Snapshots of My Life

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Old Poetry

Flipping through an old notebook a couple of days ago I found a poem scribbled on a much-doodled paper with phone numbers, stars, and a couple of notes. I thought I'd add it to this blog for the sake of having an electronic copy of my writing. Here it is:

We Three

Darkness settles quietly on my balcony,
Waiting like a snowstorm waits
For midnight to bury footprints and flowers.

I open my fridge;
Not much there:
Jar of pickles, carton of milk.
You don't need much when you feed yourself.

The gleam of glasses makes me wonder
If anyone can see my eyes glisten.
Probably not.

A single light overhead creates a faint circle
Around me and my book.
The darkness has moved cautiously indoors.

Just a couple more sentences.
Once I leave for bed,
The silence joins me
And then it is just we three:
Mr, the silence, and darkness.

-Rachel Pickett-

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When My Heart Needs an Outlet

I was sitting at back-to-school night tonight with not many parents coming in and no computer at my disposal. I was bored, so I scribbled down a poem. It's nothing special, just a bit of emotion I needed to capture in words. Hope you like it! :)

When You Wish...
When you wish on a star,
Maybe that wish gets lost.
Among the clouds.
Maybe it hits a lightning bolt.
A little battered
Missing a corner
Flying through the sky.
Maybe another wish comes its way.
They swap a bit
Then separate.
Maybe looking worn around the edges.
Feeling lost
Harassed and tired.
Maybe an angel is sent to help.
Maybe my wish makes its way back.
Looking familiar.
And maybe, just maybe, it's better than I thought.
Maybe my wish came true.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from My Mom

Has anyone read the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?  It is by a brilliant author named Robert Fulghum.  The book contains short essays, often humorous, about the important lessons the author has learned from everyday life.  I was first introduced to the book by my mother.  In fact, after she observed how much I loved the book she actually gave me her copy.  It is still one of my most treasured books (and I own hundreds of books). 

Today I was thinking about my mom.  It is her birthday this weekend and in the process of trying to come up with an appropriate gift I was led to ponder what makes my mother so amazing.  As I contemplated, I realized that everything that makes me who I am, that shapes my life, and that truly has meaning in my life stems from my mother.  Who needs kindergarten?  Here’s what I learned from my mom:


v     Read!  Some of my favorite memories come from reading with my mom.  As a former kindergarten teacher my mother had a fantastic collection of children’s books.  When we were younger we used to gather on the couch with a stack of books and cuddle together as we listened to story after story.  As we got older reading time changed slightly, but it remained an important and treasured part of our lives, especially in the summer.  During that season we all helped my dad work on our ranch.  We would come in for lunch tired and hot.  After a tasty homemade meal, we would all move to the living room to listen to Mom read.  We sprawled across the couches and floor and made ourselves comfortable.  Mom picked out wonderful books.  Some favorites I can remember are Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, the Paddington books, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, and The Indian in the Cupboard.  They were wonderful books with stories that are ageless.  Just the sight of these books makes me smile to this day.  As we listened we learned to appreciate the written word.  Using our imaginations we summoned up pictures of incredible places and became a part of each tale.  In addition, we were learning vocabulary, sentence structure, and proper grammar, although we were completely unaware.  Today I still love to read.  I am currently immersed in David Copperfield and This I Believe, both great works.  My profession now centers around passing along this appreciation for a well-written text to a new generation.  I learned to read from my mom.

v     Take time to squish mud between your toes.  My mom is an avid gardener.  Every summer my dad tills a plot for her in the corral and she sets to work with hoe, seeds, and unwilling children in hand.  She plants tomatoes, green peppers, onions (her salsa garden), corn, green beans, zucchini, potatoes, strawberries, peas, and more.  Then she spends the summer weeding and watering all those growing green things.  However, along with all the work there are many little moments of stopping to simply enjoy.  It is always exciting to find the first little tomato hidden between the leaves.  Digging potatoes is made more fun by the chance to spray them off and get completely soaked in the process.  And of course, you have to play in the mud.  Each row of vegetables has a small ditch alongside it to make watering easier.  Mom puts a hose at the top of this ditch and lets the water slowly run down to the end of the row.  When it makes it there, the hose is moved to the next little ditch.  However, sometimes we would get busy and forget to move the water.  It would seep out the end of the ditch forming a large mud flat.  By the time we got out to the garden the mud would be saturated and perfectly mushy.  Then the fun would begin.  Mom could never resist good mud, so off would come the shoes.  It seems we could never get enough of laughing together about the feeling of soft brown mud in between our toes.  Eventually summer came to a close, and the results of that garden made everyone happy.  Fresh salsa, peas and new potatoes glazed in real butter, and the most heavenly strawberry jam you have ever tasted.  Gardens, and the “stop and smell the roses” moments they foster, are wonderful things.

v     Practice makes beautiful music.  My mom has always been good at saving money.  When she was in college she had a savings account which she contributed to on a regular basis.  By the time she married my dad, she had a decent amount of money in the account.  Having an innate love of beautiful music, my mom used the money to purchase a piano as soon as they had moved into their first house.    I was three at this point.  The only piano music I had ever heard was the hymns and primary songs played at church.  Mom sat down at the piano and played the Beer Barrel Polka.  It is a rousing polka that is a lot of fun to play.  When she finished I exclaimed, “I didn’t know our piano was that kind of piano!”  I think she decided then that I had better learn a little bit more about the piano.  When I was halfway through my second grade year Mom took me to my first piano lesson.  I loved it!  However, it didn’t take many hours of practicing on the hard bench for me to decide maybe it wasn’t as great as I initially thought.  Yet, Mom persisted in encouraging me through the ups and downs.  I took lessons until I was a freshman in college, with only one or two summers off.  Playing the piano has been one of the most rewarding things I have done.  When I am at home, Mom always tells me how much she enjoys listening to me play.  The experience with piano has carried over into other areas of my life.  Some of my favorite hobbies are the result of long hours of highly unpleasant practicing.  Thanks to that lesson learned from my mom, I can now dance, quilt, crochet, and play the organ.  Life is full of possibilities for those who are willing to put in the hours.

v     Celebrate every day.  My mom loves holidays.  We have traditions for nearly every holiday.  Just before Christmas Mom makes loads of scrumptious gingerbread cookies which we proceed to decorate with brightly colored icing and pounds of candy.  Afterward, some cookies are quickly consumed while others are delivered to friends and neighbors.  Thanksgiving includes folding fancy napkins, creating cute edible centerpieces, and two lucky people breaking the wishbone.  On Halloween Mom made sure we always had awesome costumes, often sewn or put together by her.  Last year, however, was even better than years we had previously had.  My mom found a calendar (most likely on the Family Fun website) that had a holiday or observance for every single day of the year.  I think she probably did an excited little jig when she found it, although I wasn’t there.  Suddenly every day became a celebration.  We observed National Yo-Yo Day by eating Oreos and trying to learn some new yo-yo tricks.  National Chocolate Ice Cream day meant churning our own ice cream on the front lawn.  Every day was exciting as we wondered what holiday was up next.  I don’t think I have ever had that much fun before.  We laughed a lot.  This year my mom sent me my own holiday calendar.  I have tried to observe a few days.  I think my mom figured out something special though.  Even without a calendar of holidays, there is something to celebrate each day of our lives.  Live happy!

v     Cooking should feed the soul, not just the body.  One of my absolute favorite smells is homemade bread, fresh out of the oven, with butter dripping down the smooth brown crust.  I used to come home from school to that smell quite often.  My siblings and I would walk in the door, see the bread, and immediately ask, “Is that for us?”  You might think that is a silly question, but Mom was always making food for other people.  She made bread for new neighbors, cookies for Relief Society functions, cupcakes to take to school on kids’ birthdays, and lasagna to deliver to new moms.  When I was little I used to hate it.  Why should she cook all that tasty food for other people?  As I grew a little older, the smells were still torturous, but I began to enjoy helping Mom with the cooking and making the deliveries.  I drew closer to my mother and reaped the warmth and joy that come from sharing our food, talents, and love with those around us.  Mom says she learned about sharing good food and friendship from her mother.  I think that is a tradition I would like to keep passing on.

v     Family is worth it all.  I am the oldest child of 11.  I once asked my mom why she and Dad chose to have so many kids.  Her response was that they hated the idea of children going to homes in places where they wouldn’t have caring parents, enough food, or knowledge of Jesus Christ.  They decided they would like to give a loving home to as many kids as they could support and care for.  I am intensely grateful for that decision.  There have definitely been times when I would have liked to be an only child.  For instance, three teenage girls in one bedroom can be a nightmare and 13 people around the dinner table means noise like you would not believe.  So many kids also meant we got to be the ranch hands when my dad needed help.  Yet, I learned to get along with people of every personality type.  I have never had to feel like no one cares about me.  I have ten siblings, two parents, and a grandpa just in one house who would do just about anything for me!  I know how to work and I know how to play hard without spending a ton of money.  When all is said and done my family makes life worth living and it was my mom who really showed me how to enjoy every minute of the time we have together.

  My mom will probably read this and tell me she is just an ordinary woman and doesn’t do anything special.  But I will disagree because my mom is amazing and someone needs to brag about her every once in awhile.  She makes my world go round, and I love her more than she knows.  Happy Birthday Mom!  I love you!


Thursday, January 15, 2009


I woke up this morning.  Miracle, I know.  I woke up and rolled over to grab my cell phone and put the alarm on snooze.  The blue light from the screen hurt my eyes in the pre-dawn winter darkness of my room.  Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to slide out of bed in the winter when the air is chilly and you don’t have sun peeking through the blinds to help you out?    Stretching out my toes I sleepily discovered that the far corners of my bed were just as snug and cozy as the center.  I pulled the fluffy down comforter up to my ears and buried my face in my pillow.  No one was home to make me feel guilty for staying in bed a few more minutes.

 My thoughts start to soften around the edges, and I slip back into the blissful peace of a worry-free sleep.  The apartment is silent, causing me to cringe when the alarm calls to me a second time.  The song playing is “My Hallelujah Song” by Julianne Hough.  This time I listen to it for a few minutes.  Look at me, can’t believe I finally made it here.  Feeling like I’m where I belong.  Singing my hallelujah song.”   I sigh, disable the alarm, and grab my robe.  A hot shower is not quite more time in bed, but it still sounds fairly pleasant. 

 As I go through my pre-work routine, the song keeps playing in my head.  I think about the reasons I get up in the morning; the notes in my personal hallelujah song. 

  •  I have a job unlike any other.  Watching my students work, laugh, and talk makes me realize that I am blessed with a wonderful opportunity. Each day I get to interact with the bright, optimistic, humorous youth of our society whose enthusiasm for life is completely infectious.  I get to teach, learn, encourage, and inspire.  Even greater than that is the chance to view their humanity.  I know of few other jobs where you are allowed to consistently interact and really connect with so many different personalities.  It is a pleasure and a blessing to be part of their lives on a daily basis.
  • I make my home in a place that is resplendent with a simple natural beauty.  Sometimes I have to just stop and breathe it all in.  The brilliant blues of my Rocky Mountains tower above valleys where cows and horses munch contentedly alongside the bends and elbows of the shimmering Snake River.  I can smell pine in the air as I rush down a mountain covered in powdery white.  Our boat skims across Blacktail Reservoir.  And after it all, I go home and watch the sun fade into darkness behind the hills.  Idaho is as much a part of me as my hazel eyes and favorite pair of blue jeans.
  •  I live in comfort.  From the down comforter to a bowl of hot homemade soup or the sun making my hair feel warm against my skin, the little details of the picture I call my life all fit.  I have friends who feel like sisters, an apartment that feels like home, and a family that might as well be straight from the glossy pages of a family and parenting magazine.
  •  I love and am loved.  It is easy to see in the three-page e-mails that circulate weekly between sisters in Rexburg, Logan, Provo, and here.  My roommate and I sip chocolate-banana milkshakes at 11:00 on a Tuesday night, then laugh about the last time someone thought we were sisters.  On Friday Lisa will come down from Rexburg for a slumber party.  Most importantly, I will kneel by my bed tonight and feel unseen arms surround me in the most perfect love.  I am supremely blessed to know the reality of a Father in Heaven whose greatest desire is that His children return safely to him.

 My time is up and I grab my lunch and car keys.  Ellisa’s cheery, “Have a great day!” follows me out the door, and I smile even as I scrape ice off my windshield.  Yeah, getting out of bed this morning was definitely worth it.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pie Philosophy

Thanksgiving seems to be all about the food.  Tonight is Thanksgiving eve and our oven has already been running all day.  The fridge is packed with jello salads and refrigerated desserts.  Of course, we also have to make the pies tonight, as the turkey will have sole ownership of the oven tomorrow.   

For the last three or four years I have been in charge of the Thanksgiving apple pie.  Sara makes some specialty recipe she just has to try (this year it's Turtle Pumpkin Pie).  The rest; pumpkin, berry, and chocolate are divided up between Mom, Kelli, Lisa, and Kirsti.  Yet, the apple is always, and without question, mine.  It is a role I feel honored to have.  

My mom, amazing cook though she is, hates making pies.  I, on the other hand, consider it something of an art.  I pull ingredients from the cupboards and line measuring cups along the counter with a certain relish for each step of the process.  Mom is at the other end of the counter stirring mandarin oranges into bright orange jello.  

We converse easily about great books, Christmas plans, and cooking as I start working on the apples.  My pie is completely from scratch.  No canned pie filling here!  The apples are Granny Smiths; one of my favorite kinds.  They are big and almost perfectly round with a shiny, bright green skin that rarely shows signs of bruising or blemishes.  I can almost smell how tart they are as I slice into their crispness.

Brooke, my six year old sister, pulls up a bar stool and asks if she can help as I'm finishing up the apples.  I fill a pot with water and add the apples to blanch, telling Brooke she can help me start the crust now that the apples are cooking.  There is not a lot for her to do.   Pie crust has a relatively simple ingredient list; flour, salt, shortening, and water.  I measure and she dumps everything into the big metal mixing bowl.  For as simple as the recipe looks, pie crust is a rather touchy food.  I drop a few ice cubes into the water I'm using.  Cold water, not too dry dough, and as little handling as possible will keep the crust flaky and light, instead of tough or doughy.

I finish rolling out the crust just as the apples finish cooking.  A bit of apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and some lemon juice will make a spicy, never-too-sweet sauce for the apples.  I spread the pie filling into the crust, carefully lay on the top crust, and pinch the edges closed.  It's not quite ready for the oven yet, though.  Unless I'm in the mood to scrub apples off the bottom of the oven, my pie needs some air vents.  I grab a knife and carefully carve my signature into the pie; a heart flanked by a couple of curlicues.  

40 minutes later the pie comes out of the oven golden brown with steam curling up from the heart in the center.  It looks like "homemade" personnified.  I can smell the cinnamon, and I can't help but think of all apple pie symbolizes to me.  It means chattering with my mom and sisters in the kitchen while covered in flour, the blessings of a plentiful harvest, stories told around the Thanksgiving dinner table, old-fashioned values, and working for something that will be worth the effort in the end.

I know, it is just a pie.  But we are heading into the holiday season.  I am allowed to be sentimental.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

They Make Me Laugh!

One of my teacher friends recently suggested that several of us collaborate and make a "Book of Stupid" documenting all the crazy, stupid, and simply ridiculous things our students do.  Although I'm not sure how well it would work out as a book, the idea of recording all my crazy fun moments as a teacher seemed brilliant, so I began writing them down.  I had one today that just seemed too funny not to share.  Enjoy!

Today I forgot that my clock is a minute fast and finished my lesson and reminders with two minutes of class time left.  The kids, of course, decided to take full advantage of this brief free time.  

Two of the guys had been on one all day hitting, poking and teasing each other.  Noticing that I didn’t have anything for them to do at the moment, Tyson immediately began to chase Mike around the classroom.  Mike had already packed up to leave and was wearing his backpack.  The backpack had a strap hanging down with a buckle on the end.  As Mike ran past one of the desks this buckle hooked on a bar that connects the desk to the chair causing the desk to be jerked after Mike.  

Tyson, noticing Mike’s predicament, stopped to laugh at his victory.  Mike had a look on his face that told me he was not completely sure what was wrong;  however, he was determined to get back at Tyson, so he began running again, only this time as the pursuer.  What he did not know is that the desk was still connected and so continued to follow him as he ran, making the pursuit difficult.  

I stood nearby watching and trying with every ounce of self-control I had to avoid laughing at these boys.  What grade am I teaching again?  11th?  No, you must be wrong.  I’m sure they’re 4th graders!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Memory Lane

Add a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember! Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. It's actually pretty funny to see the responses. If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you. If you don't want to play on your blog, or if you don't have a blog, I'll leave my memory of you in my comments. I can't wait to see what people remember.

Sunshine and Happy Days

Love Songs