challenges

A Cautionary Tale

The countdown is on.

A few weeks until summer ends and school is back in session…or is it?

My district ended last year with over 40 unexpected days of digital learning due to COVID-19.

Now it is 6 weeks later.  Numbers of cases that seemed to be trending down in my area have sloped back northward.  School districts are starting to try to make decisions about how they will open schools. Cue the special meetings, surveys, and plans (subject to change, of course). Also cue the opinions, the feelings, the exceptions, the arguments, the fears.

Colleagues have asked me many times throughout my career if I would want to become a school administrator.  My answer is always a fervent and unequivocal NO.  Times like this only magnify those feelings.  I don’t envy the public scrutiny that leaders are under in this seemingly no-win time.

I understand…

A significant portion of the economy depends on schools being open.

Many kids have their best access to food, learning, and social / mental health resources when they are in school.

Being taught (in person) by credentialed professionals is what we believe works best for most students.

At the same time…

Many teachers and school workers are themselves vulnerable to serious COVID-19 cases, or live with and care for other people who have those underlying conditions.

This virus is still new and developing, so science is still catching up to understanding what it is, how it moves, and so on.

Our schools are mostly based on kids being close together and moving with organized freedom throughout buildings and surrounding areas.

All the money and power at stake make every decision a politically charged and controversial one.

Then there are the logistics questions that come along with schools opening…

How do kids ride a bus?  How do they have recess? Can they sing? Can they play sports? Will there be field trips or assemblies?  Anyone who has worked with elementary school kids knows that kids love hugs and playing together which often involves contact.  How do I police that? I can’t even start about the masks, or what happens when a suspected case pops up.

Will all the fun stuff just be stripped away? 

In the end, I know this:

No choice will make everyone happy.

No choice will keep everyone healthy.

No choice will meet everyone’s needs.

We will be doing the best we can given what we know, and know that what we know might change at any given time.  Not an easy position for any of us.

I went to a branch of our local public library recently.  They opened up the buildings a few weeks ago.  This gorgeous, light-flooded, award-winning building, created for people to congregate and spend time reading and learning, is full of caution tape to keep people out or at least moving.

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I’m not sure there is enough caution tape to insulate school kids and workers from what we are facing. Our best protections will be patience, good faith, positivity, resilience, flexibility and showing kids and colleagues that we care about them in every way we can imagine.

 

 

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?

perspective

Diamond or Volcano?

I don’t know anyone who has escaped the pressures of the pandemic. Frontline workers putting their lives on the line every day.  Parents who are trying to work from home while managing kids, maybe even multiple kids, who themselves are trying to manage learning from home.  Those same kids who have to try to learn while so many of the best parts of school (friends, fun events, recess) are taken away for now. Adults who can’t work, who have lost jobs, who are facing bills with less or no income. People being abused who are now quarantined with their abusers. People who are anxious, fearful, in despair.

After weeks of staying mostly at home, seeing mostly my family and a familiar four walls, I am restless, tired, often irritable.  I am worn out on eating well some days.  I have less motivation to exercise.  I am quite aware that my problems are much smaller and more manageable than most.

I said in one of my early pandemic posts that this crisis will bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.  A friend recently shared a smart post that said that in this time, jerks are becoming bigger jerks.  Compassionate people are becoming more compassionate. Our essences are expressing themselves.  Which are you?

We all have our ups and downs.  Good days and bad. Some of us have bigger problems looming than others. I get that.

Still, there really isn’t an excuse to be unkind.

I thought to myself, we are all under pressure.

Some of the most beautiful and most deadly things in the world are both born of great pressure.  Diamonds developed when pressure gets extremely intense.  Diamonds, something many consider extremely precious.  Something that sparkles.  Something we cherish. Have you seen diamonds coming out these days?  Kindness?  Generosity? Understanding? Even curiosity?  A willingness to listen?  Changing of minds?

At the same time, pressure between tectonic plates can collide and erupt into a volcano, spewing lava and destruction for miles and miles.  Something we run from, something many of us might fear.  Have you seen any examples of volcanoes around, spewing negativity and lack of understanding?  We’ve all seen them.  Angry protesters screaming at medical workers, police.  Nasty commenters belittling people instead of listening to their sincere concerns.

The 2 chicks have embraced “choose daily” from nearly the start of this blog.  I don’t know if anyone will get through this pandemic without cracks.  But instead of a crack that leads to hurting and destroying everything and everyone around, can you choose a crack that makes you more beautiful?

perspective

The Corona Coulda Shoulda Wouldas

So Corona has been here for a while now.  It has shaped our lives and routines.  I wonder, were you ready?

Ready?  What does that even mean?  Burning question: How do we prepare for the unforeseeable?  For something we have never experienced before?  A lot of people are playing the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” game these days, thinking of things they wish they had done to be more ready for this moment.

Well, in some ways it’s impossible.  But looking at my life now, there are some things I have done that set me up positively for this moment and other things I will do better with from now on. Yes, the lessons are already showing themselves. It’s up to me to keep my eye out and learn them. Here’s a couple I’ve thought about.

One thing I’ve done right: I am glad I took control of my health when I did.  I could not have known what was coming 5 years ago when I started working on my level of fitness, and then more specifically on my diet.  Now we know that severe obesity is one of the major risk factors in serious complications from this virus, and I am grateful I am not in that category any longer.  CrossFit and consistent exercise has also lowered my blood pressure, which some believe seems to make a difference in successfully battling this illness as well.  Still, I was morbidly obese for decades. I know I’ve taken a toll on my body. Hopefully I made the right changes in time and can continue choosing every day and being consistent.

One thing I need to work on: I could definitely spend money differently.  My house is choked with stuff I thought I liked or needed at any given time.  As I’ve noted in previous posts, many of those items are now coming out of hiding and finding a purpose.  Some have been given away to people who need them. But, there’s a lot of excess stuff. I’ll be selling or giving things away over the next few months in bulk and trying to spend more intentionally.

What I am so grateful for: I am SO GLAD I have a group of friends and loved ones to do crazy stuff with.  The “Bad Idea Club” and several others are always up for a goofy good time.  We dress in themes, we giggle from our guts.  We care less about what others may say. Judge away, we are too busy having fun.

Case in point: just before the corona wave broke, we had an epic birthday celebration for Chick 1. We dressed up in 70s regalia, took pictures, went out on the town, stayed out on the town at a funky little hotel, had s’mores late and night and a birthday breakfast at a local diner the next morning, and generally just embraced life.  It was a grand celebration.  And while it was such fun at the time, one short month later, in quarantine, when those photos came up in memories, I multiplied that happiness by 10, that we just went for it and did life and her celebration BIG.

I am sure there are many who roll their eyes (like my kids) or shake their heads at our antics.  But darnit, I really don’t want to get to the end of life and not have lived fully.  The stuff does not matter.  The memories and the people we make them with do.

So much for the coulda, shoulda, wouldas.  We need to take better care of ourselves now, and live now. What are the “I can, I do, I wills” for going forward?

I will to take more vacations, drive more scenic routes.  I will take more hikes and visit loved ones more often. I will stop waiting for the perfect time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the fall foliage change color.  I will add to my list of dreams and destinations and tick them off one by one by one.

I will keep taking care of myself and those who matter to me.  I will love and live big each day, and appreciate deeply the opportunity to do that! It has made me look at the magnet on my refrigerator (pictured below) with new eyes!

What lessons are you learning from this?  What coulda shoulda wouldas can you turn in to I can, I do, I wills…?

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inspire

Choose Joy Today

I understand Corona is getting the best or worst of many these days. It’s been a month since official lockdown has shut many operations down.

With that being said the news gets uglier everyday. Talk of death, sadness, disease, shortages and so on. I choose not to watch because it sucks the life out of me.

On the same track social media is equally disgusting. Most days there are posts from those crying poor me, giving political rants, or worse slamming others because of their own personal dissatisfaction of circumstances. Most days I have to mute social media outlets because it can be draining.

What’s crazy is some people post away without thinking of who they may offend. If you are a business owner it could be a returning client you isolate. If you are a parent it could be your school teacher neighbor you anger. If you’re tired of being cooped up and give a medical rant you might be pissing off that very important healthcare worker that is in your network.

The value of social media can be far reaching but so can its hurt. Most people learn as adults to cool off before you type your feelings in an email or online. Right now this is an important lesson many may need to hear more than once.

Guess what people. I’m choosing joy. I’m choosing to tune out the negative news, negative people and negative ranters online. Bye. Gone. Ghosted. Just like that. My mental health doesn’t need your toxicity.

I clearly don’t need negative when I open my mail and see happy mail. Cards, letters, postcards or even porch drops of sweetness. I had the best homemade salsa delivered by a pal to my surprise. I had many lift-me-up note cards in the mail like the one below. All with uplifting messages. The one below is from an amazing healthcare worker on the front line. She has taken the time to send out hope cards to her friends. The world needs more of this and less negativity.

We are all in this Corona mess together. Everyone has limited opportunities yet we all have the opportunity to choose joy over hatred or sorrow. There are already impacts near and far. Healthcare workers and caregivers are getting sick or dying. This is real people. It’s not a conspiracy theory to shut your business down.

About a month ago I posted about what was taken away. The separation of my dad and mom at their age due to visitation restrictions. The loss of connection. This will last well past when most get off stay-at-home orders due to the risk category elderly fall into.

I can’t fix those circumstances but I had opportunities to offer hope and positivity in out of the box ways. I mailed a care package filled with his favorite candies to my dad so he would know people outside were thinking about him. We integrated Facetime visits whenever possible and that in itself can be challenging for those in their 80s. I designed a cool shirt for my mom and dad’s 59th anniversary that will most likely be spent apart. Not ideal situations but we are coping with the options afforded us. At the same time appreciating the lockdown to keep him and others safe within his facility.

As shown on the news, the elderly can be wiped out fast if this virus hits an assisted living place with common living areas much like a cruise ship. It’s messages like this on the news that can rattle one’s cage. I know this when I see my mom worrying about my dad after a news segment. Choosing the joy in the situation can overshadow the negative if you choose.

Crazy to think about but staying home can help if you think about the big picture. The keepsake below will help my folks ring in 59 years apart this year. It is their only anniversary apart to date but they still have each other and that a blessing. Choose joy everyone. Corona can’t take that away from you.

Speaking of time, it’s so precious. As I write this heartbreak has hit close by. A loss of a bright young soul to suicide. Yes this is real. As humans we are social. When people are confined to their homes others can’t see those suffering signs. Some will choose the only solution they see viable to their perceived problems. It’s sad but I know more will follow. Suicide, PTSD, substance abuse and depression are current issues impacting many. That’s not a conspiracy theory.

I watched my sister work in her garden in the past few days. Lettuce, tomatoes and other veggies are starting to blossom. We as a community will blossom and rise just like a new garden. Some years are more fruitful than others but if you work hard all can sprout.

Times of struggle are upon us all. How we react to this pandemic will show what we are made of and who we are as people. Check on those who seem distant. Be kind. Look beyond you to help others. I can’t emphasize this enough. Make your own garden sprout. A little sunshine, a little hard work, and a little hope will go a long way.