Thursday, June 21, 2012

Leftovers and Free Food

What do you do with leftovers? There was a little piece of steak leftover from Fathers Day supper, along with 6 bites of potato. I sliced it all into less-than-bite-sized pieces and warmed them briefly in the microwave. Then I put them in the frying pan with a half a teaspoon of cooking oil. As the pan heated, the meat and potatoes were soon ready for the eggs. Yes, I made an omelet.

Six medium eggs, with two tablespoons of milk, a couple of dashes of seasoned salt and one dash of garlic powder, poured over tasty morsels of grilled steak and potatoes. Before turning the eggs to cook on the other side, I sprinkled three medium pinches of shredded cheddar cheese into the mix.

The steak, potato, and cheddar cheese omelet was pretty good, if I say so myself. I don't think I'll need lunch, given the size of the breakfast.

I also had some free blueberries to use before they went bad. I sat down this morning with my "New" Betty Crocker cookbook (the same one I've had since college) and perused possibilities for my fresh blueberries. Pancakes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'd be the only one eating them. My older son, C, can tolerate blueberries in some foods, but not in pancakes, and my younger son, M, won't eat anything that's actually food. He prefers the tires off his toy trucks, the cardboard and paper from lollipop sticks, and so on, including chicken nuggets and fries.

So, pancakes were out. How about a blueberry coffee cake? Nope, don't have all the ingredients (or at least, I don't know where they all are). Blueberry pie? Not enough berries. Blueberry-apple pie? Hmmm. My older boy's arrival in the kitchen forced me to make a decision, as he was hungry and impatient for my masterpiece.

Muffins it is! He and his little brother fought over which one would "help" me more, though neither one really did much. Within a few minutes, the blueberry muffins were in the oven. They came out just as I was mixing up my omelet. C begged for one as he ate his toaster waffles. I obliged and held my breath. A piece went into C's mouth..and stayed there. He chewed thoughtfully.

"How is it, son?" I queried.

He swallowed, smiled and nodded. "It's good, Daddy."

He's said that before about other foods before spitting them out or giving up (and by giving up, I mean, stopping the consumption, not the "giving up" my sister J thinks of) on them, so I held my breath a little longer. He kept eating the muffin, including the blueberries, so I knew his acceptance was for real. Whew. I tried one and have to admit, again, that they are pretty good. I do say so myself.

I don't always make good use of leftovers and free food, but today was a "win" in that category. Now it's time to do the dishes. What a mess I make when I cook!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dr. Donovan Graham, you were right.

This was a post I drafted more than a year ago and never published. I think it's time to get this on the record. (Moose Patrol)

Dr. Graham, I was wrong! I admit it. I realize I'm admitting it late, and that you probably aren't affected either way, but I understand now what you tried to tell me eleven years ago.

I must say that I was shocked that you were not happy for me when I told you of the headmaster job I was taking at a school near and dear to my heart back home in Maine. In fact, you seemed downright angry as you lectured me more sternly than I had ever heard you lecture me before. You warned me not to take the job. I did not see how I could turn it down at that point because I had no other alternatives that I could see. Still, you warned me.

You warned me not to believe that health insurance benefits would come along later, as had been suggested to me by my future employer that they likely would. You were right. They never did.

You warned me that the annual salary was far too low and that I would find myself living payday to payday. You said that no matter how much I loved the job, I would find it very difficult to provide for my family adequately, and I would feel obligated to stay in the job for fear of not finding another one quickly enough to keep my family afloat. You were right. We made it work for many years, and I loved the job, but when it came time to move on, we were in a tight spot.

"Everything happens for a reason"

I become instantly nauseated and the bile starts rising in my throat for even typing that hideous phrase. If I hear one more Christian talk about trials in his or her life and then dismiss them with, "I believe that everything happens for a reason" without recognizing what that reason is, I think I'll scream.

Christian brothers and sisters, are we prepared to learn that while everything does indeed happen for a reason, we might not be the reason? I mean, are we prepared for the very strong possibility that it really, truly is not about us?

I have experienced some very real trials and tribulations in my life, such as the loss of my mother when I was just seventeen years old and beginning to value her as a person apart from her role as Mum, and an unexpected change in careers at age 40 when my wife and I had just adopted our second son, which was very shortly followed by the loss of my mother-in-law. It has been a comfort to know that our sovereign God is both sovereign and good at the same time, and the words he spoke as recorded in Jeremiah 29:10ff are trustworthy:

“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."
(Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV)

That my God has plans for me that are to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a hope and a future is truly a blessing in these times of uncertainty. But what I notice most is that he does not stop at blessing me for the sake of blessing me. He does so with the purpose of bringing me to worship him. "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me," he says. Ultimately, it is not about me. It is about God. All that takes place is for his honor and glory. Consider what Peter says:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
(1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)

So, are we prepared to be increasingly mindful that the reason everything happens is to bring glory to God while making us less like ourselves and more like Christ? If so, could we change how we express this belief? How about we say something like, "Everything happens according to God's plan of bringing himself glory in my life"? Or perhaps we should go to the Scriptures once again for God's way of saying it:

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

(Romans 8:18-30 ESV)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Librarian, Part II

The coworker and I discussed the virtues of the writings of C.S. Lewis, especially the need for such clear-headed thinking so frequently demonstrated by our students and the choices they had made in their lives. My coworker has not read much by Lewis, and I have ready nearly everything by Lewis, and I want to get more into that library than just two fantasy series already there. As she suggested, having a better quality library could bring about better thinking among the students. We'll see.

However, today marked a difference in my usual interactions with the students in that I had more library time when they were available to come to it than I normally have. At one point, another teacher brought in two young men that were looking for something to read over the upcoming holiday weekend. I knew one of them, but the other was unfamiliar to me. The former kept trying to suggest books to the latter (I'll call them "Connor" and "Zeke" to protect the innocent).

Connor kept pointing to books that included varying levels of gore and violence, while Zeke was looking for something deeper and of better quality. Then again, Zeke was also interested in reading "Mein Kampf," which was not in circulation due to its questionable content. He commented on the fact that it might seem odd that he, being Jewish, would want to read Adolf Hitler's book, but then he revealed that he had relatives that survived the concentration camps. He wanted to learn more about the twisted mind behind those horrific experiences, but I could not help him.

A few minutes later, I heard him commenting to Connor about the "Left Behind" series. I quickly finished what I was doing in the office and went into main library room. I spoke to Zeke about his interests in books and then led him to a shelf with works by C.S. Lewis. First, I suggested "Out of the Silent Planet," but when Zeke made it clear that he needs a somewhat easy plot to capture his interest, I switched to "The Magician's Nephew." Zeke seemed confused so I asked if he had ever read the Chronicles of Narnia. He said he had not, but he had seen the most recent movie version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Hearing that he had liked the movie, I pressed him to take the first book of the series. He did. I'm eager to hear what he thinks of it.

Later, as my coworker and I continued our tasks in the library when everyone else had gone, she turned to me and said, "Bill, do you realize that you convinced a Jewish boy to check out a book by C.S. Lewis?!"

I replied, "Yes! It was on my mind the entire time he and I were talking. Given his interest in the Left Behind series, I figured a switch to the Chronicles of Narnia would just give him a better literary experience. Yes, it was on my mind the whole time."

The Path to Being Certifiable

All right, folks, here's the score: Maine requires teachers to pass the Praxis I (reading, writing and math) and the Praxis II (Principles of Learning and Teaching, and subject area content knowledge) to be certified to teach grades 7-12 in a given subject. My subject area is social studies. If you look at the lists in the parentheses, you'll see that there are a total of five exams. I have taken all five. I know now that I have have passed four, and I'm waiting to hear on the fifth, the PLT. When I pass the PLT, then I will be teacher-certifiable. Yes, that's the goal. Thus endeth the update.

Update: It's official. I am certifiable. :-)
New Update: It's official. I am certified!

Librarian, Part I

Substitute teaching has been my primary work this school year, even while I have pursued state teacher certification and alternatives for employment. In my role as a substitute teacher, I have encountered a number of challenges and rewards, and I am grateful to my employers and to the Lord for the days and months I have spent in various classrooms.

I can recall the interview process that I had for one potential employer very early in 2011. At the end, when I was turned down for the position, the reason given was that I did not have sufficient experience with "disadvantaged youth" to work at their school. Well, I have more than made up for that this school year, as one of the places where I work is involuntarily residential, so to speak. There have been countless opportunities to exercise de-escalation techniques, many of which would be very helpful to know and use in any classroom setting. I have received significant training in maintaining classroom and student safety and security, and I appreciate all the time that has been put into making this particular school a beneficial time for all involved. Challenging, but beneficial.

Though I am a substitute teacher, I have been employed as a teacher's aide and as a fill-in librarian, too. In December, the librarian got done in preparation for moving out of state. Though that has not happened, the school library was in desperate need of maintenance, so I offered to do it. Don't get me wrong--I'm getting paid for my time! And it has provided extra work hours for me during a long winter without full time employment. It has also garnered the appreciation of my boss, including good citations in my work evaluations.

As the "assistant-to-the-(nonexistent)librarian," I maintain the flow of books in and out of the library. Difficulties with the computer server have limited my ability to check books in and out of the computerized catalog, but I set up spreadsheets to handle the same functions. It gives some idea of where the books are and which books are most frequently being read.

The other substitute teacher has helped immensely, too, reshelving books when I am not there and keeping the room clean. Today, we had a lengthy conversation about what we would do "if we ran this library". I expressed my desire to see better quality books available. Before I could even say which author I'd really like to see represented more in the stacks, she said the name I was about to mention: C.S. Lewis.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happiest Days

Yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life. I have had many wonderful days. Some of my happiest days are:
1. The day I realized that Jesus had died on the cross and risen again to pay for MY sins.
2. The day Laurel agreed to marry me.
3. The day Laurel married me.
4 & 5. The births of my children (and all that their becoming my children entailed).
6. The day my eldest nephew, I.D., demonstrated that in spite of the autism that locks his language from auditory expression, he could nonetheless make a public profession of faith, and took his church membership vows.
7. The day the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

Yesterday ranks in the top ten, even though it involves someone I am not related to. It was the day that a former student of mine returned home safely from military service in Afghanistan. Perhaps it is because I know his family pretty well and have stayed in touch with them since their kids were no longer my students. Perhaps it is the friendship I have formed with him and his brother since they were my students many years ago. Whatever the reason, I am thankful to God for hearing the countless prayers on this young man's behalf, and that He has brought this young man home to his family.

He is not the only former student that God has brought safely through military service, and I am thankful for each one that has served and for his safe return. I am proud of each one, and I continue to pray that God would keep them close to Him, whether in times of war or in times of peace.