About Me

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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.


Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

What I took away from RCA

First, let me start by saying how privileged I felt to be able to visit the Ron Clark Academy.  I will not deny how incredibly stressful it was to plan for (as the other teachers who went can vouch for, as well), but the experience will stick with me forever and will hopefully impact my role as a teacher for the rest of my teaching career.  I also enjoyed bonding with the five other teachers who traveled with me.  I think we made a good team.

Here are some pics from our trip. Below them, I will list the ten top things I took away from the experience.

 
"At the heart of RCA is a huge, two-story, electric-blue tube slide; it's how you get from the second floor of RCA to the first, and it is quite a doozy of a ride! When visitors get to the bottom, they are given a sticker saying they have all been 'slide-certified,' and teachers come from all over the world to obtain the sticker as proof that they have been inside the school that is revolutionizing education. The slide screams our mission: 'Be different. Be bold. Don't do things the same way they have always been done. Instead of taking stairs like everyone else, slide! Go for it and live with no fear!'" (p. xxv, The End of Molasses Classes, Ron Clark.)

 
Officially slide certified! I didn't know they were going to make me go down head-first!
 

Ron Clark
 

 
Giant, colorful, vibrant pictures of the students line the hallways everywhere you look. I think it's part of the magic--capturing every moment of learning and of life.
 


 
 
Ron Clark will use any kind of platform he can to address his audience and keep their attention, except, of course, the floor.




The motto above the doorway as you are leaving. "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
 


Kim Bearden, the cofounder of the school. I resonated deeply with her story and look forward to her coming to visit Garland ISD next year. (Notice, even she chose a trampoline rather than the floor.)
 
What used to be an old, dilapidated building....now a beautiful school and training grounds for thousands of teachers every year.

 
My new friends who braved the frigid temps with me in search of the Starbucks we never found.
 

Burrr. Sure was cold in Atlanta!

So, here are my top ten take-aways from the experience:

  1. Your classroom houses a family that needs to be taught how to love and respect each other at all times.
  2. Capture the magic of learning through candid pictures and post them all over the room and the school.
  3. Give kids ownership of their learning. Teach them how to learn from each other and then back up so they have space to do just that.
  4. Prior knowledge needs to be verbalized often so kids can constantly build upon what they already know.
  5. Privileges/rewards must be earned. You have to work hard for them. Plain and simple.
  6. Don't lower the bar. Raise it. Kids can and will rise to the level of expectation set for them if you properly engage them and involve them in their learning.
  7. Smile. Make eye contact with all of your students, all the time.
  8. Use unconventional methods to keep enthusiasm for learning alive.
  9. Pick up the pace. Keep them moving, striving to keep up, always wanting to know more.
  10. Have fun! You are the one who sets the tone for the day, the week, the year--possibly for life.
'What a fun 24 hours.'

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A letter to my Valentines

My dearest Mike,

I just want you to know how much I love you and have counted it a blessing to walk with you for nearly 21 years already. I still remember our first date back in 1994 when you brought me home so early and my brother said, "He's a keeper."

We've been on a rollercoaster ever since then, up and down several times, but every time we go up, we seem to get higher every time. Every low has made us humbler, yet stronger. Every high has given us a story of God's grace and beauty.

Thanks for keeping me sane and calm when I could easily go overboard or panic. Thanks for not being afraid to work through the lows or to reach higher than we've ever dared before. Thanks for being willing to live a life of adventure by following God's leading, rather than just seeking comfort in this life. Thanks for loving me, even on the days I'm not easy to love.

I love you and am glad I listened to my brother back in 1994.

Love,
Me


My darling David,

I love you to the moon and back. I thank God for giving me the gift of motherhood to be your mom. I love all the adventures we've been on together through books and through real life, and I love the simplicity of our relationship, how we can just enjoy each other's company.

I won't deny that watching you begin your adolescent years is hard on me. I hate seeing you pull away in order to find yourself in this world apart from me. I hate watching you go through awkward stages trying to figure out who you are and what your voice should sound like. I hate watching all signs of little boy fade from your figure. But I love watching you grow and continue to seek God. I love watching you become a leader. I love how you still want to run to my rescue, and I love how you take care of me when I am sick or in danger. I love your concern for me when you know something's not right, and I love how you willingly let me pray with you every morning before school.

I know the next few years may be difficult and awkward, and I know we may butt heads often like I did with my own mom when I was your age, but I want you to know that I love you beyond words and will continue to love you more every single day.

Love,
Mom

My beloved Juan David,

Words cannot describe how much I cherish you.

Attaching has not always been easy for us, but I don't take a moment for granted when we just talk and enjoy each other. I love how you open up to me so much more now. I love how we can play around and have fun. I love how we seem to grow a little bit closer every week. I love to watch you grow more comfortable and secure in our home and in our family every day.  I love watching your soccer games, and I'm so proud of your dedication. I love how much you care about your friends and the value that you put on friendships. I love how you continue to love your brother and sister, and I love how you have embraced your new brother. I love hearing your coach yell, "Alspaugh!", knowing just how long and hard we had to fight for you to become an Alspaugh.  I love the looks we get when your friends see that your mom is white, and thus we tell our story again.

I hope one day we'll be able to have a more affectionate relationship, that one day you'll be more accepting of a hug, a kiss on the forehead, or an arm around your shoulder. I hope one day you won't have such a hard time telling me you love me. I know your seventeen years of life have held more ups and downs than I even know, so I will wait patiently for you to show me when you're ready. I am grateful for the ways you do show me you love me and for the ways you do accept my love.

I cherish you, and I love the fact that you call Mom.  You have no idea how often I just watch you and cherish every moment.

I love you.

Mom

I just had a feeling

"I don't want to go to jury duty. I don't want to go to jury duty." I whined and stressed to Mike all week. I just had this feeling that this time I'd actually get picked, and I had too many other things going on. What if I get picked and it strings on for days? I'll miss my kids' Valentine party. I'll have to reschedule my parent conferences on Tuesday for the only night the school is open for an evening. What if it interrupts my trip to Atlanta? Do you know how stressful it is to plan for all the 'what if's'?

"Would you stop stressing over it and just embrace it? God knows everything you've got going on, and He'll take care of it. Besides, you've never gotten picked before, so what makes you think you'll get picked this time?" I'm glad Mike is much more even-keel than me.

So, off I went, riding the DART train into downtown Dallas in the early morning hours. I took a book with me, hoping to read a bit before being dismissed to go home, but I just had this feeling I'd get picked.

Sure enough, I got picked. And the rest of my horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day followed. I'm sure it could have been worse. Much worse. It could have strung into the next day or week, and all my what if's could have come to fruition. We may have been the last court to finish that day at six thirty in the evening, but at least we didn't have to go back on Friday. Now I can chalk it up as a learning experience, one I hope to not repeat again anytime soon.

I learned a lot, though. I learned more about an actual court process and how a jury works. I got an inside view of how accountable a police officer is for his every action and word, especially since he is on camera. I gained a whole new level of respect for police officers and the integrity of their job.

I learned how important it is to answer honestly about any prior or personal experiences you may have had with a particular situation before serving on a jury. I learned firsthand how not disclosing such information can truly affect a case, and it made me angry to watch that happen. Angry with a system that's supposed to work.

I learned that I have quite an ugly side that can come out when I feel trapped in an ugly situation. Yes, me, the one who's normally quiet in public. Also the one who is determined to finish a job efficiently and effectively and won't stand for incompetence to stand in the way of getting that job done. Ugh. I still can't believe the ugly monster that came out of me in a room of strangers.

I also learned that as independent as I try to be, I am a big baby and terrified in certain situations without my husband. Like being in downtown Dallas by myself at night, lost and confused with no sense of direction but too scared to let anybody know. After an hour of holding in my fear and trying my best to figure out how to get home, and finally within a few blocks of the train that would take me home, I called Mike in an absolute panic because I couldn't find the street to get on the train. Once panic sets in, it takes a bit to calm me back down so I can function rationally.

Thanks to Mike for calming me down on the phone and a nice lady at McDonald's who directed me in the right way, I finally found my train and made it home by 8:00 at night. My house couldn't have looked sweeter to me. I was so, so, so glad to be in the comfort and security of my own home.

So, yes, I got picked. And yes, I had a bad day. But I didn't have to go back, and I didn't have to worry about any of my other what if's. I'm thankful it's over and done with, and I'm so thankful I didn't have to miss my kids' Valentine party the next day. Four and five year olds make the best valentines. I came home loaded with chocolates, stuffed animals, coffee mugs, balloons, flowers and cards. My assistant gave me a sweet gift, and then my new friend (Juan David's friend's mom) gave me a card and more chocolates at the soccer game later that evening.

I went to bed feeling very loved and cherished, and thankful to be so loved and cherished.

I'm still battling quite a cough and am nursing a sore throat, but hopefully I can manage to stay out of the doctor's office and the ER this weekend.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Not exactly as I pictured it

Two weeks ago, my students could have started a choir with all the lovely "music" they made with their constant coughing. Four-year-olds are pretty generous about sharing all their bodily fluids with you (coming from their nose or their mouth--well, even peeing on the floor sometimes), so I knew what was coming.

Last Saturday I woke up with a sore throat that I tried to nurse and shove away all day. I had too much on my plate that evening to stay home. Set up adoption ministry table. Take boys out for a promised Chick Fil-A dinner. Take snacks for a party at church. Let Mike sleep so he could work that night. Take the boys to church on my own. Etc.

I woke up Sunday morning with the sore throat lingering. A friend ran the Adoption Ministry table for the first service, but I went back to the church for the second service to stay through the service and then pack it up. I tried to ignore the sore throat (bad idea) and the pressure in my head between my ears. I stood and talked to two friends (both adopted mothers) for the entire hour and a half, catching up and enjoying their company. But when my brother saw me in the hallway and invited us over for the afternoon, my sore throat and headache quickly reminded me that I needed to go home. I should have listened to my body earlier in the morning rather than taking whatever I had and sharing it at church. (I'm not much different than a four-year-old, am I?)

I came home, ate, took Juan David to a friend's house whose mom invited him over, and went straight to the doctor (after I saw they had an after-hours clinic open on Sundays). Positive for strep. Lovely. And two ears that looked pretty red inside.

Mike and David went grocery shopping for me, while I took amoxicillin, called in a sub. for the next day, made my lesson plans for Monday's sub. and went to bed. So much for those well-planned parent conferences scheduled for the next day. I'd have to make some phone-calls in the morning.

Yet Monday turned into a real blessing when my sweet Mexican neighbor knocked on the door, bringing me hot chicken soup. She said when she saw my car sit at home all day, she assumed it could only mean that I was home sick.  An hour after that, she knocked again and brought me a cheesecake, expressing her desire for me to enjoy the sweet things of life. We definitely enjoyed the cheesecake, and I also enjoyed having such a sweet neighbor.

I had to reschedule two parent conferences and hold one conference over the phone, but I would have missed the sweetness of my neighbor had everything gone according to my plan for the day.

I only missed a day of school, and I faithfully took my antibiotics all week. Wednesday turned into another unexpected blessing. Mike left to work overnight again for inventory prep, and I had to go pick up David at church around 8:45. Rather than leaving Juan David at home for 30 minutes, Mike told him to go with me to get David. He reluctantly went, but within the first five minutes in the car with his selection of music playing, he began to pour out memory after memory of his childhood, his siblings, his mom, his schools, etc., even to the day he found out our adoption plans didn't work out. I let him talk and talk until David got in the car, and then David quietly listened to him pour out these memories the whole way home. After we got home, we all three sat on the couch talking for another hour.

Had Mike not worked that night, he would have picked David up for me so I could go to bed earlier. But I would have missed such an incredibly bonding evening with my boys.

I woke up Saturday feeling so much better after a weird week, thankful that Mike no longer has to work nights. Life can get back to normal. I mentally made plans to go the grocery store and get caught up on a few other things. I also planned to take Juan David to one of his friend's soccer games that morning because he asked if he could go. I got up to make my coffee, and when I randomly rubbed my eye, I realized I had pink eye. Ugh. Not another weekend ruined. Can't exactly go to the grocery store with pink eye. Or church. Or anywhere that I am touching things or people. I didn't even understand how I could get pink-eye if I was still on antibiotics, but, oh, well. I had to make do.

Mike and David went to the grocery store for me, and I did still go to the soccer game with Juan David with black sunglasses to cover my eyes. I made sure not to touch anyone or anything, and the fresh air and beautiful weather did me some good. Plus it was another bonding day with Juan David, spending time with him and his friend that he attended school with last year. He and I have suddenly bonded much more in the last month--it's been nice.

I rested for the afternoon with a cold compress on my eye, and then I sent Mike and the boys to church without me. I sat in the living room to watch the service live on-line on my computer, when suddenly I noticed my left ear itching and burning. I rubbed at it a few times, but I conveniently ignored it. My eye was my main concern. Later when the boys came home, they asked why the left side of my face was all red.

I looked in the mirror, and sure enough, my left ear, cheek, and neck were bright red, splotchy, and hot to the touch. I felt a burning sensation. Two concerned nurses suggested I see or talk to a doctor right away, so I ended up in the ER. Who knows what I am allergic to. Perhaps I have developed a sudden allergy to the amoxicillin (it happens, even after seven days of taking it without any issue). Perhaps it was something I ate? They gave me some pills, a shot, and new prescriptions for the allergic reaction, for an Epipen (now I can join David's club) and for my pink eye, plus they told me to stop taking the amoxicillin just in case that's what I reacted to.  My throat and ears are fine now.  I need to see an allergist soon for allergy testing so I can find out what I am allergic to. They say the second reaction can be much worse...

Once again, not the weekend I pictured. This week I still have a full week of parent conferences (some rescheduled from last Monday), I have jury duty on Thursday (thanks for the sense of humor, God) and my four-year-olds first Valentine Party on Friday.  Plus I need to make an appointment asap with an allergist.

I'm sure God has a blessing tucked into this somehow, though. Who knows. Last time I had jury duty, I wrote a poem that I had no idea would end up in a book someday (we were still in our first adoption process).

Some plans you can't avoid, so I'm back to trying to take things a day at a time. I don't want to miss those unexpected moments and experiences along the way.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Book update

Before I give an update on my books, let me start with some confessions of a first time author. Though I don't regret anything about publishing my first book because I count it as a completely new learning experience, here are some things that I could have done better or differently.

  • I acted a bit overzealously. I think I was so surprised that I actually wrote a whole book that I just wanted to get our story out there--fast. I held so much inside from our experience, and writing a book about it helped me to finally share that entire experience with others.
  • I didn't count the cost. Self-publishing can be expensive. I had enough money in the bank to get my book out there, but I didn't count the cost of a professional editor or the cost of self-marketing (with my time or money). But I didn't want to give up my rights to my poetry, so self-publishing seemed to be my only option. 
  • My title was too long.
  • My cover doesn't draw your attention.  It's just pretty. 
  • I didn't attend a writer's group, so I didn't have a clue how to self-edit. There's so much more to editing than just using proper grammar.
  • I wrote extensively in passive voice, and I used long paragraphs.
  • I didn't catch a few typos, which now annoy the heck out of me.
  • I spelled Monserrate wrong, the mountain where the book ends.
  • I didn't leave any way for the reader to connect with me, especially since I didn't use my last name.
  • I didn't properly launch the book or do any preadvertising.
  • I didn't include Scripture, the very thing that helped me keep moving forward when I wanted to curl up in my bed and hide from the world.
So, I say all that to explain why a revised version of my first book will be coming out soon, several months ahead of that second book everyone is asking for. I am happy to say that I corrected a lot of those "mishaps" from my first publishing experience.
  • I took my time. Patience is a virtue, right? I am not in a big hurry, so there should be fewer mistakes in the process.
  • I counted the cost. I know more what's expected of me now and what kind of price is attached (time-wise and money-wise). I am still self-publishing, but I am working with a new publishing company who is helping me fill in the gaps that I might otherwise overlook. I love the mission behind the company, so I am honored to have their name attached to my book.
  • The book will have a new title (one they have not yet chosen or revealed to me yet).
  • The book will have a new cover (the ones they are looking at definitely draw more attention and emotion).
  • I have attended a writer's group for over two years now, so I am much more educated on self-editing. Plus two editors have worked with me.
  • I use much less passive voice and now include more dialogue to get you in the moment, to help you enter the scene rather than just my head.
  • I changed those typos that bugged me.
  • I spelled Monserrate correctly.
  • I will use my full name so the reader can connect with me later.
  • I will properly launch both books, though I'm still struggling on how to launch the first book since I'm sure many people will be confused about which book it is. I also have a great company to advertise the books along with me.
  • It's full of Scripture. I know this might offend some readers and turn some off, but my purpose is to draw the readers closer to Christ as they wrestle through their own faith, not to attract as many readers as possible. The book is incomplete without it.
The last I heard, the revised edition of the first book will come out this coming March, and the second book will follow several months later sometime in the summer. Stay tuned. As I know more, I will share!