Journey

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For 14 months our family has been praying about where we should live.  A year ago we wondered if it was California or New Zealand, then it was praying for a house in Wellington, and then when we landed here it was a question of do we stay at the beach or still try to get back to Wellington.  I am happy to say that, for now, we can close that book and will not be praying about housing for some time.

Back in July we were contacted by the vicar and his wife of the small church we attended in our neighborhood in Wellington.  They were looking to buy a second home and wanted us to live in it and be a part of their community again.  They were attracted to our desire to live in community with those around us and wanted another family to journey with in using the church to reach out to the local community.  We were honored to say the least!  And felt excited that an opportunity had come up that would allow us to be back to a familiar place.  They put a few offers on some houses and each time they were outbid.  Meanwhile, my kids were adjusting to life here at the beach where they have the freedom to explore and ride around the town and most importantly, they had made friends.

As time went on, after my first weeks here where I was angry that critters were living in my attic, I started to just plant roots instead of waiting to see if the Wellington option would work out.  And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear!  Not a miniature sleigh, but a beautiful house in Wellington with the hopes that our family would occupy it.  I felt confused by this, because we were in a good place, and no one wanted to move.  We prayed and wanted to be willing to move, but if you asked us, we were happy here.  I had the chance to live in the nicest and biggest house I have ever lived in, and yet, suddenly, I realized it’s not about a house.  We shared our uncertainty with this couple, and as you can imagine, I was nervous.  They had just done the most generous thing and we were not sure if we would accept the offer.  At one point, Catherine told me that her mum had a vision of the house being a lifeline.  She said, “When I saw you that day at the playground you needed a lifeline and I didn’t have one to offer you.  And now I am throwing you a lifeline and you aren’t taking it, and I find that very interesting.”  And while her husband thought that was a bit frank, and personally, I think Brian did too, it was the thing I most needed to hear.  It became clear that we weren’t in need of a lifeline.  If this house is intended to be a lifeline I definitely wouldn’t want to take that away from the person or family who desperately needs it.

Since we tend to teeter on the fence, we asked them to tell us when they would like a final answer and they gave us five days.  I was happy to know that we wouldn’t be sitting on this decision for 5 months as we had about the move overseas.  Knowing that we weren’t in need of a lifeline helped us be at peace with telling them, with certainty, two days later via email, that we were going to stay at the beach and that we can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.  We still had planned to chat at the 5 day mark, but since we had an answer we wanted to let them know about it as well.

Another pit in my stomach as my phone rang for our FaceTime call.  I hoped that they would be gracious with us, but would understand if they were disappointed as well.  God is so so good and what they thought was their plan B was His plan A.  There is a young man, 18 years old, who used to attend the church, but the family had moved back to Tonga and had been living their for the past 6 years.  He had come back and was looking for a house to rent for his mum, dad, grandmother and younger brother to come live in and no one would take him seriously.  His race and his age and his financial situation made it difficult for him to be able to rent something.  The family had pretty much given up on the idea of moving back to Wellington.  Little old grandma, with the faith of a giant, said, just give it a few more days, I feel that something is about to happen.. When our friends, approached the young man, not knowing any of this part of their story, he said, This is a miracle!

God doesn’t owe us His perspective on things, and we don’t always get to see how things will work out, but what a blessing to the 4 of us, Brian and I and our friends, Paul and Catherine, in Northland, to be able to take this journey together since July.  It has been no doubt confusing at times, but what an amazing ending to know that this idea of a lifeline, was God-given and intended for a family desperately in need.  And the idea of going back to the familiarity of Wellington is exactly what I needed to get me through my first weeks here, even if it never were going to become a reality.  The young man’s name is Brian.  And so we joked that they probably were hearing from God that the house was for Brian and that he will be coming from another country.  It was just a different Brian!  I am so happy that I got to be a part of this journey and see God’s hand at work in very tangible ways.

So if you need me, you can find me here in Waitarere.

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Deferred Gratification (and other growing pains)

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Our family is getting used to a new norm in so many ways.  One way that makes itself evident on a nearly daily basis is the fact that money is tight! I grew up without extra and have memories of running out of toilet paper.  I hated running out of toilet paper.  I also would get new Keds-type shoes at the beginning of the school year.  Notice I said, “Keds-type” because they were really from Target or Payless.  And after some months my toes would be curled in there desperately needing a new pair, but that would have to wait until money allowed.

We have lived frugally on one income for the kids’ entire lives, but we are always well stocked in the toilet paper department and I will not let them wear shoes that are too small for them even if they love them still.  (Bunions!) Things are different now, but we chose “different” and I am aware of that.  This isn’t a call for sympathy or anything like that.  We sat down with the kids and went over finances with them.  Wait, that’s a lie.  Actually, Brian sat us all down and went over the budget and finances with us.  For the first few weeks we wrote everything expense down.  The kids got to visually see the number decrease.  And then. Bam!  On Sept. 16, Brian said, “Just so you know we have $80 left.”  All kinds of ugly was bubbling up inside of me.  I don’t like doing hard things like this.  I spent years of my childhood being poor.  I don’t want to do this again.  Other thoughts were, why did we come here?  Life was good back home.  And lastly, I guess I won’t be getting the bookcase I had my eye on for $40.  Deferred gratification sucks.

Miraculously, with the help of my first born probably, we looked at it as a challenge and tried to see if we could make our food last.  One day we went to the store and we had $30 left in the bank.  I just needed a few essentials that could go a long way.  I also had $17 in my wallet.  I wasn’t totally paying attention to how much I was spending, which is actually interesting, I wasn’t anxious or nervous or anything when I got to the front.  The lady said that my total was $47.  I had exactly enough money to buy my groceries!

We have some emergency money, and I knew I could delve into that if I needed to and I was pretty sure I was going to need to.  The days kept ticking away without us having to get bread or milk or anything.  It became a game and somehow we made it to payday!

The kids were invited to go skating with a friend and they had to use their own money.  We found some coins and were all able to enjoy a kiddie cone at the dairy across the street one warm Sunday afternoon after working hard in the yard.  The kids have a job on Friday to wash a car and earn $5 each.  I’ve taught them Solitaire and Sudoku and our evenings are now spent playing these games.  For the first time in their life, we aren’t able to treat them in ways that cost money and yet all of their needs are met.

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Tatum asked me the other night, “What was our budget in California?  I feel like we could get whatever we wanted.”  I would have never thought that they felt that way.  Honestly, we went to great restaurants, but only on kids-eat-free nights or during happy hour.  We found cool stuff to do, but usually we only went if there was a special or a free day.  I only took them to the movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when they played for $5.  I let them buy useless junk if we were at a garage sale and it cost me a few coins.  I knew I was making the most of our money, but they could only see the extravagant life they were living.  And I guess that was the point.  I wanted them to feel like they weren’t lacking anything, while still living frugally.  I cringe now as I just wrote that.  I don’t know if that is healthy or not, but it’s the truth.

You may be wondering why I am sharing this.  Why I am letting you in on a conversation about my finances?  Because by the grace of God it only took me a few days to feel the blessings in these growing pains.  It has been SO good for the kids to see that everything costs money and that there isn’t an endless supply.  I would have never chosen to teach them this way, but hey here it is!  Brian and I are both missing our drinks, both alcoholic and caffeinated.  I think that going out for a drink became an easy date, cheaper than a meal, especially when we were here last year.  So many great cafes!  But the drinks are a definite non-necessity and it is where we feel it the most, especially if the day is cold and gloomy, and I wish I could be sitting in a cafe or if the kids have been especially difficult and I want to end the day with glass of wine.  Wow I literally just sighed as I wrote that.  This is not for forever, dear self.  The second gift that has come from this, empathy!  I am feeling for those who are living in poverty and who are living paycheck to paycheck.  We want to live within our means, and right now that technically means we are below the poverty line.  Luckily, we know that if an emergency occurred, we could pull money out of savings.  And in other good news, I can start subbing this week!  I pray that we can be wise with our money even as our monthly income increases.

The hardest goodbye for the kids was their Boston Terrier brother, Frankie.  They also had to re-home their guinea pigs and tortoise.  So, with the move we promised them they could get bunnies, something they have always wanted.  Another gift that our budget has brought into our lives is the gift of ingenuity.  As soon as we got here, they were ready for bunnies, but it was another case of deferred gratification and a lot of ingenuity.  We got all the bunny books out at the library and researched rabbits.  Piper designed a hutch based on what she read they needed.  And with the scrap wood we had in our backyard and other random stuff we found on the property, they built (with the help of their dad) a hutch that is pretty awesome that only cost them some nails.  Two days ago, after weeks of waiting for these particular bunnies to be big enough, they got their bunnies!  I may have not bought a new hutch if we were on our old “budget”.  I may have looked on Craigslist or Marketplace or something.  But to see them make this hutch out of nothing was pretty cool and they are pretty proud of it too.  I mean it looks like a shanty town hutch.  The wood is mismatched and whatnot, but it is cozy and roomy for our two new furry friends.  Okay, scroll down for some seriously cute bunny pics.  Piper’s is Cali (short for California and Tatum’s is Cottontail.

So, how do I end this?  Embrace challenges.  Maybe God is trying to teach you something.  If you’re like me your initial reaction is anger and I turn into a grump, but don’t stay grumpy, look for an opportunity to see how the challenge can be used to refine you.

Where do we go from here?

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I seriously feel ill about the state of our Union.  Like a pit in my stomach, a real, very literal feeling that the attacks on both Ford and Kavanaugh are having on me.  It is like we are forgetting that these are real people with real families.  It is sad and disheartening that we can treat an individual so disrespectfully, more because of political affiliation than anything else.  More than justice, more than truth.  It is sad that children are hearing conversations about individuals that are shaping their ideas on acceptable ways to treat a person of the opposite sex.  Mothers are worried about their daughters who are growing up in this world, wanting it to be a place where they can come forward with injustice.  Mothers are also worried about their sons and the possible threat of a woman’s word being able to change the rest of their life.

These are the conversations being had in my home.  Conversations about the value of an individual, every man and woman, about consent  and about being a safe place to share.  All of this wrapped in sadness.

When I think about the women I know who have been sexually assaulted, abused or taken advantage of, it is staggering!  I can list individuals, and yet the outcome of the situations were never handled appropriately.  Maybe we knew it was wrong but didn’t know what to do.

I almost titled this My #metoo, but I am fortunate enough that I have never been abused.  I am going to share, however, a little bit about something that happened to me personally where this all became very real.

I was 21 years old, living in another country for the summer on a cross cultural internship.  I was young and naive and moved into a family where everyone suddenly became family.  Every person I met who was older than me I had to call “Auntie” or “Uncle”.  If they were my age, they were “cuzzy”.  I became “Auntie Brooke” to all these cute little kiddos so quickly bonds were formed.  After 6 weeks there, the husband and wife of the house had some business to take care of and they left a relative in charge of the farm.  I didn’t think twice, I didn’t feel nervous.  These were my “family” and this was my home away from home.  There were some boys around my age and their uncle who was left in charge.  He was married with kids, but they stayed home.

One night we watched a movie in the living room and I fell asleep during it.  I woke up to someone rubbing my leg.  My heart started to beat fast and I wondered who it was.  I pulled my leg away and flipped over pretending to be half asleep, but also being very deliberate to see who it was and where the others were as I turned over.  It was me and the Uncle in the living room.  The others had gone to their room I assumed which was actually in a separate trailer outside.  The thoughts of what was about to occur were frightening.  I was in. the. middle. of. nowhere.  No neighbors for miles, no market or gas station to run to.  Two hours from town. Stupid of me you may be thinking.  But nothing in me thought that staying in the house with only these adult men was a bad idea.  First of all, the people I was staying with thought it was fine to leave me.  Second, like I said, after 6 weeks of living day in and day out, I felt very comfortable.

I faked sleeping as he rubbed my leg, pulling it away, but trying to act natural, all the while coming up with a plan in my head.  I thought of running out of the house, but wondered if he would grab me, but I felt I had no other choice.  I went to the restroom and then ran out the front door to the trailer.  I woke the other two up and told them what happened.  I stayed in the trailer for the night as they fell back asleep acting like it was no big deal.

To be perfectly clear, nothing happened.  I was not abused.  But I very much felt I was in the position of feeling powerless.  And that is not okay.  There was no asking, no consent, but only a feeling of being taken advantage of, which was a very very scary.  It was the scariest moment of my life, because for those moments that I laid there, aware that I was very literally all alone with a man much bigger than me who obviously wanted something I did not want, I didn’t know how it was going to end.  And I was unsure if I would get to choose how it ended or not.  I was unsure what would happen if I got up.  I was unsure what would happen if I screamed.  I was unsure what would happen if I ran.

My overseas adventure ended early because of the experience and I came home.  With the prompting of my mom, probably, I told my professor as this was a school internship that I was getting credit for.  I left there disappointed, and would handle it very differently now hopefully.  He made me feel that it was my fault.  He made me feel that I shouldn’t have been there alone without another female, though I told him that they left me there with them.  I didn’t have a car.  I had the chance to say, “Wait.  Stop.  Hold on I’m not okay with this.  I want to stay somewhere else.”  But, call me naive, I didn’t feel that way.  I wonder now if he subconsciously (or consciously) blamed me because he was afraid of getting in trouble.

And with the passage of time I have moved on.  I am happily married, have kids and do not talk often about the experience, mostly because there is no need.  I am pretty cautious with my kids and have told them a little bit about why their dad and I aren’t always keen on sleep overs.

I don’t fit into a political box and I am quite sympathetic.  So the other night, I was thinking about my husband.  He is honest and just and an all around good man.  And I thought about how horrible it would be if he were in the public eye and someone wanted to dig up stuff about what he did in high school.  I didn’t know him then, but I know he wasn’t the same person I know now.  And then, I thought about my experience, and I had realization.  No matter how much a person can change, no matter how much time passes, past experiences shape you and change you the rest of your life.  If I heard that this individual who never abused me, but who I felt was unfaithful to his wife that night, who I felt made me feel powerless that night, was going to sit on the Supreme Court, you better believe that I would have a problem it.  Would I have gone public or called him up personally, I don’t know.  It isn’t mine game of what if.  It is like a bad experience at a restaurant.  It is your bad experience.  No matter how many people tell you how great it is.  It is truly truly sad, because obviously someone isn’t being honest with themselves, maybe it is that their memories are vague by the passage of time, or maybe it is intentional.  I truly hope that isn’t the case for either of them.  Personally, I can’t imagine putting myself out there to be ridiculed and doubted for something that is a lie.  But that is what some think, and that is always a possibility, and has happened in the past.  I just ask you this, pray.  Pray for justice, and pray for truth.  We are raising the next generation and they are listening and watching.   

This morning I read this folktale to the kids as part of our ancient history studies.  I saw it as a warning for us as Americans.  We can do great things when we are united.  Where do we go from here?  Well, we start by treating individuals respectfully.

The Hunter and Quail

Once, a flock of quail lived on the banks of a river.  They had plenty to eat and drink but they were afraid of the hunter who came every evening to catch them.  He would creep up to the edge of the flock with his net and then leap out of the bushes.  When the quail scattered, he would catch the nearest bird in his net, carry it back to his house- and eat it for dinner!

One day the oldest of the quail said, “it is easy for the hunter to catch just one of us.  But what if he threw his net over all of us?  We would be strong enough to escape!”

So the next evening when the hunter leaped out of the bushes, the quail all stayed in one flock.  The hunter flung his net over the quail, but they rose up from the ground together, pulled the net out of hands, and flew away, still side by side.  All together, the quail were too strong for the hunter.

But soon the quail began to push and jostle each other, as they crowded together in their safe, strong group. “You’re stepping on my claw!” cried one.  “You’re rumpling my feathers!” cried another.  “You’re squeezing me until I can’t breathe!” complained a third.  Finally they scattered- and the hunter, who had been waiting in the bushes, leaped out and netted them, one by one.  As he headed back to his house, he said, “Together, they are free.  But apart, they are supper!”

Slowly but Surely

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It amazes me how the passage of time changes things.  Just a few short weeks ago I couldn’t imagine myself in this house.  It didn’t feel like me and yet, so so much has happened since then.  Don’t even think for one second that the hideous carpet has grown on me.  Not a chance.  But. But. More of our belongings are filling the house and we have met some neighbors (hooray!) To my surprise, while we were housesitting at Tatum’s friend’s amazing house in our old neighborhood for a few days, Tatum said after the 2nd day, “I want to go home.”  And when Brian asked Piper if she liked being back in Wellington, she said, “I really like Waitarere Beach and Wellington.” When you disrupt your kids lives and take them out of their very comfortable norm, it sure is comforting to see them doing okay, and to be thriving feels like an added bonus.

A few weeks ago we checked out the school because Tatum really wanted to meet friends.  We started praying for friends for the girls, and I was pretty much giddy one week later when there was an impromptu gathering at my house with 2 ladies, their children, a bottle of wine and gluten free brownies.  When we sat down for a dinner of fish n chips, I just wanted to thank God for bringing us to this place in such a short time.  It was our 2nd time ordering fish n chips, the first time was our very first night here, and all I could think about as I was walking back with dinner in my hands was how very different things are…already!  Thank you God for answered prayers!  Fast forward another two weeks and today we took the kids plus 2 friends to a free day at one of the pools and Clover was invited to play with the grandchildren of a woman we met.  So, everyone is making friends.

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Now, let me tell you about Lois, the lady with the grandchildren.  Amazing!  Please, be this person to a new face.  We went to church here after our first week here and Lois gave me her number and invited us over for afternoon tea.  Since then, I have borrowed her vacuum, a paint brush, puzzles, scooter, helmet and more.  It was like I needed one person that I knew I could go to, and by giving me her number (she obviously didn’t know what she was getting herself into!) she became my go-to person.  And the bonus is that she sews!  She has made the big two beautiful dresses and Clover some leggings.

I decided to ask Piper to tell me how things have changed this month.  She is so matter of fact. 🙂   Here is what she had to say:

When we first arrived it was really cold and rainy and the house was hideous.  It was really boring because we had no friends and I was just sitting inside with my family all day.  We have a wood burning stove that we have to light everyday and is a nuisance because we have to watch it all the time.  We live a couple of blocks from the beach and the beach is covered with driftwood, bones and shells. The first day of Spring was on Sept. 1 and since then the weather has gotten way nicer.  Another nice thing is that we have made a few friends and it has gotten a lot less boring.  We’ve attended a church just down the street with only 15 people.  They are all around 70 years old.  We met a really nice lady from the church and she has already made me and Tatum a dress. 

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IMG_7877How gorgeous are these dresses!  I especially love seeing Piper in a dress as she isn’t one to get out of her leggings often.  And btw, what happened to her these past 6 months?!  It is like she grew up all at once!

IMG_4616And one more thing, we are still amazed by the sunsets here.  Every night that we are home Brian takes a picture and Tatum usually goes along hoping to find some more treasures.

Unknowns

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There are a whole lot of unknowns in my life right now so it felt so good to step into homeschooling again; something familiar, something I truly enjoy.  I am learning to like the place I am in right now and am trying to look at it as a gift.  It is a gift to not have any obligations, a gift to find our surroundings fun and intriguing, though these things surely won’t last.  Even the forest and beach will become familiar (but hopefully never boring).

Right now I am sitting on my bed listening to the kids jump on the trampoline next door. The house is a vacation rental and it is vacant (which means the kids think they can use the trampoline).  The kids have met a girl who lives in the neighborhood and today I told them to go knock on her door and see if they could walk her pet lamb with her or something (because who doesn’t want to hang out with a girl who has a 2 week old pet lamb!?!?).  They are good at putting themselves out there and now I am listening to 4 girls squealing and laughing.  You see, soon there will be friends and activities and all that comes with daily living and this gift of time with just me and my family is limited.

This year is not like other years and so we took a very different “first day” picture.  It was a sweet time of walking and looking at nature with different eyes.  Collecting things to make a mandala in the sand with things we found either in the forest or at the beach.  Somehow, even the long days have added up to some very short years and now I am teaching a 3rd grader and a 6th grader.  Sixth grade, that wasn’t that long ago for me.  It was a year of transition as I changed from Catholic school to public.  I can remember my wardrobe in 6th grade.  Maybe because I was free to wear whatever I wanted instead of a uniform, or maybe just because I’m weird that I can remember that. Anyway, now I am the parent of a 6th grader and all the hormones and fun stuff that is likely to come with that.  How. has. this. happened?!

I won’t get too sentimental now, because I have a tendency to do that.  And just to let you all know that though I am trying to look at blessings my new life is offering, I don’t always succeed.  There are mice or rats or something that Brian is working on killing living in my attic.  And my hideous carpet and accordion doors have not grown on me.  They still are almost worse than the mice because I have to look at them everyday.  So there you go.  I’ll leave you with those sweet sentiments so that when you think of me, you can remember that I still can use your prayers.  I’m not “living the life” over here.

Clover was my retriever and collected my sticks and shells for me.  Tatum was about to take a picture of Clover and me with our mandala when a dog ran up, scared her and then rolled around destroying it.  That’s the traditional way, destroy it after you make it!  Piper found a baby eel or something while she was making hers and we all liked Tatum’s stick letters.  Until next time…

Small Town Life for this City Girl

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I’ve been MIA for a week now since arriving in New Zealand. In hindsight I think it was better that way. I probably would have overexagerrated and had you all worried because honestly, I wanted to hop back on a plane and fly back. We arrived in Auckland on Friday night and stayed at the airport hotel. We woke up refreshed, had an amazing breakfast at the hotel and felt rested and excited. The drive was long but beautiful and I was all smiles until we pulled up to our new place just after the sun set. I knew we were going to be living in a small rural beach community. I also knew what the house looked like on the outside and saw a couple pictures of the inside, yet it was all a bit shocking, reminding of my first trip here 17 years ago. We have no real idea of how long we will be in this house, but the thought that this isn’t forever felt like the only thing making me feel like I can do this. Logistically, things are just a bit more complicated. Like, there is a wood burning stove and requires Brian to wear a new hat, the “lumberjack”, as he goes out and cuts wood. The water tank gets filled by rain water, so daily I need to boil the water and refill the pitchers in the fridge. I can handle this stuff. But I had a hard time with how the house looks. It is VERY dated. I don’t want to sound unappreciative, though it probably does. A bit superficial? Maybe. And really you are probably thinking what do you expect? We are paying very low rent and now I know why. It reminds me of going to Big Bear when I was little and staying in an old cabin that hasn’t been updated. Like in 1985 this stuff was old, so now it is just gross. The bedrooms have vinyl accordion doors, and the carpet is like something my mom grew up with. Brian tries to tell me that the carpet is dated, but in good shape, but I don’t buy it. Carpet kind of creeps me out anyway, let alone not knowing who lived here before. On Sunday, I stepped in the shower to finally wash my hair for the first time since leaving and I cracked the bottom of the tub. At that point I was about ready to cry. All I wanted to do was to shower and finally feel warm and I couldn’t. Later that day I decided to take the kids to a nearby indoor pool and we all had a nice hot shower.

The kids are doing amazing. We are spending a lot of time together as we haven’t seen many folks where we live. Twenty-four hours after arriving at the house, we were sitting for dinner on Saturday and I asked the kids what they thought about New Zealand so far. “Good, bad or other” I said. Piper said, “I really like my room.” Well, there you go. She is able to get past the accordion door and the fake wood paneling and is happy to have her stuff all unpacked and put away in her own room.

On Tuesday, we went into Wellington to return our rental cars and pick up our car and the kids got to surprise their school friends. It was a great afternoon as both kids got invited to play with friends for the afternoon and I got to sit and drink coffee with two ladies that I know. I didn’t realize how good that was for my soul until my drive home. I needed something familiar faces and places and I got it.

And while my living situation is less than ideal, I am reminded daily that life is good. We are a few minutes’ walk to a beach where we have watched the sunset a few times already and don’t have to share the beach with a soul. I am reminded that I found it appealing to slow down a bit and that is definitely happening. We have a wonderful fairy garden and cool “homemade” playground called “Middle Earth Playground” walking distance as well.


You are Appreciated

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teacher appreciation

Today wraps up teacher appreciation week and I thought it would be appropriate to have my kids write their teacher a letter telling them how much they appreciate her…I mean me.  Just kidding.  I didn’t do that.

Seriously though, I have been thinking about the impact that teachers can have on a child’s life.  And I say can because there are many teachers that will not impact you.  You will move on and probably have nothing bad, nor great, to say about the year you spent in their class.  A few weeks (or months?  I don’t know) I watched a 60 minutes episode with Oprah Winfrey on treating childhood trauma.  Maybe find it on youtube or the 60 minutes app or something and watch it.  It just stuck me how important positive role models are in a child’s life.  The are actually healing and can make the difference between success and living a life hindered by circumstances.  I am so grateful that during the traumatic years of my childhood, which pale in comparison to many kids, I had so much support in my family (Aunt Michelle, you were the best aunt in those years!) and at school.  Being that it is teacher appreciation week, I wanted to just say thank you to my teachers.  All these years later, I want you to know how grateful I am.  Really truly grateful that in fact I have tears in my eyes right now!

I went to a Catholic elementary school that felt very much like a tight community.  I have such positive memories of my years there.  I can’t say what it was exactly, but it was good.  My mom brought my dog in for Show and Tell and tried to bring my cat too, but she escaped out of the car and we lost her for awhile.  My dad donated some paint stir sticks and my whole class make pom-poms out of newspaper and paint stir sticks.  Also, I got my first trophy in first grade in the lip sync contest, just killing it to the song, Paint a Rainbow from Rainbow Brite.  I had a great outfit too.  In fact, I still have it.  Mrs. Severin, you were my favorite teacher!  Thirty years ago, I was in your class, and I still remember so much about it.  My school picture is of me with a funky toothless smile and I love that about my very own 2nd grader right now.  I remember losing my pencil and I couldn’t find it anywhere!  And then the boy sitting behind me pointed out that it was in my hair!  I remember listening and loving the song, “This is the story about Sammy” and guess what?  I was so excited to find that record at a thrift store a few months ago and my middle and little also loves it!  I got to ride in your car on a field trip, which was AMAZING!!! to my 8 year old self.  And it was in your classroom that I showed up to school after my first earthquake in Oct. 1987 and you were so nice and comforting as we talked and wrote about it.  Thank you for your positive influence in my life!

During my early elementary years, Mrs. Layton was my PE teacher and I thought her daughter, Laurie, was SOOOOO pretty!  She was 2 years older than me, and you can just imagine my excitement in the beginning of 4th grade when we were going to be assigned (or pick I guess?) our friendship partners.  Being “Tamara’s little sister”, one recess a bunch of 6th graders ran up to me and said, “You get to pick your friendship partner today, pick me! Pick me!”  Wow!  I never felt so popular!  One of those girls was Laurie Layton (has a nice ring doesn’t it?) and I picked her because, like I said, I thought she was so pretty and nice and I couldn’t wait to get to know her more.  Mrs. Layton, you had the best job I feel like.  You got to be the nice teacher who didn’t have to be strict (at least in my memory).  You let me play with your elbow because I thought it felt cool (I’m so embarrassed, sorry for being a weird kid!)  You took us trick-or-treating and let me swim in your pool.  You picked me up for school on picture day so that I didn’t have to walk with my dress clothes on.  You looked out for me and for that I am truly grateful.

In 6th grade I transitioned to middle school and expected public schools to have sub-par education.  Well, I was wrong!  My first year, I had Mr. Tully for my 3 core classes: Reading, Language Arts, and Social Studies.  He was an amazing teacher who really had a love for teaching and made my 11 year old self have faith in the public school system as funny as that may sound.  Also memorable that year, a student in my class gave me and Mr. Tully the chicken pox!  So, he was super nice to me about not having my work turned in because he had no clue what I was supposed to do either!

And then there’s high school *sigh* Mrs. Franzen what would I have done without you?  As you can tell, I have a problem with casting judgement (as I did about public schools prior to ever experiencing them).  Well, Tamara had Mrs. Franzen and one day I remember pointing her out to me and saying, “That’s my teacher, she’s a feminist.”  HA!  That is so funny to me now.  I was NOT happy when I found out I had her for Sophomore English, because I was pretty sure that I wasn’t a feminist, and I didn’t like the sound of it.  Mrs. Franzen, with your long curly locks and cute printing on the whiteboard, your 20-something year old self taught me so much that year.  So much, so that I took classes from you the next two years!  You gave me confidence and showed me that I had more potential.  You somehow fostered a love for public speaking, which doesn’t seem that weird to me now, but to my 15/16 year old self, it sure did.  I won first place at a speech competition at USC and thought the school was so beautiful and you told me that I could go there.  You made me believe that I had possibilities.  It was you who marched me into the college and career center at Los Al, and told the lady that she needed to help me find out about all the scholarships available to me and help me fill out my college applications.  I was going to all kinds of luncheons for scholarships my Senior year thanks to you!  And more importantly, I was going to college!  Thank you for believing in me and being the confidante I needed during those years.  And P.S. I love that you met Mrs. Layton at a soccer game one time because you are both so dear to me ❤

Even though I choose to homeschool, I do not ever discredit the work teachers do in the classroom.  I’ve been there, and I’m married to a teacher.  It can be incredibly difficult and totally amazing and sometimes both on the same day.  So thank you and know that your work in my life did not go unnoticed.  Love to you all!