Category Archives: the good things

good things mondays and thoughts on gratitude

Things I’ll Miss

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I spent the last three months in a house with wind chimes. I woke up in the middle of the night to the music of them in the breeze, and there was an eeriness to it. I had to grow accustomed to its sound.

But I did grow accustomed, and soon I will miss the music of wind in glass.

I have never awaited summer with less anticipation.

[She hugs me, tucking her head in like a child, and her face is red. “It’s just hitting me now,” she sobs into my shoulder, “everyone is leaving.” I take her hand and say, “I know this is hard, I know. But you’re going to have a wonderful summer, and next year, the first day of school will be just as exciting and fun as every other first day of school. It’s just hard right now.” And I try to get her to act – to put on the performing persona she does so well in homeroom – but the pictures are proof that hiding pain only works for so long.]

Good evening, my name is Catherine Hawkins, and I am an Upper School Latin teacher.

I hand out awards one after the other. I try to speak slowly because I rush when I want to be done. I pass out two Perfect Scores on the National Latin Exam; I clap for a row of students so long it has to loop around the stage.

I jump into a class photograph – right in the middle – but I do not tear up once the entire evening.

Someone has to hold it together.

And we all know Jim wouldn’t be able to [cough, cough, no-emotion-man].

I have never awaited summer with less anticipation.

[“Magistra, I will spit out my gum every morning at my new school in honor of you.”]

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I packed up my room. It is hideous and you would never imagine such learning and fun and difficult conversations happened here.

I am not even leaving forever – I’ll be back in September – but there is something about this year that was precious to me. Too dear, maybe, in a way that could not be sustained.

Good thing I have a good memory. Good thing they have left me better than the way they found me.

~     ~     ~

The past few months, I have questioned my work in a way I have never done before.

Is it valuable?
Is it challenging enough?
Is it the easy way out?
Is it glorifying to God?

This past week, tear-stained cheeks, awkward middle school goodbyes, and a gift I will proudly hang on my wall prove that this is valuable work I do.

[“Catherine, he’s been working all day to make you something special.”]

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I grew accustomed to saying the same few names over and over in class: Refocus. You need your textbook, not your workbook. Sit down. That’s hilarious, but NEVER DO IT AGAIN.

I grew accustomed to these faces, these voices, these antics that – on my more tired days – were not quite as endearing as they’d hoped.

I grew accustomed to being their Magistra, but now, as many of them move on, I will forever be their Swagistra.

[Photo: Rie H]

Good Things #47

So I haven’t been writing that much. I don’t feel the urge – or, I do feel the desire to write, but there isn’t much going on up there…It’s all I can do to get these weekly “Good Things” posts up.

What’s my problem?

I’m not really sure. Except that I’ve been having a love/hate relationship with social media, and right now it’s on the hate side.

But there are still good things out there. One of them is this song:

Even though I’m not entirely sure what “they don’t make you like they used to” means.

And I don’t think I want to be done like Michael or kissed like Prince.

A fun song’s a fun song.

 

I did write a post that I want to publish but I’m waiting on pictures from a friend…

Until then, enjoy your Wednesday and this catchy song.

Good Things #44: Technology Edition

Image 6I’m loving my technology these days.

Music. I’ve said this before, but really, I would be nowhere music-wise without friends. And now in my second year of teaching, my students are just as good at making recommendations. One of my tenth graders asked if we could follow each other on Spotify (totally awesome way to get music fo’ free!) and this may be one of the best music decisions I’ve made so far.

Recently I was talking about music and what I like and why I like it. I admitted that I don’t choose to listen to Christian music very often. As I was talking, I felt like I was a freshman in college again, apologizing that I didn’t like most Christian music I heard. It just wasn’t very good (this is my opinion, of course). I kept tripping over my words because I hate it when people think I’m a) less of a Christian, or b) a snob. I like to think my music taste doesn’t make me less of a Christian, and I do not want to be a snob. It’s unattractive in pretty much everyone.

And what do I find on my student’s playlist?

A Christian artist who isn’t bad – who’s actually quite good. Someone I’d choose to listen to and I wouldn’t feel like I were betraying good music.

Listen on.

Also, Nick Drake. Another student-prompted discovery. They teach me something new every day.

Instagram. Okay, the cat’s out of the bag: I have an iPhone. Yes, the woman who rejoiced over her outdated technology and her inability to check email on the go is now the not-so-proud-but-it-is-what-it-is owner of an iPhone.

(What happened? It’s called “one night I got a text, opened my phone [yes, opened, because it was a flip-phone] and the entire screen was sideways and white and I lost all my contacts and the iPhone was cheaper than another flip.”)

One of the perks of an iPhone is Instagram. Okay, okay, yes I made fun of my dad when he got an account. Yes I would say, “What, you gonna insta that?” every time he took out his phone for a garden picture. And yes, I hate the filtered lifestyle Instagram creates.

What I do like? Pretty pictures.

How many posts have I made?

Three.

Internet. I am so grateful for the internet right now. Not only does it allow me to do this thing called blogging, but it also lets me stay in touch with my globe-trotting brother. The guy’s off in the land of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein (and BENEDICT), and even though he’s thousands of miles away, I get to keep up with him via Facebook and texting and twitter. I’m so proud of him, and I a little bit want to be there. A lot bit.

But the internet is the next-best thing.

Happy almost-summer!

P.S. My second chicken class is this Saturday. Supposedly we have five students signed up…I better prep the girls.

Good Things #42

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1. heath-bar brownies

2. iced coffee with cream and just a little sugar

3. not wearing wool socks anymore

4. going to the gym with my sister and cousin…then topping it off with Starbucks

5. Sunday dinner with friends – barbecue chicken and steak, potato salad and ice cream sundaes

6. oranges

7. when one of my 8th graders brings surprise Lindt chocolates to class

8. the sun not fully setting even at 8:30PM

9. knitting the cutest sweater ever

10. singing “Set Me As a Seal” in preparation for my friend’s summertime wedding

[Is it bad that pretty much half of these things are food-related?]

Good Things #41

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Music.
James Blunt came out with one song “You’re Beautiful” when I was in high school, and I haven’t heard much from him since. As the days get a little warmer, though, I pull out old cds (yes, cds), and I remembered really liking his album All the Lost Souls. I was listening to his voice in the car the other day and said, “This really reminds me of the ’70s.” Like I would know.

April vacation.
After my jaunt as a chaperone to Italy and Greece during February vacation, I’ve been lying low this week. Coffee dates with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, lunch by the water with my aunts and mom, grandma and sister. I’ve been reading some fiction, as well as Tim Keller’s The Reason for Marriage. (“Why are you reading that?!” my sister asked. Good question. Mostly because I’ve been running into people who don’t see any need for marriage, and it interests me.) I cleaned my room – sort of – and took the trash out of my car. A dentist appointment is the crowning moment of this vacation, and it will be done by 10:00 Wednesday morning.

Thank you very much.
On Saturday around one in the afternoon, I decided to check on the chicks. I can’t remember why I was compelled to do this – they have been eating a lot of food lately – but when I opened the henhouse door, the smell of burning wood wafted out. I walked closer, and sure enough the heat lamp was just a little too close to the wood chips in the chick’s home. It had gotten down to freezing the night before, so I’d lowered it to keep them warm. The shavings were browned and the smell was awful. I raised the lamp and thanked God for not letting it all set fire. The chicks looked at me gratefully and stuffed their beaks with the fresh mash I put in their feeder, thankful for a at least one more day to live.

Living by the ocean.
I write about this a lot. Nothing fills me with awe and fear like the ocean. It’s dark and deep and water always inspires me to write. We sat outside a little coffee shop along the river that leads to the ocean, and I thought how wonderful it is to live here. I know there are other geographical wonders like mountains and tropics and fjords, but the ocean’s the one for me.

And summer’s not so far.

Good Things #40

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Being friends with coworkers.
The other day I walked through the halls of my school and realized how strange it is that I get to work with people I like. I know so many people who dread going to work – if not because of the job itself, because of their coworkers. The other Latin teacher sang in College Choir with me, the 4th grade teacher is a partner-in-crime when it comes to people-watching, and I’ve made a handful of other friends over the past two years. I love that I can walk by a classroom and want to stop in and chat – and not worry that the teacher I’m talking with wants to kick me out (other than Mr. White…).

Birthday parties and college friends.
This past weekend, we had a birthday party. It was warm and beautiful Saturday, but by 7:30 it was too chilly to drive with the top down. The girls and I showed up a little late, but it didn’t matter; we dove into conversations about jobs, education, faith, parenting (WHAT?! how does this keep coming up?!), and what-have-you. We ate reese’s cheesecake, brownies with fluff, blondies, and birthday cake. It was on this night that we learned three friends are headed to California for grad school in the fall, and we wept on each other’s shoulders and promised to make this the Best Summer Ever.

Moving the chicks outside.
Thank goodness the weekend was nice enough for me to clean out the chicken house and move those pesky birds from my bedroom. It took over an hour to clean out what was a terribly long hard winter, but when it was done I stood victorious (if a little dirty). Dad and I built a little space for the eight chickies because there’s no way the hens would’ve adopted them without pecking their brains out (literally). So now when I go out, the red glow from the heat lamp greets me. My room needed a little TLC once they were gone, but now it’s back to normal. It’s nice not to have guests.

Music.
I have loved this man for years. His voice, his guitar, his aching heart. This new song is upbeat and lovely for summer. I told one of my students she was featured in Ray LaMontagne’s new song, and she freaked. Looks like I’m not the only one who loves him.

 

Good Things #39

Spring. Spring. Spring!
It finally seems to be here after weeks of teasing. Proof? The bluebirds are back, we planted onion sets this past weekend, and I rode with the top down twice in the past week. Dad put the nucs (short for ‘nuclear’) in the hives we lost this winter. It was a tough one, and the bees felt it. But now the new bees are buzzing about, and I can’t wait for more honey.

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TV…
So, this isn’t something I usually put on my list (other than Sherlock of course), but my brother finally convinced me to watch House of Cards. I’m only two episodes in, and stylistically, I’m hooked. I love the direct address to the audience, I love Kevin Spacey’s voice, and Princess Buttercup is even more stunning thirty years later. I’ve heard through the grapevine, however, that things get a little racy. We’ll see if I can handle it. It always makes me wonder what kind of person I would be if I’d ended up in Washington or in some other political arena. I’d probably be some ruthless cutthroat with pork-filled bills.

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Celebrating poetry month…in Latin.
My students, while not in English class, are still not immune to National Poetry Month. For three weeks we’ll be memorizing Latin poetry together, and I tried to sell it by using my 105-year-old great-grandmother as an example:

“You know what? My great-grandmother is 105, and sometimes she doesn’t remember who I am. You know what she does remember? What she learned in third grade.”

That got their attention. Yes, Gramma can recite poems and songs she sang as a child. So I told them I was giving them the gift of poetry for when they’re old.

They laughed, because none of us is getting old, please.

One of the poems we’re memorizing is Ecce gratum (See, welcome). Written sometime between the 11th and 13th centuries, it is one of 245 poems in the Carmina Burana. Feel free to memorize it yourself in honor of spring and poetry month!

Ecce gratum
et optatum
Vēr reducit gaudia.
Pupuratum
floret pratum.
Sōl serenat omnia.
Iamiam cedant tristia!
Aestās redit,
nunc recedit
Hiemis saevitia.

 

Iam liquescit
et decrescit
grando, nix et cetera.
Bruma fugit,
et iam sugit
Ver Aestatis ubera.
Illi mens est misera,
quī nec vivit,
nec lascivit
sub Aestatis dextera.

 

Gloriantur
et laetantur
in melle dulcedinis
quī conantur,
ut utantur
praemio Cupidinis.
Simus iussu Cypridis
glorantes et
laetantes
pares esse Paridis.

 

See – welcome
and longed-for
Spring brings back joys.
Purple
flowers the field.
The sun clears everything.
Now let sadness recede.
Summer returns
and retreats
the savagery of Winter.

 

Already melts
and vanishes
hail, snow and the rest.
Winter flies,
and now rises
Spring, the heart of Summer.
His mind is miserable
Who neither lives
nor loves
under the right hand of Summer.

 

May they exult
and be joyous
in the honey of sweetness
who try
to make use of the gift of Cupid.
Let us be by the order of Cypris
exultant and
joyous
to be on par with Paris.

Good Things #38: Chicks and All That Jazz

It’s that time of year again – the time to buy chicks. I stopped by the co-op on my way home from school Monday with the intention to buy six adorable soon-to-be-less adorable chicks.

I came home with eight, so not that bad.

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[Look at that cocked head. They don’t trust me yet.]

They currently reside in my bedroom, and their incessant cheeping keeps me up at night (good practice for baby season?). We got four golden comets, two barred rocks, and two golden-laced wyandottes.

I can feel the restlessness in the flock outside: who’s gonna go? who’s not gonna make the cut?

We’ll deal with that when the time comes.

There’s an informational session at the co-op this Saturday, and I think I’ll go. Since I’m teaching that chicken class again in May, it might be good to do a little networking, a little hen-schmoozing. I need to brush up on my bird diseases and prevention… 🙂

In other news, I wore flats and didn’t feel like my feet were going to freeze off. April’s turning out pretty well so far.

P.S. Friday, I’ll be having my first guest-post. I thought it was about time to have a voice other than mine on this blog; my friend Bryn will be talking about fiction and its role in our lives, so stay tuned!

Good Things #36: Time

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A few months ago, I was on the highway. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and we were speeding on our way to one of my favorite port towns. My friend was driving, and I was trying to describe how to get to the used bookstore I’d wandered into the spring before. I knew there was no way we would find it again.

I told him I’d blogged that morning, and he said,

“Why did you already write your ‘good things’ post? You never know what the afternoon will bring.”

I laughed because he can be a romantic of sorts, and if I were always waiting for the next great thing, I’d never write a lick.

But I’ve been coming back to that moment recently, as the March sun promises warmth but the air has yet to comply.

~     ~     ~

Some people are good at living life as one big adventure. I have a friend who seems to jump from opportunity to opportunity, uprooting her life in America for two years in Switzerland and learning how to be in community while longing for that very thing. Of course she grapples with the normal dissatisfaction that seems to mark our generation, but she has a way of rising to the occasion.

I wonder what it would look like to live this way – with always the thought that “the next good thing” was just around the corner. Time has been a constant enemy of mine. I remember one night when I was eight years old, and my parents had my aunt and uncle and grandparents over. They were all in the kitchen, long after supper had ended, and we were supposed to be in bed. I don’t know what I wanted – probably just to feel like a grown-up and talk with them – but I came down the stairs. I heard my father, a touch of concern in his voice, say,

“Well, look at Catherine. She’s eight years old. Before I know it, she’ll be heading to college, and how in the world are we supposed to pay for that?”

I stopped on the cold blue tiles in the hallway. I was only eight years old, but there were the next ten years of my life, just the process of waiting for college and how in the word were we supposed to pay for that?

I couldn’t wait to study in college, but I also never wanted it to come.

[My mom’s friend sitting on the rug with me, not making eye contact, talking in her rushed-fashion about growing up and maturity and childhood. “Don’t try to be an adult sooner than you have to. I had to, I didn’t have a choice, but you don’t do it.” I looked at her and didn’t understand a thing she was saying. I just wanted to know what she and my mom talked about over tea at the island. It wasn’t my fault I could understand what they spelled to each other over our heads.]

Story after story of a young girl, and I travelled with her through childhood to adulthood, watching her blossom into a woman. And always that sadness when I came to the last page of the last book – for months Rilla of Ingleside sat untouched on my shelf because I couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to Anne forever.

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These days, time is a different sort of enemy. When work feels long and I can’t imagine answering, “Magistra, what does quis/quae/quod mean?” one. more time., I tick the clock away until the doors open and I’m free.

But when the weekend’s here, I grasp after those same moments. Sundays are too short, no matter how good they are.

As spring approaches, and I think about ending my second year of teaching, it makes me sad that I countdown the days, hours, minutes till the end. Before you know it, you’ll be dead. 

Where does this voice come from?

The truth is, I love teaching, so why do I always long for something else even when I’m doing something that brings me joy?

~     ~     ~

“You never know what the afternoon will bring,” he said that day in the car, and I am reminded of the Swedish proverb I tacked to my wall senior year of college:

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.

I put it on my wall as a type of foreboding, a warning of change and its suddenness and my lack of control.

Now, I’m trying see it as potential. Like the day that stretches in front of you just before you swing your legs over the edge of the bed. Like the friendship just before you shake hands for the first time. Like that first smell of strong coffee just before you sip.

To be expecting the next good thing in the afternoon, but to enjoy the good thing that’s right here now.

I don’t know what the afternoon will bring, but I’m trying to rest in time instead of wrestle it.