Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Week at a Time These Days!

Well, it looks like this year is going to be a good one at West Valley as I just found out my schedule calls for five straight accelerated reading classes. All available 8th grade teachers met with our WVMS administration on Monday morning to hear that the "rumor" is true. There will be no more 8th grade teams at WVMS as we are moving into a high school format. I will still be Reading Dept. Chair this year and serve on the data team. I will also sponsor National Junior Honor Society. Apart from these commitments, I must try to limit my obligations to allow the time I need to work with Reach Them to Teach Them, 4 Market Square, but most importantly, my family! This will be Drew's senior year! Sam world will be significantly broadened as he will learn to read this year in first grade. Chelcie, of course, heads off to college and will likely need "Mom" more than she thinks she will. Addie enters third grade-hard to believe that my last year teaching 3rd grade was the year she was born!

Before our 8th grade meeting, we had a great group for the Panera Breakfast Club this week. I sure hope we can keep meeting because it does so much for my morale!

Tuesday was a very busy, eventful day! I wish I had more pictures to document the day, but alas, no camera was handy, so you'll just have to take my word for it! Laurie Macnair and I had lunch with Gina Byrd at the Chop House. The highlight of lunch was running into one of my favorite students, Connor Thompson, who was working as a host. He was glad to see me and gave me a big hug! Man, I love that kid and I pray for him whenever he crosses my mind. I'm afraid the ladies will get him off track and he'll find himself distracted. He's just one of those kids that I hope to hear good things about as the years pass. Our lunch itself was great! Laurie was able to share the dream with Gina and I managed to hold back most of my tears. In the end, Gina was signed up and Comcast was committed to sponsoring teachers. The beginning of what I hope to see as a long, mutually beneficial relationship.

At 3:00, I headed over to the Sarah Simpson Building for a little skit practice for the Mentoring Institute. At 4:00, I headed toward the airport to pick up Guy Doud, but first, I ran by the Target in Maryville to pick up a clean sweater to wear to Seasons at 7:00. Guy's plane arrived on time, and we headed to the Crowne Plaza to drop off his luggage and get him checked in. All went smoothly, and we had just enough time to make it across town to Seasons for dinner. Rick and Lidelle, Scott and Melissa, Ed, Anderson and Deron, Dean and Beth, and Tom and I were treated to an incredible dinner. Deron was the perfect host. He provided appetizers that were scrumptious, dessert trays that included all the desserts on the menu. He took care of Guy's check entirely and discounted the rest of the checks by 50%! We were all impressed and satisfied beyond our expectations. Sadly, the evening did not end as well.

As we all stood to leave, Guy lost his balance and attempted to brace himself against a chair. Well, the chair slipped, so Guy leaned against the table and the table gave way under his weight. The table leg broke off and the table, Guy, all the dishes and glasses tumbled to the floor! Broken glass was everywhere! Scott, Tom, Rick, and Ed immediately rushed to help Guy off the floor! Guy's arm was dripping blood. Deron called for a waiter who had been trained as a combat medic in the military. The server helped us apply pressure and stop the bleeding and recommended that we take Guy to the emergency room. Meanwhile, Guy tells us that he cannot go to the hospital. He assures us that he's fine and refuses to allow us to take him because he doesn't have insurance. Rick volunteers to pay for the emergency room bill for Guy. I let Guy know that it's okay to go because someone has agreed to help, but he still insists on not going to the hospital. Ed calls his dad and agrees to take a look at Guy's injury. Ed, Tom, Guy and I show up at Dr. Knowling's house about 10:30 and he graciously cleans, disinfects, and tapes his arm and provides medicine and band-aids to see him through the next few days.

Then I take Guy to his hotel downtown and head, at last, for home. Tuesday was an exceptionally long day!

I picked up Guy on Wednesday morning at 8:15 and we head over to the Sarah Simpson Building. Guy tells me his bandage leaked during the night, but he taped it up and again tells me that he's sore but okay. If his speech was any indication, he was better than okay! The crowd of over 250 teachers were blown away by him! He spoke for over 2 hours and held the entire crowd spellbound. He kicked off the Mentoring Institute in a very powerful way! After he spoke, he signed about 80 books, talked to teachers, posed for pictures and shook hands with his "fans." Finally, we were able to head out for lunch at Ruby Tuesday. While there, Guy shares that his situation has not improved and he's desperate for help. My heart breaks, but I know there is little I can do to help. With 3 hours until his plane leaves for Texas, we decide to drive around Cades Cove. Guy is exhausted and dozes on and off. I am worried about him because I've watched him take many doses of Vicadin painkillers. The mountains were beautiful as always and we enjoyed chatting about the state of education today. I got him to the airport in time to catch his flight to Texas. He is choked up because he doesn't want to leave again, but off he goes to inspire more teachers. I head for home, but not for long! Tom and I are due to meet Dean and Beth at the airport at 7:00 for a quick trip to Indianapolis to bowl with Jeff Gordon. Our flight was extremely pleasant and we made it to our destination in about an hour and a half! Sure beats driving! We grabbed a quick dinner at Rick's Cafe on the water near the airport. Dean celebrated his "birthday" with a free dessert. We got checked into our hotel and fell exhausted in bed about 11:30!

Thursday was the BIG DAY! We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and Tom and I had a deep discussion about cuss words and how we live like God is smaller than He is. Dean and Beth took a tour of Riley Children's Hospital and Dean met with some doctors to find out how is sister died many years ago at 12 years of age. When they returned from their tour, we drove to downtown Indianapolis and had an enjoyable lunch outside at a downtown restaurant. Then we headed back to the hotel for a short nap before heading the bowling alley for the BIG EVENT!

The Jeff Gordon Bowling Tournament was a blast! We had a great time bowling with big name NASCAR celebrities. Unfortunately, we don't know much about NASCAR, but Tom asked a lot of questions and we learned a lot. I'm actually interested in watching a race or two now. I'll have the add the names of our celebrities later because I don't the program with me. Trust me though, they were the NICEST, most humble, gracious people! I liked all of them, well, except for little miss espn NASCAR reporter. She was obviously into promoting herself and climbing up the ladder. Since we couldn't help her, she was rather patronizing, so we just let her do her thing (flirting with Casey Mears. Kinda made me jealous 'cause he was super cute!). The bowling event raised over $250 thousand for the hospital due in a large part to Dean and American Book Company. The man loves kids! After bowling, we went to Texas Roadhouse for another tasty meal, then back to the hotel for some log sawing!

Friday morning. Breakfast at 8. Penquin Book Deal at 9. Airplane at 10, but not before a close call as Dean drove down a one way road the WRONG way! Our flight back to Knoxville was only an hour and two minutes long. Once we landed and swapped hugs and thank yous, Tom and I drove up Alcoa Highway to have lunch with the Ulster Project kids before they head back to Ireland today. We ate with Scott and Tina Harness and laughed a lot! Good people. After lunch, we headed home to unload and relax. Our next big adventure was dinner and Moe's with Ed, Olivia, Delaney, Chelcie, Tom, Addie, and Sam. Ben Shires made a special guest appearance and it was great to touch base with him before he heads off to college at UT. From there, we went to WestLake for the last ever MUDPIT as the finale of ROC the House. The kids had so much fun! They even had a fire truck there to hose them down after their time in the "PIT." Could you even imagine more fun than that?

Addie heads to the beach with Grandmom, Papaw, and Lori tomorrow. She could be gone for a week! Lori will pick her up at 7 in the morning! That's my update for now. I'm tired. Tomorrow's another adventure!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Topsail Island, 2008

Finally, I have an opportunity to catch up (again!) and fill you in on my wonderful, exciting life. Last Sunday, Tom took Addie, Sam, Chelcie, Abby, Sarah Hope, Jennifer, and Cassie to his parents' beach house on Topsail Island, North Carolina. The intent was for them to have a last "hurrah" before heading off to college. Drew, Andrew, Dane and I made plans to meet them down there on Tuesday after I have a day or two of intense Reach Them time.
Once I saw Tom and the girls (plus Sam) off, I went to church alone and sat alone. It felt so lonely without my family or friends around me. The Littles, my parents, and the Knowlings all played hooky from NorthStar. Fortunately, the Bowlings and Chris Ellis took me in and kept me from feeling invisible.
After church, I went by Koko's to pick up a little lunch for Drew and me. Then I spent the rest of the day working on Reach Them materials as planned. I can't remember the details of the day because too much time has passed!

Monday morning, Sherry and I went for a walk and Nathan joined us. It was nice to have some youthful energy along with us. At noon, I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Ingram and Hugh Nystrom at Panera. Hugh is the director of ChildHelp, an organization that advocates for children and foster families. I felt like I was with kindred spirits. Definitely, people who understand my love for kids and the critical nature of our mission. My friend, Jenny Davis, from A.L. Lotts called to let me know that she'd had a stroke and was scheduled for open heart surgery on July 30th. I couldn't believe it! She is in my prayers and I hope if you're reading this you'll add Jenny to your prayer list too.
Late Monday afternoon, I headed over to PetSafe to meet with Laurie regarding the Two Rivers event. Chris, Anthony, Anderson, Ed, Theresa, and Laurie were there. It was a very well run, productive meeting! We're on our way! After the meeting, Anderson, Ed, and I met to discuss our options with Chick-fil-a and how best to approach them with the lack of funding. We were all a little "burned out" so we came up with a viable plan and left it at that.
Drew and I rented Jumper and I was not into the movie at all, so I left Drew watching the movie to make some phone calls.
Tuesday morning, Sherry and I walked to Best Bagels for breakfast, but it was CLOSED! So we opted for Plan B- would you believe it? Panera! After our walk, I tied up a few Reach Them loose ends regarding our invitation to Two Rivers and then prepared to leave for the beach.

The boys showed up at two as planned and we were on the road by 2:05 with a quick stop at Knoxville Pediatrics for Chelcie's shot record. We made great time to the beach. No stops 'til Hickory and the boys made great traveling companions! I was introduced ( by immersion ) into a whole new world of music. I laughed a lot and enjoyed their goofy sense of humor.
Once we finally arrived at the beach, after one wrong turn that led us through dark and scary places, we crashed immediately. The boys piled into one room with two twin beds(?) I bunked with Addie and Sam in the king-sized bed, and Tom sacrificed by sleeping in the upstairs bedroom. All the girls were asleep already, so I didn't even see them until the next day.
Wednesday was a typical beach day. Lots of heat, sand, sun, and book reading. I started the first book in the "F" series by Karen Kingsbury and made my way through over half of it. The Shack is being passed around. Tom finished it and now Chelcie is taking it on. The highlight of the day was the boys vs. girls football game on the beach. My understanding is that the girls dominated, but that's no surprise to me, afterall, those boys were distracted! I managed to sneak away to check my email about 3 and was surprised to see that I had over 40 messages all related to RT4! Ugh! I knew my time online was limited, so I answered them as briefly as I could and got back to house as soon as possible.

Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday with the exception of eating on the back deck of our favorite seafood restaurant. Cassie and I were computer geeks together as we parked in an "unsecured network" zone and checked our messages. Cassie was trying to buy season tickets to the Auburn football games, but she didn't have any luck.

The girls (and Sam) and I headed for home about 7 Friday morning. We made pretty good time and arrived safely back home about 4:30. I immediately got to work on the laundry. Sam went to Evan's house to spend the night, so my two girls and I went to Moe's (What? We were having withdrawals!). We ran onto Trevor, Kelsey, and Mr. Brown right after I asked Chelcie if she'd heard from Trevor lately. It was funny! Then we made a quick run to Kroger for some cinnamon wheat thins (one of my many vices) and milk, followed by a quick fun through the Sonic drive-thru for a bag of ice (another vice).

Tom and the boys made it home about 9:30 and I was already down for the count! Our A/C went out, so our house was steaming hot! I could only lie prostrate on my bed under the fan and think cool thoughts.

This morning we were up and at 'em for the Ulster Project's Car Wash at the Bread Box. Then we shared lunch with the the Storms family at Qdoba. Or rather, Sherry, Tom, Addie, Sam and I had lunch at Qdoba. Katrina, Chelcie, Drew, Dane, Nathan, and Lisa headed to Jason's Deli. We all joined back up after lunch for a little ice cream and laughter.

A tree is down in the front yard, so I think a little branch removal is in store for the afternoon. Stand by for fascinating photos documenting the occasion.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

104 is WAY TOO HOT!!!!

Friday night we had our Life Group reunion (?) at the Bowlings. Chris, Lidelle and Rick, Patti and Jim, Ed, some Navy guy named Mark, Tom and I, along with the kids were in attendance. Rick cooked hamburgers on his big green egg and even found time to mix me up a glass of my favorite frosty beverage. We had a great time catching up with Jim and Patti. I hope that this time we can really stay connected.

After much discussion, we decided to study the controversial novel, The Shack. I'm actually looking forward to hearing the discussion that the book is sure to bring out. I just hope everyone reads it. The big drama came about when all three young kids got splinters in their feet, but Olivia won the prize for the biggest one of all! She managed to earn a Webkinz for her heroic act of bravery in allowing me to remove the "beast."

Today we went to Seasons for the Ulster Project's Pancake Breakfast. Of course, Sherry and Robert Storms were there and Chris Ellis came out to support the Irish lads and lassies. Ed brought Olivia and Delaney down and Drew and Dane made an appearance to check out the lassies. Chelcie came along with me and the kids, and we managed to convince her to make another trip to Dollywood. Olivia came along with Addie, Sam, Chelcie and me. It was way too hot and crowded to be fun, so we survived, made the best of it, and headed home. Addie's the daredevil in the family now, so she and Chelcie rode Thunderhead and TN Tornado, while Sam, Olivia and I joined them on Daredevil Falls. I took a solo ride on TN Tornado because Sam and Olivia chickened out at the last minute.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Don't Have a Cow, Man!

Here's a quick (I promise this time) recap of the week.

Sunday, Sam and I went to NorthStar Church. Tom was in Kentucky working with Scotty, Addie spent the night with Morgan, Drew went to WestLake, and Chelcie met us at church. After church, Chelcie, Sam, and I met Chris, Justin, Lindsey, Delaney, and Ed at Chili's for lunch. I called Dollywood to ask about my phone and they said that they found it and would have it for me at the Lost and Found desk, so Sam, Chelcie, and I headed up to Dollywood late in the afternoon to pick it up and purchase a Season Pass for Chelcie. Turns out, the phone they had for me wasn't mine, BUT I was able to identify my phone from the box! Unfortunately, the lady said it was soaking wet when it was turned in, so it wouldn't power up. It still looked to be in good shape. I was hopeful...Sam rode Thunderhead and Timber Tower, got busted for being too short on Tennessee Tornado. Being the good problem solvers that we are, Chelcie and I took Sam into the bathroom, took his socks off his feet, rolled them up into little mounds and stuffed them in the heels of his shoes. Would you believe he instantly grew 2 inches! We got him and armband to avoid the repeated humiliation of failing the measurement test and headed for the rollercoasters! He enjoyed Thunderhead, but opted out of his ride on Mystery Mine once we got to the loading dock. It was a quick trip, but fun all the same. Chelcie now has her pass and can join us whenever her busy social schedule allows. Oh yeah, and I got my phone back!

Monday's highlight was my and Chelcie's trip the Verizon store. Sparing you details, which is so very hard for me, we walked out with a brand new cell phone for me with all my old contacts saved! Chelcie had her contacts and number transferred to the Razor phone, so she was pleased as well.

Tuesday was our Reach Them meeting at Citadel. Jack and Sue, our printers, agreed to sponsor the event and provide for all of our printing needs FREE! God smiled on us today. Chick-fil-a sent in their proposal and we're still working through the details, hoping for a compromise so that we can meet of financial obligations, but God has already provided for our needs. Also, Emmette Thompson sent me Bill Williams cell phone number, so I called and left him a message with the hope that he would call back and agree to speak at our Two Rivers event on August 19th. I also got a walk in with my good friend and mentor, Sherry Storms!

Wednesday, I took Sam to the dentist for his first, of probably many, fillings. He did great and got to pick two prizes from the prize box and Dr. Henson gave him ice cream money as a reward. I had lunch with my Lotts BFF, Jane Manning and we enjoyed catching up as always. The highlight of the day though, was NorthStar's Hoe-Down! Tom and I joined in a square dance with "My Corner, Randy" and his wife, another couple and Scott and Melissa Cagle. We laughed and had fun, but it was hot! The kids looked adorable and had a blast too. BIG BLESSING of the day, Bill Williams called me back and agreed to speak on August 19th. He said he'd be honored! I'm speechless!

Thursday morning I had a mentoring team meeting and managed to opt out of writing an entirely new skit, but compromised with a modified version of our old one. Tom and I had lunch with Mayor Haslam at the Foundry with the Downtown Kiwanians as Anthony Ingram's guest. I was inspired by Mayor Haslam's vision for Knoxville and I'm praying for a face to face meeting with him sometime soon. Sherry and I walked in the rain. I cooked dinner for my entire family who actually sat together at the table with no extra kids and we had a great time. After dinner, Tom, Addie, Sam and I walked to the RR tracks with Buffet.

Friday morning, I met with Sherry, Suzanne, and Nancy at Panera. Then headed home for Cow Day at Chick-fil-a with the kids. Small group meets at the Bowlings tonight, and Tom is debating about going to the Smoky's game or joining our small group. The kids and I are considering one more Dollywood trip before they head to the beach on Sunday. It's good to have options.