Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I'm a Survivor Playlist

December 22, 2015

Awhile back, I asked friends for suggestions for some ‘Survivor’-type anthem songs for a playlist—something to keep me going and remind me to keep my spirits up when things got a little scary and uncertain.  Lots of these songs were ones I was reminded of by these friends; some of them had made the list before I threw out the call for help.  Sometimes it’s just a single line, sometimes it’s the whole vibe or message of the whole song that struck me.  Sometimes it’s a reminder to be strong, sometimes it’s visualization of what it’s going to be like once I make it through the fire. Admittedly, some of the songs themselves are a little on the darker side and I pulled a couple of lines out of context because, you know, I can.  Here’s my “I’m a Survivor” playlist.  The soundtrack of my life, formalized into focus when on October 15th, I was faced with being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Call ‘em cheesy, or too ‘poppy’, or whatever If you like.  This is MY Survivor Playlist, baby, and I’m stickin’ to it!  For each song, I’ve thrown out a line or two that highlight why it made the list.  Also, with the exception of perhaps one or two, I steered clear of ballads and slow songs.  I wanted this to be a “Kickin’ it into high gear fight song/celebration playlist.” 

The story itself—the journey—will be another blog post.  (Spoiler alert, if you haven’t been privy to the Facebook posts: it’s looking like a happy-ending kind of tale.)


Brave—Sara Bareilles
“Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down by the enemy/fallen for the fear and done some disappearing/bow down to the mighty/don’t run, stop holding your tongue/maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live/maybe one of these days you can let the light in/show me how big your brave is.”

Roar—Katy Perry
“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire; ‘cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar louder, louder than a lion/’Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.”

Firework—Katy Perry
“You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine/Just own the night like the fourth of July.”

Bulletproof—La Roux
            “This time, baby, I’ll be bulletproof.”

Treat Me Right—Pat Benetar
            “Treat me right, treat me right/Open your eyes, maybe you’ll see the light.”

Confident—Demi Lovato
“It’s time for me to take it; I’m the boss right now…This is my game, and you’d better come to play.../So you say I’m complicated, but you had me underrated.”

Fight Song—Rachel Platten
“This is my fight song/Take back my life song/Prove I’m alright song/My power’s turned on/Starting right now I’ll be strong/And I don’t really care if nobody else believes/’Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.”

Hold On—Alabama Shakes
“So bless my heart, bless my mind. I got so much to do, I ain’t got much time. So, must be someone up above saying come on girl, you got to get back up.  You got to hold on. Yeah you got to hold on.”

Eye of the Tiger—Survivor
“It’s the eye of the tiger/it’s the thrill of the fight/Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival…”

Invincible—Pat Benetar
“Stand up and face the enemy/It’s a do or die situation/We’ll be invincible.”

I Will Survive—Gloria Gaynor
“I grew strong, and I learned how to get along.  Go on now go—walk out the door! …Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I!”

Hollaback Girl—Gwen Stefani
“So I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack, gonna get a touchdown gonna take you out.”

All Fired Up—Pat Benetar
“I’ve got a new fire burning in my eyes, lighting up the darkness, moving like a meteorite!”

I’ll Make a Man Out of You—Donny Osmond (Mulan)
“Tranquil as a forest, but on fire within. Once you find your center, you are sure to win….You must be swift as the coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon, with all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon.”

Survivor—Destiny’s Child
“I’m a survivor/I’m not gon’ give up/I’m not gon’ stop/I’m gon’ work harder/I’m gonna make it/I will survive/Keep on survivin’.”

Don’t Come Around Here No More—Tom Petty
“Don’t come around here no more. Whatever you’re looking for, HEY, don’t come around here no more.”

Fighter—Christina Aguilera
“Makes me that much stronger/Makes me work a little bit harder/It makes me that much wiser/So thanks for making me a fighter.”

“You’re an overcomer/Stay in the fight ‘til the final round/You’re not going under/’Cause God is holding you right now.”

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)—Kelly Clarkson
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger/Stand a little taller/Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone/What doesn’t kill you makes you a fighter.”

Hit Me With Your Best Shot—Pat Benetar
“Knock me down, it’s all in vain; I’ll get right back on my feet again.”

Love Myself—Hailee Steinfeld
“I’m gonna put my body first/And love me so hard ‘til it hurts/I know how to scream out the words/Scream the words.”

Sole Survivor—Asia
“And from the wreckage I will arise/Cast the ashes back in their eyes/See the fire I will defend/Just keep on burning right to the end.”


Like a Prayer—Madonna
“In the midnight hour, I can feel your power.” 

These Boots are Made for Walking—Nancy Sinatra
“Well, these boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do/One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

“Everything is going to be alright/Be strong, believe….Want to tell my kids they’ll never know/How much I love to see them smile.”

Far From Over—The Sly Guys (Staying Alive)
“Save me darlin’/I am down but I am far from over/Give me somethin’/I need it all ‘cause I am runnin’ over.”

Don’t Stop Believin’—Journey
“Don’t stop believin’/Hold on…”

Bring Me to Life—Evanescence
“Wake me up inside, save me, call my name and save me from the dark…”

Hall of Fame—The Script
“You can go the distance; you can run the mile. You can walk straight through hell with a smile.”

Living on a Prayer—Bon Jovi
“Woah, we’re half way there/Woah, livin’ on a prayer/Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear/Woah, livin’ on a prayer.”

Let It Go—Idina Menzel
“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small/And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.”

Are You Ready for a Miracle?—Rejoice Gospel Choir (Leap of Faith)
“Are you ready for a miracle? As ready as I can be. Are you ready for a miracle? The spirit will set you free.”

I Gotta Feeling—Black Eyed Peas
“I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night/That tonight’s gonna be a good, good night.”

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough—Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
“No wind, no rain/Or winter’s cold can stop me baby…”

Wide Awake-Katy Perry
“I’m wide awake/Not losing any sleep/Picked up every piece/And landed on my feet.”

Worth it—Fifth Harmony\
“Give it to me, I’m worth it.”

Zero to Hero—Cheryl Freeman (Hercules)
“Honey, the crowds were going bonkers/He showed the moxie, brains, and spunk/From zero to hero/a major hunk.”

Safe and Sound—Capital Cities
“I could lift you up; I could show you what you wanna see and take you where you wanna be.  You could be my luck even if the sky is falling down.  I know that we’ll be safe and sound.”

Love is a Battlefield—Pat Benetar
“We are strong, no one can tell us we’re wrong/Searchin’ our hearts for so long…”

Tubthumping—Charlie Wonder
“I Get Knocked Down, But I’ll Get Up Again”


Dance, Dance—Fall Out Boy
“Dance, dance/And these are the lives you love to lead.”

Bang Bang—Ariana Grande
“Queen Nicki dominant, prominent.”

Fancy—Iggy Azalea
“I’m so fancy/You already know/I’m in the fast lane/From L.A. to Tokyo.”

“How will it feel havin’ so much fun? Hard to imagine but it’s electrifyin’/Go to sleep tonight and dream about it til the morning/Appearing for the very first time, on the screen tonight/And when you wanna, they treat you like a prima donna.”

Get Lucky—Daft Punk
“We’ve come too far/To give up who we are/So let’s raise the bar/And our cups to the stars.”

Greatest Day—Bowling for Soup
“The sun is shining down and/There is no one else around now/I wish you were here to hear me say/This is gonna be my greatest day.”

Radioactive—Imagine Dragons
“All systems go, the sun hasn’t died/Deep in my bones, straight from inside.”

We Are the Champions—Queen
“We are the champions, and we’ll keep on fighting ‘til the end.”

Problem—Ariana Grande
“I got one less problem without ya.”

I’m Still Standing—Elton John
“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I every did/Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid/I’m still standing after all this time/Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind.”

It’s My Life—No Doubt
“It’s my life—don’t you forget. Oh it’s my life; it never ends.”

When I Grow Up—The Pussycat Dolls
“When I grow up, fresh and clean, number one chick when I step out on the scene.”

SexyBack—Justin Timberlake
“I’m bringin’ sexy back!”

Since U Been Gone—Kelly Clarkson
 “Since you been gone/I can breathe for the first time/I’m so moving on….”

Turn the Beat Around—Gloria Estefan
“’Cause when the guitar play starts playing/With the syncopated rhythm, with the scratch, scratch, scratch/Makes me wanna move my body, yeah, yeah, yeah.” (Okay—this one is just because how can you NOT feel good listening to this song?)

“If the music’s pumpin’ it will give you new life—you’re a superstar, yes, that’s what you are.” “Beauty’s where you find it.”

Hella Good—No Doubt
“You got me feelin’ hella good so let’s just keep on dancing!”

Price Tag/Don’t You Forget About Me—The Barden Bellas (Pitch Perfect)
“Everybody look to the left, everybody look to the right, Can you feel that yeah, we’re payin’ with love tonight.”

Respect—Aretha Franklin
“R.E.S.P.E.C.T./Find out what it means to me.”

It’s My Life—Bon Jovi
“I just wanna live while I’m alive/It’s my life.”

Cool For the Summer—Demi Lovato
“Tell me if I won; if I did, what’s my prize?”

Brick House—Commodores
“’Cause she’s a brick house/Ow that lady stacked and that’s a fact/Ain’t holding nothing back.” (So yeah—a little tongue in cheek.  Gotta laugh, right, or what’s the point? Besides, this is a family fav. from way, way back.)

Have a Nice Day—Bon Jovi
“Ohh, if there’s one thing I hang onto/That gets me through the night/I ain’t gonna do what I don’t want to, I’m gonna live my life./Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice/Standing on the ledge, I show the wind how to fly./When the world get in my face, I say, Have A Nice Day.”

You May Be Right—Billy Joel
“I might be as crazy as you say/If I’m crazy then it’s true/That’s it’s all because of you/And you wouldn’t want me any other way.”

Big Shot—Billy Joel
“You had to be a big shot, didn’t, you had to prove it to the crowd; you had to be a big shot, didn’t ya-all your friends were so knocked out.”

So What—Pink
“So, so what? I’m still a rock star. I got my rock moves and I don’t need you. And guess whaat? I’m having more fun…now that we’re done.”

Honey, I’m Good—Andy Grammer
“Nah, nah, Honey, I’m good!”

Raise Your Glass—Pink
“Won’t you come on and come on and raise your glass/Just come on and come on and raise your glass.”

Get the Party Started—Pink
“Get this party started on a Saturday night/Everybody’s waitin’ for me to arrive.”

My Life—Billy Joel
“I don’t need you to worry for me ‘cause I’m alright/I don’t want you tell me it’s time to come home.”

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)—Green Day
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this dance and don’t ask why….I hope you had the time of your life.”

Good Morning—Mandisa
“Wave away my yesterday/’Cause I’m leaving it behind me/Hello sunshine, come what may/I feel something new inside me/I hear the birds singing/Now my alarm’s ringing/ Get up, get up, hey/It’s a good morning/Wake up to a brand new day….”

Heart to Heart—Kenny Loggins
“I know the only way to start this time is heart to heart.”

I’m Alright (Theme From Caddyshack)—Kenny Loggins
“I’m alright—don’t nobody worry ‘bout me!”

Don’t Fight It—Kenny Loggins and Steve Perry
“There’s times you want to shake yourself; there’s nights you want to yell for help. You can’t  fight it standing still—there’s nothing wrong with raising some hell. Tonight we’re gonna raise it!”

Girls Just Want to Have Fun—Cyndi Lauper
“I want to be the one to walk In the sun/Oh girls, they just want to have fun.”

I Sing the Body Electric—Irene Cara (Fame)
“I sing the body electric; I celebrate the me yet to come….I sing the body electric, I glory in the glow of rebirth, creating my own tomorrow, when I shall embody the earth.”

Happy—Pharrell Williams (Despicable Me 2)
“Because I’m happy/Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof/Because I’m happy/Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth/Because I’m happy/Clap along if you know what happiness is to you/Because I’m happy/Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.”

Centuries—Fall Out Boy
“We’ll go down in history.  Remember me for centuries.”

Sing Your Praise to the Lord—Amy Grant
“The life goes on and so must the song.”

Up!—Shania Twain
“Up, up, up/Can only go up from here.”

Awesome God—Rich Mullins
“Our God is an awesome God; he reigns from Heaven above with wisdom, power, and love….He spoke into the darkness and created the light.”

I Lived—One Republic
“I, I did it all/I, I did it all/I owned every second that this world could give/I saw so many places, the things that I did/With every broken bone, I swear I lived.”

Good to Be Alive—Andy Grammer
“I think I finally found my halleluiah; I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life. Now all my dreams are comin’ true, yeah. I’ve been waiting for this moment—feels good to be alive right about now.”

Ex’s and Oh’s—Elle King
“One, two, three, they gonna run back to me/Climbing over mountains and a-sailing over seas/One, two, three, they gonna run back to me/They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave.” (Okay, this one has nothing to do with anything. It’s just a great song!)


Ain’t No Other Man—Christina Aguilera
“Ain’t no other man, can stand up next to you/Ain’t no other man on the planet does what you do.”

We Are Family—Sister Sledge
“I’ve got all my sisters with me!”

Let Me Be There—Olivia Newton-John
“Wherever you go/Wherever you may wander in your life/Surely you know/I always wanna be there/Holding your hand/And standing by to catch you when you fall/Seeing you through/In everyting you do/Let me be there in your morning/Let me be there in your night/Let me change whatever’s wrong and make it right.”

I’ll Be There for You (Friends)—Rembrandts
“I’ll be there for you (when the rain starts to pour)/I’ll be there for you (Like I’ve been there before)/I’ll be there for you (‘Cause you’re there for me too).

Whenever I Call You Friend—Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks
“Whenever I call you ‘friend’, I begin to think I understand/Anywhere we are, you and I have always been, ever and ever/ I see myself within your eyes, and that’s all I need to show me why/Everything I do always takes me home to you, ever and ever.”

Never Alone—Contemporary Gospel Chorus (Fame)
“Never alone—He’ll never leave you alone.”

Keep Holding On—Avril Lavigne
“You’re not alone/Together we stand/I’ll be by your side/You know I’ll take your hand/When it gets cold….So keep holding on/’Cause you know we’ll make it through.”

Pride and Joy—Stevie Ray Vaughn
“I love my baby, heart and soul. She’s my sweet little baby; I’m her little lover boy.”

Sunday, October 4, 2015

These Kinds of Notes Make My Day

October 4, 2015

Seriously-this is why I do my job. I love knowing that what I do helps prepare kids for the world beyond their high school classrooms!

Hi Mrs. Lutjens! I hope you're having a good year teaching so far I just wanted to thank you again for constantly pushing us to annotate... I'm taking an intro to architectural studies class and the readings all require annotation to really be understood and written about! If it wasn't for your class, I probably wouldn't be as good at it as I am now. Thank you so much! I really loved having you as a teacher and I'm sure all of your students this year will too

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Note to Paul

October 1, 2015

I sent this to Nicholas' former physics teacher and robotics coach today:

Just a little something I wanted to share: Nicholas is doing well in college so far--As and Bs. Hasn't missed a class yet. Joined three clubs: one that builds drones, one that builds solar-powered vehicles, and one that builds unmanned land vehicles. You know--the kind of stuff being on the robotics fab team has prepared him for. He does not love his required speech class, but his first speech was on a person deserving of respect and admiration. When I asked him who he spoke about, he said, in his very "Well, DUH!" Nicholas way, "Lake, of course. My teacher said it was an A or B speech, but he had to mark me down a little because I went over the time limit, because, well, there's just so much to say about Lake. So I'm fine with having gone over my time." So, you know--I thought you might like to hear that. smile emoticon

I'm sure he hears stuff like this all the time from his former students.  I'm sure he doesn't get tired of it. We are lucky to have had such a great mentor and role model for Nicholas all through high school.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One More New Piece

September 27, 2015

Doug and I have been searching for a new coffee table for the living room for a little while now, especially since we got new furniture for the study.  Today, I think we found the perfect piece! I can't wait to see how it changes the look in the front room. Our house is small and often messy, but little by little, we're making improvements here and there.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sadie's 2015

September 26, 2015

Today was Teamsters' Day at the Battle of the Bay: San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A's in Oakland.  Doug's union hall offered a little day trip to its stewards and their wives, so we were up bright and early to catch the chartered bus they provided for us.  Once there, we attended a fantastic barbque put on by the Teamsters (my very first proper tailgate!) before heading into the ballpark.  We had seats directly in the sun--a drawback, to be sure--but had the opportunity to see a rookie Giant hit a pretty impressive Grand Slam that all but sealed the deal for an eventual Giants win.  This was Doug's first major league baseball game, so it was pretty cool to get to see that live.

The only tough part of being gone all day was the realization I had a few days before that we would be gone on the day of the Sadie's dance.  Nicholas got to go even though he's a graduate, since Treasa is still at Buchanan, and Danielle asked her good friend Nathan to go with her--her first high school dance.  I told Nicholas, Treasa, and Danielle that since I was going to be gone and wouldn't be there to take my traditional 'before the dance' pictures, they had to make sure to send me pictures via text.  Treasa's dad did the photography duties at her house, since Treasa's mom was also at another event.  It was a blurry shot, but I'm glad they sent it anyway.  I'm not even sure who shot Danielle's picture, but I think it's pretty cute too.  It's Danielle, Megan, Nathan, and Megan's date Garrett.  I checked in with both the kids at the end of the night once they got back safely to their dad's house, and they all said they had a great evening!

Friday, September 18, 2015

New Ride

September 18, 2015

My new ride for the next week or two while the Prius gets a new trunk and bumper:

Thursday, September 17, 2015


September 17, 2015

So, this happened today.  I was heading to school with Danielle after a morning orthodontic appointment.  It was approximately 8:30, so there was a lot of traffic on Herndon.  We stopped at a red light behind about eight other cars.  When the light turned green, apparently the woman behind me glanced up, saw green, and just hit the gas before she realized that the rest of us hadn't moved forward yet.  Luckily no one was hurt, but it's going to have to spend a little time in the shop.  What a pain!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Need a Nap

September 16, 2015

Today was a straight-through kind of day:  NHS meeting before school, then AP classes and World Lit. class, and another NHS meeting at lunch.  I've had at least three lunch time meetings per week since school started.  I don't remember ever having that many lunch meetings during the school year.  When did that start happening?  Anyway, it's been a long day, and I think I need a nice long nap.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


September 15, 2015

Four assignments due for my classes today.  All done and submitted on time.  Whew!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Getting Ready for the Fair

September 14, 2015

Today the registration for the fair entries was due.  For the fourth (I think?) year in a row, Danielle and I are entering art and photography in the Big Fresno Fair.  Although I'm not quite as happy with my entries as I have been in the past years, I'm still really proud of this tradition D and I do together.  This year I've got 7 photography entries, and Danielle has 26 photographic and artistic endeavors she's showcasing.  I can't wait to see our work up on display again this year!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Settling In

September 13, 2015

Shelves are built and the bed is made.  It's beginning to feel like home.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

You Would Think It Would Not Be That Hard to Find a Bedframe

September 12, 2015

Do people in San Diego all already have beds? Or do folks there just not sleep in beds?  I mean, in Fresno, you can't seem to go around a corner without finding a couple of furniture stores.  It's probably the biggest industry in the city.  In San Diego, however, furniture stores were few and far between.  Since there's not a lot of competition, apparently they think it's perfectly appropriate to make you sign away your first-born in order to take one of those bad boys home from the store, too.  (Perhaps only the very wealthy are supposed to have beds in San Diego?) Not even Target, The-Store-That-Magically-Has-Everything-Ever, could produce a bed frame for the mattress we carted down for Bree. Luckily, we finally turned to the always potentially sketchy Craig's List and found a nice couple who was trying to get rid of their trundle bed.  They sold it for next to nothing, even though it was in great condition.  I suspect some rich curmudgeon discovered they had it and called them on it.  Who did they think they were, owning not just one bed, but one that actually turned into two beds?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sadie's for Danielle

September 11, 2015

Danielle asked Nathan to Sadie's today!  They're doubling with her best friend Megan, and her date Garrett.  Such a fun group of kids!

Moving Bree

September 11, 2015

As soon as school got out today, I jumped in the car and headed down to San Diego with Doug so we could take Bree some furniture to her new apartment in Rancho Penasquitos.  She actually got to move in yesterday, but we're carting down a sofa, love seat, mattress, entertainment center, and chair. I'm excited not only to see Bree and help her furnish her new place, but to get a little get-away with Doug at the same time!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Because I'm Only Just a Little Crazy

September 10, 2015

Today was club sign ups at school. My lunch consisted of me wrapping my brain around the fact that in addition to being advisor of NHS and the Anime Appreciation Club, this year I have added Class Advisor for Class of 2019 and---get this--advisor for the CRICKET Club.  Yes-Cricket.  Have I ever played cricket? Have I ever even seen a cricket match? I think we all know the answer to that question.  But here we are, and I'm going to learn something new this year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Good Advice for Teachers

September 9, 2015

Some small bits of advice for teachers starting out the year:

1)  Try to get to know your audience--their background, their culture.

2)  Acknowledge their background and experience and try to build on it, rather than negate it.

3)  Don't act surprised when they do something right, sometimes even before you've taught it.  Again, build on it, rather than show how much you doubted their ability to grasp the concept.

4)  If you are asked a question and you don't know the answer, don't be afraid to admit that you don't know.  It shows you're human, you recognize that you don't know everything, and that's okay.  Also, if you are asked a question and you don't understand the question being asked, don't get defensive; ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand so that you and your student can get on the same page and speak the same language.

5)  Speaking in a condescending manner to your students almost guarantees that they will shut you off.  It's a pretty good idea to avoid it.

Come to think of it, this is pretty good advice for speakers coming in to run staff development for teachers, as well, it turns out...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let Me Be a Book Nerd for Just a Minute

September 8, 2015

When I woke up and looked on my Facebook feed first thing (yes, I'm addicted to social media), I saw that my favorite author, Margaret Atwood, was coming to Northern California for a speaking engagement.  ONE stop on her tour in all of California, and it's just three hours away.  This is the author of my all-time favorite book, The Handmaid's Tale, which is the topic of my Master's thesis in literature, and which I have introduced countless students to over the years in my AP Lit classes.  It combines dystopian fiction and feminism, two of my favorite things!  It has truly been one of the most influential books in my life. Naturally, I had to see if there was any way I could swing it to go.  I don't know that I'll ever have another opportunity like this, as I've never seen her tour anywhere around here before.  (I think typically she stays in Canada and the U.K., and possibly the East Coast for most of her speaking engagements.)

I think you know where I'm going with this.  I will be attending an event in October where she is promoting and speaking about her new book coming out.  My ticket grants me access to up-front seating, a copy of the new book, and priority place in line for the book signing afterward.  Seriously--I'm giddy!  In just over a month, I will get to meet Margaret Atwood!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

More Sofa Shopping

September 6, 2015

So here it is:  We've settled on this fine piece of furniture (and its baby brother, the loveseat), to take up residence in our study.  Now we just have to wait a week or so for it to be delivered!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sofa Shopping

September 5, 2015

We have finally decided to replace our sofa and love seat in the living room.  We will NOT be replacing them with this highlighter-yellow/green sofa.  How is this even a thing?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cut Shot Plays Capo's

September 4, 2015

Such a fun night listening to Cut Shot play out at Capo's again tonight.  Unfortunately, the lights over the band's set up weren't working, so they were essentially playing in the dark.  This accounts for the poor quality of the photos, but we all had a great time anyway!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

One Kid at a Time

September 3, 2015

Two interactions over the past couple of days that remind me why we're in the business of teaching:

1.  I introduced my College/Career Exploration Project in my senior classes.  They have to choose three institutions they might be interested in attending, and then look at aspects which might be decision-making factors for them: whether or not their intended major/focus is offered, location, cost, etc.  I tell them they can look at JCs, private colleges, UCs, military branches, CSUs, technical/trade schools, etc.  I had a kid come up to me after class to say he had no idea what the difference what among all of those things.  He didn't know what a JC was, had no idea what UC stands for.  He was thinking he'd just keep his same job that he has now for as long as he can.  His boss makes a lot of money owning his own business,  and he drives really nice cars.  I told him he's exactly the kid the project is designed for--to find out all the options he has.  I don't care if he chooses not to go to college, but I don't want him to not go just because he has no idea what his other options are.  He's going to research his current job to see what kind of salary and benefits he could earn as a full-time employee, and what growth opportunities there are, as well as other factors that might make it beneficial to stay in that job, such as flexible scheduling or vacation time.  He's also going to look at a junior college (which I explained to him), as well as a four year college with an emphasis in Business.  Whatever decision he ultimately makes, it will be with a little more understanding of all of his choices.

2.  I have an independent reading requirement in my classes.  I tell students that if they consider themselves non-readers, they just haven't met the right book that speaks to them yet.  So one of my students approached me and said he had never ever been interested in reading and wanted to know what I could suggest for him.  I asked him what his interests and past times were:  sports, biographies, history, documentaries.  So clearly we have a non-fiction kind of kid on our hands.  I went to my classroom library and pulled out 8 or 9 books that I thought might fit the bill and put them on his desk to peruse.  I was hoping one of them might pique his interest, but if not I'd dig around a little at home for more.  After about fifteen minutes we approached me again with five of the books in his hands.  He asked, "How do I check these out?  I didn't like the other ones, but all of these seem really interesting to me."  Typically, students only check out one at a time, but I was so excited that my 'non-reader' had found a few he wanted to at least try out that I didn't want to discourage him and showed him the process for checking out books from my library.  At the end of class, he approached me again and said, "I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate taking the time to talk to me and help me find a book.  No teacher has ever done that for me before.  I can tell you are really there for your students, and I am really excited about being in this class with you for senior year."

I mean forget the paycheck (metaphorically, people--let's not get carried away)--THIS is real teacher's pay.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Doin' a Little Happy Dance

September 2, 2015

I'm doing a little happy dance tonight because I just got the feedback on my first assignment for my class.

Fantastic job on these. Your responses really area model of what I was expecting. You did a wonderful job of pulling out the main ideas of the readings and connecting them to your own experiences. I also really appreciate the thoughtful responses you gave to your colleagues.
Really well done.

So...yeah. I'm pretty stoked.  I mean, maybe she said the same thing to everyone, who knows.   But I'll take it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I Love My Boy

September 1, 2015

Nicholas went away for the weekend with his girlfriend's family this past weekend, and he texted me to let me know he had seen something he just HAD to bring back for me.  I just love that he hasn't outgrown that incredibly endearing quality of random, spontaneous, unsolicited expressions of affection.

Monday, August 31, 2015

First Assignment

August 31, 2015

Well, I'm in with two feet. I've turned in my first college paper in a very long time.  The requirement wasn't especially a long paper (and naturally, I went beyond the minimum; brevity has never been my strong suit), but there was a little bit of trepidation and intimidation and procrastination and "what-if-they-don't-like-what-I've-written?", even though ultimately I feel pretty good about what I wrote.  It was essentially a paper synthesizing information in four different articles about the teaching of literacy, something I am passionate about and about which I have something to say.  So, you know--I had buy-in.  But it did give me a minute's pause to remember that our students face trepidation and intimidation and procrastination and "what-if-they-don't-like-what-I've-written?" even (especially) when we ask them to write about something they are less than passionate about.  I think everyone who's been on the teaching side of the desk for awhile should get back in the students' desks every now and again.  It's a good reminder.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quiet Sunday

August 30, 2015

Today was quiet--a little sleeping in, a little shopping around Fashion Fair and River Park for Doug and me before dinner at PF Chang's, and then homework time and grading papers for me in front of the VMA's tonight.  Sometimes it's good to take it easy.  I know that in just a few weeks I'll be drowning in papers and meetings and mom-taxi obligations and the never-ending housework that seems to multiply exponentially while we all sleep, but for now, I'll relish the calm before the storm.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Another Bit of Evidence That We're Off to a Good Start

August 29, 2015

I was running around this weekend, celebrating the end of the first week with a little retail therapy, when I ran into one of my new students.  (Side note: It NEVER fails that I run into a new student sometime during the first week outside of school, and I don't recognize them because you know, I just met 200 new folks and I haven't learned who they all are yet.  I always feel awkward when they come up to me and say, "Mrs. Lutjens! Hi! How are you?" and I'm thinking, "Have I seen you before? Were you in my class? Was your sister in my class? How is it that your face isn't ringing a bell?" and then I realize, "Oh, you must be in my class THIS year!")

Anyway, this lovely young lady shyly approached me and said, "I just wanted you to know that the book I checked out from your library--you know, that one by James Patterson?--I started reading it in class on Friday, and I can't stop reading it!  I don't like to read too much, but I do like mysteries, and this book makes me want to keep reading to find out what's going to happen."  Then, by the way, she introduced me to her mom, who told me how happy she was that her daughter loves her school and loves her classes and her teachers and is looking forward to a really good year.

That, my friends, is a win for the week.

Friday, August 28, 2015

First Week Down

August 28, 2015

The first week of the new school year is in the books, and here's what we know so far:

1.  My classes are big. Like, really big.  Like, I'm thankful for the class where I only have 34 students because it's super small compared to the ones where I have 42 kids.

2.  Even though my classes are big, I'm already liking the personalities I see in my kids.  I seriously love teaching seniors.

3.  All the time and money I've spent seeking out newer books for my classroom--worth it!  I had at least 30 kids check out books from my classroom library because something there appealed to them.

4.  Danielle is going to survive this year even though she and Megan have no classes together.  

5.  Danielle likes her teachers and they like her.  I mean, she IS a pretty likable kid.

6.  Nicholas is excited to get to take Japanese classes in college, just because.  I made him take Spanish in high school for practical reasons; he gets to take Japanese now because he wants to.

7.  Nicholas has so far impressed me with his willingness to get up and head to his classes not only on time, but early--even though my not-a-morning-person son took an 8 a.m. class.

8.  Taking all his A.P. classes enabled Nicholas to take some Engineering courses right off the bat as a freshman, which will definitely help distinguish high school from college.

9.  My own Fresno State classes are now online instead of face-to-face, due to low enrollment.  I was looking forward to an actually in-class experience, but this format actually gives me a little more flexibility in terms of time.

10.  I'm really liking my professor for my first Master's class.  I think this is going to be fun!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Checking Out the Classroom Library

August 27, 2015

A few comments overheard in class today during our Book Pass, where I introduce students to some of the books in our classroom library:
--"What are the odds? She happened to put the one book I've been wanting to read on MY desk!" (Sheer happy coincidence--I placed a random book on every desk.)
--"Oh my gosh...she has the book I wanted to finish. I lost mine before I finished it!"
--"Wait..this book on film-making counts for our independent reading? I'd actually READ that book!"
Not to mention at least 25 kids checked out books from me they found interesting after the Book Pass. Woo hoo--I'd say that was a positive experience!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stealthy Birthday Wishes

August 26, 2015

Danielle's best friend Megan's birthday is tomorrow, so we went out on a mission late at night so that Danielle could decorate her window and leave her a little surprise on the door step.  I texted Megan's mom to ask her if it would be okay, because I had visions of Danielle not quite being able to carry out her middle of the night ninja mission and being loud enough for the Kroeker family to think someone was trying to break into the house!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

First Day of School, Part 2

August 25, 2015

Nicholas started his first day at Fresno State today with his Tuesday classes--a programming class and a communications class.  Tomorrow he gets to check out his Japanese class and his first engineering class.  Off to a good start!

I also started back at Fresno State--after an absence of 25 or so years.  Our class didn't have enough students to form a face-to-face class, so our class became an online one instead, where we meet via video chat once per week.  After an initial technical difficulty, we got things up and running for the first time tonight.  I'm really excited to start digging into the curriculum for my first class--Teaching Language Arts K-12.  Even though I've been teaching for 25 years, there's always ways to improve and strengthen the tools that we use to help our kids!

Monday, August 24, 2015

First Day of School, Year 2015

August 24, 2015

I've got only one more kiddo at school with me now, since Nicholas graduated last year.  This beautiful girl (and her bestie, Megan), are ready to take on Junior year in style!

It was my first day back to school as well, of course.  Cheers to beginning year 26 in the teaching profession--25th year at Buchanan High School!

Friday, July 31, 2015

It's Never Too Late

July 31, 2015

About 18 years ago, I reached a point in my academic career where I was ready to be not just a teacher, but a student again.  I learned about a Master's Program in English Literature that was geared toward teachers.  It was a two-year summer intensive program at UC Irvine, and something about the timing just seemed right.

SEEMED right, yes.  And mostly, it was.  I loved being in the classroom again.  My sister lived near Irvine, so I traveled down south to stay with her Monday-Thursday, and I came home again Thursday night through Sunday.  I didn't have to pay any additional for housing, and I had study time in the evenings while I was there, so that part was great.  The difficult thing was I was a mom to two young children (4 and 18 mo.), so every week during those summers I was without them part of every week. Their dad, who is also a teacher, took full-time daddy duty on my school days, and when I was home I was on full-time.  It was exhausting, and I was guilt-ridden often (especially when I was told by a close family member how selfish I was for abandoning my children--to their dad!--and that they would suffer life-long rejection issues because of it).  But, I also wanted to show myself and some day my children that I was capable of this kind of success through perseverance and hard work.  I wanted to be a good role model for them.

At some point after I'd enrolled in the program, but before classes started, I discovered that I was pregnant with my third child.  I was elated, but didn't really process the additional logistical hurdles this would create.  The first summer went as planned, but during the following school year, she was born, which meant she traveled down with me to Irvine during my 4 day school week during the second summer.  I enlisted one my sister's good friends, who was a stay at home mom, to watch her while I was in classes, and I would drive over in between my classes to nurse her.  In the evenings, of course, she was at my sister's with me. I studied with her in my lap or by my side, and then on Thursday evenings we'd make the four hour drive back home together.  It was even more of a juggling act, but we managed.  I completed all of my coursework and even managed to get my premise and quite a bit of my rough thesis worked out before the session was over, and then I packed up and headed back home to my husband and oldest children for good.

I had a year to process and finish my thesis.  I didn't do it.  There are lots of excuses why I didn't do it--at home, with three children five and under, and a husband, and a full time teaching job, and all of my household responsibilities, well, it just seemed I couldn't justify locking myself away to work on a paper when all of these other needs were just on the other side of the door.  Four hours away when I was taking classes, I could compartmentalize.  At home? I found it nearly impossible.  And I didn't WANT to be away from my babies.  I found it easy to drop my thesis to the bottom of my priority list, which, by the way, was a very long list.  I'm sure lots of folks will say I shouldn't have taken on the task to begin with; just as many will say if I had already sacrificed all of my time with my family anyway, it was a waste not to stick to it and finish it out.  Both of those things are probably true.  But so is it true that pursuing my education was a worthwhile and vital thing.  These things contradict each other and are simultaneously true.

The bottom line is, I didn't finish then.  And it has haunted me every since.  I don't see it as a waste of time, because I grew from the classes I took.  I don't even see it as a waste of money, since I do earn more because of the additional classes I took.  I do, however, see it as a failure on my part--a shortcoming I haven't rectified. I've always been embarrassed that I set out to get my Master's Degree, and I didn't cross the finish line.  Once the finish line got so far away from me, I didn't even know how to jump back into the race.

Now, 18 years later, a new opportunity has made itself available. Fresno State has a Master's in Education with an Emphasis in Reading (with a Reading Specialist Credential) that they are building a new cohort for with teachers in our district and a neighboring one.  Reading is a passion of mine; the teaching of critical reading to high school students is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.  I had no idea there was such a program, let alone one offered right here in my own backyard.  To have become aware of it now that my children are (mostly) grown and independent feels like a second chance for redemption.  I've been saying for years that I would eventually go back and finish my Master's Degree, but honestly I think I didn't really believe it.   It's been so buried on my life's 'To Do' list that I didn't know if I would ever really get to it.  And yet, here it is.  I have applied, and have been accepted.  It's never too late--and I can't wait to get started.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Looking Back Doesn't Mean Never Having Left

July 24, 2015

This is a milestone year for me--I've got my 30th high school reunion coming up shortly.  In addition, the high school where I teach is getting ready to host its 20th reunion for the first graduating class of our school--a class of students I taught when I was in my second year of teaching.  I'm very much looking forward to both of these reunions and the chance it will give me to reconnect with people I have not seen in a very, very long time.

There are several people who graduated with me who I remain close with and see on a regular basis still.  Similarly, there are students from that first graduating class of my current school with whom I have kept in close contact over the years.  Then there are folks I see only online, mostly through the world of Facebook.  These are people with whom I might not have been especially close, or for whom geography plays a role in the fact that I haven't seen them in real life much, but they are people I like to interact with and celebrate life's successes with.  There are also many people I haven't connected with at all over the years for whatever reason, but I'd be thrilled to see them at a reunion and see where their life's path has taken them.

Some people feel that high school reunions are all but obsolete in the days in which it's as easy as a click on an internet search to know whatever-happened-to-him/her, and I can understand that mindset to an extent, but nothing is the same as the good old fashioned face-to-face conversation a reunion provides.  The thing that is really amazing to me though, is the number of people who think that going to a high school reunion means you are stuck in the past--a stereotypical jock or cheerleader artificially trying to recreate and relive the glory days.  There are people who deem themselves as somehow 'above' the desire to meet up with old acquaintances because they feel if there was any reason to associate with them now, they'd never have lost touch to begin with. There are actually lots of films that deal with this very theme.  I find that a little weird, though, honestly.  Sure, there are people you might meet up with at a reunion that you didn't like before and you still wouldn't necessarily hang out with on a regular basis. But what's the harm in finding yourself in a room with a couple of those folks and wishing them well and then moving on your merry way?  I focus more on the fact that we have all traveled divergent paths and have grown and changed through all of our varied experiences.  I mean, I'm not the same person I was 30 years ago--I don't know anybody who is.  We've all (or at least most of us) grown up. Why on earth would I deprive myself of the opportunity to get to know people who could have become pretty great folks for fear of running into one or two who didn't?  Do we do that in regular, every day life, too?  I can't meet anybody else new, because one of them might not be nice?  Not me, man. I, for one, am looking forward to meeting some old acquaintances anew, and who knows--maybe finding some new friends.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What I've Learned As A Parent

June 7, 2015

As my second child is readying to graduate from high school, I wanted to take a little time to reflect on some of the things I've learned over the years. As parents, we all have those days where we feel we have failed. We all have those moments where we say, "What am I doing wrong?"  But you know, as hard as it is to remember in those low and discouraging moments, most of us, if we are keeping our kids' hearts and minds at the forefront of our parenting choices, we're really doing okay.  Sometimes we have to just step back and look at the bigger picture. Part of our kids' job is to question authority-not to make our lives miserable, but to figure out who they are, what they believe, and who they are going to become.  They are learning to process how they are experiencing the world, instead of how their parents are processing it for them.  In the meantime, here's some advice on how to help support our children in those all-important formative years:

--Celebrate the awesome, unique individuality of your kids.  Encourage them. Sing their praises.  Lift them up as human beings. Teach them to look for the positivity in life.  Teach them to BE the positivity when the bright side is hard to find. Show them that feeling good about one's self NEVER has to be at the expense of someone else's esteem.

--Teach your kids what's important to you, but more importantly, teach them WHY those things are important to you.  "Because I said so" or "Because I'm the parent" doesn't teach values--it teaches expected blind obedience. You might not mind that when they're young, but if they don't understand the 'why', you might not like it when YOU aren't the one they are blindly following later in life.  We want our kids to learn to think for themselves and know why they believe what they believe.

--Make traditions with your kids.  Those will be some of the things your kids have fondest memories of, even if they grumble about them every now and again in the present.  Holiday traditions, of course, but also every day ones.  Family Dinner Night, or ice cream after awards ceremonies, or wishing a kid happy birthday on the exact moment of their birth every year.  Traditions and rituals-stuff you do as a family because THAT'S JUST WHAT YOUR FAMILY DOES.

--Take photos.  Lots of them.  The big stuff--braces off, dance recitals, robotics competitions.  The little stuff too. Quiet moments, goofy moments, with friends, with family, by themselves. They're all moments frozen in time that we can all look back on and share and reminisce and remember when.

--Don't forget to make sure you're in front of the camera often as well.  I don't care if you don't like how you look.  We're often really hard on ourselves at certain stages of our lives. We think, "I'll be in pictures with the kids when I've lost weight, or when I don't look so tired all the time", or whatever. Your kids don't think about that. For all its appearance, a photograph is not a 2-D object.  It's a tangible memory that evokes emotion, personality, and a piece of the story of one's life. You deserve to be part of your children's visual history. They deserve to have you in their photographic history.

--Try not to embarrass your kids on purpose.  You'll embarrass them plenty without even trying.

--Be the person your children need you to be.  That means taking care of yourself as much as it means taking care of them.  That means not only taking care of your physical self, but taking care of your emotional and intellectual health as well.  It's not selfish to take care of yourself; it's vital.

--Be the parent your children need you to be.  Who is that? The parent who loves their children for who they are.  It's astonishing to me to know parents are willing to disown their children for coming out to them. Love your children for who they are, not who you project them to be.

--Be the parent your children need even if they make choices you disagree with. Children dealing with teen pregnancies, alcohol or drug addiction, or even political or spiritual choices that differ from our own are still our children, deserving of love and guidance.  They may not always choose our guidance, but let that be their choice, not ours. Always give them the option.  It's our job and our life's work if we choose to have children to begin with.

--Apologize when you make a mistake.  Just like our kids, we all make mistakes.  Sometimes, in the heat of an argument, we just lose it, or we give bad advice.  Parents aren't perfect; we're not expected to be.  It's important to acknowledge that with your kids. We expect the same from them, do we not?

--Laugh with your kids often.  Sing and dance with them.  Read with them.  Travel with them.  Above all, TALK with them.  Not AT them--WITH them.  Ask open-ended questions and listen to listen, instead of listening to respond.

--Be mindful of 'no'. There are a lot of nos that are necessary in a child's life, but be sure you don't begin to say no out of habit, rather than actual reason. Find reasons for 'yes' when you can.

--Get to know their friends.  Become the extra mom or dad to those kids.  You know that old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child"? Be part of the village that helps to raise your children's friends.  Enlist other parents to be part of your village.  No one should be parenting alone.

--Don't be their friend. Your role is not the same as a friend. However, that DOESN'T mean don't be a person your kids want to hang out with. Just because you're the one who has to set the boundaries doesn't mean you and your kids can't have a great time together.

--Teach gratitude through example.  Teach them to express it freely and often.  No one succeeds alone.  We should always celebrate our accomplishments but be humble enough to recognize those who have helped us reach our goals.

--Tell your kids every day that you love them.  Yeah, they know it.  Tell them anyway--and mean it.

Yes, I have been a teacher to my children, but they have also been great teachers for me.  I hope we can continue sharing lessons for many, many years to come.

Words of Wisdom for My Seniors

June 7, 2015

I've never been a big fan of telling kids about how things are going to be in the 'real world'. Everyone's experience IS their real world, including students in high school.  Of course, as my students are getting ready to graduate and embark on a new 'real world', I have a few words of wisdom to share:

--There is a lot of positivity in the world. There is also a lot of negativity.  Be one who sends out positivity. The world already has enough negativity-you don't need to add to it. Tip the scales in the right direction.

--You will see what you look for in the world.  Look for good, and you'll find it.

--At the same time, don't bury your head in the sand.  There IS negative in the world. Learn to recognize it and change it if you can or walk away if you can't.

--We all have our gifts, and everyone has something to contribute. If you haven't found your gifts yet, keep looking.  Let those gifts lead you to your passion in life.

--Surround yourself with the people who will become your tribe.  Your tribe is the people who are your family for life--the ones who are there to celebrate your successes and who pick you up and dust you off when you hit the lows in your life.  Family means family of the heart--your chosen family.  No one is a solitary success. We are all supported by our tribe. Know who they are for you, and acknowledge their role in in your life--often and wholeheartedly.

--I don't care if you think you are the smartest person in the room.  Heck, I don't even care if you ARE the smartest person in the room. EVERYONE has more to learn, and you'll be amazed by the people you can learn something from if you don't let your ego get in the way of hearing others. Once you think you've learned all you can learn, you've really stopped learning to live.

--Make good choices.  Think about consequences. Everyone has freedom of choice, but you aren't free from the consequences of your actions. Consider carefully the trajectory of your behaviors.  Naturally, however, sometimes we DON'T make good choices--we all make mistakes.  Own your mistakes. Apologize for your mistakes. Learn from your mistakes. Then move on. When others make mistakes, allow the same for them.

--Thinking about consequences doesn't mean play it safe. It may sound counterintuitive, but take chances. Step outside your comfort zone. Try new things. Travel. Learn new skills. Meet new people. Those are experiences that can broaden your horizons and open new doors. They can help you become more of the YOU you will become.

--Be nice to people--even mean people.  The way you respond to others says way more about you than the way others treat you.  Don't give someone else the power to control your attitude.  That being said, don't enable someone to treat you poorly. If you haven't been able to show them how to treat you with respect through your attitude, walk away holding your head high. You are only responsible for your own behaviors, not anyone else's. Does everyone deserve 'nice' all the time? Perhaps not. But YOU deserve to expect that of yourself.

--To be respectful and to respect someone are not the same thing. There's a very important difference. You are in charge of being respectful to others; they are in charge of being worthy of respect. You do not have to respect everyone, but you should always be respectful. Respectful behavior need not be 'earned', as it is a commentary on you, not them.

--Be generous.  Be generous of time, of money, of spirit.  There are people who have less than you.  We should help others when we can because we SHOULD.  Our mission in life is to lift up others when possible because it makes us ALL better for it.

--Give others the benefit of a doubt.  We cannot know everyone's backstory. If someone's backstory has led them to negativity and ill will, how can it possibly benefit anyone to counter it with more of the same?

--Laugh. Love. Be silly. Find people who will do those things with you. Look for people who love you for who you are, and encourage you to be your best self.

--Above all, be open to all the possibilities your new 'real world' will bring.  I wish you all the love, experience, and opportunity you can find out in that world.

--Mama Lutjens