When I Consider Thy Heavens

ShipwreckWriter Blog

view:  full / summary

Veterans Day - 2018

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on November 11, 2018 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Veterans Day: Dating a military man didn't quite fit into my style. The other guys at that time had slightly longer hair and much less rigid schedules. They were way less apt to make a commitment. I was the same way - commitments are very hard when you are very young. Still, there was something about the military man who crossed my path at his sister's (my good friend's) wedding. Although my dad also served (Navy) - him in WWII, all I really knew of my dad was his years on the farm. My military man came into my life right at the time when my dad died. In the middle of our dating years, he would disappear - gone to some 6-month training or job mission. Sometimes it was shorter lengths of time - but he always went away. Meanwhile, my life was on track in college where the guys there were as carefree as me. I tried to forget about that military man who was good with commitments & schedules. Try as I may - he'd always return. Eventually I married that military man & he (we) together with our children put in a lifetime of service to this great country. He - still off on his missions & us back at home keeping the fires burning. There are many battle stories that we all have to tell. One of mine is when he was gone for some unknown destination (no email or facebook then) with no contact between us. The bills kept rolling in. After several overdrafts, no food in the house, and unpaid bills, I got a call from our local banker. He had me come into the bank & met with me - telling me in essence not to worry about a thing. That we could settle up once my military man was back from his mission - which ended up being about six months. The bank covered every check I wrote, every bill I paid, and every bunch of groceries I brought into our home with no service charges or worries of not having enough money. That was a time when the communication between the service members & their families was very limited. There was no way to know how much was withdrawn overseas, etc. I worked two jobs then: hardcasting for my brother-in-law's construction company by day & teaching at Cowley College at night. My mother stepped in to watch the kids at night. Another time while we were in California, me pregnant, out of groceries, separated by some unknown scrimmage to some unknown place for an undetermined amount of time. A church lady rescued us with her discovery that we were out of groceries. This happened again in North Carolina. Being a military spouse means you become creative - I made a TDY (Temporary Duty) cake that only presented while the kids' daddy was gone. Being a military spouse means you step up & take care of everything back home. Being a military spouse means that you live with the constant concern & wonder how your children are faring through it all. My son also served all those years - chopping firewood, carrying in groceries, mowing the yard, fixing appliances, or whatever else needed to be done to keep the household going. Two of our daughters followed their dad's footsteps - one serving in the USAF like him & one in the Navy and now her daughter also in the Navy. I think the hardest thing about being part of a military family is that by the time you may get to move home, everyone in your life that you knew before has already established their life and routines and you are just starting yours. At first we were fish out of water back in our home state. But eventually our rural roots kicked in & we tried to take up where we left off. Still, we spend a lot of time remembering our military family across the nation. We could never have made it without the other military families we met along the way. They were our family all those years that we were away from home. I thank God every day for bringing us home.

This Humble Christmas

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on December 23, 2014 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (25)

By Lynn Pettigrew Norris

Our income was cut in more than half this year, something we all experience several times in a lifetime. Our recently chopped cedar tree from our farm still has no decorations & sits as empty as the space beneath it that is reserve for gifts for our beloved family.

My favorite Christmas includes two. One we were stuck in a motel on our way back from NC to visit for Christmas. We were near OKC due to a sheet of ice on the highways. Our kids found out that Santa does come to motels. The other one was when we got out of the USAF (the 1st time) & moved home to KS. No jobs. No money to shop for Christmas. I got two gifts, some socks & a hair brush. I borrowed the money from my mom to buy my husband a sweater. Funny thing – my mother got him the exact same sweater that I purchased. By the time we attended her Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchange, I realized that I had nothing to give him for Christmas the next day except a re-run sweater.

Christmas is about Christ and about being with family. It never was about shopping, the lights, the hustle & bustle. This past year has been one of many losses. It’s a good reminder to focus on the things that really matter in life. Our income has been cut by more than half. But our love, joy, and peace has nearly doubled it seems.

My greatest joy has come from reaching out to others this season. Although I have little funds to share or to purchase gifts this year, there are still some simple things that I can do to show God’s love and spread some Christmas cheer. I have been reminded of the simple joy of receiving a homemade gift that someone has taken his or her time to craft especially for me. I have treasured the gift of a home-made Christmas card from a child this year.


It has been my pleasure to volunteer full-time in my local community for the past several months at Lighthouse Library in Dexter, Kansas. Along-side me have been several wonderful people who also use their own time to volunteer. They receive nothing for their efforts beyond knowing that they are helping to set up something for families and children in our community. We have worked as co-workers although there was no paycheck involved. We have reported to work and worked hard and gone home as tired as anyone who has put in a day’s work in a paying job.


I woke up the other morning wishing I could throw a Christmas party for this group of volunteers. I wished I could provide a gift card for each one of them (I cannot). I mainly wanted to make sure that they know that they are appreciated by me and by their community where they volunteer. I want to thank them for stepping up and help me carry the load of running a nonprofit where there is little to no funding for much of the time. I want to thank them for their faith that each month when the utility bills roll in, somehow we will get them paid and keep our work going in our community to help make it a little better place for children on this earth.


This week I will honor these volunteers with a Christmas-themed brunch. The food will be simple and the decorations even more so. But my gratitude will be huge and I hope they realize this.


This has been a year of huge adjustments for me. Not having the income from a professional job has been the hardest one to master. I have not had the funds to donate as we’ve been able to in years past. For me, all I can offer is my time. I fell after tripping off a curb in a pair of high heels this year and lost part of the use of my right hand when it was broken. I also injured my right knee which will need follow-up. This has made it difficult to carry out the work that has been started. Much of the work is physical in nature – carrying boxes of books and such. Everyone has something that presents a challenge in life.


This has been a melancholy year for certain. The loss of both of my in-law parents within a year along with a serious illness and surgery in our family and with other unspoken challenges in our lives. But life has brought us all to the season of Christmas where blessings along with sorrows are amplified.


I want to reach out to everyone this season. I want the person who (like me) has lost the employment which was counted on for decades to keep the faith. Keep looking up and reaching out to others. By doing whatever you can right where you are, you will know that life continues moving us all on down the road to the tomorrows that we have not even imagined yet. Isn’t it ironic that my very favorite Christmas involves one where we had no income at all? I think that fact speaks volumes and offers hope. That year, when we left our rented home to once again seek employment, when we returned to our home, our cupboards had been filled to the brim by someone who to this day was never identified. They even put the exact brand and kind of baby formula that we needed to feed one of our children that year.


This has been a wonderful year full of enumerable blessings. It has been my pleasure to serve in our local church where recently we dedicated some beautiful stained glass windows that a former pastor’s wife created and donated. No other church on earth has windows just like these. They represent a lot of time and talent that was shared. Our Christmas pageant this year was darling, another one-of-a-kind nativity was created by children whose eyes still twinkle at the wonder of this thing called life. It was sweet to see one little girl who has participated for several years to move up from playing the part of an angle to that of being Mary. Her part was a good reminder that life marches on, children grow up, and our part in that moment of time is done. How sobering to know that in a wink, this same little girl will sit out in the audience and observe first her children and then her grandchildren play the perspective parts in the Christmas play. What a reminder for us all to remember to life in the present, treasure this day that the Lord has given us. (Psalm 118:24).


I wish you could see our humble scraggly cedar tree we recently cut down. It is a rather sad spectacle for sure. But I am quite certain that it will be one of my favorite things as I recall it in the years ahead. It is a great symbol of all things we have had that were blessings and all things lost that we grieve all wrapped up in the branches of this little tree. One thing that is constant is the wonderful smell of a Kansas cedar tree. Nothing makes it seem like Christmas more than that aroma. I have lived long enough on this earth to understand that Christmas is not about the tinsel and the gifts. It is about the people you surround yourself with and about those you reach out to in your life. Merry Christmas to everyone.


Just Stand

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on June 16, 2014 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Just Stand

It’s been five years since we poured the first foundation for Lighthouse Library in Dexter, Kansas. The project started in 2003 when Eastern Cowley County Resource Center (ECCRC) was founded – a 501 (c) (3) with a focus on literacy and computers and a heart for service through community programs. Since that time, we have built a cabin on the library site (Grouse Valley Lodge) and a thrift store (Treasure Chest) – both sustaining projects to help keep the library open since there is no other funding.

Today, I personally live in a family home that is in total disrepair. We tore our non-functioning kitchen out over three years ago and it is still out, down to the raw frame boards. The floor is gone and a base floor puts splinters into any bare feet. Our bathroom isn’t far behind needing to be torn out. The ceiling leaks every time it rains and the light fixture fills with water. The old tub is rusted through, needing to be replaced. The hot water tank is 20 years old and on its last leg. The washer and dryer in there are both broken and need to be thrown out. I run water into a plastic dish pan to do our dishes from a faucet in the bath tub. This has gone on for years and I see no end to this.

My husband cannot do another thing. His job keeps him more than busy without all these side jobs at home and at a volunteer project. The strain of this going on for years is taking its toll. There is never time to just relax – enjoy life – rest.

The library project is at a complete stand-still. The stem walls on two sides leak. We cannot proceed to install the carpeting until the leaks are stopped. The utility bills roll in each month. On average, just to keep the place running, it costs nearly $1,000 a month. For the past decade, I have donated half to all of my salary to the library project. Presently, I am an unemployed teacher, having resigned my last position in order to try to bring closure to this huge project.

Today is different from all the other days in the past. Today, optimism is hiding behind the load of care that this project brings. Today, it almost seems easier to just give up. Even that idea presents an overwhelming sense of duty. We’ve come way too far to turn back now. Yet I have no idea how to get this job done.

Everything left is beyond my ability. I cannot seal a concrete wall. I cannot install mop boards or carpeting. Due to a neck injury, I can’t even carry the many boxes of books when that time ever comes. Today I am discouraged and don’t feel like doing anything since nothing seems to provide much hope of completion. I’ve asked for help many times to the point to where I feel bad to even ask any longer. It’s wheat harvest time in Kansas. Everyone is focused on summer fun and vacations after all the work is done.


I wonder as I wipe tears from my eyes this morning if there are others who feel this same way over some project or plans? Maybe there is a church that needs more volunteers but none seem to come. Maybe there is a community leader who just needs help to unload things. 


This post really says nothing new under the sun. It probably comes off as being whiny and trite. But in my little world today, this load seems huge and I’m all out of positive thoughts. The project has simply drug on for too long. I can almost see all the fun the kids in the community would have once completed. But there seems to be a vast desert casting shadows on any such happy plans for now. I don’t know how to complete this project.

I’ve tried everything I know to try to find funding to perhaps hire help to finish it out. Each grant I tried for came back with a nice reject letter. I’ve received a few little seed grants for specific fun days and project for the kids, but these only present the need for yet more volunteers. We are not really ready to complete any more projects. I have no paycheck to donate. Very few donations come in which is totally understandable until we are fully up and running once again.


I won’t even ask for funds today. Instead, I just ask for your understanding if I have to pull out on the project and put it all on hold for now. There are some who no doubt have waited for this day – to hear me say “I quit” and that we are forgetting it all. To those people I say it’s OK. I fully understand. Maybe it makes you feel better or bigger to see others fail. Maybe you won't even feel happy when you see others fall. Maybe all you needed was to fully understand that there really was no alterior motive beyond providing a fun spot for all the kids! For me, I still remember a daughter whose life was much too short and whose memory fueled our volunteer work over these past years. But we are only human and are growing very tired.


I am so sad that all the hopes and dreams to share with young people are put on hold for now. My head has ached every day and every night for the past two weeks. I must reduce this stress-load and there are only two ways to do that: 1) finish the project and 2) Put everything on hold and walk away.

Not wanting to walk away, at least for today, I stand. Frozen in this spot of uncertainty and overwhelming tasks, I am immobile until some solution presents itself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuMLBhrKHsA (Stand – Donnie McClurkin) Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement over the years.


Reclaim Your Life: The Best Is Yet To Be!

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on April 26, 2014 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Reclaim Your Life!
The Best Is Yet To Be.

By Lynn Pettigrew Norris

While I set out to live my dream – find myself – I was reminded to return to familiar ground and to reclaim my life. Life is too short to live out someone else’s dream. That job, thing, or situation you may long for – you know the one – the just so perfect job or situation, well don’t be too surprised or even disappointed when you learn that it did not make you happy. The saying “to thine own self be true” rings true in every person’s heart. Can you hear it?


I have spent the last year in my dream job. It was the career that I have worked so hard for the past decade to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, I have learned so much and do appreciate the opportunity. I just adore the students whom I teach! I have worked as a public school classroom teacher – teaching high school English. I know that my not be the dream job for a lot of people. But it has been my dream. And I would not trade the experience for the world.


My students have taught me to belong to a group. They have taught me that it is the simple things in life that count the most (like Friday candy). They have taught me the meaning of trust. They have shown me that they are listening and they appreciate the times when you go the extra mile and wonder if anyone even noticed.


This week I received a beautiful photo of one of the senior girls who I teach. She was so enthused and proud to present it to me. After she left my classroom, I read the message that she had written on the back. I had no idea what a huge impact I had made on her life. There is no amount of money or no career ladder that can provide that type of job satisfaction that I felt while reading her message. She named me as the one teacher who taught her the most in her educational career. She said she had learned the most from me. This one message on a senior photo made my year worth the effort.


Yesterday I turned in my resignation – my intent not to return next year. Why would I do such a thing after working for years to accomplish this goal of teaching in a public school classroom. I may not even know the answer to that myself at this point.


What was my time like this past year? At first, I felt like an imposter. I wondered as I stood in front of my class if they could sense my perplexed finding. That voice ran through my head telling me that I was not a real teacher. I was an Education coordinator, someone who set up educational programs for students. I was someone who encouraged students to enroll in a program and finish high school and go on to college. Who did I think I was to try to teach them skills in a course such as Language Arts? I remembered how I had successfully taught computer skills in a college-level course – Basic Computers. Students had learned a lot under my direction. Why did this feel different? After all, I had my credentials, my license, and two Language Arts degrees. What was my problem – or did I even have one?


I needed some encouragement from the start. I needed a supervisor who would tell me that I would learn and soon enough would feel the part. But that never happened. Instead, I felt very alone in my classroom although surrounded by all the kids. They were great and I have no complaints there. They were eager to learn. They did their best work as I asked them to do. They grew to love me and appreciate the lesson plans which were much more complicated than they had experienced over the past few years. I did not know until into my second or third week of teaching that I was the fifth English teacher at their school over the past five years. One may have stayed two years, but the second year was rough. The students told me that they had no foundation in Language Arts and this became evident as I assessed their skills.


I was first overwhelmed at the monumental task of setting up an education program (something I was experienced in and good at) while teaching. Why hadn’t someone filled me in when I was hired? Why was this dirty little secret kept from me. I still feel sick when I think of the other position I was offered at the beginning of the year at another school district. Their opening was due to an English teacher who had retired after 25 years. Why didn’t I take that position instead? I might have – probably would have – if I had known the truth about the district where I took the offer.


This seems very wrong to me now. You know how we have the lemon laws? How we as the consumer has to be told about defects in a car when you purchase one? Why doesn’t the education field have this same protection law – that difficulties or special circumstances (in a position) have to be revealed to the potential teacher fair and square and up front?


Even so, I am not one to lament over the what if’s and what for’s.  No one benefits from such. Instead, I plan to see this time as a unique opportunity to take back my life! And I have already begun that process. I can’t say I felt extreme joy or excitement when I turned in my notice. Instead all I could think of was the kids. I knew that when they find out (which will no doubt be soon), they will feel so sad. They will feel that I was like all the rest (the other teachers) who have come and gone. Knowing that professionally speaking, I cannot share many of my thoughts with them. They may never know my reasons.


I remain overwhelmed by the most positive response from the families this past year. Others told me (warned me) about Parents Night. How that will just be horrible and parents will get right in your face and yell at you and maybe even curse you out. That never happened. Instead, I received beautiful smiles, nice warm greetings, handshakes, and cards of thanks. At Christmas time, I received the same – cards, small gifts, and gratitude. My phone calls were positive too – words of thanks and support. Too bad there was not a trickle-up theory in place. If only (sorry – I do not mean to get into the if-only category) those over me knew how well things were going.


One lesson I learned that I will pass on that may benefit others who are about to interview for a teaching position is to ask what type of discipline plan they use. If those over you have an “Open Door” policy – run! Do not sign the contract. I did and have regretted it for most of the past year. The open door cannot be your classroom. When students are allowed to have free reign, this does not benefit anyone. It is wrong to place this burden on the students.


At first, I thought a few of my students had a medical issue which sent them out my classroom door. Then one pointed at me and told me they were going to the office to tell on me (upset over an assignment that was past-due). These poor students expected the proverbial “A” and you had better give it to them like the string of other teachers has done – or else! I did not hold this against the students. It was not their fault that this behavior had been tolerated for far too long. I waited for the principal to send them right back to class and stood in bewilderment when this did not happen – thus the open door policy.


I had never heard of such a thing. What teacher could teach without the backing of their principal concerning classroom management? The teacher’s authority is left lying on the floor, crushed under this open door policy. The things you learn on the way to your dream. If it weren’t so sad, this situation might be just down right funny!


This situation gave me the opportunity to reclaim my life. Once again, I was forced to look inward and to see just what truly made me happy. I was able to separate my feelings into categories. I remain in awe over the students’ hard work and their progress. I have enjoyed the fellowship and support of other teachers. Little did I know that the teaching profession is a very humbling one. Teachers receive little platitudes. They are asked to be super-heroes, always in control, able to make snap decisions that bind, and ever under the constant and sometimes squinted eye of their principal.


The first of several “walk-throughs” occurred in my classroom after my first evaluation. I just kept teaching. Perhaps that was my down-fall. After all, where are the rules written for how first-year teachers are supposed to act or react? Was I supposed to stop teaching, perhaps bow down? Was I to appear nervous (perhaps that might have helped)? I did not know these answers. The only thing I did know was to focus on the kids and keep teaching.


For those who know little about a teacher’s evaluation, it might surprise you to learn that little to none of it applies to the courses that you teach. It deals in part with politics. I have never been good in that area. I am a ‘facing-forward’ sort of worker, someone who doesn’t spend much time covering one’s backside. I give whatever work I have been given to do my all. I do my best. What else (after all) does a person have to offer besides their best? It is your own mug that you have to look at in the mirror each morning and each night. Again, I love the saying, “To thine own self be true.”


Reclaim your life by doing what brings you joy. Surround yourself with those who love you and who recognize and admire your strengths, talents, and skills. Do what makes you happy, even if others may view it as a step-down. Anything you do that springs from your heart will benefit others and will feel like a step upward. Who cares what label or title or what dollar figure sits on your paycheck or lack of one? Life does have a way of working out.


I feel totally free today (which happens to be a beautiful, sunny and windy Kansas Saturday)! I got to teach in a Kansas public school classroom and all of my students are still alive and we only have three weeks remaining. Hoorah for me and yippee for them. We are finishing out the year writing research papers and doing portfolios and projects. There is so much to accomplish before the year ends. It may seem ironic that I even still care and have such a full agenda this late in the year. This is just how I am – how I teach. To expect anything but the best for my students or to insult them by not having high expectations would be nothing short of an insult. I have seen such a turn-around in some of them and a constant trek for those who were already on the right path. I am so proud of them all. And I do end the year with a full heart – full of love and respect for my students who come to school to learn and for other teachers who walk into a public school classroom every day to teach.


This ending presents an exciting beginning that I will reveal soon enough. They say that reaching a destination or goal is only half the pleasure and that the journey is truly where the joy lies. I believe this is true. For after I reached my goal of teaching in a public school, it was then that I realized that my heart stretched further to identify where my greatest talents and strengths could and would be recognized, accepted, and needed. I look forward to the future. I look forward to my students and to the families whom I will serve in the days ahead. Stay tuned – the best is yet to be!


Dreaming of Spring Break

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on February 5, 2014 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Dreaming of Spring Break

It all started when I began to escape this winter splash of frosty weather by dreaming about summer. Then I realized that spring will be here in just a few weeks. That is a good enough thought to get me through this present cold snap.


I began by searching in Google for photos of summer. Ah – yes, those hot thoughts are just a memory away. So close – but so far away it seems. Even so, I began wondering where we can go to get away for a few days during spring break this year.


There are the ski slopes, but I’ve about had it with winter, snow, and cold weather. So there’s always the thought of running down to the beach. But that involves a lot of driving. Having to weigh the pros and cons of a long drive to get to some warmer weather. I think I’ll just check out a nice cabin setting somewhere that might prove to be fun. Maybe somewhere with some walking trails in case the spring weather proves to be just right.


At the end of spring break this year I have committed three days to volunteer work. It would be so nice to get completely away for the whole time we have off from school. Working as a full-time classroom teacher this past year has shown me a new appreciation for spring break for everyone concerned. Even so, I have decided to go ahead and volunteer. Keeping things in perspective should help. After all, once we all go back to school, there is only two full months of school left. We can all live through that – right?


It would be hard to find anyone who dislikes winter more than I do. I do alright with winter weather until Christmas break. Once we go back to school, I’m done with cold weather and usually grow rather impatient as the winter weeks and months drone on and on and on. It is very hard to think positive thoughts when there are reports on TV about all the winter weather related wrecks knowing that you have to get out on the roads and try to get to your job in the morning.

I worry about all the teen drivers who drive to school as well. And then there are the extra-curricular events that we all have to either sponsor or attend. Tomorrow, provided I can actually get up our hill and get to the main highway, I have to then leave school in the afternoon and drive a van of teens to a Forensics meet and we won’t return to our school until late. I dread the thought of the drive home from school to our farm long after the sun goes down. The county highways are always a bit slick and snow-packed.


I can’t wait until Spring break when these long, draining winter days are a thing of the past. I am someone who never complains about summer heat. After all, you can always cool off in a pool of water, or by changing one’s clothing to something cooler, or even just drink a nice cold glass of ice tea! But winter is different. I never feel warm no matter what. I have on two sweaters and two pair of socks. But I am still cold! Our living room has heated up ten degrees and is now 61 degrees. That’s about as warm as I expect it to get in here today. Our old, drafty farm house is always so cold. When the wind kicks up to any speed, the inside temps drop even lower. The only way to keep warm at all is to turn on the oven and bake cookies, bread, or just open the oven door and let the heat flow out. Propane has hit an all-time high. Current supplies are going out in rationed amounts of 100 gallons at $3.50 a gallon. Then next spike in price is set to go just under $5.00 a gallon.


This winter seems extra hard in Kansas. I know we have had some hard ones. Our last snow measured about six inches in our area with a foot of snow in areas like Salina, Kansas. There are drifts everywhere due to the Kansas winds. It is pretty, but not as pretty as a green lawn or a patch of Kansas wildflowers.


I’m dreaming of spring break today. The reality of winter seems just too daunting of a thought without some hope or something to look forward to. It doesn’t help that the extended week’s forecast includes the chance of more snow and mostly really low temperatures. The best we all have to hope for locally in the next seven days is a projected daytime high of 28 degrees. Today, the high is 10. At least the sun is shining – an improvement over the past few days.


Sneaking In A Quick BLog - About Teaching In A Public School

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on January 12, 2014 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

It's been almost a year since my last blog entry. Time really does fly. Right now I'm supposed to be studying (AKA Lesson Planning) - but just thought of my old blog spot and thought I'd check in.

Since my last post, I started teaching Language Arts in a public high school in Kansas. This is one of the most challenging jobs I have ever done. It took a few weeks if not months to convince the students that I was a keeper. They had gone through several LA teachers over the course of the past few years. My task was to break the cycle and watch them excel. That is exactly what happened.

At first, my days (in August) were filled with non-stop lesson planning. There was nothing in place, so I had to start from scratch. Thankfully, the students had a wonderful middle school LA teacher who taught them a good foundation for English writing (and reading). I had that solid foundation to base my program on as we went forward.

My fist task was literally to sourt out the curriculum and find out which books went with what grade level. I was to teach tenth, eleventh, and twelth grades, two classes each with one of the senior classes being a College Prep class. I also have study hall (Prime Time) in the mix. Once the books were sorted, my next task was to figure out what could be worked into one year of learning for each grade level. As is usually the case, my planning tended to lean to the over-done if not downright abnoxiously too crammed in sort. Even so, I remain ambitious and convinced that these students deserve a curriculum that is rich in challenges. I will not insult them by offering them anything less. This is where the butting of heads may have came in.

My new students did not know me from Adam (or Eve). One even told me I did not look like a teacher. I wasn't sure rather to take that as a compliment or insult, so I decided to just take it in stride and not catagorize it either way. But now that I've had time to reflect on the comment, that student was probably right. I do not "look" like a teacher. I thought about going all out - getting the perfect hair cut and all. Instead, I just showed up right off the ranch as me. This strategy has proven to be a good one because by Christmas break, I evolved into Mrs. Norris. Strangely, now that the long break has come and gone, I feel the part.I'm a teacher!

It may have taken me half a year to catch on, but I did soon realize that we are all into this together - me and my students. I believe they have claimed me as their English teacher. I'm pretty sure my contract will be renewed. Although this has been one of the hardest tasks I have ever undertaken, it is also one that I'm about the most proud of doing. This has been a life-long goal of mine. One that I did not give in to until after the ripe old age of 50.I actually enrolled into my teacher program when I was 49, so that's enough math on the subject for today.

Obtaining my teaching license is the one thing I truly am the most proud of. Some may think it's the books I have written or the library I built, but it's not those things (although they are important to me). No - it's for sure the day I passed the last of three steps in my licensing exams and received my license in the mail from the state where I reside. If ever there were a living example of persistance, surely I'd qualify. Hopefully my late-in-life plans will inspire others who all too soon may throw in the towel on their life dreams. Don't do that! Go for it! Whatever you long to be or do - be it and do it! You can. If I can, anyone can - trust me!

I feel very blessed today on this extremely windy yet warm winter day in January of 2014. This year started here with an ice storm. But since I am a teacher, I was safe in my home looking out on the winter scene. Then our first day back to school came after the long break. The kids were as sick at the thought of being there as I was (and I say that with a light heart). Immediately I convinced them that there was much to look forward to. Why it was only 47 days until spring break for one. And Valentine's Day is coming next month, then Easter. It will be May before any of us know it. So before long, we were all making plans for spring break.

In closing, I want to thank the Lord for granting me the desires of my heart and allowing me to teach in a public school. I still think of my students that I've had over the years in non-traditional settings and wonder how they are. I'm pretty sure at some point I'll return to that realm, but for now, I'm very thankful for this opportunity to learn along with my students in a public school classroom. I knew when I walked in and saw the row of computers in the back of the room and the two tall and amazing east windows that I was blessed. My classroom seems so large - almsot as large as the daunting task that was laid before me last August as I began my lesson plans ( which is what I better get back to doing or else). Here's to the second half of my first year in a new career of teaching in a public school.

Happy New Year to all. May 2014 be a blessed year for everyone. God is so good.

Bloom Where You Are Planted – Even If You Have BeenTransplanted

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on February 5, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

By Lynn Pettigrew Norris


I have had a few awesome teachers – some in school and some in college. Today I am thinking of a Southwestern College professor I had who is always a very encouraging person. She always says, “Bloom where you areplanted!” And she means it!

That saying gives me much room for thought. At first, I sent her a lengthy explanation about why I would not, could not, should not bloom where I was planted. The thing was, I no longer worked where I was working and she did not know that. That is where my thought process picked up this morning.


I remember several years back a wonderful lady (whom I havelost track of) named Sunni sent me out at the conclusion of one job with this: “It’stoo bad you can’t do what you’re doing down where you live.” She had no way of knowing that earlier that morning, my own immediate supervisor had spoken those exact words to me. I was working at the Mental Health Association of SouthCentral Kansas in Wichita at that time finishing up meetings surrounding a new Education program that I had set up for them. They were both right. If I could have bloomed right there (where I was planted), I would have. But the distanceto that job – over three hours per day of commuting – was wearing on me. So Idid the next best thing: I transplanted those skills in a new location and reproduced a very similar Education program. All things considered, I remain proud of those two programs that are still going strong.


Treading on familiar ground, I am about to transplant thoseskills once again. There is nothing for me to gain financially because everything I am doing is unpaid work (volunteer) work and some for college credit. I will be working two days a week at a private Christian school helping in two Language Artsc lassrooms. I am looking forward to that. Three days a week I will be working at Lighthouse Library with a local classroom of volunteers who will be coming into the library for a set time per day to help set things up and volunteer.They will have more time to spend on Fridays because the local school district does not hold school on Fridays. I will also be in that school presenting some Language Arts lessons as part of my graduate courses. I am also doing some grant writing to continue some small grant funding for the library and to fund some new programs that will begin this Spring.


I also enrolled in a three-part workshop on Social Media fors mall businesses. It is no secret that I am clueless about Twitter although I have both a personal and business Twitter account. To me, Twitter is like a big, dark room where people speak random thoughts. While they are speaking, a  flashlight lights up (the tweat that has been posted) and others look toward their direction. The disturbing thing to me (also rather odd) is that it makes zero sense to me - I can't find the purpose. One person may be talking about sidewalk chalk art and another blurts out something about oil prices. Yet another pipes up with words about a great recipe for banana cream pie. Why? How does that make sense? This is what I intend to learn through these workshops that begin the first of March and run for a month. Thankfully they are done online, so I will figure out a time to work those into my schedule.


I still look in amazement at a favorite plant that I thoughtwas dead. It was a three-stem Palm tree (about five feet tall) that was one oft wo plants we still had from Jennifer’s funeral. Given to us by a group of cousins, it was very special to me. Then due to my leaving it in at the library last winter (before the heat was turned on), it froze. I thought it had died. I moved it outside all summer,but there was no sign of life in it. The stems sort of wilted away and finally I cut them all three off short. Then last fall when I was emptying flower pots for the season, I started to shovel out all the dirt from the huge container.That’s when I saw three small sprouts coming out from the bottom of the stems.There was new life in what I had thought was a lost cause.

Don’t give up on anything that is your dream. Even when things look hopeless and you think life has passed you by, bloom where you are planted. That is such a great saying and I’m thankful for a thoughtful teacher who shared it with me – a good reminder about life’s unexpected and sometimes unusual twists and turns.




From 2012 to ETERNITY!

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on December 31, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (1)

 From 2012 to Eternity!

By Lynn Pettigrew Norris

What on earth does that “E” on one’s digital scale mean – ETERNITY?!

Not asking for a sign from above, I got one anyway. It’stime. A person just knows. It’s time for me to make and stick to a New Year’sresolution of losing weight. I’m sort of disgusted. Not wanting to have such a typical – ok let’s even say boring – New Year’s resolution. But even more important, I’m disgusted that my weight finally hit an unmentionable number –one that I never thought I’d see peering back at me from my scale. And even more shocking – was that “E” staring back at me!? 

It’s time. 2013 – the year to get healthy!

I’m looking for others who want to join me on this journey.Dieting alone has never proven to be much fun. Cheating is much easier when no one is checking up on you. The catch is – you have to divulge your actual weight. But the good news – you don’t have to tell it until you reach your dieting goal!

My weight goal is actually about 20 pounds more than I probably should or could weigh if I set my heart and mind to it. But for me,and for now, it is important to reach my goal weight – and fast! I figure itwill take me at least four months to reach this goal weight. So I promise toreport in on my birthday – which is April 23rd.

I fully admit that I let other areas of my life affect my weight. 2012 was a long hard year for me in the work world. I left my school district job to work as a case manager (again) after receiving a tempting call from a program director with an offer I could not refuse. I was so ill-informed, so ignorant. But there is no sense in holding on to all the “what if’s” in life.No doubt we all would have regrets while looking back. It has always been my motto to have no regrets – so there is no point in starting now.

It is time for me to suck it up and own the road that I am on. I am the Director of a Nonprofit – a volunteer full-time position. When I pray (and sometimes when I am not even thinking on this subject), the answer seems to come back to me the same – to keep going in this direction. And when I question my circumstances, my lack of a paycheck, and reflect on the wonderful top salary jobs that I have held in the past, I hear the voice of the Lord in my heart telling me these words from Matthew 6:

     25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry aboutyour life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body,      what you will wear.Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?26Look at the birdsof the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet yourheavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hourto his lifeb?

     28“And why do you worry about clothes? See howthe lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in allhis splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of thefield, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he notmuch more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall weeat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things,and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and hisrighteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Now, back to that 2013 resolution of weight loss.  It is time for me to get up and get on with life. Life is for sure what you make it. Sometimes things are simply out of your control, so that is why it is even more important to take control of the areas of your life that you can. I can do this. It’s time! As much as I love to eat, it’s time to get healthy and to stop feeling sorry for myself. After all –look all across America. It is for sure I’m not the only one who lost a job in 2012. We are supposed to be thankful for everything that comes our way, no matter what. So let me offer this prayer:

     “Thank you, Lord for giving methe opportunity to serve families in my county and for taking that job away from me. I know that everything that happens takes place for a reason. Thank You for moving me on down the road. Without this loss, I would probably never have stepped into the next phase of service in my life. Thank You Lord for whatat the time seemed so full of sorrow, confusion, and loss, I trust You to take my life, my hands, my mind, and my heart as I strive to serve others in any waythat I am allowed to do so. Not much makes sense at this point - especially from an earthly point of view on family finances and such. But I am trying to remember your promises from your Word about Your faithfulness in all ways. Amen.”


My 2013 New Year’s Resolutions are as follows:

1)      Get Healthy! Get my weight back into check, getmoving (exercise!), and eat my vegetables!

2)      Put my heart into ECCRC and Lighthouse Libraryand forget about the fact that it’s a volunteer position! By using myeducation, training, and skills to help others, how on earth can I feelanything but blessed?

3)       Get aworking kitchen in place in my home (you knew I just had to add this one – it’stime!).

4)      Watch the sun rise and/or the sun set every daythat is possible this upcoming year! And while I’m looking on to the beautybefore me, offer a prayer to the Lord for that day of life, for all blessings,our food, a home, family, health, a country and community to live where we arefree.

5)      Keep my focus off from finding a job and on tohelping others! To remember to say a prayer for all those with known issues ofneed in many areas of their lives! And to do this every day .

6)      Retain my Teaching License. Who knows why. Butsomeone (wise) told me in 2012 – Never, never let your teaching license go!Sounds difficult, but important for sure. So I will try to follow their advise –but still and again – who knows why!

7)      Grow a garden – and keep it alive! Not waste theproduce that comes my way – to can, freeze or preserve the fruits, berries, andvegetables that come forth from the earth and to share these with others.

8)      To get a community food pantry back up &running in my community.

9)      Paint our house – on the outside – for us &for our neighborsJ

10)  To go on a vacation – to see my relatives andgive them a big enough hug to last until the next time we meet again.


Happy New Year! Happy 2013!!



Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on December 21, 2012 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Memories of recent and past losses of loved ones

Hang on the wall of all our hearts.

Scenes from tragedies flash across our minds.

Scattered photos of children in a grade school.

Silent nights ring out from their bedroom walls.

The why’s and what for’s clutter our hearts.

Not knowing that those are not important thoughts.

Collages created on a facebook wall

As the news feed scrolls with “miss you’s”

Words posted on an earthly collage

Among the memories in our minds & hearts.

Knowing that an all-knowing God sees all

The collages throughout our land.

Another year draws to a close

As families gather ‘round the Christmas tree

One more chance to make a photo

To add to our living collage.

Though seared in our thoughts is one single collage

Fresh photos of children from a schoolyard

While others paste words drawn out from broken hearts

On the scrolling walls of loved ones remembered.



Christmas 2012

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on December 18, 2012 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (1)


Christmas time comes and goes quickly. Usually everyone is busy running around grabbing up gifts, doing last minute errands and such. Thisyear finds me feeling humbled – almost frozen in my tracks. Still feeling theblunt blow of losing my job in October and no prospect of a new job in sight, I teeter between being thankful to have the time to reflect on many of life’slessons and having time to work on the Lighthouse Library project.

This has been a good reminder to me to look to the Lord for everything – everything! I already knew this lesson, but evidently needed some more practice.


It has been a large trial trying to complete a huge project for a nonprofit and trying to remain positive in the face of an uncertain future. The finances are no longer there for me personally to donate to the project. But I still have two good hands and the compassion for others along with the passion for literacy skills concerning computers, reading, and writing. I am also looking forward to restarting the community  food pantry that we ran for many years in another nearby small Kansas town.


I am looking forward to the simple things that thisChristmas season offers. Things like the Christmas meal, time with the extended family, and reading notes that others send my way. I received a small package in the mail and it was from a company that simply put some candy in a recycled plastic tub with a lid. Inside, they put some green streamers and some tiny chocolate candy bars. I have enjoyed that treat every day now since it arrived – eating one small treat each day. It is the small things in life that bring us great joy when we scale down our lives.


I remain hopeful that the Lord will supply a job in the near future. But mostly, I’m so looking forward to officially opening Lighthouse Library and seeing children and adults come in and enjoy the services there.The funds are low – actually they are nonresistant. But it is with faith that we conclude the building project and it is with faith that we hope that the utilities will get paid each month along with the building insurance bills. AsI look back over the past few years, it is with a grateful heart that I recall past positions that offered me the funds to donate to the library project and to other nonprofit causes. These are the reasons I hope for a new job. It hurts a lot not to have money to share with others and to help meet their needs. Thisis a good lessons – a reminder to me – to remember what is important in life.


Ifyou would like to donate to the Lighthouse Library project, send your tax deductible donation to: ECCRC, PO Box 40, Dexter, KS 67038. This video showsthe project as it looked almost a year ago. Thank the Lord we have come so far since then and we trust him as we continue to go forward with the project.(Lighthouse Library from Hatteberg’s People – KAKE TV)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Irqgxp62_wY