Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Teacher of the Year


My Pick for Teacher of the Year


There is this woman I’ve known for over fifty years now. She is smart and funny. She’s talented and caring. She’s beautiful inside and out. She is, quite frankly one of my favorite people on the planet.

 

She’s a teacher. In fact, we taught in the same district for a year or two. I was teaching in an elementary school and she taught social studies at the high school. 


But that first year when she started teaching in the Fairfield district, we sat next to each other at the opening day speech offered by the school district’s superintendent. 

 

She proved to be an excellent teacher. I recognized that quality in her early on. She was caring and sensitive to her students. And fair. She worked hard to make sure every student had every opportunity to succeed. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Like me, she wanted to be a teacher since childhood. I knew in second grade I wanted to be a teacher. She knew even earlier. She would line her dolls and stuffed animals up and teach them to read. When asked if her teddy bear could really read, she said, “He can read but he can’t talk. His mouth is all sewed up!”

 

I wish all teachers could have such confidence and understanding for their students. 

 

Eventually, we both left the school district to teach teachers. I left to teach at the university. She eventually left to train teachers through in-service at the county educational service center.

 

We were kind of in different places but still connected. Always connected. 

 

Last Sunday, I was invited to her birthday party. It was a big deal. Her husband did the cooking and her kids, who now tower above her, openly demonstrated how much they value her. 

 

I hugged her when I walked in the door. I recounted the day I first met her fifty years ago. I’ve found a way to share that story with her every year on her birthday. Usually, it’s been face-to face, but sometimes I’ve had to share on the phone or through an email. One year I wrote it all out for her. 

 

Yep, I’ve known her for over fifty years. 


Fifty years ago on March 19th, she entered my world. 


Allison. My firstborn. 

 

She’s my daughter and my friend. She’s the mother of my two oldest grandchildren.

 

And she’s still the best teacher I know. 




 

 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

If You Give a Girl a Closet

 If You Give a Girl a Closet

 

People who know me know I don’t like clutter. It makes me tired. Stresses me out. So this week has been particularly exhausting with clutter of my own making.

 

Yes, I said it. 

created the clutter.

 

It didn’t start out that way. It started with the simple notion of making some room for Mike’s clothes after we’re married. 

 

As a first grade teacher, I  read a story by Laura Joffe Numeroff  to my students called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It’s a wonderful book. Here’s the opening:

 

“If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.”


 

It’s one of those “one thing leads to another” kinds of stories.

 

Which brings me back to my closet.

 

 I set out to complete one simple task: clean the closet. 

 

It was pretty easy to create a pile of “school teacher clothes” I haven’t worn since the eighties. I also tossed the “professor clothes” I haven’t donned since I retired from the university in 2012. 

 

I soon had a pile of donation-worthy skirts and tops on my bed. 

 

Then there were the square dance clothes and the comfortable but totally out of style clothes I keep for working in the yard, painting, or camping. 


And of course the collection of “when I lose ten pounds” clothes. You get the idea.

 

The pile grew. I boxed everything and hauled it out to the car to donate later.

 

I smiled at the progress I’d made. Still, as I studied the space, I wasn’t satisfied. 

 

This is where the mouse story comes in. 

 

You see, I decided the best way to create new space in the master closet was to divide the remaining clothes by season. I decided to put a collection of seasonal clothes in my guest bedroom closet. 

 

There was one problem. When I moved into this house, I stored boxes of family photos and memorabilia in the guest closet... Along with framed artwork, foam mattress pads (for when the grandkids needed more bed space on the floor), quilts, paintings, and …well…lots of “stuff.” 

 

It was time I cleaned out that closet. 

No problem. I was on a roll. 

 

But…when you give a girl a closet…and it’s filled with memories…well, you are soon swamped in a pile of clutter. 

 

On the bed. On the floor. On the chest. In the drawer. 

(See? It’s even starting to sound like a children’s picture book.)

 

Only the picture was terrible. If strangers had walked in, they would have condemned the house as one of those scary places where hoarders are found buried alive.

 

I’m not kidding! This was crazy! 

Total Mess Not Fit for a Guest!

 

I plowed my way through. I read every old birthday card before tossing it in the trash. I got rid of the school pictures of children I don’t know. (Why don’t people put names on the back?)

 

I sorted the rest and carefully boxed up the good stuff I wanted to keep. 

 

You don’t have to say it. I already know my three daughters will go through everything one day after I’m gone and wonder why in the world I treasured all that junk. 

 

But I also know they’ll want to keep some of it.

They’ll box it up, take it home and put it in a closet….and…

 

If you give a girl a closet…

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Driving Rain

 The Downpour

If you follow my blog, you know that my mother and I spent the month of February in Florida. It was a treat. The weather in the Tampa Bay area is deliciously warm in the winter. We fudged a bit. We gave ourselves a couple of extra days, returning to Ohio the first weekend in March.

 

March in Ohio is tenuous. The grass can be green one day and have frost on the ground the next. We knew what to expect when we returned. 

 

It was the “in between” that got us.

 

The rain started in north Florida. Lightly at first. Then we started getting a heavier dose. 


That torrential, white knuckles kind of rain hit us north of Atlanta. We stopped for the night.

 

The next day looked a bit more promising so we forged ahead. Rain poured down all through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. I’m not talking about a drizzle here. I’m talking about a “can barely see in front of your car” kind of rain. 


Think “waterfall.”

 

When I was a teen and learning to drive, my dad always told me to keep moving in such weather. He told me most bad weather accidents were caused by people stopping alongside the road. Other drivers couldn’t see them. I heeded his advice then. 


And now. 

 

I turned on my lights, watched my speed, kept one eye on the rearview mirror, and continued moving forward.

 

My mom prayed.

 

We made it home late in the evening. I’m sure we both fell into bed that night with muscles tense and tired. Mine from driving and hers from clenching the seat of the car.

 

But isn’t that a lot like life? We start out with a plan…a map for where we want to go on our life’s journey. We sometimes have to stop and refuel. We have to deal with distractions and other people on the road of life. 

 


And, like it or not, as we make our way, we all face storms. 

We learn to push through them. To forge ahead. We pray and keep our eyes on our destination. It's the stuff "in between" that turns our knuckles white.

Life is a journey marked by challenges...those moments it would be easy to give up or give in... but we must press on.
 
I don't know about you, but every time I overcome a daunting challenge, I feel a little stronger. It made me think of the passage in the Bible where Paul wrote to the people in Philipi, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead..."


How about you? Faced any challenges lately? Any storms crossing your path? 

As for me? I'm looking ahead...for the rainbow.






Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Courting Chairs

 The Courting Chairs

 

February is often viewed as a dismal month. The days are shorter, meaning darkness falls early. The dreary winter days are often marked by colder temperatures. 


The month is so dismal it has been declared one of the highest times of the year for people to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder…SAD. It is a type of depression brought on by the dark and often cold winter months.

 

This year, my mother and I traveled from our home in Ohio to spend the month of February at the Waters’ family home on a beautiful lake in Florida. It is kind of a “vaccine” against SAD. Or sadness. 


We’re from the Sunshine State, so for us it is “going home” and going home tends to cure many illnesses.

 

The weather has been perfect. We’ve walked every day in the Florida sunshine. We’ve visited with many family and friends. We’ve picked Japanese plums and vibrant pink azaleas. It has been so warm and so relaxing we tend to forget it is February.

 

My mother and I actually made plans to do this last summer before Mike and I started seriously dating. 


Mike lives in the same neighborhood as the Lake House. It has been wonderful to see him nearly every day, share meals, and get to know his family better. My Waters family has graciously welcomed him as a new member of our tribe.

 

Sometimes, in the evening after dinner, Mike will come over and take a couple of lawn chairs down near the water’s edge. The two of us sit, talk, and enjoy the lake views. 

 

My mom calls the lawn furniture our “courting chairs.” 


The "Courting Chairs"
Lakeside

 

I embrace the notion that although we are to be married in April, we are still “courting.” There is always gentle breeze in the evening, causing the Spanish moss to sway in the cypress trees. 


Occasionally, a boat comes by or a fish jumps. As we sit together by the lake, we exchange stories of our childhood and memories of our high school days. We share our dreams for the future.

 

Mike makes me laugh. I love his stories and the way he can find humor in any situation.

 

Laughing... Talking... Sharing... Dreaming….Courting.

 

I hope we never get so lost in the busyness of life that we stop courting. 

 

We won’t always be at the Lake House. Once we marry in April, we’ll spend time in both Ohio and Florida. We hope to travel and have compiled a bucket list of experiences and destinations we will both enjoy.

 

But wherever we land, I hope we’ll always remember to claim a couple of “courting chairs” to enjoy the stillness of the evening and our dreams for tomorrow.



 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

One Mile at a Time

 One Mile at a Time

 

I know some people who believe empowerment comes through mastering a second language or learning karate. I’ve known people who think manipulating people or skirting the law is empowering. Seriously. 

 

Sometimes, real power comes from facing down fear or learning how to overcome obstacles. Real power comes from facing a daunting task head on…and conquering it.  


I recently witnessed this force in action. 

 

My mother and I decided to spend the month of February in Florida. When we announced we were leaving the cold weather of Ohio for a bit of sunshine, my twenty-year-old grandson, Joshua, decided he would like to come for a visit. His college classes are online this term and his work schedule is somewhat flexible. 

 

Driving the nine hundred plus miles from Ohio to our home in the Sunshine State would be his first road trip of great distance. We all had confidence in his driving skill and if he needed, arrangements could be made for an overnight stay along the way. Still, he had never driven further than a fifty-mile radius from home. Alone, that is.


We all followed his journey...one mile at a time.


 

I know many people who shy away from such a challenge. It seems daunting. They fear the unknown. They become plagued with the “what ifs.”

 

We’ve likely all had those moments. I know I have.

 

To advance to candidacy status in my doctoral degree, I had to pass a qualifying exam. The exam consisted of three questions. I would be allotted six hours to answer the first question. The second question was offered the next day and was a four-hour question. The final question was offered on the third day. It too, was a four-hour question. These obviously were not short answer questions. Furthermore, I had to defend my answers to my committee the following week.

 

How do you prepare for such an exam? 

Study? I’d been doing that throughout my course of study. 

Pray? Okay, yes, I did pray. A lot.


Eventually, what I found most helpful was a trip to King’s Island, a local amusement park.

 

You see, I was deathly afraid of roller coasters. I was able to avoid them as long as at least one of my daughters didn’t meet the height requirement and I had to stay on the sidelines with that one and watch.  But the year I was to take the three-question, three-day qualifying exam in July, my youngest "shield" reached the magic height and could ride every roller coaster in the park.

 

I drew in my breath, mustered my courage and by the end of the day I had successfully conquered every coaster in King’s Island. It was a blast. Moreover, conquering that fear allowed me to conquer my fear of the upcoming exam.

 

I took on the challenge of King’s Island one coaster at a time.

I studied and prepared for each question “one coaster” at a time. 

 

I know Joshua will draw on his solo trek to Florida for years to come. It’s one of those, “If I can do that, I can do anything” moments.

 

A challenging assignment in school? One mile at a time.


Balancing school and work? One mile at a time.


A tough assignment in his job? One mile at a time.


Necessary travel for work? One mile at a time.


Any of the life challenges he faces, Joshua will be able to face each “One mile at a time.” 

 

Life is, after all, a journey.


What experience do you still hold to for energy an strength? I'd love to hear your story...


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Proposal

 The Proposal

 

“I’m going to do this right,” Mike said. He got down on one knee. 

 

Actually, engagements are rarely the big and dramatic events we see in Hallmark movies. Love grows over time. Rarely is the woman totally surprised. 


Hmmm...Perhaps it would be better to start this post at the beginning.

 

If you’ve read my blog these past couple of weeks you already know that I am engaged to be married in April to a wonderful man named Mike. We’ve known each other since ninth grade. We reconnected via our high school class reunion.

 

We’ve enjoyed the traditional dates at restaurants and such, but being the very modern, young couple we are, we talk and text a lot. We keep our cell phones busy. 


“LOL”

 

Once we made the decision to marry, Mike wanted me to pick out the ring of my dreams. I did. I think my choice surprised him. He was ready and willing  to deck me out with a big diamond solitaire that announced to the world I was engaged to be married. 

 

“I’m just not that kind of girl,” I explained. “This is the one I love. It makes me feel like a princess.” Yes, I actually said that. Princess and all. But it’s true. I love this ring and all it symbolizes.

 

Mike had to have it resized. He brought it to my house on December 29th. Yep, he drove those 930+ miles to propose.

 

Not a Christmas gift. It was after Christmas but in time for the New Year.

 

“I’m going to do this right,” Mike said. He got down on one knee. (Hey, for a man in his sixties…that’s commitment right there.)

 

He opened the velvet box with the red ribbon revealing the ring. “Becky Williams Waters, will you marry me?”

 

I have to admit this was more overwhelming than I imagined. It turns out I was surprised after all. Tears of joy welled up in my eyes. The smile on my face was so big it hurt. I was giddy. I know many women have heard those words…”will you marry me”…but this man… this man I love kneeling before me stirred my heart in a way I did not expect. 

 

“Absolutely!” I told him.

 

Mike took the ring from the box and put it on my finger.

And then he kissed me.

 


We met up later with my oldest daughter, Allison, at a park to snap some engagement pictures. There was still a bit of snow on the ground and a chill in the air. It was perfect. I’m posting some of those photos here. Enjoy!





 


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Picnic

 The Picnic

 

It is no accident I am sharing this post the week prior to Valentine’s Day. As that day is recognized as the most romantic day of the year, it is fitting I share this story. It is the story of Mike. It is the story of sweet romance. 

 

Mike is my fiancĂ©e and if you read last week’s post you will understand why this man is so special to me. He is God’s answer to my prayer.

 

Yep, I’m getting married. When Tom died, I couldn’t imagine marrying anyone else. I’ve been a widow for over eight years. Mike’s wife died over thirty-six years ago. 

 

Many of us say things like “timing is everything” or “all in good time” but we live desirous of the “here and now.”

 

Sometimes the “here and now” takes place over a long period of time. 


Here’s the scoop:

 

I have known Mike for over fifty years. We went to school together and were in the same graduating class. Mike and Tom were good friends growing up. They lived in the same neighborhood and rode the same school bus. They both had horses and were part of the Bit and Bridle Club. Mike and I had many other mutual friends. We water skied at Tom’s house on weekends. As a teen I went to at least one to party at Mike’s house. Yet, in truth, we were mere acquaintances.

 

When our high school reunion came around last year, I decided to offer a post reunion potluck picnic at the Lake House in Florida. I made the offer on Facebook. There was quite a bit of interest.

 

Mike knew I lived in Ohio. Having hosted a number of events for boat shows and the like, he knew what an undertaking it could be to throw such a party. He wanted to offer his help without being too forward. In fact he wrote one Facebook message but deleted it entirely before deciding to make this offer:

 





Did I need help? I answered him honestly. I told him I would assess what I had when I got to the Lake House and let him know then. He sent me his phone number.

 

I called the day before the reunion. I had one cooler, the table situation was fair. I wasn’t sure the grill worked but I had plenty of chairs. 



We talked about the upcoming evening event, noting the Carrollwood Country Club was not in the Carrollwood neighborhood we knew as kids. 

 

I was at Target looking for another tablecloth and some nail polish when he called. He had made a dry run to the venue and started telling me how to get there. It sounded complicated. Somewhere in the midst of his directions, Mike offered to let me ride with him. I was in the checkout line when he finished sharing. 

 

“Uh, Mike, was that a bona fide offer to ride with you?”

“Absolutely.”

 


The next morning, Mike and his son brought everything over and before long, the backyard looked ready for a party.

 

That evening he called for me at 5:30 on the dot. He came to the front door. My mom insisted on taking a picture of us by the lake. I was embarrassed. After all, this wasn’t a prom date or anything. He opened the door for me to his truck and we headed to the reunion. 

 

With comfortable conversation, good food,  dancing, and lots of laughter, we have since deemed that evening as our first date. 


Maybe my mom was onto something.

 

The class reunion was a success. So was the picnic. At one point I looked over at Mike grilling hamburgers and making conversation. We were a team. It wasn’t “my picnic.” We were in this together. 


Long distance dating isn't as bad as I thought. We talk on the phone multiple times a day and message quite a bit. The 936 miles between us hasn't kept us apart. His visits here have given him the opportunity to meet my family and friends. My last visit to the Lake House was for a few days after the New Year. I had already planned to spend the month of February in Florida before Mike and I became a couple.


It turns out...All in Good Time isn't what we need to say at all. It's All in God's Time. And for that I am grateful.