Saturday, July 23, 2011

When a student goes off to war....

I love visiting with former students. Watching as teenagers grow into adulthood is one of my favorite things about teaching. Tonight I had a visit from a former student. JJ joined the Marines right after he graduated and is being deployed to Afghanistan for a year. As proud of him as I am, it hurts to watch him leave.

We laughed a lot this evening. We talked about a lot of things. His family. His friends. The girls he is seeing. The things he has been doing while home. The preparations for war he is making. We talked about his job. We talked about my job. We talked about how much he misses his family and friends. About how much he misses being in my classroom with his friends. About how much I miss his class. But mostly, we just talked as friends. Friends who are different, but friends who are close in spite of (or maybe because of) those differences.

I told him the story of the students who told me that I like the "wrong" kind of students. Who told me that I should like the students who share my values: "the good kids". JJ is a young man who doesn't share my values. He drinks, he smokes, he sleeps around, he swears...a lot. But I love him. JJ told me it is a good thing that he wasn't there when the kids said that to me. It made him so mad that people would question which students I like. These kids didn't ask why I like certain students, they just said I liked the wrong ones. So, I also told JJ about the first students who asked my why I like JJ so much. JJ was curious, and he asked what I said.

I told him that I will cry if I tell him. He said, "Don't cry, but tell me." So I told him. "I love you because the moment you walked into my class something told me that you were special. I knew you had a heart of gold. I knew that you would crawl into my heart and stay there, and you did just that. I said that I know that you love me and if I ever need you, you'll be here. I also know that you know that if you ever need me, I will be there for you."

I told him that I have said the following to only a handful of kids, and he is one of them. I said, "JJ, I love you so much because even though I will never know the difference that I made in your life, I will always know the difference you made in mine. You have changed me and made me a better person and a better teacher. I like you and I love you because of who you are underneath everything you portray to the world. That hasn't changed since the moment you walked in my life."

JJ looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "I will always know the difference you made in my life, and I love you, too."

So now, JJ leaves for a war. A war that he is anxious to fight. A war from which I pray he returns.

I took a picture with him tonight. He said, "Are you afraid I'm going to die?" I said, "No, I just want your picture because you were a part of my day." In truth, I am terrified that JJ will die. It's not a feeling; it is just a fear. He is going to war. He is going to an active war zone. Of course I am afraid he won't come home.

But, I will sleep well tonight knowing that it is men like JJ who are fighting for freedoms around the world. He has a soul that is as true at God's stars. He has a has one of the most valiant hearts I have ever seen. I am proud to have been his teacher, and I am proud to be his friend.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back from Vacation!

I just got back from Europe with my wonderful family. It was such a remarkable experience to see other cultures and walk among thousands of years of history.

I have a confession to make...we did not go to church while we were there. We were there for two Sundays and opted to spend those Sundays exploring both the English and French countryside. I really did want to attend at least one LDS service while we were there, but it just did not work out that way. Thankfully, my family was able to feel the Spirit in a myriad of other ways on our vacation.

As a matter of fact, I had many spiritual experiences while I was there. I teach my own children how to recognize the Spirit, and I am always humbled when they share their experiences with me. Because I cherish this so much, I also like to share some of my spiritual experiences with them. It is wonderful to sit and learn from my children.

So today, dear readers, I want to share with you three spiritual experiences from my trip:

I sat in awe of Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey.  I could have spent days sitting among the graves of some of my literary heroes. I could almost hear the inspirational words coming from the tombs. I felt so much peace as I sat on the floor and closed my eyes. Inspired simply does not cover how moved I was. I felt a clarity of my own future goals that I have not felt before. I felt confirmation of the Spirit on so many aspects of my life. I felt encouragement from the silent residents of Poet's Corner. This is a place that to which I will return.

We went to Giverny and toured Monet's Gardens. Of course it was crowded; it is a tourist attraction after all, but that did not take away from the spirituality of the place. My family was able to find quiet places where few people decided to go. To walk among the flowers, waters, streets, and landscape that inspired Monet's talent was incredible. It is so incredible to see so many varieties of flowers, trees, and shrubs in one place. There was a harmony among the nature that words simply cannot convey.

On the streets in Paris we ran into two sets of missionaries. They were both older couples in the center of Paris. I knew before I saw their missionary badges that they were missionaries. There was an unmistakable joy in their countenances. Each couple had been out a little over a year. They shared their experiences learning the language and loving the people. It made me even more positive that I will go on a mission with my husband when we are older.

I could write for days about my experiences. I loved teaching my own children and learning along with them. It was the perfect vacation and one that I cannot wait to do again.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


This may not make much sense, but I have to write it if I am going to sleep tonight.

Someone I care for very much was betrayed today. I am frustrated. I am angry. I am hurt on his behalf.

My friend "George" was worried about his friend "Charlie". Charlie and George have been friends their entire lives, and George knew that he had to tell someone his concern. So what did George do? He shared that concern with another friend "Lucy" and me. (We are also incredibly close to Charlie and are in the position to do something.)

George asked both of us to do with the information what we felt was right, but he pleaded with us not to use his name. He asked us to leave him out of it. I understood the gravity of the situation. Action needed to be taken; however, that action could be taken without involving George.

Actually, action was taken, without ever mentioning George's conversation with us. Things were moving along quite nicely, until three days ago. Lucy became angry at me. (I am still not sure why she was angry.) She never called me to talk about it. She didn't return my call after I heard she was angry. But, make no mistake, she was mad and wanted to hurt me. So what did she do?

To hurt me, she told Charlie exactly what George told both of us. She betrayed the confidence of George to get back at me!!!??!!!  Then, Charlie called George and confronted him. (I learned this evening that neither Charlie nor George had anything to do with her anger at me...still not sure what I did, but they apparently had nothing to do with it.)

Did she do this because knowing how much I love George, she thought it would hurt me to see him hurt?

I don't understand. She loves George, too. Why would she hurt him to get back at me?

I feel awful. I did nothing wrong, yet I feel responsible for the backlash on George. I love George very much. He is one of the most important people in my life, and I am heartbroken that his trust was betrayed.

Lucy did not need to say anything. Things with Charlie were moving along as best as they could. But now, everything is a mess. Charlie is mad. George feels betrayed. I feel awful and responsible.

And Lucy feels...what? Happy? Vindicated? I saw her today and her smile was one of sweet revenge.

How does hurting two people we both care about make her feel better?

I am angry beyond words at Lucy. So angry that I want nothing to do with her...ever again.

It was a difficult day to put on a happy face so my own children could not see the anger. They felt the tension. They know something is not right. And I really do not want to tell them what happened. I want to spare them this particular meanness in the world.