Pharmacy Stories

I had to go to the pharmacy today because I actually saw a guy about my sinus infection, and he prescribed me an antibiotic.

Pharmacies are weird, sad little places, aren’t they?

I had to wait about 25 minutes for my script, so I plopped down in a chair with my tissues and phone, and pretended to be reading emails when in reality I could hear everyone who was talking to the pharmacy register ladies.

The lady behind me gave her birth date and leaned in and said not quietly, “I am here for my Wellbutrin. I need it. I ran out and I have to have it.”

Lady, I have BEEN there with my antidepressant. You are NOT alone. (Of course she could be on it to quit smoking or for whatever other reason, who knows).

Anyway, there was some sort of mix up where the pharmacist told her she didn’t have a refill until December 9, and she was like, “but I”m out. I need more.”

I could here the desperation in her voice.

Then there was the line of people behind her. Every one of them looked glum. All of them.

I suppose it makes sense. If you’re standing in line at the pharmacy it’s probably not for something great. You’re probably not there for recreational drug, ya know what I mean?

While I was slumped way down in my seat, another woman argued loudly with the pharmacist about her prescription costing way more this time than the last time. I started to get nervous that things were going to get out of control, but the lady stormed off–without a script.

I felt sad and a little nervous for her.

What kind of prescription wan’t she paying for? Was it that she couldn’t afford it or just didn’t want to pay that money? Was it for her or a loved one? Was this just one instance or was she someone who had to get dozens of meds for a chronic problem, or was this just something small she wasn’t in the mood to pay for?

Then there were the moms with full carts of groceries and kids who were hanging from the blood pressure machine and the wracks of first aid splints while she looked frazzled and totally over it. I have been there too. I imagined that she was picking up a script for a kid with an ear infection, and she really just wants a break.

I also watched as a very small elderly man set at least eight empty prescription bottles on the counter. I couldn’t hear the conversation, but he was shakily holding up one after another and talking to the pharmacist. She took about five of them from him, and he put the others back in the plastic bag.

As he walked away, I smiled at him and said a little prayer that he didn’t just negotiate which were the most important to fill. In my head, those meds were for his wife, but they could have been for him. Or maybe he was returning unused pills. I don’t know.

It was seriously busy, and when they called my name, I tried to smile at the tired looking pharmacist even though I had a horrible headache from the sinus pressure and I just wanted to lie down. I admit, I grabbed my antibiotic, and walked out head down, though.

No one wants to see someone they know at the pharmacy.

When Things Go Right

Being a teacher is difficult. This is a truth I will never deny. It can get easy to sit and list all the challenges and frustrations, and I have done a LOT of that so far this school year.

(This is where we all pour one out for Cortney and his tired ears.)

But there is a reason I stay in teaching, and it ain’t the paycheck or the benefits (although THANK YOU, UNION AND SCHOOL BOARD FOR MY PAYCHECK AND MY BENEFITS!). It’s days like today.

Today was not anything spectacular either. We didn’t do any big projects or presentations. I didn’t have any fancy lesson or activity. It was just a regular day in 8th grade, but things went right.

Most students came into class and, after hearing that I still didn’t have much of a voice (see sinus infection post from yesterday), quieted down quite quickly to allow for me to give directions for the bell ringer, announcements about the school play, and remind them what they will be working on for the day and why.

Then they got to work.

No really, they did.

Students either worked on their vocab that is due tomorrow, or they worked on their tribute essay that is due tomorrow. I walked around handing back things and making sure everyone had something to work on, then I settled in and started opening their working documents and having “silent conferences” via the comments in Google Docs.

A few kids had actual conferences because there was more I wanted to say/comment on than just in writing, but overall, most kids worked quite hard and smart.

Then we played a review game with our vocab words for the last 15 minutes of class.

That’s it.

Nothing fancy in the least.

But it all felt good because kids were engaged, I was coaching them through it, and–the best part–I read some of the best writing they have done yet this school year.

We have days were we do really, really cool things. Today was just a typical day, but it was pretty awesome.

This is why I teach.

Sinus Infection?

I think I have a sinus infection.

I’ve had this head cold thing for what will be two weeks tomorrow. It started last Thursday with a bit of a scratch in the back of my throat. The next day my entire head was all blown up and feeling awful.

I slept a lot of the weekend.

Last Monday I maybe should have stayed home.

I didn’t. I worked all last week.

I tried to sleep a lot this weekend.

My nose has been running nonstop and now my nose is all chafed and red and raw and sore.

This morning when I still felt like a pile of snotty garbage, I messaged my doctor because come on. I’m supposed to road trip my way to St. Louis next week Thursday evening and then share a room with two other people. No one wants to share a hotel room with a mouth-breathing mucus face.

Also I lost my voice today, and that is just not a good thing for someone who has to do three presentations next weekend.

So, I messaged my doctor.

He thinks it’s probably a sinus infection and that I should be seen.

That is easier said than done with my doc, but the stars aligned and his office was able to get me in with the PA on Friday just after lunch. Yes, I will have to take the afternoon off on Friday (which I don’t like because I have three days off coming up and I’m trying NOT to leave my students with a sub more than I have to), but at least (oh please let it be at least), I’ll be able to get some meds to get rid of this nonsense.

I’m going to hobble through the next day and a half of work and beg my afternoon classes not to be poop heads for a sub on Friday, and I’m going to get better.

Because snot is dumb.

YA for Beginners

My classroom door is always open (quite literally because it gets really warm in there in the morning) to anyone coming in to observe me. Because of this policy, I’ve had fellow teachers stop by, but I have also had college students/teachers-in-training and student teachers come through my door as well. I welcome them all because I enjoy the wonderings and questions I get from each of them. I love to see my class and my teaching through the eyes of someone else so I can stay fresh and always keep “why do that?” in my mind.

That said, one of the biggest draws to my classroom is my library. I’ve got about a thousand titles that I’ve painstakingly collected through my own purchases and many many many donations. Everyone wants to lay eyes on this glorious wall-o-books, and the question that is always asked is, “what would you suggest to get first? If I was going to start a library, what books are good ones to start with?”

This answer changes every year as new books come out and student interest changes, but I think I can make a Top Twenty Starter Pack list for anyone wanting to either start a classroom library, or start reading YA Lit for the first time.

Here is my list in no particular order (keeping in mind that I am cheating a bit and just naming authors so I can cover more than just twenty. What? I’m addicted!).

  1. Winger by Andrew Smith (and then Standoff because it’s the sequel. And then, well, let’s just put Andrew Smith books at the top of the list. But read Winger first.)
  2. Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  4. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (ok, again, just read everything he’s written, but this is his newest and it’s incredible)
  5. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (she is another one that you should just invest in all her books)
  7. Me, Earl, & The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (seriously inappropriately funny)
  8. Lily & Dunkin by Donna Gephart
  9. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
  10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  11. La Linea by Ann Jaramillo
  12. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  13. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (again…just get everything she’s written)
  14. Everything Walter Dean Myers has written, but specifically get Monster- both the novel and the graphic novel
  15. Yummy by G Neri
  16. All of Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels
  17. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
  18. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
  19. Any (or all) of the Blueford High Books–kids LOVE them because they are accessible and high interest. I suggest starting with Brothers in Arms
  20. Wonder by RJ Palacio

Oh gosh…I really could keep going. This is really just a very small start. Other authors you should really read include Ellen Hopkins, Matt de la Pena, Ibi Zoboi, Neil Shusterman, and so SO many more.

Happy reading!

Continuing Education

Since telling people that I am applying for a PhD program I have gotten a lot of astounded looks and even more comments that sound roughly like, “GOOD FOR YOU! And with three kids and working full time? Wow!”

Let me just first say that I know that the there is real affirmation behind these comments, and that the people saying them are really impressed (or at least I am choosing to assume positivity). I smile and nod, and mutter something like, “Well, I’m going to try.”

Honestly? I am terrified.

The last time I was in a graduate program, I didn’t have any kids. Shoot, I wasn’t even married for the first half of it. Yes, I was working full time, but the rest of my time was super flexible. The only person’s obligations I had to worry about were mine (and sometimes Cortney’s, but let’s be real: it did not matter if he had a haircut or meeting while I was in class back then).

Now, we are talking about a major disruption to our already crazy schedule. I already feel like our week’s are jam-packed with soccer (done now, whew!), scouts, consistory, and bowling. Now we are going to throw in a night that I am completely gone for class too.

Then there is actually the time I will have to do my homework.

I have my Master’s degree in the same program I am hoping to get my PhD in, so I already know it’s going to be a lot of work. I know there will be a lot of reading and writing. I am sure there will be some sort of online thing attached too. I graduated 9 years ago. Lots has changed since then, so I know every day will have to have some sort of block for me to just focus on class work.

Plus I will still be working full time.

Sometimes when people give me those, “WOW!” comments, failure flashes before my eyes and I wonder why I told ANYONE what I am doing.

At the same time, I am so excited to get back to being a student. I am eager to continue my studies and learn more about writing, literature, and the teaching of both. I am actually looking forward to research and picking apart the results of that research.

I’m excited to try new things.

I’m also terrified of failure.

But I have to try.

I have to do this. For me, but also to show my kids that when you have a dream, you have to at least go for it.



I had a hard time going to church today.

I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay home in my jammies and drink my coffee all by myself.

But I went because I stayed home last week due to this stupid cold I actually still have. I tried to gear up because we had a baptism today and I love infant baptisms.

We ended up in the back of church, which I hate because I have a hard time paying attention back there. I feel so…far away. So out of it. I get distracted by every little thing.

And I was distracted. An ink pen exploded on Charlie’s fingers, then Eddie needed tissues for his runny nose, and then Charlie wanted to write our names in the “friendship register thingy” that we pass later in the service. Then it was time for the children’s message, but Charlie doesn’t go up to the front for that because then he would be in front of church and eyes might be on him. So he hung out into the aisle to get a peek at the baptism. Then it was time for him to go to Little Lambs. Then I saw Ed out of church (he said he had to use the bathroom…Ok). Then when we were finally all in our seats, I couldn’t turn my brain off other things.

I had coughing fits.

I know nobody likes to sit by the person having coughing fits.

Church was full, so people were close. I was self-conscious of my coughing fits.

After communion, Cortney headed to the back to be a Deacon. After that Eddie left for Children in Worship.

I was left alone in the pew.

Normally this is when I start to exhale because I drive separately and then go write.

Today I didn’t drive separately, so I started to sweat. I didn’t know if I could talk to anyone today because no one wants to talk to the person having coughing fits and looking all awkwardly anti-social with her piece of delicious Costco baptism cake.

But I did it while the kids were in Children in Worship and Cortney was being a Deacon and counting money.

And it totally didn’t suck.

I survived.

Then Cortney gave me a ride home where I heard about the over twenty people who were shot while in church in Texas.

Perspective, man.








When is it going to end? When can we talk about this cancer that is eating our country? Is it finally time? I would love to be optimistic, but I know better.

If killing little children doesn’t get the conversation going, why would killing people worshiping in what should be the safest place? In a sanctuary?

Come, Lord Jesus.

November Birthdays

November is an explosion of niece and nephew birthdays around here. Of our eleven, six have birthdays in November and one has his in December.

It’s my favorite kind of insanity because A) I think birthdays are the best and B) I love to pick fun presents for kids.

Gift giving/receiving is my love language, yo. I even had it tested, so that is legit. Anyway, as the gift giver in this house I get SO EXCITED TO BUY ALL THE PRESENTS and Cortney looks at the budget and just says to me, “don’t go too crazy, mmkay?”

But November is also weird for me. Both of my miscarried babies were due in November.

Today we were at a birthday party for Cortney’s sisters youngest who are turning two and four. Eddie is the oldest cousin on that side of the family by two years. He tells me that he often feels like a giant (he is tall, but also I know it’s because he’s the oldest). I fleetingly wonder “what would this scene look like with one of those other babies here? If the first pregnancy had worked out, I would have a ten year old this year! If the second had worked out, a nine-year old.

But then would we have Eddie? If we did, would he be the baby instead of the oldest? Would we not have Charlie and Alice?

I don’t know. I don’t like thinking about it, and usually I turn off my thoughts as soon as that last one enters because my heart won’t even let me imagine a world without Charlie or Alice.

We are told that God knows everything about us even as we are “knit together in [our] mother’s womb[s].”  Are each of us here on purpose? Is the opposite of that then, those who didn’t make it, not here…on purpose?

Once a friend told me that maybe Eddie just took three tries to get here. That all three were Eddie in some way. Honestly, I don’t know what to believe. Sometimes I think of them as babies in heaven so Cortney’s dad can take care of them and have grandkids. Sometimes I don’t think of them as babies at all, but just as lumps of cells that quit developing.

The first one was a blighted ovum, so it helps me to think that maybe something was  wrong and my body was like, “STOP! This isn’t right!” The second one was most definitely because my body doesn’t make enough progesterone (maybe the first one was too? Hard to tell since it ended so quickly, but my uterus didn’t get the memo). When we figured it out and my pregnancy with Eddie “stuck,” we found out when I went into labor that my body isn’t shaped right to birth babies. Not only do I have a tilted uterus, but rather than widen, my parts that are supposed to push the baby out stay narrow straight through.

Also, I apparently grow giants.

So all my babies were born via C-section.

Maybe my body knew that and tried to stop me from having babies, but I did it anyway.

I don’t know, this month brings up weird thoughts for me every year.

November is wonderful and weird all at the same time.

It makes me nostalgic for a time I never even lived.

It reminds me how sure we are in our decision to be complete, and yet brings me back to a time before we had even gotten started.

Photo by Erin Barkel Photography

A Dinner Dance

“What are we having for dinner tonight, Mom? I can smell something good!”

I do the same dance most nights of the week:

Chopping, boiling, sauteing, baking.

Pouring milk, plating entrees, adding a treat.

Dodging a toddler, breaking up bickering brothers, commiserating with my husband.

The kitchen is crowded even when I am the only person in it, and it become impossible when a small child wanders in looking for a drink or a Leggo they thought they left on the counter.

Tempers flare when fanned with hunger and exhaustion. Arguments and less-than-loving tones are routine.

The oven beeps. The microwave dings. Plates and cups and silverware and vitamins get placed on the table.

“Tell your brother dinner is ready, please.”



Tripping over each other to get to the table.

“What are we having? What’s there?”

“I don’t like this!”

“MMMM! I love this!”

“Can I have more?”

“I haven’t even sat down yet. You can wait.”

Something always spills. Someone always cries.

“Alice, take your shoes off. Why is your coat still on?”

Plates are refilled. Days are discussed.

The table is full of noise every night–sometimes happy, sometimes grumpy, almost always a crazy combination.

“I’m done!”

“Me too!”

“Take care of your plate! WITH TWO HANDS!”

Suddenly Cortney and I are the only two left at the table. My plate is clean, his still half full.

We both sigh because neither wants to get up and start the clean-up/homework/bath dances.

The dinner dance, however, is over for another evening.



Last year my good friend, the Pastor’s Wife, convinced me that I needed to attend the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference in Atlanta. I had been going to our state-level conference, the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE), for a few years, and she was sure this was my next step.

I balked a little at the cost: ticket price, hotel, conference passes (If you go to NCTE, you may as well stay and spring to go to ALAN–The Assembly on Literature of the Adolescents of the NCTE–as well. It was just a lot. Plus having to take time off work, make sub plans, work out the details of Cortney being the solo parent for a long weekend right before Thanksgiving. It really seemed to be too much.

She is convincing though, my Pastor’s Wife friend. She even somehow made it not just sound ok to Cortney, but he was all on board with how great this would be for me. Then the Pastor’s Wife convinced me to submit to present. And THEN I was accepted on a round-table as a respondent AND as a panel member.

NCTE in Atlanta last year was one of the best things I have done for my career EVER.  My whole recap is here.

This year NCTE and ALAN are in St. Louis, and the Pastor’s Wife (who is a college professor, in case I didn’t mention that) and I are ROAD-TRIPPING! We are leaving Thursday, November 16 after a full day of teaching, and driving through to St. Louis where we will stay until Tuesday morning.

I am part of THREE presentations this year: I’m a round-table presenter, a round-table respondent, and a panel chair with The Educator’s Room.

I am almost exhausted just thinking about it.

But I’m also really, really excited about it.

And stressed because I only have 2/3 of my presentations set.

But it’s going to be great. I’m going to learn and grow as a teacher, and I am going to fan girl all the YA authors


Halloween 2017

It’s November!

I’m going to try to post every day!

Key word = try!

Let’s start with an easy one: Halloween.

The kids were so much fun this year for Halloween. I think it was the first year where all three really understood and were able to participate in their own, age-appropriate way.

Eddie and Charlie were very much a part of choosing their costumes this year.

Eddie, of course, chose Harry Potter. We have been reading the books together (we read through the first one and watched the movie, and now we are on the second one). He is so in love with the characters and their stories. And I have never read the books before, so I am experiencing it for the first time as well. Having his joy and reactions as we read make me love the story even more. It wasn’t even a question who he would dress up as for Halloween.

I have no idea why he is grumpy in the photo, by the way. This didn’t last. Two seconds later he was fine…and on a sugar high.

Charlie wanted to be his stuffed kitty for Halloween.  You guys, I am so not crafty. Not at all. I like to buy Halloween costumes. But he wanted to be not just any cat, but HIS cat. His brown cat with white paws. So like a good mom, I searched Amazon and used our Prime membership to buy brown sweat pants and a hoodie (at least they are actual clothes he can wear again, right?). Then I went to Michael’s Crafts and walked around like a lost idiot for 20 minutes trying to figure out ears and a tail. I could have bought black cat ears, but I knew that wouldn’t be good enough. I found brown and pink felt that I could turn into ears using some fabric glue.  For the tail, I found a 6-foot long, thick pipe cleaner! I tied it around his waist and pulled his shirt down over it and called it good!

I even hand-sewed the ears to the hood of his sweatshirt. Then Cortney donated two pairs of socks so he could cover his shoes and feet so they looked like paws. I finished the look with eyeliner whiskers and lipstick pink nose! He was so happy! It made my whole day!

And Miss Alice was a cute little bumblebee thanks to a hand-me-down costume from her cousin, Maria. It had a tutu, so she loved it.

Our tradition is to go to Granny’s house first since her birthday is the day before Halloween and Cort’s brother’s birthday is ON Halloween. It’s fun that we all go at the same time. Granny even puts out sandwiches and chips so we get some good food before heading out for all the candy! It’s probably what I like best about Halloween other than seeing my kids love their costumes.

In years past, we have taken the kids to see my parents the day before Halloween, but this year I forgot. So we headed over there. It was totally fine, but we didn’t get back to our own subdivision to trick-or-treat until 7pm and by then a lot of the houses had their lights off.

Cortney dropped the boys and me off in the subdivision and took Alice home and we trick-or-treated our way home. The boys got at least 6 or 7 houses and they were totally happy with that. It was actually sort of fun watching them run from house to house together. The proud momma moment was hearing them say “thank you! Have a great night!” to each candy giver.

Because we got back so late, live on a dead end, and had no neighbors with lights on, we only got one trick-or-treater, so now we have a bowl of like 200 pieces of candy leftover. Oops.

The kids didn’t get a ridiculous amount of candy, but they didn’t even really notice. They were so excited about what they did get, that it made me smile. Besides, we really don’t need that much candy in the house (especially with the leftover bowl of it!).

Before they drifted off to sleep, both boys said to me, “thank you for taking us trick-or-treating, mom. It was so fun.”

I don’t usually really love Halloween, but this year I maybe liked it a little.

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