Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer reads

So here's what I read over the summer:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave is AMAZING! This really opened my eyes to the problems in Africa. Yes, I know there are problems, but this book really sheds light on those situations there. It is very graphic in sections so prepare yourself for that. But's real and that's why you should read it. Read more about this book here.

I just found out there was a movie made from this book. Good to know. I read this while in Europe, and it took me a while...because I was in Europe. Who wants to read? It is an extremely quick read though and quite interesting. I learned so much about the Chinese culture. Read here for more info.

To be honest, I was not looking forward to reading this book for book club. I get the audio book from the library and was blown away. I thought this was a great piece of literature. And ya'll, I'm going to confess my ignorance--I thought Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the Wright brothers that invented airplanes. WRONG. He was an architect. Who knew...Anyway, this book tells of the love affair between Frank and Mamah. It was such a scandal in the early 1900s. If I'm being Frank with you (no pun intended), it would even be a huge scandal now. I loved picturing myself back then and reading about this in the papers. And the end was totally unexpected. Please don't read it first whatever you do. Read more about this book here.

If I had to choose a favorite, it was be this book. It's like reading the script of Gossip Girl--so deliciously good! It is about a prep school, but I recommend it for any age. It's a quick read because you can't put it down. Read more here. 

Ok, so I didn't read as many books as I wanted. I have a great excuse though: globtrotting :).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Confliction and a revelation

So, the first two days of school have come and gone, and the tears have been flowing. But they are not for reasons you think. I have such a fantastic group of kids and for that I count my blessings. This has been weighing heavy on me since school started yesterday. Sometimes students come in with the big head, and I can already tell what kind of students they are going to be. A girl came in with an attitude; played the right way we might get along. It was still too early to tell. We are going through the syllabus, I see some students getting sleepy so I begin to call on random students to read from the syllabus. I call on this one girl, the one with the 'tude, and she looked at me quizzically. I thought she wasn't paying attention so I directed her to the appropriate bullet on the syllabus. She reads the sentence, and we move on. A few minutes later, she raises her hand and asks, "Can I talk to you outside?" I said, "Sure thing. Is it something that needs to be discussed at this moment?" She said, "No, it can wait." She is very participatory in class and outspoken. Maybe I was wrong about her; maybe we will get along.

The bell rings. She is walking out so I yell to her to come back. I asked her what she needed to speak to me about, and she said (looking down to the floor), "Will you not call on me to read in class?" I asked why and she said, "The other kids make fun of me because I can't say some of the words." So I asked if she stuttered and then went on to explain that I used to stutter as well. She said, "No, I have trouble reading." I said that I would talk to the literacy coach. My first impression was shock. For a tenth grade girl to have willingly admitted that was beyond my comprehension because most girls at that age are embarrassed just to be wearing a shirt from Wal-Mart. My second thought was that she was lying to me to get out of reading in class. I can't help that thought. After teaching the juniors and seniors last year, they lied to me left and right about everything. It's sad I can't trust my students.

I thought about that all last night, and I decided to talk to the literacy coach today. We checked her literacy and benchmark scores. She was reading on a 4th grade reading level and tested below basic in literacy on the benchmark. My heart dropped. The literacy coach goes on to tell me that she is one of the hardest workers and strives to do well. She has, in fact, improved throughout the years. She is still on a 4th grade reading level however. It's no wonder she gave me a funny look when I asked her to read. That was at 10:30 this morning. I thought about her ALL DAY LONG. Yes, there are many students that can't read well and that read on extremely low levels, but something about this girl's brutal honesty hit hard. I got home and just sobbed. This is a situation where I feel so helpless. I want to help this sweet girl, but I have no idea how. How am I to teach her Spanish when it's difficult for her to learn her native language? And think of the guts she has to come and talk to me about that. I cried for her today. I have cried to my neighbor about it, and I have talked to God about it. Prayer sends clarity, but sometimes it's not right away.

I think about her and wonder if her other classes are a safe haven for her. Students can be so cruel. I want to hug her and protect her and tell her, "Yes, you can do it!" And I will because that's all I know to do. I will create that safe place for her. I will worry about her and her success. It just hurts me because she works so hard. She asks for help and wants to learn. That's where I'm having the biggest issue. I'm so blessed, and I am thankful yet it has ruined my perception. I didn't have trouble in school. I had parents who read to me. I have such confliction inside of me, and I am torn up. Pray that I have clarity on how to help this willing girl, and pray that she and other students in her same predicament succeed. Even if success is just reading that one challenging sentence, pray that they have that success.

It's these moments in my career that I realize that this is what I am supposed to do forever. And I had the revelation today that I am meant to be in public school. Students like her keep me humble and allow me to remember everything I have. I can read. What a gift in itself. They have NO idea they help me in life. No idea. Remember to think about these precious souls, even the ones who drive us crazy, as you are reading your magazine or book tomorrow. Be thankful.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy thoughts

Today marks the one year anniversary of PawPaw's death. I think about PawPaw all the time, and today will be another day devoted to thoughts of him--how influencing he was as a Christian and how he changed so many lives through ways of adoption. I will remember his contagious laugh and the twinkle in his eye. I will remember times like this: I went to visit Grandmother and PawPaw in June before he died. I made them two loaves of strawberry bread so they would have something to eat on for a while. He was eating the strawberry bread and said, "I like zucchini bread better." I looked at him with a "Well don't be honest or anything" look and we both just broke out in laughter. I saw it--that twinkle. And I heard that laugh. Doesn't that make you happy? I think about that time often, and I think about how good I had it.

We all have people we love and miss. Think of a happy memory today.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chocolate Gravy recipe

For those who have asked, here you go. Enjoy and let me know how it turns out for you!

In a skillet or large saucepan, mix:

1/2 cup butter, melted                                                            
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp cocoa

1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cook on medium heat until thick, stirring often. I serve mine with homemade biscuits, but I'm sure it would be good as a croissant filling or on a scone. It makes a lot but is excellent reheated!

Southern women are different. That's a fact.

My friend, Caroline, introduced me to a magazine called Gardens and Gun. She said there was an article in there that reminded her a lot of me, and she insisted I read it. So I did, and I will say there were parts of it that definitely screamed "Ashley!". You know, until you go out of the south, you don't realize how blessed southern women are. We have it all--beauty (I'm not trying to sound vain), hospitality, ability to cook, and respect for ourselves and others. The list could go on and on. Here is an excerpt from the article that really hit home:

               "To be made a Southern woman is to be made aware of your distinctiveness. The expectations. Which is why even the girls in the trailer parks paint their nails. And why you will never see Reese Witherspoon wearing sweatpants. Being Southern means handwritten thank-you notes, using a rhino horn's worth of salt in every recipe, and never leaving the house with wet hair. Not even in the case of fire. Because wet hair is low-rent. It shows you don't care, and not caring is not something Southern women do, at least when it comes to our hair. This is less about vanity than self-respect, a crucial distinction often lost on non-southerners. Side note: Southern women do not capitalize on their looks to snag men, though that often results. The reason we Southern women take care of ourselves is because, simply, Southern women are caretakers.
                An example: I have lived in the North for 15 years. In all that time, only once did another woman prepare me a home-cooked meal (and she was from Florida). I recently visited Tennessee for one week and was fed by no fewer than three women. Southern women are willing to give and listen. Southern women are also a proud lot. In any setting, at home or abroad, Southern women declare themselves [Well, you know what they say about us Arkansas girls...].
               Southern women know how to bake a funeral casserole and why you should. Southern women know how to make other women feel pretty. Southern women like men and allow them to stay men. Southern women know that manners count and that your mother deserves a phone call every Sunday. Southern women can say more with a cut of their eyes than a whole debate club's worth of speeches. Which brings us to what can only be called: the Baby Thing. Southern women love babies. We love them so much we grab their chubby thighs and pretend to eat them alive. This is not the case in the North or the West or the middle bit. I grew up, like all Southern girls, babysitting as soon as I was old enough to tie my own shoes. I was raised to understand that taking care of children was as natural and inevitable as sneezing. I was also taught that your children are not supposed to be your best friends. Southern women do not spend a lick of time worrying about whether or not their kids are mad at them, which might explain why there are rarely any Southern kids acting a fool and running wild around the Cracker Barrel.
                I want my children to know how to make biscuits. And to not feel bad about eating a whole heaping plate of them. "

You're asking, "Wow Ashtray! Did you type out the entire article?" No, I didn't. But I encourage you to go get this magazine. It makes me proud to say I am a pure-bred Southern woman.

So it looks like I'm headed to NYC on Wednesday!! My friend Jillian is apartment sitting in Manhattan and her mother very graciously paid for my ticket with her airline miles. Can you believe how blessed I am? I don't want to stop traveling, but...I have a job. I'm flying to Dallas tomorrow night, staying with Jillian's mom, and flying out to NYC Wednesday morning. I CAN'T wait!!!! I've been packed for two days...literally.

Another bit of good news is that I'll be at east campus full-time this year AND I get my own classroom! I can't wait to finally feel settled somewhere. I'll have a busy week of preparation when I return from NYC. I hope you all have been as blessed as I have been this summer. Please continue to pray for Aunt Tricia. Even rockstars like her need prayers :).

Peace and Blessings!