Monday, September 30, 2013

Because Baseball Y'all...

It was an absolute train wreck of a day.

The only thing saving it was a trip to the Ballpark for some bonus baseball and game #163.

You'd think that a 5-2 loss would add to the train wreck.

You'd think that waiting 45 minutes on a shuttle would add to the train wreck.

You'd think that arriving back at the parking lot to find my car covered in bird feces would add to the train wreck.

You'd think not making it home until midnight with a racing brain and a serious case of insomnia would add to the train wreck.

You'd think that losing my Twitter bet and having to change my avi to this would add to the train wreck.

Scene from Bull Durham.
Since most of the Rays come from that system, Krest thought this was apropos.
I sort of don't see the embarrassment I'm supposed to feel.

But you'd be wrong.

Because baseball, y'all. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Are You So Afraid Of?

Yesterday was the end of Banned Books Week.

I feel pretty sad because, as busy as I've been, I neglected the big display for my room I had planned this summer.

Books have always held a sacred and special place in my heart.  I am genuinely saddened by people who don't like to read, and I often wonder where all of their thoughts and ideas come from.  I've said before that my parents were never especially political or religious, and I really can't remember even one time where they told me what I should or should not believe.  From early on, I knew that some of the things I felt and believed to be right were not the same views shared by my family or their friends, but I cannot for the life of me remember a time that I was faulted for it.

Books and reading were never denied in my house or in my school, and I grew up surrounded by pages and words and thoughts.  I read everything I could get my greedy little hands on.  Even now, my greatest thrill is the feel of a new book open in my hands.

I have never understood the banning of books because I do not understand the denial of ideas and education.  For parents who challenge books or authors, I ask, "What are you so afraid of?"

Are you afraid of opposing views?

Are you afraid of defending your own views?

Are you afraid that your child will no longer share your views?

Are you afraid that -- maybe, just maybe -- you'll have to reconsider your own beliefs?

If what you believe, or what you've taught your children, is so worthwhile -- so steadfast -- don't you want them to explore other viewpoints?  How do you defend and build your truth if you never investigate what actually makes it true?  An argument that cannot withstand question was never a very valid argument at all.

Are you afraid your child will learn something you don't want him to know?

Are you afraid your child will pick up some bad habit, some swear word, some foul desire?

Are you afraid your child's interest in something will cause you more work?

Unless you're raising your child in a bubble, he probably already does.  The world is a dangerous and dirty place at times, but keeping a book out of his hand won't necessarily keep him clean.  Most of the terrible and dangerous things I learned about in life were certainly not found in a book.

Hypocrisy, adultery, lying, cheating, swearing, racism, bigotry... I saw them everywhere, from the bottom all the way to the top, from the lowly to the holy, from the common to the famous.  I still do.  But it's in books and speeches and interviews and newspapers (paired with open and honest discussion with the adults in my life) that I learned how I felt about those things.  Through those discussions and opportunities, I developed a sharp wit, a moral compass, a strong opinion, and a keen eye.

I said earlier that my greatest thrill is the feel of a new book in my hand, but I think I'd have to amend that.  It has nothing on the moment when a book closes, and I cannot stop thinking about what it said to me.

Books speak, or at least the best ones do, and their voices never go away.  All I ask is that before you silence one, ask yourself, honestly... what am I so afraid of?


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stepping into the Spotlight

A teacher's job, by nature, is to help others shine.  Our job is to provide the spark, to fan the flame, but so rarely are we the fire.  And we are okay with that.  We are directors, choreographers, coaches.  We are not the stars.  We live in the background.  We are scenery.  We hold the cue cards while our work stands center stage.

But not tonight.  Tonight, one of us broke out into the spotlight.

I went to see my work brother, Greg, perform with his band, Center 313, at their sold-out concert tonight.

Greg is our award-winning choir director and whiffle ball expert by day, but not tonight. Tonight, he was a rock star.  Greg's faith has always been in the forefront of his life, and his band's intent is to spread God's message to all who will hear it.  I love this because I believe that anyone who follows his passion is leading a purposeful life.  I must admit, however, that there were moments that the message might have been lost on me because I just couldn't stop watching my friend living his dream.

But maybe that is the message I was supposed to hear -- to live unafraid, to live with joy, and to live with purpose.

His joy filled the room, and it shone brighter, and more beautifully, than any spotlight imaginable.

Well done, friend.  Well done, indeed.

Friday, September 27, 2013


I love music.  I really do.  I love to hear about new artists and find old favorites again.

When I was just a young and impressionable freshman, my friend, Carrie Simpson, helped me fall in love with several non-Clarendon-types of music like The Pixies, The Smiths, Live, and everything U2 had ever done.  Our friendship started with a deep and boundless love for Duke basketball and Christian Laettner.

But then there was also this -- Robert Smith and The Cure.
I don't know what to say except that teenage girls make zero sense most of the time.

I had a long conversation a few weeks ago on social media about cover songs.  Taking something old and familiar and changing it to make it your own.  I think it's so interesting to hear the different ways others find their voice with a piece that inspired them.

The original:

Anyway, as I was cleaning out my music library, I realized that I have FOUR versions of this song.  I think sometimes my obsessions might be unhealthy.  I have several songs in multiple forms in my collection, but I think this is one of my favorites. 

I loved this one from the "50 First Dates" soundtrack.  Makes me want to sip drinks with umbrellas on a beach and fall in hopelessly melodramatic teenage love.

Several people recommended this one to me.  I don't think it will make the cut.  Anberlin's cover makes me feel a little hectic.  Love songs shouldn't be hectic.  They should ooze a little angst.  Or a lot.  Yes.  Maybe lots of angst.

Death Cab for Cutie reminds me most of the original, but there's a tone in there that is displeasing to my non-musically trained ear, like the organ from The Doors.  But much more noticeable.  The unpleasantness fades after a few listens... until the original pops up.

I was fully prepared to call this one my favorite until Adele introduces it by announcing that her mum was mortified when she told her about it.  "You know  how when a young person does an old person's song and they think she's ruined it."  

I'm coming to England soon, Adele.  Watch your back, young 'un.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Today in 3rd period, I freestyled a short rap about coordinating conjunctions.

I also danced a little.

I have no idea whether anyone learned anything today.

I mean... other than that Ms. Naz should not freestyle or dance.  Obviously.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If God is in the Details...

One of my Most Valuable Friends often posts about where she sees God.  They are, by far, some of my favorite posts ever.

This was her post last night.

LeighAnne is one of my steady friends.  I lean on her for strength and logic (she has tremendous amounts of both), but I must admit that I also lean on her for her faith.  LeighAnne is what I would lovingly call "my kind of Christian".  Imperfect, and fully aware of it, I never feel her judgment or her push.  When I confess my own misgivings or questions, I know she understands.

I have never been very religious.  I was not raised in the church, and I am not particularly ever comfortable there.  I am not always even sure what I believe or how vigorously I believe it on any given day, but I think that any God who doesn't accept my questions is probably not the God for me.  I have lots of questions.

As a good Southern girl, I can talk the church talk enough to get through a Sunday service.  I know my way around a covered dish supper.  I reflect.  I pray.  I talk.  Sometimes I feel Someone talking back.  I put my best energy out into the world.  I am a faithful person.  I am loyal almost to a fault.  I am generous, loving, and (mostly) forgiving.  I try to find the good in everything and everyone.  But I can be skeptical.  I can be stubborn.  And, yes, I can be angry and impatient.  Typically, just as I begin to feel more even-footed with my own beliefs, an obstacle will often appear.  From what my friends-in-the-know tell me, this is the way He likes to work.  In the past few years, there seems to have been far more days jumping hurdles than walking the path of peace, and I found that my faith in finding the good feels like more of a struggle.

Luckily, I have incredible friends, valuable friends, who help me look.  If God is in the details, I'd assume it's easy to find Him in a sunrise or a flower bloom or the pages of a sermon.  But I imagine you'd have to look pretty closely to find Him in a noisy, crowded junior high cafeteria on an ordinary Tuesday morning.

As I shook that young man's hand and introduced myself to him today after school, I was awfully glad she did.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Happy Eyes...

I let the worst of things get the best of me yesterday.  I came home and stewed and spit and sulked about it, and as you might guess, nothing changed as a result.  I tell my kids that every attitude is a decision, even the bad ones.  I encourage them that if they can't change the situation, they can still change their attitude about it.

My seventh graders and I are constantly learning how to do this together. (It's hard to have to relearn the lessons I push upon others.)   It's not easy, I tell them.  I am living proof.  I've been working on it for 30+ years now, and the struggle is real.  My friend, Tamie Colston, calls it "looking at it with her 'happy eyes'".  

Today, I tried to see things with my Happy Eyes, and I was rewarded with a good look at educators who truly care, friends who never give up on me, and even a student who came back -- just in time -- to remind me that junior high boys really DO grow up.  I'm not Colston-level, but I'm making an attempt.

When I got home, this was waiting on me.  No one sent it to me specifically, but there it was... waiting for me to find it with my Happy Eyes.  

And I'm glad I did.

Share the message.  Spread some joy.

Monday, September 23, 2013


The day started off okay.  By the end, this was me:


I hope this is true.
My head hurts.  I'm tired of banging my head on that wall.  I think I'm ready for a new wall.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fantasy Football Update -- Week 3

I give up.

Yep. That's about it.

**This is not actually a surrender.  But it's my official admittance that I really don't give a shit about it anymore.  Probably because I'm losing.  I reserve the right to give a shit again if my luck turns around.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Pedicures, margaritas, and making old friends out of new friends.

That's what Saturdays are made for.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Figuratively. Not Literally.

This is sort of how I felt today.

My frustration has been simmering on the back burner for a few days, but lately I've been feeling the need to rent a panda costume and turn over a few grocery carts.

Figuratively.  Not literally.

Literally would be just too weird.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Drop Knowledge Wherever I Go

I'm a firm believer that everything is a teachable moment.

I'm a teacher.  I teach.  It's what I do.

I don't mind if a kid has a good question that's only sort-of-related to the topic (or even off-topic).  If he's interested, I'll do my best to cover it or investigate it at an appropriate time.

I'm also fairly unafraid to tackle topics that others might shy away from.

Today, while on my conference period,  I popped into a fellow teacher's class to check on his substitute because I had heard she was having some issues.  Not surprisingly, I spent pretty much all period with them.  As I was helping a group with its project, two boys started giggling and pointing secretively at a textbook.

Junior high kids -- boys especially -- have no finesse with the art of subtlety.

Naturally, I take a quick peek and see this phrase, "your a fag".

Now, understand this, I've never seen a set of textbooks last more than a year without some serious graffiti, and I don't think it's just our kids or those books.  It just happens.  I can't even tell you the number of terrible penis drawings I've had to erase or white-out in 14 years.  A few times I couldn't decide if I needed to send these boys to the art teacher for a lesson or to a doctor (because if that's what they were seeing, they might need to consult someone).

But I digress...

I realized that this was, in fact, a teachable moment.  I knew they didn't write it, and the offender wasn't there to hear my lesson.  It didn't matter; there were willing and captive ears.  We talked quietly about how offensive that word is, and I compared it to a few other slurs that they themselves would not tolerate.  I talked about how unfunny someone else's pain can be -- even just from words.  I asked them to think about how far our nation has come in just a few decades and how far we still had to go when it comes to accepting others.  I talked about how that person (I hoped) was probably just trying to be rebellious and shocking.  I didn't make it a whole lecture; I just wanted them to think and possibly even resist the vandal's urge one day.

And then I pointed out that "your" is a possessive pronoun, and this idiot actually needed the contraction "you're" for "you are".  Good grammar never takes a vacation, even in vandalism.

I mean, if you're going to be an intolerant jackass, at least be an intolerant jackass with good grammar.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Naz Rules

Today was the second day that I left school without feeling exhausted.

I didn't write that yesterday was the first day because A) I didn't want to jinx it and 2) Wal-Mart wore me straight out, and I forgot that I hadn't been exhausted only 90 minutes previously.  My rage exhausts me.

It didn't start out so great today as I was greeted with some drama when I showed up for duty outside at 8:00 AM, but things have gotten progressively/sort of/knock-on-wood easier.  There are a certain number of days until teenagers learn that, as a teacher, I can care about them but still not tolerate their B.S.  Every kid has a different number, so I count victory when the majority have seemingly tapped out and surrendered to the fact that I don't give in easily.  During those days, there are many, many, many repeated conversations that reinforce my expectations.  There are many, many, many times that I have to remind someone that I'm not their mom and therefore not legally, morally, genetically required to put up with nonsense.  My love is not unconditional.  It is earned.

I estimate that I say "no" at least 150 times a day.

I estimate that I say "thank you" at least 100 times a day.

But those numbers have started to even out a little this week.

"Thank you" is much less exhausting than "no".

We have started a "points card" at school this week.  Students can earn points from teachers for good behavior and choices as well as strong academic showings.  They can use their points at the end of the six weeks for a celebration.  There is something to be said for the competitive level of my students so far.  I had one of my most trying classes begging for 5 points this morning.  They were not successful.

Naz Rule #1: Begging =/= earning.  When it comes to reward, "if you ask, you shall not receive".

I also had one of my most challenging kids announce as he came through my door, "I already have 15 points today!"  It is the first time he's smiled at me.  I made sure to find him successful at something twice more.  He got 10 more points, and I got one more smile.

It's also impacted in other ways.  A student in my "inherited" class this week came up with a really great Essential Question on Monday.  When I shared her success (and my admiration of it), another student called me over to suggest I award her 5 points for "great EQ".  I was shocked that he expected nothing in return for his kind gesture, and he might have left my room with a pocketful of Jolly Ranchers to say thank you.

Naz Rule #2:  Kindness will always be rewarded.  Mightily.

And in each class, there's something the entire class struggles with -- 1st period can't seem to remember their library books, 3rd period can't get to class on time, 4th period can't be quiet and/or follow directions, etc. -- so whatever I need them to get better at, that's what I award points for.  Of course, they think everyone is getting the exact same thing because a 7th grader can't see past his or her own nose.

Naz Rule #3:  You will not outsmart me, 13 year old.  I am a wizened vet, rookies, and my mind is a steel trap, spring-loaded to slam shut on your face.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On My Hatred of Wal-Mart

I hate the grocery store in my neighborhood.

Most likely, it's because I just hate Wal-Mart.

I am definitely a Target kind of girl, but getting there is tricky these days due to major construction.  So, I have to settle as Wal-Mart has a death grip on my neighborhood (and because I missed the exit to the last available Kroger on my commute home).

Don't get me wrong.  There are definitely some nicer Wal-Marts in the world, and if you like them, that's fine (YOU SHOULD PROBABLY STOP READING NOW).  Mine just ain't one of 'em.  Also, I feel like I lose a little part of my small-town soul when I go.  I've seen lots and lots of Mom and Pop markets go belly-up as a result  of the giant's arrival.

My neighborhood store is a microcosm of everything I hate in the world.

Screaming kids.  Parents screeching at their kids because they weren't minding them (although the parents weren't watching in the first place).

Let me just tell you... that shit didn't fly with my mom.  I threw a fit on aisle 7 of some random grocery store once in Hereford, Texas, and she left me.  Left. Me.  I'm sure she didn't go far, in retrospect, but it got my attention.  My mother would rather starve than be seen in public with a misbehaving child, and in case you didn't know... my mother's nickname is "Freight Train".  As in "she will run you over like a freight train without even tapping the brakes".  I learned how to straighten myself up but quick.

Thirty lanes in the store.  Five are open.

The world is full of traffic.  I sat in 30 minutes worth just to get here.  I don't need to watch my Blue Bell melt because you can't find an extra $8.00 in your billion dollar wallet to pay another long-suffering cashier.  That Blue Bell might be the only thing keeping me from the edge.

Which brings me to the cashiers.

Actually, you know what?  If I had to work at Wal-Mart, I probably wouldn't be very happy either.  I'll let this one slide.  Also, I had the NICEST cashier ever today.  And don't worry... I already stopped and bragged on him to the manager.  She did not seem impressed.  But she works at Wal-Mart, so you know...

But... the customers.  Good God, the customers.

I already warned you.  If you love the Wal-Mart, I need you to leave now because I don't want you to think I'm talking about you.  Because I'm so not.

Every negative WM stereotype that ever existed exists in my Wal-Mart.  It makes me so sad.  And the teacher in me wants to just stop and Boys Town every idiot I see.  I already mentioned the kids running and screaming all willy-nilly, but they're kids and they're gonna do what you let 'em.  (Please note that I am not talking about your kid whining and crying and generally embarrassing you.  If you are embarrassed by misbehavior, I am so not talking to you.)  I'm talking to the people who let Lord of the Flies play out on the frozen pizza aisle.  The parents in my store must be legally deaf.  Is that a thing?  Can you be legally deaf?  Because they aren't hearing a damn thing.  Or they're beating the devil out of their kid, and then I'm left to debate a CPS report or just reach across for another box of wine.  When my friend, Jill, gets inordinately frustrated with someone, she deems that she's about to go Wal-Mart mom on them.  It's an apt description.  Every time I've been in, somebody is getting a whoopin'.

In the aisle next to me, a lady with a baby was buying 3 cartons -- CARTONS, THREE-- of Basic menthols.

In front of me, an (I'm assuming) stringy-haired, 15 year-old with a hickey necklace was making out with her boyfriend.  Admittedly, they didn't make out the entire time, but when he wasn't performing exploratory surgery with his herpes-ridden tongue, he was telling his buddy (loudly) how he "don't give a F**K about what these mother-fu**ing fu**ers think".  I wanted to grab her and let her know that it wasn't too late.  And when she didn't listen, I'd just walk her on over to the section with the maternity jorts.  Also, he smelled like weed.  I mean, I'm assuming so since I'm no expert.  But he was wearing a dirty t-shirt with a giant marijuana leaf on it, so I'm just inferencing here.

And then to top it all off... the carts.  I don't know what people do to grocery carts, but these move like they've been tied to the back of a car and dragged around for an entire NASCAR cup series.  (Sorry... Weed Boyfriend was also a "mother-fu**in' hard-core NASCAR dude".  I told you -- stereotypes.)  And, of course, in the microcosm of everything wrong in our world, the carts litter every square inch of the parking lot because HEAVEN FORBID THAT ANYONE TAKE TEN SECONDS TO WALK 20 EXTRA STEPS.  Of course, if you ARE a responsible, respectable, non-jerk, you'll get the impatient honk from a waiting car because you're totally holding them up while you return your cart.  Because that happened today.  I didn't get a good look at the lady honking and waving at me with her middle finger, but I'm going to just assume she was a chain-smoking, 65 year old in a tank top with no bra.  Because I saw that today too.

I'm sure there are some extremely nice and well-mannered people in the microcosm.  I really do believe it, but just like in the great big ol' real world, they're totally overshadowed by the shitshow that is the squeaky grocery cart wheel of society.

*defeated sigh*

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Life in Fantasy Football -- Week 2

A few weeks ago, I finally got my shot to play in the boys' club at my school when they decided to let me into their Fantasy Football League.

I was glad about this because A) as the little sister to two older brothers, I've always felt I could hold my own with the boys and 2) the boys at my school make me laugh, and I thought it would be interesting to see what the crap is so interesting about Fantasy Football.

So A) it's not going so well.  By the end of tonight, I'll be 1-1 in the standings, but just barely.  My team started really strong on Thursday night, but by the end of the first half in the late game last night, I was just squeaking by.  And then... of course... the night ended in a tie according to points.  I don't know how often two fantasy teams end in a tie, but if it's semi-rare, this would explain how I managed to do it in only my second week.  And it was a painfully slow journey to a tie, too, and neither my score or my opponent's score was very close to anyone else's.  After a little research, I think I'll win on bench points -- by 1.  By one stinkin' point.  It's sort of embarrassing, but I'm glad not to be the absolute lowest score this week.  It's sort of like if a bear chases you -- you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun one of your friends.  It's a sad look at things, but it's all I've got.

And 2) I still don't really get it.  I can see how a total football nerd would get super-involved and study up every day, but, frankly, I do not have the energy for that.  Nor do I even care all that much about pro football; I'd do much better if it was a college football league, I think.  Maybe.  Probably not.

Confession: at one point last week, I got caught up in a "My Fair Wedding" marathon and just followed my FF points via an app on my phone.  I'm not ashamed; David Tutera is a MASTERFUL wedding planner.  He creates magic, people.  

Needless to say, my competitive drive took a big hit after last week's showing.  

This week, I rededicated myself, and I only fell asleep twice during Sunday's games.  I avoided all the girly stations on my television, and I tried to keep an eye on the game while still reading my newest book (Laughter, Tears and Braids -- beautiful and thoughtful, but it made it hard to watch the game through the watershed of tears).  I was involved, but not overly so, and therefore I didn't have to feel too awful if I had another lousy showing.  I am masterful at the "appear aloof so no one will expect much from you" strategy in life.

Things went pretty well until I found myself, at 11 PM, screaming at the television for Seattle's quarterback, Russell Wilson, to "STOP THROWING THE DAMN BALL TO EVERYONE BUT MY RECEIVER! WHY DO YOU HATE GOLDEN TATE?  HE'S YOUR TEAMMATE!  VALUE HIM SO I CAN SCORE SOME MOTHER FLIPPING POINTS!"

That's when I took a small step back and took a long, hard look at my sad little 82 points and pulled up an old episode of "Project Runway".  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

On Writing

I've always written.  When I was in the sixth grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Estlack, told me that I was a good writer.  I didn't believe her, but I thought it was nice of her to say.  But she didn't stop saying it.  She was my English teacher for 7th and 8th grade too (hooray for small town schools), and eventually I thought she might know a thing or two.  So I kept after it.  In the meantime, I had a junior high reading teacher, Mrs. Adams, who fed me books as if she were keeping me alive.  And she was.

By the time I hit high school, my brother had already prepped my junior and senior English teacher, Mrs. Hayes, for my gift.  He had been in news writing events for her.  He's a "facts only" kind of guy, but he told her that when I got to high school, she should recruit me for every writing event BUT news writing.  My love for telling the story of others, my adoration of meandering sentences, my gift for embellishment, and my uncontrollable need to express my opinion would never be able to be constrained in the tight quarters of a news piece.

And he was right.  News writing was my least favorite event.

Mrs. Hayes told me that story as we sat in the LBJ library in Austin only moments after I had won a silver medal in the state editorial contest.  That story meant far more than any medal, and I love the Hell out of that medal.

For me, writing has always been about two things -- the writer and the reader.  I kept a journal for years, all the way through college and my first year of teaching.  But it was sporadic and tiresome because I kept my words and my world under lock and key.  I loved writing letters and cards.  I moonlighted writing essays for others in college.  I searched for the perfect words as if they were the Holy Grail because they were.  I loved those things because they had an audience.

Writers write because there is a need to spill themselves onto a page.  Readers read because they have a need to soak up knowledge and beauty and connection.  A writer can exist without a reader, but it's just a blood-letting, and that can only go on for so long.

When I began this blog, I began it with fear.  A fear that I sounded stupid.  Or whiny.  Or self-important.  Or worse -- hollow. I feared so much that I didn't even share my posts with anyone other than my closest friends.  I feared that I would write and no one would read, and all my deepest insecurities would become true.

But they didn't.  There were only a few of you at first, but you were there.  I felt you.

When things began to get really difficult in my life and within my family, I feared all over again.  I feared that people would judge us.  Or that they would pity us.  Or that they wouldn't care.  I feared that my sadness or my anger would drive others away.  I feared that I would only have sadness and anger to share ever.

But I didn't.  Writing took the anger and sadness out of me and allowed humor and beauty back in.

When I stopped writing, I feared that I would never start again.  Actually, that's not true.  I didn't feel fear because I didn't feel anything at that time.  I went months without posting or even opening up my page.  I kept following others though and their courage to tell their own stories helped bring me back to telling mine.  It takes a whole different kind of bravery to put your words to page sometimes.

But here I am.  It's 65 days later, and I have worked hard to share each day.  Like with anything else in life, some days have been easier than others, but they haven't been impossible.  For that, I am thankful.

Thank you for hanging around, friends.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Book Room

I feel accomplished today.  Sore... but accomplished.

I went to work this morning with my department chair, LeighAnne, and together, for 2 hours, we tackled the book room.  The book room had become ridiculous.

In June, another teacher, assistant principal, and I had cleaned out two huge flatbed dolly trips worth of old, falling-apart, unused books and resources.  We shipped all of our out-of-adoption textbooks back to the district to store, sell, recycle, worship -- whatever it is that they do.  We didn't finish everything, but we felt accomplished.

And then the new school year arrived.

With the influx of about 50 new faculty, staff, and administration, the changes to our school were already overwhelming.  With the construction, renovation, and re-shuffling of classrooms, things seemed damned near impossible.  We each had to move in to our rooms in strict windows of time, and so many of our new-to-us teachers walked straight into a hot mess.  Some of the returning teachers did too.  *raises hand*

Every closet they opened, every bookshelf they saw, every desk drawer they slid, there was stuff.  It was packed in tightly.  Years and years and years of accumulated papers, transparencies, workbooks, and resources -- all just left.  And since many of those teachers weren't even teaching the subject of all that stuff, they simply did what they had to do.  They packed it up and called a veteran.

This veteran did what I do best.  I advised them to store it in the book room, and I'd deal with it later.

I always say that I'll deal with it later.  I'm not very good at defining "later".

But "later" became today, and off LeighAnne and I went.  I wish we'd taken a "before" picture.  If you think hoarders only exist on television or in that creepster house down the block, you obviously don't know many teachers.  We are, by our very nature, savers.  We so often pay for supplies out of our own pockets that you will see us pick up every pencil stub, stray marker, and freebie we encounter.  We will find a spiral and tear out the last 3 clean sheets because God only knows, some kid in the very next class will need paper.  We are masters of duct tape repair and salvaging lost time.

That nature, paired with the outrageous amount of resources thrust upon given to us by our school, our district, and our government and you wind up with -- the book room.

(Pro-tip:  if you're moving -- whether it's a house or a classroom -- don't leave your crap behind.  Put it back in its rightful place.  Put it in the trash can.  Put it in the hands of someone when they have time to deal with it.  But don't just leave it there.  If you haven't used it, they're not going to use it.  If you don't want it, they don't want it.  And if it's broken, for the love of all that is good and holy in the world, get rid of it.)

So not only did we have the crap resources left behind in those classrooms to contend with, we also had just every day run-of-the-four-decades-old crap resources that had been stored in our school since God was a boy.  In fact, I'd bet that some of that stuff was in the moving van from the former site to our current building (which is 20 years old).  Literally, these dictionaries were stored in there still.  There were more than 60.
Proof. 1969.
And this one? 1977.  It's only a year older than me.
I've changed a great deal since 1977.  
And, in true teacher spirit, when LeighAnne joked about their discovery on social media, several people tried to shame us out of recycling them.  They were literally falling apart in our hands and had gone unused for 13 years, but there has to be something else we can do!

We did.  We released their spirit.  Now they have a chance to become new books or new dictionaries.  Maybe even new dictionaries that can explain "twerking" or a "derp".  (God, help us all.  Maybe I should have spared those poor books.)

We unpacked boxes and boxes of novels.  Books that should be in the hands of kids and not taking up space in a closet.  Books in a box make me insane.  Although, in the same box, I discovered both of these.  I don't even get how these were in the same box.  Or room.  Or school.  They will be available in the book room shelf sale next week if you're interested.
Are you kidding me?
We found dozens of brand new binders.  Mountains of unopened construction paper.  Boxes of composition notebooks.  Folders.  Textbook CDs.  Audio books.  Personal audio book players.  All unopened.  All unused.

There were hundreds -- LITERALLY hundreds -- of old test practice workbooks.  Most were for a test that our state doesn't even administer anymore.  

And speaking of, dear Texas (and actually ALL OF AMERICA), kids don't learn more by "practicing a test".  They really don't even learn how to take the test better.  They just learn to really, really, really hate testing.  And often -- school.  Those workbooks no more encourage good thinking than they encourage good teaching.  So, schools, districts, states, feds -- stop buying them for us.  They're a crutch.  Instead, I'd love for you to use some of that money to invest in teachers.  Invest in adult education.  Invest in serving my students (who have no breakfast) more than just Pop-Tarts and string cheese (that was on the menu last week -- truth).  Invest in a school counselor who has time to actually counsel (and not just make schedules and organize massive testing opportunities).  Invest in a social worker for my campus.  

Or maybe you just ask us teachers what we need.  I think I can guarantee that it's not more test practice workbooks.

I also found teacher's editions with 30 different guidebooks, test generators, and auxiliary crap resources.  Literally. Thirty.  I don't need 30 teacher workbooks to sort through.  I'm too busy with IEP's and NCLB and ARDs and PEIMS and TEAMS to sort through your box o' crap resources.  I don't even use your Teacher's Edition because A) I went to college and actually took real live thinking courses in English and 2) the print is far too small for my tired eyes to look at while I'm also actively monitoring my classroom.  If you want to really help me out, here's what I need:  large print. 

On our second trip to the recycling bin, LeighAnne and I joked that if we really wanted to make the bucks, we'd write a textbook.  There are no less than 143 optional materials you can get with your textbooks.  Or we could create a standardized test.  That's where the real dollar bills are.  

"I might as well become a Satanist while I'm at it."  That's the reply I got from LA.  She has a point.
This was just the first recycling load.  We were gutsier with the second.

I think my biggest issue with today, however, was one I feel often.  That book room made me feel like a big ol' wasteful American.  My capitalist, white-bread guilt engulfed me.  The sight of all those workbooks, all those resources, all those unopened boxes of good stuff made me so very sad.  And it made me really angry because I have a school full of impoverished kids and our government's only solution is to throw money at the problem.  Money with strings and hoops to jump through.  Don't get me wrong -- my district and my school, in many ways, have started to learn about BETTER ways to spend (with technology and career path training and community outreach), but sometimes I want to lasso my local, state, and federal politicos with all their miles of red tape.   It's exhausting and frustrating.

Then again, our only solution was to lock it all up in a closet, so maybe we haven't been much better.  

At least it's a cleaner closet now though.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Trip Down the Road

In most jobs, people work hard, struggle, and even want to give up sometimes.  But in most jobs, people tend to see the product of their struggle, the effects of their hard work.  Being a teacher doesn't always pay out that way.

I look at my junior high kids -- especially my boys -- and many times I catch myself wondering, "What on Earth is going to happen to these kids?  How will they ever learn?  How can I expect them to keep a job, raise a family, or pay the light bill when they can't even remember their locker combination for more than 3 hours in a row?"

And, in just 2 years, they're gone.

Sure, they're just down the road at high school, but in the midst of training a whole new crop of 7th graders, I sometimes get too busy to get on down the road.  I find myself in a seemingly never-ending cycle of immaturity and irresponsibility.  The kids outgrow us or think we won't remember.  They are looking to the future (as we hoped they would) and sometimes forget their past.

So unlike most other jobs, teachers don't always get to see the pay-off.  Sometimes, you just have to go seek it out.

Tonight, at the high school homecoming game with two other Mustang teachers, there was lots of pay-off.  So many former students, excelling in classes, marching in the band, scoring touchdowns, and even taking the homecoming crown.  I saw college students and college graduates and incredible moms and dads who never stopped believing in us or them.  I saw students who had done a complete 180 in life, creating opportunity from nothing.  It was a night full of smiles and hugs and "Oh my Gosh, I can't believe it's you!"  When they're with us, growing up seems impossible, but once they're gone, it happens in the blink of an eye.

And after a long, long week of struggle at school, it was well worth a trip down that road.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fallon and Football

There aren't many things that make me smile/laugh/swoon more than Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake dancing.  Silly is sexy, y'all.

If you haven't seen the latest, here you go:


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Barbecue Sauce and a Side of Hope

Yesterday, I posted about hope and my search for it for even just 51 minutes at a time.  I kept the same prayer today.

At around 12:15, God laughed.

I spent more time this afternoon in the hallway, correcting behavioral choices than I did in my classroom, teaching English.

I cried. Twice. In front of my supervisors.  Two of them.

I don't know that there's any other job in the world that this is okay.  I'm not sure it's even okay in my job, but good Lord, it was kind of cleansing.  And bonding.  It's nice to know you're not alone, and there comes a moment where you'll welcome anyone into your life raft -- supervisor, colleague, parent, bum on the street -- as long as they're willing to pick up an oar.  And let's get real, I will shed a tear (or a laugh) with practically anyone.

The conversation with one of them didn't end on such a positive note.  The bell rang, and we were off to take care of the 1,000,001 responsibilities that awaited each of us.  It was a sad day anyway, and then I'd left her with perhaps my most awful and heartbreaking student story.  My bad, y'all.

I can't write about the real news of the day.  Even with the passing of 12 years, I have a hard time thinking and talking about that time.  So, on the way home, I tried to think about a positive moment that I never dreamed possible.  I actually have far more good stories than bad, but this is my favorite.

Three years ago, I had just finished basketball practice and stopped at a local barbecue place to pick up some dinner before heading back home to Fort Worth.  As I gave my order on the creaky old speaker system, I heard a long pause before it was read back to me.

Finally (and timidly)... "Coach Naz?  Is that YOU?!"

I began looking around for a hidden camera, or maybe the face of God.

"Ummm... yes.  Yes, it is.  May I ask who I am speaking to?"

The reply?  "Oh, you'll see!"

Dear God.  As I sat behind several cars, I started coming up with alternative places to go grab dinner rather than take my chances with some "saliva enhanced" chopped beef.  

When I got to the window, a face popped out at me.  Immediately, I knew exactly who was on the other end of the speaker.  She'd been in 7th grade twice, ran a gang, beat up half the boys at school, and a list of various other (much more serious) offenses.  I can clearly remember where she sat in my room (both years) and how long it took for me to build up enough trust to allow me to just sit next to her and help her with her homework.  I remembered how many times she had promised she would change and how many times she had failed at that too.  I remembered how, in so very few moments, she would let down her defenses and just smile or laugh, and for a split second, I could see who she might have become if the world had not already overcome her at age 13.

And here she was, handing me a Diet Coke, waiting for me to recognize her.  And she was smiling.  She was smiling that same smile.

"How'd you know it was me without even looking?" I asked.

"You yelled at me, coached me, followed me down the halls, and talked to me every day for 3 years.  I will NEVER forget your voice."

I laughed, and she filled me in on her 19 year old life.  There were more face piercings and tattoos than I would have recommended, but she had graduated, stayed out of trouble, and held down a job for an entire year.  There aren't many moments I'm more proud of than that 2 minutes in a barbecue drive-through. Those 120 seconds bring me a lot of hope when I feel most defeated.  I wouldn't trade those 3 years and 2 minutes for even the most peaceful days in my career.

I don't know where that crazy girl is these days.  Hopefully, she's still smiling and staying out of trouble.  And maybe even hearing my voice, cheering her on, when she least expects it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hope is a Good Thing

I've been a little bit down lately.  It happens when I'm overly-tired and cannot catch back up.  I begin to feel overwhelmed, and I run the risk of falling down the hole.  It's not a deep hole -- more like if you were running in a field and stepped in a gopher hole.  It's not enough to end you, but it's exactly the right amount to put you on the sideline for a while.

My emotions are all over the place too.  I had a meeting today with my principal and two other colleagues.  I found myself describing some of our returning students as suspicious -- skeptical of people who make promises, wary of things that seem too good, broken-hearted by a history of let-downs.  So instead of just believing -- just trusting -- that what I say is what I mean (good or bad), they give me the side-eye and force me to prove myself, time and time again.

When I left that meeting, I realized that I had also been describing myself -- or at least myself as of late.  I've mentioned how difficult the last school year was; I won't even link it again.  If you don't know, you don't need to know.  In truth, it's been several years that were tough, and although I claimed to be "cautiously optimistic" about this year and that I knew enough not to "get married on the first date", I think it was more.  I know it was more.  I know because every small let-down, every flaw, every backtrack in our new-old school has impacted me more than ever.

I got my hope up too far, and when I hit the first gopher hole in my path, I never recovered.  And so, for 3 weeks now, I've limped along, hitting every other hole as I ran.  I have found myself frustrated in ways that have been forgotten to me, and this weekend, Doubt grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go.  Did I make the correct decision?  Was I supposed to be here?  Am I doing everything I can?  Am I holding on for the right reasons?

Doubt had somehow choked out every last bit of hope I had left, and it was only September 9.

So today, as I walked back to my classroom, I tried to just let it go.  I took a moment outside my room, I breathed a deep breath, and I prayed.  I prayed that when I went inside, I would only worry about what was in those four walls for the next 51 minutes.  There were setbacks, sure, but at the end of that class, I felt I had gained ground.  And so I prayed for the next 51 minutes.  And the next, and the next, and the next.

On the way home, I tried to decide if I could live this way for a while -- 51 minutes at a time.  Could I find a way to temper the hope I so desperately required within my room with a peace about things to come outside of it?  Could those two things exist together?  Could I let go of the things not in my control and keep close the things which are?

I'm not sure.  I'm really not.  But I have to try.  Because I am a glass half-full.  Because I am more sunrise than sunset.  Because I need clean slates and second chances.  Because I am not me if I am not hopeful.  And I just don't know how to be anyone else.

*In other news, you might remember a blog that was recommended to me -- The Real Full House.  The author of that blog, Bruce Ham (aka  "Danny Tanner") releases his book Laughter, Tears, and Braids tomorrow.  Bruce and his family helped restart my writing a few months ago (59 days now), and his words and stories often have given me hope in my quest to live a better, healthier, more honest life.  I don't think it's chance that his release is tomorrow (9/11) -- a day that always needs more hope and beauty.

As a writer, it's difficult, sometimes painfully so, to share your fears and hopes and worries (and embarrassments) with the world, but a writer is nothing without a reader.  So, if you're so inclined, log on and order a copy tomorrow (click HERE).  Buy one for someone who might need a little hope.  Buy one for a dad who's done more than he ever dreamed or a mom who's been two parents instead of just one.  Just buy one.

And if you can't, leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page or send me a tweet -- however it is that this post finds you.  I'll be ordering extra copies tomorrow morning, and I'd love to give some away.  (You know how I love a book giveaway!)  Tell me what you're hopeful for today or this week or this year.  Speak it into the world, and let it become your prayer and your truth.  Let your hope fill the hearts of others.  They just might be running straight for a gopher hole.

Until tomorrow, friends.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Pep Talk

I desperately wanted to come here and tell a funny story or share a great moment.  I needed to do that.

But today just isn't the day.  It hasn't been the day for a few days now, and I found myself in need of a little pep talk.  Maybe you might to.

So, here are a few of my favorites.  Choose as you wish.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What a Gift

There are some people whose words are a warm blanket.  They are full of comfort and reassurance, covering you up when you feel most alone.  They put aside their own fears to chase away yours, and they sift through the ugliness in every situation to find even the smallest grain of beauty.  

And when you walk away from them, you're a little bit safer, a little bit stronger, and a little bit more beautiful yourself.

What a gift.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Roller Coasters

The past three weeks have been very much like this:

Anticipation. Excitement. Fear. Regret. Panic. Indecision. Laughter. 

A little bit of nausea.  

A whole lot of swearing.

And, in the end, hopefully worth the price of admission.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Love, Shirley

One of my best life friends tagged me in this video.

It doesn't surprise me that she tagged me.  She knew I'd love it; she knew it'd make me weep. And, somehow, I needed it today.

Not just for the connections I've made but also for the connections I've lost.  For the connections that maybe I'll one day rediscover.

For those connections that broke me.  For those that strengthened me.  For those that sustain me.

But none of us can be without it and truly live.  We may survive, but we won't ever live.

For all my Jenny's, thanks for bending those bars.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

It Happens.

I hate messing up.  I really, really do.

It doesn't have to be a big mistake.  I don't have to burn anything down or fall on my face or hurt someone's feelings.  It just has to be something that I think I could've/would've/should've done better than I did.  Spilling a drink at the dinner table, driving over a curb, calling someone by the wrong name.

It makes me feel foolish and inadequate, and I feel like, somehow, it identifies me.  As if that person will only ever know me that way -- the drink spiller, the bad driver, the idiot-who-calls-me-Larry-when-my-name-is-Dave.  My cheeks burn and I immediately feel tears well up.  No one even has to see the mistake for it to happen either.  It is one of the absolute weirdest things about me.  I know that there are probably deep-seeded reasons for it, but it makes me feel ridiculous.

I'm even embarrassed about feeling embarrassed right now.

I messed something up today at work while I was at a training.  I made a work mistake when I wasn't even at work.  I mean... who does that?  It wasn't huge.  It wasn't on purpose.  But when I realized it, I almost had to leave the room because it upset me so much.  Because it would have embarrassed me more to leave, however, I didn't.  The person who alerted me to my mistake told me "It's okay.  It happens."  And, in my logical brain, I know that's true.  But my tear ducts don't talk nicely with my logical brain.

It has always been difficult for me to just "let it go".  I don't want to be the girl who caused a problem at work when she wasn't even at work.  I've known for a long time that this isn't normal for other people, and I've always theorized that maybe I freak about the tiny things because the big things seem far too big to muster up enough freaked-outedness to properly apply.

I've developed coping strategies over the years -- making a self-deprecating joke, allowing myself a 5-minute cry, or forcing a big, deep laugh.  It feels weird to force a big, deep laugh, but it's hard to sob if you're laughing.  And sometimes a forced laugh becomes a real laugh, and that, too, is far better than scarlet cheeks and watery eyes.

Especially when you're far from the exit.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

840 Minutes

I was at work for 14 hours today.  I have words.  They might make sense.  I'm not sure.

Here's my day in a nutshell:

1. Arrive at 7:15 AM.  Work for 45 minutes.
2. Go to duty.  Yes, I do my duty out on the back patio in front of everyone.  I do my duty with Russ.  We talk while we do duty.  Sometimes, parents ask me questions while I do my duty.
3. Yes, Chris Drury, that duty talk was just for you.  And it's listed as item #2.  Because we're all blessed with the humor of 7th grade boys.
4. Teach a lesson.
5.  Informal meeting while while working.
6.  Teach same lesson.
7. Lunch
8.  Pick up my class and a discarded wrapper for a condom off the back porch as two boys squealed in dismay.
9.  Said a prayer that some kid filled it with water and just made a very awkward water balloon.
10.  Laughed about that image.  It could be totally legit.
11.  Taught the lesson for the 3rd time.
12.  Killed a roach and saved a roomful of terrified children from said roach.  It was tiny.  It was barely a roachette.
13.  Taught the lesson... again.
14  Taught it one last time.
15.  Meeting.
16.  Duty!  Twice in one day!
17.  Leadership team meeting -- 90 minutes.
18.  Twenty minutes of the volleyball scrimmage.
19.  Prepare sub notebook, sub lesson, and create escape plan for my not-so-good-might-erupt- with-change student because I won't be there tomorrow (for a day-long meeting) and that is a BIG change.  Please pray around 12:15.
20.  Read and re-read my sub notes to make sure that even a 7th grader can follow them because sometimes substitutes don't show up and then, basically, a 7th grader MIGHT BE RUNNING MY CLASS because they don't go tell anyone there's no teacher.
21.  Left at 9:15.
22.  Got dinner, drove home.

Yeah.  Teaching.  How hard could that be?

But every class was genuinely upset that I wouldn't be there tomorrow.  Even the wild boys.  That alone was worth all 840 minutes at work today.

You take the victories where you can get 'em, I say.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I quit coaching, but I still seem to be keeping coaching hours -- 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM at school.  I don't know how to stop this.

I am exhausted.  I didn't realize how much working all summer at camp kept my stamina up for the return to school.  Spending six weeks doing not much of anything was nice but completely useless, and now I'm paying for it.

I didn't force myself to go to the grocery store yesterday, and so I had to go tonight after work.  Another big mistake.  I'm not sure I will ever learn.

Needless to say, I can't put many things together in my head -- at least not many that make sense or strike any real feeling.  So, here's one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons about teaching.  I think I have a great many Calvins this year -- mildly ridiculous but pretty astute.  And wearing me out.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Bonus Life

Dear Kellen, 

It has been a year since you joined our little tribe of friends.  You, my littlest buddy, were a bonus baby, revealed to us over chips and queso and a good helping of disbelief.  But now, all this time later, it doesn't seem as there could have been a world without you.  Your smile, your giggles, your snuggles... they are a gift to us all.  And the greatest gifts are always unexpected.

As the third baby, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle, to blend in, to take the backseat.  This is the great joke among all babies of the family.  We are the wearers of hand-me-downs.  We are the tag-a-longs.  We are the rock-kickers and foot-stompers, and sometimes we're the odd men out.  We are often last at most things, and being "too little" is often our cross to bear.

But we are flexible.  We are independent.  We find a way to manage.  We might be the first to tears, but we're usually the first to pick up an extra hug.  We are rarely blamed for the wrongs that we do because "how could someone so small cause such trouble?"  We are protected and sheltered. We are the last to do most things, and that makes our mothers ache with love and longing.  And sometimes ache and longing comes with a second helping of dessert or an extra story at bedtime.

We are a bonus.  The sheer unexpectedness of us is a delightful surprise.  In my casual study of the World of Last Babies, I've found that there are typically two paths.  The first is the Showman; the second, the Shadow.  

The Showman entertains large crowds because being little and cute is his greatest weapon upon the world.  He uses his charm to outshine his competition.  He is mischievous and unafraid because as the baby, he has learned to go for broke.  He is loved because his light illuminates the world.  

The Shadow is different.  He is quiet and observant, taking cues from those around him.  He is a people-pleaser who uses his peaceful nature and sweet smile to endear him to others.  He is loved because his light illuminates the world within others even if it means less light for himself.  

It's too early to know which you will be, sweet boy, but my hope is that you will be neither.  Or that you will be both.  That in whatever you do, you will defy expectations because the unexpected is such an adventure.  Thanks for letting all of us tag along.

Happy Birthday, Kellen.


Your Deana

Sunday, September 1, 2013

An Afternoon at the Movies

Going to the movies is sort of a mildly religious experience for me.  I love the moment the lights lower.  I love having popcorn for dinner.  I love getting lost in a good story for a couple of hours. And I really enjoy trying out new theaters.

So when two of my friends invited me to go to the new Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas, I knew I absolutely would be spending my Sunday there.  I knew the Drafthouse mainly from its reputation in Austin -- good food and drinks, fun movies, and a very strict "no talk/no text" policy.  As a renowned rule follower, I was a little nervous since I would be attending the 2:20 showing of The Butler with a Candy Crush addict and a notorious movie talker.  I warned them both that if they got tossed, I wasn't going with them.

Now, the theater I enjoy most is the 7th Street Movie Tavern here in Fort Worth.  And I realize I have a tad bit of a Cowtown bias, but I have to say that while the Drafthouse wasn't terrible, it was no 7th street.  The aisles are crowded.  It's hard for the waitstaff to see your order ticket once the movie begins.  The seats don't recline.  The food and drinks were $2-$4 more per item.  And there was a very annoying "movie predictor" sitting down the aisle from me.  I kept waiting for Zombie Ann Richards to bust through the door and yank her ass out, but, alas she did not.  I think you have to snitch on each other at the Alamo, and unless you're really obnoxious, it's not worth the tattling.  Luckily for me, the plot line was pretty predictable and the Movie Swami didn't ruin too much.

Which brings me to my thoughts about the movie.  Truthfully, this is the kind of movie that I usually see alone on a weekend morning.  I sometimes need a quiet theater with few distractions to really gather my feelings about a film with A) pretty solid reviews upfront and 2) serious subject matter.  But that wasn't the case today, so here I go.

Yes... the plot moves were predictable, but I really did enjoy several of the performances.  And a strong performance or an interesting character will always win out over plot for me.  Forrest Whitaker delivered (although not as well as I've seen before), and a drunken, unhinged Oprah was a treat to be sure.  But my favorite performances were small -- Alan Rickman as Reagan and Elijah Kelly as the younger son, while I absolutely detested Yaya Alafia (as the "girlfriend" of Whitaker's older son) and Terrence Howard (who I think just plays his own terrible self half the time).  Granted, the point was to not like either of them, so I suppose they did pretty well.  I was impressed with most of the Presidential characterizations, but they all felt slightly shallow and one-dimensional (which if you're introducing 8 of them, depth is tough to accomplish).

In the end, the story's essential conflict is between a father and son, mirrored in the struggle for civil rights, and in several places -- especially during cutaways between a state dinner and a sit-in -- I felt that push and pull so often found between generations.  It felt genuine and glaring.  In fact, the two friends I saw the movie with are from a different generation, and we saw the same movie with slightly different eyes.  They, who had grown up on the heels of desegregation in larger urban settings and me, who grew up in a small town that rode a fine line between the Old and New South even 30 years later.  There were several parts and lines that rang very true, and they are the moments that I do think that America needs to see and to understand -- that for as far as we've come, the ways in which we treat one another and take care of our own, still have a ways to go.

Final grade for "Lee Daniels' -- The Butler":  B+
Final grade for the Alamo Drafthouse:  I'll stick to 7th Street.