The Humble, Lowly, Common Man

Today, my students and I were privileged to hear a beautiful piece of music performed by our capital’s talented symphony.

Photo by Weston Demonbreun (http://www.gwstudios.biz/)
Photo by Weston Demonbreun (http://www.gwstudios.biz/)

High-toned brass communicated triumph. Lower timbres gave the piece regal depth. The music swelled with such power and prestige. As I listened, I pictured mountain peaks, soaring birds, grand processions, nobility, and more. Chills spread across my skin, and my heart soared as high as the symphony hall’s gilded ceilings. It wasn’t just the music. It was the title.

Any king would be honored to be represented by the song. In fact, it has been chosen to communicate triumphant entrances by politicians, producers, professional sports teams, and the Queen of England herself. But its composer, Aaron Copeland, instead titled his piece, “Fanfare of the Common Man.”

And, friends, does the common man not deserve fanfare?

Every morning as a girl, I listened to my father’s boot-clad footsteps thud across the floor downstairs as I lay cozy under my quilt, head on my pillow, only half-awake and still half-dreaming. I would listen silently as Dad would microwave his instant coffee, head out into the cold alone, and make the drive (that he still makes today) to his factory far away. Never once did I worry if we’d eat dinner, stay warm, or sleep safe. Dad took care of those things. If he worried about the future, I never knew. Away he’d go, faithfully every morning, to care for us all as we slept in our beds, safely abiding in the home he created for us.

Sometimes, I’d sneak away for a slumber party at a friend’s house. We’d be reminded not to make too much racket as her father, dear to me still, had to work in the morning. We would ignore that request and get carried away telling secrets, writing stories, and giggling through the night. I remember well his patient reminders on a couple of occasions that we needed to stay quiet so that he could sleep. The night would continue with careless ease until we finally settled down, well after midnight. Then, before we drifted off, before the fingers of daylight had even slipped above the horizon, he’d walk through the living room, into the kitchen, heavy boots resounding, and head off to his fire hall to provide for his family and to protect and rescue strangers.

My husband and his sister were raised by their mother and her husband. Though not his father at birth, he became a dad to them in every sense of the word. He taught them, protected them, and provided for them like they were his own. He spent weeks at a time on the road, driving alone as a trucker, while they attended school, stayed home, and led the care-free lives led by well-loved children. When my husband affectionately says, “Dad,” this is the man I instinctively know he is speaking about.

My best friend’s parents separated when she was young. Not long after, while she was still a girl, her mother was in a horrifying collision that left her with several severe health issues that would forever alter her quality of life. Her father could not shake the feeling of responsibility. He has since spent nearly two decades loyally caring for her and raising their daughter virtually alone. He has not asked for praise. He hasn’t held it over anyone’s head or felt entitled to special recognition. He is a man who has dutifully put his family first in spite of intense hardship.

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Mr. S’s very own dirty boots.

I now watch my own husband show love in more ways than I could imagine. He has started my car and brewed my coffee on cold mornings. He has worked through the night in sub-zero temperatures to serve our city and provide for our family. He has traveled around the country and world to serve our country. He has run on virtually no sleep without complaint to care for his family. He dutifully gets our oil changed, takes out the trash, walks the dog, and serves me daily. He has reminded me to rest, to eat, to sleep, to relax, and more for my own good.

I propose that every one of these men deserves a fanfare of their own. Because the act of leading and protecting a family is as important and noble as anything worth writing in the pages of a history book.

Quietly, men around us toil and overcome the world day after day.

Whether a man waits tables with excellence and care, writes laws to improve our cities, prepares in singleness for a family of his own, collects the garbage while others sleep, leads a ministry through prayer and intentional seeking, or makes sales with integrity, I propose that he is worth celebrating just as he is.

Pinwheels and Dandelions

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First Grade made these pinwheels using donated scrapbook paper, straws, bamboo skewers, and pipe cleaners.

We’re gearing up for our school’s annual Social Studies and Science Fair around these parts!  It may be cold outside, but inside, we’re all breezy, blue skies.

My First Graders have just completed a unit all about air. Students have explored concepts like air pressure, compression, air resistance, and glide. They discovered that, though invisible, it takes up space, changes shape, and can push objects.

They’re ready to present some pretty impressive experiments, but we still wanted to do a little more.

My co-teacher conceived the idea of creating dandelion artwork. Since First Grade studied plants and methods of seed dispersal during our previous 9 weeks of study, it became the perfect bridge between units.  Continue reading “Pinwheels and Dandelions”

Student Supply Caddy: How NOT to Scramble for Materials

It. Never. Fails.

It seems I have a smooth-sailing lesson planned. We’re gliding through our song/dance/desperate-look-at-me-activity attention-grabber, and we’re finally about to put paper to pencil.

Then, inevitably, I hear, “Mrs. Stewart, I don’t have a pencil/ruler/crayon/you-name-it.”

Nothing eats up time like digging around for materials. My (current) solution: Have everything right there, ready to go. Continue reading “Student Supply Caddy: How NOT to Scramble for Materials”

Organizing the Overhead

There is perhaps nothing so unappealing and utilitarian in the classroom as the overhead and its cart.

If you have a beautiful Elmo projector attached to a gorgeous Smart Board or the like, good for you, you lucky ducky!

However, this post is for those of us still kicking it old school. Continue reading “Organizing the Overhead”

I Snagged a Deal, Y’all!

I’ve got a confession.

I’m completely obsessed with a chair. Would you be surprised if I told you said chair is from none other than Restoration Hardware? Of course you wouldn’t! Because nearly everything in that store is a lovely mixture of tasteful, refined, and bold. Meet the Vintage French Round Upholstered Side Chair (that’s a lot of adjectives).

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Splurge Chair

This drool-worthy beauty comes in several color options, and I happen to adore every single wood finish and fabric. It’s feminine and traditional, but the casual linen fabric saves it from being too stuffy. This is just the look I’m going for in our home (I bet I don’t have to tell you that we’re still pretty far from achieving said look). Though it has a lot to offer, it comes at a price. Literally. These things start at around $200.00 and creep their up to around $400.00 with shipping and tax. Yikes! I don’t judge anyone who forks out that much for a chair, but there’s not room in our teacher/police officer budget for such a splurge. Could we? Sure. Should we? Nope!

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Steal Chair

I had resolved that, while I’d never own such a lovely chair, I could be sincerely happy for whoever’s home was filled with such delights. Then lightning struck. I saw this beauty at T.J. Maxx of all places! Along with all three of her perfect sisters! I am not the girl who magically finds the “perfect thing” often. So when I say lightning struck, I really mean it!

She has the pretty pickled-pine finish, linen cushions, oval back, and carved legs of my dreams! And I got all four for about the price of a single chair from RH.

We currently have a bar-height kitchen table. It was an awesome moving-sale steal, so I’ve been thankful for its sturdy build for years. But as we’ve increasingly had toddlers visiting our place, we’ve discovered they’re not ideal for company with young children. Additionally, the leaf is destroyed beyond repair, so hosting more that two other folks is a challenge for us.

We have plans to build a new table with the help of my handy dad, but we definitely don’t have the time/talents to build chairs, too. I’m so thankful for this economical alternative that I truly adore as much as the RH version and can hardly wait to build a table for them. If anyone has a suggestion for a specific wood finish to pair with these beauties, I’m all ears!

For now, they’re scattered all over our tiny one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, so we’re a little cramped. 😉

photo 1 (2)Another relatively recent change is the addition of this little seafoam pillow from World Market on our bed. I know, it’s not very attention grabbing. But to a neutral-loving girl like me, this is quite the pop of color. 😉 I love that the soft velvet is such a contrast to the rumpled, rough linen duvet and shams.

Our room sure doesn’t look professionally decorated, but it is filled with things we love (like the thumbprint tree pictured left signed and stamped by guests at our wedding in the church where we met). I walk in the door after each busy day and feel such peace and comfort.

Little Valentine’s Day touches also abound thanks to some roses on clearance at our local grocery store. Flowers can feel like such an indulgent treat, but I’ve learned to make the most of single bouquets by spreading out small groupings of the flowers in little clusters.

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Thanks for stopping by to tour our little home! It’s not grand, but it’s full of love and a whole lot of happy, that’s for sure. Hope you felt it, too!

 Lastly, here is a shot of our cute, wet, miserable puppy after her bath:

1555329_10152216413363987_574203825_nWe love you, Lucy. But you REALLY needed that bath. Stinky girl.

Thank You Note Freebie

In my teaching team’s area, we’re passionate about saying, “thanks” to guests, volunteers, and co-workers.

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Rather than spending money on bundles of cards, my team teachers and I decided to make our own notes this year. I created these, pattern and all, using humble Microsoft Word. I say that to reassure you that you don’t need to splurge on a fancy program to create cute, happy documents for your classroom.

From there, it was easy to swap out colors so we’d have several options. Continue reading “Thank You Note Freebie”