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.

 

 

challenges

The Dark Cloud

I have written about death and loss a few times in the past few months and here we are again. Another visit to the darkness.

Another awesome soul is in the window of death. Just 61 years old. This time it’s cancer that is causing the suffering. Only hours remain. He will he missed.

I have so many strong women in my life taking their next step, their next breath, their next journey without their lifelong companion by their side. Scary for most of them but triumphant in other ways.

As I watch I try to support. Maybe a text message today or a visit next week. Maybe even a nod of some sort to honor the memory of their loved one. I’m glad it’s not me sitting in the hot seat but it definitely gives me perspective.

It allows me to value today and not wait for tomorrow on anything. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and that we all know. Today is here and many won’t seek out change or opportunities because they worry about failing or falling or whatever one calls it.

I choose daily. I choose to live life on the edge. I don’t want to wonder what I didn’t do when the day comes for my call to hospice. Until then you will find me making memories anywhere and everywhere. I will also remind as many as I can that they should do the same.

Life is precious. Cherish the moments that will last a lifetime. This is your reminder to make today amazing.

I will leave you with this photo of my mom. A milkshake date for her recent birthday. Her first alone without my dad. She is one of the special ladies I am watching take their next step.

She even tried a jalapeno on this day which is definitely out of her comfort zone. Maybe it was a test to say I’m here. I am still fighting even if I’m alone. One new experience at a time.

adventure

Spontaneous Saturday

I’m not a picker but I am picky. I’m a picky eater. I can also be picky about many things.
For those reasons alone most wouldn’t expect me to be a picker.

I have watched many of the picker shows on tv and was just a spectator. Celebrating with the tv for those rare finds. Never really been a garage-sale type of girl, but with today’s online outlets you can easily locate an item you specifically want. For me the search started with a barrel. I want an old barrel to use in an outdoor space as a trash can. Nothing expensive just a fun variation of a trash can. Look what I found:

Pretty cool for stop one. I was super happy but I had another stop lined up for an older dresser with a cute wine rack in place of a drawer. I just thought what a fun piece to have.

As I reach stop two, little did I know my facebook marketplace ad was going to land me at the home of a real life picker. A professional picker who digs it, picks it, and passes it on. So many cool things to choose from.

I went from his garage to his yard and got all types of goodies for a new project I’m working on. I scored the neat lantern above. A little dusty but perfect for my project. I found a never-used bamboo picnic basket set. So fun to think about using that on a hillside somewhere. I got a few more items for my project but I’ll make you wait to see the end result.

The next stop was going to be interesting. I was headed to see the Spool King. The spool man. This started when I was looking for a rather large spool that I could make into a table. I not only found my future table but I found some neat finished spools that I liked so I bought those too. Not sure where I will use them but I am excited for the buys.

I suppose later I will post what my project is about and what my table ends up looking like but for now, here is a picture of what I’m aiming for. 

It will be pretty cool if I can turn a trash piece into a treasure. Wish me luck.

As a first time picker I had so much fun. Not sure if I will do it again as I have some finds that will keep me busy for a while but I did get to savor the day. A new day full of new adventures.

Somebody’s junk can definitely be another’s treasure. I knew that but relished the moment of it on this spontaneous Saturday.

dare to be different

Mundane

The word mundane may be used more often during corona times than in the year before when people look at their lives.

Living in the confines of your home 24:7 for an extended period of time with limited access to other humans, socializing, touch and so much more. I’m sure many can relate.

However, there are some who live a mundane lifestyle year-round. They never bend or flex. They don’t seek change and they exist within the normalcy of their mundane life.

The perfectly manicured lawn. The impeccably made bed. The spotless sink. The routine. The regimen. The mundane life.

Is growth possible when all is predictable? Is it possible to chase perfection in the mundane lifestyle or will you wait forever to reach perfection?

If I view my life from a distance I’m more gypsy-driven compared to mundane. I’m eager to chase change. I love a messy bed or a more lived-in look. If I was to mow the lawn I wouldn’t follow the perfect pattern, rather I’d chart my own path. I’d opt for a paper plate and utensils to save dish clutter. I don’t travel in a gypsy pack but I enjoy the carefree lifestyle over rigid and mundane.

Work tasks on my mundane list are mostly accounting tasks or repetitive duties that require little or no independent thought. I could make widgets but I wouldn’t enjoy being a widget maker. I can post accounting transactions but for the love of God I could not be a full time accountant.

When I had time to sit back in corona and evaluate my own circumstances I looked at my Crossfit regimen. Definitely mundane from a schedule or routine perspective but I always defended the choice noting the constantly varied workouts of the day. But then I looked closer and Mondays were leg days, Tuesdays were chest and back and so on. I had to shake up my life and challenge myself.

Enter running. I’m not a runner by design. I’m a thick fit but I am opting for trail runs with switch backs and diversity a couple days a week. I’m opting to use my bike. A road bike some days and erg another. Body weight exercises at home some days and some strength activities in between. It’s not perfect but it’s me stretching. It’s me breaking the mundane cycle. I don’t think I’m alone here. I think many have shifted their workouts to take advantage of online training options and variety within their environment.

I may circle back in time but to be true to myself I need to evoke change. Even if minimal it’s required for me. Variety is my spice of life. When I glance at the last 10 years of life I can say I have been evolving. Mastering the chaos in my world. Charting my path toward my golden years with freedom and variety to not only reduce the mundane in my life but to seek pleasures that stimulate my mind.

Some people just can’t be overly routine. Take a partitioned Murph routine in Crossfit. 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats for 20 rounds. Talk about a hamster wheel. Every time I try to partition that workout I have to change it up at the end. 15 pull-ups, 30 pushups and 45 squats. I just can’t mentally push through the redundancy of the same pattern for 20 rounds. This is crazy to me and a mundane task I will try to overcome in time but it’s a noticeable trait I have. Change is my normal. It feeds my soul.

We have one life to live. It’s important to live our best life while continuing to grow as individuals. Growth doesn’t happen inside your comfort zone. It happens when you test the water or temperature just outside of your proverbial box. This was my recent view when I opted to step outside.

I am not a word wizard by any means however word usage can be fascinating due to the depth of their usage. I write as a constant form of change and exploration of life. Thanks for coming along for my ride/journey.

As I wrapped up this post the mail came. In comes a what seemed like barrel full of affirmative words on a tiny postcard sent by a dear friend. I was born to be an original. I couldn’t have said it better myself. No copies allowed. No mundane for this girl.

 

Until next time.

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.