Monday, February 12, 2018

Two Letters in Two Days

Last week I received two letters in two days, both from former students. Both are female. One is 20, a newlywed, and stepmother to a five year old...all while working and going to school. The other is 30, an artist, and expecting their third child in a month. I post these letters so I can remember. I need to remember these on the days that are mostly cheerless and without validation or compliment of any kind. Not all days are cheerless, but I worry SO much about the progress of my little flock.

You were one of the most influential people to me as a kid and the lessons you taught have stuck with me ever since. You were one of the people and encouraged me to write, you were part of this story, and I got an A in this class for this paper. Thank you for everything, I’m so blessed to know you!

The Power of Words When I was eleven years old I sat in the back of my fifth grade classroom with a pencil and paper and I’d write. I’d write all day. Stories and ideas and poems and anything interesting that popped into my head. I’d write because my grandma had told me that words were powerful and the more I used my words the more powerful I’d be. My grandma was the smartest, kindest, loveliest lady I’d ever met and she encouraged me to write, so I would. One day my grandma passed away and my world was shattered. So I’d sit in the back of class with a pencil and paper and write. I wrote stories and ideas and poems and anything interesting that popped into my head. My teacher, who once loved to read what I was writing, began to worry. My stories and poems and ideas were no longer happy and joyful, but had turned dark and sorrowful. I felt as if the words in my head were only coming out in the form of the pain I felt from the loss of my hero. My teacher pulled me aside one day and she asked why I loved to write. I told her my grandma had said it would make me powerful; I could express whatever I felt through my writing. My teacher then told me that she believed in me and the words she had read throughout the last year had in fact, been powerful, and she wanted me to keep writing; but she wanted me to write on the good days, the bad days, and the days in between. She told me not to only dwell on the ugly, negative words going through my head, but to also find the positive, beautiful ones. So with that I went to the back of the classroom and with my pencil and paper and I wrote.

Hi Jody! (It's weird for me to call you that because you are forever Miss Fassett in my memory, ha ha.) I've thought of you recently, about how kind you were to me. You were patient and never made me feel stupid when I would get behind in school. Perhaps you knew there were a lot of stressful things going on at home that were out of my control...perhaps you didn't. Anyway, I will forever feel grateful for that compassion you showed me. You also helped send me to the BYU Young Writer's Conference for a poem I wrote and that was one of the best experiences I ever had in elementary school. It was dreamy to go spend the day there. Did I already tell you about that? Whether I did or didn't, thank you! Also, I loved the pen-pal program you put together between our class and another class in Japan. That was so fun! I kept in touch with my pen-pal, Keiko Tsukada, for about 2 years beyond your class, and then I lost her contact info during one of my family's moves. It was so fun while it lasted. Sometimes I wonder if you still know the teacher of the class we wrote and if she would still be in contact with her former student Keiko. It would be fun to reconnect, but I also realize that is a loooong shot. :) You had a very positive impact on my life when I was in your class. I think I remember that play we did...was it Follow the Drinking Gourd? Maybe I'm thinking of a different one than you. It's funny the things we hold onto and remember, and how our memory of something can vary so much from someone else's about the same memory, right? I totally went to Clear Creek! That was a fun and (in hindsight, beautifully) awkward coming-of-age experience for me; I'm so glad I got to go. Yeah, I most definitely think my mom couldn't afford it at the time. I had no idea you had a hand in helping me go until I learned about it and it made me emotional. Thank you immensely for your kindness. That means the world to me! Are you still teaching fifth grade?!! If so, where do you teach? Your students are lucky to have you!!! Please make no doubt about the fact that you DEFINITELY made a difference in my life, and I'm grateful and happy to have been in your class. Genuinely. Much Love,

I hope I can be a great teacher tomorrow! Every day is a new chance to get better.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My Slow, Methodical, Thorough Self

I am my own worst critic.

I frequently fall into that trap of comparing myself to others in all ways and automatically assume I'm failing. Last place. From where does this nonsense stem?

But in the last week, four things have happened to let me know I'm not so bad after all. My thoroughness, sometimes a vice, has been my virtue lately. This is not bragging. This is self-validation.

Our students do this thing called Hope of America. There's a new way for parents to register their children online. It's a bit new for the teachers as well. I was asked to bring my laptop to lunch one day for a mini-tutorial. I refused. I like to play nice, but two things: I NEVER bring my laptop to lunch. NEVER. First of all, it would get messy. I've had people accidentally lose control of their food and it's ended up on me. I've seen spills. I don't want my laptop to suffer the damage. Secondly, one of our negotiated contract items is a 30 minute DUTY FREE lunch. I am often doing teacher duty on lunch. I walk back to my classroom if the office buzzes into the faculty room to tell me that a student is being checked out and needs to get their backpack. I copy papers because I can't find another minute to do it. Just don't ask me to bring my laptop to lunch. I can inhale my food and move on to the next thing, it's just that I refuse to bring my laptop to lunch. So I didn't. And my team all registered. And then we kept hearing of all the glitches. And we had to wait. And finally I was able to register. But you know what? I'm glad I didn't rush into it that day at lunch, because by waiting, I saved myself some trouble as others ironed out all those wrinkles. And I didn't miss any deadlines (15 February! Why are we in such a rush?). And yet, I feel like people stare at me and wonder why I'm not getting right on it! I sometimes torment myself, "Last! Why are you always the last one to do these things?" What I need to tell myself is, "You're still on time! You have not missed a deadline!"

So we had this evacuation drill at school. First one ever. We were well-prepared by our administrators. We were advised to bring our emergency buckets. We were told how to walk on the sidewalk. We were told not to block traffic at the crosswalks for too long. The parents were informed in advance. The children were informed. We were assigned specific entrances per grade level at a nearby church. We were assigned a particular room and place in the room to sit. Everything was very orderly and so well planned. My class ended up being the last class to get into the building because our classroom is geographically the farthest away from the church. And yet, when we entered, there was a little jam up through the doors because another teacher had taken her class the wrong way, was redirected, and through all of this, caused a delay. I later heard her say, "You know, I never looked at the map. I just figured I could follow the crowd and get where we needed to go." This is the opposite of Jody. This is quite opposite of dutiful, prepared, obedient Jody who takes these things seriously. This was also enlightening because we thorough types sort of assume that everyone else is on the same page and listening to our administrators too. I guess all my ranger training has taught me that when you're in charge of a group of people, especially children, you're actually responsible for their well-being first...and preparedness! I just can't allow myself to blow these things off.

We have a new way of scheduling parent teacher conferences. Someone held our hands and walked us through the process last fall. This time, we had to do it on our own. But we were emailed a tutorial. So you know what I did? I actually READ the tutorial. Can you believe it? I'm that nerdtastic! I shouldn't admit this, but I actually, um, printed the tutorial off (hangs head in shame for wasting paper), because I wanted to be successful and set things up properly. Of course, I didn't do it at lunch last Friday when everybody else did (the whole laptop thing), but I still did it in plenty of time (conferences were more than two weeks away!). Yesterday afternoon, the secretary called me and said, "YOU! Are getting a candy bar! Because YOU and ONE OTHER TEACHER set your parent teacher conferences up correctly! Everyone else has messed up!" Now, I don't know if she was just saying that or if there really are only two of us who were successful, but when she told me the name of the other teacher I remembered that teacher saying she had used the tutorial. Everyone else was just going by intuition and I guess that didn't work. I did hear one teacher say her parents were double booking their appointments (2 parents scheduled at 5:30 on the same day!). After I did set mine up, I asked a parent to schedule and then email me to let me know it was working properly. See? I'm that kind of thorough. I can't help it. I'm in the business of trying to prevent disasters I guess. After hearing back from that parent, I sent an email to all of the parents letting them know it was open for scheduling (as well as a message because...double-cover...Jody is thorough). Yes, it takes time to live this way and others simply cannot handle the thought, but you know what, I think the time thing evens out because I see people re-doing things that could have/should have been done properly the first time. Case in point...

We have to do this writing assessment. We did it in August and now again in January. We spent hours in the fall with our administrators locked in the conference room with computers sharing a google doc on the big screen creating yet another writing rubric (so many rubrics!). I remember when this one was finalized because our team had been using a similar one previously which my students had, IN A SHEET PROTECTOR, in their red writing folders. After finalizing this business of a latest and greatest rubric, I copied it on gold paper and made a big production of having my class take the old ones out, ripping them in half, and putting them in recycling. We even did it for the people that were absent that day. And ever since then, I've been calling it "our golden writing rubric." I've been teaching off it, the kids have been assessing their own writing using it, and they've even been assessing their classmates' writing. Someone copied a rubric for us to use as we score this latest writing sample and you know what? It was an old rubric. The wrong one. And questions started coming about how many points were possible. And I was perplexed. Because there are 48 points possible. Just like last time. So I showed the latest and greatest rubric to clarify and then volunteered to copy that one, the correct one, for everyone. Because...that's the one we're supposed to be using!!! And why is there this confusion? I feel like I go to great lengths to comply, obey, execute, and do my duty only to learn that other folks are just kind of doing whatever (it's not really so careless as I'm making it sound). And I'm just baffled. HOW and WHY did I get to be so...thorough? I'm sure it's because my parents set high expectations for us, "Girls, I want this car to look so clean it could be sitting in a showroom at the dealership!" No wonder I feel like I can't get anything done. It's because I'm actually doing all the stuff I'm asked to do! Other people kind of pick and choose what they're going to do and not worry about it, but if I did that, I'm absolutely certain I would blow off the wrong things. And then I would be in big trouble. So I don't. I continue to be slow. Last place. But at least I'm thorough.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Birthday! A Birthday!

A few things (most things?) have not turned out the way I had always planned prior to being married. I thought our home would feature children. At least one child. But no. I thought I would DO all kinds of things...GET to do all kinds of things as a wife and a mother. But no. I thought I would plan and plan for days and ways to celebrate my husband's birthday, making everything just perfect for him including his favorite homemade meal and cake from scratch. I thought there would be elements of surprise and anticipation. I thought I would share my Jody soul by thinking of him and pleasing him. But no. Oh no. No, The Ranger likes to do his own birthday. And so I let him. In the early years of our marriage, most of my attempts got returned to the store or shut down or looked at with confusion, possibly dismay. So I have just stopped worrying about his birthday. It happens automatically.

One example of a "failed" attempt: For his 40th birthday, I contacted all the family and friends I could think of to write a letter to K to put into a binder so that he could enjoy the sentiments and thoughts of those important people in his life. I knew that throwing a surprise party would not be a happy occasion for him, so I went the letter route instead suspecting it would be more low-key and private. Went over like a lead balloon. He was not particularly thrilled with this gesture. It wasn't his love language.

Once again, it's his birth month and I haven't done a thing. I haven't even looked at birthday cards. Here's a list of his "celebrations" so far: We were in SLC and had the chance to eat at The Roof restaurant. All in the name of his birthday coming up. So that was the kickoff. He needed to see the latest Star Wars movie, so he did that by himself after school one day. Instant Pot was not brought by Santa, but fortunately, someone has a birthday within 30 days of Santa's arrival, so he made sure Instant Pot was ordered through Amazon. Temple session! Family names! Went to the high school basketball game. Saw another movie (I got to go this time). Ate at Olive Garden. Shopped for an ice cream cake at Cold Stone (ate ice cream there, brought a quart of ice cream home, but did not purchase an ice cream cake). Requested Swiss Steak for one meal and Lasagna for another (does anyone else get to request TWO homemade birthday dinners and not think they are pushing it a little? Or eat out twice for their birthday??). Yep, every year he gets 4 birthday dinners--two at restaurants and two at home. Purchased three types of cake at the grocery store bakery to sample various flavors (has rejected the idea of a homemade cake, but honestly, it was probably to spare me the time and trouble, he's very sweet in that way). Side note: he looked at all the Costco cakes, but decided to go a different route! Cake! FROSTING! And he bought a half gallon of ice cream at the grocery store as well. Going to the Jazz game. Purchasing a new Jazz t-shirt. Bought two new suits--blue and charcoal (which could double for my birthday because I've been trying to get him into a suit for 13 years and finally, he just walked into a store, got measured, and did it, so Happy Birthday to ME! Surprise!!! The sales clerk was smooth as butter and involved both of us in all the decisions). Almost forgot...Daylight Donuts and Chocolate Milk TWO mornings in a row!

I just smile and allow him to continue. I just let him do what he wants (not that I'm in charge or have ever tried to control him). It's his birthday! I watch...and marvel. Please note, we're only half way through the month!

My birthdays are a little different. Coming from a family that has hardly remembered my birthdays, most notably missing my 7th and my 16th, and most of my adult birthdays (parents too busy to celebrate on a schedule), I'm pretty much pleased with anything. I watch all the teachers on our faculty who have birthdays during the school year and how their students and room parents go all out and I...just can't comprehend all the attention received...because no such thing has happened to me by having a summer birthday. Colleagues have suggested that I simply tell my class my birthday is during a school month so I can enjoy the gifts. It's just not me to do something so contrived. Last time I got a sweet card (he's really good at cards) and he took me to the breakfast buffet at Old Faithful Inn before heading off to work. And I was happy and satisfied with such a celebration.

All in all, every day's a holiday with my husband, and every meal's a banquet. I love him so much and am truly thankful for our temple marriage and all the things we've learned and all the fun we've had. I just can't believe how much birthday happens in January!

By the way, the above "real us" photo was a selfie on the ferry in British Columbia (through the islands) in November 2017. We were the only passengers out on the deck.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Busting Dad Out of Rehab

Dad probably wouldn't like the fact that I'm posting his picture on the internet, but Heavenly Father loves him and orchestrated a miracle for him. We got to be a part of that, so I wanted this to be my last post of 2017.

We woke up in Billings, Montana on Thursday 28 December 2017 with the intention of visiting Dad at a horrible place (where Mom was before she died) called Missouri River Center (it's a tiny bit better now than when Mom was there, but still horrible). Dad was in acute rehab there after being in acute rehab at another place after being in a hospital room after spending five days in ICU which all happened after his helicopter ride on Sunday 12 November 2017 when he was found unconscious on his bedroom floor. The diagnosis was a staph infection in his leg that had turned into sepsis. I flew up there that same day and had to leave him in ICU a couple of days later in order to get back to teaching. K met me there by car. Dad has no memory of us being there at that time, though he was talking to us and knew us by name.

So yeah, we wanted to see him for Christmas. I was terrified to proceed in the midst of a winter storm warning, but K felt like we could drive it okay, so after prayer and tears and phoning a friend for a road report, we headed to Great Falls. On the way I received a phone call from Dad's social worker at the center stating that miraculously, an apartment became available for him in another city and he could leave as soon as the doctor signed the papers! The following morning we were able to get Dad, stop off to take care of some of his business errands, and move him to his new place. That one act of faith (driving in the storm) turned into a wonderfully timed miracle.

When we got there on Thursday afternoon, Dad explained that someone had stolen all of his clothing except for what he was wearing. He was wearing a blue sweatshirt, black sweatpants, socks, and slippers. And the same pair of underwear, his only pair of underwear. The previous Friday he inquired about laundry procedures and they told him to put his stuff in a bag with his name on it and they would launder it. The clothes never came back. In fact, he saw another patient wearing one of his shirts. He filed a complaint and gave details such as brand names, sizes, colors, and costs. They said they would send a reimbursement check to him. They didn't care that he only had the underwear he was wearing! So off we went to Walmart that evening to guess at Dad's sizes: underwear, shoes, pants, shirt, and a few other things for his apartment (bedding, towels, soap, toilet paper, and so on).

I gave him my hoodie to put over his sweatshirt and he walked out of there, strong and confident. However, he did some very touching, Christlike things on his way out that I will always remember and hope to emulate. He stopped to say goodbye to Dale, a fellow in the hallway seated in a wheelchair. He wished him the best and told him it was a pleasure meeting him. They shook hands. I cried a bit. He thanked the nurses and other people who had assisted him. The CNA who walked with us to the car had the pleasure of my dad looking her in the eye and hearing him say, "You're one of the great ones!"

He said it was a fairy tale ending to a bad predicament (actually getting out), but that he wasn't feeling as happy as he thought he would. However, as we put more distance between us and that prison (he consistently used words/phrases while incarcerated such as walking around the compound, the guards, prison, rations, and other such jargon), he began to perk up, naming all the familiar places and telling stories. We stopped to grab a few things (in -23 degree windchill) and K brushed off his pickup to drive it to his new place for him. One of Dad's friends gave him a sturdier pair of shoes to wear since those slippers weren't going to last long in the snow and cold. We stopped at the post office to change addresses and then I drove my father to his new town and new digs, enjoying his reflections and comments about a great range of topics.

I warned him that we had to leave as soon as possible due to the storm and that I was so sorry we were literally dumping him off. We got him to his apartment (he noticed the dance floor had room enough for four couples) and then down to the dining area for lunch. He insisted on walking us out to our car so we hugged and kissed goodbye. And cried. Seeing those tears in his eyes just killed me so I ran back in, trailing him, so I could snap a couple of pictures.

My brave dad who has hunted lions in Africa and has endured so many things that life brings to one who has reached eighty, shut those tears down quickly and marched right into his new circumstance with a smile on his face. When I caught up to get a photo I heard him say to the people at his lunch table, "Hello, Folks! My name's Gary!"

And that's how it's done. That was a Gordon B. Hinckley move right there. Optimism in the face of the unknown. And you know what else? He worried about us all the way home.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Whole Ugly Christmas Sweater Thing

I don't recall if I've sounded off about this previously or not, but I greatly dislike the whole fad of wearing "Ugly Christmas Sweaters."

I have done zero research, so these are just my thoughts. First of all, someone decided that something was ugly. Sounds clickish. They started picking on a certain type of clothing that some people wore. Sounds like bullying. I'm guessing the people that wore those sweaters (before the whole UCS thing gained strides) thought their sweaters were cute or festive. People don't generally wear things that they think are awful. And yes, I'm stereotyping an older generation. How insulting for those cute ladies to discover that some other people were/are mocking them.

The other thought that comes to mind is placing the word "ugly" right next to the word "Christmas." Christmas contains the word "Christ" and I don't like hearing the word ugly next to the name of my Savior.

I know, I's just meant to be fun and funny...but I think it brings a negative focus to what's supposed to be a festive, positive holiday.

Yeah, I never have been good at dressing up for parties.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Few Things to Remember...November 2017

We loved our trip to BC, Canada and no, I don't have time to blog about it. We did visit the grounds of the Vancouver Temple and we did endowments for my uncle and aunt in the Seattle Temple on the way home. We are so blessed to have had this vacation together. So little time...

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Kaibab Squirrel

There's this rodent around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon known as the Kaibab Squirrel and it looks like an odd skunk. They move quickly so until I saw my photos, I would have described them as black squirrels with bushy white tails. Well, they have other color as well, but they are a sight to see. I don't know why I never saw them before at the North Rim. Or maybe I just don't remember, but this time, they made me pay attention!