Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Second Professional Blessing

In 1983, a group of teachers in the Blue Springs District signed up for a mini-writing class given by the Greater Kansas City Writing Project. We met each Saturday morning for about six weeks. There I was introduced to writing as a process, to 'showing' the reader, and many other techniques that would become a regular part of my writing instruction.

In 1993, I was accepted to attend the Greater Kansas City Writing Project's Summer (Invitational) Institute. It was a rigorous six-weeks, meeting all day, five days a week. We read two texts, journaled about them, drafted and revised three papers, and planned and presented a demonstration on a instructional lesson/activity of our choice. Whew!

Upon completion of the course, the participants become teacher consultants. The summer left me eager to return to my classroom brimming with lots of great ideas, and the desire to continue working with the project. The National Writing Project's philosophy is teachers are the best instructors of other teachers, and teachers should be paid for their expertise, so I was also interested in remaining active in some capacity. Soon after completing the course, I stayed connected to the GKCWP in various ways, but as time passed, I pulled back as I worked on earning my masters and devoted time to my family.

When I retired in 2004, I looked forward to rejoining the Project in some capacity -- I didn't really know what. It so happened that the site had received a grant to participate in Project Outreach Network -- which basically focused on helping teachers and students who live in the urban areas of our site's territory. That led to my being the editor for the project's newsletter. (which I love doing!)

This past spring I was asked to be the assistant to the director during the '08-'09 school year.

I have often said that I would love to be someone's assistant. I like clerical work and enjoy organizing and tending to details. It's fun to see all the work that teacher consultants

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spaghetti Dinner and Other Blessings

Every Wednesday during the school year, my church serves a hearty meal. Different folks volunteer to cook the main course and side dishes, another team of volunteers bring desserts. The church secretary prepares ingredients for a garden salad - and Wa La! Dinner is served! It's a great time to catch up with people, eat good food, and, for mom (and maybe dad) to breathe a sigh of relief that there's one night with no KP duty.

My favorite Wednesday meal is Raymond Bazley's spaghetti dinner. Ray and his wife Melissa own a restaurant where they are hands-on owners, so the kitchen is a familiar and comfortable place for them. I can't say exactly why I like Raymond's spaghetti so much -- it doesn't have any secret ingredients that I know of. It just "hits my spot" as my friend Jan likes to say.

Tonight was spaghetti night, so I was there -- early -- one of the first in line (and I made it a point to bring my husband a carry out plate since he had to work late.) But tonight's dinner tasted extra special. It was more savory than normal.

You see, Raymond and Melissa were in a terrible accident recently. While on their way home from Ray-Mels, their motorcycle was hit by a car driven by a drunk driver. Ray tried everything he could to get out of the car's path, but like a magnet attracted to a steel beam, the car just kept coming at them.

Both of them suffered major injuries, and Raymond lost one foot. They have spent long days in the hospital and long days at home. Every chore is a major ordeal as they maneuver wheel chairs around the house. Every routine trip in the car requires getting to the car, getting out of the wheelchairs, getting the wheel chairs into the car, getting themselves into the car, etc. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

So, tonight I celebrate life with them. I thank God for sparing them, for allowing them more time with their family, their restaurant crew, and their friends at church and elsewhere.

Tonight's spaghetti dinner never tasted better, for it was seasoned with a heaping cup of gratitude.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sincerely Yours

Tonight I wrote a rejection letter to someone who submitted an essay to Literary Mama. I hate writing them, and every time I struggle with the wording, to be gracious, honest, and sincere. In fact, I closed with "Sincerely," which brought this (with revisions) post (from my old blog) to mind.

I fall in love with words. Sounds silly, I know, but I do! I love how the English language provides a broad variety of words to express precisely what I want to say. I love the connotation and nuance of them. I like to say words that fill up my mouth or create a gymnastic exercise for my lips and tongue: discombobulated, tumultuous, persnickety.

I also enjoy learning about word etyomology, so a story I read many years ago about sincere captured my attention. It was a charming story of how Greek column makers used the roots sine (without) and cera (wax) to advertised their marble columns. Disreputable carvers hid column flaws by filling them with wax, but a column advertised as sine cera meant the column was pure marble. Over time, the word entered the Greek lexicon and was used to describe other things that were honest, pure, or clean.

Sometime later I bought a tape which included the song "Sincerely Yours," about writing a letter to the Lord. My knowledge of the word's root coupled with my desire to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, and soul, prompted me to make the song's words my life's motto.

But as I close, I see a phrase I took for granted,
And it leaps out as I see it written there.
And as the truth of it begins to become planted,
These two words have now become my heartfelt prayer:
Sincerely yours. Lord, I sign my life to You, sincerely yours.
With a strong and honest wish
To be the best that I can be at what I am,
Without a thought for me.
Lord, teach me how to be Sincerely Yours . . .
1979, Paragon Music/ASCAP

Recently I discovered the Greek reference is most likely not true. Instead, sincere stems from the Latin sincerus, meaning "clean" or "pure,"and cere originates from an Indo-European root ker- "to grow. " The combination creates "pure or honest growth." (TakeOurWord) Ever the romantic, I was disappointed to learn the story about the marble columns is not accurate, but that doesn't deter my interest in sincerity, and it doesn't deter my desire to stand before my Lord pure and clean.

Of course, I can not do that under my own power; I am totally dependent on the shed blood of Christ to cleanse me of sin. Do I still sin? Yes, unfortunately I do, but God looks upon the inner person and sees a heart bent to obedience, a heart sincerely seeking Him. Sin has not mastered me, and that pleases God. For His grace and mercy, I am sincerely grateful.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering September 11

Last November I visited Ground Zero for the 2nd time. Unlike my first visit in 2005, the fence surrounding it was covered in most places, perhaps to keep the construction of the memorial and new buildings somewhat private until the future dedication and reveal.

I especially remember FDNY Firehouse Engine 10 and Ladder 10. The station is right across the street from the former towers, and the crew lost five men during the attacks. The station itself was severely damaged, and the surviving men were split up and sent to different precints until the station was restored.

The first time I was there, the station doors were closed, though I noticed a memorial on the wall commemorating their crew members who died on September 11. I often think of that station, and in November, when the station doors were open, I spoke to one of the men on duty, telling him about my father-in-law, who was a fireman and a fiercely patriotic American, and how I was certain, had he been living in 2001, he would have gone to New York to help with recovery and clean-up.

The station sells t-shirts to raise money for a college fund that benefits children who lost their fathers on that infamous day, so I bought one for my husband to show my support (though it seemed a pittance) of the Enginehouse 10 crew and the thousands of people who lives were personally changed. They are nameless to me, but I know they are not to God, and that is why today I pray for them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Professional Blessing

In November, 2005, while looking for a quote with a gardening/writing metaphor, I came across a website called Literary Mama. Posted above the linked text was a call for a copy editor.

Dated June, 2005, I thought the position had surely been filled but inquired anyway. To my surprise and good fortune, the position was still open, and the editors sent me a text to edit in way of an interview. That was a little nerve-wracking because I had perused the site and saw how many of the literary mamas held doctorates, had published books, and taught at the college level. It seemed their expertise dwarfed my secondary level teaching experience and my masters plus 40 hours (which moved me to the top of the pay scale -- I've never had an inkling to get my Phd.)

Still, my participation in a long-distance writing course with The Institute of Children's Literature (where Bill Wagner, a former editor of Jack and Jill , was my mentor) and my years as advisor to Blue Springs South's literary magazine had honed my editing skills, so I stepped out in faith, attached my edited file to an email, and hit 'send.'

Now almost three years later, Literary Mama has grown to an international staff of 35 women, and I am currently a co-editor of the Literary Reflections deparment. It is an awesome experience to work with such an accomplished, supportive group of women, and to have met and worked with many talented writers who submit work to the site or have become linked through online classes. This coming February many Mamas plan to attend the AWP Conference in Chicago for a first LM reunion. I am so anxious to see them face to face and give them each a hug (or a handshake for those not so touchy-feely ones).

My life has been enriched by our association, and I'm grateful for the serendipitious moment that linked me to the LM site. What a professional blessing!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Being Marmee

I just returned from a trip to to see my son's family -- most specifically my three granddaughters!

Only Kara accompanied her dad to the airport to pick me up, but she wanted me to sit in the backseat by her car seat, well not exactly next to her, because ever particular, she wanted the box of books between us. I read two books on the way home.

Upon entering the apartment, Anna, up from her nap, greeted me with a hug, and as I picked up Lydia to say hello, I suddenly wished I had three arms and three laps, as Kara and Anna pressed against us vying for attention.

Then it was off to the bedroom to find a game to play: Memory with Disney characters, being the first choice. Spreading the cards out of on the floor, Kara flung a few at Anna, with a disengaged "Here, Anna, these are yours!" (to keep her from disturbing the "real" game we would play). Memory was quickly followed by round of Feed the Kitty. (Where this time Kara tossed a few mice at Anna for the same reason she flung the Memory cards!) That was followed by Where's the Button, a round of Hi-Ho Cherry O, more reading and chalk art.

At that point, I had been at the apartment almost three hours -- loving every minute of it!