awareness

Safe Place

There’s at least one every year.

It usually starts with a drop-in from the counselor. “We need a safe place for _______________. Is it ok if we have the library as her safe place?”

The answer is always yes. Of course.

The reasons are many. For some, it’s a desire to run away. In my years in the public education system, we’ve had a handful of students who cope with things by physically running out of the school. Sometimes they make it to the street, down the road, into the woods. As you might imagine, a student exiting the building is cause for everything and everyone to stop what they are doing until the student is found. After the student is located, there is a process that begins…protocols, safety measures, and so on. One part of the protocol is identifying safe places for those students to go when they feel that urge to escape. My library is pretty big and I have no problem leaving students alone. So the counselor brings that student in and shows them where they can go to be undisturbed.

We’ve had other students who try to harm themselves. Much like our students who need to escape, the library is a place they can go to be alone and decompress. I have worked on the art of watching these kids without putting them under a microscope. We all know adults to just need a time out, but don’t need to be overly isolated. I strive to be that safe place where a student can be just alone enough to gather themselves.

At times it is students who can’t be in the room for whatever is being taught. We have families who don’t want their students exposed to stories about magic. We have other families who don’t celebrate certain holidays. In that case, we are the place that students can come to avoid that content.

And then there are the students with health conditions. From seasonal allergies to epileptic seizures, I am the place where students go when being outside for recess isn’t a safe option. I try to give these little guys things to do while they are inside. I hurt at times for these kids, since being outside is so vital to health and such a fun part of the school day.

I guess I am in the margins. A catch-all for students who need a place to just be who they are for whatever reason. A welcoming spot for anyone who is a little different. Do you have a place like that? Or maybe it’s a person?

adventure, featured

Snack and a Smile

A snack and a smile used to be Southwest Airlines’ claim to fame on flights. Or so their snack pack advertises. That’s all in the past.

Today, life is different. We fly with masks. No mask no fly. They announce it multiple times. They also announce a numbering system overhead regarding snacks. This is a new protocol for me since my last flight a few months ago.

1-Coke

2-Diet Coke

3-7up

4-water

No need to take down your mask to order. Instead you have the finger. And yes you choose your finger. A 8×11 laminated sign with pictures and numbers to order. I guess it’s idiot proof. I really wanted to capture this with a photo but the flight attendant didn’t look amused. The sign is funny to me but probably ingenious to others. No smile with your snack this trip. That’s false advertising on my snack pack! No smiles. Seems like the trend for trips in the future.

Maybe there will be a middle finger for #1 for the jerk in front. Maybe the silly mom will hold up the peace sign to get her Diet Coke. Maybe four sideway fingers from this girl for some water. How did we even get to this point?

Now that I’m here trapped in my middle seat, listening to my AirPods to tune out the crying baby in front of me. My drink came covered with a fun fact napkin. Love the marketing amusement Southwest! I learned another fun fact from Southwest. Looks like the new slogan is mask up. Cheers to a great trip.

Maybe the next time I fly maybe I will have a touch screen to order my drink and snack. Cheers to mask life. Cheers to travel. Cheers to the lady next to me whose sweaty leg is sticking to me. Cheers to the crying baby in front. Cheers to my daughter sleeping on my shoulder. I can smell her morning sleepy breath through my mask. Gross! Cheers to the turbulence that is keeping the napkin moist on my drink. Really that napkin was to keep the airborne germs out out of it. Another Southwest value add.

Mask up. Travel. 

coaching, family

Vroom Vroom

The engine has started. The permit is in hand. She checks the mirror to make sure she looks cute. Yup, that’s a correct statement. Here we go. The car is in motion with a teen operating the vehicle!

Month one is here. We make it to the highway. We hit the country roads. We yielded in many scenarios. We drove in the dark. We even drove in the rain. We got gas and she pumped. Big deal for her. We passed a cop which made her super nervous.

My favorite trip was to Chick-fil-A. She wanted to maneuver the drive thru, place her order herself, pay and make sure she could get to the window to get the food. That ending part wasn’t so pretty but the long arm reach was fun to watch. She was sad however when she realized she couldn’t eat the hot food while driving.

So many firsts for her. So many stressful situations for me. We are working on it together. We have time to focus without distractions. It’s been a good first month. Well I should say most of the month was good. A few disagreements on what is left and what is right. I figured that was a prerequisite for the permit but I might have assumed too much. I guess when under pressure you might hear go right and go left?

I’ve decided to document this roller coaster ride with her because it’s time I won’t get back. It’s a memory I won’t be able to recreate. It’s a time to build her up and coach her on something that will give her independence, achievement and a right of passage. She is my youngest child. My last time to make an impact on roadway safety.

From the copilot seat, I survived some more miles of behind the wheel training. I’m learning new ways to cope with stress, anxiety and fear. All of which I don’t normally have to deal with unless I’m buckling that seatbelt to go for a ride with permit girl.

Until next time. Drive safely. Be patient if you see a slow driver. They could be learning to drive.

business, challenges

A View From Behind the Mask

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I don’t bring it up often, but my family is in the restaurant business.  My husband and I met when I came to work at his family’s restaurant when I was 20 years old. I was taking a mental health break from college for a semester and needed a job, so I stumbled in to a local restaurant and ended up working there on and off for over a decade.  That’s a story for another time.

Suffice it to say, I have worked the front of the house in a restaurant for a lot of my life.  Server, bartender, hostess, manager, banquet server, retail sales, I’ve done it.  I have learned that it is not the life for me. (Add that to the list of stories for another time.)  Still, my husband’s restaurant is a huge part of our family economy, so there are certain days every year when I go to work and pitch in. Father’s Day, Oktoberfest celebrations, and so on.  Mother’s Day is usually one of those days.

As you likely know, the restaurant business has been radically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many establishments are closed.  Others are trying take-out, delivery, family-style offerings, and whatever else they can cook up. Heck, some are even offering grocery-style shopping. Pivoting quickly to focus on survival.

It was just recently that Georgia decided to allow restaurant dining rooms to open with detailed, extensive safety measures and very limited capacity.  We are lucky to have a restaurant with a large dining room. Other restaurants may not even be able to try to open their dining areas just because of the safety measures and square footage requirements.

This Mother’s Day was the first time our dining room had been open in well over a month.  My daughter and I were pinch hitting to help things run smoothly. Here are just a few of the rules: Paper menus instead of plastic sleeves so they could be disposed of each use. Gloves…I think I changed my gloves 50 times during a 6-hour shift. No bringing pitchers to the table to refill any drinks.  Just bring a new fresh glass. Spread guests out at every third table or so.  No groups over six people, which is often the minimum number for many tables on Mother’s Day at our place. Deep cleaning all surfaces…we scrubbed tabletops and every part of every chair anyone touched with sanitizer all shift. Since we couldn’t use our typical tablecloths, this was a lengthy chore. When done, we left a card on the table letting customers know it had been thoroughly cleaned.

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Maybe the biggest change was the masks.  I had a coworker from my school make me cloth masks to wear a while ago.  They are more or less comfortable.  They are much better than the awkward constricting bandana I tried at the beginning of corona. Still, after a while with the mask on you find yourself breathing differently.  It’s always sweaty and warm under there.  I was breathing more heavily, like I was working out or something, after just a minute with the mask on.  It was a relief to take it off every once in a while, or just let my nose peek out for 30 seconds or so.  Apparently it’s even worse if you wear glasses.

I wondered, could people tell if I was smiling at them? I do smile with my eyes but I’m still not sure. (No comment on my overgrown eyebrows which are tragic, or the bags under my eyes!) I wore more eye makeup thinking that would be the part people could see.

I learned quickly that most guests couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I spoke less and less as the shift wore on.  I hardly wished anyone Happy Mother’s Day, which is usually a big part of my job being the “Comfortable Committee” on those days.  I suppose I was just caught up in the strangeness of it all.  It didn’t feel festive.  Not many dressed for church.  No tables filled with gifts or flowers for the Moms. Only a handful of photos taken. The dining rooms weren’t crammed with smiling faces.  (And we are usually wall-to-wall with a waiting list for hours on Mother’s Day.)  It felt tense, with our focus on staying safe and sterile over warm and welcoming. It is what is needed right now. We want our customers to feel safe with us. Still, it is very different than the atmosphere in most years.

Just an insider’s view of what it’s like to work in a restaurant for Mother’s Day during the pandemic. Thankfully, we had quite a few people dine with us and many families took brunch and sweets to go.  This daily income is truly a lifeline for your local restaurants.

Sadly, when I got home from working, I read a long string of complaints and disappointments on social media from people who had waited hours for food ordered from major chains. Steakhouses, southern cooking, seafood, you name it.  All took enormous numbers of online orders and the system broke down.  People waited and waited, no one answering the phone, no one updating them.  When only a few miles away we had tables sitting empty and cooks and servers ready to make great food! It won’t always be perfect, but please give your local places a chance.

Our family’s place has been the site of engagements, weddings, showers, celebrations of all kinds and so many other special occasions. Please support those quirky, unique little places now.  Support the ones that hold your memories, even if it is a little strange to do these days.  If they are able to open at all, they are likely working their tails off to keep you safe and keep their business alive and employees working.  If you can, please dine with your favorite local places! Support the places you want to see come out the other side of this challenge with your dollars, your social media buzz, and any other support you can offer.