perspective, Uncategorized

Losers and Jerks

A little kid, just 7 years old, took a long time choosing his book in the library. By the time he decided to come to the checkout, he was last in line.

He reaches out his arm and pushes the little girl in front of him aside, then behind him.

I see it, and politely tell him he can go back to where he was, waiting his turn and practicing his patience. This little guy, who is usually pretty calm and pleasant, flips a switch and yells, “I CANNOT BE LAST. I AM *NOT* LAST!”

In my super-calm unruffled voice, I tell him to go back to the end of the line and wait his turn. I tell him there’s nothing wrong with being last. Everyone takes a turn being last once in a while. (Unless it’s me at CrossFit, where I am last most of the time!)

He explodes.


I looked at this 7 year old, consumed with rage and fear, screaming in the line at the library.

I was stunned. Shocked. Where does this come from?

And told him, calmly, to take a spot at the end of the line. He scowled at me over his mask, then he went to the back.

After he checked out his dinosaur book, he left the library. He had joined his class line safely in the middle, in his “line order” spot. His tone totally changed. He twittered out of the media center, chatting with friends. Nothing to be mad about if you’re not last.

I stared at the door. What had I just witnessed?

Then I wondered, what had this kid witnessed to make him act this way? Did his Mom or Dad say that to him? To a brother? To a father? An uncle? Was it in a totally different context? Surely whoever said it hadn’t yelled at people for standing in line…

Maybe that person was yelling at the TV. At a NASCAR race…? Who knows.

Whatever it was, this young man took it to heart and head. When push came to shove (literally), he would NOT be last since he is NOT a loser.

So many lessons we can learn from this, out of the mouths of babes. What does this child teach you?

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?