31 March 2011

Dear Amy,

I cannot remember the moment you became my little sister.  I only know that you have always been there (minus the first twenty-two months, which were spent honing my leadership skills, surely anticipating your eventual arrival).  Typical of siblings, we have not always gotten along.  Rather, we've intensely argued at times, but in such a way that is only possible between people who love each other so very much, a John 15:13 kind of love.

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garretty

 Those who know us best can immediately enumerate our differences:

  • You are a redhead and I am a brunette.
  • You have green eyes and mine are blue.
  • You are fair-skinned and I am not.
  • You look like mom and I look exactly like dad.
  • You often prefer to be passive.  I am anything but.
  • You were always the good girl and I was the big sister who would fight to protect you.  (I would not let others be mean to my little sis.  That was my job, and I took it seriously.  This much remains the same.) "Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize. Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks. Borrow. Break. Monopolize the bathroom. Are always underfoot. But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there. Defending you against all comers." ~Pam Brown
  • You are creative beyond measure and while I try to be as well, my analytical mind too often gets in the way.
  • You draw and paint and create.  I write ~ just like this post.  It is my birthday card to you.

True, we are also similar.

  • Sometimes your kids drive you crazy.  I feel that way about mine occasionally too.
  • We are both public servants:  you, a minister's wife.  Me, a teacher.
  • We had the happiest of childhoods, and shared the sadness of heartbreak.
  • We loved our dad even when he couldn't remember to love us back, and we continue to be blessed by an angel mother.  (She is our gift from God.)

You are a support and encouragement and while I am the older one, I somehow feel larger than life because I stand on your shoulders.  You understand when I smile about Spring Garden memories or laugh about Hee Haw jigs (and ugly yearbook photos from 1974 ~ you remember her name).  And sometimes your beliefs are prophetic...like years ago, when you wished a particular educational journey for me; the one that slowly, slowly I came to accept for myself.  You are the one who colors my world and reminds me that even in an open, endless field of achievement and goals and dreams ~ there are flowers.  I love you.  Happy Birthday!

xoxo, ~S.

To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~Clara Ortega

24 March 2011

Watashi no Tomodachi

In 2003 I finished my graduate work for a Master's degree in Educational Administration.  The lessons I carried could not compare to those garnered on my trip to Tokyo, the subsequent graduation gift that prompted my need for a passport.  Never in a million years would I have imagined traveling to The Land of the Rising Sun...but that was before.  I knew little about this island nation beyond what geography classes had taught me.  And there were glimpses of the culture gleaned from Japanese language coursework, studied years before while a student at the University of Missouri.  My instructors were the real deal; they were Japanese ~ and my window to the Pacific. 

My dear friends, the Jones-Ma family, have been impacted by the recent natural disasters.  Fortunately they are safe, yet so many of their adopted countrymen are anything but.  This family lives in a highrise complex on a beautiful canal in Tokyo.  (How well I remember standing on their balcony, overlooking that canal while the evening lights shone on the water.  It was peaceful.)  They had prepared an Emergency Tsunami Kit in anticipation of fleeing to higher ground.  Since then, the suitcase has been reorganized and ventured to Guam, to safety, with Jamee and her two children.  Soon they will return and [hopefully] resume to life as they knew it ~ or something like that.

When I am asked about my trip to Japan, my first inclination is to reference my impression of its people.  They are a humble lot, genteel, respectful beyond compare.  I remember being dropped off in the middle of Tokyo with my traveling companion.  We were "so American" and I am nowhere near fluent in the Japanese language...yet I needed to exchange currency.  I sat in a bank...doing official bank business...with a language barrier between me and them.  As I look back, I marvel that the transaction proceeded so smoothly.  There is an international language between friends, allies, that requires no words.  There is a heavenly language too...It's called prayer.  Japan needs ours.


Keizoku wa chikara nari.

Perseverance is strength.

20 March 2011


My mailbox received a big hug the other day.  "We are pleased to welcome you to a doctoral program designed to provide you with a meaningful study and applied research experience."  And thus, very soon I'll be wearing apparel emblazoned with this:

I am bound for Mizzou...again after so many years...and I am happy.  I do not fear failure. I only fear the slowing up of the engine inside of me which is pounding, saying, "Keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?" ~General George S. Patton  (Thanks, Chruma!)

My friend Connie said she wished I had a mirror to see what others see in me. It is incredible to have dear ones to love you through your disbelief ~ your hesitance at accepting that you can do great things if only you'll try.  My little sister told me years ago that she was confident I'd pursue a terminal degree someday.  Ridiculous, I thought.  I'll concede and acknowledge that she's scored a point for that one.  Thanks, Amy, for seeing something in me that I never imagined for myself.  Today I am jumping up and down with delight.  I. am. going. back. to. school.  I am, I am, I am!!  But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

I realize that my days of leisurely reading (*sigh*) may be numbered for the next, say, several years.  And hence, I'm literally cramming much of this into the next six weeks before professional readings and research commence.  “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” ~Confucius      Here's a peek at the good stuff on my agenda...

My Bookshelf, My Blogshelf

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” ~ A C Grayling, Financial Times (in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)

The Ghost Soldiers
by Pulitzer Prize winner James Tate
(a collection of 'poems'...a recommendation taken under advisement and a worthwhile addition to my library)

by Laura Hillenbrand
(a World War II story of survival and resilience, told using vivid imagery...another suggestion duly noted and finding a prized spot on my bookshelf) 

“Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a dangerous enemy indeed.” ~Anne Rice, The Witching Hour


Dana Tanamachi is a graphic artist living in Brooklyn.  The chalk art found here is mesmerizing.  Absolutely stunning.  I want to draw like this someday.

There is nothing I don't love at Posey and Bloom.  The flowers, the character...When you visit, you'll see a bit of my childhood at Grandma Bea's.

One Lucky Day...The site itself is art.  Adventures.  Friends.  Things to do and places to see.  What's not to love?

I do not like pretzels ~ or so I thought.  Then I saw these.  Thank you, Junk Garden Girl.

This blog is pure creativity and I'll be visiting often.  And check out the Virtual Weekly Wardrobe she provides.  Pure genius.

 The creative and inspirational journal of Cathe Holden.  You've got to see it to believe it.  This one will soon  be added to the list on the right.  You'll find her under 'Ingenuity'. 

"Finding design, beauty, and function in motherhood."  Food Friday.  Virtual wardrobes.  Creativity.  This one gets added to the list as well.

the scent of water
Here is the author's About Me blurb:  Writer, picture taker, and maker of things: I drink too much tea, stare out of too many windows, and am a lifelong devotee to the beauty of the quotidian.  That's all it took and I was hooked.  In the event your appetite has not been properly whetted, look here:  (Yes, I'm hungry too!)

Just a bit ago while taking my daughter to soccer practice, the sun broke through a cloudy sky and strong rays were shining across the road.  My youngest said, "Hey Mom, those lines look like God is talking." She is only five, yet she knows this much is true...  I saw these words somewhere recently and think they fit well in this post: Happiness is a place between too little and too much. Yep, I'm wearing a smile.  xo, ~S.

13 March 2011

Baby Love

Dear Lane,
Has it really been five years since you taught me, once again, about the power of a mother's love?  You are one of the three most incredible surprises of my life, another blessing that I did not request but somehow needed.  (Thank you, God.)  You, my little one, are growing up...yet remain my baby.  Always.

I have learned much in these past five years.  If it were not for you, I would never have developed relationships with pediatric neurosurgeons or pediatric urologists.  I would never have experienced the fear associated with so many scans and tests of a young child.  I might never have truly appreciated the power of prayer and the helplessness a mother feels when there is no healing in her hands.  But too, I might not have otherwise known the joy when all is well and peace finally comes. 

Today you asked if you could finally go to kindergarten.  It is hard to believe you are ready.  You are so very, very smart!  You have begun to read a bit, and you write me love notes with your left hand (your LEFT hand!).  And your artwork...I love the way you draw boats on a stormy sea, simply because you know it reminds me of Nantucket.  You make me smile each time you finish your sentences with that little giggle, and you never cease to amaze me each time you ask for a pet rat.  (The answer is still ~ and forever will be ~ NO.)

Happy Birthday to you, sweet girl.  I love you with every ounce of my being.  May you always hold this truth in your heart. 
xoxo, Mommy

Lane...channeling Elton John

Lane, my Baby girl...

Lane...the way you used to write your name...when you were still little, when you were still four.

10 March 2011


“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.” ~Langston Hughes

It has been raining and is dreary, still.  I am not opposed to this weather but am growing tired of adjusting my thermostat accordingly.  I'd really like to forget about my furnace until, say, October.  The urge to run and play is growing stronger.  This evening, I'm afraid my playground will not extend beyond the treadmill.  "Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones, and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains."
~Henry Ward Beecher
source, dressdesigndecor
This girl is a lot like me.  I appreciate the contradiction of the feminine clothes while perched upon a tree branch.  It reminds me of long ago days and my mother's admonitions to behave like a lady...while simultaneously my father was teaching me how to deliver an effective right hook, should the occasion for defense ever arise.  I was only in the second grade.  “A tough girl, more than anything else, is a girl who doesn’t care if you’re shocked. A tough girl doesn’t sit like a lady or laugh like a little girl. She goes where she shouldn’t, and when she gets there she does exactly what she wants…and she likes it.”  ~Claudia Shear, writer/actress, “Dirty Blonde”  The header of the blog, dress design decor, says this:  "A girl should be two things:  classy and fabulous."  Perfect.  I think this bracelet fits the part.  Maybe I'll wear it tomorrow...

source, dream vintage etsy

 I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That`s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty... you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. ~J.D. Salinger

I just had a rather unpleasant phone conversation with my child's school counselor.  Thankfully, he appreciates her personality... yet we both know that the bricks of a schoolhouse are not an ideal canvas for graffiti (especially when you've signed your name).  She is only ten years old.  I think I just 'grew' another wrinkle.  It's time to focus on the positive, lest I begin screaming.

Things that made me smile today: 
  • Three Irish Folktales by Tomie dePaola, a favorite author and illustrator: Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato, Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka, and a class favorite ~ Fin M'Coul and the Giant of Knockmany Hill.  The illustrations remind me of the quintessential childhood. 
  • A student, noticing an eruption in the back of her mouth, commented that she is getting her "7 year-old mold."  Molar, sweet girl.  The word is molar.  God forbid you're growing mold back there.
  • The words of Faulkner, an indulgent escape.
  • My preschool daughter's delight in acquiring new verbage:  her recent favorites?  Unbelievable and ridiculous.  Today, I have a special affinity for both.
xo, ~S. 

08 March 2011

Mental Floss

source, Rhonna Designs
I am anxious.  Yesterday morning I spent hours at Mizzou.  There were problem-solving activities, writing assessments, and an interview with professors from the statewide coordinating committee.  The candidates for this next cohort of the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis doctoral program are impressive.  The competition is strong.  I keep reminding myself of Coach York's words from the other day ~ "You are supposed to feel this way before any competition.  If you do not, then you aren't mentally prepared.  I think you're ready."  I am ready.  I just don't know if the university is ready for me.  I am trusting that whatever happens, whether the committee sends regrets or extends an invitation to research, the answer is meant to be.  I am prayerfully petitioning for strength to accept the response.  A coworker wished me luck and sent me this:  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

I did not realize the amount of energy I'd expounded (over many months) while contemplating yesterday's activities.  Then, in less than four short hours, it was all over...and I was exhausted.  I celebrated my efforts with a lunch of Lobster Ravioli and Crab Rangoon dip.  I continued by treating myself to three new books: Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Willa Cather's Sapphira and the Slave Girl, and a contemporary novel ~ Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone.  Dessert consisted of afternoon girl talk at my pal's new shop, CORK.  It was nice to spend time with longtime friends, Jami Thornsberry and Angie Goodin.  Beyond all of that, a lack of sleep and some rather dreary weather has stirred a migraine.  I'm fighting it, however, with doses of medication and dreams of Spring.  A vacation here, Croatia, would be very nice.

source, Full House

I'm signing off before I doze.  I'm planning an evening of spaghetti (with homemade sauce of tomatoes steeped in garlic) and real Italian meatballs, a large glass of skim milk, and a bedtime story.  William Faulkner will do nicely tonight!


04 March 2011

Walking Alone

It is dark this afternoon.  Thundering.  An intense storm is brewing...making me smile.  Tonight I think I'll work on a few pages of the book that never seems to get written.  There is nothing quite like this weather to put me in a writer's frame of mind.  My day began with a reference to Poe (thanks, Bob) and provided the proper segue into a thunderstorm and my impending creative outlook.  Poetic words like these help as well. 

"Beauty In Walking Away"
Marie Digby

A light shines off
In the distance
A pale flickering glow
How many times
Do I have to dream
That I could be there
The time is here
And she won't be
Waiting for me
To find the easy way out
I've lost count of the days
That were wasted

There's an answer
In the sound of a train
There is wisdom
Past the bridge on the bay
There's a lifetime
Through the fog
In the rain
There's a beauty
In walking away

I float on the streets
That are empty
Take the path
That the wind only knows

My mind is a whirlwind at times like this.  I'm feeling a 'little bit of crazy' going on, and while it's, um, crazy, it's also  (I hope) productive.  Somehow, before my evening activities commence, I think I'll pull out my copy of Educational Leadership and study...but just for a little while.   For now.

Thinking Out Loud

the car is a mess and not ready for a road trip. i don't have time to clean it but what will my mother think? i have groceries to purchase, dinner to cook, and friends to meet in a few short hours. saint louis tomorrow:  forest park, the art museum, italian on the hill ~ either rigazzi's or zia's ~ then an italian bakery for my allyssa caroline. fondue with mckenzie ashten.  hanging with my girls and mom and little sis.  i should be preparing for this doctoral interview but a weekend of culture goes a long way in that vein. coach york called me for a pep talk.  coach york called ME for a pep talk!  he thinks i'm ready. he thinks i'm ready!!!  so do i.  i really, really think i am...

The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.  But the woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been.
~Albert Einstein

03 March 2011


Dear Dad,

There is an old clock, centuries old, that sits on my piano.  Grandpa had an affinity for fixing clocks and this one was no exception...

In 1941, you began your entrance into this world at your parents' home.  You were a large baby, and grandpa had no inclination to assist with childbirth.  He summoned the doctor.  The physician insisted it would be a long night and expressed his intent to return later, once labor had progressed.  Grandpa had other plans.  He had no qualms about brandishing his shotgun to keep the gentleman at bay.  Hours later you arrived, all ten pounds of you, and only then did the doctor make his escape.

...Many years later, Grandpa was the one summoned to the old doctor's house.  The man's clock had stopped working and your father was asked to fix it.  "You don't remember me, do you?"  The doctor replied that he did not, at which time your dad proceeded to remind him of the long ago story.  Upon its delivery, after the clock was successfully running again, the doctor (unable to hold a grudge) gifted the piece to Grandpa...who then gifted it to you...who then gifted it to me.  I remember this story.  I remember you.

Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. ~William Faulkner

In this photograph, you are thirty years old.  Today, you would have been seventy...if only you were here.  It has been nearly three years since I last kissed you goodbye, but I had already been missing you long before you  passed away.  As I enter the second half of my life, I often wish you were near. Could we see when and where we are to meet again, we would be more tender when we bid our friends goodbye. ~Marie Louise De La Ramee

"Old as she was, she still missed her Daddy sometimes." ~Gloria Naylor

This is the dad of my heart ~ the grown-up kid who lived and laughed and loved me, the dad who kept his demons at bay, the dad who would be proud of me today ~ the dad I carry with me, always:

Opportunities fly by while we sit regretting the chances we have lost, and the happiness that comes to us we heed not, because of the happiness that is gone. ~Jerome K. Jerome, 1889   Today is your birthday, and I am marching on.  I love and miss you.  Fortunately, Mom loves me enough for the both of you.  That is what sustains me. 
xoxo, your Stephanie

02 March 2011


Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, "You owe me." Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.
~Hafiz of Persia

Absolutely beautiful.  This personification goes a long way in making my heart smile.  Love it.

Today was a sunny spring day here in the middle of somewhere.  At 60 degrees, we experienced a heat wave...and it felt good.  My students are absolutely incredible and, as usual, amazed me again today.  That felt good as well.  When reading their response journals (in which they engaged in a bit of character analysis), I came across some pretty amazing vocabulary for a first grader.  A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations. ~Patricia Neal

"Don't bunt.  Aim out of the ball park.  Aim for the company of immortals."  ~David Ogilvy 

This is exactly why my first graders write like THIS...because they believe they can (and because their teacher knew this about them all along).  I try diligently to teach by example.  I talk to my students...write with my students...in the very same way I do with you.  I presuppose that if they question my words, they'll ask the meaning...which they do, and then subsequently use in them in their own conversations and writing.  Much like a Mother Hen, I am proud of my little chicks.  I am glad they do not question their intelligence.  I certainly don't.   High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.  ~Jack Kinder

That's how many days until: 
I am anxiously awaiting my doctoral program interview.  For once in my life, I am not nervous about something so HUGE.  I am so excited, so ready.  I've made it this far...I hope, I hope, I HOPE the parting word is, simply,


Two dear friends.  Two cherished comments. 
She said, "You, my friend, are an anomaly." He said, "Remember that you have a fan club."  No one has better friends than I do.

Notes to self

We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.  ~Orison Swett Marden 

Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy. ~Brian Tracy

Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. ~Arnold H. Glasow

The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man's foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher. ~Thomas Henry Huxley, An Address to the Students of the Faculty of Medicine in University College, London, May 18, 1870

The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me. ~Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

You were born to win...but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win. ~Zig Ziglar

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.  ~Henry Ford

It is never too late to be who you might have been. ~George Eliot