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.

health

Keeping Afloat

Today’s world is a bit crazy at times. 7-8 months into Corona and something new comes up each day it seems.

Focusing on your physical and mental health is extremely important during this time. Getting a flu shot may be one way to combat today’s issues. Seeking help for depression or anxiety could be another.

For me I use personal fitness and a healthy eating regimen to keep me balanced. It works for me but that may not be feasible for you. You must invest in yourself to see how to battle today’s craziness.

Just this week I have seen folks self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to get by. I had experience with, one falling into depression. I even had an acquaintance deal with the emotions of a positive test and quarantine restrictions. This is just this week.

Check on your social network. Those working from home are feeling the pains of limited social outlets. Check on the elderly they are struggling with their own limitations. Lack of group services and connections in this age group can be devastating. Check on your kids. Whether digital learners or in-person they both have stress among each scenario.

Some folks are hungry despite food programs expanding. Some are losing housing now that extensions are no more. And we can’t forget our athletes. Whether amateur or professional, they have all had opportunities stripped from them in one way or another. Be compassionate.

This is time to look out for others. Help where you can. Offer resources or referrals in your area to anyone who might need it.

Keeping your mind and body healthy is very important these days. Wishing you the best from afar. Kindness does really matter.

perspective

Where’s the Disconnect?

Everywhere, all around, it seems connections are breaking down.

Big & small.  Local & global.  Things we never think about, things we take for granted, suddenly aren’t working anymore.

The news is so puzzling it makes my head spin.

First, food.

Almost every night on the news, there’s a story about the lines at food pantries and other food giveaways that wrap around buildings and through parking lots.  People are spending hours in line to get basic necessities of all kinds. Families that were once secure are quickly, unexpectedly in need.  And families that were teetering on the edge are now hanging on for dear life.

I guess it’s not that surprising, in light of how many people have lost jobs.

What turns to shocking is when I read a story about how farmers are burying onions, cracking thousands of eggs, dumping milk out and more, all before they get to consumers. The loss of restaurant, hotel, and school outlets for food has turned demand on its head.  Or that the closure of meat processing plants due to COVID-19 infections means many animals will be killed and never make it to market.  Staggering. Unimaginable.  The resources, so desperately needed, will be destroyed.

Hungry people on one side, supplies of food on the other, being wasted.

Where’s the disconnect? Why is it so hard to fix this, if the supplies of food are there as well as the demand?   While scientists are busy developing and distributing tests, I hope logistics experts are working on this food issue. I feel frustrated and helpless in it.

Second, human connection.

A similar disconnect may be true in mental health.  The worries about loneliness, isolation, and more stream through my news and social media feeds. All of that is a concern.  Some people cry out and are hopefully heard and reassured.  But then it’s the people who are invisible, who aren’t speaking up, who may live alone or are in unhealthy situations who can be the most worrisome.  People who may be losing hope, losing connection. I think we are all eager to connect.  Demand is high, and I believe supply is, too.  Still, being physically separate is a challenge.

I can’t drive a semi to Iowa or Idaho and get all that good food and bring it to where it is needed.  I am grateful to Publix and Kroger and other organizations who are trying to reconnect supply and demand in whatever ways they can.  In my own life, I can talk to those who may be having food or financial struggles and offer to share what I have. If I suspect someone might be suffering, I should just ask. Seriously, just ask.

I can be even more direct with the mental health worries, though. I can reach out to people I know.  And especially try to think of people who may be having a hard time.  People I haven’t heard from in a while.  People who might be lonely or afraid. Disconnected. If I suspect someone might be suffering, I should just ask. Seriously, just ask.  Check in.

Keep looking for ways to connect people with the resources they need.  Be the connection.

family, fitness and nutrition, friendship

Spiked

I got spiked. I spiked others. Of course this was done playing the game of Spikeball and has absolutely nothing to do with spiking drinks. After playing this game I realized how much I missed sports, athletics, competition, people and so on. Thank you corona for this time to appreciate my surroundings and the valuable people in my life.

What is Spikeball? Four players (2 per team) strategically or frantically bouncing a ball off a springy circular net about 2 inches off the ground. If you haven’t played this game it’s a fun activity for a small group to play in the yard, at a picnic or even at a work outting.

You can get a little workout if you move around as a bonus. My Apple Watch indicated I had a brief workout. You can work as a team with your partner or you can play solo within a partnership and see how you fare. That’s part of what you have to figure out as a duo.

I played this game in the past with friends and it was a ton of fun. I had said I was going to buy the game but never did. Life keeps me on the go go go so I just never got it. Then guess what? Corona hit.

When in corona time it seemed I had almost too much time. What did I do to escape the boredom? One of the first things I did while on lockdown was hit up amazon. What do I need? What do I want? What have I had on a pending list to snag? I ordered Spikeball of course. It took a while to arrive since it wasn’t essential but I got it and wasted no time putting it into action.

Not hard to set up and boom just needed to find me some family members to get to four players. It was a lot of fun.

Just hearing the giggles was good. Then the competition came and I was thrilled because I had been missing that in so many areas of life. Then the crazy came out. It was either the awkward faces or body movements or even the oops I completely missed the ball!

Spikeball will be my game of choice for a while and I hope to get many different players to try with me. I guess I will have to wait a little longer to get with my friends for a game but I can be patient.

If you are looking for a fun game that includes fresh air, give Spikeball a try. I rate it a 9 out of 10. I’m not hard to please and they don’t pay me to rate their product. I just thought it was a good filler to break up the crazy of the day. My counterparts had fun too.

What’s something new you picked up during corona isolation?

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.