Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finding The Hidden Treasures..

http://www.livingsocial.com/ offers daily deals for different events, restaurants, stores, and services in the Greenville area for greatly reduced prices if you buy the deal online that day. There are normally great deals.  The true hidden treasure on the site, however, is at the bottom where they list one of the 365 Best Things to Do in Greenville every day. I have lived right outside of Greenville my entire life and have experienced some of the wonderful activities they suggest - Downtown Alive, Greenville Zoo, the Children's Museum.  One that jumped out at me is a place that I have never visited and could not find tonight as Taylor and I drove through downtown.  Where is The Northgate Soda Shop on North Main?

The Northgate Soda Shop is described as a 1950s inspired soda shop with plaques of famous customers and pictures of Greenville history adorning its walls.  It is said to be famous for the pimento cheeseburger.  If it is great, I want to go.  Where is it?

Easley may be the kid sister town of Greenville but we have a few hidden treasures of our own. Everyone knows that Joes Ice Cream Parlor is amazing, but Easley has some little known treats too. You just have to know where they are...

If you are hungry and looking for a tasty, fluffy biscuit like your grandma used to make for a low, low price, stop by The Huddle.  The biscuits are huge and come buttered with a few packs of jelly tossed in the bag. The best part?  They cost less than a dollar. Yum!!

Too late for breakfast?  Head out to Pumpkintown Grill for a burger.  There's absolutely nothing in Pumpkintown.  We learned this when we spent a year and a half living in a converted barn in the middle of nowhere.  We also learned that the absolute best burgers can be found for around $5 at the feed store on the corner at the one flashing light in the small town. Smoking is still allowed there, but the burgers are delicious. It's worth the ride.

If you don't want to drive the ten minutes to Pumpkintown, just drive across the railroad tracks to Michael's Pizzeria. The pizza is delicious. The subs are huge. The true hidden treasure, however, is Something Special. I'm not simply describing this treat; something special is the name.  I don't think it is listed on the menu, but you can order it for around $3.  It is the equivalent of a funnel cake made for sharing - fried dough balls topped with powdered sugar and laced with chocolate sauce.  Order it.  The entire table will thank you!

If you eat all three in a day or a week, you'll likely gain a few pounds.  You'd be happy though... Now, if I could just find that soda shop... Ideas anyone?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's On Your Dream Lottery List?

I have been spending money all day...... in my head. I bought a lottery ticket. The jackpot is 132 million dollars, and all I had to spend to have a chance to win it was $1.  I spent the money even though I felt guilty about gambling.  If I do not have a single number in the winning combination of digits, the money was well spent.  It helped me create a plan.

People who buy lottery tickets (and even those who don't) play a game where they spend the entire fortune in their heads.  We buy cars and houses and trips.  We donate thousands to charities.  We pay off the debts of our family members.  We settle our own finances, and we decide if we enjoy our jobs enough to keep working. Then, when we do not win, we go about our business.  If you are like me, this entire day of entertainment cost a dollar or absolutely nothing.  It's harmless fun. However, if you take the time to look at your dream list, you might have the same realization that I did today. I can do most of this without winning the lottery.

I want to go to Paris.  Since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of walking the streets of Paris, wandering in and out of the shops, sitting in a sidewalk cafe, standing in front of the Mona Lisa and Rodin's Thinker, and simply experiencing the culture.  This is my dream.  Why have I not been there yet?  Life.  Bills.  Work. If I won the lottery, I would immediately plan a trip there.  I realized today that I do not have to hit the jackpot to go. I need to save for it, to plan for it, to make my dream come true without a single stroke of luck.  I can do this for myself because when Taylor leaves for basics, I am responsible for only me.  I can make my dream come true.

That realization alone is powerful. It made me look closer at the other items on my list. I would buy a new car.  Start saving.  I would buy a beach house.  Renting one for a long weekend is more in my budget but I give myself permission to do this which makes me smile.  I should give more to charities based on my salary now. I should treat my parents to little things now to make their lives a little easier. I love my job and would do it even if I didn't need the money.  What a joy to know this. I do not need to win the lottery to make a difference.  I need to do the things on my list in moderation.

What would you do if you won the lottery? What is on your dream lottery list? How can you start moving toward those goals right now?  Get busy... I'm heading to Paris... as soon as I save the money.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Southern Directions

I have absolutely no directional sense.  Tell me to head west, and I will just look at you.  I have no concept of which way west is.  I do, however, know how to get anywhere using southern directions. What are southern directions?  Simple. Southerners can get anywhere if you tell them what the place is near. You have to give us a landmark. Link the place we are headed to something we've seen or visited before and we can get there. Give us road names, numbers, latitude, or longitude and we'll be circling until we find another southerner to tell us where the place really is.

This evening, my son had a softball game at a specific church softball field.  Where is that?  Somewhere toward Pelzer, he said.  When I get there, I'll call and tell you how to get there. You see, Taylor has perfect directional sense.  From the time he was about seven, he was telling me which way to turn on road trips and he was always right. Tonight, he called and told me which direction to head - not west, but go toward the new high school.  Not go 2.5 miles past that and turn right, but go until you see the Country Kitchen and then turn.  The field's on the left on that road.  It was!  I arrived without getting lost because he spoke my language.

My only complaint with Taylor's directions was that he told me to turn at the Country Kitchen, and that is indeed what the business is called today.  It is a small restaurant located in an old general store.  In my mind, however, that building and the one across the street from it will forever be known as Casey and Campbell's.  I almost missed the turn because Taylor had used the actual name and not what it was called in my mind.  Southerners use the landmarks in their brains to find places, not necessarily what is actually there. One of my northern friends does a great impression of me giving directions illustrating this point. He says I gave directions to a local restaurant this way. Go down this road and turn by the yellow house where my best friend lived growing up...  Well, I don't think the house is yellow anymore but it used to be a beautiful shade of yellow.  My friend's mom loved the color and painted the entire house that color. What color is the house now? I don't know.  It was beautiful though. How am I supposed to turn by a house I have never seen that I don't even know what color it is? Ummmmm... I think there used to be a huge tree in the front yard too. Needless to say, he used GPS. It really was a pretty shade of yellow though.

I give the best directions to my friends and family because the landmarks are event landmarks that have absolutely nothing to do with maps.  Go toward that house where we almost hit that dog that time..... or You remember where we stopped and bought those boiled peanuts that day?....  or You remember when we were singing that song so loudly and those people looked at us like we were nuts?  That's where the store is. Southern friends can drive right to those spots.

For the record, I love GPS.  It's like a friend is sitting right there figuring out where I am supposed to turn. I am a big fan of MapQuest because it can get me right to where I need to go.  I can use these directions if I pay very close attention to them.  Of course, on the way home, I am looking for the store with the weird sign out front or the place that we stopped to get gas.  I can't help it.... My brain is southern.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Today Is The Day...

 Today was the day I had been dreading so completely.  Taylor, my beloved only child, signed his enlistment papers.  I expected to sob.  I expected to break down and heave heart-wrenching sobs.  Funny thing though. I didn't shed a single tear.  I watched with pride as Taylor signed his papers. He is certain of this decision, and so am I.


Look at Taylor in this picture. He is so completely filled with confidence, excitement, and happiness that tears never came.  I looked at this fine young man and thought who better to protect us? Who better to answer the noble call of service? Please keep him in your prayers as he goes for his physical and swearing in ceremony during the next month.  After those two steps, we can focus on graduation and enjoy the months until he enters basic training.

I prayed for peace about this decision, and God answered my prayers.  I'm proud of you, Taylor.  Ooo-rah.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

God Talks. Do You Listen?

I love gospel music.  I'm not a big fan of Christian rock or rap or the new types of Christian music that are reaching wide audiences.  I understand their mission to reach various audiences with The Word, but I want sweeter notes than that for my own pesonal listening. I want songs that will play in my head over and over throughout the week. Luckily, I have had that recently.  That's What a Savior Does... from our upcoming Easter Contata and You are the potter, I am the clay from today's services have been on repeat since I heard them.  I love the music of the songs, but more than that, I love the message of the songs. I believe that God speaks to us in a number of ways daily.  Music is one of the prettiest ways He carries on a conversation with us.

People do not want to believe that God speaks to us anymore, that is just something that you read about in the Bible. I serve a living God, however.  I have a relationship with my savior.  He is my Heavenly Father.  He talks to me. What does he say?  Well, that depends...

I want you to think about your best friend, your mom, or your boss. With all your heart, you want to visit Paris. You go to these three people, and say I would really love to go to Paris during the spring.  It's supposed to be absolutely beautiful; it's the city of lights.  It's the city of romance. I want to go and walk through the streets feeling the wonder of it all.  Your best friend who has known you forever looks at you, smiles, and asks "can you afford to go?".  You go look over your financials and realize that yes, if you scrape and don't pay a few bills, you can go.  You run back to your friend, and inform her you can. If you use all your savings and get behind on your bills, what happens if your car breaks down or you get sick? That is definitely not going to happen, you assure her.  Then, you notice that your car has a rattle and your throat hurts a little. You realize that maybe you should save for the trip without putting everything else in your life at risk.  Did your best friend talk to you?  Yes.  God will have this same conversation with you if you talk to him like the friend He is.

Okay... mom or dad's turn. Go to your parents and tell them that you want to go to Paris.  They explain like your best friend that you can't really afford to go right now, but if you save you can go later... maybe when you can walk through the streets of Paris with a husband. (They're parents.. they can't help this..).  You, however, want to go right now so you ask them to pay for you to go, to let you use their frequent flyer points, to make it possible for you to win a free trip, to make it happen for you to go even though you cannot afford it. They tell you NO. Did they answer your question? Yes. God always answers prayers; sometimes the answer happens to be no.

Your boss?  You go to your boss and tell him that you have always wanted to go to Paris.  Maybe, he sees this as a great opportunity and explains that he can use you there for this huge project the company is working on. Maybe, he says, I need you here to finish the work we are doing and you cannot go to Paris right now. Either way, your boss spoke to you. God is our ultimate boss. We serve Him.

Sometimes the dialogue with God is straight forward and simple as if you were speaking to your friend, you parent, or your boss.  Other times, it is a feeling that washes over you when you hear a song, see a painting, or read an article. God is talking. Listen.

I had a friend this week pray about whether or not she should attend a conference.  She had been given free tickets, but just felt ill at ease about going.  She prayed about it, felt she had received her answer, but still struggled.  The tickets were free afterall.  Another friend told her to cast out a fleece, to ask for a sign.  She felt odd about that.  Weren't signs more of Old Testament thing?  She asked though.  If she was not to go, please let her see a blue bird.  If she was to go, please send her a red bird. There were no birds around her house, but when she started inside, two blue birds flew by.  She laughed.. Okay, what if that was just a coincidence???  So, she prayed again... Ummm... Lord, if that was a sign, please send me another blue bird...  She opened her eyes and there came another blue bird. She spent the time with her family instead of attending the conference. God answers us when we ask in a variety of ways.

Listen...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cel-e-brate Good Times... Come On! Let's Celebrate...

It rained today. Not a huge detail, except when you are hosting a cookout at your house for your son's birthday to which about forty people are invited.  It was wonderful though despite the rain. People are what make celebrations great, not the details. Surround yourself with amazing people.


This is Taylor, Scotty, and Lucas who are being great sports and playing with the military-themed party decorations I bought.  The items might have been too young for them, but it is the people, not the details that make the fun... Both of these guys have been amazing friends to Taylor through the years.
  
It rained, so the cookout became a cook -in.  My brother-in-law is amazing and he actually cooked the hamburgers and hot dogs under his carport before transporting them over to our house. If you look closely, those are soccer chairs that the guys are sitting in...  This group is wonderful though; that's what really matters.  

This is Taylor's cake that his godmother, Pam, made for him.  She is one of those amazingly talented people who can make cakes like this.  The top layer was an entirely separate cake.  The number 18 was also displayed on each side of the cake. Delicious!


We forgot candles, and by the time we remembered, there were so many cars blocking the drive that we needed to improvise.  Yes, his candles were matches.  I'm betting the wish still counts.

 
Rain also presented problems getting to the house without getting soaked. The kids figured it out though... Jared had on rain shoes; Kathryn did not.  Most of the friends present were ones that Taylor had met in preschool or elementary school.  He met Jared and Kathryn volunteering at Salvation Army though.  The three clicked and became fast friends. 

Speaking of fast friends, this is G playing with my great-niece, Wrenn. G and I met 6 years ago when we began teaching at the same school. She became part of the family after opening her home to my entire family during an ice storm.  My niece was getting married and everyone was without power, except G.  She rescued the day, and joined our family.


G gets the last picture because she put it all into perspective this afternoon after the party.  I said it was a great party except for the cookout being inside, my nephew getting his car stuck in the mud, and Taylor's dad arriving late.  She responded... there was still food and laughter, he got his car out, and his dad was there.  he's exactly right.  Stay focused on the positives! Happy Birthday Taylor.  It has been a great day!





Friday, March 25, 2011

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Devastate Me...

In History, words matter.  I require my students to memorize specific quotes to make them understand what was said and what it meant, the significance of this passage or that phrase.  "For we shall be a city upon a hill", "The only thing to fear is fear itself", "The Business of America is business", "I have a dream" ... You get the idea...  As a society, we focus on words.  Politicians speak in sound bites. Obama is about change.  Bush senior wanted a thousand points of light.  Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman (only he did...).  Our lives change based upon single phrases.  I love you.  Will you marry me? It's a boy. I want a divorce.  Mom, I want to enlist... Sitcoms and movies have catch phrases to make you talk about them the next day giving them unpaid advertising and leading people who have not yet watched to tune in or go pay big bucks at the movie theater to find out exactly what Tigers do dream of when they take a little tiger snooze... We know the power of speech...  Why then do people say hurtful things?

There are lots of four letter words out there that are bad, vulgar words that jar your ear when you hear them.  The worst four-letter word out there though isn't a profanity.  It should be though.  What is it?  Just. When we use this word, we are minimizing something or someone.  We are saying they do not matter as much as something more noteworthy. We hurt ourselves with this every day. We say "It was just me.." in a phone message.  What we are really saying is that I'm sorry that you didn't get a message from someone that matters because I do not count.  Stop saying this about yourself!  People say "Taylor will just be gone for four years..." Four years is an eternity it seems right now... Students say "It's just a quiz" and then are surprised when their grade is low...  Stop saying JUST...If it is such a small thing that it can be minimized so easily, it didn't matter in the first place.

Tell the truth. This should be so simple.  Lying is hard.  You have to remember what you said to who and when.  The truth is the truth; you never have to try to remember what fabrication you created.  You just remember what actually happened. I've had students lie about the silliest things this week, and each time, it hurt.  In every single case, there was no need to lie. The students lied to get away with something.  What they really accomplished is losing my trust. Trust is huge.  Without it, you cannot build a relationship.  Do NOT lie.

Remember who you are talking to...  This afternoon as I was leaving school, a dear, dear, dear co-worker was leaving the office and she was clearly distressed.  She wears about ten different hats at school, and does a remarkable job with each.  To see her distressed was hard.  She had been fussed about by about four different people because they had not done what they were supposed to do and it had now reached the serious stage.  Did you read that?  They were angry with HER because THEY had not done something and it was her job to ask them about it. Three of the four people's words slid off her back.  They were not people that she was terribly close with, so the words had little effect.  The fourth, however, was a friend.  He was cold to her.  Again, the fault lay with him, but he was cold to her.  She was shaken.  You could tell that she was hurt.  I would never have thought that, she said... I apologized for him although apologies do not work like that. Treat your friends well. They have your back, and they will fight for you. They care about you. Why hurt them when you mess up?

Words can be powerful tools.  They can brighten someone's day or destroy it.  Use words wisely.  Go tell your beautiful wife that you love her.  Call your parents and thank them for all they did for you. Brag on your children in front of them. Thank your friends for their support. Words matter...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Count Your Blessings... Name Them One By One...

I realized today that I have been focusing on the negative aspects of Taylor enlisting in the Marines when I should focus on all of the wonderful blessings of my life.  I am sooooo blessed.

First and foremost, I am the mother of an amazing young man. Taylor will be 18 years old tomorrow, an ADULT. The baby boy that I held in my arms briefly before the nurses rushed him back to ICU not only survived; he thrived.  He became the little tow head boy that laughed and laughed chasing after his dad, riding bikes with Cricket, wrestling on the trampoline with Colt, snuggling with his aunt to watch scary movies, hunting with his grandpa, riding broomstick horses with Miss Pam, and making me so proud to be his mom.  Taylor is grown. Where, oh where, did the time go? I sit here tonight shuffling through the slides of my mind, watching Taylor grow up over and over. This blog would have to be thousandds of pages long to capture every image on the page... just know that I have enjoyed every single moment of being Taylor's mom. 

I am blessed with a wonderful family.  My parents have grounded me.  My sister has made me laugh over and over and over.  My grandparents were sources of strength in my life. Taylor holds a special place in all their hearts and they in his.  My niece is more big sister to Taylor than a cousin.  He has always said she is his favorite person.  When he was little and said this, I would laugh.  Now, he is older and hedges... I am his favorite, but Cricket is pretty amazing. My family is everything.

My friends bless me every single day.  They surround me with love.  Taylor's birthday cake is being made by one of my closest friends.  She has driven cross country with us, played with him, cut his hair over and over... She has been a huge part of his life. Today I realized that when Tay leaves, it will be friends like Pam that hold me up when I just want to collapse.  I looked around at my co-workers tonight and thought..  I'm going to be alright. I cannot even begin to tell you how big a blessing that is...

Happy Birthday Taylor! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

At One Time She Was Elizabeth Taylor Todd...

My father once told me that you only love with all you have once.  After that, you are guarded and refuse to give away all of your trust and affection; you keep a small reserve for yourself and this makes it hard to have a successful relationship after the first Great Love. He said this as he recommended that I find someone to marry for companionship.  Forget about love. Just be content. Not me... I believe in the fairy tale, the happy ending, the white knight.  Life needs romance.

I think Elizabeth Taylor never forgot about love either. Cynics will say that she was a horrible person.  Who marries eight times? Who marries the same man twice?  Simple.  A romantic does. 

Elizabeth Taylor died today at the age of 79 surrounded by her family. I'm saddened by this.  I'm not sure why, but I read books about Elizabeth Taylor the way my sister devours books about the Kennedys.  There's just something about her that resonnates with me.  It's not the films; I do not consider her a world class actress. It's not just her beauty although there is no denying that she was a beautiful, beautiful woman. I think I am drawn to her because she lived life by her rules.  She was loud and bawdy and even a little vulgar, but she loved who she loved without regret. You have to respect that...

Elizabeth Taylor was married eight times to seven husbands.  The first (and only true love if you subscribe to my father's rule) was Conrad "Nicky" Hilton (May 6, 1950 – January 29, 1951). Yes, those Hiltons..  Extremely wealthy.  Elizabeth was an 18 year old starlet.  He was a wealthy man, and the studio and her parents blessed it.  I want to believe this was a misguided mistake of youth. She listened to the wrong people, and had her heartbroken...

Michael Wilding (February 21, 1952 – January 26, 1957) was next and Elizabeth loved him. They had two children together. The books tell conflicting stories about this marriage, but there are children involved so my romantic self wants to say it started as a love story although Elizabeth marries Mike Todd immediately after divorcing Wilder. The whole love aspect is a little suspect...

Michael Todd (February 2, 1957 – March 22, 1958) dies in a fiery plane crash and leaves Elizabeth a young grieving widow. A beautiful, young grieving widow.  During the year they are married, she was technically Elizabeth Taylor Todd which makes me smile everytime I see it.  Mike Todd could have the love that stuck for Elizabeth if he had lived according to everything I have read.  Their personalities matched each other.  There was romance there...

The only excuse I have for the next marriage is that Elizabeth Taylor was stricken over her loss. A little over a year after Mike Todd's death, she married his best friend,  Eddie Fisher (May 12, 1959 – March 6, 1964). This was a huge mistake in my book.  First and foremost, Fisher was part of one of America's favorite couples at teh time.  He was married to Debbie Fisher who was this sweet, beloved actress.  Here comes sultry Elizabeth Taylor and she steals him away.  They stayed together almost five years ~ a long time for Taylor~ but her image is ruined.  She is the other woman, the vixen, the slut... In situations like this, there is a sweet one and whore.  Elizabeth Taylor definitely wasn't the sweet one...  It's hard to justify this marriage even as a romantic...

However, Elizabeth found her match when she married Richard Burton (March 15, 1964 – June 26, 1974) and re-married him...  Richard Burton (October 10, 1975 – July 29, 1976). How do you marry a man when the situation was so bad that it led to divorce?  I don't know... She loved him.  I think that is all you can say...

The next two marriages pale in comparison.  I think by this time she has married so many times that it has became a joke... even the romantics do not believe in the repeated quest for love...  She spent six years married to John Warner (December 4, 1976 – November 7, 1982).  When they divorced, she met
Larry Fortensky (October 6, 1991 – October 31, 1996) in rehab and married him.  He was the only husband to have nothing to do with the entertainment industry.  I wanted it to work.  I wanted him to be the regular guy who resuced the love-starved heroine of my Elizabeth Taylor love story...  Nope.. He was a loser hoping to live the good life for a little while...  Not all fairy heroines live happily ever after.

In the end though, Elizabeth Taylor died surrounded by her children.  As a mom, I know that means that she was surrounded by the true loves of her life.  I hope that when she opened her eyes in eternity, Mike Todd was standing there waiting to welcome Elizabeth Taylor Todd to the true happily ever after.  God be with you, Elizabeth... Thank you for believing in love.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We All Get Where We Are Headed Eventually...

Twice today I had wise wonderful women offer their sympathies over the fact that Taylor is enlisting in the military.  They have both worked with me and know beyond a shadow of doubt how precious my only child is to me. Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes with me knows that Taylor is my everything. When I became a teacher, my students upon meeting Taylor would simply tell him that I talked about him all the time; he simply nodded in response.  I have always talked about him.... to everyone.. to anyone. How will I ever survive his leaving? I will because it is what Taylor is supposed to do.

I support Taylor's decision to enlist even if it is not the decision I would have made for my bright, talented young man. Why? He needs to follow his own path to go where God wants him to serve.  I truly believe that God plans for us all to fulfill a specific role.  He has equipped it for the work we are to do, but sometimes, we wander off the path. We want to make more money or the path is a hard climb or we want to have the fairy tale right at that moment rather than doing what we know we should do. 

I am called to teach.  I was called to teach a long time ago, but the corporate world paid more, offered more adventure, and was where I wanted to be. I ran from teaching. Then, eight years ago, my big corporate dream went away.  I sent resumes. I interviewed for jobs. I was offered jobs.  I could not accept a single one without crying. I knew I was supposed to teach. Stepping back onto the path that I had so willingly hopped off of was rough to say the least.  I had no money. I had a child to support.  We did without. The year and a half that I was back in college and the first six months of my teaching career are not times I want to recall. If it had not been for my grandmother's love and biscuits, well... it would have been a lot rougher.  I made it through to teach. Taylor and I survived. My life would have been so much easier if I had simply listened to God and stayed on the path I was supposed to be on to begin with.

Taylor is called to be a Marine.  No one doubts this. Strangers upon meeting him ask what branch of the military he is in.  His favorite toys growing up were GI Joes and army men.  His favorite game was war.  I do not want him to leave.  I would die myself before ever seeing my child in harm's way if I could.  God has called Taylor to serve though. I remember how hard it was to climb back on my path, to get to exactly the place I was supposed to be all along....  Taylor is not running from his path.  He is going to do amazing things.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Waiting to Teleport...

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell spoke the first words into a telephone when he shouted "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!" after knocking over some battery acid according to www.PBS.org and every history book around. While Bell revolutionized business and communication with his invention, there is no possible way, he could have imagined phones as they are today. People do still make the occasional call to chat on our phones, but more and more often, we use them to text, to update statuses, to read the paper, to goggle information, to calculate tips, check our stock portfolios, etc... We don't carry our phones in our pockets as much as we carry extremely small computers. Is this a good thing?

Yesterday, as Student Council was traveling home from the State conference, I received a call from a former member of the organization.  She was stranded in a city about an hour and a half away from home, and wanted to know if I could stop on my way home to pick her up so she could make it home safely.  No problem, I said.  It was on our way and within thirty minutes, she was safely on her way home as part of our little convoy.  How did the former student know to call me?  Simple.  She posted a plea on Facebook to which another former teacher responded. Anyone near this city headed to that city?  The teacher responded that she knew I was because I had posted a status earlier mentioning where I was.  What could have been an extremely stressful day for a teenage girl and her parents became a small blip on the screen of life. Technology makes life so simple at times.

At Christmas time, I was shopping with my mother at the local Stein Mart.  I realized that I had forgotten my coupon at home that would have saved me 20% off my purchases.  In these tight economic times, I cannot afford to just throw money away like that. I knew the same coupon was on the store's website, so I logged on, pulled the site up, and asked if the cashier could accept this version of the coupon.  She did, and I saved money on the spot. Technology is amazing at times like this.

This weekend, I checked my email, this blog, the weather, and directions on this phone. I was never inconvenienced or out of touch.  As a chaperone on a school trip, this was a great thing. I needed to be reachable. When Taylor is serving in other parts of the country or the world, I want to be reachable at all times.  But.... I saw alligators and dolphins up close. I listened to a naturalist explain how Great Egrets broke off small branches to build their nests and a boat pilot explain how the colonial rice planters used tidal waters to flood and drain their fields.  Magnolia Plantation is like stepping back in time, except the little computer in my pocket kept reminding me that I wasn't back in time. I was totally connected to the people who were NOT with me; I should have been simply enjoying the plantation. At times, technology can steal the simple pleasures simply by dividing your attention.

Flip through your childhood memories. Stuck in the backseat as you drove to wherever you were vacationing with your family, you played the license plate game or I-Spy or Going on a picnic or you TALKED.  No one sat beside their brother or sister and texted someone far away. Technology spearates us at times rather than bringing us closer.  Have you ever been in a room and text the person next to you? Was it a positive life-affirming message or something snarky that you would never had said out loud but felt safe texting it? Yep.. technology makes us a crueler at times..

We are becoming a generation of people reliant on technology.  I don't need to understand a map; there is GPS.  I don't need to visit the library; I have a Kindle (which I absolutely LOVE, but still...). Blind date?  Nope.. I will Facebook stalk you first. Teenagers text rather than talk.  Then, the teens write essays using letters instead of words.  I do not lol when I see this btw.. There are negatives.  Do they outweigh the positives?

I don't know....  Skype will allow me to see my child even if he is far away protecting the country.  People are reading this blog and helping me figure out how to deal with the empty nest that is coming. Teachers can help get former students safely home when they send out a distress call...  Now, I just need an app for my phone that will let me teleport to wherever Taylor is stationed when I miss him so badly it hurts... Is there an App for that?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Things I Never Knew About Me.

A few years ago, I asked my sister to purchase a subscription for me to Newsweek as my Christmas gift. Lynn decided that was a nerdy magazine choice, so she ordered me a subscription to O, The Oprah Magazine instead. At first, I made fun of it. No self-respecting woman wants to admit that they really watch Oprah, much less subscribe to magazine bearing her image on the cover every single month.  Then, I read it from cover to cover.  Then, I found myself referencing articles that were found between her posed cover photo and Oprah's What I know For Sure. I actually found that I looked forward with anticipation to the magazine's arrival. My big sister knew what was right for me even when I didn't, and I have continued the subscription myself for the last several years. Sometimes we need other people to point things out for us about ourselves.

This weekend, my co-advisor and I traveled with a great group of students to a Student Council conference. The students spent one night with us in the hotel before beginning a home stay with local families while the advisors stayed at the hotel and drove out and back to the conference. Friday evening at the hotel, my co-advisor and I sat in the hotel lobby chatting.  I do not plan on being the Student Council advisor next year, but he feels I will continue in the role so he was offering advice. You have control issues. I do not, I said; I have high expectations and sometimes I have to step in. He then walked me through several events asking me why I felt that I needed to be the one to do this and that and even that.  It needed to be done, I said.  No one had done it, so I did. He asked why I had not asked him to do a few of the things that needed to be done.  I replied that I did not want to impose on him. When I said it, I was being totally honest with him and myself. If the choice is to ask someone to do something that would require their time and/or energy, I will do it myself. You have to let others help.  I am teary eyed by this point.  It is not that I do NOT want help.  It is that I have been raised to not ask anyone to do something that you can do for yourself. Asking for help equals weakness in my mind. My mother hates weak women.  Simply put, but it is a sentiment that was repeated over and over in my childhood and in my life.  I have to do it on my own, because if I ask you to help, it means I cannot do it. It is my official job to help you, he pointed out. Good point.  I have control issues of which I am now aware and can work on.

My co-advisor and I sat in the lobby for a little while longer and talked.  I realized he was not yet through with the great truths about myself.  You have favorites in Student Council. I denied this ridiculous allegation with a laugh.  No. You do, he said, and if a student is not a favorite, why would they work hard for you. I asked for names; he gave them.  I pointed out that those were not students, but they were the hard workers.  The alleged favorites were the ones who would do absolutely anything that needed to be done to make an event successful. I do not play well with lazy people. Again, he simply asked why would the ones who do not think they are the favorites work hard.  They are teenagers, and they are content to let the "favorites" do all the work. I have sabotaged myself... I can fix this though.

He is a bright, bright man... this co-advisor of mine... If you do not have a brilliant person sitting nearby, you can still learn things that you never knew about yourself based on my O Magazine.  Martha Beck, a life coach who has an article every month in the magazine, writes "to see yourself more clearly - all you have to do is write two simple letters." The first letter is to the person that you harp about the most often.  You know that person, that friend, relative, or co-worker, who you are always offering advice to in your head but never to their face... Write a letter to them and spell out in great elaborate detail all the things that you wish they could see.  DO NOT MAIL IT.  When you have finished the letter, cross out the name of the person to whom the letter was originally written. Now get this... Write in YOUR name, and read it. According to Martha, we see the traits that we do not like in ourselves mirrored in the people we criticize the most. If we criticize someone for wasting money and we never do that, do we waste other valuable things like time or energy? Remember all that advice, we have been giving that person in our head... Yep.. We need to take our own advice.  Wow.

You are not through yet... My co-advisor's words mattered to me because I trust him.  He also points out positive things that he sees in me.  I love my job.  I am good at my job.  He is too. I see myself reflected in his positive aspects.  I know that we are alike in a lot of ways, so I listen to him.  You need to write a second letter. Think of the person who you always smile when you think about.  The person you are most grateful for, maybe the person you are envious of. Write them a letter, an "absolutely honest letter to him or her."  Be as detailed and as adoring as possible.  Now.... you got it, change the name to yours instead.  EMBRACE this. You have a lot going for you that you may not have previously seen. We need to start treating ourselves like we treat others.

I learned about myself in our little two hour teary talk. I have some things to work on, some things to enhance, and an amazing friend.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dead Battery.... Recharged Me

My laptop battery is dead, so this will be a short post. Sometimes all you need is a day of sunshine, laughter, friendship, and adventure to right the world. Go recharge and I'll see you tomorrow. :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Beautiful Day in Charleston


Rainbow Row
 This weekend, I am chaperoning Student Council at the State Conference in Charleston and we came a little early to explore the city. Charleston is an absolutely beautiful city. It is absolutely beautiful and full of history. I wouldn't mind spending large amounts of time here if my entire family wasn't in the Upstate.   When Taylor is stationed far away, maybe I will relocate here for a little while... Something to think about .

It's been a really long day, but we had beautiful weather.  This morning we parked and walked to the battery, to the market, to King's street, and back again.  We laughed the entire time. This is Kathryn and Maggie walking ahead. They're not headed anywhere special, but I thought this was a cool shot.  Maybe, just maybe I will get around to taking that photography class one day.

 
 This is the entire group.  Amazing, amazing, amazing kids.  I am blessed every day to work with them.  If you look closely, you can see that Andrew (on the far left) is holding a lizard that he caught this morning. It's been that kind of day.
 This is a dolphin that came right up to us while we were relaxing at the pier.  Actually, I think he felt badly for me since there were dolphins jumping everywhere and I kept missing the shots because I was so excited to see them that I forgot to take the picture.  This one came close, stayed right below the water so we could see him, and then jumped.  It was like he was saying... get ready.  Sometimes we all need a little help and a little time away...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why Is It So Hard To Believe That Guys and Girls Can Be Just Friends?

When Harry Met Sally dealt with the question way back in the 80s. Harry said it was impossible for a man and woman to simply be friends while Sally disagreed with every ounce of her little feminist self.  Of course, in the end, the Hollywood standard prevailed, and Harry fell for Sally and she fell right back.  But let's pick the question back up...  I have friends ~ strong, life long friends and relatively new friends ~ that are guys and there is not a lick of attraction there.  I love spending time with them.  We have brilliant conversations and fun adventures, but I don't feel anything romantic for them. However, people respond to our friendship as if it is a precursor to a romantic relationship, not a valued platonic bond.  So, let me ask you, my friends, why is it so hard to believe that men and women can be just friends?

The mindset seems to be that if you see a man and woman out to dinner or going to a movie that they are a couple. Why? If I go to dinner with a girlfriend, no one suggests that maybe I should date her.  If I say I am going to the beach for the weekend with my best girl pal, no one thinks it is a romantic getaway.  There's a little bit of a double standard there. Of course, there's also the truth that many of the best relationships begin with two people who are friends hanging out and then suddenly realize that their best friend was the perfect match all along... at least in Hollywood movies.  What chick flick ends with the guy and girl being friends unless the guy or girl is gay?  Even Seinfeld muddied the water of Elaine and Jerry's friendship by having them sleep together denying the truth that you cannot be just friends and share a bed.  If you are just friends, then be just friends.

Why is this my topic for today? First, I am guilty of doing one thing and then, thinking everyone else is doing another.  I am chaperoning 8 amazing Student Council kids at the State Conference.  They are all just friends.  The other chaperone is a co-worker who is a great male friend.  We are just friends. Earlier, my co-advisor and I were checking out possibles things to do tomorrow before the conference kicks off, and a lady walked by.  She suggested that we do a carriage tour which I had just mentioned.  "See?", I said... The lady said "Listen to her.."...  It wasn't what she said, but HOW she said it...  It was like he should listen to me because we were a couple. It was odd... She wouldn't have said it that way if we had been two men or two women.  Why are we a couple simply because we are members of the opposite sex?

I am guilty of the same mindset at times though.. I'll admit it...  I told the students that the girls couldn't be in the guys rooms and vice versa. Really? they asked...  Really, I said.. and then, I thought.. What are you doing?  I teach these kids.  Two of them I have every single day.  They are friends..  nothing more..  so why did I just treat them like they were a couple simply because they are members of the opposite sex? My walk didn't match my talk...  I hate when that happens, when I rail against other people doing something that I turn around and do myself.  I need to work on that...

I'm going to do just that starting tomorrow.  We are going to enjoy the sights and conference.  All ten of us, irregardless of what our genders are. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Harry was wrong...  Men and women can be just friends!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Little Things

I bought shampoo, soap, Excedrin Migraine, and socks today.  Before you log off thinking I have resorted to simply listing my WalMart list to fulfill today's blog, bear with me.  I bought Pantene shampoo; I picked up Olay Moisturizing soap. Colorful socks and migraine meds rounded out the purchase.  Why do any of these matter in the grand scheme of things?  Simple.  Today, I took care of myself.

My mom called me at 5:45 a.m. this morning.  My bedroom was dark when the phone rang and I was disoriented.  My phone says the name of the person calling when it rings, so to hear it say "Moma's Cell" during the night was startling.  She didn't want anything; she just wanted to talk and she felt like I would be awake that early.  We talked  a few minutes about nothing really and she hung up.  She wanted to catch up while she had time, to touch base, to check on her baby girl.  It was a little thing that she could do for herself right at that moment, so she did it. It made my day too.

Women get caught up in the whole idea that they have to continuously take care of others until they can steal away for a break - a girls weekend, a ladies retreat, a night out.  That's not true though.  Right now, today, you can do something small that will totoally change the outlook of your day.  I bought bright colored socks and soap that will make my skin feel soft.  Both made me smile.

There are endless possibilities here of things to do for yourself right this instant. Go sit on the porch and read or just watch the traffic go by. Call an old friend.  Call your mom.  Call your sister.  Call your husband at work just to say hey.  Go pick up your little one and read them a story. Play a board game with them. Turn off the television and actually talk to them. Log on to Netflix and watch an episode of your favorite television show.  Clean out your junk drawer. Play with your dog.  Take a nap. Pick up a magazine and read the article that interests you, not necessarily the one you feel you should read. Go take a long hot shower and wash your hair.  Use good soap. Clean out your purse. For every single thing that you need to discard (receipts, movie stubs, church bulletins, candy wrappers), remember how it ended up in there . Focus on how wonderful your life is, focus on what makes you smile.

I love to shop, and I usually check out clearnace before any other part of the store.  Last year, Taylor and I were in the mall.  I pointed out an outfit and commented on how pretty it was. He said try it on, and I laughed.  I"I don't dress like that, I said".  Taylor, brilliant young man that he is, asked why.  He pointed out that I always pointed out classic skirts, sweater sets, trousers... but I didn't wear them.  I felt like they belonged on someone fancier, more put together than me so I just looked at them.  However, he made me think.  Why didn't I wear the clothes I liked?  Of course, most of you, that's what I wear most days...  skirts, trousers, sweaters with chunky necklaces.  I always had a style; I just ignored it.  I bet you have one too... Log on to the site of your favorite store and browse.  Pick out the outfit you would buy if money was no object.  You don't have to buy it.  Look at several sites.  If your eye is continuously drawn to a certain style, you should try it on in person the next time you are at the mall, but in the meantime, you are becoming more you. It's another little thing you can do for you.

Since we are between seasons, this is also a great time to go shopping in your closet.  Pull out a few of your favorite spring fashions and see what you can mix with your winter wardrobe to make new outfits.  The clothes aren't new, but you haven't worn them in awhile.  It's like free shopping!

Hopefully, you have the point and you will go do something for yourself.   You do so much for everyone else.  Treat yourself as good as you treat everyone else.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It May Be Time...

I realized yesterday that it may be time for a new car...  The state convention for Student Council is being held in Charleston this weekend.  Since I drive a small car, I made plans to drive the larger vehicle of a retired teacher who is currently driving a truck all over the nation with her husband.  However, since she is gone for most of the time and her grand-daughter needed a vehicle to drive, the SUV is in use.  To use the Tahoe, I need to switch cars with Sarah.  I cannot do this. My car is old and has issues.  It has to be driven using certain tricks.  I would never, ever want anyone else to HAVE to drive my car.  The realization of that small truth made me think... Why do I think I have to drive this car?

I have had my car since 1999.  It was new then, and I was excited to have finally purchased a car in the same year that it was released.  The Toyota Corolla has been a wonderful car. It's good on gas which is so important now that gas costs over $3/gallon. It is small and easy to maneuver which is wonderful when I get lost and need to turn around quickly.  This happens more than it should. It has safely delivered Taylor and me to numerous soccer games, track meets, and vacations.  It has been where Taylor napped and played on the drive cross country to visit the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, down the coast to meet Mickey Mouse, and to the beach to work on the perfect tan.  My mom has told me over and over to not drive the car long distances since it is getting older, and yet the Corolla has been the perfect car on trips to Ohio, Indiana, and Florida. Wherever I needed to go, she took me.

There's more to it than that, of course.  I bought the car when Taylor was 6 years old. It is the car he rode to school in every single day from first grade until he began to drive. Taylor's childhood is wrapped up in the car. There are probably hundreds of fries crushed into the seat cushions.  Army men probably lie in wait for the little soldier to return, not yet realizing that the little boy who pretended to defend the world is actually poised to go do just that in real-life. The back seat is stained with red gatorade, sunscreen, and melted crayons. When Taylor was in elementary school, there were always clothes, shin guards, and toys covering the back seat. When he was in middle school, the toys became books; the shin guards were traded for running shoes.  There were always clothes in the back seat. High school led to Taylor driving, and my back seat holds simply history books, a discarded coat or two of mine, and memories.

Is it time to move on? Probably... The car is old and quirky. The drivers' side door does not open from the outside.  The rod that is inside the door is no longer connected.  Taylor and his dad fixed it the first time it broke. When it broke a second time, I decided to just deal with it rather than to ask my ex-husband to fix it again. It is not like I have to struggle to open the door; I simply open it from the passenger side or crack my window to open it.  The car also has a rattle.  I'm not sure what causes the noise, but it goes away if you put the car in neutral at red lights and stop signs. Taylor says the car is a beater which means it is a wreck.  Did I mention that his childhood is in the car though?

I am looking at cars though.  I really like the Kia Sorento and the Kia Sol.  My eye is drawn to them on the road.  Maybe I'll take a test drive...  Maybe I'll take the leap...  Afterall, it really may be time to let go of a few things...

Monday, March 14, 2011

I May Be Sad, BUT I Will Be Educated...

There is no denying that I will be sad when Taylor leaves for basics.  I am trying to come to terms with the change, and I know that I will obsess about what he is doing, his safety, his happiness, and all those motherly things we begin worrying about as soon as the nurse hands us our child for the first time. I will drive myself insance worrying unless I give myself other things to focus on.  With that in mind, I registered for my first Doctorate classes today. Just call me Doctor Todd.

Teachers love school.  It's one of the reasons that we teach.  We get to explore our favorite subjects every single day while learning new information constantly. What better way to occupy the mind of an educator than to educate her? There are issues with this plan, of course. One, I am already in a state of exhaustion most days just from my teaching duties, so to add hours of research and classwork on top of that may be a bit much. I want to be tired enough to sleep and not lie in bed awake at nights worrying about bumps in the night. I do not want to be so tired that I cry at the drop of the hat or am so ill that I am hateful to my students. Two, educators normally get paid more the more educated they are.  The state superintendant of education wants to put into place a plan that would end this practice.  Teachers would be based on the performance of their students with no relation to their education level.  (The whole debate about paying teachers based on student performance is a whole other discussion, but just compare it to paying dentists based on the number of cavities their patients have...) Zais' proposal means that I am going to go into debt for a degree that probably will not benefit me financially in my current job. Luckily, the point of the degree is the knowledge gained and the distraction from worry.  Plus, it will be extremely cool to be Dr. Todd.  I believe that is worth a little exhaustion.

A plan is slowly forming here though this blog...  I am going to go to school, write Taylor daily, Skype when I can, go out with friends, stay active in my church, and pray more than I ever thought possible.  It is all going to be okay.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sundays in the South

Technically speaking, I do not have to blog today because Sundays are the free pass day of Lent.  I'm not sure I understand this logic since Lent is supposed to honor the 40 days Jesus spent preparing to die for our sins, and I don't recall reading anywhere that Jesus took Sundays off. I'm really liking the blogging anyway.  It makes me think about a wide variety of topics.  I probably come up with 3 - 4 things to write about for every single thing that makes its way to this blog. My mind just works that way.  Today's blog was an easy choice.  Today is Sunday, the Lord's Day.  I absolutely adore Sundays in the South. If you are not from the South, you may not understand why I had to differentiate that I love Sundays in the South and not just Sundays in general. If you are Southern though, you know that Sundays are about friends, family, rest, and most importantly, serving the Lord.

I attend a small church in Liberty.  I love the people there.  Church services begin at 10:30 a.m. I normally arrive around 10:25 a.m., so it is not like I have huge amounts of spare time to play with if I am running behind.  This morning, I was doing just that.  I forgot that it was daylight savings, so even though my clock said I had plenty of time, I did not. I rushed to get ready and leave the house only to realize that I was out of gas and needed to stop to refuel before church or risk not getting there.  I also needed a bag for a wedding shower to be held after church which I meant to get yesterday and never did.  I thought about not going at all since so many things were going wrong, but I went. I am so thankful because if I had stayed home, I would have missed a blessing. God was at RCBC this morning.

This is Steve McLane who is serving as the preacher during the interim period.  He preaches more like a Wesleyan than a good ole Baptist, but God is in him. This morning he led service using scripture from Matthew and his points were simple.  We think there has to be so much more to salvation than there is.  We feel we have to work for it, that we can somehow become worthy of it.  God does not deal with us based on our worth.  Did you get that?  God deals with us even though we could never be worthy of the sacrifice. Second, God doesn't charge us for His gifts.  They are freely given.  You could never afford the peace of God. I need this peace more than ever, and I just have to pray for it. It's free. Jesus paid for it on Calvary. He descended and snatched the keys from Satan before ascending to Heaven. "Jesus Christ ain't no wimp."  Steve did a colorful version of how he thought that went down with Jesus kicking open the door, slapping Satan, and taking the keys.  We are no longer in bondage because Jesus Christ died for our sins and was resurrected. Wow. I serve a powerful God. His final point was that we are to give to others.  Share what God has given you.  No one is talking money here.  God has given you a gift.  Use it. I'm so glad I showed up this morning.

Sundays in the South are also about family and friends.  Although Taylor was raised in RCBC, he changed churches as a youth to Red Hill where his best friend attends.  I am okay with this change.  He is under the word of God and is involved.  I love the people at Red Hill; I just feel God wants me at Rices Creek.  However, every Sunday, I meet Taylor and a huge group at Michaels Restaurant in Pickens for lunch.  Michaels in locaed on Main Street and serves a basic meat and three dinner.  The food is great! It's hilarious to sit at the table and listen to five different conversations that are going around around you.  It's a mixed group of school teachers, teenagers, a court reporter, and a retired highway patrol.  Everyone likes each other, so we can just laugh and catch up on what has been happening since last Sunday. My biological family gathers en masse about five times/year; this created family of friends gathers every week.  Nothing better than Southern food and laughter.

I normally try to grab a nap on Sundays as any good Baptist does.  Today, I couldn't because I had a review session for my AP US History class. I try to hold a review session every Sunday before each unit test. With AP classes, there simply isn't time to cover the material and review in the allotted time. We meet at the public library and review for about an hour. A third of my students were there today. Because it was sunny and beautiful outside, we reviewed on the picnic tables.  The girls hair got tangled by the wind and it was a little warm, but the fresh air did us all good. Good weather just makes Sundays in the South better.

Still no time for a nap because I had choir practice at 5 pm. I cannot sing.  I love to sing, but I cannot sing.  I can, however, talk so I am serving as the narrator for the Easter cantata.  Jared Roper (our music minister) does a great job of playing and singing every single part.  I never hear any difference but the real singers do.  I just smile until it is time to speak.  Speaking is easy.. singing is prettier though. God works at all times.  During rehearsal, Jared entioned that he had been reading the Bible through with his children every night and people are taught HUGE lessons that they then promptly forget until they are taught the same lesson again.  It was not the sermon; it was a simple conversation with people in the choir. I felt like it was God speaking to me though.

When Taylor was born, he was not breathing and he did not have a heartbeat.  His Apgar score was a 0.  For all intents and purposes, Taylor was dead.  However, he was revived, spent a long time in the hospital after I went home ~ well, I was discharged and went right back to the nursery where Taylor was ~, and recovered.  The doctors told us at one point to say goodbye and yet he made it.  Prayers surrounded him and he lived.  He has thrived.  God took care of him.

When Taylor was about seven, he had a lump in his neck.  The doctor ran tests. While I was sitting at my desk one day, the doctor called to tell me that he thought that Taylor had leukemia.  "If we get really lucky, it's a bad infection of his lymph nodes, but we need to discuss treatment options right now if it's not." To say that I was terrified is an understatement.  The only prayer I could even say was PLEASE.  I sobbed.  I finally called family and started them praying. It was an infection. God took care of Taylor.

Taylor is enlisting, and I am terrified.  I am terrified that he will be hurt, that he will move far away, that he will need me and I won't be there for him.  God has already proven to me that He will protect Taylor. I have to trust Him. If you think I made a lot out of a conversation that wasn't even directed at me, that perhaps it wasn't God the Almighty speaking to me to calm me, the sermon tonight was on following God's will.  We dampen the spirit of God by not following his will. See, God knows that sometimes I need to hear things a few times to get the point.  I am listening though.  God is in control, and Taylor will be fine.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Skype - Can I really just log on and see his face?

One of the great things about Taylor joining the military today as opposed to having a son join twenty years ago is that I do not have to wait extreme periods of time to hear from him or see his wonderful face (after basic training, that is).  Today, we have email.  I can get updates almost daily. No long waits for letters to cross international datelines.  We have Facebook.  I can lurk to my heart's content without him having to specifically call or write to me. He will be tagged in pictures taken by others, so I can see his adventure without having to bug him for updates and pictures. And, apparently, we have Skype which makes video chats possible. There are even commericlas where people are "skyping" on their phones. What an amazing invention!!! I definitely want to see my child's face over the next four years without having to get on a plane.  Can someone explain Skype to me?

According to http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home, all I need to videochat with Taylor is we both need to have a computer with a mic, webcam, and an internet connection.  We both sign-up for Skype and I can select him for a video chat if we are both online.  There has to be more to it than this...

Years ago when I was still entrenched in the corporate world, the company I worked for held a video conference.  First, I had to track down a company who had the ability to do this and then, we had to book the conference room at th company.  Later, my company purchased the software and equipment to hold our own video conferences since our corporate offices were in California while the production phase was in SC.  I remember the first conference I sat in on.  It was odd to realize that the faces for the people I had been talking to on the phone for months did not match the faces on the screen at all. I also had to be very aware of what I was doing with my hands and face since they could see me, not just hear my voice.  Apparently technology has leapt ahead.  I can now hold these video chats from my home with just a webcam?  We are living in amazing times.

Is there more to being able to video chat on my phone? Do I need a certain phone or is it any phone as long as it has internet, web cam, and a mic? I definitely do not plan to let the darkness gather around me while I sit here and wait on Taylor to call. I think that does a disservice to him and me.  (I am also afraid that I will do just that...) If he has the opportunity to video chat, I do not want to miss it.  How do I Skype with my phone?

The entire idea that Taylor is available to me somewhere out in cyberworld is comforting.  I know that there will times when he will not be available to talk for weeks depending on where he is stationed and what he is doing, but there will also be days when he is just a click away.  I LOVE Technology!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why Isn't There A Rubric For Men?

As a teacher, I use rubrics whenever I can to fairly assess student projects.  Rubrics are great for both teachers and students.  The teacher simply goes down through the rubric and grades the student on a set of pre-arranged criteria.  Less work for the teacher is always a good thing.  Rubrics are wonderful for students because they know exactly what they are supposed to do to earn a specific grade.  The perfectionist students check and recheck the criteria to make sure they earn every single point possible.  The slacker students check the rubric to see what they need to do to pass. Everyone knows what is expected of them.

I had the pleasure of serving as a judge for senior projects this week.  Every student enrolled in English 4 at my high school chooses a project of interest and invests 15 hours of their time outside of school exploring the topic.  Some students job shadow; others volunteer their time to make a difference in the world.  There are clear guidelines about what the project must entail.  They have deadlines.  The students must find and work with a mentor who will guide them along. Finally, the students present their work to a panel of judges.  The judges grade them on a scale of 1 to 4 in five different categories depending on the level of competence. The students shine during this process.  Everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, so they do an amazing job.

What does this have to do with my dealing with the empty nest?  Everything.  I had dinner tonight with a good friend, and the conversation turned to dating.  He wanted to know what age you had to be before it became acceptable to date someone significantly younger. Who would approve of say a 25 year old dating a 40 year old, for example?  If you are attracted to someone, does age matter? The conversation moved on to other topics. It was just one of those great talks where both people have things to share and neither wants to stop talking.  Banter should never be underestimated. As I was finally leaving, it came to me. There should be a rubric for relationships.

Somewhere down the line I may want to look around for some companionship that talks since Bella hasn't yet mastered human language. I am blessed in that I can support myself and my Talbots habit on my income and that I have great friends. I do not need a man, but maybe it would be nice to date one everyone once in a while. As my students would attest, I have high expectations.  Throwing a project together at the last minute and with little forethought will not score well in my classroom.  This is definitely how I am in my personal life as well, so the guy would need certain criteria to get a date based on my dating rubric.  What is on my rubric for men?

At the very top is communication skills.  The guy must be able to talk about a wide variety of subjects and have interesting things to say.  Life experience works well here.  I want to be friends with the man I date.  I am a talker, so to score high on the rubric, you need to talk. Bantering is a skill that cannot be taught unfortunately.  The man who has that skill is a find. Awkward silences would result in point reductions.  Being dull as dirt or having an extremely limited vocabulary would as well.

The man has to be intelligent.  I teach history.  I read constantly.  I am working on my doctorate. I want to be able to discuss all the new things I am discovering with the people around me.  If you have no idea what I am talking about and that glazed over look appears in your eyes, you aren't going to score very high on my rubric. Pick up a book.  Turn on NPR. Talk to me about your job - you should be the expert in what you spend your days doing so impress me with that knwledge.  I'm a big enough nerd to be interested in absolutely any field that I do not know about. With that said, I don't want the guy to be uber intelligent in the way that Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory is. Those men who are soooo intelligent that they have lost touch with every day life will also lose points. I want the intelligent man who is normal.  More Leonard than Sheldon.

A sense of humor is key.  I laugh all the time over silly things, over puns, over articles, over life in general.  Laugh with me and you get points.  Make me laugh and you get bonus points. Send me funny things that you have to think about to understand and you get the top rating.

The top scoring men will be motivated, hard working, polite, and honest.  I was simply going to put be a good man there but since this is a rubric, the qualities need to be more defined that a vague term like "a good man". You should always strive to better yourself and the situation around you.  You should work hard to be the best in whatever career you have chosen, and you should have manners. I am southern afterall. You should never ever lie if it can be avoided at all.  To say absolutely no lying is unrealistic; I mean if I ask if these jeans make my butt look big, lie. Otherwise, tell the truth.  No relationship should be built on lies.

I think the rubric so far would work well for most people.  I have a few specifics for my own personal rubric though.  He couldn't be a drinker. I am not against alcohol.  I have friends who drink that are perfectly responsible people.  They would score well on most parts of this rubric, but I personally do not want to date anyone who identifies themself as a drinker. If they want a drink on a vacation or at a party, they could have a drink.  I never want beer or wine hanging out in my refrigerator though.  I've been there and done that.  I didn't even want a t-shirt from that amusement park. He needs to like kids.  I will never again have a child.  I will, however, have grandchildren one day hopefully.  I plan to spoil them rotten, and have them at my house as often as my future daughter-in-law will allow.  Any man I date has to want them at the house as much as me. Finally, the perfect high scoring man on my rubric would be a manly man.  I know that there are many, many great men in the world who would never be considered manly.  Some other woman can date them.  I want a manly guy who has calloused hands, looks right in flannel, can fix my car, and thinks mowing the lawn should always be his job and not mine.

Finally, on every rubric, there is always that one subjective item.  Creativity. Preparation. Presentation.  It is the wiggle room for teachers to judge the undefineable aspect of a project.  With that in mind, my rubric would include chemistry.  Without chemistry, no man is the perfect man. With it, lots of the other characteristics fall to the wayside.

Okay.  I have my rubric. Now, where do I find this man?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You Have A Dog, Right?

I have never lived alone.  I had roommates in college; I got married at 22 and had Taylor at 25.  I have no idea how to live a solitary home life.  I don't mind being alone. It gives you time to read, to escape into other worlds, to have adventures without leaving your home.  There is also a sweet justice in having control of the remote and watching every single episode of America's Next Top Model without remorse, compromise, or random sports shows. I can comfortably pass a day or two in my own company. HOWEVER, how do you pass a year, five years, forty years living alone?

This is one of the questions I have been pondering lately.  When Taylor leaves for basics, does my life become one of silence at home transforming me into a clingy chatty person whenever I am around people? No one likes to be around  THAT person, so how do I avoid it? Do my meals become sandwiches, soups, and the occasional meal out with friends? Which meals can easily be cooked for one? The questions keep coming until I feel overwhelmed and panicked... Seriously... How do I avoid becoming the stereotypical cat lady who lives alone? I don't even like cats.

I've asked friends of mine that live alone for advice.  They fall into two categories.  The young ones who are living alone until they meet Mr. Right or Mrs. Right and begin their lives.  They are out partying, working, shopping, and dating.  They are not worried about living alone because it is a temporary thing.  Their future as a duo or a family is waiting for them somewhere. That was the first half of my life, and this is the NEXT half...  The others in the second category live alone by choice.  They are the introverts.  They settle into their homes like an old man sinking into his Lazy Boy recliner. They go to work and come home to the silence they crave.  This is not me most days.  I need people to talk to, to laugh with, to simply make noise. How do I do this?

The best answer I have received so far to my questions was a simple question..."You have a dog, right?". I do.  Bella is a Pomeranian mix.  Taylor and I bought her this past summer as a pet for him, but she has quickly became part of the family.  Bella crawls up in your lap whenever you are watching television, ensuring that you have someone to whom you can make your observations about the show. She runs to you when you unlock the door welcoming you home. She is smart and will play fetch for as long as you are willing to throw the ball for her making sure you are needed and never bored. Most importantly, for me right now, Bella makes noise and so whenever I hear the floor creak or a bump in the other room, I am not frightened because I simply attribute it to Bella. Before we had her, I would panic fearing that it was a robber. She also acts as an alarm system of sorts.  Whenever a car pulls up the drive, Bella growls.  There is no way to sneak up on us.  She will not allow it. In extremely basic terms, Bella keeps me company. I guess those cat ladies are on to something, but I still don't like cats.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Savoring the Good Things

Today has been a wonderful day filled with a bevy of smile-inducing treats. Upon reading that, you may think it was a beautiful sun drenched day in the South.  You would be wrong.  It has been a cold and dreary day with so much rain that my principal made an announcement this morning asking all teachers to prepare for the amount of rain we would receive today. I'm not really sure how we were supposed to prepare since we stay inside all day, most days, but we were forewarned that it was going to rain... alot.. It was still a GREAT day because I remembered to savor the good things. Sometimes, It's all in how you look at things.

I like the rain.  Why?  Simple.  On rainy days, I get to wear my rain shoes.  I bought myself a great pair of Sperry rain shoes in December. They are just like the duck shoes we wore in high school except they are made by Sperry and come in different designs.  Mine are brown with plaid accents.  I absolutely love plaid for some reason and I smile every time I wear these shoes. It's the little things.



PLUS, today I had a brand new sweater to wear that was given to me for FREE! A co-worker of mine bought a sweater on sale and did not like the way it fit her.  She brought it to me, so free cute addition to the my wardrobe!  I love having new clothes to wear. This is me wearing my new sweater holding Bella.  She likes to be carried around much the same way that you would carry a toddler, and Taylor and I joke that she is telling on him for various imaginary wrongdoings when she runs to me to be held. I think it will be all the inside jokes that I will miss the most when Taylor leaves to join the Marines.

AND, I got to eat dinner with Taylor in Downtown Greenville tonight and while the best things in life may indeed be free, the best dessert in Greenville can be bought for only $1.89. If you are a dessert person, head immediately to Coffee Underground in Downtown Greenville. Walk down the stairs, into the coffee house, and order the Cream Cheese Brownie. This cupcake-shaped brownie (seen to the left in front of Taylor's graduation announcement) is filled with chocolate chips, has a piece of cheesecake in the center, and is topped with a layer of gooey fudge.  It is definitely not for the dieters among us, and if you gave up sweets for Lent, just wait... It is defintely worth the 40 day wait. I can say without a doubt that it is the most delicious thing I have ever bought for less than $2.  What a delicious way to end the day!