Embracing Details for My 2023 Graduates

Last August a group of kids walked into my classroom in the EGHS library. I’m not sure if they had heard warnings from previous students or if they just had a good sense about them, but they were quiet, open to direction, and hard workers beginning on day one. Their eyes widened a bit when they looked at the syllabus for ENGL 111. Starting on that first day, I told them that even though everyone else called them “the seniors,” they were still only juniors with their summer tan for my class. The moniker of being the oldest and wisest students would be earned a few weeks later when we fully dug into the readings, analysis tools, and writing techniques for the critique assignment. In their own time, they all reached the point of truly being high school seniors. I welcomed them into their senior selves with open arms. 

By this point, they actually paid attention to grammar rules. They were learning how to insert quotes and write reference citations using APA formatting. Bless their hearts, they were completing annotations and prewriting like never before. As they began to realize how the whole process worked, they were soon complaining because I made them stay under a four-page limit for a paper, and they “needed” more room! These babies of mine were maturing and growing as thinkers and writers. Just like the students I’ve been blessed with for years, these kids made me think and plan to stay ahead of them. 

During our first weeks of school, they were also learning to juggle being athletic and student body leaders while they met all of their coursework deadlines. These students did not slack on their course selection, and they all carried heavy loads of dual-credit, AP, and advanced classes. Then, they started to think about their future. They thought, planned, thought again, researched, wrote admissions essays and letters, applied, and gathered acceptance emails. As our year moved into the second semester and ENGL 206, my students also learned to enjoy poetry just a smidge more and wrote the most beautiful elegies. When senioritis hit, some of their attention to detail waned. I might have scolded just a bit. Still, they finished strong.

The students encouraged each other, laughed, fought, cried, learned tough life lessons, and felt the accomplishment of achieving goals together. I know that we’ve all had moments to embrace forever and moments we’d like to forget. The Class of 2023 moved across the bumps and expected senior year ebbs and flows right on schedule. If you have a senior in your life, you know what this looks like from your home viewpoint, and I am also so thankful for all the family members who helped and supported my students.  

One of the most powerful moments in the class came just a few days ago as I read aloud from our text and had them write their answers to the questions I asked as if they were in a discussion with themselves. They were thoughtful, serious, open to ideas, and a bit scared. I have never been more proud of them. In those moments and in the final writings, these seniors bloomed into graduates. 

I hope they, like all of my other past graduates, remember that once you are mine, you are always one of mine. Always. These loves are ready for their next steps, and I will always be right here when they need me. Along with their end-of-the-year surprise and note, I continued the tradition and wrote them a graduation poem. Shakespeare or Owen, I am not, but for them I tried my hand at a sonnet, complete with iambic pentameter. I hope they remember the message behind the humor and always mind the details in their work and in their relationships.

Slow Down, Notice, and Create Flow:

A Poem about Embracing Details for the Class of 2023

Your choices make me weak as you are caught

between confusion and the moment when

you let a comma land in the wrong spot.

I sigh and show too much of my chagrin

because I know you know the easy rule.

A partial quote does not undo your wit.

My pencil and green pen prepare to dual

against the lame excuses you permit,

detracting from the lacking care and lapsed

attention phones and friends and boredom steal

from you. Did you make haste to be relaxed,

leaving lazy caps a sad ordeal?

How many signs and samples can I give

to make your grammar be transformative?

How can I let you go to chase your dreams

when still you need to practice once again

the format and the planning to boost esteem?

I’ll have to set you free and trust you then.

Oh, human nature’s way dictates our proud,

self-centered rush, yet you direct your mind.

A thoughtfulness will lead to care endowed

upon your writing skill and on your shrined

relationships. You see, details are more

than for your script. Yes, love and praise belong

to those who search for finer points and pour

the time and plans into specifics—strong.

So, go. And as you travel on, compose

your focus from the commas to the flows.

Lori Vandeventer

May 16, 2023

A Bonus Haiku: Numbers Are Hard

You’ll always belong to me.

Brave. Hard-working. Bright.

Now, go chase ambitious dreams!


Do the Steelers make your blood pump or boil? Are you secretly (or very openly) gleeful when the Lakers lose? When your favorite college team plays, do you let Jesus sit by you on the couch and calmly watch, or will your yells and referee critiques flow freely from your heart and spill out of your mouth? I have to admit I’ve spoken ugly words while supporting my favorite teams, mainly when my husband coached and my kids played. I cringe at the thoughts and comments that bubbled up and out of me, and I’ve apologized to God and to people.

Over the past few years, however, sports haven’t impacted me at all because I don’t care who wins what anymore, but I’ve found myself drawn into another facet of community life. The idea that some political leaders want to create laws forcing everyone to think/behave/read a certain way confuses me. And now that my livelihood as a librarian and teacher is at the center of these discussions, it frightens me. But, true to my goal for this year, I’m going to write in a way that scares me a little. 

The most recent legislative discussion brought to my attention concerns Indiana SB12 about keeping harmful materials away from minors. The bill’s authors want parents to have a way to see and question any material in a school library that they deem inappropriate. The current phrasing then shows that these senators want to “[remove] schools from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions.”

Wait. Does this actually say that I won’t be eligible for defense and will be criminally prosecuted if the library has material that a parent doesn’t like? 

Parents at my corporation can see the holdings of all three libraries, and we have a board-approved policy in place to make sure that all parents have a voice concerning their child’s library selections. Some parents wish for their students to read authors like Judy Blume, Alice Walker, John Steinbeck, Angie Thomas, Sherman Alexie, and William Shakespeare while others don’t. Isn’t it my job, even as a Jesus-following believer, to make sure materials are available for all patrons?

What’s the point of this micromanaging SB12? Are our leaders trying to force their belief system on all citizens? How is that American freedom? 

When I was listening to Annie F. Downs’s podcast Let’s Read the Gospels today, one part of scripture jumped out at me. The reading from the Gospel of Luke shows Jesus as he’s preparing to go to Jerusalem where he knows he will be crucified. In this particular section of Luke 9, Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem and moving through a Samaritan community. The simplified background is that Samaritans and Jewish people hated each other. They had a history of conflict and name-calling where both politics and religion were involved. Take a look at the beginning of the scripture.

Luke 9:51-56 (New International Version)

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 

The Samaritans did not welcome Jesus. They didn’t want him near or in their area because they had different viewpoints on life. The people did not believe in Jesus even when the miracles were happening in that exact time period and in close proximity to them. 

So, the disciples, being fully human with bubbling hearts that spilled out of their mouths, reacted.

54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

Look! Jesus, the living man who is the Christ, rebuked the disciples when they wanted to punish the people who didn’t think like them. Rebuked means to express sharp disapproval. When James and John wanted to destroy the people who thought differently, Jesus sharply criticized them. He shut them down and showed his strong disapproval. Then, he led them to another village to try again.

To me, this means that when humans disagree, Jesus does not want us to force beliefs on each other or use our relationship with Him to oppress and harm each other. Applied to Indiana SB 12, when librarians offer materials, each family chooses the items they want to read.

So, why are our modern legislators, in the name of moral Christianity, continually creating laws that force one belief onto all people? I’m a lifelong Christian who wants to follow Jesus in all of my dealings, and I want to be like Him. Using this and many other scriptures about Him, I see that I’m not supposed to force my beliefs on anyone. God built us with the free will to choose Him, so our relationship with Him will be authentic.

How does legislation like Indiana SB12 reflect Jesus? 

How do so many of the national laws and proposed pieces of legislation reflect the free will of each person to choose Jesus?

January. Again.

I’m on year two of using a writer’s bullet journal, and the blending of my energy as a scrapbooker, organizer, writer, and doodler brings me joy. Technically, I don’t have a journal with the dots because I had one already in hand for last year. This year, I found a normal, lined book and purchased it with a birthday gift card. The front says, “Be courageous and write in a way that scares you a little” (Holly Gerth). This pretty journal was meant for me. When I planned out my sections and collections and began to fill out the index, I just smiled as I watched the perfect scripture show up on the pages. Call it a coincidence if you want, but I’m seeing God’s fingerprints all over this journal. I hope His prints keep showing up as I find my bravery and write.

My goals are big this year. I’m submitting a reformatted version of The Auspicious You combined with the Christian Companion to the sweet people at Believe who work for Karen Kingsbury. We’ll see where that goes.

And, I’m continuing my work on a first novel. It’s a YA Christian fiction piece that scares me, so I will definitely need to be courageous as I tackle the themes that are on my heart.

I’m also hoping to write more Thoughts to Share as the year progresses. My first thoughts are on the picture, a page from my new journal. I pray that you also find the hope that a new year can bring. Again.

An Open Letter to Young Adults

15 March 2020

Dear Auspicious You,

Springtime on campus should be full of fun and excitement as seniors look to the future, thespians prepare productions, athletes work to bring their best, courses peak with difficult content, musicians rehearse for concerts, and many students plan for a vacation to relax before the final push of the semester. I am so sorry these normal activities have been interrupted for you.

Friday the 13th brought closures, cancellations, postponements, and worries over basic supplies. Now, as I write to you on March 15, Shakespeare’s warning from the Soothsayer to Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March” rings in my ears. I wish I could reset this year and start it over for you. At this point, however, we must all keep doing our best to move forward.

I am so thankful most of you are young and healthy, so this virus shouldn’t harm you. I am also thankful you are smart and recognize that as a carrier of the virus, you could bring it to someone more vulnerable. Your classmates who might have pre-existing conditions and your older family members appreciate your understanding as the social distancing provides a stopping point to prevent their getting sick. My prayer is for our moments of social sacrifice to work so our country won’t have to decide which patients to serve and which to ignore because of too many sick people and not enough resources. I can’t imagine being the triage caregiver to make the decision about who lives and who dies. So, once again, I want you to know I am so thankful you are doing your part.
Still, I hate this for you. You must be angry and wondering about the events that mean so much to you. You have to be so sad for losing the chance to make memories and feel like a part of your life is missing. After all, the American schooling experience revolves around the classes and the events creating the rhythms and traditions of our lives. Rites of passage have been suspended or cancelled for you, and I know those losses matter.

Remember, though, 2020 will be the year you will talk about forever. Even though the memories you intended to make will not happen as you expected, you still have power inside of you to make these days stand out more than any others. You can offer to go shopping for your neighbors and family. You can babysit and step in to provide childcare while schools are closed. I know how observant and committed you are to making this world better, so you will find many ways to step into the gap for someone who needs help. Plus, you can relax. I have seen the stress and tiredness on your faces from the end of winter. Take care of yourself. Walk outside. Read a book.

You talk about how quickly the days pass as you have grown older. These days of social distancing will pass quickly as well. I pray that you can find ways to make this time memorable so your spring semester, while not at all what you expected, will be unique and meaningful to you. No one else can claim this particular season as their rite of passage, but you can. Embrace this different experience as wholly your own.

Blessings to you,