Monday, January 29, 2018

The Least of These

Almost exactly six months ago, I wrote about the lesson that can be learned from dog poo.

And although it is incredibly humbling every time you have to pick up dog poo (or anyone's poo), I learned a new level of humbling last night and this morning.

You see, this past Saturday, Jane got her spay stitches out (no cone, go Jane, dignity!), and she also received medication for a tapeworm (not so dignified), and she got her rabies shot as well. She seemed fine on Saturday, but then all hell broke loose on Sunday.

As the day went on, Jane's poo got waterier and waterier (oh yeah, if you are easily grossed out, stop here) until, around 11 last night when we were settling in for bed, I looked over and Jane was going to the bathroom on my bedroom floor. While she has had accidents in the past (she's only lived here for about a month), she's never been that brazen about it. All I could do was just watch as a wave (that's the only way I can think to describe it) of poo came pouring fourth.

I wish I could tell you I was kind. I wish I could tell you I was understanding. But I am ashamed to admit that my first reaction was to raise my voice at her. She immediately hid under the bed because she knew she had messed up.

But had she? Had she really?

The thing is, no she hadn't. Her tummy was upset, and she couldn't help it. I don't know about you, but I can think of some times in the past when my tummy hurt and holding it was pretty much not an option.

I felt so bad, but God gave me the opportunity to redeem myself this morning when, upon waking up and going to Jane's crate to get her for her morning walk, I saw that she had gone to the bathroom in her crate. Not nearly as watery as the night before, thank God, but she has never gone in her crate before.

This time, I told Jane it was okay, it wasn't her fault, and I was sorry her tummy was so upset. I took her for a walk, then got out the paper towels and Lysol to clean her crate before getting ready for school. I called the vet and after my afterschool class today I went down and got her a medication the doctor thinks will help. (The doctor said that it could be her worms medication, the rabies shot, or the combination that is making her feel unwell. It could have just been too much for her.)

As I was driving to the vet to get her medications, it occurred to me that Jesus said, "... whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."

I've heard this verse a million times, and I always associated it with how we should treat the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the imprisoned, etc. But then I thought -- Jane is one of God's little creatures, and, although she has more defenses than some animals (like Baby Snicks), she is still a little, helpless dog who was also created by God. She can't tell me when her stomach hurts, when she has to go to the bathroom, etc. She relies on me to meet her every need. And I can either raise my voice and get upset about things that don't really matter, or I can give her the best I have to offer, just like I would if she were Jesus's dog.

I've talked before about how I've learned that God doesn't see your ability as much as your availability. And here I am, available, and I have paper towels and Lysol, you know? The dog currently asleep on my lap, preventing the ease with which I can type this, lived in the shelter, on the street, and only God knows where else and also only God knows what has happened to her. I learned today that it takes a lot to get a dog off the street and into a family.

I understand that Jane is not a person, she is a dog, but I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I have served Jane well, as best I can. As Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Our Only Hope

Jane got spayed yesterday, and although she seems to be doing very well, I can also tell that she's very sore, tired, and low-energy. She's shaky as well. I also think she misses Joe and Asha very much.

And maybe I do, too.

So tonight, after I got home from the school dance and Jane and I went on a little walk, we decided that since things were proving rough for us heroines, our only hope was Jane Austen.

The OG Jane.

Jane #2 has never seen any of the movies based on Jane Austen's books, so we decided that was exactly what our souls needed. I told Jane how much Baby Snicks used to love Jane Austen films as well. :)

So tonight, right now, we are both lying on my bed -- a treat for Jane as she is not usually allowed up -- and we are watching Persuasion. We are forgetting that our bodies hurt and our hearts hurt, and we are letting OG Jane Austen work her magic.

It will work. It always does.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Talked to a Drug Addict Today

I think I talked to a drug addict today.

I'm not kidding. Nor am I trying to be judgmental.

He was across the alley from my front door, leaned up against a garage door, waiting. Now, I am not trying to assume, but I will say that over Christmas break Joe and I saw two similar looking guys leaning against the same garage door, and we also saw them get picked up by an SUV and then dropped off again around the corner. (We were leaving the house to go downtown, so we basically followed the car.) I also live in a sketchy alley in a city known for its immense drug problem.

Want to know what we talked about?

I was walking Jane Austen in the snow (we got about 4" today I'd say), and we were returning home. He said, "The snow is almost too high for her!" And I laughed and said, "I know, she's just sinking in!" Jane started barking at him, and I said, "I'm sorry, she's new." And he said, "Oh, it's okay." And I smiled at him, and then I took Janie inside.

And the minute I shut the door, I wondered -- what if I was the only nice person he talked to today? Or the last nice person he'd talk to?

Not that I was even that nice. I just chatted. But I am so worried about him now. He seemed so nice. He cared about Jane Austen, and he reached out.

I'm so worried that right now he's alone, or high, or unconscious, or cold.

This post has no point really. No solution. No suggestions.

Just a note that I talked to an addict today. And he was really nice to me and and Jane.

And I hope God takes care of my new friend tonight.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Christmas 2017 and New Year 2018

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season! Our break was extended a bit, as we were supposed to go back today, but it is very icy outside, so school was cancelled.

Overall, my break was wonderful but also a little bit tiring. Joe spent the week of Christmas here, then I spent the week of New Year with him in Atlanta, and I'm going back to Atlanta this weekend for his birthday. (We have next Monday off of school due to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.) I feel like I live in two states right now, and, honestly, it can be pretty trying. It gets harder and harder to be far away from Joe, and it really puts an emotional strain on both of us. We try to make the best of it, though.


Joe and I did do one thing over break that we've never done together before. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but what's done is done.

We saw a movie together.

I honestly think we may have held the record for longest relationship without ever going to the theatre to see a movie together. We've been dating since September 2016, were engaged in April 2017, and will be married in June 2018, and we just saw our first movie together. (For the record it was The Last Jedi, which was totally awesome.) I guess I'll need to console myself with the knowledge that we still hold the record for longest relationship without being friends on Facebook. :)


For a long time I've been a fan of Jennifer Fulweiler. Lately she's been focused more on her radio show and hasn't been writing as much, which makes me sad, but I still appreciate her insights and enjoy reading her archives. A few years ago she created a Saint's Name Generator, where you can click and randomly receive the name of a saint to learn more about, be your saint for the year, etc. This year for the first time she also created a word of the year generator. This generator will chose an inspiring word for you at random. Having a word to focus on for the year is something I read about a few years ago and have done in the past. I've focused on words such as "open," "hope," and "extraordinary." These are words that have come to me as I've thought about it, but this year I decided to try Jennifer's generator. The word I got:

Looks like 2018 will be a year pretty much like all the other years of my life. :) But I feel like maybe I should do more with it this year. Keep a list of books I read this year or something like that. I'll think about it. But in the meantime, find me on the Litsy app (annawhoismagic)!


My gut tells me that this year will fly by, especially the rest of this school year. It seems hard to believe when it's so icy and cold outside, but I know it's true. I think summer break will be here again before we know it, and time will keep moving forward as it always does. I pray that I will take time to enjoy these moments of my life and not wish myself into the future. I pray 2018 is the best year yet for you, too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Because You Can.

With so much going on in this season of life (wedding planning, trip to Hong Kong, Christmas), I haven't been able to blog in a while. While I have many things to share (Hong Kong pics soon, promise!) today I wanted to share something extra special. It has to do with three little words:

Because you can.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jordan posted a video in which a police officer stumbled upon a man and woman living on the streets, about to shoot heroin. As if that is not tragic enough, the police officer realized that the woman was very pregnant as well. At first he said things to her like, "Why are you going to do that to your child?" but then he realized that what this woman desperately needed was for someone to take her baby.

The police officer said to the journalist:

“I just felt God telling me ‘tell her that you will do it ... BECAUSE YOU CAN.’”

Those words just hit me in the gut.


Was it convenient for this man and his wife to adopt this drug-exposed baby? No. Was it easy? No. Would their lives have been far less complicated had they just said no? Definitely.

But they decided to open their hearts and their home to this baby. Because they could.

As you all know, Baby Snicks, the love of my life, died in May. Even now, I can't speak or type his name without immediately tearing up. I miss his soft fur, his floppy ears, the way he moved. His loss was so profound that it changed me, and I won't ever get over it.

This past Saturday evening, the anniversary of the birth of my girl, Jane Austen, I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across the photo of a little black and white dog who was at the shelter and needed to be adopted. Something about her just pulled at my heart, and a name even popped into my head. Before I knew what I was doing, I was asking about her to see if she was still available.

She was. But not for long, they said. She was so sweet that she was sure to get scooped up.

All day Sunday, I thought about this dog. I thought of all the reasons that it was not a good idea to look into adopting her. (Getting married soon, Joe has a dog, out of town a lot, expensive, not the right time of my life, I have no idea how to have a dog, etc.) But then I also realized it was the 17th of the month. Baby Snicks died on the 17th of May. And those three words kept coming back to me.

Because you can.

I consulted Joe. I consulted my mom, whose help I would need when I would be out of town. They were both encouraging, especially knowing what I had been through losing Baby S and being so lonely these past months without him.

I called the shelter yesterday morning at 9:59.

They couldn't figure out which dog I was talking about. She didn't have a name or an ID number. Her photo wasn't on the shelter's page; it had been posted by a volunteer. Just when I was ready to give up because I was so frustrated, the person on the phone told me to hold on. There was a woman in the shelter holding my dog at that moment. This woman confirmed this was the dog I was talking about: black and white, two years old, about 10-15 lbs., some sort of terrier. She was interested in the dog too. I told the woman on the phone that I understood. The woman on the phone told me that the other interested person said the dog might not be 100% right for their family, but she wanted to know what kind of home I'd provide because if I didn't commit to her, she'd take the dog home. I told the woman on the phone that I am a teacher, I live alone, and, most importantly, my beloved boy died in May ... cue immediate sobbing.

After committing to her and paying her fee over the phone I FREAKED OUT. I immediately was like WHAT HAVE I DONE?! And I said as much to Joe. But what he said back was

It's going to be just fine! Relax, you've done a great thing. You've saved a life and we are going to give her a great home!

Because we can.

Would it be easier to just watch TV or read and not have to worry about training a dog that's lived on the streets and in a shelter? Yes. But I have the space for this dog. So why would I leave her in the shelter? Now I've given her a home and made room for another dog to hopefully find his or her new home too.

Joe has trained a dog and knows what he's doing. He'll be here later this week to help. He told me exactly what to get and do today to start off strong. Snicks has a great vet staff, and they will help me. (Also, I'm so happy to be able to see them all again!) My contribution was that I dusted and vacuumed because I did not want this dog to think we lived in squalor.

One thing last night was very hard though. Joe told me, kindly, that it would be best for this new dog if I were to pick up all of Snicks's things from the floor. His towels were still out, as was his bed and stuffed animals. I hadn't been able to bring myself to pick them up. But Joe told me that having his scent on these items on the floor would not help our new little one. So, while sobbing, I picked up that precious boy's things for the very last time.

The thing is, this dog has Snicks to thank for her new life. Because there's no way that this dog would be here had Snickers not been here first. I didn't rescue the dog, Baby Snicks did.

So, everyone, say hello to Jane Austen Lafferre-Kraft.

Joe now has not one, not two, but THREE Kraft girls to deal with.

Please pray that I do the right things with her. Please pray that we are a good fit for each other. And please pray that my heart will in no way compare her to Baby Snicks, but instead will make room for both of them. I'm not going to lie, this first day with her has been hard. But I'm trying. And I know she is too.

In loving memory of Baby Snickers. You are loved so much, sweet boy. Thank you for everything. You will never be forgotten. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

God Will See.

Last year, I gave my then-sixth grade students a test on verbs. Admittedly, this is harder than it sounds, as this unit covers everything from transitive and intransitive verbs to progressive forms to perfect tenses and everything in between.

The results were abysmal.

That might sound mean, but it is true. The students knew it, and so did I.

Through no fault of their own, they really did not have a foundation in grammar, and, as they admitted to me this year, they were mostly guessing on the exams.

Yes, I mean exams, plural.

The students took one verbs test the regular way. Then took the same test open book, and some students did even worse the second time. Finally, some were given a copy of the test to take home to work on, in an attempt to help them understand the concepts.

It was a low point in a year that was marked with struggles, which these particular students have worked really hard to overcome.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago ...

"All right seventh grade, we're going to start a new grammar unit today. On verbs."

Ten stricken faces.


I told the students that we were going to forget about what happened last year. They had a foundation now, and they had worked hard. We were going to start over.

I started teaching them the verbs unit again, the seventh grade version this time, in much the same way I taught it to them last year: a mix of notes, examples, activities, and practice sheets. This unit is long, and I could tell we were all getting stressed as test time loomed closer and closer.

Until finally ...

"Your grammar test on verbs will be Thursday, October 26, guys."

Thursday, October 26 came. Fourth period. Ten kids took their seats. Everyone took one deep breath in and then let it out. They started.

I monitored this exam more closely than any other in the past. I stood over the students, watching them work. Sometimes I'd stop and see a student having chosen the wrong response. Please change it to E, change it to E, change it to E, I'd think. I'd make a round around the room, come back to that student, and find that she had changed it to E. Slowly, the finished exams started trickling in.

I super secretly took out a note card and copied the answer key from the master book onto it so that the students couldn't see that I was grading their tests as they handed them in. I looked at the first one, and I panicked as I saw that this student was getting EVERY QUESTION WRONG. Imagine my relief when I realized I had accidentally used the sixth grade answer key and not the seventh grade one.


I looked at the first test, then the second. Then the third and the fourth. The fifth. The sixth. Class ended, the kids left. I kept looking.

When I graded that last test and wrote 88% at the top, I sat back in my chair and realized ...

They had passed. All of them had passed.

I cried. I couldn't believe it.

And all I could think was T-E-A-C-H-E-R.

At the end of September we had a professional development session where my principal had us watch a video of a speech by Jonathan Doyle, who was speaking on the role of the Catholic school educator (but I really think his message could apply to a lot of different positions and careers).

It changed my life.

Jonathan Doyle said that, as educators, we have to own our purpose and understand that there's a reason God has put us where we are. He said we must understand the story we're really in. Meaning, we can tell people that our job is teaching English, or we can tell people that we are partnering with God Almighty to raise His children.


He referenced the movie A Man for All Seasons, in the scene where Sir (now Saint) Thomas More is talking to Richard Rich. Basically, Rich wants to be in a position where he's highly visible and highly regarded by others.

Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher. Perhaps a great one.

Richard Rich: lf I was, who would know it?

Thomas More: You! Your pupils. Your friends. God. Not a bad public, that.

Interestingly, I received an email this morning from a priest friend of mine, in which he recounted this story:

Have you ever wondered how Michelangelo finished his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Was it really that he accomplished these paintings by himself alone?

Quoting Michelangelo himself: 

"After four tortured years, more than 400 over life-size figures, I felt as old and as weary as Jeremiah. I was only 37, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become.”

Working on scaffolding was physically demanding, and Michelangelo created image after image on an ever increasing scale. He eventually exerted all the power of his mind and spirit, using themes and motifs from past sculptural works in his glorious fresco masterpiece. The four-year ordeal proved physically and emotionally agonizing for the reluctant artist… Perhaps what has struck me the most was his response when someone asked him why he was so serious painting those images even on parts of the ceiling where no one could notice. 

And I also asked myself, “Yeah, why bother to exert your effort to paint something that eventually only a few could notice?”

Michelangelo’s reply to that inquiry was:

God will see.

Jonathan Doyle also said that God comes to us disguised as our life. Everything matters. Just keep going.

His point? We're doing much more than teaching. He quotes C.S. Lewis:

"God claims every square inch of the universe, and Satan counterclaims it."

We're in a daily battle for souls, and our classrooms are the front lines.

Doyle said that God Almighty could show up in our classrooms next week, of course He could He's God. But if God doesn't show up in person, how will our students experience God? It's us. It's teachers.

God, make me a better teacher today than I was yesterday. And help me to remember that the things I do and say to my students have eternal consequences. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


It is no secret that I love Jane Austen. I love her, and I love all of her novels. Most people would probably name Pride and Prejudice as their favorite of the Austens. However, I'm not able to do that. The best I've been able to do thus far is put the books in an upper three (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma) and a lower three (Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey), which is not to say that I dislike any of them.

The other day, however, I was forced to pick up only one Austen, and, to my surprise, I just said it -- Persuasion.

You see, Persuasion is the novel that features Jane's oldest heroine. At the ripe old age of 27 (pretty much a spinster in Jane's time), Anne Elliot had given up on love and was destined to live her life alone. Jane Austen herself never found love and also never married (often mutually exclusive in her time). Indeed, Anne Elliot was the Austen heroine most like Austen herself. Anne and Jane were both spinsters who watched people around them settle down, marry, and have children.

The truth is, I think I've always seen a little of myself in Anne Elliot. I would love to be the witty, confident Elizabeth Bennet or the self-assured, playful Emma, but the truth is I am probably most like the introverted, mature Anne.

This past Friday, my dear friend Maggie took engagement photos for Joe and me. Her specialty is photos taken outdoors in natural light, and her photographs are beautiful. (I am so fortunate she is taking my wedding photos as well.) Maggie took some photos in Ritter Park, but then, because she is such a good-hearted friend, also indulged my desire to have photos taken at the Cabell County Public Library, even though that is not something she usually does. Maggie, knowing that my love for Jane Austen is real and eternal, told me to pick an Austen novel for the photos. Just one.

I picked Persuasion.

We used it in several photos, but my favorite was one where Joe and I were sitting in an aisle, surrounded by books, with him holding Persuasion and both of us looking at it. Although I am smiling in the photo, this was the moment during our photo shoot where there were tears welling up in my eyes, and they were real and big.

You see, as I sat there in the stacks, beside Joe whom I love, who will be my husband for life, and looked down at the copy of Persuasion he was holding, I was overcome. Overcome thinking about Anne, about Jane. Anne, who got her love in the form of Captain Wentworth in the end, and Jane, who wrote the world's greatest love stories but never found love herself.

Anne and Jane, who have gotten me through so many times in my life. Times when I thought, like Anne did through most of Persuasion, that love wasn't in the cards for me, and I was destined to be the favorite aunt instead.

Sitting beside Joe, who was holding Jane's story about Anne while I looked down into it, hit my heart in such a way that I still struggle to describe it, days later. My heart was so full that it came out of my eyes, I think.

Incidentally, Maggie gave us one sneak peek photo in advance of the others we are to expect in about a month. She got it to us Friday night, the same evening she took the photos. Which one did she choose to send?

Thank you, Anne. And thank you, Jane, as always.