Monday, May 31, 2010

A Hero in Every Heart

I love this land, this people, this nation.

I was thinking this weekend about my Dad’s service in WW II in the navy. He never talked about it. As I ask others about the stories they’ve heard from that era, there seems to be a common thread of silence. I wonder if it’s because the brotherhood of those who fought was so powerful that they just didn’t speak of it. Or were there nightmares locked in their minds simply too painful to share? I just don’t know and it’s too late to ask.

I’ve been thinking about all the men and women who have died while serving our country and never lived to have children who can say “thank you, from the bottom of my heart.” Thank you. I will remember.

Wilmer C. "Bill" Banks (My Dad!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Now the Girl is Twenty!

Dear Diana,

I’m astonished at how quickly the years of your childhood and teen years passed and now, on the eve of your 20th birthday, I’m reflecting on how generous God has been to send you into our lives.

Your birth on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend was a wonderful miracle. The Tallahassee Birth Center was a cozy and relaxed environment as we welcomed you; a healthy 9 lb 6oz baby girl. It was so special to go home 3 hours after your birth and climb into bed with your brother and sister as we all marveled over you.

You were such a fun toddler. You were always bold and sassy, but in such an adorable way you always made us laugh. My mind is full of thousands of memories of the smiles you brought to our faces and to our hearts.

As a long-legged elementary school child, I recall your competitive spirit as you ran like the wind on the playground and gleefully beat the boys at sports.

I blinked and you were asking to wear make-up and highlight your hair as you moved into the middle school years. Your strong will challenged me, but your natural grace had a way of smoothing over the blemishes of adolescence.

Your strong leadership skills really began to shine in high school and those years flew by in the scurry of football games, basketball games, cheer camps, plays and the many school activities that absorbed our days and nights.

As you moved away and started college, I watched as you learned to handle increasing responsibilities with an indomitable attitude and strength.

Now here you are on the launchpad of adulthood. You shine brightly and bring joy to all those around you. You are diligent, trustworthy, intelliegent and loyal. You’re hilarious and fun with an incomparable sense of style, beautiful inside and out. My heart is bursting with joy with the young woman you have become.

Happy Birthday, Cupcake.

I love you to the moon and back again.
Forever and always.


The Carousel of Time

I've always loved this Joni Mitchell song and it totally fits the occasion of my baby's 20th birthday. This is a milestone day. I no longer have any teenagers. Amazing,

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you're older, must appease her
And promises of someday make her dreams

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell her,
Take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

So the years spin by and now the girl is twenty
Though her dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ancient Paths

Last week I week to a marvelous party that was probably one of the most unique events I’ve ever attended…. in a very good way.

It was held at a friend’s farm. There was barbecue and brownies and wonderful food but that wasn’t the best part. The honored guests were from Las Vegas and are Messianic Jews. They shared their testimonies and then we danced. And danced. And danced. Now what makes you think I was out there in the middle of it?? Well, you’re right.

I have a friend that talks often about ancient paths to God’s wisdom. Paths that have been worn smooth by those who have gone before us. “Out with the old and in with the older” he quips. The Hebrew dance made me think of that. Some of the dance steps had names that were Aramaic, some Easter European, some French. The words as well as the movements spoke of an international bond - ancient paths. It was an amazing evening… here’s some snapshots:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The High Dive

I read this story a long time ago and just came across it again... it's compelling.

A young man who had been raised as an atheist was training to be an Olympic diver. The only spiritual influence in his life came from an outspoken Christian friend. The young diver never really paid much attention to his friend’s sermons, but he heard them often.

One night the diver went to the indoor pool at the college he attended. The lights were all off, but as the pool had big skylights and the moon was bright, there was plenty of light to practice by. He climbed up to the highest diving board and as he turned his back to the pool on the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall. The shadow of his body was in the shape of a cross. Instead of diving, he knelt down and asked God to come into his life.

As the young man stood, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on.

The pool had been drained for repairs.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Annie Get Your Gun

There’s a time to reap and a time to sow, a time to hold your peace and a time to grab the gun. Ooops, forgive me…. I just made that up.
Don’t deny it, you know what it means to “get your mad on”. It’s probably righteous indignation (ahem) but all of us have had protective mama bear rise up over something. I have a point here, about drawing a line in the sand. I’m an easy-going, diplomatic type of person. BUT… sometimes enough is enough and it’s time to fight for what’s yours.

What has me riled up today is something as simple as the varmints eating our garden. Last year, I watched the varmints eat more than half of our harvest. It’s not happening again. I’ll not say more in order to avoid the wrath of the SPCA or whatever the caterpillar-lovers call themselves but they can hug a tree while I eat the fruit of the garden we labored over.

I’ve been accused of being too nice. But do not be deceived… in my heart there’s a warrior. Well, maybe I just watched too much Beverly Hillbillies when I was kid. What a silly show! Note that Granny's got her gun. LOL

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sea Oats & Nasty Spills

I’m inclined to be full of hope. Often, the media conspires against me. You know that my roots are Sea Oats. I love the coast of Florida. Really, really love it.

The desperately sad news of the oil spill flowing our way is devastating. Personally, economically, environmentally, emotionally, politically, locally, globally…. and the list goes on and on.

All I know to do is pray. We think we’re so smart (the human race), but technology fails. Men are error-prone. That’s our nature. Blame doesn’t offer solutions. If you haven’t heard the sad story, here’s a video clip.

I'm tired today. Running on fumes (sleep-wise) isn't good for me. Prayer changes things. Please pray for our country. Please pray for our coastline. God speed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Laughter & Delight

I choose to seek small delightful moments, snatch laughter
out of thin air & and grab hold of hope at every turn.
~ Cindy Ratzlaf in "Queen of My Own Life"

Hope you had a lovely weekend. I heard someone say "Mother's Day" should be changed to "Happy Family Day" because to a mom that is the heart of what we are celebrating. Yet I realize that would be an especially rough day for the many people that aren't happy.

Yesterday, as I had Addison and Uncommon Blonde on Skype, with our other children (adults!) at my shoulder and we laughed at the baby's antics, my heart felt exceedingly grateful. Sure, it would have been great to hold these two in my arms but I'm thankful for the technology that keeps us so closely connected. These 2 beauties were able to hug my mom so the love abounds.They all ganged up and got me a Flip Video and I'm thrilled. The video below is my first, in honor of Builderman, who has picked up a hobby that he began when our boy was small. They are just 2 big kids now. I need to learn how to take vidoes that don't make you seasick. But it's a major victory that I took it from the camera to YouTube (:OVE IT!). Watch if you dare. LOL

Friday, May 7, 2010

Back to the Future

I'm completely convinced that teachers are the unsung heroes of our culture. Perhaps my viewpoint is a bit slanted by the fact that both my parents were dedicated teachers of the highest caliber. Their intelligence, humor, dedication and passion for education made an indelible impression on me. I also sat in the schoolroom of some amazing teaching professionals that no doubt have shaped my thinking and outlook more than I realize.

Mrs. Wread was my beloved first grade teacher. What an appropriate name, and it's fun to think of how her love of reading influenced me. I’m thinking that the formative experience with her loving encouragement set the stage for my love of school. I really did love it, but would scarcely admit that once I realized that wasn’t “cool”, which was some years later.

I could go through a hall of fame of teachers who made a difference in my life, ending with Mrs. Repulski, my senior high English teacher who was strict, hard and inspired us to like Shakespeare. I still don't buy blue ink pens to this day because that was forbidden in her class. I’m pretty sure if I filled in the names of terrific teachers I had between 1st & 12th grade, your eyes would glaze over as if I were making you sit through home movies. I do find it interesting that I don't remember even one of my college professors. Kinda sad.

I’ll fast forward and share a piece on teachers that I’ve read many, many times since the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book was published. This piece called “I am a Teacher” is in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. I’m also participating in Flash Back Friday with Mocha With Linda, my book-fanatic friend. Go by and say Hi -you’ll be happy to meet a talented lady. This may look long but I hope you love it as much as I do...
I Am A Teacher

I am a Teacher. I was born the first moment that a question leaped from the mouth of a child. I have been many people in many places. I am Socrates exciting the youth of Athens to discover new ideas through use of questions. I am Anne Sullivan tapping out the secrets of the universe into the outstretched hand of Helen Keller. I am Aesop and Hans Christian Andersen revealing truth through countless stories. I am Marva Collins fighting for every child’s right to an education.

The names of those who have practiced my profession ring like a hall of fame for humanity…Booker T. Washington, Buddha, Confucious, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Leo Buscagalia, Moses and Jesus. I am also those whose names and faces have long been forgotten but whose lessons and character will always be remembered in the accomplishments of their students.

I have wept for joy at the weddings of former students, laughed with glee at the birth of their children and stood with head bowed in grief and confusion by graves dug too soon for bodies too young. Throughout the course of a day I have been called to be an actor, friend, nurse and doctor, coach, finder of lost articles, money lender, taxi driver, psychologist, substitute parent, salesman, pediatrician and a keeper of the faith.

I am a paradox. I speak loudest when I listen the most. My greatest gifts are in what I am willing to appreciatively receive from my students.

Material wealth is not one of my goals, but I am a full-time treasure seeker in my quest for new opportunities for my students to use their talents and in my constant search for those talents that sometimes lie buried in self-defeat.

I am the most fortunate of all who labor. A doctor is allowed to usher life into the world in one magic moment. I am allowed to see that life is reborn each day with new questions, ideas and friendships. An architect knows that if he builds with care, his structure may stand for centuries. A teacher knows that if he builds with love and truth, what he builds will last forever.

I am a warrior, daily doing battle against peer pressure, negativity, fear, conformity, prejudice, ignorance and apathy. But I have great allies. Intelligence, Curiosity, Parental Support, Individuality, Creativity, Faith, Love and Laughter all rush to my banner with indomitable support.

And so I have a past that is rich in memories. I have a present that is challenging, adventurous and fun because I am allowed to spend my days with the future.
I am a teacher… and I thank God for it every day.

John W. Schlatter in Chicken Soup for the Soul