working women

A Day in the Life (These Days)

People sometimes ask me if I like my job.

My answer used to be an enthusiastic “yes!” How can I not love a job filled with reading to kids, writing with kids, doing research and helping them grow into readers and learners?

These days my answer is different. Lukewarm, at best. I get up and go to my school every required day. But I am not excited about it right now. What used to be a positive, welcoming place is now filled with “spread out!” and “don’t touch!” Books turned in are quarantined in a special room on carts until they’re safe to touch.

Instead of kids drifting in and out of my classroom throughout the day, they can only come to the media center once a week during their assigned time slots. They come in, stay in line, sit down in the distanced chairs.

They watch my whole, real face tell them a story on video while they browse tables of books with their eyes, not hands. (I no longer have a clerk to assist me, so I “clone myself” with a video screen.) If students want me to open a book, I prop it on a random page then keep moving. When they have their selections they head to the desk. I scan a barcode instead of them typing their own numbers. No touching! Then they return to the exact same seat.

Instead of laughter, the most prevalent sound is the *psst* *psst* *psst* of food contact surface spray. I scrub. I shuffle books. Gloves on. Mask on. Smiling with my eyes as best I can.

I miss my job. I miss spontaneity. I miss special projects. I miss idle chat that leads to great ideas. A few fewer rules. A few more smiles.

A highlight of the week is when I do carside book delivery to the digital learners. Some drop by twice a week. Sometimes I get to wave to the kids in the back seat and tell them I miss them. Last week a parent held up her phone so I could Facetime with her son, waiting at home for more books. I’m not the only one who is missing something.

Or the other afternoon when I had a spur-of-the-moment takeout picnic with my daughter at the park. As I was leaving I heard a girl’s voice scream in excitement “YOU ARE THE LIBRARY TEACHER! YOU ARE THE LIBRARY TEACHER!” Then her little sister, a new kindergarten student, joined in the hollering. We waved excitedly. From a distance. Even with the mask, they still see me and I still see them.

I’m determined to stay positive and try to keep connecting to kids at a time when everything is about separation. When the kids watch me tell a story and laugh at the right parts, I know I am still reaching them through all the rules and rigamarole.

The Roaring 20s, I tell myself. The Roaring 20s.

perspective

Cranky Pants

This chick is cranky and opinionated! At least I admit it and at least I am comfortable publishing my cranky, emotional and somewhat opinionated stories and rants. Knowing full well said stories are read worldwide….a fun fact I am super proud of.

Fun fact: this past month our readership skyrocketed. Not sure why but it did. Cheers to all you newbies out there reading along. We adore you from afar.

This post is also not about something current in my life that should make you wonder if you know me and are reading this. I wrote this a while ago and just opted to publish it now. A blast from the past so to speak, However it rings true when I hear or experience life through my lens and thus I figure it was time to share my thoughts.

I am at a loss at society today. One can look at the craziness on the news and see all the horror the world has to offer. But I am in control of what I watch and what I am exposed to as an adult. And for that reason alone I rarely watch the news it’s just too depressing.

As a parent sometimes you just open an email from school only to see how vile people are. Offering your kids drugs at school, writing death threats on the bathroom wall or even worse. Times are changing and bad news travels faster than the speed of light thanks to the internet.

The yellow school bus kids ride isn’t even a sanctuary anymore. Bullying and isolating happens on the daily to those who are different. I often shake my head and think who raises their kid to be ugly to others? It’s unfortunate as our kids still have developing brains and don’t have the foresight needed to tune out the negative vibes like we can as adults. It’s just awful to watch in some instances.

I choose to focus on the positives in life. A few positives: I have my good health, my good friends and an amazing family. I have a nice roof over my head, a reliable vehicle to drive and I am fortunate to be active in the community. I volunteer when I can and I make a concerted effort to impact others each week in a positive manner.

So what could possibly make me cranky? Life makes me cranky. All the takers in life weigh on me daily. Takers are near and far. Takers are people or entities who want to take things away from you that you work so hard for.

Takers sometimes come disguised as friends but I say frienemies. The friends you tolerate that you don’t trust as far as you can throw them. The ones who are nice to your face but then throw you under a bus the first chance they can to elevate their personal image. I’m sure everyone has at least one in their life.

Or maybe it is your boss at the office who tells you to your face that you are the best thing since sliced bread then turns and tells your coworkers how incompetent you are. Maybe it’s a friend of the family or neighbor who pretends they are supporting you but then sweep in and snag your valuables. Valuables can be defined differently for each situation. And then there is the big taker, The corporate greed monster. The big fish in the little sea. That entity who likes to sue people with limited resources to take out the competition. Or maybe it’s a strategy the big company has thinking your firm doesn’t have the capital to defend a frivolous lawsuit. Or maybe that big company thinks they can bully you with the threat of a lawsuit. The last scenario is just like the school bus bully but the kid grew up. He is still just a bully. Different disguise but still a bully.

The list goes on and on but the moral of the story is life is tough. Whatever your battle you must find your sunshine and let it light the way to new beginnings. Learning this simple life lesson in your early and formative years with help you navigate the adult world that is harsh and full of takers waiting to prey on you whenever one sees a moment of vulnerability.

Ignore those in today’s society who judge you for having a mask on or off. For those who roll their eyes when you say you want to enjoy the fresh air outside. For those who are so wrapped up in corona that they want to bully others online or in person. Just mute them!

This is yet another post from the vault. An oldie but goodie. A fresh corona spin added and here we are at the end of the story, for now.

Remember to watch your back somebody is always on your tail no matter what stage of life you are in. Don’t stay a cranky pants. Keep evolving. Never stand still. As long as you are looking forward whatever is in the rear view is the past. And nobody can change your future but you.

family, inspire

Resilience

The ability or capacity to bounce back and/or recover from a negative situation or difficulties in general. Resilience. Mental toughness. Strength.

Learning resilience at an early age is a must. It’s unfortunate when your child has to learn about resilience when they get a put in a crappy situation with adults who have ill intentions, but it happens. Sometimes it happens more than one likes to admit. For me I’m choosing to write about it.

This week I silently observed a male treat a developing/impressionable girl as a mere pawn. A pawn due to his own agenda but nonetheless a pawn. The lowest component in the game of chess, a pawn. Life is much like a chess game. Lots of moving pieces and many who think they are king or queen and like to push around pawns on the daily. This is the reality of life. Different days you may be in different roles on the chess board.

How you bend and flex with the trials and tribulations shows your character. Sometimes it shows grit, growth and resilience. For me this week I observed all of the above.

I watched a beautiful spirit say to herself, you can think I’m a pawn but really I’m a queen. I can let you think you win but in the end I win. I have resilience. I have a bright spirit that can’t be dulled by your ignorance.

I am me. I may be young but I’m versatile. I can do anything I set my mind to and I can do it better and with more conviction if you tell me I can’t, I won’t or I shouldn’t. Others can’t replicate. Many will try but fail.

I will run faster. I will lift heavier. I will push myself to be the best version of me. I will grow. I won’t sit still and be judged. Those who judge are really the pawns in life. One who tries to suppress a true queen is just an insignificant person.

As I hold my head up high, I strut as I walk away. I strut. I will glance over my shoulder with one last farewell. The farewell smirk that is a silent FU to you. Yes that is correct the FU glance that wishes you well in life.

You will need that good luck. I won’t. I have resilience. I have strength. I have courage. I have me. You may wish you did in the end, but you lost access with your insignificant behavior.

My observation was amazing to witness. My ability to watch that person shine through adversity. I’m glowing knowing she prevailed. She did it. She had fun doing it. She overcame.

She is amazing. Simply amazing. Meet my mini me. The shining star that a male tried to put in the corner for their own agenda. Does she look shaken? Absolutely not. She is a fearless girl ready to take on life and all it’s imperfections.

And just when I thought this post was finished the digital age awoke. The poking from the adult again in an online fashion. A cyber-bullying type event. What is wrong with people?

I will say it again and show another glowing picture. You can’t dull this girl’s shine. She is one of a kind. Gentle spirit, kind heart and an all-around athlete. Unfortunately some may be jealous of that and act selfishly. For that adult acting poorly: you have to look in the mirror each day and realize your behavior is a reflection of you and only you. Raise your bar. Don’t try to bring others down to your level.

This is a proud momma post. I adore this beautiful girl and won’t let anyone bully her. This situation is in our rear view where it belongs. Behind us!

family, perspective

I Sat Alone

Something I normally don’t do is sit alone. However once the pandemic hit I found myself sitting alone more and more. Not always by choice but by circumstance. In the 60 plus days of restrictions, I think I learned to master the art of sitting alone and how to use it as fuel for my mind and spirit. A rejuvenation method.

When I think about it, it’s funny how the universe can whisper to you in the darkest hours and let you see light that is really shining in on you, your surroundings and your inner circles.

Today I decided to sit alone by choice. I was going to wait in the car while my travel buddy took care of an extended pit stop. Instead I ventured off a beaten path. The unknown path led to a cement picnic table on the Tennessee River. Covered in moss, cobwebs and bugs. I was drawn to it like flies on shit.

Definitely not a spot I had ever been to. Not a spot I ever planned to visit but to my surprise I enjoyed it. I had a book to read. I had AirPods to listen to a few podcasts. My keys to set off an alarm if any creepers came near and of course a pair of fancy shades. The essentials so to speak.

To my surprise I was more drawn to the sounds of the land than my packed items. I listened to birds of all sorts chirp and sing. I listened to the sounds of a jet ski and pontoon boat passing in the distance of the river. I stared at interesting cobwebs. I watched ants crawl. My mind was at ease.

I’m on a trip to see family and mourn the loss of a loved one. Some alone time is good for the soul. It lets you reflect. It lets you be at peace with what is and will be the new normal. Life less one or in my case less two people.

Life isn’t easy. Life is messy on most days just like people. Not physically messy just complicated messy. As I jot down this post in comes a text from a former athlete I coached. A sweet, sweet text of condolences. When a young person you impacted takes the time to reach out to you, how can you not be moved?

As I enter this next line, this post shifts from mourning and solitude to appreciation and foresight. We all have a chance to brighten another’s day at any given time, but do we? We all have the ability to look ahead and see tomorrow but do we?

Life is never about regrets or mistakes it’s always about new beginnings and sunshine for me. Today I worked on my photo reel. Photos of nature and beauty. Simple as it sounds but as complex as I make it when I visualize the purpose.

The purpose of today’s photo reel was to honor the people I lost while seeing the beauty in what they were about. I used nature to symbolize the beauty. Speaking of beauty nature takes another turn. Not one but two red cardinals are whipping by me and my picnic table. I didn’t grab a picture but I knew my two loved ones were letting me know all is good.

Simple. Sweet. Memorable. This post is dedicated to my dad and Irene. You may be gone but not forgotten. You both lived amazing lives.

I chose to close this post with a black and white photo as I’m closing the door on darkness and looking ahead to the bright sunshine of tomorrow and all that is visible on the horizon. A new day. A new beginning. A new set of goals and adventures that await.

Forging a path ahead is what those lost would want you to do. I may be a carrier of the message today but for anyone who reads this, the lesson can easy apply to you as well. Think about my post as a whisper from me to you. My universe to yours.

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.