Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

I Guess I’ll Pack Up and Move to a More Righteous City January 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 5:19 am

I recently came across a website called, created to retaliate against our newly elected gay mayor.  I didn’t explore the website at all because I thought it was so ridiculous.  But a friend’s blog just alerted me to the hilariously serious suggestions given by the website on how to boycott our city:

What you can do to help:

  1. If you take a vacation, do not take it in Houston.
  2. If you drive through Houston, do not buy fuel, food, or stay in a hotel there. Spend your money in one of Houston’s outlying suburbs.
  3. If you fly, arrange connecting flights so as to avoid lay-overs in Houston. If this cannot be avoided then spend no money at the airport.
  4. If you shop online, find out the location of the company who’s website you are browsing. If the online store is based in Houston, go to another website.
  5. If you have relatives in Houston, try to get them to come visit you rather than you visit them.
  6. If you are considering a business convention, do not consider Houston.
  7. If you are planning a business or professional conference, plan it somewhere other than Houston.
  8. If you are considering hiring a contractor, do not hire one based in Houston.
  9. If you are searching for employment, do not accept a position in Houston.
  10. If you are seeking investment opportunities, look at opportunities elsewhere.
  11. If you live in Houston, shop in an outlying suburb whenever possible.
  12. If you are considering a service ( cell phone, internet, cable TV, etc) do not use one based in Houston.
  13. If you need to ship something, do not use Houston’s ports.
  14. If you are starting a new business do not open it in Houston.
  15. If you are considering expanding your business no not expand in Houston.
  16. If you live in Houston and you have considered moving, now is a good time.
  17. If you need a medical procedure and it does not endanger your health, go to another city.
  18. If you want to buy a newspaper, do not buy a Houston paper.
  19. If you need insurance, do not buy a policy from a company based in Houston.
  20. If you are a sports fan do not watch Houston’s teams or spend money on their team’s apparel or product.

Can we boycott the boycotters?


Cute Stuff Kids Say January 24, 2010

Filed under: Teaching — Jen @ 6:20 pm

My kids are generally not very nice to each other.  As always with first graders, there’s a lot of tattling going on.  There’s also a lot of whining.  One of my students is CONSTANTLY out of his seat and constantly bothering other children.  When I get on him, he whines, “What I diiiiiid??”  All day long I hear this particular whine.  The other day one of my sweet boys was talking about “humping girls”.  Another boy was saying “ass” all day.  Plus they’re often calling each other “ugly” or “dumb”.

However, occasionally I can get them to focus on academics, and occasionally a cute thing or two comes out of their mouths.  Here are a couple examples:

We’ve been studying Martin Luther King for the past couple weeks.  In one book it said that “people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  I asked them what they thought that meant.  They turned to a partner and discussed.  When they turned back to the front, I asked what they had thought with their partners.  One little boy confidently raised his hand and said very intellectually, “Well, we were thinking about Spongebob.  Because you know, Spongebob, he’s a character.”

Another day we were working on main idea and details.  We put “Martin Luther King was an important man,” as our main idea.  Then I was asking them to come up with details from all the books we’ve read.  Someone said, “He was shot and killed.”  I wrote that down.  Then another boy said, “Martin Luther King died for our sins.”  I tried not to laugh and asked, “Was that Martin Luther King?”  He kind of shook his head, smiled sheepishly, and said, “Oh, no.  That was God.”


Three Little Girls January 22, 2010

Filed under: Teaching — Jen @ 5:56 am

I had lunch with three of my students today.  One is particularly sweet and basically a perfect child.  Let’s call her Ashley.  Another one is really sweet and I think gifted but often does her own thing, and I have suspected there are some issues at home.  Let’s call her Karly.  The other girl is like a 16-year-old trapped in a 6-year-old’s body.  She has the biggest attitude I’ve ever seen in a young child – always rolling her eyes at me and smacking.  She is pretty consistently in a bad mood and is often mean to other kids.  Let’s call her Kenyatta.

Innocent questions about their families turned into this conversation:

Ashley:  My daddy doesn’t live with us.  He in jail.  He broke the law.

Me:  Do you get to visit him?

Ashley:  Yes.

Me:  How’s he doing?

Ashley:  Good.  He gets to play basketball and football behind his school.

Karly:  I never visit my daddy in jail.  …He was selling crack.  And weed.

Kenyatta:  Oooooh, you said two bad words.

Me:  Karly, how many brothers and sisters do you have?

Karly:  I had three brothers.

Me:  How old are they?

Karly:  One is seven.  One is 13.  And one is dead.

Me:  Oh no, how did he die?

Karly:  He jumped off the roof.  He was fixing the roof.  He was 19.

Kenyatta:  My brother was walking to the store and someone shot him in the back of the head 17 times.  He was 18.

Karly:  Someone shot my baby sister all up and down her body.  She was bleeding everywhere.

Me:  But she’s okay?

Karly:  Yes.

Me:  Who shot her?

Karly:  My daddy friend.

Karly:  My sister was kissing a boy.

Kenyatta:  Yeah, my momma saw her kissing a boy.

Karly:  Everyone say she had sex with that boy.

Kenyatta:  Oh that a nasty word.  You cain’t say that!  Not in front of the teacher!

Karly:  (completely unfazed)  They say they had sex.  He say they did.  She say they didn’t.

Me:  How old is your sister?

Karly:  Eleven.  That boy is 15.

I live in a different world than these kids, only 15 minutes away.  In many ways I feel like I adapted to Mozambican culture more easily than this culture.  I don’t understand the world they live in.  I don’t know how to begin to understand what it’s like to be six and know these things about the world.  And I don’t know how to respond.


Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice January 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 6:33 am

My dear friends, Zach and Renee, got their girls today!!!  For those who don’t know, they’ve been going through an adoption process in Colombia for the past two years.  This past summer they found out that they were matched with sisters, Monica (5) and Kelly (4).  On Monday, they flew to Colombia and today they finally got to meet their girls.  Check out their story:


On Being a Teacher Again January 10, 2010

Filed under: Faith,Teaching — Jen @ 8:49 pm

Just as the Israelites were instructed to tell and retell stories of how God worked in their lives – to always remember –  I need to write my story about the last couple months before I forget, before I become swamped in difficulties and challenges.

As I mentioned in my last post, I never, ever thought I’d be back in Houston teaching first grade.  Never, ever.  And I didn’t look for a teaching job either when I found out that I couldn’t return to Mozambique.  In fact, I had decided that I would look for other positions abroad or maybe get a job at Starbucks just to earn a little cash but to do something mindless while I figured my life out.  I also thought maybe I could substitute teach starting in January.  Which is how I ended up on my old school district’s website one evening in November.

It was a bit early to think about subbing, especially since I wanted to take the rest of the year off.  But something prompted me to do some research that night into what I needed to start subbing.  I never did find out what I needed because in the confusion of the district’s website, I ended up on their vacancies page and saw two postings:  third grade bilingual and first grade.  First grade is what I had taught for three years.  I clicked on the link and realized I knew the principal because she had been the AP at the first school I taught at.  The deadline was two days later.  I knew I needed to apply.  It was too weird that I should come across that particular posting without looking for it.  I immediately emailed the principal to let her know I’d be sending my stuff in.

I was jittery that night.  In a sense, I knew I already had the job.  And that scared me because I didn’t want to be in the States teaching.  I wanted to go back to Mozambique.  On the other hand, I knew there were so many positives to teaching in this season:  earning some money so that I could buy a plane ticket to go to Mozambique in June to collect my things and say good-bye properly to friends and colleagues, gain some more teaching experience, renew my teaching credentials which expire in March, connect to church and friends for more than just a couple weeks, etc.  There were many reasons why staying in Houston and teaching would be ideal.

A couple weeks later I went for the interview and felt an instinct to turn around when I walked into the school building.  Thoughts of, “What am I doing here?  I left this three and a half years ago!  This can’t be my life again,” ran through my head.  And I prayed, “God, you know I don’t want to be in Houston right now.  You know I’m weirded out by interviewing for a teaching job.  But I applied because I believe you brought this job to my attention.  I will interview in my best ability.  If you want me to have this job, give me this job, and I will gratefully accept it.  If you don’t want me to have this job, please give it to the person who most deserves it, and I will also gratefully accept that.”  It was a no-lose situation for me.

The next day, the principal called and offered me the job.  I gratefully accepted it, but I also cried on the way home from a meeting I had been at as the reality of not going back to Mozambique and now living in Houston hit me.  This is my life:  I am once again a first grade teacher living in Houston.  I couldn’t help wondering that if I’m right back where I started, what was my time in England and Mozambique about.

In the following couple weeks, I visited my new class several times to meet the kids and get a feel for their routines and curriculum.  I found out that their first teacher had been fired, and they were on their second long-term sub.  I would be their fourth teacher of the year.  Many teachers stopped me in the hallway or came through the classroom and told me how excited they were to have me.  The language arts specialist, who had been working daily with my class, was particularly enthusiastic.  She told me how the principal had come to her one day and said, “You’ll never guess the email I got last night,” in reference to the one I had sent her letting her know I’d be applying for the job.  The language arts specialist explained, “We were worried about filling that position mid-year.”  I said, “Oh, didn’t anyone else apply for the job?”  She said, “142 people did.”  More affirmation that  God wanted me to have the job.

During those days of observations, I also began to get a feel for the kids.  Here were a couple conversations I had:

Boy:  Can you help me write this letter?

Me:  Sure, what do you want to say to your mom?

Boy:  That I love her, even though she’s in jail.


Girl:  Teacher, she said the t-word!

Me:  I’m sorry, I don’t know what the t-word is.

Girl demonstrates by cupping hands around chest.


Boy:  (Pointing to some snacks that kids had brought in for a holiday party)  Can we take those snacks home?

Me:  Then there wouldn’t be any for the party on Friday.  Wouldn’t it be more fun to have a party?

Boy:  But I don’t have any food at home.


I also found out that another child’s parents beat him, and a little girl told another teacher that her brother might go to jail for raping a girl.  Her brother is 13.  And this girl is six and knows what rape is.

It struck me that parts of Houston are as much a mission field as Beira.  The issues are the same.  There might not be AIDS orphans here, but there are “jail orphans” and hunger, poverty, and abuse.  This week it’s been in the 30s, and there are several children in the school who do not have jackets.

My heart changed toward teaching.  I began to get excited about developing relationships with my students, loving them, encouraging them.  I began to get excited about setting up my classroom and doing lessons – using my creativity in ways I knew I was good at and hadn’t been able to exercise in awhile.  I still struggle with “going backwards”, but relationships are relationships, and love is love, whether it’s with high school students in Beira or elementary school students in Houston.  I want my heart to be open to that and remember Who brought me to Beira and Who brought me to Houston, especially when things start getting tough.