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.

awareness

Nightfall

It was a Tuesday evening in summer. Not too hot out, maybe 75 degrees. Sitting at a friend’s house in their backyard by their pool. Surprisingly no kids were around, not even in the pool.

No laughter. No whining. No birds chirping. No splashing of water. No dog barks. Nightfall was upon us. A simpler time of day in the yard.

The sounds of the night were so very different from the sounds of the day. What an interesting thought or moment in time to recount in this blog. Nightfall.

Creatures of the night were awake and singing to us. From the grass to the trees sounds were in full force. Crickets for sure were out in full force. Was there one or many? I can’t say for sure but it seems orchestrated or echoed.

A variance of chirps and high pitch zaps and wonky sounds in stereo in the backyard. It was calming. White noise, pink noise or whatever noise this refers to. It’s a peaceful sound. A simple sound of the peace within the environment.

How these sounds differ if the environment was a beach, a farm or a cruise ship. The click of the air conditioner turned on. Clack, buzz and the vibration hum set the background tone. The crickets sing on top of the bass sound. Layered on top are random zaps from a nearby bug zapper. Katydids egg on the crickets with their anthem. It’s a full blown orchestra if you listen.

Don’t let the silence kill you. Enjoy the carefree whispers around you. As a mom those silent times are few and far between. Embrace the silence. Enjoy the whispers from the grass to the trees. Appreciate the calming sense of the sound. If you tune out the chaos of the hustle and bustle of today’s world you will most likely sleep better at night.

If on a farm would I hear bears wrestling at night? Would I hear the moos of cows? Would I hear the sound of grass crackling when a deer passes by? Would I hear the sound of a horse wrestling in the solitude of his barn? Would I hear the sighs of those taking in the stars at night from their back porch? I may just have to research this.

I do know if I am at the beach instead of the backyard the night sounds are distinctively different yet calming in a different way. The rushing of ocean waves. Simple sounds but in a repetitive pattern. Swoosh. It may have a soft finish if the wave hits the sand or a harsh sound if the wave hits the rock. How a storm can change the sound in the backyard, the beach or the farm.

From a distant thunder to shaking of the roof when it draws near. To the sound of rain hitting your roof. And how different the sound is if your roof is metal vs. straw.

Nightfall. The sounds that ensue. Have you slowed down to appreciate the sounds of the night in your part of the world? How do your sounds differ from mine? Sounds are soothing. Enjoy your next nightfall. I know I will enjoy my next nightfall wherever my night falls.

family

Mother’s Day Moments

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Mother’s Day during the pandemic.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  Honestly, many Mother’s Days in our home pass without too much fanfare. My own Mom is no longer alive and some years are harder than others.  It’s also one of the busiest days of the year at our family’s restaurant, and often that is the focus. More years than not I spend working at the restaurant just to help be sure people are happy. (This doesn’t really bother me. I always say those are the kind of days that pay my kids’ college tuition.  This year it’s more like my mortgage, but you get the idea.) I worked this year as well.

It may not surprise you that the gifts I often enjoy most are cards.  Taking time to write someone a meaningful note is a rare treasure.  I’ve gotten several amazing cards and letters from my kids in the past years. When my youngest asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I said “fifteen pound dumbbells” with a belly laugh.  Stores have been out of fitness equipment for months since many have set up home gyms during corona.  But then I just told her my real answer:  a card. Honestly, I don’t expect anything, especially right now.

So the night before Mother’s Day, when my son asked me if I would be around in the morning, I had no idea what to expect.  There would be a delivery, he said.  I was touched by the very thought that he would have something delivered.  I figured maybe it would be flowers, since I do have a great love for unique blooms.  I was floored when a bag was dropped on my doorstep and I pulled out this amazing super sparkly tumbler he had made just for me.  Yes, it’s awesome and I love the Georgia Bulldogs.  But even more amazing is the fact that only about 5 days earlier I had complained about needing a bigger insulated cup to increase my water consumption.  My workplace closure has brought my water intake way down since I don’t have my infused water any longer.   So not only is it a personal design, it showed that he heard me and responded.  What a heartwarming gift!

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My middle daughter made our whole family dinner on the Monday after Mother’s Day.  She made tacos, which are my food love language.  Fresh guacamole, all the fixin, and she is a healthy eater herself so it was all more or less in my eating goals.  Even protein baked goods for dessert!  She also gave me some lovely hydrangeas, some of my favorite flowers, and a candle in my second favorite scent.  (That’s a story for another post).  Finally, a card with all kinds of beautiful words.  It was a beautiful, thoughtful evening.

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Lastly, in an unexpected turn, my youngest walks in the house with a pair of…you guessed it…15 pound dumbbells.  I was in shock.  She went to two stores…the first had nothing.  The second had all of 3 dumbbells and unbelievably they were fifteen pounders.  Ah-May-Zing.  !!!!  I’ve already used them several times.  Yay for less frustration in workouts.

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Of course I saved all the cute little handprint and rhyme Mother’s Day gifts from their elementary school days.  They are precious!  But to be heard, seen, and known as an individual with interests, goals, and preferences by my kids is a different sort of celebration, and in some ways all that much sweeter. 

 

 

perspective

Every Game is a Gift

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I looked out over the field, early that morning.

It was a beautiful April weekend.  Still a little crisp in the air, but the bright, direct sun warmed your skin enough.

I thought to myself, it is a perfect lacrosse morning. Right now, we are in the heart of lacrosse season, the sport both of my daughters and many of their dearest friends love. I looked out over the field where both of my daughters played their first seasons of the sport. It should have been bustling with warmups and whistles. Instead, it stood completely empty, the “closed” signs warning everyone away. Corona was in town.

When my older daughter was in high school, she told me that lacrosse was the only reason she went to school some days. In those high school seasons, she fought through injuries of all kinds.  From ankle twists and endless bruises to plaguing knee injuries and surgery.  Most notably, as a dynamic and skilled attack player, she also suffered at least three significant concussions. Because of these brain injuries, she watched many games from the sidelines, cheering her teammates on with all her energy and might while she waited for her head to heal.

After making her way through the recruiting process, she earned a spot playing in college.  There were many ups and downs, but she made it to the college playing field.  I was so proud to see her play at that level.  But just a few games in to her freshman season, she took a hit to the head that knocked her out for several minutes.  She lost some of her memories.  She couldn’t stand bright lights our music louder than a whisper.  She was just not her usual sharp self for a while.

Days off the field turned into weeks and months.  Her college freshman season ended and even though there were a few glimmers of hope, she finally got to the point where she realized her playing days were over.  Yes, she could continue coaching and being a referee, but she would never pick up her lacrosse stick competitively again.

God, I loved watching her play.  She was such a competitor on the field.  It was amazing to witness and cheer for her. Seeing that end too soon was devastating for us both.

My younger daughter has taken her own path through lacrosse.  She has great talent and has loved the sport for many years. She was just finding her footing in her first full varsity year when corona came to town. When I ask her these days what she misses most about school, she says lacrosse.

Each of them, in their own ways, now have “lost seasons.” Seasons that should have been played. Goals that should have been scored. Laugh-filled bus rides that should have been ridden. Late night meals with teammates that should have been shared. Wins that should have been celebrated. Defeats that should have been endured. Lessons that should have been learned.

Coronavirus has served many of us lost seasons. Weddings, holidays, so many celebrations shifted, even canceled.  I think especially of high school and college seniors in their final months of school, what should be a time of togetherness, of celebration for them and their supporters. I hurt for them, even though the changed celebration doesn’t change the effort they put in or the elation they should feel. If you know someone who has a lost season because of corona, I encourage you to reach out to acknowledge that loss. Most of us don’t quite know what to say, but just being there to listen and recognize what is lost may be a help.

An unexpected concussion ended my daughter’s lacrosse career too early. From that time I knew, every game is a gift. Every time you get to step on the field or out on the stage or wherever you do what you love…every time you get to do that, it is a gift to be cherished and a challenge to be embraced. When we emerge from this, I hope we are changed in a way where we remember that.

healthy hacks

Tough Days Call for Easy Bagels

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Posted in honor of National Bagel Day.  Here’s how I celebrated!

Several of my friends and I are trying to tighten up our nutrition, and our belts, as part of our 2020 goals.

This may mean limiting certain treats, even eliminating some of them. For most of us it means upping protein and being careful to count nearly everything else. It’s a daily set of choices…maybe more of a battle some days.

But it also means finding new ways to enjoy some of our favorite things in ways that don’t derail us from our goals.

Transition in nutrition can be challenging.  Even after just a few days, moving to prepped food and protein can try both patience and palate.

Enter Skinny Taste Easy Bagels.  5 ingredients, quick knead, roll them into a bagel shape, top them, 25 minutes in the oven and voila! Bagels.

Are they just like iconic New York bagels?  Not quite.  But, covered with your favorite topping (Everything But the Bagel for some, sesame for others), toasted or warmed, maybe filled with a lightly scrambled egg, and tightening up your nutrition doesn’t seem quite so bad.  They have almost 10 grams of protein each.  

I learned quickly that these make my friends happy.  So, when meal prep was running short lately, it was pretty simple to put them together on a Thursday night and bring them to see everyone at the gym Friday morning.  Even though they were a little crispy, they brought a smile and some great pics of pretty plates later that morning.

A little pick-me-up doesn’t have to be expensive or hard.  It can be as easy as a note or a homemade treat.  It can even help friends meet their goals while letting them know they matter and are cared about.

Think you’re not a baker?  Give these a try.  Another healthy hack from the 2 Chicks!

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