mental health, Uncategorized

Gift of Words

I’ve mentioned the challenges of working in an elementary school during this time of COVID. Telling the kids to spread out. Masks all the time. So. Much. Sanitizer. Constant changes. One of the reasons I wanted to work in an elementary school is honestly because it seemed playful and fun. That hasn’t always proven true, and this fall has been even less fun than usual.

In typical years, the time between Thanksgiving and Winter break at an elementary school is equal parts festive and frantic. We have 15 days to cram in two month’s worth of learning and celebrating. The schools I’ve been in go all out with decorations, which means trees, menorahs, stockings, and so on. It’s also the wrapup of the first half of the year, so we pile tons of tests in there just to add to the excitement (and panic).

This year was different. Widespread testing is postponed or canceled for the most part in elementary schools where I live. And when I got back from Thanksgiving break there were no trees going up, no stockings… maybe just a handful of stars and tinsel in the hallways. The lights and energy of the holidays are usually palpable when you walk through the front door. This year no one would have known it was December.

My job has changed so I am not telling stories to kids anymore right now, so no Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Christmas tales. Last year I made a tree out of ancient textbooks. I also have a little sliver tree with international ornaments. The kids love these touches. This year I didn’t find time with all my other shifting responsibilities.

Every year has also brought a dress up countdown for teachers, 12 Days of Christmas style. We all wear red one day, silver the next, silly socks on Tuesday, crazy hats Thursday. I wore my tacky Christmas sweater on the right day and I was the only one who did! Most of us are so tired and beat up we are just lucky to be dressed and physically present. December, such a special, silly time of celebration and connection, was just more show-up-and-get-it-done days.

The twelve days also bring treats at times. Hot cocoa after school. Cookies in the mailroom. Pancakes from the local breakfast place. I generally skip all that since too much sugar makes me sleepy. But one morning, when I returned from my morning outdoor duty all dressed up in my tacky garb, a piece of paper caught my eye. It was a paper, to me, thanking me for my gift of flexibility. A quote from Picasso about finding your purpose and sharing it. A short explanation of how I have adapted to every role and challenge this year. An appreciation.

It was a simple thing. A word. An acknowledgement. A recognition that in this crazy time, I have played my role as best I can. And what I do matters. Then I noticed that every teacher’s door in the school had a similar paper.

I made excuses the rest of the day to walk around the building, dropping off items or doing other errands. But what I really wanted to do was see other colleague’s notes – what gifts did our administration identify in them? Kindheartedness. Generosity. Passion. Good humor. Creativity. I nodded my head at each one. Maybe not what I would have said is most important about that person, but each one still rang true. Some of them made me laugh since they were gifts I often struggle with. Efficiency. Patience. Productivity. Focus. Again I nodded, but understood why those weren’t top of mind for me.

This has been a year of challenges. My job has changed at least weekly, sometimes daily. Stress levels have brought patience muscles to their breaking point for many, even me. While the cookies and chocolate are sweet, the gift that meant the most to me was just some words and the knowledge that what I am doing is seen.

Who around you needs to be seen? Who can you lift up with a word or two? Who brings a gift to your life just by being in it? I hope you’ll take a minute to let them know this week. Words are precious gifts.


In the Quiet

Rules keep changing. Which is which? Does anyone really know what they are doing?

You sit next to people at a gathering or maybe even in class. People are spread out but space isn’t unlimited. Sorta close-ish for a little bit but not shoulder to shoulder.

The next day, you get called to the clinic. You’re in quarantine. 14 days. Go home right now and don’t come back until it’s done. Here’s some paperwork. You’ll be getting a phone call. Let us know if you get sick. Then a different clock resets.

The mad scramble for information. For testing. For a way out of isolation. Someone else got to go back to school the next day. Why? Wondering. Waiting. Turns out she was sick a few months ago so she is immune. No one asked for proof. I don’t even know what to say.

The clock ticks. Events are missed. You see friends in the free world having fun and going about their lives, maybe with a mask on, maybe not. What gives?

I do believe in science. I do believe this thing is real and really, really bad for some people.

I know that science changes its mind as we learn more about pretty much anything. Before the Spanish Flu, people would regularly drink out of the same cup at a gathering. Individual cups weren’t a thing. And for how many years did humans think the world was flat? Decades? Centuries? Millenia? So our evolving knowledge over the course of 10 months really isn’t so bad. Or surprising.

But when it is in your face, limiting your movement, based on rules that seem sort of arbitrary, it’s frustrating. My jaw dropped when I heard that my daughter’s school has a measuring stick, taped together so it is exactly 6 feet. When a student comes down with the sickness, they go to each of their classes and set that measuring stick on the student’s desk, then spin it around with the stick as a radius. Where’s the seating chart? Any student sitting within that circle is quarantined.

Does an extra inch really mean someone is safe? If your quarantine ends Monday at 5:00 pm, are you really all that much safer than you were at 4:00 pm? And what if we roll the clocks back an hour during quarantine?

It is hard to wait out the days. Watch for symptoms and wonder. Try to explain it to my daughter. Shrug my shoulders at what I do not understand.

I have to tell myself, as I often do, pandemic or not, that people are just doing the best they can given what they know and what they can handle. Sometimes that best can be confusing and crappy. Honestly, there are moments when my personal best is a hot mess too.


Treating Myself

Pandemic life wears me out sometimes. Work is a grind. Masks are a drag. Rules are everywhere. Judgment, too. Weariness creeps in.

Dollars are precious. My family owns a restaurant. What was once a reliable source of income has been turned upside down. Regular meals out, drive through coffees, even gym memberships have been trimmed back and revisited as time goes on. We are doing ok, but I have become more conscious of where all the family money goes. Pennies add up and really shouldn’t be just flushed away.

Even with watching spending closely, I made a conscious decision to invest in a flower subscription for myself this spring. Fifteen bucks a week and I got a fresh bundle from a creative home-based flower farmer.

My house is abundant with zinnias much of the summer and I LOVE them. So why go elsewhere, you ask? Flowers from the Seed to Petal Flower Farm are so different than my own. She has unusual varieties and puts them together beautifully. I loved picking them up and seeing them on my table all week. A smile and a wink just for me. We all need those little boosts.

The flower farmer is also a woman-owned small business growing bit by bit. She shares her ups and downs and knowledge online. Fifteen bucks a week is a small price to pay for all of that. Supporting fellow women, fellow farmers, fellow creatives doing amazing work feels like the right way to direct my dollars in these days.

As our own lives and personal economies continue to soldier through this time, what are you doing to treat yourself each week or even each day? Are you intentional about it? If not, how can you decide to brighten your days? What can you do to treat yourself, inspire yourself, invest in your happiness?


If all you have is a hammer…

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” (Kaplan’s Law of the Instrument)

When you’re new at something, you usually don’t have many tools in your toolbox. Whether it’s reading or calculus or gardening, it takes a while to build up that warehouse of knowledge and know-how (two very different things.)

I am new at farming. I don’t have many tools in my toolbox yet, literally or otherwise. I hardly know how to use a weed whacker, much less about all the different tractor attachments, tow ball hitches, growing zones, and so on. What can I do? (Besides just keep practicing the few things I have learned.)

Ask questions. Dare to proclaim my ignorance. Be curious. Try new things. And if I screw up? Laugh and try again. Use my new hammer on everything I can until I figure out drills, screwdrivers, plows, tractors, on and on.

Huge learning curves can be daunting, even tiring. It takes courage and chutzpah to dive in to something entirely new. But if you listen, look, learn, and keep moving, you’ll soon be nailing all kinds of new things with confidence and ease.

What new skills are you hammering away at?

business, Uncategorized

Dining In Dining Out

I sat down to write this post and came into a few roadblocks. Nothing major just my perception or perspective. I decided this was important to write about.

In a recent post Chick 2 referenced her vantage point in the restaurant industry as a family-owned business. My post today will be as a patron.

I dined out a few times at local establishments during the pandemic shutdown. My hopes were to make an impact and to break up the mundane on the home front. It worked for the most part.

I bought pastries from a local bakery. I bought curbside pickup at a chain and tipped big. I took to go orders at the small mom-and-pops. I even hit a franchise or two.

Now that things are starting to open up I decided to dine out. Well my first choice was closed. A bigger chain but one of my favs. I looked for another local fav spot that a friend managed and that too was closed for dine in. Then I thought well I’ll just grab something elsewhere with disappointment.

When all was crumbling around me with lack of options I saw a Mexican place open that I had never been to. I decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

As I entered the facility I saw floor markings noting 6 feet apart. I saw a plastic protector by the hostess stand. I saw a make shift to-go pickup area with tables in use that were normally for dining. It seemed odd.

I took my seat. I observed. Every other booth was taped off for my protection. Tables were spread apart in the floor area. The servers were masked like healthcare workers. Does that kill your vibe to eat food? I was just rolling with the experience.

I couldn’t stop watching the to-go area. It had a table lined with to-go margaritas. Filled in 1/2 gallon milk jug type containers. They were labeled and sealed but never would I have seen this pre-corona. They sold like hot cakes with the to-go order. Interesting concept to generate revenue and make do with the new normal.

It was hard to understand the waiter. Was he annoyed or smiling? So many thoughts crossed my mind. The food arrived. It was delicious. My worries went away with the comfort and presentation of the meal.

Fresh cut slivers of avocado were the highlight of my meal. Fresh chips and salsa. The sounds of conversations and other humans around me. It was a new normal and a bit weird but it was a good first step. These are the vibes you can’t replace at home. And no clean up!

Mother’s Day came and went. A holiday normally spent at a restaurant but not this year. Nobody in my family wanted to dine out. A barbecue at home it was for this family. A picnic for another group I knew. A day on the lake for others. A work day for others whose family runs a restaurant.

I wondered about the financial effects of not only corona but on the restaurant industry itself on such a day like Mother’s Day. Some of these establishments need those holiday highs to maintain the lulls of other parts of the year.

I will continue to eat out when I can. If my budget allows. If my community stays open. If opportunity presents itself. So many ifs in the world today.

Are you dining in or out today?