family

That Substitute Sucks

Yes folks I’m the substitute and I suck at my job. Let’s face it. I don’t get paid as a substitute teacher. I didn’t volunteer for the role. I certainly didn’t expect the abundance of emails and stress that went along with the thankless job either. I was voluntold to accept this role and anyone who knows me probably knows that didn’t sit well.

Enter the teen girl. Super social. Loves school. Student athlete thriving in her world. Boom CORONA HITS!

Her world is shaken not stirred. Shaken to the core. She lost her routine. Her social outlets. Her sports. Her teacher bonds. She lost the sounds of the hallway and cafeteria. The roaring of the crowds. The listening ears of her teachers. The safety net of her world. Does that impact her learning and her mental health. Why yes it does!

Why do I need to get up. Why do I need to do this work. This isn’t a school environment. Who is going to help me with math? What about my yearbook? What about the school dance? How do I return my library books? How do I read the book assigned if I can’t get it? Did you realize the boy population of hot boys doesn’t exist in home school environments. No field trips. No chill time at lunch to hear the latest gossip. No flirting from across the room. What no science partner!

To say we muttered through is an understatement. We slitterred by by on a shoe string or even fine hair. Emails to teachers. Online review of grade with a microscope. Loss of cell phone privileges. We tried it all. This kid is not cut out for home school. Not at all. For that matter I am not cut out for the teacher role.

When my email flows fast in the workplace, I too need a break on the weekends. On a Saturday when I get teachers emailing me about next week or what’s missing from this week it shakes me to the core. What, a deadline missed?….not on my watch! And when the weekends blend with the weekdays there is no mental break for her or me. I actually had to ask teachers not to email on the weekend. I get they are doing their jobs but the stress of no break was too much.

The pressure the teachers were put under to go digital and maintain grades of their students was very unrealistic. If I thought my job sucked, I can only imagine what theirs looked like. Again another thankless front line job.

The teen feels like she is confined to a cardboard box with electronics and have to’s. Prison might be better in her eyes. She might even wish she had cafeteria food instead of the health-crazed food I serve.

We are finally on the other side sucking on some freeze pops to soothe our relationship. We made it out without killing each other. We still have our hair and our personalities. We now see sunlight for summer. We see activities emerging with a handful of friends.

Luck had it, she had one friend who drives and has come once a week to visit. She hangs out. They did school work. They made a mess in the kitchen. They giggled. They went fishing nearby. They got ice cream. They laughed. They smiled. They snuggled under blankets. They may have even taken a few naps.

It’s these moments that made corona in a box tolerable. It’s the moments of friendships valued. It’s the patience and understanding of let’s work together to push through. We have each other. This is a life lesson many won’t see and why I chose to share.

Time is valuable. Time is a precious commodity. How you spend your time, with whom you spend it and on what you spend it is important. It may make or break you.

She is also fortunate to have an older brother that pushes her and rewards her with a sub sandwich date to go or Starbucks drive through. Those little acts of kindness help her putter along. She had a virtual community of peers as well but none replaced her in- person interaction.

Toxicity in life can’t be avoided as people in general are messy. However, you can keep it at bay. In the school example above tolerance and patience was needed on both sides but to avoid toxicity the substitute and the student needed a break or many breaks from the insanity or work, work, work mentality. I can draw upon this experience in the future for my own work/life balance.

Life balance of sorts. For me I spent the weekend on the water at the lake. It was a much needed break from reality. No screen time just fun, fresh air and a few people. Sometimes it’s a long walk or bike ride for me. For my teen it may be a visit to the nail salon or an ice cream stand visit.

The point is have the conversation. Make adjustments when needed to push through whatever battle is in front of you. It may be a long battle for an illness or a short battle to get through a project.

Take the word of a shitty substitute. Find a way to blend and mend. Get by how you can, when you can and smile at the end. You will soon say been there, done that. Don’t want to do it again.

I am a one hit wonder in the role of a teacher. Corona better stay away because this chick wants no part of schooling her teen again in this lifetime. Love her to death but don’t enjoy teacher, mom, mentor and so on without support while trapped in my home for unprecedented circumstances with my own work deadlines.

I may be alone in this rant or not but I’m sharing as a method of cleansing my soul of havoc that was wreaked upon it for more than 60 days. I guess this was a life experience I wasn’t fond of.

Until next time. Be safe. Hug the folks you can and keep your distance from those you should. It’s summer time here! Let the adventures and memories begin.

perspective

Special Deliveries

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I am a huge Amazon fan.  Like, huge. Maybe too big.

Me and Amazon go back a long way. I peeked in my decades-old email inbox and saw my oldest email from Amazon.com is from 2003 when I had a baby registry there.  I know I was a customer years before that though. I loved Amazon when they just sold books and  spending 25 bucks to get super saver shipping was the coolest. Prime wasn’t even a thing.

I loved Amazon when it was losing money and people didn’t think it would survive. (Yes, there was a time when Amazon did not make money!)  I was a college student then, busy falling in love with knowledge and reading and all that nonsense, when Amazon was the place for all my little philosophy and poetry tomes, long before Amazon baby registries.

I do know that Amazon isn’t everything. Over the years I have learned to seek out and shop small businesses when I can.  Local bookstores, hardware stores, boutiques…I try to shop them often.  But still, there are some times when Amazon’s selection and even price and return policy can’t be matched. (Not to mention you can shop them in your pajamas when you just think of something you need and voila!  It’s there in 2 days.)

Of course, the pandemic has caused retail pandemonium. Even more people are shopping online. Delivery services are taxed to the max. Amazon didn’t escape this fate.  My little reliable Prime symbol doesn’t even mean 2-day shipping anymore. Only “essential items” from these categories would be delivered quickly: baby products, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies.  Everything else was in slow motion.

I guess this didn’t really sink in for me for a while. Here I am, spending most of my time at home, many businesses closed.  Times have truly, deeply changed, both in a global sense and in a personal sense. I’ve been using my hour once spent commuting to the gym and work to read every morning. Of the many changes I’ve taken on, that has been a bright spot.  But, my book supply was small, and reading for nearly an hour each day has me flying through books quickly.  A visit to the local Barnes & Noble isn’t an option. Libraries are closed (?!?!?)  So, of course, I ordered a couple of titles from Amazon.

FOUR WEEKS.

It was going to take four weeks!  And one is a best seller!  Geez.  Another sign of the times.

I see Amazon trucks scurrying everywhere through traffic and their delivery people running up to doors.  I know people are working hard.  I’ll survive.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was granted a hundred dollars from our school PTA to spend on classroom supplies earlier this week. I had to spend it quickly, so I just piled a bunch of colored copy paper in my Amazon cart and hit order now.  I knew we didn’t have any at work and I knew we wouldn’t need it anytime soon, since we won’t have students in the building until the fall.  It was just a simple thing to stock up on and Amazon usually has decent prices.  I clicked it and forgot about it.

Then, VOILA.  What shows up on my doorstep in less than 24 hours?  The 8 reams of paper I didn’t really need for months, in a large box marked “HEAVY.”

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I was shocked.  Really?

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the books I ordered weeks ago, the items I truly needed now – or even last month.

I guess this probably sounds quibblesome to many.  A definite first-world problem.  Maybe it’s selfish of me to wish I could have somehow deemed my books essential items.  After all, they are what I am using to work on my mindset and my future wealth.  I get that books aren’t at the top of many people’s priority lists. Screens are more an essential for most these days, and others have said that focusing long enough to read in these troubled times is impossible.  But for me, books have been a saving grace.  And for those who are isolating alone, I can imagine books can be essential for some.

Still, I can wait.  What was sillier to me was my heavy, cumbersome box of Atomic Orange copy paper, which I didn’t need anytime soon, zipped to my home address like it was on the Pony Express.  Can I find a way to trade my priorities?  Or somehow push the paper down the delivery list so the urgently essential items (whatever those are) can get to their destinations more quickly?

But in the end, who decides what is essential?  And why? It’s different around the world, and not without controversy.  Amazon, who started out in the book industry, now has books as non-essential items.  Amazon, you’ve forgotten where you came from!  (The conspiracy theorist in me says, of course they don’t want us to read!  Reading means we can think for ourselves!  They’re trying to limit our access to information.  And did I mention that the LIBRARIES ARE CLOSED??!?)

Calm down, Beth. Really though, it’s probably not much more than another shuffling sign of the times in the age of corona.  And it brings a new appreciation for the conveniences I took for granted. And a whole lot of neon-colored paper collecting dust in the cupboard.

 

 

 

 

 

challenges, perspective

Digital Doomsday

Without warning on or around March 14th school halted in my area due to the pandemic events. This meant digital learning began for students, mine included.

A day. A week. Two weeks. It’s temporary right?

The first few days teachers, parents and others adjusted. Nobody thought this was for the long term. Kids got behind in their work because they were never really given expectations for long term digital learning. And let’s face it, digital learning and homeschooling isn’t for everyone.

Teachers are doing the best they can virtually but if your child isn’t a kid who likes to work online for hours at a time you are screwed. I fall into this category!

Let’s take gym class for instance: you have to design a workout circuit just like a personal trainer. You have to type out the instructions and make sure you included all the requirements. Then you have to video tape it to prove you did it. What if your phone isn’t the latest and greatest? What if your family isn’t the physically fit type? Can they even help you? And don’t forget then you need to upload it. Even if you are self-conscious and don’t like to video tape yourself.

I can definitely say showing up to class to play with a ball and my friends is so much easier and at the same time it’s beneficial physically and emotionally, This is just one example of what my child misses. I can confirm this because I not only miss my workout time with friends, I miss the routine of it and the group learning.

My child is social. She misses her friends. She misses lunch chats. She will miss her yearbook signing this year. She will miss saying good bye to her friends. She will miss many experiences unfortunately like cheering on her friends at a baseball game. Giggling at the park with friends and sharing a hug. Touch is another thing missing. No handshakes. No high fives. No hugs. Those embraces are needed especially for those who struggle at home.

My child copes but that coping will have an impact as she transitions to high school. Her love for school may be tainted. Her rebellious side may come out due to all the frustrations of having barriers for a while.

As adults we wing it. As teens they are still learning. Their brains are still developing thus they may have impairments socially, emotionally or cognitively. The balance of school, home, activities is much needed part of development. I had not written about this part of being cooped up because it makes me worry not just for my kid but others. Families with violence, hunger or financial struggles.

I worry for the well-being of not only my kid but others who have different struggles. My child misses connections with people which I understand as I am a people person. What about the kids who need their special ed teacher and their accommodations to work? Can they adapt to a home school environment that might include a screaming 2 year old sibling? What about the kids who have a tough home life. Maybe even abusive home life. School is their escape. How do they cope?

School has been cancelled for the rest of the year where I am. Sporting teams have cancelled seasons. Obviously there is good reason but the impacts of this pandemic will have an effect on students, student athletes, friend groups, grades, attitudes at home and so on.

I often think of others who have it far worse than me. The single mom with two kids juggling work and judgment for taking her kids with her to an essential job because nowhere is open to care for them. The needs of the front line medical workers who have to face emotionally draining days and if they return home then become teacher or maybe the teacher role falls on the spouse who is already worried about their spouse on the front lines.

Can we catch a break? Don’t the powers that be think maybe three days a week is enough school given the environmental challenges? What about the teachers who have to adjust to planning digital days vs school days? What about staff meetings online and irate parents. I can only imagine the stress in that occupation.

I didn’t even mention nearly every household has financial stresses added to the mix. Homes today are under siege of stress from corona and all of its side effects that will hit the commoners hard in time.

Our mental health system is not prepared for the need that is about to hit as hard as the pandemic has hit schools, businesses, families and healthcare workers.

I predict a lot of PTSD in near future for many age groups.

challenges

Upside Down or Inside Out?

Is my life upside down or inside out currently? Such a question to ponder but not a clear answer. Well I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe it’s because I don’t know what day it is or what time it is most days.

I thought about what I have lost recently:

– Time with friends
– Sports activities
– Public gatherings (birthdays, events, concerts, the list goes on)
– Business meetings / presentations
– A fast-paced lifestyle

I thought about what I gained:

– Time with family
– Time to clean
– Time to complete projects at home
– Time to plan what to do or not do when freedom returns to my world
– A subdued lifestyle 80% of the time

I thought about things I do different:

– How / what / where I eat
– Where and how I get my fitness into my daily routine
– My daily sleep / wake schedule
– How I manage my dependent’s schooling
– How I interact on a social level (virtually)

I circled back many times to passion, purpose and action. In this crazy time we’re living in, I believe I am settled in the fact that I can’t change the cards that are out in front of me but I can choose to shuffle them any way I want each day and still find my passion, my purpose and my actions or inactions.

That being said I get to choose happy or sad. I get to choose productive or lazy. I get to choose fresh air or indoor air. I still have all my freedoms to choose but my choices are just different today. They are different options than a month ago, a week ago or sometimes within hours thanks to the environmental conditions caused by corona.

I adapt to the environment. The changes. The yes and the nos. The stop signs. The temporary barriers. Then I think of all my life lessons.

How fortunate have I been this far in life? How can I learn from this experience and be better prepared for the next catastrophe? How can I live more in the present? How can I be more purposeful and passionate about actions I take each day going forward?

In a way I thank corona for turning my life upside down and inside out. We all need a good shake up now and again so we can appreciate our life in its normal state. Stripping down to the barest of bare just to rebuild the dream version of you.

I’m mindful of my health but maybe others will be more mindful of theirs because of this situation we live in now. Maybe my kids will appreciate their friends a little more. Maybe they will thank their teachers for that extra help they get in person next year. So many will see opportunities in this dark time. We all have that power to choose.

It’s important to look ahead. Stay positive. No matter how bumpy the road gets now. It’s just temporary. All good things come to those wait. We must wait patiently for this crazy time to pass.

Wonder if my life will go sideways, backwards, forward or stay upside down for the next 30 days? I guess there will be a chapter or two in my next book about the effects of corona in 2020 because it is definitely one for the record books.

Wishing all our readers near and far good health, comfort and smiles wherever you are. As many have idle time on their hands currently we are hopeful that our blog will help you pass the time in some way.

giving

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

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Since we’ve been at home more in recent days (following social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines), passing the time has presented challenges. Yup, to put it bluntly, at times we are just plain bored.

My daughter had been asking to go shopping for painting supplies for about a month, well before the virus hit our home state. Then, like many other families, we went from extremely busy to having very little to do, but unable to go out and get much of anything that isn’t truly necessary.

So, I started rummaging.

And out came…watercolor paints (metallic, matte, at least 4 sets!), watercolor pads (in 2 sizes!), paintbrushes, pastels.  Voila! Art is possible.

Where did it all come from? When my kids were younger, in addition to the toys and candy-stuffed eggs, I would always put an art supply or two in their Easter baskets. Who knows why?  Just to balance things out.  Most of these art supplies were left on the living room floor along with the torn candy wrappers and cracked plastic eggs.  I’d eventually tuck the artsy stuff in a drawer along with the ones from the year before and all the other art supplies I’d collected through years of teaching, student-ing, and projects galore. Now, it’s all coming out to play.

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In these times of slower pace and waiting, many people are taking up old-fashioned pleasures.

Friends are asking, too…the group chat question about sidewalk chalk…so many people are chalking messages of encouragement or just drawing on the driveway with extra time.  And, lo and behold, of course I have a shiny unopened box of 48 Crayola sidewalk chalks! (I’ve probably had it for 5 years!) Sure, I will share them! Don’t thank me, thank the Easter bunny! (and, okay, my hoarding tendencies…which this whole situation does not help, by the way. But that’s a different post.)

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(Seriously, that big box of sidewalk chalk is in this Easter photo from 2011. Yes, 2011!  Over a decade ago!  Yikes!!!)

Add in a long-ago purchased rolling table from Ikea that I never set up and presto, it’s our own little mobile art station.  And we’re using the portion of the chalk we kept to cheer up outside.

Making stuff and sharing art and time are doing our hearts and minds good.  When I think of Easter coming in a couple of weeks, I am not sure what it will look like.  But for now, we are celebrating and sharing with creativity, with gifts from Easters past that are suddenly gifts all over again.

How are you passing any idle time, in old ways or new? Board games, card games?  Share in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

inspire

Book Buddies

I’m on a small book kick. One that I can read pretty quickly based on the size and of course my attention span! Grateful that I have friends who are avid readers but also like to share books. I guess that makes us book buddies of sorts.

This time around I got Wolfpack by Abby Wambach on a book rotation. My kind of read. Short and sweet but potent at the same time. Pretty soon you will see a short and sweet publication from 2 CHX but we are not quite ready for its unveiling just yet.

A lot of time and planning goes into publishing a book. From the cover design to the binding to the words itself. Even if small, a book designed correctly will pack a punch. I’m putting the Wolfpack book to test as I write this blog and we shall see how it holds up to the 2 chicks test.

I would give this read a two thumbs up. For one it was simple. No big fancy words. Just short, sweet and to the point. I guess that style appeals to me.

Next footnote was the subject matter and the vantage point it mentions. It pretty much dialed into a post I wrote about recently called life’s penalty box. As an athlete, a coach, an author and I mom I could relate on many levels.

I had many takeaways which meant I learned something. It also reinforced my non-apologetic lifestyle I live. I will springboard off this small book and use it as inspiration for the current batch of youth I am working with.

A little book. A quick read. A thought-invoking book. Keep learning. Keep living. Keep challenging yourself. Inspiration is always around. Thank you Abby for sharing your triumphs and failures with the world. I hope my blog lets you know you made an impact today from a far. As March is upon us, I am feeling lucky I had the opportunity to read this little gem of book and share my thumbs up rating with all of my readers.