Sunday, July 31, 2011

Murray's Magical Muggles

The coffee maker is set ... my new dress is hanging, ready to go ... my Spanx are laid out (yes, I said Spanx -- must contain all my "stuff" seeing as first impressions are everything) .... a pretty crappy lunch is packed ....the cat has been fed .... my face is washed ... my teeth are brushed ... plans are as done as they will be ...
I guess the 2011-2012 school year can begin.

My tenth year ... somewhere in Lexington, my sister is chanting in a sing-songy voice, "YOU ARE OLD, YOU ARE OLD, YOU ARE OLD!" Despite that poor slip in judgement, she did quite a bit to help me get ready, inspiring me with my classroom theme MURRAY'S MAGICAL MUGGLES. Her Harry Potter glasses, magic wands, and amazing door design are amazing!
I think it turned out pretty dag-gone good, if I do say so myself. Okay, yes, I didn't do much creatively. I was relegated to scissor duty, after it was determined that I was hopeless when it came to fashioning pipe cleaner glasses. Well, I mean, I can't be perfect at EVERYTHING.

Despite my lack of a crafty gene, I'm here to say: "Here's to a magical year with loads of fun and lots of learning! I want my 10th year to be the best year yet!"

And thanks, Anniebee, for helping to get it started on the right foot! You're the craftiest!

Friday, July 22, 2011


You know those times in your life when you should just never, ever try?

Yeah, well, I had one of those times tonight.

A couple of days ago, I decided I would be a good sister and suggest keeping her car for the weekend while she was with some girlfriends. We made plans to ride to a neighboring town this evening after work to pick up her car.

Half way to our destination tonight, her car decided to get sick ... really sick. There was coughing ... there was hacking ... there was sputtering ... and a CHECK ENGINE light ... the kind that stays on and spells nothing but trouble.

Her plans weren't changing, however. She was still meeting her posse and heading on with the previously scheduled program. My plans, however, were radically changed, seeing as I was now soon to be stranded in a town 20 miles south of where I lived, in 100 degree heat, wearing heavy jean capris (because I'd planned on working indoors, in air conditioning all day, not hoofing it across two counties) and a too-tight tee shirt.

Ann's solution to the problem? "Call a friend."

Problem: Most of my friend's were out of town or unavailable. I called upon my friend Liz, who graciously dropped what she was doing to drive me to meet Ann in Frankfort in the first place. Liz hasn't lived here very long, and she's not necessarily sure of where she's going, because of her unfamiliarity of the area. To make matters much, much worse, her cell phone was dying, and she doesn't have a car charger. So, attempting a "talk her in" to my location would prove to be very tricky, indeed.

Despite those odds, Liz braved the high temps and the lack of geographical knowledge and headed to my rescue. Rescue, indeed, considering my sister was going ahead with her plans and leaving me stranded.

"Could you get your friends to drop me off at a restaurant so I can sit in the AC while I wait for Liz?"

Nope. According to Ann, they were on a tight schedule, and the inconvenience of driving me to a restaurant would make them have to go way out of their way. Instead, she suggested I just hoof it up the hill to the Doughdaddy/BP's next door, where I could treat myself to a doughnut (not on her), and wait there. Since I didn't have anything more than a dollar in my purse, I just sat there ...

Liz showed up, and as I got into the car, she said, "Do you hear that noise?"

I did. It was low, and gravelly, yet loud, and got worse as she increased the speed.

Again, I need to point out that her cell phone was on one bar, and now, MY cell phone was on one bar. And Liz's car is making all kinds of racket!

On a wing and a prayer, we made it back to Frankfort, wherein I announced that I was tired, hungry, grouchy, and no longer interested in completing the tasks I had waiting for me at school. I would go home ... only, as I walked toward my truck, I noticed a rather large, metal file jammed into my truck tire -- it had caused a two inch gash in the surface of the tire, and I could just imagine the flat I'd receive half way between the school parking lot and the nearest tire place, that I felt relatively sure would now be closed ... seeing as it was now 6:30 p.m.

I texted Carrie and said, "I'm calling a tow truck. He kept calling me honey and baby on the phone. If you don't hear from me again, tell the Frankfort Police ______ Towing Company."

I waited 25 minutes in the heat for the tow truck dude to come. He was very nice and was able to yank the piece of metal right out of my tire. "Just needs a plug, Baby."

He refused to let me pay him, and he was on his way.

Here's the kicker. I failed to text Carrie back, and so at 10 p.m., when she STILL hadn't heard from me, she was getting ready to Google the Frankfort Police Department and let them know that I was last in the company of a certain Towing Company.

Good gosh! The trouble I would have caused there!

All is well. I am home. And it's best if you just keep me away from all motorized vehicles for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good vs. Evil

Last weekend, I went to see the final installment to the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.
It was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.! Now, I am a firm believer in "books are always better than the movie." However, they put a lot of BANG into this last movie ... the Last Hurrah, so to speak.
The anticipation of the movie caused me to search the recesses of my mind and attempt to dredge up, when, exactly, it was that I picked up that first book. I VIVIDLY remember subbing in a second grade classroom at Sonoma Elementary School in Battle Creek, Michigan. I was days away from completing my student teaching, and the principal found herself with a sub shortage on her hands. So, I was asked to fill in. The teacher, Ms. Sears, had left the Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone and asked that I start to read it to the kiddos.
There had been such a media frenzy over this book -- I thought it was ridiculous. In fact, I think I even remember saying, "Nah, I don't think I will ever read those books. Too much hulliboo over it."
That was until I read the following passage and was hooked ...
"It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something perculiar -- a cat reading a nap. For a second, Mr. Dursley didn't realize what he had seen -- then he jerked his head around to look again. There was a tabby cat standing on the corner of Privet Drive, but there wasn't a map in sight. What could he have been thinking of? It must have been a trick of the light. Mr. Dursley blinked and stared at the cat. It stared back. As Mr. Dursley drove around the corner and up the road, he watched the cat in his mirror. It was now reading the sign that said Privet Drive -- no, looking, at the sign; cats couldn't read maps or signs. Mr.Dursley gave himself a little shake and put the cat out of his mind. As he drove toward town he thought of nothing except a large order of drills he was hoping to get that day."
That is all I needed ... I was goner after that one, little paragraph! That was in 2001.
Here we are, in 2011, and I can still see where I was when I read certain books ... like the exact moment I read that Sirius Black had died. I was on the beach at Fort Custer Recreation Area Eagle Lake ... it was a sunny, hot, summer day, and the beach was full of people, and I had fallen in love with Sirius Black. So, when I read the passage ... read his death and Harry's reaction, I shouted, "NO!" Lots of stares from my sister and the other beach-goers, for sure!
I can remember buying Order of the Phoenix at a Barnes and Noble in Franklin, TN, after a HORRIBLE job interview ... never realizing the course of my life would change, both professionally and personally.
I read both The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows after I moved to Kentucky ... staying up late, late into the night in my little apartment, not wanting to put either of them down. I cried when Dumbledore died. And his funeral? It crushed me.
I cheered Neville Longbottom on ... I cheered them all on as they fought valiantly to defeat Lord Voldemort ... And I smiled when I got a peek into Harry, Hermione, and Ron's life 19 years after Hogwarts ...
I love to read, and you all know, I LOVE to write. I tell my fourth graders all the time, the mark of a great writer is when they can write characters that suck you into their worlds. JK Rowling did just that. I was a muggle in the world of Harry and Ron and Hermione, wishing desperately for a wand and the ability to use the expelliarmus charm in my everyday life.
Watching the movie, I was struck with just how much these characters have impacted our modern lives. Once again, it's a sign of just how amazing the writing talent of JK Rowling really is.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mirror Image

I'm calling myself out. I'm digging deep into my closet, pawing through all my skeletons, and I'm shedding light on them all. I mean, after all, I'm 39 AND a half years old. Isn't it about time that I drag out the skeletons, bury them deep, and let them rest in their own squalid peace?

It's vulnerability ... I'm laying myself bare in hopes that others may learn from my struggles.

I can't pinpoint when it all started, but as far back as I can remember, and admit it now .... I've had body image issues. Bad ones. Ugly ones.

Was it one person that planted the seed? Was it the media? Was it everyone? Who knows! But the seed was planted, and I've spent my ENTIRE life struggling to see my worth in the eyes of those that surround me on a daily basis ... both those that are close to me as well as those that I don't even know.

I find myself measuring myself against shallow standards, and it takes nothing more than a waif-like girl, sashaying past me in nothing more than a triangular piece of fabric and dental floss -- or well-meaning comment thrown out casually about my weight and food -- to toss me into a spiral of black thoughts that strips me of my fragile self-esteem, already dangling limply in the winds of "what's beautiful."

So what is beautiful?

In history, there are countless examples of the FAD of beauty.

  • Women and men that plucked their hairlines to make their foreheads seem higher ....
  • During the Elizabethan Age, Queen Elizabeth was quite the trend setter. Women, en mass, clamored for that pale, pale skin and red hair. Here's the thing, the powder was lead-based and poisoned many!
  • Men wore powdered wigs (WHAT!?!) ... again with the lead-based powder!
  • Women had GIGANTIC wig-like structures created that they wore on their heads. Some reached three feet tall. Unfortunately, these women weren't the only ones that thought these hair creations were all the rage. So did vermin! Can we say nasty, nasty diseases!?
  • Victorians swung the other way, down-playing makeup, slicking back hair, and valuing morally demure looks. They were pinched and stifled and lived miserable lives!
  • Roaring Twenties swung the other way, once again, shortening skirts and hair lengths. Very red lips and rouge were the looks of the day.
Thin, almost to the point of being ill ... no hips ... no boobs ... no curves of any kind ... slight features that fit neatly into body-hugging fabrics that skim over the boyish bodies ... pink skin, fresh and dewy ... does any of this sound familiar? It describes almost every, single girl you see on the covers of magazines and on the tabloid celebrity news shows these days... and it tells every woman out there one thing: HEY! THIS IS WHAT WE'RE VALUING RIGHT NOW -- WOMEN THAT LOOK LIKE THEY NEVER EMERGED FROM GIRLHOOD.

And you know what, they've excluded me and my curves and my stocky build ... they've excluded my acne-prone skin, and my big, can-not-be-contained boobs ... they've excluded everything that makes me, ME! To top it off, they've excluded every, single girl I know and love. And while we're on the subject of love, I love these girls, these sisters in life, NOT because of their bodies, but because of their brains! Because of their wit! Because of their resilience! Because of their ability to rock their worlds where ever they are! Dewy skin and lack of hips were never on my LIST OF THINGS TO LOOK FOR in these women I call FRIENDS.

I'm struck by the word EMERGE. I like the image of a caterpillar that weaves a cocoon and emerges a beautiful, delicate creature. Why can't little girls emerge from childhood, glistening in the beauty of being a woman? Women are multi-dimensional beings with amazing powers that can be used for good, and yet, each year, I watch fourth grade girls come and go through my classroom door frustrated by their "fat," very aware of their bodies in a very negative turn, and very unsure of how to use their bodies for good, positive ways. And, recently, I've realized that I have encouraged that by my very presence in the room, frustrated by my curves .... frustrated over my lack of waif-ness ... frustrated over my lack of self-confidence.

That's the real key, right there. Confidence.

By definition, (, CONFIDENCE is "full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliabilityof a person or thing/belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance."

I look at my reflection in the mirror, my friends, and at the girls I teach, and I don't see a lot of belief in oneself -- that makes me sad.

An article I read recently floored me further. The author stated true sexiness is in a woman's confidence. The author and a male friend had met another woman, a female friend of his, for a drink, and as the author wrote, both she and her male friend were mesmerized by this woman, this short, curvy woman that was soooo not at all his type, or any one's, just by looking at her. And yet, no in the bar could take their eyes off of her ... men tripped over her to buy her drinks. After she left, the author asked her male friend what this girl had ... what made her so doggone desirable.

This was his response (paraphrased here):
"She's sexy as hell, and it's because she is so confident ... I can't keep my eyes off of her, but I could never act on my feelings. She's waaay out of my league."

In my need to fit in ... in my quest to make myself The All-American Woman, I have lost my true self-confidence. The article was sobering for me, because I have spent most of my 20s and all of my 30s falsely convincing myself that I could never be what any man would want because I wasn't the picture of beauty that I was seeing. I blamed a lot of people for my lack of a dating life, when the only person I should have really pointed the finger at was/is me. I'm the one that bought into the lies ... I'm the one that allowed myself to internalize all of the "well-meaning" remarks about weight and food ... and I'm the one that slowly let my confidence slip through my fingers.

Surface beauty is fleeting. We all know the high school jock or IT boy that every girl longed to date ... or at the very least, be in the shadow of. Now, they are nothing more than an icky, middle-aged guy still reliving his high school hay-days in old tunes on Pandora and YouTube.

Inner beauty ... that kind that's infused with the confidence that comes from deep within, that's the beauty that lasts ... and is infectious ... and is attractive ... and is, to borrow that FANTASTIC phrase, sexy as hell!

I write this not as a cheap shot for some pity comments about how sad this all is. Rather, I write this, because, I want to grab that confidence and run with it. I'm casting off this surface beauty, and I'm looking for ways to celebrate the true beauty in myself, and the true beauty I see in the fabulous women around me! I invite others to do the same!

If we don't start celebrating TRUE BEAUTY, we will have yet another generation of little girls growing up, looking in their mirrors, and viewing a distorted mirror image. Celebrating TRUE BEAUTY means we stop the cycle. We celebrate our lumps and bumps and imperfections and find true joy in living a TRUE life.

Who's with me!?

Monday, July 11, 2011


I took a bunch of stuff home with me last week so my dad could frame them. As an aside, my dad has a framing and matting business as well as his wildlife photography. If you need something framed or matted, look him up! He does amazing work as you will see!

This first piece is one I commissioned a former student to do for me. Jacob will be a 7th grader this year, folks. 7th grade! Can you believe how good this kid is??? He's going places, I tell you!

Here' s another view of Jacob's piece. He's just uber talented, and I am so proud to have had the privilege to teach him!

This is a reprint of an original watercolor by Natalie Gillham, a pretty popular regional artist back home. She was commissioned to paint this on the occasion of Dr. and Mrs. Vulgamore's retirement as President and First Lady of Albion College. This building, the place I knew as North Hall, was renamed Vulgamore Hall. I can't remember why I got a reprint, but I've got one. I'm enjoying looking at it as I pass by it ... lots of memories in this old building.

Finally, this is a movie poster that I had to pay for in order for the movie place allow me to take the poster. I just LOVED this movie .... it impacted me when I saw it for the first time. I'm not sure if it was the era in which the movie was made or the what, but I was deeply moved by it.

I'd forgotten I'd had it until my dad uncovered it ... apparently, it was in his pile "to frame."

I love it as an art piece in my living room. Goes with the funky feel I seem to have going.

I've had to rearrange a few things here and there to accommodate these new pieces, but I love the overall effect!