accept it.  The deal is this.  Students are not usually able to be honesty vulnerable with one another.  The only measurement that I was able to create in a classroom situation which actually resulted in empathy, was one in which the students participated in a “Post Secret” activity.  In this activity, students anonymously write their biggest fears and secrets on index cards.  I created classroom rules that required the students to listen to the index cards as I read them out loud – without verbally responding, calling out peers, or making any motion to laugh.  I encouraged students to put their heads on their desks while I read the index cards and to keep track of how many other fears/secrets they shared with people in the classroom.  This again was completely anonymous.  At the end of the activity, students were given ten minutes to reflect on the activity in their journals.  They wrote about connecting with their peers – about understanding the situations on the cards – situations like loss of parents, fear of being cast out of a clique, depression, anxiety, moving schools, homelessness, fear – vulnerable situations.  They wrote about how they wanted to cry and how they made sure they didn’t laugh because they didn’t want another student to feel bad for what he/she wrote.  It was beautiful.  In one class period (probably the only one all year), each student knew that within the boundaries of one classroom they had people who knew what they were going through – people who shared their experiences.

Why do I claim then that my original inquiry was unsuccessful?  Well, the outcome was not a higher level of empathy, but situational empathy.  Students were still unable to display empathy and connected-ness to peers within a normal class.  Students were equally unable to make clear and empathetic connections to characters or situations represented in classroom texts – situations not directly, physically, involving the students.  Basically, I added some more proof to Vygotsky and Piaget and placed my students directly in the flux between Concrete Operational and Formal Operational stages in which students are beginning to be empathetic, but still retain the egocentricity that disallows connection to imagined or not explicitly connected situations.

There you go – Inquiry in a nutshell.

Does this mean I give up and settle on the idea that adolescent students are unwilling to be vulnerable and therefore incapable of empathy and connection?  Heck no.  This means I jump down some reading rabbit holes which have been recommended by friends who knew what I was studying, and who also know my penchant for trying to connect all of the people (this may go beyond my classroom, it’s just what I do).  It means that I attempt to find more about empathy in education and in life, to study how connection to people creates communities that thrive – whether within the small community of a classroom, a school, church, town, family….you get the idea.

Therefore, this last month and a half I have seeped myself in the research of Brene’ Brown who is a self-proclaimed shame and vulnerability researcher. I started with her book Daring Greatly and am now in the throws of The Gifts of Imperfection.  I have learned through this reading that I am not near as vulnerable or shame resilient as I thought I was.  I have simultaneously begun reading, with my church leadership team, the new book by James K.A. SmithYou are What you Love which discusses how habits and practices of our daily life reflect and shape what we worship and love. This book is helping me reflect on my actions – the living by example, habit, and practice which will shape not only how I live my life, but how my students and family will perceive what it is I love, what it is I worship – what is important to me.

I have learned that this summer, I am going to continue reading about vulnerability, shame, empathy, and connection; and I am going to rethink and rebuild my home, daily practices, life and my classroom to reflect what I learn. Yikes.  Now you know.

In any case, I began writing this post because I was going to write about the necessity of creativity that comes with economic hardship and the lack of creativity that follows economic security (which Brown touches on on page 94 of The Gifts of Imperfection). Seeing as I have completely written a tangential post, I will save those thoughts for later.

Happy summer friends!  What are you reading?  What are your summer plans? practices?

Squinting (A Lenten Practice?)

Shine on me! Blind me with grace.  And to myself, I whisper – Wake up!

Breaking into the darkness – the sun lights up the world, the words light up the page – and I am awake.  A sleeper waking up literally – rising figuratively from the dead of a haunted, tossed up sleep, turning away from one thought only to be engaged by a vision equally strange and scary. Squinting, I make out shapes I recognize and my heart beat slows.

The sun really does just break into the morning and then it immediately stretches glowing fingers of light to fill the previously dark sky.  Previously, as in the second before, pitch black – can’t see my own hand in front of my face, dark sky; and blink.  Blindingly beautiful orange and deep raspberry sorbet pink fills the sky and the only darkness is that of the outlined mountains silhouetted in the distance.  Snap – a room that was seconds before only lit by candles which created a foggy glow – just barely enough light to see the words on the page – is now illuminated – the words are clear and easy to see.

Every weekday morning my first alarm goes off ta 5:47, the second at 5:53.  I am usually awake at least ten minutes before these alarms, but I let them each go off in turn – the repetitive metallic trilling tunes of an iphone and the vibrating off the shelf for good measure.  Each morning I wait for these alarms, swipe them away and wait a little while longer – putting off the inevitable press to get ready and out the door in time to be at school by 7:30 – a 40 minute drive.

Weekends though, with the belief that I will be able to enjoy sleep just a little longer – no alarm to ring over my head – no anticipation waking me before the trill – I wake up an hour earlier (at least). 4:45AM. Sometimes 3.  Always, always, wide – not-tired-at-all, no way to lull myself back into dreamland – awake.  Every pending responsibility – swiftly – smoothly -fills the dark silence around me.  Finish grading, finish painting, mulch the yard, do the laundry and get it put away, clean the house – inspire tired family to clean the house, and prior to this weekend: finish executive summary, edit poster, pick out professional looking attire to attend Master’s symposium, check all the things….. Check. All. The. Things.

Last weekend, I gave up trying to trick my tired brain into sleeping and decided to embrace the darkness.  Try for a Lenten practice I’ve been failing to even begin…and sit quietly with a cup of coffee and some reading, surrounded by candles in the living room – taking notes for posterity.  Two beautifully uninterrupted hours of reading on the couch; squinting at the pages because it’s much more difficult to read by candlelight than the movies would have you believe. It was from this position that I observed the sun’s triumphant entry and the start of a new day.

My confession to you readers?  I don’t have a Lenten practice at all this Lent. Four weeks in and I have not pegged any one practice as something that would be meaningful to my journey right now. Honestly, I think not having a practice has made me think about Lent more than having a practice that might distract me – so perhaps that’s some sort of subconscious spiritual success?  The last few years, I have really enjoyed the Christian season of Lent.  The season of preparing for Jesus’s death and resurrection – a season of remembering that I am dust and to dust I will return…..As silly or self-condemning as this may seem, it’s a wonderfully thoughtful practice for me.  Important to my understanding of my place in the world and the purpose for which I’m here.

I’m not here to raise myself to the best level – though being my personal best is important.  I’m not here to convert the world to my way of thinking.  I’m not here to prove how righteous I am, and how sinful all the rest.  I’m not here to be better than anyone else, or more educated, or richer, or more worldly.  All of those things are lovely and have a wonderful place in my life and that of many others – but they are not my main purpose.

From dust I come and to dust I will return.

My main purpose is to Love.  To live by Truth and foster Peace.

Every year, the one practice I do succeed in completing is literature related.  Literature serves as a good procrastination tool and therefore, I am VERY good at reading what I have set out to read.

About five years ago – as I was just coming to the end of my schooling at Sacramento City College, I took a British Lit class, in which we tackled William Langland’s Piers Plowman.  Passus 18 (and really most of the dream vision epic poem).  This is an allegory for the death and resurrection of Jesus in which the maidens Righteousness, Truth, Mercy, Grace and eventually Peace and Love debate the fairness and eventual success of a servant savior who intends and succeeds in saving mankind from mortal peril by basically tricking the system.  If you believe in Jesus, you believe this crazy story that a man of questionable parentage – the first half-blood if you will  – lives a blameless life and dies a sinners death.  His death does not fit the rules of judgement and therefore, the original covenant is broken.  We are forgiven for not being able to live up to the rules set before – we are forgiven because we are broken and it is recognized and Grace received.

Passus 18 ends this way:

After sharp showers,’ quoth Peace · `most glorious is the sun;
Is no weather warmer · than after watery clouds.
Nor no love dearer · nor dearer friends,
Than after war and woe · when Love and Peace be masters.
Was never war in this world · nor wickedness so keen,
That Love, if he pleased · could not bring to laughter,
And Peace through patience · all perils stopped.’

“Never a war in this world….that love could not bring to laughter – and peace through patience all perils stopped.”

That is my goal in Lent – and in my life in general.  The planting and nurturing of Love and Peace – fostering the growth of community and self-sacrificing care which creates so many connections in this broken world that the cracks begin to fade – sewn together with the roots of these gracefully given gifts – reflected indefinitely.

The foggy dawn slipping away, I no longer need to squint at the fuzzy words smudged on the pages; sunshine beaming brightly now through the slightly open window.  The chilly air of March tingling with just a tinge of winter – and the day is awake – I am awake.

Around 6:45, like clockwork, the littlest strolls down the hallway.  Her hair is a crazy  mess of collar knots and she is wrapped in a woolly blanket – a squinting sleep still lingers in her eyes -refusing to fully accept the brightness of the morning, but her refusal to fall back to sleep puts a little spring in her step and a resolute sweetness on her face.  My quiet time ends and a new day begins.

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  That is why it is said:  ‘Wake up sleeper,rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'” (Ephesians 5:14ish,NIV)