school · writing

How to really appreciate your kids’ teachers this week (and all year long).

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Y’all. It’s May-hem. May-member. May-day. May the force of common sense be with you.

And Pinterest crafting isn’t in my wheelhouse this month. (Or ever, honestly. So if you love some sanding and painting and cutesy font notecards this post is not for you, and please, sell me your services next year because I have the black thumb equivalent of gift giving.)

I love my kids’ teachers. LOVE them. One math teacher gave us her cell so we could text if my middle schooler is on the verge of fraction-induced tears. My son’s kindergarten teacher has a son with the same name as mine AND THE SAME BIRTHDAY 10 YEARS REMOVED so she basically treats him like he’s hers. These are good, good people teaching my kids how to navigate Google and divide negative numbers.

However.

I can’t be all thanks a latte because you helped me grow into one smart cookie since you’re such a sharp teacher.

(For the record, I do appreciate the puns.)

Between my four kids we have TWENTY TEACHERS.

We’re all barely surviving May as it is. Teacher Appreciation week should be moved to September because HALLELUJAH! SCHOOL IS BACK IN SESSION AND WE REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

Also, teachers really need supplies. And support. And extra snacks because some of us (hangs head in shame) can’t be trusted to read the snack schedule.

So if you want to appreciate your kids’ teacher without feeling like a crap mom when everyone else (i.e. half my Insta feed) is cranking out adorable-ness on their Cricket, the best things to do are simply done all year long.

I taught school for years. Middle school mind you.

And this is what I appreciated:

  • Boxes of expo markers
  • Extra supplies for a kid in need
  • Cases of Lysol wipes
  • New books for my classroom
  • Kids who came to school on time
  • Kids who were picked up from extracurricular activities on time
  • Kids who said “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” and “please” and “thank you”
  • Ink cartridges
  • Tissues
  • Agenda signed
  • Homework done
  • When you have a problem and you come to the me before the principal
  • When your kid is dressed appropriately for school so I don’t have to measure their shorts with a ruler
  • When you see me in the grocery store and you say, “My kid really loves your class.”
  • When you see me at church and you say, “My kid really loves that book you made him read.”

According to my kids, what their teachers really want is:

  • Quiet
  • Good listeners
  • Mint chocolate candy
  • Pepper

Here’s what one third-grade teacher told me she wanted:

  • Parents to read her newsletter
  • But she’ll take a gift card

Here’s the thing. For years, teaching was my job. I didn’t need a reward for doing it because it’s the job I chose and the job I loved/hated and like parenting—my days were endlessly long but those years flew by.

I have a box full of teacher ornaments and magnets. They’re buried beneath a stack of letters from kids telling me my class was their favorite. I’ve long ago spent the Starbucks cards and broken the personalized tumbler (blame: toddlers) and lost half the pair of earrings.

But those parents who raised up respectful kids? Lovable kids? Those are the parents who showed appreciation everyday because they recognized teaching is hard and kids are harder and it’s a calling and a profession that commands respect—those are the parents and kids I remember.

And these days, in the grocery store, I go out of my way to speak to them.

P.S. That picture is from that time my students had a “stick it to ’em” day and stuck post-its all over our doors. BEST GIFT EVER.

P.P.S. In case you didn’t know (but your probably do) I quit teaching to write books and have this fourth baby.My debut, Still Waters, released last fall and is currently a finalist for three different awards. But thank you notes and reviews from readers (like thank you notes from students) are still the most appreciated.

just write life · writing

Five Symbols of the South

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An Edisto sunrise. But we’re not there right now. Just dreaming. Photo credit Jocelyn A. Conrad. 

I’m on my back porch and the air is hovering between heavy humidity and storm-blowing breezes. Either way, rain’s been skirting all around our southern summer all week long.

The book has a cover now and if you’re in the know you’ve seen it. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Sign up for my newsletter or let me know you want to join the launch team. Or just wait because we’ll be revealing it officially soon. It’s swirly and lovely and very southern romance–Gone With the Wind keeps popping up as a comparable, which makes me laugh because (don’t hate me), I don’t love GWTW.

I think I might have read it too young and need to re-read it now as an adult who can appreciate the history and the sweeping grandeur while hoping none of my daughters turn out like Scarlett.

You don’t get much more southern than Gone With the Wind, but I was recently asked if I’d write about what I saw as five symbols of the South. I settled on these and left off the hot-button topics, because at the end of the day, we’d all rather sit on the porch with a glass of sweet tea and the cicada chorus than sit at a table and talk anymore about that late unpleasantness.

Five Symbols of the South (that don’t hang off pickup trucks)

Food. The rule of true southern cooks raised in my mother’s generation is this: if it stands still fry it. I adhere to this each summer with okra and sometimes squash and on Father’s Day, I fried chicken for the first time in years. (Although my own mother has admitted it’s just easier to go by the Bojangles.) But I think southern cuisine is changing a bit with the times. I love seeing the shift toward locally grown and farm to table restaurants that make greens so good, you’ll slap your mama. But if you do, she probably won’t make you anymore fried okra and you’ll have to take your own self to Bojangles.

Fashion. I know very little about this myself, but I do know this: pearls go with everything. Sunday dress? Check. Funeral dress? Tasteful. Wedding sundress? No doubt. T-shirt and jeans? Why not. My sisters are far more fashion savvy than I, which is how we all wound up dressed alike for my sister’s wedding, right down to our cowboy boots. I got mine at Rack Room but now my almost-thirteen year old is wearing them out. If my novel makes loads of money, maybe I’ll spring for a sweet pair like these, handmade at King Ranch in Texas, by people who know boots.

View More: http://candiceholcomb.pass.us/al-wedding
This is my family. All my sisters and our one brother. And Jasper, the golden retriever. Because when parents of 7 kids become empty nesters, they need a dog who’s treated like a child.

Football.  I still can’t tell you the rules of football. I just know if our guy has the ball, you have to holler until he crosses the end zone. This helps him run faster. But I do know that Friday nights and Saturdays are sacred down here. That wedding with the boots was strategically planned on a day UGA was off because certain family members said they’d wear earbuds. Which didn’t match the boots, obviously. I believe in the football tradition enough that it’s the background for my next novel and I might have a slight obsession with Friday Night Lights. Or just Kyle Chandler. Or both.

Faith. I tell people I write southern fiction because that’s true (even though Terry Kay told me I’m too young for that title), but I don’t tell people I write Christian fiction because here’s the thing–I am a Christian, so of course anything I write carries that viewpoint. I believe in happy endings and redeeming love and saved by grace. It permeates who I am. Down south, our culture is permeated by the Bible Belt and Southern Baptist and Methodism and Vacation Bible School. Sending my characters to church on Sunday is as natural as having them say “y’all” and “ma’am”. Where I make a story, however, is when that faith gets shaken by its culture and has to learn to stand on its own.

Family. Every good southern book has one iconic scene at the family dinner table, and the more dysfunctional and offbeat the family, the better the tension and the narrative. I love my family, but our little idiosyncrasies are finding their way into everything I write. Makes for good storytelling but awkward family dinners. I close ranks, though, when somebody from outside wants to comment. This family is mine. We’re allowed to poke at one another, but nobody else is getting through. Find your own family to write about. Trust me, everybody’s tree has some crooked branches and those make the best stories.

What defines your home place? Your culture? Ever thought about it?