My Last Day

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Not long ago, I handed in my letter of resignation. I made two hard creases and folded up 13 years of teaching English at a rural high school in Northern Indiana.

Friday was my last day in the classroom. The first student who opened my door that morning handed me a card and a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies. I read the card after she left. “I’ll be praying for you and your family,” she wrote.

The whole day was bittersweet, just like that.

This summer my family of four will begin our new life in Winnipeg, a large urban city in central Canada. It’s been a dream of ours for years. There comes a time when the only way to make a dream come true is to stop dreaming and take action.

Sometimes that means letting go of a regular paycheck and a regular routine. And the security of sensibly-placed furniture.

At least for a time.

As I emptied my classroom of 13 years of memories and supplies, I needed the help of others. I handed out most of my belongings to students and teachers. I doled out handfuls of pens and highlighters, my famous collection of kitschy garden gnomes, a giant lamp shaped like a tree stump with three perching owls on it, and hundreds of pieces of magnetic poetry. I gave away coffee mugs and framed artwork. I removed special books from my shelves, sat down and wrote notes inside them, and went to deliver them to students who might treasure a particular book from me. It felt good to give things away. It also felt strange.

So many pieces of me. Scattered.

In the afternoon, 20 or so students from Mr. Thompson’s English classroom suddenly stormed mine with an arctic blast of symbolism. These former students of mine blasted me with laughter and a blizzard of hundreds of crumpled paper snowballs.

Soon after, Mr. Thompson stopped by with a smile and a big snow shovel. He cleared the floor of the wadded-up notebook paper. His students left the snowballs a few inches deep.

Friday was strange in unspeakable ways and my stomach didn’t feel like eating lunch.

Before I left at the end of the day, two students dropped by to say goodbye. A.J. noticed my cool astronaut water bottle, still half-full, sitting on my desk. He wondered if he could have it.

I was suddenly overcome with thirst. But I knew he would enjoy it.

Then, once it was time to go — get this — these two students asked if they could pray for me.

Yes, A.J.

Yes, Kyla.

I wouldn’t want my life in the classroom to end any other way.

Special note: As our family gears up for this big move, we face many unknowns. The days before us will surely bubble and froth with adventure. My plan is to share the continuing story with you during these life-changing months as often as I can.

If you think of us, my family thanks you for your prayers.

I am grateful for the community which has formed over the last year, here on my page. You’ve left more than just messages in comment boxes. You’ve left gifts of encouragement and personal connection, so my prayers are with you, too.

 

“Say Anything” on Thanksgiving

Bad news wafted into our home yesterday. It was too much to smell at once.
 
I was in the middle of writing. Thoughts were swirling and pulling me back to my car accident and coma which took place 19 years ago. My heart was steeping in thanksgiving as I replayed those memories. God’s hand had redeemed my life.  He protected me.

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Wide Awake

I was in a coma for about a week. People often ask me if I remember seeing anything. Maybe a white light? I don’t. But I’ll always remember the waking up.

My car accident took place 19 years ago this week. Suddenly, my brain was swelling, and the doctors were talking about drilling.

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Rubbing My Eyes

I’ve been bludgeoning my students for years. It’s a hard lesson, but they’ve got to learn it.

“Look for the good,” I tell them, again and again, until they’re good and bloody.

So why am I so passionate in wielding this aphoristic club? Partly because, once upon a time, those daily swings of grace finally provoked me to get out of a pit. That movement first began with a single Post-it note nailed down to my desk at school. I determined to jot down a few good moments for which I could be thankful. In the beginning, I discovered them slowly.

One or two words at a time.

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Holding It Together

One shouldn’t underestimate the power of a paper clip.

I sat down at my computer Friday morning to see how much e-mail and coffee I could take in before the first bell rang. I didn’t get through much because the message at the top of my inbox was addressed from a student who graduated two years ago.

She was on my newspaper staff during her senior year. She was an instigator.

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An Old Wooden Arrow to Point the Way

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Sometimes I find myself looking for a little more color in life.

For Mother’s Day, we made a trip to the small college town where my parents live. While there, we took a brief jaunt through campus and got to observe how university students cope with a beautiful day — when it falls on the eve of final exams. It was inspiring, really. Students were outdoors throwing neon-colored frisbees, rolling bowling balls down neat, orderly sidewalks, and sitting with friends under the soft shade of flowering trees. And if that wasn’t enough, we spotted rollerbladers sailing together, in pairs, like loving swans circling in the fresh breeze of a new season.

It was difficult not to be just a little jealous. Continue reading