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.

nature

Seasons or Reasons

I have never really been a seasons girl. Meaning I didn’t really have a favorite season. I enjoyed summer as it meant lake days. I liked fall for sweatshirts. I liked the beauty of the snow but not a fan of the cold. Spring I like to see new flowers bloom but again none were really a favorite season.

This year, however, I seemed to look forward to fall more than usual. The pumpkin spices. The changing of colors in the trees. The warm jammies. The sweatshirts and of course the seat warmer. I even turned on my space heater for one day already. 

I’m looking forward to fall adventures. Extra blankets for covers. Snuggles with my dog on chilly mornings. Chilling runs outside. And maybe even seeing my breath in the air. The clean crisp air. The fresh air.

Do you think I’m most looking forward to these things because I’ve spent so many months cooped up? Behind a mask. Limited on activities. Confined in many ways?

For whatever the reason I’m dreaming of this fall season. My reason to seize the season. The ability grab the crisp air like a crisp fall apple. Crunch. Snack. Slurp in the flavor of the season.

Some apple cider. Some apple snacks. Some apple-flavored cocktails. Bring on fall and all its festivities. My season. My reason. My appreciation of fall in 2020.

What’s your favorite season? Your reason for the season?

coaching

Kindness Note

I received a note of kindness or gratitude a couple of weeks ago from a previous person I coached. It was unexpected and full of sweetness from a young lady. I was over the moon excited that day because I was happy I made an impact.

Then just a few days ago I received another note of thanks but this one was a little different. This was from a player who didn’t make my team but worked hard as an alternate and continued to work on themselves to grow. They didn’t make my team but they made the next team they tried out for. They were appreciative of the coaching, development plan provided, and belief instilled in them despite my short interactions. I was literally swept away by a second young person.

I was again over the moon excited that whole day because I made an impact. It got me thinking about the depth of our relations, impacts and so much more. Many of the kids I coached have reached seniors in high school. Some will go on to play in college while others will enjoy their last years at the high school level.

Whatever their path I’m still cheering for them from afar. Who knew when I coached first graders, fifth graders, or high schoolers how deep my impact would go? I was doing a volunteer job. One I took pride in and invested not only my time but my everything in. It seemed thankless on some days yet it was all worth it when I look back.

There are days I miss coaching. There are also days I’m glad to not be coaching due to politics. At the end of the day I have years of coaching to look back on and I have years ahead to cheer for those I coached as they grow even more. This is the fun part or the added benefit of being a coach. The gift that keeps on giving.

As college commitment times are upon us, I am looking forward to seeing who gets invited to play at the next level, aka college. Not all may desire this path and that is okay. I will just cheer for them when they reach their own milestone, whatever they set in their mind as their next big thing.

I am forever grateful for my coaching time, families that have become friends, kids who have grown to adults and everything that goes along with coaching. The smiles, high fives, tears, wardrobe malfunctions, silly stories, etc.

If you have a chance to mentor or coach a person at any stage in life, go for it. You will receive an abundance of pride in helping another reach their potential that they may not see in themselves.

family

9-11 or 911 or…

As the days approach 9/11 I reflect back on this date for many reasons. For me, my reasons are nothing like those who lost loved ones that day many years ago and I acknowledge that. 

What I do get to think about is what I was doing on that day, who was with me and where I was at that stage of life. How the world seemed at a standstill after that event shattered the world. Similar to the blank state of mind where we have been stuck with Corona of late.

My parents were visiting for my middle child’s 1st birthday all those years ago. Unable to fly home due to the safety concerns. Almost 20 years later and more turmoil in the world. Again flights are limited or not recommended. Another date I’m missing my dad that I had with me in that memorable time but not today.

My son’s first birthday. How far he is from that pure innocent child at such a ripe age. Now a maturing adult navigating life in such a complex world. Not realizing he lived through 9/11. Twisting around looking at my daughter who wasn’t even born yet. She doesn’t even recognize the magnitude of 9/11. She has toured the area in NYC but still lacks the depth of my experience on that same day. Just interesting to think about.

When I titled this article 9/11 or 911 I did it accidentally but then wondered if there was a coincidence that the date 9/11 was chosen due to the significance of 911 or emergency call in our society? Maybe that’s a dumb question but honestly it’s the first time it hit me front and center. I’m sure the backstory is in one of the documentaries but I hadn’t really acknowledged that point until now. Almost 20 years later.

Maybe I have always thought of this date in different ways and didn’t notice that coincidence. What do you remember about this date? How are you impacted when the date surfaces each year? Do you see any similarities to the pandemic of today? Just a food for thought post. Looking back almost 20 years to see how the world has changed and how much people in your life evolve in such time. 

awareness

Nightfall

It was a Tuesday evening in summer. Not too hot out, maybe 75 degrees. Sitting at a friend’s house in their backyard by their pool. Surprisingly no kids were around, not even in the pool.

No laughter. No whining. No birds chirping. No splashing of water. No dog barks. Nightfall was upon us. A simpler time of day in the yard.

The sounds of the night were so very different from the sounds of the day. What an interesting thought or moment in time to recount in this blog. Nightfall.

Creatures of the night were awake and singing to us. From the grass to the trees sounds were in full force. Crickets for sure were out in full force. Was there one or many? I can’t say for sure but it seems orchestrated or echoed.

A variance of chirps and high pitch zaps and wonky sounds in stereo in the backyard. It was calming. White noise, pink noise or whatever noise this refers to. It’s a peaceful sound. A simple sound of the peace within the environment.

How these sounds differ if the environment was a beach, a farm or a cruise ship. The click of the air conditioner turned on. Clack, buzz and the vibration hum set the background tone. The crickets sing on top of the bass sound. Layered on top are random zaps from a nearby bug zapper. Katydids egg on the crickets with their anthem. It’s a full blown orchestra if you listen.

Don’t let the silence kill you. Enjoy the carefree whispers around you. As a mom those silent times are few and far between. Embrace the silence. Enjoy the whispers from the grass to the trees. Appreciate the calming sense of the sound. If you tune out the chaos of the hustle and bustle of today’s world you will most likely sleep better at night.

If on a farm would I hear bears wrestling at night? Would I hear the moos of cows? Would I hear the sound of grass crackling when a deer passes by? Would I hear the sound of a horse wrestling in the solitude of his barn? Would I hear the sighs of those taking in the stars at night from their back porch? I may just have to research this.

I do know if I am at the beach instead of the backyard the night sounds are distinctively different yet calming in a different way. The rushing of ocean waves. Simple sounds but in a repetitive pattern. Swoosh. It may have a soft finish if the wave hits the sand or a harsh sound if the wave hits the rock. How a storm can change the sound in the backyard, the beach or the farm.

From a distant thunder to shaking of the roof when it draws near. To the sound of rain hitting your roof. And how different the sound is if your roof is metal vs. straw.

Nightfall. The sounds that ensue. Have you slowed down to appreciate the sounds of the night in your part of the world? How do your sounds differ from mine? Sounds are soothing. Enjoy your next nightfall. I know I will enjoy my next nightfall wherever my night falls.