Sunday, October 5, 2014

Snapshot Stories from my Seniors

I try to keep my personal life separate from my professional life most of the time, including topics I explore on this blog.  From time to time, however, I just can't help myself from sharing something that my kids are doing in the classroom.  They constantly surprise me and make me proud time and time again.

Their latest feat--these snapshot stories.  It's amazing what these kids can do with limited resources.  Most of them don't have access to computers and the internet at home, and so they rely on whatever technology we have at school.  Let me just say that Steve Jobs would probably roll over in his grave if he saw the notebook cart I had to check out for this assignment.  Hint:  not a single Apple can be found on this cart.  Nevertheless, my kids embraced the project and created beautiful Snapshot Stories.

Their assignment was to bring in any picture that spoke to them and to write two hundred words about it.  After much revision, they used the website WeVideo to upload their picture and record themselves reading their words.  Although I had limited experience with WeVideo, (hey--I'm an Apple girl and I use iMove!) we worked through the kinks together to create the final projects.

I wasn't prepared for how much their final snapshot stories would move me.  I read their words as they were going through the writing process, witnessed their struggles with revision, and saw their smiles and high fives when they realized they had found just the right words to go with their picture. It wasn't until I heard their voices on their final video, though,  that I realized just how amazing these projects are.   Those voices, so full of emotion and innocence, filled my soul as each picture became their story, and I suddenly connected with each of them in ways I couldn't have possibly done without this project.

My students happily gave their permission to share some of their stories with you, and so I invite you to watch a few of them and get a glimpse into the heart of a typical high school senior at my school.  **Update:  WeVideo is now asking you to login.  If this happens, try signing if with a Google+ account.

Meet Leyna

(click here) smile

and Karla
(click here) Nebraska

Here's Stephanie

(click here) new beginnings

Pedro and Alexis

(click here for Pedro) home sweet home

(click here for Alexis) go slow

and Angel

(click here) Guidance

Miss Lizeth

(click here) Home

and finally Jeff
(I saved Jeff for last because I just have to share his story.  I first met Jeff when he was in my 7th grade Literacy class.  He had just come to the United State from Tanzania.  He spoke absolutely no English--his native language is Swahili.  For most of that 7th-grade year, Jeff and I communicated using Google Translate, starting with one word at a time.  My teacher-heart is filled to the rim having Jeff in my senior English class and witnessing his growth and the power of education!)

(click here) track star

Seniors, words, and pictures.  Reasons to believe!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Christmas Lake Love

As I cling to these last days of my summer break, my body feels rested, my soul is renewed, and my heart is full of so much love.  It's been a beautiful summer!


Maui was unbelievable: (Maui blog!)

And Christmas Lake was pure love. 
 Most of The Thompson family was able to travel to Shorewood, Minnesota, to spend a glorious Fourth of July weekend celebrating family.  My niece Amy's toast summed up the family milestones so far this year.  We celebrated Gabe's graduation from high school, Amy's marriage to Austin and her new job, Peg and Jim's 30th wedding anniversary and both of them turning the big 5-0, Jill's pregnancy, the one-year birthday of The Twins and Drake, Ethan turning the big FOUR, and the sheer joy of being together as a family.

As is typical with any Thompson family gathering, there were lots of inside jokes that we will be referring to for years to come, like

bawling babies everywhere 
(said by all with so much love!)

it was the twins 
(Micki's comment when Kerri walked into cheerios and scrambled eggs decorating the screen porch.  From that point, everything was blamed on the twins!)

Please enjoy this slideshow of all the love and reasons to believe that Christmas Lake brings to our family--

Sunday, June 29, 2014


I recently saw the movie Words and Pictures, which, if you're not familiar with the plot, argues the question whether language or images provide the best means of expression.  If I were forced to make a choice, I would definitely side with the English teacher in the movie and choose words.  Who needs pictures when reading Shakespeare or Thoreau or Fitzgerald?  The language, the writing, the words ARE the pictures.

So I challenged myself to write about my recent trip to Maui without including pictures, and, needless to say, it just didn't work.  Oh, I wrote it all down in my journal--all one thousand words--pages and pages--but my words just couldn't capture the beauty of this island.  I now concede, as the movie did, that clear expression oftentimes requires both words and pictures.

Here, then, is the story of my trip to Maui--with a few words and lots of pictures.
(for a pictures-wthout-written words-version, see slideshow here)


I started singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane" weeks before our trip began.  Our vacation really did start there--on those jet planes from DEN to LAX and LAX to OGG--with First Class EVERYTHING.  Saying goodbye to the snowy Rocky Mountains, drinking Mai Tais, choosing toppings from a sundae cart, and watching Frozen--twice--made the eleven-hour travel day seem like mere minutes.


When we arrived at The Westin Maui, our Maui home, we were rendered speechless by the beauty--and that was just entering the lobby.  Greeting us were friendly Hawaiian natives with genuine smiles as they placed Puka shell necklaces around our necks.  In the background we could hear the splashing of the waterfalls and saw pink flamingos and a majestic black swan floating peacefully along the waterway that ran throughout the resort.

Walking through the double doors of our ocean front suite caused us all to gasp.  A panoramic view of the sparkling blue Pacific was ours to behold no matter where we were in the suite.  With five balconies, we could each have our own personal view if we so desired.  The Westin Maui--I could definitely get used to this place!


I know I said this already, but our room had five balconies!!!  We had the best views of the sunset from our hotel, and that's where we watched the magic every night we were there.  Each night gave us a different perspective of the sun dipping into the Pacific, and each sunset told its own story.  As spectacular as the sunsets were, my favorite moment happened in the early morning sunlight.  We were all up early (still on Colorado time) enjoying coffee on the lanai.  The sun hadn't been up very long when I happened to glance at the water and caught a full rainbow right outside our balcony.  The ends of the rainbow were so close they looked like they were on the beach below us.  The colors lasted maybe five minutes until they were swallowed by the dazzling blue of the ocean.  This moment was spiritual in so many ways.  If we hadn't been out on the lanai at that time and been looking directly at the ocean, we wouldn't have ever known that rainbows could touch the sand.  And each morning after this one, I looked for  a rainbow over the ocean but to no avail.  I know in my heart and soul this rainbow was a gift from Above, and for that I say mahalo to the ocean for beckoning us out at that exact moment.


I love the ocean--the smell, the blue hues, the sound, the power.  I would gladly spend all my vacations on a beach, drunk on the sound of the sea rolling in.   These days, walking the hot sands has become impossible for me, and so I am content observing from an oceanside cabana.  But on this visit, my sister discovered near the cabana rentals the most amazing invention--a sand wheelchair!  I never dreamed of such a thing, but the next thing I knew she and my niece were taking me for a walk ON THE SAND.  We got close enough to the ocean that waves splashed all around me, and oh, how warm and sparkly that water felt--a sensory memory etched forever in my heart.  Mahalo, Kerri and Amy (and Nathan for round two the next day), for being my "somehow."

Swimming pools come in a close second to ocean waters.  The buoyancy of the water allows me to move about with the best of them.  To be able to walk, jump, float, and simply move without pain is the greatest feeling in the world.  Walking to this pool's waterfall with my niece and nephew was another spiritual moment that I will never forget.  Mahalo, Amy and Nathan, for braving the cold pool water, for making this walk with me, and for sharing in my giddiness.


I discovered the Hula Grill (website) on my first trip to Maui in 1996, and it remains my absolute favorite bar/restaurant on Kaanapali Beach.  The Barefoot Bar, complete with sand, palm trees, and live  music, provides the perfect setting to enjoy a Hawaiian drink.  I couldn't wait to return to the Hula Grill--for snacks, lunch, but mostly the pina coladas!  


These beautiful people.  My traveling buddies.  My lifelines.  This trip to Maui would not have been possible without the love and support given to my mom and me from my sister Kerri, my nephew Nathan, and my niece Amy.  Together, they made sure that we got the whole Maui experience.  We all traveled so well together, too--our destination could have been Siberia, and they would have made the trip amazing.  (of course, I'm glad it wasn't Siberia!)  And so, a big mahalo to Kerri, Nathan, Amy, and my mom for taking this trip with me, for making it perfect, and for inspiring all these words and pictures.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The End of Another Year's Tunnel

Just last week, I realized that I could see the end of this school year getting close enough to touch.  But I somehow blinked my eyes and suddenly found myself with my Born to Run t-shirt on (see here!)  as I blasted Bruce on my way for the last teacher workday of the 2013-2014 school year.

Normally I wouldn't be using blink of an eye to describe the last seven days of school.  I would be using words like

 snail's pace
never ending
get me out of here

This year was different, though.  The whirl-wind series of events that occurred during that seven-day eye blink washed away all the slowness from this end of the year.  And to think it all started with a final exam schedule that sent me into a tailspin . . .

immediately followed by this girl's graduation . . .


and my school's first ever graduating class

AWCPA class of 2014!

and then a visit from my baby brother and sister

Mark and Peg enjoying tater tots at one of Guy's Triple D spots!

soon followed by a celebration for my niece and her new husband

Amy and Austin

and finally a one-year birthday party for the the twins!

Max and Madi

Whew!  I think I can finally breathe now and stop and think about this past year.  I continue to be so grateful for this journey I'm on, for the strength and energy to continue, for a fantastic job with fabulous co-workers and amazing students--students like Melyna who make it all so worth it.

 Reasons to Believe!

Happy Summertime!

Monday, May 12, 2014

F Scott Fitzgerald iMovie

I made this little iMovie for my juniors--to use as a model for them as they work on their final projects for The Great Gatsby.  Good luck, juniors!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Video Chatting from a New Perspective

I just finished an unbelievable FaceTime call, and I'm still asking myself, "Did that just happen??"

It started out as a typical Saturday morning video chat with my niece and her two boys.  Ethan, our almost-four-year-old, wasn't really in the mood to talk, and besides, he needed to use the bathroom.  That left us chatting with Micki and Drake, our almost-one-year-old.

Drake LOVES to FaceTime.  He smiles and "talks" and then always looks at his mom to see how she reacts to the conversation.  He could talk for hours.

During this chat, Micki was needed in the bathroom (see Ethan above!)  She put the iPhone down near Drake so we could continue watching him.  And that's when the mayhem unfolded, right before our cyber eyes . . .

 We watched as Drake realized the iPhone was still on . . . and it was in his reach . . . and he was alone.    A huge smile appeared as he crawled over and grabbed the phone.  He stood up (Drake is toddling now) and started walking down the hallway, continuing to "chat" with us.  We could see his little bobble head as he toddled on his mission, straight to the bathroom.

Drake gave us quite a viewing--we saw Micki helping Ethan, who was not very happy about that.  We heard the sound of the toilet flushing, and just as I said, "I hope he doesn't drop the phone in the toilet," we were suddenly underwater.  We saw swirling water, we heard the bubbly sound of running water, and we saw a hand reaching into the water.  The next thing we saw was a water-blurred reflection of Micki, and then our connection ended.  All the while I'm screaming at Micki, "He dropped us in the toilet!" trying to get her attention.  It was just so unbelievable, but I have to hand it to Apple--the camera and sound on that iPhone worked amazingly underwater!

Now, I'm sure that many an iPhone has been dropped in many toilets throughout the world.  I'm not so sure, though, that anyone has been on a FaceTime call to witness the underwater view.  My only wish is that I would have been recording this chat, for I'm sure I would be $10,000 richer, courtesy of America's Funniest Videos!

Oh, Drakester--you are going to be SO MUCH FUN!

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Some People Are Worth Melting For"

I'm not a movie reviewer, partly because I just don't go to that many movies, but I know what I like.
 And I LOVED Frozen!

It's true--I love most Disney movies--the princesses, the princes, the good conquering evil, the love stories, the unforgettable music, the comic relief, the darkness inside all that light, the vibrant, breathtaking colors.  Frozen has all of these, and even though Disney movies can be predictable as a result of the familiar, Frozen has something more, making it sit right there at the top of my Disney movie list--right along side The Little Mermaid, and that's saying something. 

Frozen has a twist.  Just when all the pieces are falling into place, the plot changes directions, leaving predictions for the ending wide open.  I won't be a spoiler, though, because what I love most about Frozen, aside from this twist, is that this is a movie about


and the sometimes complicated love and loyalty that is unique to the sisterhood.

Of course I thought of my own sisters as I watched, spellbound, as Elsa and Anna grew up on the screen in front of me.  Their Disney lives somehow reflected many of my own experiences as the middle sister of the four Thompson girls, and the fact that Elsa was blonde and Anna was a redhead just made that reflection even more clear.  Lynne and Peg, sisters 1 and 3, are the gingers in the family, and Kerri, the baby sister, and I are the blondes.

Just like Elsa and Anna, our sister roles, seemingly so defined, change from time to time as life changes.  The take-charge, lead-the-way big sister role has passed through all of us at one time or another, as has the spoil-me, play-with-me, teach-me baby sister role, and the mediator, hold-everthing-together, backbone role of the middle sister.

One sister role that never changes, though, is that of forever friend.  I've experienced many times throughout life that it isn't the prince who is going to be the hero in my life.  That role has already been taken.  If I need saving, my sisters will take care of that.  Or (maybe a little spoiler alert here) teach me to let go of my fears and save myself.

Yep . . .

I would melt for these reasons to believe anytime.

My Annas                            My Elsa