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.

adventure, Uncategorized

Spring’s Simple Pleasures

Is it just me, or is this the longest spring season in recorded history?

And no, this isn’t really a post about how difficult it has been to be cooped up indoors a lot, separated from friends, missing out on events, and so on.  (If you’re looking for that, try these posts.)

I don’t remember spring ever lasting this long because it is usually lacrosse season, celebration season, end of work season, and so on.  We are often driving and juggling and cheering and volunteering and working nonstop.  And I love and miss a lot of that.  But this season has allowed me to notice and enjoy spring in new ways. I have always loved fall above all else, but I’m now seeing that spring has its charms.

Couple that with my commitment to be more intentional about spending money and I am finding myself relishing small, simple pleasures.

I’ve mentioned the morning reading that has replaced my sometimes frantic commute.  Quiet, candle, coffee and a book starts my day most of the time.  You’d think a librarian would read a lot, but I honestly don’t make the time for it that I should.  Right now I am going into my physical building to work for a few weeks, so reading time is short but I try not to miss it.

Bike rides.  What would I do without my bike?  I’m sort of obsessed with it.  I keep it on my car pretty much all the time and biking on the back seat inside just in case the opportunity to ride presents itself.  Cruising new paths in the sunshine with my riding partner is happiness and adventure when going very far from home isn’t happening.  It feels like a mini-vacation and is one of the few times I feel truly care-free.

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I am a farmer’s market fanatic.  The pandemic has caused many local farmers to revamp their business models.  I’ve been able to order flowers and farm boxes and pick them up safely.  I actually love that I can order what I like and have it held for me.  It’s frustrating to drive all the way to the market only to find they already sold out of my favorite sungold tomatoes or, later, September Wonder apples.

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Which reminds me, it is almost tomato season here where we live.  I look forward to these summer veggies all year.  Right now we are in the heart of strawberry season. I found an hour the other day to drive out to a strawberry farm and pick a couple of buckets.  If you have never had strawberries straight from the vine (or tomatoes for that matter) you are missing out.  It’s a totally different taste than supermarket berries.  And the experience of picking them myself in the hot sun was sweet and reflective. Fresh strawberries are one of the sweeter things in life. It’s been great to share them with people who appreciate them.

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What simple pleasures have you rediscovered in these hard times? Walks?  Game nights? Family dinners?  Tell us in the comments.

 

perspective

Stripping the Fun Stuff Away

The return to “normal” has begun.  Gyms, restaurants, hair salons, sports leagues, bowling alleys, summer camps and a host of other businesses have gotten the green light to open their doors. Yay! (right?)

Of course, nothing is really normal and the “new normal” has already lost it’s luster (if it ever had any). Opening business doors often comes along with an eye-popping list of new restrictions.

Both the chicks have recently given their views on restaurant dining.

Like restaurants, for many businesses, industries, and institutions, it’s still a strange time. We are all figuring it out on the fly, customers included.  I’ve noticed that in some cases, we are stuck trying to do the hard parts but the fun parts are what we miss now.  Here are a few examples:

Gyms are starting to reopen.  But, I never really stopped working out.  I’m still exercising in my basement or on the pavement most mornings due to financial and work constraints. Some lifting, some cardio, some basic bodyweight movement, Heroes on Mondays. I get my exercise in one way or another.

Is it the same?  Yes and no.  Yes, I get my movement in.  But some of the most enjoyable parts of the gym experience are gone.  I don’t see friends and like-minded people.  I don’t get coaching.  I don’t get to use all the great equipment. I don’t get the occasional coffee and breakfast after with friends. Sure, I don’t miss certain things about the gym, but some of the parts that made it fun and special (and the hard parts less hard) can’t be replicated in my home.

My work is a similar situation.  I am a librarian that teaches in an elementary school.  We left school for a long weekend in mid-March, not knowing that students and most teachers wouldn’t return this year.  Instead, we’ve been teaching and learning online for almost 9 weeks.

Are we getting the job done?  Yes and no.  Yes, there are lessons and many teachers working extremely hard to connect with students and families.  Yes, there is learning happening.  But, some of the parts that make school fun and meaningful are stripped away.  Field day. End-of-year culminations of work and celebrations.  Social time at lunch and recess on the playground. Working shoulder-to-shoulder to finish a puzzle or create something together. For me, it’s just walking through the library with a student and helping them find a great book.

Or reading a funny or suspenseful picture book to a live Kindergarten audience, laughing and responding together in that moment. Nothing replaces those. And those are some of the things that make school worth going to for many kids (not to mention food, etc.)  Instead, online school often seems like a lot more of the work and a lot less of the fun stuff that makes school special. (And yes, this is about the teachers, too.  I miss the energy of my students! Computer screens, while helpful, don’t cut it for connection!)

On the flip side, there are also students and families who aren’t built for distance learning.  Some have limited or no access to technology. Some need the structure and surroundings and encouragement of others working.  Some need the social benefits.  Some need the food and care that come along with being at school.  Some parents are working from home while also trying to manage multiple children learning online.  It is all extremely stressful.  School isn’t working for many, and it is definitely not the same even for those getting by.

Then, there are the fun things that are just not happening anymore at all.  Most notably for me are travel plans for myself and my family, and races I was training for.  Pleasure travel by anything other than car seems risky (and if you take a road trip, where do you stay overnight?)

I was sad that the triathlon I was training for got canceled.  They can’t guarantee safety and I am sure liability is also a big part of that decision.  Would I have wanted to participate in some sort of sanitized race?  I had mixed feelings about the virtual 10K I ran recently. Although it wasn’t terrible since I was able to do it with friends, I missed the trip to Nashville, the mass of runners, all the spectators and the thrill of race day. It just wasn’t the same. I may still do a virtual version of the triathlon at some point since I am already training.  But, some things just can’t be replaced.  You can’t take away some of the most fun and challenging parts and expect a similar experience. Again, some of the most fun stuff of life is stripped away.  And it is hard not to be bogged down in the frustration and sadness of it all.

You can’t recreate the Mona Lisa with a Magic Marker. It just isn’t the same.  And will it ever be the same?  What do I expect? I don’t know. I know many people are trying their best.  I know many people disagree about how all of this is being carried out.  Frankly, between dealing with that personal and political drama and the abundance of the day-to-day changes, I am exhausted at times. The fun stuff buoys me along and there is so much less of that.  Nonetheless, I want to try to find the celebration in the irritation.  Today, I realized I would have never bought my road bike if I hadn’t set the triathlon as a goal.  My bike has been a huge part of my sanity through the stay-at-home orders. So there is a bit of sunshine.

It’s hard not to wonder when things will get back to some kind of regularity.  What will things look like on the other end? When can we plan a race, some pleasure travel?  When will I be able to read to kids again?  When is the finish line of this mess?  I can budget my energy if I have a finish line in sight.  But now we are in the long middle miles when it’s hard to stay energized and forward moving.

I think it’s ok to pout as long as you don’t wallow in it.  Acknowledge the loss then move on.  It might be easier if we knew the story had a happy ending.  I can deal with suspense as long as it gets resolved.  I have to believe that day will come.  Maybe not quite happily ever after, and maybe this is a heck of a long chapter, but it will be resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

fitness and nutrition, friendship

Virtual Fun

Well this weekend I should have been in Nashville, TN running the Wonder Woman 10k race with some of my gal pals.

Unfortunately, pandemic distancing rules made that trip a no go. Instead I got my shirt, medal, wrist bands and instructions by mail. For the record I loved the shirt but had to give it away because it was meant for a tiny 12 year old who hadn’t developed their bust yet or maybe the manufacturer assumed thick girls don’t run?!?!

The task was to complete a virtual 10k. Seems simple enough as I have done many but then you have to decide where to run, when to run and and and. We opted for the same date, Sunday, May 3rd. Then we opted for an area that we knew was a set distance to and from. The plan was in motion. The gal pals were on target.

Additional friends heard what we were doing locally and jumped in on the fun. Oh but the day came and I forgot many things. Planning my food intake before. Going to bed early. Gel packs for the race. Best shorts to avoid chaffing. And best of all no water on the trail and I didn’t pack any. Guess I was too excited for the coffee reward after.

Another pandemic glitch was no bathrooms to potty at. Even though Starbucks serves coffee it’s only drive through so no potty breaks along the way was tough. My stretching before was lacking as well but I made the attempt. The little details matter and I guess that’s why you pay a race fee for all the extras.

Another missed sidebar was the noise. No crowds cheering to push you. No people in front of you to follow. No funny signs to read. Completing a virtual 10k was harder than I expected. I didn’t get my best time but I wasn’t planning for a best time. I was just aiming to complete what I had set out to accomplish. 6.2 miles in heat, no water, no bathroom and old playlist playing in my ears. Just me and the pavement. A lot of boring and a lot of reasons to give up.

I finished the task. I might have even dodged a few golf carts on this trek which is not something I would not normally see in a race. My first virtual race is full of memories and mental milestones. I will cherish the time and reflect on what I accomplished while many pass judgment on my actions of exercising outdoors.

I also completed the event with about 8 people I knew who jumped in on the adventure. We kept our distance which was easy since we are all varied paces. We celebrated seeing each other in person. We even got bullied at the end by an elderly man wondering where our masks were. Oh the irony as this senior was supposed to be quarantined by his age alone. I guess this confirms my note above about people passing judgement. It happens every day. Nobody is immune to judgment. My first virtual run is one and done. Proud of myself and my Sunday Funday runners.

The next day is here and I am not sore which is good. I’m on to my next adventure which is slated for a triathlon in July thanks to my annual summer 10k race being postponed until November. Still not sure if the triathlon will take place but I’m staying optimistic and I’m training as if it’s on the calendar.

Look out world. I’m running, biking or swimming your way.

fitness and nutrition

Fat Fit Frantic

The corona saga is winding down. Thank goodness, right? Well I’ve been getting used to the slower pace life. How will I reacclimate?

The first thing to come to terms with is I’m still sorta fit also kinda fat. Yup that slower paced life, the candy treats, the boredom munchies, the easy cherry-picker workouts all catch up to you at some point.

Don’t get me wrong I was physically active most days but not all days. However, I was fanatical about working out pre-corona so I’m feeling the extra jiggle here and there or let’s just say everywhere!

Hmmmm, now it’s time to make the plan of re-entry. Things won’t be the same at my gym with all the 6 feet rules. Will everyone return? Will the vibe be the same or will people act paranoid? Will I even want to go back? Is it time for a change?

I’ve been sitting on this decision for a few days maybe even weeks. What makes it harder is so many folks have mixed emotions about stay home, go support local businesses and so on. When I re-enter I don’t want to be bogged down with the woes of people who are grumpy at politicians, their financial status or just careless with their germs. So I’m at a crossroad. I just want to workout without drama. Will that be possible?

A big fat crossroad. A fork in the road. No real right or wrong answer just different paths. This re-entry has been making my mind race. I miss my friends terribly but can do without negativity which leans me towards wait and see.

Stay tuned for my updates on re-entry to society as I navigate yet more unpredictable areas of life.

perspective

The Vault

The word vault came up in a conversation recently while I was visiting with the girls in the park one Sunday afternoon. Of course the visit was 6 feet away but it was a much needed time together for a group that missed each other immensely during the corona pandemic. Fresh air. Freedom. Fun with friends. Some of my favorites things in one place.

When the word was said I immediately thought bank vault. Where you store the gold blocks as you see in the bank heist movies. Then I drifted a bit in my mind and thought of the vault in track and field competitions, aka pole vault. Two different meanings of the same word.

In the conversation the vault was referred to as a memory bank as in your brain. The short- and long-term memories we all have and where they are stored, filed away or compartmentalized. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of the above is in essence in each person’s vault. We each have the ability to store, re-engage, or erase the items in our vault at our sole discretion. The power we have with such an important storage facility. Will this memory bank give us strength and comfort or does it provide stress we keep holding on to?

As I drifted off thinking about this word, I knew a post would be forthcoming as soon as I had moment to write. What’s in my vault? What do I re-engage and what do I purposely disconnect? So much to think about. So much power and will. Is this emotional intelligence?

That makes me wonder what is in others’ vaults. Is there happiness? Is there sadness? Is there emotional stress? Is there financial baggage? Everyone has skeletons in their closets or maybe I should say skeletons in their vaults. We all have the choice of when we open the vault, who we share the keys to our vault with and if we ever use what’s in the vault to provoke others.

As I was writing this I drifted many times into thoughts of the word vault and its variables. I thought of many trips to churches over my life and the powerful vaulted ceilings I saw over the years. The detail. The power. The design. What does my vault look like inside my brain? Clearly it’s my design but is it unique, is it an architectural dream or is it made of inferior material?

I actually know what my vault looks like in my mind. I know if it’s easily accessible or not. How many people have a secure vault and how many don’t? That’s more of the mystery to me but I’m a people person and I am genuinely intrigued by the complexity of humans.

I will ponder thoughts over my vault for days I am sure. I will be curious of the contents of others’ vaults around me as well. It may be the contents of said vaults that cause poor responses in times of challenge or struggle. Since we are in the midst of a pandemic I just thought I’d share this word and possibly my wisdom or rant regarding it.

The word vault. The mystery. The memories. The mind fuck. That’s the vault in my eyes.

perspective

Value

I have thought a lot about value in the past few weeks. A few articles I have read, some life experiences and then some other circumstances pushed the value proposition in front of my eyes again. Below is my take on my value perception today.

My first note is relating to essential jobs and the current state of the employment scenario. Many teachers, caregivers, grocery clerks, nurses, among others are female. It appears there is a shift in roles on the employment side that reflect more women in the workplace are noted as essential. How do we value these roles and the dual nature still expected on the home front as teacher and cook and so on? My perception is many overlook this value on the home front. I could be wrong or I should say I hope I am wrong but time will tell.

Next up is the value of independence. My perceived value of independence is off the charts. When it comes to my kids I think they need to be self-reliant when they enter adulthood. They need to independently seek answers to find solutions to problems they didn’t anticipate in life. This is ever so important now because we are in unprecedented times. There is no roadmap. We need to teach our kids to bend and flex so they have value in times like this.

A different example of independence would be relating to getting time to do things on your own. Being able to spend money on your own. Make decisions independently. Whether you you are a homemaker, student, or bread winner in your family having the opportunity to spend independently has value. Limits can be set on amounts but there is a huge value in independence from a financial or recreational perspective.

Moving on, self worth is an area some overlook. The value set on oneself is extremely important. In a household, if one spouse devalues another there is a rippling effect that can take shape amongst the ranks of a family. Each person within a family needs to know their value. Each amount may be different but if one doesn’t articulate their value it could be overlooked.

This has surfaced a few times for me when I look at role reversal during corona. A once male-dominated family may be more reliant on the female spouse income during this turbulent time. That is a big value in that family now, to maybe have health insurance and steady income from the grocery clerk job. That value might have been overlooked in the past or maybe thought of as a hobby. Either way it should be noted even if temporary.

Finally, self care including fitness, friendships, healthy eating and so on. Self care ties into so many aspects of life. One must feel good in their own skin to support others. One must be in good mental, physical and emotional shape to endure critical times such as corona that make one dig deep to navigate troubled waters. Self care has a value that many overlook. Poor decisions in the past may lead to painful times today. Don’t underestimate the value of self care especially in today’s environmental conditions.

Value is everywhere. The examples above are not all-inclusive. Look around your world and define not only your value but those around you. Think about independence, self care, contributions and communicate with your tribe. Set a plan for yourself in the not-so-distant future to grow your personal value. Share your growth with others.

Don’t be a discount coupon in life. Don’t let somebody redeem a lesser value for you. Demand premium value for you. You are always worth top dollar!