Sunday, September 26, 2010

The one where I brag about my [other] husband

A while back, I did a post on things I love about my husband. And all of those are undeniably true. My husband is the love of my life, and I don't know where I would be without him. I certainly wouldn't be the person I am today. Now, let me tell you about someone else who is a part of my life and happens to be pretty special in his own right. In more than one previous post I've mentioned my closest friend David. In this post, I'm going to brag about him. You've been warned, people with the wrong idea!

I have been friends with many different kinds of people. I was the girl in high school who didn't have a problem speaking to anyone, because while I [thought] I had a group of friends, I wasn't one of those "exclusive" types. I was part of multiple groups in college, too. And while most of those groups slowly faded away and I have really fond memories and lasting friendships from UNC (hello, TNDG friends! love you!), when Johnathan and I moved back to Lincolnton my [local] friend tank was running pretty low.

I met David when he was late to the first meeting for new faculty of the 07-08 school year. I remember thinking in my most judgmental inner monologue what kind of jerk rolls in late to the first meeting in the entire district?! And before I could think, that guy sat down next to me. Really?!

So I look at his name tag, and quickly remember that my new principal at the time had told me to call the new band director at the school, because "you're young, he's young, maybe he'll let you help out with his new program". So I had called, multiple times, trying to get in touch with him. Do you think he returned my calls? Responded to my voicemail? No. Needless to say, I had a few words for this guy.

I ask him "are you the new band director at school?"
"Yeah" he says.
"Well," I say, "I have a bone to pick with you." I proceed to tell the story about how hard I've worked to get in touch with him.
"Um," he says, "I don't know how to check my voicemail." We shared a laugh, and have been friends ever since.

I told you that story to tell you this one: I love to watch David work. I cannot tell you what an incredible teacher/leader he is. Yesterday, we took the band to Avery HS in the mountains of North Carolina. Right after warm up the students gather to get pumped up before going on the field. The seniors spoke about pride and the tradition that has followed this school's band program for many years. Then David started to speak. And let me tell you, if I were one of his band students, he could have gotten me to walk into rush hour traffic. Yes, he's that good. And as he said yesterday after awards, "you're a little biased". And I am. Because he's amazing as a band director, incredibly talented as a musician, and truly gifted as a teacher. I really hope that one day I do my job half as well as he does his.

I bet you were thinking I was going to write something really sappy about how close we are and how people typically ask [including yesterday] how long we've known each other and when I answer 3 years they are shocked because it seems like we grew up together. And while I did just work that in [grin], that wasn't my point. My point was to brag about his abilities and brag about his success. And of course by doing that I brag that he's part of my life, and anyone who doesn't value him as I do is foolish in doing so.

So that's it for now on the subject of my [other] husband, who I love as if he's the older brother I never had. Who looked out for me when my husband was out of work, who cooked dinner for us when Johnathan was sick, and who surprises me with office supplies right when I'm running out of multi-colored staples and/or post-it notes. If all of the [bogus] friendships I've had were leading me here, then thank you for the mistreatment so I could appreciate this one.

One of my favorite relationships on television for many years has been Christina and Meredith on Grey's Anatomy. Because while the two of them have significant others and have struggled in other relationships, they always have each other. They each refer to the other as "my person", the person that they look out for beyond the one they love and marry. By definition, this is the closest friend someone can possibly have outside of a spouse. I am truly grateful that I have found my person, too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Recipe of the Month: Cajun-Seasoned Pan-Fried Chicken

I'll admit it: nothing takes away a bad day like southern comfort food, like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. And that's exactly what I made on Wednesday this week :)

You can access the recipe (originally from Southern Living) here. My mom has made this a few times and it is so good, and I couldn't help but try it out. I have to say that the cornmeal really makes a difference when the chicken is being fried, and I also love that it doesn't require an egg. The cornmeal can burn really easily, so be careful with heat settings, but it is worth the extra time. I served mine with macaroni and cheese and baked beans, but I think any classic "southern" side dish would work well, especially sweet potato fries with lots of black pepper!

Dinner was yummy; my husband loved it :)
Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


This won't be the first (or last) post that I start by saying how much I love books and reading.

Books take us places we cannot otherwise go. Books capture us in lands that are entirely imaginary and sometimes they lead us to places that we find eerily familiar to our own potential futures. I have laughed, cried, adventured and loved through so many stories. I know more about who I am by experiencing the characters that others create.

In my classroom, there is an ever growing collection of Young Adult literature (YA). I try (and sometimes it feels impossible) to read every book that is on those shelves, so that when a student picks it up and says "what's this about?", I have an answer. You want to know how to get me WAY off topic in my classroom? Tell me about a book you're reading.

It takes a lot of effort (and I'm not patting myself on the back here, by any means) to read so many books to have these conversations. But let me tell you, they are so worth the time when you can put a book in a student's hands that you know is going to impact them beyond what they can imagine. It happened with so many of Sarah Dessen's books for me, then there was Harry Potter, and most recently The Hunger Games series. I am perpetually encouraging my students to read, anything at all, but more importantly something that I know will change a life.

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is one of those books that can change your life. Here's a review from
Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: "My throat is always sore, my lips raw.... Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.... It's like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors' big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it's because her parents' only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she's been struck mute...

Laurie Halse Anderson's first novel is a stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast. The triumphant ending, in which Melinda finds her voice, is cause for cheering (while many readers might also shed a tear or two). After reading Speak, it will be hard for any teen to look at the class scapegoat again without a measure of compassion and understanding for that person--who may be screaming beneath the silence.

Are you moved already? You should be. If not, pick up the book and read it. I cried, ached, wanted vengeance for Melinda. If you haven't read Speak, the part that you need to know (and you will discover in the book) is that Melinda was raped at the big party. Melinda is punished, silenced for what happened to her. This book is a journey about finding your voice in the midst of trauma, despair and physical/mental horror.

And someone is trying to silence Speak.

In this article, Dr. Wes Scroggins rants about, among other things, the use of Speak in the English I and II curriculum. He calls the book "soft pornography" and "filth". Personally, I think the only one who should be called filthy is him.

Here's my rant as a person and as a teacher (for this brief moment in time, the two are of the same mind): who gets to decide what voices are heard? If this guy can wave his religious flag (and he does) as a means to get books banned from student access, what else can he silence? Females? Minorities? Homosexuals? He's after a book about a rape. victim. Who is he to decide for me what my students should be able to access or what voices they should hear? Are there books out there that don't interest me? Absolutely. Am I going to tell my students that they should be banned? No way. I'm an English teacher. I believe in the power of words. I'm a lover of literature, be it the so-called chick lit of Jodi Picoult (which is another rant altogether, #franzenfreud), or the action and mystery of Stieg Larson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I love the classics, the new classics and the soon-to-be classics. I read Twilight, I'm reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. My tastes are all over the place. And no one tells me what to read.

Now you may be thinking, "but you're an adult", and that's fine. But it's my opinion that the best way to educate students about the world around them is to let them experience it, good bad or ugly (and yes, sometimes that's the case). If, as a parent, you have an issue with a text, then you should contact a teacher and talk with him/her about the situation. We are human; we will discuss with you (nicely if you do) your concerns.

What scares me, and what bothers Laurie Halse Anderson is that people don't do their own research. This guy says he's a Christian (and if he says he is, I'm not calling his bluff), but I think he's using his religion for an inappropriate purpose. I won't say much more about that except that plenty of my students are Christians and they read books including Speak that talk about not-so-Christian things. I don't think it makes them less Christian, but that's just me.

If Scroggins is a parent, and he doesn't want his kids to read Speak, then rock on and ban it at your house. But how dare you, in your characteristically male pretentiousness, deny other students the chance to read such a powerful text? Would you change your mind if you knew a rape victim? How about a student who was raped and Speak allowed her to find her own voice and report the abuse? Maybe, if you had any real experiences, you would understand the need for a voice in such a traumatic time. *Note: I don't know this person, I'm basing my views according to his article. He pulled no punches; neither am I.

I want you, fearless reader, to understand two things. 1) I do not, in any way, denounce anyone's religion or their right to exercise it. 2) I will stand behind the right to practice (or not practice) any given religion as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others, which is what I believe Scroggins is doing.

In the twitter world right now, there's a movement among YA authors to fight back against Scroggins' campaign to pull Speak from his district's shelves. To show your support, add the hashtag #speakloudly when you write about this situation. I write because I want my voice to be heard, I write because I have not experienced rape but I have seen the effects of it and other sexual violence/abuse. I write because my students should not be denied a global view of the world.

I write to #speakloudly.

Busy, busy weekend!

I am so glad that Homecoming week is over at West. I feel like I have run around all week without a chance to slow down, not even one! We had lots of fun at school during the tractor parade and talent show, after school at the Homecoming parade and at the football game, but it's definitely a good thing that we only have this kind of madness once each year! The football team won, my husband and I got to actually sit and enjoy both the game and the band, and we even had some friends along for the fun. Congratulations are in order to a member of my yearbook staff for being crowned Homecoming Queen :)

First thing Saturday morning my husband dropped me off in downtown Lincolnton for the county's annual Apple Festival. On my agenda for the day: hearing David's marching band play (check!), hearing the West band play (no check), having frozen lemonade (check!), paying to dunk my principal at the dunking booth (check!), apple pies of course (check!).

We planned on capping the night off with the Gardner-Webb v. Western Carolina game;
we definitely did not make it there. Friday night I was SO exhausted and then I ran around all day Saturday and my mom finally called an intervention.
She said to me after I reported that I think I'm coming down with a cold or something similar, that "you're burning your candle at both ends; you need to rest". Right, I can sleep when I'm dead. But when I met up with David (my husband gets to skip these band things) later on, we both laughed at the idea of trying to rush over to the game after all this madness for the last couple of days. His school had their biggest football game of the season so far on Friday night, then they had to load the truck and get everything ready for their festival booth and the band performance; needless to say he was getting no more sleep than I was this week.

So all of us ended up at my mom's eating barbecue and having drinks and an overall good time. We watched the real Tigers beat up on Clemson (go Auburn!), and laughed and enjoyed ourselves. It was a really nice way to wind down after an absolutely exhausting couple of days.

On weekends like this, where I end up surrounded by the people I love most, is when I realize just how much good fortune I have. Yes, my job sometimes stresses me out: kids can be mean and adults can be worse. No, I don't know what the future holds for our family. But what I do know is that when everything feels like it's falling apart, one evening with my loved ones puts everything back into perspective.

I don't think I'll be slowing down anytime soon, but I do know that my life is full in the best way possible :D

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Chase for College

Sometimes, as an educator you wonder if you ever make a difference. You wonder if everything you said fell on deaf ears, especially if it wasn't going to be on a test. You wonder if they'll learn the real lessons you wanted them to learn instead of just the facts of the text or the rules of grammar. I have taught different years of high school, from 9th to 12th, and I have never been as attached to a class of students as I am to this year's seniors. I honestly do not know how I will be in the halls of West without these kids around next year.

Many of the students I'm talking about were in my first or second honors class in my short teaching career. Somehow, I was blessed. I had this group as sophomores, then we all got moved to eleventh grade together. And along the way, I picked up a few more new juniors. But now those students are seniors, and they are moving on.

I am incredibly proud to say that some of them are ready. This week, I was asked to write a recommendation letter for a student I had for two years. He had listed 4 different colleges, with his top choices being ECU and ASU, schools I am definitely familiar with because I have attended and graduated from each. For me, this is the ultimate in flattery, when your students choose you to advocate on their behalf for a quality education after high school.

When I started to write this student's letter (let's call him J), I had to think back to the first time he walked into my classroom. I thought about how much he had grown from an immature, arrogant sophomore to a mature, well spoken, humble senior. He has achieved as a student and an athlete, but most of all as a person. J stands to me as a practical example of why what I do everyday in the classroom really makes a difference.

J isn't the only student who has asked me to write a letter for him, either. I am lined up to write at least two or maybe three letters to UNC-Chapel Hill, and two of our three Morehead-Cain nominees who are endorsed by our school's scholarship committee are my former students. These students have not necessarily pushed themselves because of me, but I make sure that every student hears my story about being from this area and being afraid I wouldn't be able to afford college and how my academic achievement got me into UNC and helped me pay for it, too. These students have hung around after school to ask questions about big name schools and did I think they could get in. And I have always answered with "yes, if you push yourself, you can do anything."

I think they are going to continue to make us proud.

This is not to say, however, that I have arrived as an educator. It just means that every now and then I get a pick-me-up from former students. At the Homecoming football game last night, I ran into other former students who all wanted a hug and a smile, and to tell me all about college. In those moments, I can't be more proud of what I do for a living and where I get to work. It isn't easy all the time and the politics of school never go away, but when I write these letters and hug these kids, I know that at the end of the day I am fulfilling my calling, and definitely living the dream.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mending Fences or Moving Forward?

I'm in a bit of a dilemma.

See, I've had my fair share of drama recently. For the most part, I've either a) blown it off or b) used it as motivation to do good things. I've also been running a fundraiser at school, still working on classes, AND holding down my actual job :)

I digress. Anyway, I consider myself pretty honest and a "straight shooter" if you will. Basically, if I don't like something, I'll tell you. Sometimes it's not pretty, but necessary. I attribute most of that to some past experiences that have brought me to the place where the price of silence is too high to pay, and sometimes we get hurt no matter what, but I at least want to know that I spoke my mind first.

Generally, this is not a problem for me [hello, I have a blog!] but in the situation where the dilemma arises it is tricky. I have been contacted by someone from my past, someone who I very much loved and would have given anything for at the time [no, it was NOT an old boyfriend or flame]. I've turned the contact over and over in my head countless times, trying to figure out how to proceed. I've talked it out with my closest friends, I've spent innumerable hours thinking and writing about it. Usually, this exhausts my options and I have a solution. Something comes to me, usually when I'm writing, that says this is it. Say this. Feel this.

But not this time.

I know the person from my past reads this blog, so what I'm trying to say is that I'm still thinking, I'm still weighing all of this. I need more time. There is so much to say and I don't know if I want to say it all or say nothing. What I know is that I want to respond in the right way, and it may take me a little longer to decide what to do next.

I want to respect the authenticity and sincerity of what I received, and above all else the privacy. So this will be the last of the situation that I will post aside from documenting that I will compose and mail a handwritten letter in reply.

I think I need resolution. I need the closure (or the potential rekindling) that this situation stands to offer. And for once, I think taking my time will show me the best way; for once, I don't want to just go with my gut. There is something to be said for the timing of all this, too. To me it marks a time in my life where there is so much change going on around me that I'm already in a reflective state. What better time to finally either mend the fence or move forward?

Or maybe both.

Monday, September 6, 2010

An ASU Adventure

Admit it, you love the alliteration ;)

The weather has been stunning here in the last few days, so much that I was almost cold at the football game on Saturday night. Yesterday was another beautiful day so Johnathan and I decided to head to Blowing Rock and Boone for the day to enjoy the weather walking around downtown. My other motive: I wanted a new ASU t-shirt and some kind of alumni identifier since I finished my master's degree in July.

We spent the car ride up the mountain talking about the future, parenting, etc; we don't really get to have many of those important conversations because we are both busy (mainly me), but when we do they are engaging and ultimately bring us closer together. I'm so lucky to have Johnathan as my husband, because he's a great listener and I know he puts a lot of thought into what he says to me, too.

But then again, who wouldn't fall for this silliness?

I took tons of pictures on campus at ASU, and we checked out the new stadium upgrades and wow, it's obvious that 3 consecutive national championships will generate serious revenue!

We walked on King Street looking for the items I wanted, and it was a success :D I now have an alumni decal for my car!
a beautiful day, a beautiful life

We have had a lovely, relaxing holiday weekend, and we're not quite done yet! Today promises time with family and friends (and of course miss Macy), good food and at least one more photo op!

Let me close by saying this: I've struggled recently (and have written about it), but this weekend has been exactly what I needed to pick myself up, dust off the damage and move forward. The people who are in my life are my greatest treasure, even though some of them are far away, and I cannot express how much their love and support means to me. You know who you are, and you know I love you!

Enjoy your holiday!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh Fall, how I have missed you!

Fall is my favorite time of year by far. There's something about how much time I spent watching football as a kid that makes me long for this season. Oh, and there's that whole band thing that I did in school and continue to enjoy and sometimes find a way to participate in even now.

Who doesn't love this?!

Since we have a 3 day holiday weekend upon us, I got the chance to go to Gardner Webb University last night to take in a football game and the marching band. One of my former band students is playing baritone there now and pursuing his degree in music education, and this was his first home game! We definitely weren't going to miss it, so we set off for the big city of Boiling Springs, NC.

Two teachers, one football game, lots of fun!!

Johnathan, in just one more display of how much he loves me, sent me on my merry way with David for the evening and he stayed home with little dog and did his homework and watched the UNC game :) We enjoyed ourselves so much that we've decided to go back so David can see his Western Carolina football team play at GWU; that's a two for one special. I'm excited :D

Life, overall, is excellent. Here's to the best fall yet!!