Friday, August 23, 2013

Music to My Ears...

Today I was asked to temporarily cover a Beginning Guitar class whose teacher had run into car trouble.  I was told it was only for a few minutes, for which I was glad, since I hadn't the foggiest idea what to do with a guitar class.  I was to take attendance, pass out guitars, and have students practice what they already know until the teacher got there.

Some of the students were a little more than Beginning level, and I heard them playing the intro to "La Bamba", so I sat at the piano, uncovered the keys, and began playing the intro with them, and then went on to the rest of the song.  I don't read music, I don't REALLY play the piano, but I do know chords, and if I knew the tune I could play a passable accompaniment, so for the next ten minutes, students would play some of the songs they learned while I accompanied them on the piano.

Still without lesson plans, I was glad when the replacement sub came in.  "I'm doing YOUR job today," announced the resident sub, "and you're covering all Mrs. H's classes."  Then she handed me the rest of the roll sheets, the classroom keys, and the sub folder.  "And no, she there are no plans."

I looked at the rosters and noticed familiar names of former students, and heaved a sigh of relief.  Then panic ensued when I realized I had 4 more Beginning Guitar classes to cover, and two Beginning Choirs.  I prayed that the Lord would give me the wisdom to figure out what to do, and lo and behold, I saw the week's objective on the board:  "The students will be able to name the parts of a guitar and their functions."  I smiled and I knew God had ordained this day.

Back in July, my husband, my eldest daughter, her husband and daughter, and I were blessed to have been able to fly to Anchorage, Alaska to visit my son and his family for my grandson's first birthday.  While we all stayed at his house and enjoyed a holiday, my son couldn't join us in the day due to a Leadership Class that he was taking.  One of the things he had to do for the class was to teach a 15 minute lesson on a topic of which he believed himself to be an expert.  

The night before his presentation, he asked me if I would listen to his lesson and provide some feedback.  For the next two and a half hours, he gave his lesson over and over, as I listened attentively again and again, until I almost has his entire presentation memorized.  His topic?  The Guitar, including the parts and functions of the parts of the guitar.

So, for the rest of the day, I gave the lesson on the parts of a guitar.  I have never enjoyed teaching classes more for which I didn't have lesson plans from the teacher than I did today.  Today, I didn't need lessons plans from the teacher -- I got them from the master.  And The Master.

"For I know the plans that I have for you..."  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

11 Megapixels

One day God sent me a picture, and I opened it.  It was all a blurry blob, so I closed it and kept doing what I was doing.  He said to open it again, and I did, but it was not only blurry, it was also out of focus and pixelated, and so I left the page and went back to what I was doing.  He instructed me to open it again, and this time, He also said to watch and wait.  So I did. 

I clicked the picture, and watched as a blurry blob became blurry squares, which soon clearly became thousands of pixels, which shortly fell into place to form a beautiful picture of my life at that time. 

Yup, when the Blurry Blob finally loaded, the Big Picture was as clear as can be, with perfect resolution, and no editing required.  11 megapixel resolution, Jeremiah 29 style.

Today I received another picture, and at first glance, it's just one ugly, blurry blob.  But I know my God.  I know it's another 11 megapixel picture, Jeremiah 29 style.  I'm looking forward to the Big Picture.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

For the Record...

For  the record, and for all the world (well, my facebook world, anyway) I want it to be known that I love my dad. I may not tell him as often as I should, but I want him to know it, and that I love that I have lovely memories of growing up with him. For some reason, I was never allowed to call him Dad or Daddy, but that's O.K. I call him Tay or Tatay, which means dad or daddy.

I love that when I was a little girl, Tay would take my sister and me to play hide and seek among the trees at the golf course on Sundays. I love how he could never find my sister Dee or me whenever he was the seeker. I love that Tay would sing us kids to sleep with “O Danny Boy” and “My Grandfather’s Clock”. I loved that he would whistle "Yankee Doodle" to signal that he was home, and to this day, whistling Yankee Doodle gives me a feeling of warmth and comfort. I love that because of Tay's whistling, my own family developed our own family whistle: the Jim Hammer variation of Yankee Doodle. My children could be spread out throughout a church sanctuary or a basketball court, or Costco, and one of us whistle our tune, and the kids would stop what they were doing or saying to find the source of the whistle. They respond to "The Whistle" to this day.

 I love that I grew up in a household full of people, related or not. If you were a cousin of the wife of the vegetable lady at the market, and you were in town for a couple of days and needed a place to stay and you knew my dad’s name, you were welcome to stay with us and sleep wherever you found space in the house. I love that Tay invited strangers to stay with us...indefinitely. One time, we even had an entire family of Hookers live with us -- five of them. No, seriously. HOOKER was their last name. I love that my children grew up in a home that also welcomed strangers, only they didn't stay strangers for long.

I love that Saturdays meant bank day – we would get our allowances -- prorated by age, with a 25-cent difference between us by birth order (but you got a 25-cent raise every year, so that we all got a set amount at 10 years old, at 11, et cetera) – on Saturday morning after my dad paid the bills, and then we would all head over to the bank to make deposits, then to “Uncle Mike’s” to spend. I love how my dad always made us save some, spend some, and give some away.

I love that Tatay taught me to love words and how to use them effectively. I love how he made up codes based upon our experiences. For example, one Christmas season in Guam, he took the family to go shopping at Town House. While the rest of us shopped, he and my younger sister Jean got bored, so he took her to get some ice cream. From that time, whenever he would say, "Let's go get bored," it meant let's go get ice cream. Another time, while driving at night around Oxnard, we got lost and ended up on Hemlock Road, where there was a Foster's Donuts. From then on, "Let's go get lost" meant let's go get donuts. I love that inasmuch as he taught me to love words, he taught me to me to love The Word even more.

I love that Tay fought with my mom in front of us kids, and I love that they also made up in front of us. I love that he smooched with my mom in front of us, to our disgust, and I love that Jim and I smooch in front of OUR kids, to their disgust.

I love that Tatay isn't perfect. I grew from his triumphs and learned from his mistakes. I love that he's weathered storms, survived crises, endured hardships. I love that bullets whizzed by him as he crossed a bridge in WWII, just before it blew up, and that a terrorist's gun jammed just as he pointed it at Tay and pulled the trigger.

I  love that after fifty some years, my dad still flirts with my mom.

 Happy Father's Day, Tay. I love you . For the record.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Grilled Tuna Melt Sandwich

Someone at work asked me one day  the secret to the  success of my 30+ years of wedded bliss for a total of 35+ years with the same guy.  My initial response was my personal relationship to Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, but she wasn't satisfied with that answer.  She wanted a more specific response.  Something more believable.  More ACT-ON-able.  After three months, I've finally come up with one good response:  Grilled tuna melt sandwich.  I'm not too crazy about making a grilled tuna melt sandwich (GTMS).   

At first I counted making a GTMS a privilege.  When we first started dating and Jim told me he really liked it, I learned how to make it by watching his mom prepare it for customers at the cafe his parents owned.  Then I would go home and try it out on my brother and his best friend, who were more than happy to be my tuna melt guinea pigs.  Once I perfected my technique, later in our relationship, I would make it and take it to his work for his lunch.  I made it for him at least once a week for at least a year.

After we got married, and I was working two jobs and going to college, my tuna melt making days dwindled to once or twice a month until the kids came.  Then I would make them for the whole family.  One day I noticed that the kids would scrape off all the tuna, and it was then I realized that I could actually shave a few steps AND a few minutes in prep time by altogether foregoing the tuna and just making grilled cheese sandwiches, which the kids seemed to like better, and Jim didn't seem to mind.

One Saturday, as I was making grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids, Jim asked, "Could you make mine a tuna melt?"  At first I was irritated, because it required dirtying a bowl,  a grilling pan, and several utensils; two slices of perfectly buttered-on-both-sides bread, a can of drained albacore tuna, mayonnaise, and a slice of American cheese.  It also involved making sure one side of each slice is grilled just enough to melt the butter, while the other side is grilled to just to the right golden crisp, while making sure the tuna is not too hot, but the cheese is melted just right.  Annoyed as I was, I made it anyway.  From that day, whenever the kids got grilled cheese sandwiches, Jim got a grilled tuna melt sandwich made JUST the way he liked it.

One day, about ten years into our marriage, Jim did something that hurt me, and he knew it, but he didn't do anything about it right away.  He just went about his usual chores, as if nothing were wrong.  After a few (ok, MANY MANY) minutes of seething, stewing, and storming, I did what I usually do after many many minutes of seething, stewing, and storming:  I sought Scripture,  and to be honest, I did NOT like what I found.  In essence, I was supposed to PRAY FOR the person being mean to me, be kind to him, do something nice for him without expecting anything in return, use a soft answer, and use words fitly spoken.  NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR, LORD!  

Then, in a what sounded like a whisper, I heard, "Make him a grilled tuna melt sandwich."

"I don't think I heard you right, Lord.  That, or YOU didn't hear me right.  HE was mean to ME, for no reason.  I am the victim here, God."

"Make him a grilled tuna melt sandwich."

"But Lord, I am so mad at him, I don't even want to be in the same room with him, let alone make him his favorite lunch!"


So I made him a grilled tuna melt sandwich.  In the process, I recalled the other times I made it for Jim:  the first few times when he came over for lunch, on Saturdays when he worked at the tennis courts, at the beach while I gathered the ingredients, put them together, and prepared them over the heat of the stove, I was reminded of all the great times I risked throwing away if I chose to let my anger control my actions. By the time each side was just the right touch of golden crisp and the cheese was melted, so was my icy heart.  

I made a grilled cheese sandwich for myself, and then I took both sandwiches and two glasses of Kool-Aid on ice out to where Jim was.  His eyes lit up in surprise when he saw the GTMS.  He set down his rake, took the tray and set it on the nearby picnic table, and held open his arms.  I walked into them, and he wrapped them around me, and said, "I'm sorry for being a jerk."

From then on, whenever we would get in a fight and it was CLEAR that Jim was in the wrong, I would make him a GTMS.   It helped me move the focus from feeding  MY anger and to feeding HIS hunger.  The process gave me time to cool down, and helped me remember what was important. 

So, if she were to ask me again today the secret to the longevity of my marriage, I would say without hesitation:  Grilled tuna melt sandwich.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Eighth Period

This year, for the first time ever, my teaching assignment was at a middle school.  I had taught 6th grade before, at an elementary school site, and I taught 7/8 grade summer school, but neither experience prepared me for the middle school environment.  I walked in confident that with 18 years of teaching under my belt, I got this.  I GOT this.

Boy, was I wrong.  I walked in to first semester MYP Technology class seven weeks into the school year.  When I accepted the assignment, I thought, "YES, TECHNOLOGY!  That's just up my alley!!!"  Uh, no.  I learned very quickly that technology, by definition, is solving problems using human ingenuity, and does not necessarily involve the use of computers.  Besides, the computer carts and computer lab were being used by the more important (i.e. state tested) academic disciplines like Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies.  My class was a mere VAPA, although why they thought Technology was Visual and Performing Arts, I'll never know...

Eighth period that first semester was my smallest class and was also the most responsive and productive.  I looked forward to 8th period everyday, not only because of the students, but because it also meant the end of the work day.

Second semester was a little more, let's just say, challenging.  Eighth period lost quite a bit of independent time due to behaviors of 6 out of 36 students.  It was also during 8th period that I learned that I knew a whole lot less about middle school classroom management than I thought I did.  It was also then that I learned I had a larger repertoire of cuss words than I thought I had, even though none of them escaped out of my mouth.  I was at my wits' end with 8th period.  So I told stories, usually on Fridays.

I told stories of my events in my life.  I told them about my high school stalking days, about why I don't eat ravioli and why I don't cuss, near-death OD of a loved one, how technology save my life through a pair of 3-inch titanium screws...I shared with them heartaches and triumphs, and somehow always tied it in to technology.

Some days I would go home in tears, feeling like I failed that day during 8th period because I had to stop in the middle of a lesson to deal with an unruly group.  Some days I wished I had THAT class first, so that the rest of the day would make up for the bad morning.  Most of the time I DREADED the end of the day.

One day during my quiet time, I told the Lord I was done -- DONE -- with period 8.  Know what HE said?  He said, "Good, because now maybe you'll let ME do MY thing..."  Then I was reminded of what Mordecai once said to Esther:  "And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"

From then on, whenever anyone in 8th period "got my goat" I would take a deep breath, walk to the whiteboard, softly bang my head against it three times, muttering "for such a time as this...for such a time as this...for such a time as this..."  and then turn around, face the class, and calmly address the issue at hand and then go back to the lesson.  Once independent work began, I called on the offending party to the door, and discussed what the unacceptable behavior was, and then offer him or her the choice of a referral now or the rest of the period to make me change my mind about the referral. More often than not, they opted for the latter.

By the end of this semester, I actually looked forward to 8th period.  Yesterday, I received an anonymous note from an 8th period student, written on a 4x6 note card.  Instead of banging my head on the whiteboard and muttering "for such a time as this," I raised my heart in song and sang "FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS!!!"

Thank you, 8th Period!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Perils of Learning a New Language

Just after we started dating, I invited my boyfriend, blonde, blue-eyed 6'2 cutie of German descent, to attend a family reunion.  I warned him that he would probably be one of three or four non-Pinoys, but I assured him that I would be his personal interpreter and that I would never leave his side lest the elder aunts converge upon him...

Before the reunion, said boyfriend asked me to teach him some appropriate Tagalog phrases, as the ones he had learned from neighborhood Pinoy friends might have been a tad sketchy.  So, I taught him the basics:

Magandang uMAga = Good morning.
Magandang HApon = Good afternoon.
Magandang gaBI = Good evening.

He proudly pointed out that they all began with MAG and would not be too hard to remember.

I also emphasized the importance of adding PO after every greeting to signify a sign of honor and respect.

On the day of the reunion, the aunts and female cousins were gathered in the living room, ready to meet the new boyfriend, who stood there confidently while I made introductions.  I held my breath as he began his well rehearsed greeting; I assumed his momentary hesitation was due to his trying to remember which one he needed to use for the time of day, which was a little after noon.

"Mag..." he began, "Mag...mag..." he slowly recited...and then suddenly with a bright smile, "Maghubad ka!" he beamed.  I gasped, and he turned and saw the look of horror on my face.

"Po!" He immediately recalled.  "Maghubad ka PO!"  He corrected.

Thereupon the aunts and cousins exploded into raucus laughter and advised me to hang on to this one.

He had just told one of them to take her clothes off.  Po.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Stepping Back

“The Pilot’s transmission is out, it’s going to cost $5k to repair it.  The Accord is leaking radiator fluid, mechanic says all the hoses need replacing, it’s going to cost $400.  The kids are totally without transportation, but Pastor Ron sent out an email asking for help…”  I announced to my husband Jim after talking to my daughter.    I knew what I was going to do about it; now to just get him buy into what I wanted to do about it.
“What are we going to do about it?”
“We wait,”  he says. 
So, while HE waits, I pray.  I tell God, “Lord, we have four vehicles in our driveway, and two and a half drivers.  It’s really a no-brainer, but he needs to hear it from you.”
The next day, I asked him to call our daughter Jennifer, knowing that when he hears her voice, God will use it to whisper to him, “Let them use the silver car.”
“What’s new?”  I ask.
“Pilot’s getting towed back to their house, Accord is at the mechanics but will be back at their house shortly.  Email’s been sent out asking for help.”
By this time, my patience was starting to run out.  Why should the pastor have to send out email asking people to loan a car to perfect strangers (O.K., so church members aren’t exactly perfect strangers, but they may as well be, compared to immediate family) when we have a perfectly working car sitting unused in the garage? 
So, as gently as I could, I ask, “Why should Ron have to solicit help from church members when we have a perfectly working car sitting unused in the garage?”  He just looks at me, and then wordlessly gets out of the car to get some milk, while I wait in the car stewing.
While I stew, I talk to God.  Conversation goes like this:

Lord, You’re going to have to talk some sense into him.
Try again.
Lord, he’s not listening to you.
Not even close.
What... I’m [emphasis on I’m] not listening to You?
Now, you’re talkin’.
So you’re saying I’m the one with the problem of not listening to You? I’m the one who’s been praying and talking to you from the start?
That’s the problem.  YOU’ve been doing all the talking.

Then it hit me.  I’d been doing all the talking, telling God what to do, what to say, when to say it.  I wanted US – Jim and me – to be the heroes, to be the good guys, the ones to save the day for our kids.  That was our job – or so, I thought, until God gently reminded me that is HIS job. 
Good thing He knows me and knows that eventually, I’d come around, sometimes quick enough to where no one has to get hurt.  So my prayer changed.  I thanked Him for keeping my mouth closed, for keeping me from doing what I wanted to do.  I thanked Him for keeping Jim from doing what Jim wanted to do.  Then I asked Him to help me trust Him – to trust that He is doing something bigger than providing the kids with a means to get around town.
This morning we received word that a couple from the church answered the help call.  They had just bought a brand new car, and had a much older one just sitting in their garage.  They decided to drive the older car and loan the new one to the kids.

The loaned car is a 2012 Ford Focus.