Archive | Back to School RSS for this section

What Happened to Summer?

I’m not sure where the months of June and July went, but August came way too soon. I have now been back to school for a week and I’m still trying to decide if I got enough done over the summer to satisfy until next May.

I always have big plans and long lists…doesn’t mean they all get done! Here are a few pictures of what I did get done.

After twelve years in this house it was time to paint the kitchen/dining room. The chairs also needed to be recovered in matching fabric.

After twelve years in this house it was time to paint the kitchen/dining room. The chairs also needed to be recovered in matching fabric.

New curtains above sink

New curtains above sink

New art work. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I painted my own field of poppies. I'm not Monet, but I'm pretty pleased with the results!

New art work. With the encouragement of a dear friend, I painted my own field of poppies. I’m not Monet, but I’m pretty pleased with the results!

The final item on my list was to work on my story. It’s been a struggle because there are so many other things filling my brain. I know, it’s an excuse and one that anyone who wants to write understands. Mark wanted to take the boys to Colorado to ride 4-wheelers before school started and I was unsure if I wanted to go. In four days at home alone, I can get a lot done! But Mark suggested I go with them and use the time to write. So for two days, this was my office.

Beautiful view!

Beautiful view!

Not a bad view and I did get a little writing done. Enough to return to school without feeling let down.

Enjoy your last few days of summer!


How I learned to love August

I wrote this several a few years ago. It’s still one of my favorites.

August used to be my absolute most hated month of the whole year.

July was all popsicles, water slides and fireworks, but the moment the calendar turned over, a sense a dread settled in my stomach. A big old circle around a certain date gave full notice that my wild and carefree days were numbered. Literally.


Destination for August.

Whatever fun could have been wrung out of the fading days of summer were overshadowed by the looming deadline. We still slept late, played games and tried to be as lazy as humanly possible, but it all had a sense of desperation. It wasn’t summer any more, it was August. Hot, stifling and lifeless. In other words: school.

Even the word sounded like coughing up a hairball. August.

After I graduated from college, I turned the calendar over to August and marveled that for the first time in 18 years, there was no drop-dead date circled in red. Then I looked closer. There really wasn’t much of anything on the calendar for August.

And I made the most delightful discovery: August is awesome!

This is the month when schedules slow down and it’s too hot to do anything much beside sip iced tea and read a good book.

The grass gets overtaken by the heat so I only have to mow every other week. Cheery wildflowers bloom with abandon on the side of the road. The hillsides have taken on varying shades of green and yellow and tan, a relief to the eye after the monotonous shade of summer. Sometimes a hint of a cool breeze stirs the air.

Gifts of August.

The garden offers up an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, zucchini, corn, zucchini and more zucchini. Reruns are the only thing on TV, so you might as well as go outside with a piece of watermelon and spit the seeds over the porch railing while the cicadas drone.

Vacation is over, as is the county fair, Bible school, family reunions, hay baling and the ambitious summer to-do list. Either the projects are done or the list is discarded. This is not a time for starting projects; this is a time for taking naps in front of the fan.

The songs on the radio are all familiar since no one introduces new singles in August. No movies at the theater are must-see, although a cheap movie may be in order just for the sake of sitting in the cool and dark for two hours when the heat index approaches 112.

If I get a burst of energy, I may upload some pictures from summer adventures to Facebook. Then again, why work up a sweat? My wardrobe of choice has dwindled to a pair of denim shorts, a souvenir T-shirt and – when shoes are absolutely necessary – flip flops.

August is that moment at the top of the swing. Your legs pump back and forth, the old chains creak on the swing set and you push forward. Just when you’ve gone as high as you can possibly go, the swing pauses for one magic moment. Your heart swells in your chest as you float in a blue sky. The world stretches out pure and perfect beneath you. Then you catch your breath and fall back and have to start working again.

August is a 31-day pause in the middle of the year for us to rediscover simple pleasures. It is the taste of tree-ripened peaches, wild plums and homemade salsa. It’s not quite summer, it’s not quite fall, it’s just hot and that hammock is calling my name.

The best thing about not being in school is I don’t have to go back to school. I understand the agony teachers and students are experiencing, but this is one month when it’s good to be a grown up. I may just sleep in the first day of school because I can. Because it’s August.

Susie PinkWhat do I have going on in August? Nothing much. What’s so great about August? Nothing much. Which is why it’s so great.

August – love it or hate it?


Show &Tell

I never imagined what a blessing I’d get every day from teaching a group of high school girls. It might help that I’m not teaching Physics! This is an amazing group of young ladies who embrace whatever the project is. We’ve had some funny moments (icing colors that no one would dare to eat) and a few frustrating ones (sixteen girls on sixteen different sewing machines), but this class is learning and doing a fabulous job. Here’s a few pictures to show what our class is about.

Finger prints made by each girl to show how unique they are. The finished product was amazing.

Finger prints made by each girl to show how unique they are. They used their thumb print, then filled in the lines with words to describe themselves. The finished product was amazing.

After a few weeks of basic cooking, we spent time learning how to decorate cakes. I was amazed at the results and it was their first time to decorate!

After a few weeks of basic cooking, we spent time learning how to decorate cakes. I was amazed at the results and it was their first time to decorate!

Now we are spending about six weeks on basic sewing. The girls are making pillowcase dresses that will be given to little girls in Africa. The girls will each make three dresses. Here they are working in our very tight, but fun classroom!

Now we are spending about six weeks on basic sewing. The girls are making pillowcase dresses that will be given to little girls in Africa. The girls will each make three dresses. Here they are working in our very tight, but fun classroom!

Just a few of the dresses. I can't wait to see them all finished!

Just a few of the dresses. I can’t wait to see them all finished!




















I love the saying above the dresses. More than anything, it’s what I want the girls to learn this year.

Live life to the fullest & make a difference along the way.

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for letting me share!


A Great Lesson: It just takes one…

Josh2Our oldest son, Joshua, attends a specialized school for children with severe disabilities. We chose this school because it offers a protected environment necessary for his fragile health. In addition, he has access to professionals who help him learn how to use adaptive technologies for mobility and speech. This has been a tremendous facility for Joshua and his peers to grow and achieve a high quality of life.

The one thing, though, about attending this school, which partners with the local children’s treatment center, is that there is a great need for funding. The assistive communications devices, mobility and seating equipment, Smart boards, sensory feedback materials, and adaptive teaching aids are all required to assist the students. And as you can imagine, this is all tremendously expensive. As a result, there is a lot of fundraising that goes on and the community has been generous in response.

But over the last couple of years we’ve seen a shift, largely driven by Joshua’s teacher—Mrs. Carpenter. This lovely woman was “borrowed” from the public school board for a short-term contract. When she came, she brought her wonderful attitude. Her main lesson was that it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone has the ability to look outward and help those in need.

During her short stay, Mrs. Carpenter and her class arranged many community projects which included:

  • Collecting cereal for the Downtown Mission
  • Created and sold greeting cards for the Healing Garden in memory of students who passed away
  • Distributed and collected post cards for Veterans residing in local facility
  • Project Shoebox at Christmas for the Samaritan’s Purse
  • Read to Feed – Reading to buy chickens for the Heifer Foundation
  • Hospital Goodie bags for kids waiting in the Emergency Room
  • Soup Drive for a local food bank
  • Penny Drive for the United Nations World Food Program
  • …And many more!

It was such a blessing to be part of the energy and projects to help the school give back to the community (and the world!) who has been so generous to the students.

Mrs. Carpenter had many motivational signs posted around her room. The one that stuck out in my mind the most was simple, yet profound and it reflected this teacher’s approach to life:

“If you can’t feed the world, then just feed one. – Mother Teresa”

Now that this teacher has retired, I hope we can all remember what she often said—it just takes one to change the world.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What lesson do you remember learning that was not from a book?

Sending teachers back to school with prayers

Dear Teacher Friends,

I’ve noticed that look in your eye the last few weeks. I’ve heard you mumbling aobut bulletin boards and schedules and dry erase markers.


I envy (a little bit) the fresh start you get every year with a new school year. I also admire you for dedicating your lives to teaching others. As the new school year begins, I’m thinking of:

  • My sister-in-law Cindy who has gone “back to school” for more than 30 years and teaches special education.
  • My friend Lori who imparts music skills to kindergartens through sixth graders with an enthusiasm I can’t even begin to touch.
  • Ruth, who instructs sixth graders in a Title I school. Teresa in her make-shift classroom in the library for students who come from half a dozen different countries and don’t speak English.
  • Sara Meisinger taking her college education and her home-school experience to some very lucky students. She’s going to need all that experience given the range of classes she’s teaching.
  • Michelle and Gena teaching chemistry and math in a public high school.
  • Emily who has a special gift for reaching autistic children and Anitra who makes the day special for second graders and Marsha who makes me wish I could be in first grade again.
  • My former roommate Sarah who became a Peace Corps volunteer and starts her first year teaching Native American students in New Mexico. Carla, a grandma who wraps her preschoolers in love. Jessie starting her first year in the classroom in a tiny rural district.

As I reflect on my teachers – elementary, high school and even college – I realize how much opportunity you have to touch a child and affect their lives. Thank you for what you do and may your school house rock this year!

Susie-3994-EditPS 72~ Susan

Share the name of a teacher who is “in the trenches” making a difference.

Dream Job

This week I started my dream job. Wait, maybe it’s not a job because I volunteered.

Can you guess what class I’m teaching?Four classes (2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th) in four hours every Wednesday.

Second grade painted fish

We didn’t finish any of the projects but the day was great AND tiring! One student even asked if I’d be the art teacher next year. I’m choosing to believe that’s a positive comment! It’s been fifteen years since I last taught in an elementary classroom and yesterday I was reminded why I wanted to be a teacher. Teaching art–I think I’m going to love it!


Have a great weekend,



It is still dark outside this morning as I write this. A gentle rain is falling…and it would be a good day to stay inside and WRITE!! However…we are off to a volleyball tournament for the day. Last night we attended the first VB scrimmage of the year. Soon, and very soon, we will be adding a weeknight into the mix, and often will have to choose between which grandchild gets our attention for the evening!!

School has begun!!

Like so many others who have recalled their school memories this week, I also have a few. Among the fat pencils, the new clothes, the smell of newly painted/cleaned school buildings, and the angst of sending that last little chick off to fit under someone else’s wing–among my fondest memories are the janitors at the small school I attended until my sophomore year.

It was a small town, two schools–a grade school which housed the first six grades on the first floor (three big room, two grades each) and the lunch room on the second floor. Yes…even waaayyy back then we had hot lunches and the students who attended the junior/senior high school, which was just up the sidewalk, came to this buildling to eat. And then there was the high school, which was home to grades 7-12, and also the gymnasium/stage. This building was the hub of any excitement that went on in that small town.

The janitors were Mr. and Mrs. Amos. To this day I don’t recall their first names. We were never allowed to call them, or any other teacher, anything but Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Even the cooks were never on a first name basis.

Mr. and Mrs. Amos didn’t live at the school, but I don’t remember how old I was before I realized that. They were always there. They’d greet you in the morning, say goodbye at night, if you forgot a book and needed in the locked building you could rattle the door and after awhile their smiling faces would appear. And in the summertime, they painted and varnished and washed windows so when school started again–always after Labor Day–we were greeted with the smells that still today linger in my mind. They knew every child in the school by name, knew their parent’s name and how to get in touch with them if they caught you doing something naughty. We knew better than to run the stairs two at a time, or attempt to slide the bannisters for a quick way down. Heaven help us if we rubbed our names into frosty window panes (unless you got smart enough to put someone else’s name instead of your own), and somehow you imagined that if your paper towel didn’t go IN the trashcan in the bathrooms, they would know who the guilty party was.

The first person you saw of a morning, the last person you saw before heading out the door in the evening, and between classes…Mr. and Mrs. Amos were never idle. Armed with the big oily mops, or big white cloths they dusted, polished, and sprinkled funny smelling stuff around to cover up the stench of whatever it is that kids do to make a place stink.

Students started school, graduated and left. Teachers came..and moved on. But Mr. and Mrs. Amos were there in that small town until their death. The grade school still stands-now a museum. The high school has long been torn down–a victim of progress they said. The little town no longer houses a school–though it could boast of the first consolidated school district in Kansas at one time. The town itself is just a little dot on the Kansas map, near the middle. They say when a school dies, so dies the town. But there are those who still live there and fight valiantly to maintain the viability of the community. And many return for the every-other-year school reunions.

Today I’m off to a VB tourney. There will be lots of kids and parents. Lots of food consumed in the open commons area. Paper towels will be heaped and overflowing in the restrooms, and yes–some will be on the floor. Popcorn sacks and energy drink bottles will lie strewn among the bleachers when the day is done.

But I will pick my trash up, make sure my towel hits the can, and I will say THANK YOU to the people I see holding the big mops, and the white cloths, and who will linger long after the last referee whistle blows to make sure the building is ready for Monday morning.

Those faithful Mr. and Mrs. Amos’s–found in every school–may never stand before a classroom, but they teach nevertheless…

by example!!

And shame to any who thinks the job menial!!

School Changes Everything

First day of school.

BIG changes happened for our family last week. For the first time all three boys are going to school and the house is silent. Somedays it’s too silent! It’s Isaac’s first year and he was so excited. I thought “we” were doing fine until we walked into the gym to line up with his class. Suddenly my bouncing boy wasn’t bouncing. They lined up and went to class. Then the moms could come and take pictures.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gone, but this look stuck with me all day.

You’re leaving me here?

I picked the boys up at the end of the day and had a hundred questions to ask. The one I really wanted to know but didn’t ask was if he wanted to go back. After all the questions about lunch, recess, classmates and teachers, he said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m going back tomorrow.” What a relief! Then he fell asleep for two hours. School might have worn him out, but he’d been up since 5 AM! Every morning he bounces out of the house. That makes it so much easier for this mommy to let him go. The silence in the house is sometimes a quiet blessing and other times so loud I can hardly think.

So what am I doing with ‘all my time’? I’ve been asked this more than I can count! I never realized how concerned people are with my time!! I make my list each day and it often gets interrupted. Mark might need help in the field or I’m inspired to fold laundry. Mostly, I want to use this time to write. I’d love to have another story finished by Spring. I decided to volunteer at school so I’d be there once a week and involved. To my great surprise and delight, I was asked to teach art classes to four of the elementary classes. I’ll be working with another teacher to build this new program. One day a week, teaching art, in the school where my boys are. I think the changes are very good!

Back to school for me.

It’s Friday–enjoy your weekend!


Back to school and autumn

I was one of those nerds who always liked school. Shopping for school supplies was a thrill.  I remember getting the latest magazine my mom ordered for us, looking at all the pictures of the girls in their cute fall clothes with coordinating hats.  I love hats.  I couldn’t wait until the latest fall JC Penney and Sears and Roebuck catalogs came in the mail.   Back then, people shopped a lot by catalog.  Now it’s online shopping.  But I digress.  The point is … back to school holds so many precious memories for me.  And every year I get to hold new ones near and dear to my heart as my daughter goes through school.  Time goes so fast.  She’ll be in college before I know it.   Sigh.

In my school days, I remember as summer came to a close, the air would eventually turn cooler, the leaves would begin to fall, and I’d run through them– enjoying the crunching sound they made beneath my feet. Okay. I still do the run through the leaves and crunching beneath my feet thing.

When my daughter was little, we’d go down every single aisle together exploring and picking up what we’d need for the new year.  We’d visit Hobby Lobby for the latest art supplies. Ah, the memories of elementary school.  Now that my daughter is in high school, it’s mostly ink pens, mechanical pencils, extra lead, college ruled paper, spiral notebooks, three-ring binders, index cards, new debate box, and legal pads.  But it’s still fun.

Our church believes strongly in reaching out in the community. Not long ago, our pastor gave a short sermon, the information desk handed out  shopping lists for school supplies, and we were sent out to shop for the supplies highlighted on our lists. The supplies would go to those children in our community that couldn’t get the supplies they needed.  We were to bring our bounty back to the church in 45 minutes.  Walmart didn’t know what hit ’em.  I met people in our church on that shopping excursion that I hadn’t been introduced to yet,as we all helped one another find the items on our lists in the crowd we created.  It was a very cool experience.

I think because I’ve always loved reading and learning, school was always something I looked forward to.  Autumn is my favorite season.  Some look at it that plants from the spring and summer are gradually dying as things head into winter and hibernation.  But not me.  I’ve always seen it each season brings something new.  Autumn is a time of new beginnings.  And I love the leaves as they turn color.  Mums bloom in fall.  They’re one of my favorite flowers.
I think God’s Word says it best.  Ecclesiastes 3:1  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

May God bless you as you embark upon the path He’s set before you this autumn.


Susan Hollaway