Thursday, August 4, 2016

What Are You Thankful For Today, Mrs. Smith?


What are you thankful for today, Mrs. Smith?

You all know that I am a teacher. I do deal with young people on a regular basis and sometimes, they frustrate me, but sometimes, I’m completely blown away by them and by some of the things they say or do.

Last week, I was at a teacher’s conference. I was privileged to get to work with and learn from some amazing State Officers in a Career & Technical Student Organization. The guys and gals are so well behaved and so “with-it” to be only 16 or 17 years old. On the morning the conference started, these young people were down stairs before 7am, they had already had breakfast and were ready to work. “What can we help you with, Mrs. Smith?” And even though it was way too early for all of us, they each had a huge smile on their faces! As the morning wore on and things began to get a little hectic, one of these beautiful students stopped me and asked me, “Mrs Smith, can I ask you a question?” “Sure, baby girl, what is it?” I answer her. With sparkling eyes and a beautiful smile, she asked me, “What are you thankful for day, Mrs. Smith?” In all honesty, I was blown away. One, because this question came from such a young person, and two, because I had honestly not given any thought to a single thing that I could/should be thankful for that morning. I smiled, in my heart, and on my face. Then I thought, what am I thankful for? I told this young lady, “Today, I am thankful for the air that I’m breathing, that I was able to get up out of bed, that I’m here with you all, for your smile and for your attitude, and mostly, for the fact that you reminded me to take a moment and be thankful and to express that thanks.” That moment, that one question, from the twinkly eyes of a teenager, completely and utterly changed my day for the better and it stayed that way.

I had to give a speech at this conference and I felt like (others might not have agreed, but..) it went well. I was pleased with myself. The workshops that happened that afternoon all seemed to go really well. The Awards Banquet that evening, went even better. The guest speaker talked about a guidance counselor whom he had in high school. She’d told him that all he was ever going to be was a forklift driver. Well, he was just that for a time, but that job driving a forklift eventually landed him as part of a senior management team at a huge worldwide corporation. He told us that he never got to go back and thank this guidance counselor. She’d passed away before he realized what an impact her words made to him. He said he’d love to tell her “thank you,” and that made me remember that question from earlier in my day. I didn’t get a chance to tell my drafting teacher how truly important he was to me. I tried, but I never came right out and told him so. But I got an opportunity later on in the evening to have another thankful moment.

I was getting ready to leave the ballroom from the awards banquet and I ran into a gentleman I’ve known for 24 years. He was the principal at the school that my fellow Virginia National Officer was from, when we were only 16. I did a lot of traveling that year, where this gentleman was involved. I’ve seen him many times in the years since. Last year, he was sick, and we were all afraid that we were going to lose him.  Thankfully though, he has healed and has been back to several events recently. He came the other night to help present an award, an award that is named after him, to a member of the conference. Anyway, we stood in the doorway and talked for a bit, until my heels started killing me, so we sat down and talked a bit. While we were there, another gentleman that I’ve known for 25 years, one whom I have stayed in touch with and who has encouraged and even somewhat pushed me, gently, into some of the things that I’ve done since becoming a teacher, well, he sat with us. While we were sitting there talking, another gentleman came by. I’ve known this man for 24 years too. He was my bus chaperone when I went to Louisville KY as a 16 year old, twerp of a kid, to run for National Office, and he is also on the board of this conference with me. I had one of those very thankful moments, sitting there, with these three gentlemen, whom I have so much respect and admiration for. I cannot describe that feeling. To be surrounded by the wisdom that they have, but really, just to have time to appreciate them as the friends and people that they are and to realize in that moment, just what they all mean to me. I did take that opportunity to thank them. And I thanked them again publicly on Friday in another speech. There’s never any way that I can ever repay them for the confidence and encouragement that they’ve given me, but I can always continue to thank them and to be thankful for the role that they’ve played in my life.

With that moment and the moment with the student earlier in the day, I hope to try to always remember, each and every morning, “What are you thankful for today, Mrs. Smith?”

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Refuge

My Refuge


I never knew that a “place” or a structure could hold so much comfort in it. The comforts of going home is one thing. There is no place like home - as long as it is truly a home. But the peace and solace that I’ve found in going to the barn, is indescribable - although I’m going to try to describe it here.

Three years ago this past month (planning for it started before, but we actually started construction in July), we decided we’d build a barn. I had “visions” of what kind of barn I wanted, but I knew that my Dom Perignon dreams and my Pabst Blue Ribbon budget were two very different things. My husband knew the general shape of the barn that I wanted. And with little more than a couple sketches in the dirt with a stick and a quick drawing on the CAD system to check roof pitches, we started building a barn. He’d told me that the barn would be a different place and that he couldn’t describe it, but that I’d see once we got it finished and the horses living in it. It took us two years and four months to get it to where we could put the horses in it, but he was most definitely right. It did become a completely different place.

We can honestly say, that almost every nail driven in that barn and every board that was cut in that barn was done by us. We had help with two of the big poles and then we had help with sheeting the back and the lower side. Other than that, construction, including the grading, was all done by just the two of us. We learned to cut rafters using a construction square. We made stalls, we made a storage room, we did it all! My husband even built the sliding doors by himself and with the help of two of our grandkids, we managed to hang the big door and get it all working.

By the first winter, all we had up was the middle section, flooring in the loft, sides on the loft, rafters and tin on the roof of the loft (but no ridge cap), posts for the outside of the stalls in the ground, and like 5 rafters and their bands on the lower side. When we baled hay that fall, we stored all the hay in the bottom part of the barn, on pallets, and surrounded the stuff with thick plastic and covered in tarps. It served the purpose, but it looked like a portion of Noah’s Ark, not really a barn. Slowly that next spring, we got rafters cut and placed for the lower roof side, and then even more slowly, the upper roof side. That April, we had two young fellas from the Building Trades class at my school to come out and help us do some work. In two days, we had the back sheeted and the lower side sheeted. Over that summer, we made progress with the siding and the rafters on the upper side, and had some of the inside started. April of last year brought the big front doors. By May last year, it was really starting to come together more. You could see where the stalls were to be and we’d even started lining them and building the doors. We got the power and the water run down there and hooked up. Steadily, the power outlets got hooked up and the lights came on. Stall doors and windows were fixed and hung. We’d even gotten to enjoy the occasional evening of sitting in the barn and enjoying the quiet during the summer. Then feed buckets were bought and hung up and water tubs moved in. Pine flakes were put on the floors of the stalls. The fencing outside was rerouted so that we could move a horse in and out from the barn to the lot. Mid-November 2015 brought the move-in day for the three boys and the cat! It was so nice to have the three horses inside, where feeding was done in one foul swoop, watering was a 5 gallon bucket toted into their stall, and hay consisted of tossing a bat over into their stall. The goal we’d started two and a half years before had finally come to fruition.

Structurally, the barn, was and has always been sound, but physically, spiritually if you will, the barn was now alive! When I say “alive,” I don’t mean that the wood or metal was a breathing, living thing. It was still wood and metal after all. I mean “alive” because having those animals in there brought life to the structure and gave it a purpose and a true sense of being! Walking in the doors and smelling the smells that come with having horses in a barn, and hearing the noises that they make, those moments are priceless. The peace that comes from sitting down in the breezeway and just enjoying all of that and taking it all in, absolutely priceless. Throughout the workday, I look forward to going home to the barn. When I’m at home, most of my time is spent at the barn. I like to linger there. I like to just sit and soak in all of the feelings that come with being there. There is a solace that I don’t get anywhere else. There is a comfort that doesn’t come with anything else. I can have one of the worst days with work, or with other things, and it all melts away when I get to the barn. My refuge!!

                                     (this was the barn at Christmas, I'll have more pics to come)

More to come...stay tuned