I don't need to play the lottery, cause I've already won a million bucks. (aka you are your OWN knight in shining armor.)

Two years ago when my daughters were home for Christmas Break, I looked at them and thought about the dreams I held in my heart for their futures.  Like any other parent, I wanted them to be strong, independent women. I wanted them to be appreciated, loved, honored, respected, treasured, and successful.

I wanted them to be everything that I wasn’t. Everything my mother probably hoped for me, but things that I had yet to find. That threw me for a loop.

I thought for a long time about what I had achieved in the fifty years I had been on this earth.

I treasured the wonderful childhood I had with two incredible parents and two equally great siblings. Oh sure, we fought like cats and dogs,and threw things through the house as we flexed our childhood muscles and our lungs. We were the busy family on the corner of Small Town Avenue and Navy Brat Street.

I thought about the ups and downs I had weathered over the years: the loss of my parents at an all too young age, the mistaken marriage to a person who was less than truthful about what our life could be.

I remembered the years in law school and the following decision to become a teacher, and that made me smile. Who needs a billion dollars and a life without worrying about bills when you can live month to month, drive a used Honda Accord and avoid the phone calls from creditors. Money? I laugh at the thought. I mold the minds of our future leaders. I can’t be bothered with a tiny thing like the phone bill.

I knew I was incredibly thankful for my three amazing children and the career I had fallen into. I couldn’t have asked for a more noble profession, to be sure. I was sorry, however, that I couldn’t provide the many perks that the friends of my children all enjoyed, and that made my heart a bit heavy.

I still remember taking my son to play at a fellow teacher’s house, and he said to her son, “Wow. Are you rich?” That was the first seed that was planted in my heart that slowly grew into my realization.

While I was proud of the fact that I have a great job and have supported our family for most of my marriage, I was heartbroken about the kind of life my children had witnessed.
And I vowed to change it. I vowed to take responsibility for my life. I knew that I was responsible for my own happiness and my own life. I had to take the reins and change my course to ensure my very survival. I knew that this, and this alone, would ensure the survival and the success of my own children.

I chose to show them through my own actions that we are in control of our own destiny. So now here I am, thankful for the woman I am and the woman I am yet to be.

I am the woman who has gone back to the gym, joined Yoga classes, started hiking in the woods, and still can’t lose those last 15 pounds. See that white flag? I’m flying it, people.

I am the woman who wakes up each morning and knows that each day is a new day. I greet the day with a smile and the hope that I don’t step into it at any time during the day. Sure, I usually do, but these days I have to laugh about it.

I am the woman who is not worried about who might have pissed me off or done me wrong because odds are great that I’ll forget all about it tomorrow and greet that person like a long lost friend. Time is short, people. Too short to be pissed.

I am the woman who doesn’t care if her mail is alphabetized or chronolologicalized. I pay the bills when they come, place them in a folder and sleep very well at night. (Just don’t look in my desk drawers if you’re OCD.)

I am the woman who will meet you for coffee, buy you a drink, pay for your coffee at starbucks if you are the car behind me, make you dinner, or share a funny story with you if you are in need. It lifts me more than it does you, and I am selfish that way.

I am thankful for my naturally brown hair (one of many gifts from my mother that kicks ass), my sense of humor, and my horrible long-term memory. My children are thankful for that, as well.

But today I am thankful for Francis. She’s the little girl in my class who handed me a magic eraser today. “Here, Mrs. Smythe, use THIS eraser! It erases lines!! I used it on my forehead and look! No more lines!! You should use it-cause if you got rid of those lines, you would look JUST like a little kid!”

And that, my friends, is one of the best parts of this journey. The little friends who lift me up push me forward and give me hope everyday that there is good in the world. And I am determined to be part of it.

Do you have a story about returning to a better version of yourself? Leave me a comment and tell me about it; I'd love to share your success with you!
Also, check out the Pfizer page on BlogHer.com to read more blogger stories and prepare to be inspired!


Six days is entirely too long to be away from these people.

The kids ran into school smiling, eager to share every single detail of their Thanksgiving Break.  I welcomed them with open arms, having sorely missed their smiles and unconditional love.  They filled me with tales of turkey dinner, grandmas and grandpas, trips on planes and swimming in motel pools.  I was totally disausted ten minutes later, and shooed them into the classroom to take care of their morning housekeeping duties.

Sasha was a bit late as her bus is typically the last one to drop off students.  She smiled, hung up her jacket and grabbed onto me for a big, big hug. 

“I missed you SO SO much, Sasha! Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving?” I asked with a smile.

“YES!” she exclaimed with a little jump into the air.   And then she stood still and quickly frowned, remembering something very important.

“Well, I am also mad cause Santa didn’t bring me ANY presents!”


I looked at her. “Wait, is it January?  Did I miss Christmas completely?”  I turned to Ms. Perky, “Oh God I really DO have dementia.”


What I did on my Thanksgiving vacation. (AKA Even old *cough* dogs can learn new tricks.)

The top six things I’ve learned over the last four days in no particular order.  (The number 10 is highly overrated.) 

6.  If the billion-dollar spiral honey ham is “pre-cooked”, do NOT put it in the oven and go for a two-hour hike up the mountain.  Unless, of course, you wanted to serve ham jerky for Thanksgiving dinner; then you’re golden.

5.  When you smash your finger in the door after letting the dog in and then you throw your head down in pain and SMASH it into the skull of your dog, you won’t even remember the finger.   Trust me.  (What’s my name again? And why is my nail purple?)

4.  Do NOT text your helpful hunky neighbor by using the microphone key on your phone.  Instead of texting “This is Shmebbie” it might say “Who’s your DADDY?” and send it to him before you have a chance to cancel it.    Yeah.  He and his adorable girlfriend are hiding from me right about now.

3.  The college campus police station is cleverly hidden behind the new five BILLION dollar science building.  However, if you take your daughter there to discuss a minor infraction, they might be impressed that she didn’t HIDE it from her mother and in fact had said mother help her replace broken brake lights that caused the problem in the first place.  (Note to everyone else- it takes 92 days for a 19 year-year old girl to get pulled over with a broken taillight.)

2.   If you use the stupid microphone feature AGAIN on your phone (cause you like to learn lessons many times over) you might text your friend that you “want a picture of Zac Ephron” instead of “I need a pinch of saffron.”   And of course, it will SEND and she will probably laugh at you ALL NIGHT LONG. And send you a picture of Zac Ephron.  

1.  You know those huge tires that are on your SUV?  Well, apparently you have to put air INTO them.  If you’re blissfully unaware of this and your vehicle runs like crap, your DAUGHTER might remind you of this and take you to a gas station.  When adding said air to tires that have 15 pounds of pressure, (which means absolutely nothing to me) she may lecture you about car maintenance until you look at her in wonder.  When were our roles reversed?  WHEN?

Some day I’ll know all there is to know.  (But by then I’ll be too damn old to enjoy it.) 


Another Thanksgiving Column. (It's Groundhog's Day, only with Turkey.)

(This was one of my earliest columns.  I read it this morning and laughed all over again.  I hope you do the same.  I am in the midst of crazy divorce stuff, need some laughs and could use some positive thoughts.  Send 'em quick, people.  Send 'em quick.) 

Every month after I finish my column I breathe a deep sigh of relief. Whew!  Then each month, I panic!  “What can I possibly write about next month?  I’ll never think of anything!   I’m doomed. “  It’s the same routine every month.

But, as Ray Barrone so eloquently put it at his brother Robert’s wedding, sometimes material just presents itself.  (Remember when Marie Barrone stopped the wedding? I cracked up!) Well, what better way to end up with material in your lap, than Thanksgiving time?  This month, as we all know, Thanksgiving comes early, which works out perfectly for me considering my deadline is right smack in the middle of the month.   In kindergarten, we’ve started singing turkey songs, made turkey headbands, disguised our turkeys, colored our turkeys, and have even made turkeys out of apples.  (Note to self- don’t give pointy toothpicks to 5 and 6 year old boys.  Bad things happen.) 

As we journey into this land of thankfulness, we have many discussions about why we celebrate this holiday.   I asked the class what Thanksgiving was, and I got a variety of answers.  Some said it was day where we thanked people, but most said it was a holiday about eating.  Now, for some of us (okay, me) every day is a holiday about eating.  There is definitely something to celebrate every day, right?  I personally like to celebrate the fact that I made it through another day.  Anyone with teenagers knows what I’m talking about.

Back to the Thanksgiving discussion- I proceeded to explain to the children why we eat on Thanksgiving.  I got to the part where I told them that the pilgrims came across the ocean on the Mayflower and landed in our country, and at this point one young fella (the unfortunate guy who was absent when the Nittany Lion made the surprise visit to our classroom) piped up with a loud moan.  “Aw, man!!! I always miss the good stuff!  I was at my nona and poppie’s all weekend.”  He felt better when I explained that this happened a long, long time ago.  After a lengthy and confusing discussion, we talked about what we were thankful for.  I told them some of the things I was thankful for, hoping to be a good example, and this is what they told me,

·      I am thankful for my sister Heather’s kitty Pepper.  I love her!
·      I am thankful for my dog.  He’s dead now.  But, I am thankful for him.
·      I don’t really know, but there is something stuck on my shoe.
·      I am thankful for my Illinois Jersey
·      I am thankful for my fish.
·      I am thankful for my family.  (YEAH!)
·      I am thankful for macaroni and cheese.
·      I am thankful for toys.
·      I am thankful my mom borned me. 
·      I’m thankful for tissues. (So is the teacher.)

Some days it is hard to conjure up things that I am thankful for.  There are many days when things just don’t go right.  The bills are due, someone needs lunch money, it’s time for new winter coats (Why do kids have to grow?), that winter sport is not free, they need new shoes, haircuts, and the car battery is really, really dead.  On top of that, the dog needs to go to the vet, grandma’s birthday is next week, the laptop died, Schlow library needs to be paid for that missing book, someone is screaming for money, and we could use a few groceries. 

But then, when the hectic day is coming to an end, I sit back and relax.  I think I can come up with one or two things I am thankful for.  My children are healthy, fairly happy, and safe asleep in their beds right now. (The best time of day, don’t you think?)  My parents might be gone, but I have a wonderful brother and sister that I am truly thankful for.   I have great friends and co-workers who graciously carried my family through two tragic losses last year.  (You know that social fund to which we all contribute each year to ensure that flowers and cards are sent to colleagues when needed?  Well, it is not a good sign when you end up with all the cards and flowers.)  I have a wonderful class this year, as always, with children who are caring, loving, and very, very funny.

Yeah, I’m thankful.  When everyone’s in bed, the house is quiet and the day is done, you’re damn right I’m thankful. 


You put WHAT in the pie????

My first Thanksgiving after graduating from college was spent in gorgeous, sunny San Diego, a far cry from Clearstone, Pa!  I was living with two friends, one girl from Tasmania (yeah, home of the devil) and another from West Virginia. (I’m not gonna say it.) Tasmanian Annie was unfamiliar with the many traditions that surround American Thanksgiving.  Two high school friends of mine, Gregg and B.J., were stationed at the Navy base in San Diego, and together we all tried to explain to her some of the basics of Thanksgiving Day.  After listening to what we had to say, Annie eagerly volunteered to make the pumpkin pie. 

Thanksgiving finally arrived and we gathered for an incredible feast with B.J. and his wife.  Everything was delicious! And then it was time for dessert…

Annie took the idea of pumpkin pie very literally. She had used the whole pumpkin to make the pie – every single part of the pumpkin.  It was a crunchy, vegetably, salty mess.  It was the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten in my life, and I still have nightmares about it at this time of year.

That pumpkin pie recipe quickly came to mind after a discussion of recipes with my kindergarten class. This, of course, was preceded by a hilarious discussion about what Thanksgiving was all about. When I asked them what it meant, I got the stuff I know you've been waiting for:

“Thanksgiving?  That’s when Jesus was born! “
“No, Thanksgiving is when Jesus died…”
“Thanksgiving is when we sit in our dining room and pray. We just pray.”
“Yeah, it’s when we put lots of stuff on the table and eat!”
“It’s the time for mashed potatoes!”
 “It’s when you hang up yellow, red and orange around your house!”
“Thanksgiving is when we eat Matzo.”

As we talked about the Thanksgiving feast, and what kinds of foods are typically eaten, the children began telling me how to prepare the foods.  This was such an impressive discussion, that the children decided that people in State College needed their recipes.  So, here are some tried and true recipes to make your Thanksgiving meal a success.

Dan- You put wrapping paper all over it and put it in the oven for 29 minutes.  Make sure the tempature is 49 degrees.
Jimmy:  You take the turkey out of the bag, you put salt and pepper on it, and cook it for 20 minutes at 42 degrees.
Mashed Potatoes: 
Ruth- You take the mashed potatoes out of the bag, you microwave for 20 minutes, squish it all togedder and that’s it.
Ethan:  You take peas, carrots and celery and you mix it all together for stuffing.
Jimmy and Ethan together – you take water, ketchup and mustard and salt and pepper and you put it on the counter for 20 minutes.  Then you mix it with ½ inch of salt and that’s gravy.
Pumpkin Pie:
Jimmy – You put crust in the pan, put the seeds and everything in it; you put some batter in it and cook it in the oven for 26 minutes on 20 degrees.  It burns very easily, so you have to watch it.   Ethan added “you do NOT put the goo in it.”
Taylor – For the pie you just cut the pumpkin in half, mix it all together and cook it in the oven for 10 minutes at 80 degrees.  (I think that perhaps Taylor got her pumpkin recipe from Tasmanian Annie.) 

Sure, Thanksgiving revolves around the food, but mostly I think that Thanksgiving is about memories.  My memories are tucked away inside my heart like gifts that I open every November.   They include many a gathering at 6 Turnpike Avenue; the smell of a stuffed Butterball turkey baking in the oven; the sight of my mother Annabelle, laughing with my sister in the kitchen with an apron tied around her waist; and the sound coming through the window of my brother and his friends playing a rousing game of football in the vacant lot behind our house.  

These memories mingle together, along with those forged far away from home, and warm my heart at this special, special time of year.  Now, if only I could forget about the putrid pumpkin pie, the day would be perfect.

(I am thankful for all of you this year, my friends.  More than you know...)


Sometimes we have to reach way back for the strength we will need tomorrow.

I am reposting this for the hundredth time today, because I am in need my mother's love.  Some days I feel her arms around me, and can almost hear the whisper of her voice…if I listen very, very carefully.    

Her Name was AnnaBelle...

Dear Mom,

I’m getting really good at not thinking about you. In fact, sometimes I go many days without remembering the fact that you’ve been gone for over 25 years now.

However, when I saw on the news that Natasha Richardson had died -  the very same way you did, it shook me to the core. I remember when you fell in your kitchen, and had a terrible headache that night. They sent you home from the ER, and the next day you lost your sense of taste. On your next trip to the ER, they kept you and put you in ICU after discovering that hematoma at the base of your skull.  You didn't want anyone cutting into your head, and convinced them to try to dissolve it with medication. It wasn’t many days after that we lost you. 

You were 48 years old.

So, forgive me if I allow myself a little moment tonight to think about you.

I miss your incredible sense of humor.

I miss the way you would pretend to be on sit-up number 50 in the living room when I would walk in.
I miss the way you would pee your pants from laughing so hard on the phone with your closest sister, Aunt Shirley.
I miss the smell of fresh baked sour-dough bread.
I miss the way you would scream in horror in the middle of my beam routines in gymnastics. I knew it was you.
I miss the way you would scream at me when I talked back to you and never did anything you said.  (And now I can totally relate.) 
I miss the way you always made me feel special, valuable, intelligent, beautiful and strong.

Mostly, I just miss you.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m thinking I need to go back to Starbucks and let the girl at the drive-in window know the reason I was crying when I picked up my coffee today.

I caught myself off-guard with some tucked away memories. 


The mailman cometh...(All the way from Maine...)

Most days I come home from school and find my mailbox stuffed with various items.

Typically the items are bills from crazy people wanting money.  People like, say, the power company, the water company, the trash company, the phone company, the lawyer company, the insurance company, the credit card companies, the oil company, the child support/spousal support company, the company I borrowed money from to pay the other companies and others I'm too exhausted to mention.

But, once in a while, I get something that helps me sleep at night without worrying about all the above-mentioned companies.

Thank you Maine Made Superior Vodka Company.   Today, you made my mailbox smile.   

And I for one needed a lift right about now.  (If it only held million dollar doubloons, then my life would be just about perfect.)

I've tried vodka's from MANY vodka companies- and of course the brands I like to try decrease in cost and quality when I farther into the month.  For example, on the 29th of every month, I'm either buying the vodka on the BOTTOM shelf in the vodka department - or dropping in unexpectedly at my best friend's house. (Well, she pretty much expects it now, but I still like to think it's a surprise.)

This particular vodka (Twenty 2 vodka) from Maine was EXQUISITE!   In fact, when I invited said best friend AND her husband over for the taste test, they found it to be a close, close match to what they have in their house.  (honk, honk - if you get my drift.)

And so I've decided that I either have to MOVE to Maine, or find some pretty great friends who are willing to ship me this liquid gold weekly.

Any takers??


Made in China. (If Frank doesn't have a TV show soon, then someone has clearly missed the boat.)

I ran into Frank yesterday.

I was leaving the cafeteria and he was walking down the hall towards his classroom.  He was as thrilled to see me as I was to see him, and he grabbed my hand as we walked together down the hall.  (Sure he ran a hundred miles an hour and practically knocked me over, but who's counting.)

He began to fill me in on everything he could think of, and it didn’t take him long to get to the punch line.   “And I was watching a show called Family Guy last night!” he said quickly, “They kept talking about China.”

“China?”  I asked.  “You mean the country China?” 

“No, China!” he shouted.  “CHINA!”  He said emphatically as he pointed to his nether-regions.

Oh good Lord.  



In the tiny part of the world where life is always good.

I was preparing a cute game for math today, but wanted to try it with someone first to see if they could do it. The kids were working in their journals, and I whispered to Francis who was conveniently at my table.

“Psst! Francis! Can you take a break from journal writing? I need you to be my guinea pig!”

She smiled and said “Sure!” She closed her journal and looked at me.

I handed her the dice, paper and markers and started to explain the game when she interrupted me.

“Wait, Mrs. Smythe,” she said dramatically, “I don’t really WANT to be a guinea pig. Can I just be a unicorn instead?”

(Pause while I laugh out loud again.)

“You bet.” I said.

 And so we played “Unicorns toss the dice and decorate muffins.”

And it was splendid.


Even the devil is horrified. (I'll lose a billion followers, but I don't know how to count past 20 anyway.)

SNL??  I have never loved you more than I do now.

Cause even the devil knows when something wicked this way comes.  

(Buckle up, everyone. I have a feeling it's going to be a long, bumpy ride...) 

Multiply this conversation by 20 and you have my day.

“Boys and girls it’s time for gym!  If you’re a packer please get your lunch and line up. The rest of you may line up as well.  We’re going to leave our lunches outside the gym like we always do, and then we’ll just head next door when gym is over."

“But Mrs. Smythe, Mrs. Smythe, Mrs. SMYTHE!  I’m hungry NOW! I’m hungry right now!” Sasha whined as she stood beside me and  yelled relentlessly at me during my whole line- up speech.

“Sasha, please wait." I said calmly,  "I have to yell at everyone before I can talk to you.”

“NO!”   She yelled s she stomped her foot.  “I want to eat lunch right now!”

“Sasha, we just had our snack 30 minutes ago, and will go to lunch right after gym.  You have to take your lunch and please line up.”  I explained, in my best firm teacher voice.

“If I don’t eat my lunch right now, my stomach is going to get very mad!” She pouted.

“And if you don’t line up right now, the teacher is going to get very mad and then we might have to call mommy and talk to her about it.” I explained quietly.

She looked at me intently, turned, grabbed her lunch and marched to the end of the line.

And that’s how we roll in kindergarten.


Things the Barefoot Contessa WON’T tell you. (aka, It might look delicious and amazing, but it wasn’t pretty.)

People do many different things when under stress.  Some people eat, some people go on a run; some people pull out all their hair, some people bite their fingernails, some people clean their houses like a crazy  madwoman.  

Unfortunately, I like to cook. 

Typically, as all my friends know, I bake bread.  If they come to my house and I have bread rising on the stove, or cooling on the counter they know something is up.   Today, after all that we’ve been through around here, I decided to up the ante.   I pulled out all of the items I stole from my sister’s pantry the last time I visited her.   (That’s another story in itself, but you could live for five years on the items in her pantry.  Well, as long as you’re not afraid of a tiny thing like expiration dates.)

I scoured my pantry and discovered a bag of caramels, blocks of semi-sweet chocolate, some cake mixes and a lovely bag of what appeared to be chopped hazelnuts.  Those I purchased myself last summer for a reason that currently escapes me.

After googling that combination, I discovered what appeared to be a simple recipe.  That was my first mistake.

First, mix the cake mix with evaporated milk and melted butter.  Be sure not to melt the butter in a microwave without covering it, and for God’s sake DON’T press the wrong button and cook it for twice as long as you should. (Butter is not meant to be brown.  Note to self.)

Then, spread the very thick batter in a brownie pan.  It will be thick and might require a five- ton rolling pin to spread it around.   If you’re lucky, you’ll realize about 3 minutes into baking it, that you are to spread HALF of the mixture in the pan and save the rest for the TOP.    Oooops.

The first three minutes of the eight minute baking time will soften the mixture enough to allow you to SCOOP out half of it with a spoon and makes the spreading of the rest of the batter still in the pan MUCH easier.  (I’m going to email the Contessa this little recommendation. I’m sure she won’t mind.)

In the middle of this hectic oopsy daisy fix-up of the mix-up, you are to be melting the caramel with some evaporated milk in a double boiler.  (Not the birdy-boiler!  I can’t help it. I think of that EVERY time I hear the word boiler.)

Do you know how long it takes to unwrap a 14-oz bag of probably expired individually wrapped caramels?  A long, damn time.  (Start a week before you want to cook.)

When you finally MacGuyver a double boiler out of pans in your cupboard and begin the melting process, you’re a tad behind schedule.  This requires a glas of wine, maybe TWO, and a deep breath.

While the caramels are cooking, you are supposed to spread the semi-sweet chocolate chips on top of the first layer of cake/brownie mixture.  Now, because you only have blocks of semi-sweet chocolate, you’ll have to put them in a baggie and smash them with your heavy Kitchen Aid can opener.  Handy Tip:  Use the smooth end and not the one with the sharp opener contraption on it.  Just trust me on that one. Oh, and cover the counter before you attempt to smash the hell out of the blocks of chocolate. 

Spread the incredibly ugly chunks along the first layer, and then drizzle the melted caramel on top.  Be sure to hold the pan with your right hand/arm, and not the one that you injured when you tried to lift the five thousand pounds of salt out of your car this morning.  That’s when you might discover that you probably tore something mighty important in your arm. 

After dropping the remainder of the cake mix on top of this brownie/caramel extravaganza, you can finally put it in the oven for 20 more minutes.    Don’t bother cleaning up.  Just take the bottle of wine into the living room and ignore the kitchen. 

Sure, the caramel brownies are amazingly sweet and decadent.   But I don’t think I’ll be performing on the Food Network anytime soon.  Unless they want me for cooking bloopers; then, I’m their girl. 

Hands-DOWN I’m their girl.



Ill winds mark it's fearsome flight, 
and autumn branches creak with fright. 
The landscape turns to ashen crumbs, 
when something wicked this way comes...

I wanted to share a funny story today.  I wanted to share one yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.   But I can’t.

It’s so hard to put into words what is happening to the hearts of all who have made their homes here in the happiest of valleys.  It’s hard, hard, hard, but I’ve got to give it a shot.   I’ve got to talk about it one more time, and then maybe I can find a place to store it in my heart and my mind.  I don’t intend to hide it, but I want to try to find a place where it won’t stop me from functioning.

Most of us here are walking around in a shell-shocked daze.  We are numb.  We are so horrified that we can’t even clear our minds enough to grasp the magnitude of what has happened. 

But we know it’s bad.

We live in a small town.  We have seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one large high school.  There are five grocery stores, (not including the Wal-Mart superstores) two community pools, one library, a small mall and a number of stores downtown.  We also are the home of one large university with award-winning academic programs; numerous professors who are highly regarded in their fields; a new law school; and a well-known football program.

We know each other.

We teach the children of most people who work at the university, along with the kids in our own neighborhoods.  All of our children, from main street to alley, know each other.  They all play sports together, attend banquets together, go to parties, playoffs, dances and so many other things that I can’t even begin to name them.

We know each other.

And so we are all trying to come to terms with what our hearts are feeling.  We are mourning the loss of innocence and the endless number of lives that were destroyed by the actions of one terrible person.   We are also mourning the lives of those that will be destroyed by the lack of action of many people.

But the one thing that I think about each night before I fall asleep is this.

I see the face of a young boy.   He is in the shower, being tortured by a man he trusts– and he sees the face of another, the face of someone who can save him!    And then just when he thinks he’s saved, that person turns his back, and walks away.

And he is left alone. 

That, my friend, is the only thing I think about at the end of each day.  And it makes me sick.


You knew it was coming. (Things aren't so happy in the valley.)

I have been a teacher for 24 years.

I have been a mother for 22 years.

I have been a person with a beating heart for 52 years.   I have had a conscience and a high level of empathy for at LEAST 30 of those years.  (Let’s just forget about those teenage years, shall we?)

As a teacher, mother, and most importantly a person who cares for the welfare and well being of children, I am both horrified and heartbroken over what is transpiring tonight over there in the happiest of valleys.

Yes, I’m talking about the scandal that has finally been uncovered at Smith and Wesson University.   It’s not one of embezzling; it’s not one of money laundering; it’s not one of forgery; or even gambling or paying off recruits.  It’s a scandal that hits to the heart of what is evil in this world.  And you know of what I speak.

I am not going to go on and on about this person or that person.  I am not going to blame a young assistant who was listening to the advice of the very men he trusted and respected.  I am going to talk about what we can all learn from this horrific turn of events, and how we might be sure that each of us is vigilant when protecting the youth of our community.

THIS is our most important charge: protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

We cannot cover our ears when we hear something that we don’t want to hear. We cannot harden our hearts when we think that surely an accusation against someone we have come to trust cannot be true.  We cannot pass the buck and purge it from our hearts and minds.

Yes, we must be careful to weigh the facts to ensure that people are not unjustly slandered or wronged.  We must allow voices to be heard and decisions to be made, but it must be done in the proper venue- and I don’t mean behind the closed door of an office in the middle of a college town.  And when it involves a child?  A CHILD?  We must use our best, most incredible due diligence to ensure that what is whispered about behind closed doors is brought to light.

But that cannot happen if the most horrific of crimes are locked in a closet: a closet that is only opened when the long and heart-wrenching distant cries of a mother are finally heard.

May God help those children who have suffered; may he wrap the children, the mothers, and the families in comfort and love. 

And I ask that we find it in our hearts to keep from pointing at others, and that we remember that truth begins in our own hearts.

If you see a wrong, it is your responsibility to try to make it right. 

It begins right here.  Right.  Here.   (And you know where I’m pointing, people.  It’s big, red, and beats a billion times a minute.)

Let us pray.

(We are crying for many reasons, here in Smythe, Oregon.  Crying, Reeling, and searching for ways to reach out to those who really need our comfort. )

The Frank Man Come-eth. (aka You can check out, but you can never leave.)

Our little rascal has been busy learning all about what happens in the "real world" in his first grade classroom.   Yes, I miss him terribly.

Fortunately, he has found a way to keep me smiling.

I was walking down the hall after depositing the children in the lunchroom, when I heard Suzy yelling my name.

"Mrs. Smythe!  Mrs. SMYTHE!!!"

She was leaving the Title One classroom and was heading back to her own room.  We hugged, and she took my hand as we made our way down the hall.  At that moment, Frank's class was making their way to the lunchroom.

He smiled and gave me a high-five, and then he and Suzy gave each other a quick, enthusiastic hug.  (Yeah, we're huggers.  We're the Hugger Family- five thousand and counting.)

As Frank walked (RAN) away to join his class, Suzy yelled after him, "Frank!  I hafta talk to you at recess.  And it's BAD!"

She turned back to me and we continued down the hall.   "What was that about?" I asked her.

"Well, he flipped me over on the bus!"  she said dramatically.  "He flipped me OVER!  And that is BAD!"

"Yikes!"  I said.  "He flipped you over??What happened?"

We stopped in the hall as she turned to face me.  She looked at me wide-eyed and held up her fist.  She held her fist in her other hand and said, "He did this, and he used THIS finger and he flipped me OVER!  And that is BAD!  That is a  BAD FING!"

And as she held her middle finger up and shook it with all her might, I had to agree.   It was a bad, bad fing.

But that's a particular talent he learned all on his own.


Some Days I think Tim Gunn is going to jump out of the closet. (Cause we are fashion, people. WE. R. FASHION.)

Sure, Francis rocked the Shoes of the Day (Minnetonkas, no less)...

But her bestest friend Sasha hands-DOWN had the Ensemble of the Day.

And, to quote her verbatim after she read a Level B book all by herself, "Holla!"

Holla, indeed!!!


Operation Occupy Candyland. (AKA Halloween + Candy + little kids who steal candy in the morning = Bedlam.)

At the end of SOME days, I choose children to take a trip to the prize box.  It’s an incredible classroom management tool that works WONDERS.  (Honestly, whoever said bribery doesn’t work has NEVER worked with children.) 

I try to ensure that most kids make a trip at least once a week, and it has really helped some children think about their actions, and how those actions impact others.  (Well, at least I pretend that it does.)

At the end of the day today Jackson (aka The Spoon that Stirs the Pot) came up to me and said in a whiny voice, “Why can’t I go to the prize box?”

I looked at him in shock. 

“Really? You don’t have any idea at ALL about why you are not going?” I asked surprisingly.

“No!” he said honestly, shrugging his shoulders.

“Well, let me see.  

FIRST, you were yelling at the ipad center this morning, and playing on everyone else’s iPad.  Then when you turned around to see if I was looking, you knocked the billion-dollar iPad to the floor.

THEN, at the Play Doh center, I saw you putting Play Doh in your mouth, nose and on your eyes. You didn’t see me coming, because your EYES were covered with black PLAY DOH.

THIRD, you were chasing everyone around the track screaming like a banshee when we were doing Track and Snack.  The WALKING Track and Snack that we’ve tried to WALK for the last 44 days of school.

FOURTH, you were cocking your pretend rifle and shooting everyone in the cafeteria during lunch.  The WHOLE TIME during lunch, according to the four different lunch helpers who tried to convince you to put your “weapon” away.

FIFTH, during my read-aloud after lunch, you decided to throw grenades at everyone throughout the story.  And while I might find that amusing if I were teaching an ROTC program, I don’t typically encourage that in kindergarten.

And LASTLY, after all the reminders and attempts at re-directing your energy, you decided to play WWW SMACK-DOWN during recess and might have been the reigning champion if Francis hadn’t come to tattle about what was happening behind the climbing wall.  Her bloody lip and wounded pride compelled her to protect the others.   I’m pretty sure.

But you know that even ONE of those reasons is enough to get you off the prize box list.  All of them TOGETHER earns you something else entirely."

He looked at me.   “I get something ELSE?  What is it?  Is it good?”

“Just let your mom and dad know I’ll be calling tonight.  Then tomorrow morning you can tell me if it was good.

Now, hand over the lego man in your pocket, get your coat and backpack and get ready to go.    I’m happy to say that his day is FINALLY OVER.”