March 15, 2018: Claws and Concealer

“Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.”

-Julie Bowen

I’ve had lots of stitches in my life.

I don’t think anyone would describe me as graceful. I’m a very clumsy person. That clumsiness started young.

I was maybe in second grade.My cat Whiskers had recently had a litter of kittens. They were getting everywhere, and Whiskers was hiding them in the strangest spots. So my mom, dad, and brother decided that we needed to build a sort of “kennel” to keep them and Whiskers in while we were gone during the day.

Supplies had been gathered (some wood and chicken wire) and building had started. We were working away for a couple of hours. (I’m guessing I was more of a hinderance than a help.) We had put up our impromptu shop in the gravel drive way that led to the basement.

We had made lots of progress and now it was time for lunch. My mom and brother had already went inside to get some food together. I decided I wanted to stay (I don’t know what I thought I was going to accomplish).

I had a hammer in my hand and walked across the gravel to the makeshift table holding all the extra supplies. I was swinging my tool as I walked. The pebbles of the drive slipped from under my feet. I fell flat on my back with a thud. That part wasn’t so bad, just knocked the breath out of me.

The problem was I had lost the hammer. As I came down I had flung the hammer up so I could use my hands to catch myself. I saw one flash of sliver off the claws of the hammer before it struck my face.

When I recovered my wits enough I walked myself back inside. In the time that took (under two minutes) the corner of my eye had swelled enough that I couldn’t see out of it anymore. My mom rushed me to the emergency room. Next thing I knew a needle was weaving in and out of my vision. Three stitches later I was good as new.

I was incredibly lucky that the hammer didn’t land on “tails.” The strike was close enough to my eye that if it had landed claws down I’d be wearing a glass one today. Now, unless you watch me apply my concealer (or specifically look for it on the days I don’t wear makeup) you’d never know I have a scar about the size of a pea on the outside corner of my left eye.

So there you have it, my first two experiences with stitches were both blows taken to the face, one with a hammer and one with a pool.

I think it’s safe to say I made sure my parents lives weren’t boring. 🙂



March 14, 2018: Pebbles and Pixie Dust

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.”


About a week ago I gave my homeroom class a list of first that I had jotted down for blogging ideas. I asked them to help me choose what to write about for the day and pick an idea off the list. Today I did the same thing with my co-teaching class.

Their choice?

My first sleep over.

First of all I don’t remember how old I was. I can tell you that I was in early elementary school (3rd grade or earlier). We were still living in Columbia at the time. We lived in a modest home on a cul-de-sac on the outskirts of town.

As with most first sleep overs for young kids I had planned it with my “best friend.” Her name was Sasha. I feel like a horrible person because as I sit here staring at my screen, I can’t for the life of me remember her last name. I actually had to ask my parents for the purposes of this blog. According to them it was Martinez.

I should have known this. I remember their house had a very Spanish influenced decorating theme. There was the skull of a long-horn steer on the wall and a matadors cape next to it. A cow hide rug on the floor of the livingroom. “Mexican blankets” were draped over every surface.

Back to the story.

Sasha lived down the street from me. She was a year ahead of me in school. I thought she was very mature. She was my first friend who was a girl. Most of the kids on my street were boys.

I got along great with the boys. I remember being a bit of a tomboy. Boy’s were more fun than most girls that I knew. We did awesome things like load up three or four people in my red Radio Flyer at the top of the hill on our cul-de-sac. We’d flip the black handle bar around like sort of steering wheel and use the momentum of our combined weight to race down the hill. At the bottom crossed over the major highway (effectively giving my mother a heart attach when she found out) and into the field/ditch on the other side. Man, that was fun!

Sasha didn’t ever want to do things like this, no matter how often I suggested it. She wanted to do things like play with barbies, or play house or other “girl” things. In fact, she was kind of bossy and a little mean. I often see memes or t-shirts that talk about when we call little girls bossy it means they’re a leader. Maybe that’s true of some girls, not of Sasha. She was just manipulative. To be honest I don’t know why she was my best friend. (Maybe just because of proximity or because she was a girl.)

The day arrived. And… I fulfilled stereotypical “first sleep over” role, I went home in the middle of the night. I did not have fun.

  1. When playing outside before dinner Sasha convinced another kid on the street to join us. She thought it would be fun to have one person hold hands and the other to hold feet and to swing between them. When my turn in the middle came she dropped me. My top half (the side she held) hit the pavement of the road and a small pebble pierced my shoulder blade.
  2. I didn’t enjoy dinner. We didn’t eat hispanic food often in my house. And what her parents fixed my parents never fixed.
  3. Sasha wanted to stay up all night long. I was not down with this. (Even in my youth I LOVED sleep.)
  4. When I eventually did fall asleep she got a packet of Kool-Aid out of her kitchen, poured it into her hand and blew it in my face (up my nose) as I slept. When I asked her why she did that, she said it was “pixie dust.”

So… I wanted to go home.

Somewhat luckily my parents and her parents didn’t have to do much to make this happen. We walked down the road and met in the middle. I collapsed into my bed and fell fast asleep.

Since then I had few more sleep overs at other peoples houses. But, not many. I usually wanted people to come over to my house.

I’m still this way. I don’t actually sleep in other peoples places (even if you have the most comfortable bed/couch and in no way treat me like Sasha).

If I had to pick the place that I love best, it’s my own bed. For real.

-Goodnight (Okay… it’s only “good afternoon.” I’m just preping.)

March 13, 2018: Graduates and Graduation

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

-E.E. Cummings 

I have some exciting news (at least I think it is exciting). My student teaching class is graduating this May!

A fact I shared with a meeting group a month or more ago was that I had always taught 5th grade. This is true. Junior block, I was in a 5th grade class. Student teaching, I was in a 5th grade class. The last 7 years, I’ve taught in a 5th grade class.

Well, this year is my first classes graduation. Because I only taught for a few lessons in Junior Block, I am counting my Student teaching as my first class. Irving Elementary of Joplin, Mo was a great place to get my first real taste of teacher-dom.

Every year I make a promise to my class on the last day of school. “I will be at your graduation to watch you walk across that stage.”

Every once in a while I get a student who gets me started on a conversation along the lines below.

“What if we don’t graduate at Webb City, will you still come to our graduation?”

“If it is at all within my power to do so, yes! If I can’t get there I still want a graduation announcement that tells me where to send a card.”

“Where do we send it?” They ask.

“Send it here. If for some reason I don’t teach here, someone will know how to get ahold of me. But there’s also this handy thing called the internet. If I’m not teaching here, I’ll be teaching somewhere, find me! I wan’t that graduation announcement!”

“Why, Miss Koch?”

“I wan’t you to know you’re not just my student when your sitting in my class. When I’m sitting at your graduation I’m going to lean over to the person next to me and whisper, ‘I was their teacher!’ If I only get your announcement I’m going to put it up on a wall and do the same thing to anyone who passes and will listen, ‘I was their teacher,’ I’ll brag!”

“Why will you brag?”

“Because I’ll be proud of what you accomplished!”

“It’s just high school.”

“No. It’s the celebration of the previous 13 years of your life. It’s a recognition of how hard you’ve worked how long you’ve spent preparing yourself to be strong enough to reach for what ever you want out of life. Whether you graduate at the top of your class or somewhere in all the rest of the faces, I’ll be proud! You stuck with it and you made it. No matter what I’ll be honored I got to be a small role in your life story.”

If you’re wondering, I’m already plotting out that wall. I want it to be like some OBGYN’s post pictures of all the babies they’ve delivered into the world. I may not have brought them into the world, but I was a small part of sending them into it. I don’t ever want to take that for granted!

If anyone is attending Joplin’s 2018 High School Graduation, I’ll be there with bells on (as my mom says)!

-Happy Tuesday!


March 12, 2018: Stress and SOL-ing

“Confront the page that taunts you with its whiteness. Face your enemy and fill it with words. You are bigger and stronger than a piece of paper.” 
― Fennel Hudson

We’re at that time. I like to call it the “Dead Zone” (thank you Steven King). The school year is rapidly approaching stress city. We are preparing alterations to curriculums for next year. Kids (and to be honest, teachers) are itching for spring break. And the biggest beast of them all, MAP testing is just around the bend.

Add on top of that a commitment to write for 31 (or 17) days in one of the most stressful months of the year, I can feel the brain cramps now. I bet there are at least a few folks out there who are struggling to keep at it. I know I am. Let me just encourage you that you’ve been going strong for almost two whole weeks. You can do it.

Over the weekend I plotted out a few more “firsts.” I am a theme kind of person. (I both love and hate that about myself.) I like things to have a unifying element. Which is how I got to the idea of “firsts.” After having participated in Slice of Life for a couple of years, I’ve learned where I struggle. And the biggest one of them all? Exhaustion.

My mother laughs when I say it, but I’m an old woman! After work I don’t get much done. I’ve learned over the past three years that on a school day I have to set out to write my post no later than four p.m. Why? Because if I take my computer home, there is a very small chance it ever gets taken out of my bag (that’s hard to do when your snoring away on the couch).

During the school day I find pockets of five minutes here or there to scrawl out my ideas. I’ve usually got a rough draft out by mid day, then I spend the rest of the day revising and editing.  On weekends I set my alarm on my phone. (Okay, I might have three alarms…per day.)

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to make a list of writing ideas. I didn’t do this the first year (or the second) and man was writing a struggle just five short days in. It’s difficult to generate new ideas when your brain is out of commission from stress and fatigue.

You may not be able to get 31 (or 17) items down straight out of the gate. So, I don’t worry about having my whole list done. It’s possible even if I did this, I wouldn’t ever want to write about some of those things. Instead I try to have at least a list of 10 things at any given time (I delete things after I’ve used them). I also make sure my list is mobil (usually on my phone), so that when an idea hits I can add it to my list. I’m the type of person that I get inspiration in random places.

Personally, I take the list one step further. My list needs a theme. In that first year writing random things down didn’t seem to work out for me. If I have a theme my mind chews on it and I get a better range of topics because it’s always there sitting at the back of my brain.

Have you ever had that instance where you just learned something new, and then you see it everywhere. It’s sort of like my second car, Almonzo. He was a Chevy HHR. I hadn’t seen them anywhere! Then, before I went in to buy a new car, and was in the research phase, I came across them. After that, I saw them every where!

Themes do the same thing for me. The theme “firsts” is hovering in my synapsis. When I do something, even the most mundane of tasks, one of two things happens. One, I think “Well, this is a first for me. Hey! This is a first for me!” and I jot it down on the list. Or two, I think, “I remember when I did this for the first time! Hey..” and I jot it down on the list.

When I think back, I sure have learned a lot since that FIRST Slice in 2016. If your wondering… it was about tulips rising after a beautiful winter.  😉


March 11, 2018: Mario and Mowers

“That horrifying moment when you’re looking for an adult, but you realize you are an adult. So, you look around for an older adult. An adultier adult, someone better at adulting than you.”


Today’s “first” is actually a first that happened today. 

I bought a lawn mower.

lawn mower.png

I’ve lived with a lawn for years (perhaps every year of my life except for those spent in college dorm rooms). I’ve lived on my own (out of my parent’s house) since I was 18. Even when summers arrived during college I would only spend a few weeks at home. I either had summer jobs away or was taking trips. Despite this I’ve avoided buying a lawn mower for *cough* years.

I didn’t really support myself until after college. I’d been lucky enough in life to have a lot of watchful eyes making sure I didn’t starve (thanks to many a care package from the Oak Hill Christian Church ladies). The first apartment where mowing the lawn was a requirement was a duplex I occupied with two other friends in Carthage. My roommate had purchased a $100 Weed Eater push mower for us to use.

Let me just tell you, I was required to help out with mowing the lawn when I was a kid. I never had an issue with it. Then? Well then I did it as an adult and there was one VAST difference. Turns out I’d never used a push mower until that point (with a large lawn we always had a riding mower). It also turns out I was not prepared. 

I am a total and complete wimp when it comes to mowing with a push mower. With the duplex it was only half a lawn … and a small one at that. The first time I mowed that lawn I got three passes in (it took me about 20 minutes) then took a 45 minute “break.” (I laid down on the linoleum kitchen floor and heaved in drags of air for at lease 35 of those minutes.)

I toughened up a little bit after that, but I still detest push lawn mowers. My current house sets on an acer of land, far too large for me to push mow. So … today I bought my first lawnmower (and yes, it’s a riding lawn mower).

Any time I make purchases like this I feel like Mario (yes …video game Mario). Maybe this is a weird analogy. I don’t know…lets see! Mario runs along, sort of short and stout in his plumbers bib-overalls, following the path wherever it may lead. He hops up and smashes his head on the bricks above him. Nine times out of ten nothing happens. Then lucky number ten comes along and a mushroom shows up. Boom! He’s a grown up version of himself.

I think that’s a pretty accurate description of adulthood and the expenses that come with it. You move along through life where the path leads. When you run into a cost, nine times out of ten it feels like you’re hitting your head into an immovable surface. But, once in a blue moon the surface shifts and a “mushroom” falls. Yeah, your still shelling out more money than you’d like, but the results of that expenditure actually make you feel like you’ve grown up.

Yeah… I wish I could have spent that money on something that I was going to enjoy a bit more (even if I don’t have to stand, I’m never going to love mowing). Despite that, I feel like I’ve grown up just a little bit more today.

Will I ever really feel like a grown up?

What was the last thing you spent money on and felt like a “mushroom” had fallen?

-Over and Out

March 10, 2018: T-shirts and Tea Cups

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”

– Pablo Picasso

A few weeks ago I was at a Vertical Alignment meeting. As is per usual at many a Webb City staff meeting, we began with a meet-and-greet activity. Walking around the group sporting my super stylish Pompeii headband (thank you Mary Sears) I walk up to the third person. I extend my hand and say, “Hello I’m Laura.” My new partner tells me her name and says, “you’re the t-shirt lady, right?”

This gave me a good chuckle. I have to admit, if I have to go by any moniker, I’m more than cool with that one. And, it’s true. I design a lot of t-shirts. Enough that the company I fulfill most my orders with has assigned me a personal contact.

I once tried to count how many I’ve made in the seven years that I’ve worked at Webb. I don’t think I ever got an accurate count. I can tell you it’s at least 12 separate designs. It gets a little hectic in the money gathering and getting out individual orders.

No matter the parts that are less thrilling, I do really enjoy the functionally creative aspect of t-shirt design. I love opportunities to satisfy curiosity and creativity in different outlets (writing, painting, etc.). Most of those outlets are very personal and even private. T-shirt design lets me stretch my comfort zones and push out of my introversion (you know because it’s a healthy thing to do…) in a somewhat comfortable (for me) space. Maybe that sounds silly but it’s what works for me, even at 13 when I was the new girl in town.

I didn’t start designing t-shirts just for Webb City. The first t-shirt I ever designed was for middle school band. Our instructor decided we needed a group shirt. He allowed the students to submit designs. I don’t remember how many kids came up with something. The whole band voted on which they liked best.

I remember I voted on a someones design that had claw slashes, or something like it. It was very cool.My design was a little haphazard. I designed it on a cool program, that was only a couple years old, Word. I remember I included just about every picture related to instruments I could find on the ClipArt addition.

I am a well known pack rat, especially when something has sentimental value. (I still have a mini tea set, still in the package. My Great Grandma Earp got it for me well past the appropriate age. I kept it because she was well into her 90’s and despite deteriorating health had physically gone to the store to buy it for me.) Being so thorough of a keep-saker I was disappointed to find that I hadn’t kept the shirt (though I did find my 5th grade graduation t-shirt).

Band lasted for six years (4th-9th), but the “t-shirt’n” is hanging on strong.

-Peace Out

P.S.- I’m super excited for everyone to enjoy design number 13… the Slice of Life shirt for 2018!



March 9, 2018: Trophies and Tourneys

“To be a champion, compete; to be a great champion, compete with the best; but to be the greatest champion, compete with yourself.” 
― Matshona Dhliwayo

I’ve already confessed I’m not competitive, in fact I tend towards anti-competitiveness.

With that in mind let’s talk about my first trophy.

When I was in 8th grade we were offered the opportunity to take Speech. We were told that if taken our 8th grade year it would be counted as our Speech credit in High School (thereby avoiding taking the class again). This was an incredibly enticing opportunity as it insured I would be taking the class with only kids my age. High school speech was notorious for having a wide spread of ages (because students avoiding it).

I joined the class and even got an A. Freshman enrollment rolled around and wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t count a junior high credit in high school! I was not a happy camper. I wanted to get it done and out of the way so I signed up for it that year.

About two weeks from the end of the year my speech teacher, Mr. Stein (nephew to Ben Stein), approached me. Enrollment for the next year was coming up soon. He suggested I should consider signing up for his Speech and Debate class and becoming a member of the Forensics Club. This was the first (and I’m pretty sure only) time I had ever been “talent scouted.”

To say I was flattered would be a gross understatement. I was a middle of the row kind of kid. I wasn’t a stand out student and I wasn’t a bad student either. I didn’t have any black marks for behavior but I didn’t have any gold stars either. If it weren’t for my last name and the weight that brought with it I probably wouldn’t have even cast a shadow in school… just blended into the paint.

After that I  didn’t have a choice. Even if I stunk, I had to give it a shot.

The way the class was set up you had to compete in competitions to pass. Mr. Stein thought I should compete in oratory. In this category you write a personal 10 minute persuasive speech. I gave it a shot and bit off more than I could chew. I tried to construct an oratory about predestination…no, I don’t know why.

The first competition was quickly approaching and I hadn’t finished my oratory.  In a last ditch effort to save my grade I had to switch categories. The easiest (for me) was to find a book, take a 10 minute chunk out of it and perform it (there had to be multiple characters speaking) for Dramatic interpretation.

 “Dramatic Interpretation (often shortened to “Dramatic Interp,” “Drama” or just “DI”) is an event in National Forensic League . It consists of a piece from any published work, edited to fit within a 10-minute span with a 30-second grace period (it does not have a minimum and cannot be above 10:30). Some performers adopt the roles of many different characters, changing their tone, manner, and the position of their body to indicate a change in character.” (Information courtesy Wikipedia… because they worded it better than I could.)

It was just a few weeks before the first competition. I had to rush to find a piece and start memorizing it. I picked Mick Harte Was Here (because of my sentimental attachment to it). The first tournament of the year took place in Licking Missouri. It was a small tourney, about five schools attended. Out of 10 or 12 DI performers I was not outstanding.

The upside was now that I’d seen one of these things in action it made sense to me now. Before, when Mr. Stein had spoken about it he might as well have been speaking in a foreign language. Now that I understand I go back home and buckle down.

I’ve learned I’ll need to compete in more than one category to pass. I pulled some poems from Roald Dahl for the poetry competition, and a politically correct bedtime story (of Cinderella) for the storytelling category.

Even though I’ve added some new things to my repertoire my focus becomes Interp. Storytelling and poetry allow you to have a small script in hand. The DI is memorized top to bottom. The piece I’ve chosen gave me three separate characters to portray clearly and effectively. My year goal was to perform it well enough that I made at least one judge cry. (Judges at speech competitions are notoriously stone-faced.)

The next competition was in Springfield Missouri (I think Glendale sponsored it). This competition is so large they split it; one is for novice competitors and another for the varsity. I was obviously a part of the novice group. I don’t remember how many schools participated but there were over 300 DI entrees.

At the end of the day I not only exceeded my year goal (I made two judges cry) but I had also managed to crawl up the rankings and earn a 3rd place trophy in Dramatic Interpretation. The first time I’d ever earned an award based solely on my own skill.

For the first time in my life I understood competitiveness. I could feel the itch in my blood call me back time and time again. I finally got it, what it was to want to be the best.

I spent the next three years eating, sleeping, and breathing Forensics. I gave nearly every category a try (even stand up comedy…never will I do that again) on the drama side of things. I never did move on to debate (despite Mr. Stein’s urging). I couldn’t bring myself to argue in favor something I was morally opposed to. (I got over this in college. I now rather enjoy playing devils advocate.)

By the end of my senior year I found myself leading our schools chapter as co-president. I had even made it to State at Mizzou in two of my three biggest categories (DI and Prose). I learned a lot of things about myself in those three years.

  1. I like speaking in public. For real, like it… not just tolerate it.
  2. Drama/Debate kids are weird, and way more fun for their weirdness.
  3. I’m weird/quirky/awkward/nerdy, and the D/D kids embraced me for it.
  4. I actually had talent in something…who knew!
  5. Turned out, I am competitive. Very competitive. . with myself, and no one else.