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.

inspire, perspective

Excitement

Who doesn’t like a little excitement in their life? Who doesn’t get excited on a regular basis?

A big vacation starts tomorrow. The feeling of excitement hits you and sleep is no longer an option. The first day of school is upon you. Many emotions pass through your mind but one is definitely excitement to see what the day will hold. A birth of a new family member. Nerves are a-blazing but excitement is in the air. The examples are limitless in my mind.

Excitement is around us. It’s a word but also a feeling. Some show it visibly differently than others and that is okay. For me excitement is easily visible and can even be contagious.

My eyes light up. My curiosity is sparked. My brain fires on all cylinders. I engage others around me. Excitement is a stimulant to me in a way that many may not understand.

I feel excitement in my core and it radiates around me. I can wake up excited for the day where others are slow off the block or need coffee for arousal. This is what I mean when I say I feel excitement in my core. No dusting off needed to arouse my excitement, it sits at the core of my existence.

Some days it’s shaken and stirred. Other days the excitement becomes an inferno. It’s somewhere in between the reckless inferno and shaken when my mind works the best.

I am excited today and thus I decided to write. I often write in the morning when my senses are awakened with excitement. Content flows. Ideas go into the journal. Plans are made. Action is taken. Most of which happens before one gets up and has their morning coffee.

I am fond of the word excitement. It’s part of my aura. It’s part of my story. For now I will take my excitement off this page and into the world as it awaits. And there are some folks out there in the world that don’t appreciate my excitement. I have to assume it’s because their life is boring but I waste no time on that negativity. I just do me. Exciting me whenever possible.

I hope the word excitement has sparked some thought for you today. The post was meant to send you in that direction of excitement.

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.

 

 

perspective

Special Deliveries

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I am a huge Amazon fan.  Like, huge. Maybe too big.

Me and Amazon go back a long way. I peeked in my decades-old email inbox and saw my oldest email from Amazon.com is from 2003 when I had a baby registry there.  I know I was a customer years before that though. I loved Amazon when they just sold books and  spending 25 bucks to get super saver shipping was the coolest. Prime wasn’t even a thing.

I loved Amazon when it was losing money and people didn’t think it would survive. (Yes, there was a time when Amazon did not make money!)  I was a college student then, busy falling in love with knowledge and reading and all that nonsense, when Amazon was the place for all my little philosophy and poetry tomes, long before Amazon baby registries.

I do know that Amazon isn’t everything. Over the years I have learned to seek out and shop small businesses when I can.  Local bookstores, hardware stores, boutiques…I try to shop them often.  But still, there are some times when Amazon’s selection and even price and return policy can’t be matched. (Not to mention you can shop them in your pajamas when you just think of something you need and voila!  It’s there in 2 days.)

Of course, the pandemic has caused retail pandemonium. Even more people are shopping online. Delivery services are taxed to the max. Amazon didn’t escape this fate.  My little reliable Prime symbol doesn’t even mean 2-day shipping anymore. Only “essential items” from these categories would be delivered quickly: baby products, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies.  Everything else was in slow motion.

I guess this didn’t really sink in for me for a while. Here I am, spending most of my time at home, many businesses closed.  Times have truly, deeply changed, both in a global sense and in a personal sense. I’ve been using my hour once spent commuting to the gym and work to read every morning. Of the many changes I’ve taken on, that has been a bright spot.  But, my book supply was small, and reading for nearly an hour each day has me flying through books quickly.  A visit to the local Barnes & Noble isn’t an option. Libraries are closed (?!?!?)  So, of course, I ordered a couple of titles from Amazon.

FOUR WEEKS.

It was going to take four weeks!  And one is a best seller!  Geez.  Another sign of the times.

I see Amazon trucks scurrying everywhere through traffic and their delivery people running up to doors.  I know people are working hard.  I’ll survive.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was granted a hundred dollars from our school PTA to spend on classroom supplies earlier this week. I had to spend it quickly, so I just piled a bunch of colored copy paper in my Amazon cart and hit order now.  I knew we didn’t have any at work and I knew we wouldn’t need it anytime soon, since we won’t have students in the building until the fall.  It was just a simple thing to stock up on and Amazon usually has decent prices.  I clicked it and forgot about it.

Then, VOILA.  What shows up on my doorstep in less than 24 hours?  The 8 reams of paper I didn’t really need for months, in a large box marked “HEAVY.”

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I was shocked.  Really?

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the books I ordered weeks ago, the items I truly needed now – or even last month.

I guess this probably sounds quibblesome to many.  A definite first-world problem.  Maybe it’s selfish of me to wish I could have somehow deemed my books essential items.  After all, they are what I am using to work on my mindset and my future wealth.  I get that books aren’t at the top of many people’s priority lists. Screens are more an essential for most these days, and others have said that focusing long enough to read in these troubled times is impossible.  But for me, books have been a saving grace.  And for those who are isolating alone, I can imagine books can be essential for some.

Still, I can wait.  What was sillier to me was my heavy, cumbersome box of Atomic Orange copy paper, which I didn’t need anytime soon, zipped to my home address like it was on the Pony Express.  Can I find a way to trade my priorities?  Or somehow push the paper down the delivery list so the urgently essential items (whatever those are) can get to their destinations more quickly?

But in the end, who decides what is essential?  And why? It’s different around the world, and not without controversy.  Amazon, who started out in the book industry, now has books as non-essential items.  Amazon, you’ve forgotten where you came from!  (The conspiracy theorist in me says, of course they don’t want us to read!  Reading means we can think for ourselves!  They’re trying to limit our access to information.  And did I mention that the LIBRARIES ARE CLOSED??!?)

Calm down, Beth. Really though, it’s probably not much more than another shuffling sign of the times in the age of corona.  And it brings a new appreciation for the conveniences I took for granted. And a whole lot of neon-colored paper collecting dust in the cupboard.

 

 

 

 

 

perspective

Passing Time in Class

A short time ago in reality but in my mind it seems like years ago, I was in a multi-day professional training. Attire was casual but attention to learning was expected. I had an open mind as day one began. Seems funny to recap this now since most people are stuck inside 24/7 these days.

Commuter time was long and exhausting for many but some had hotels with no commute. A luxury many of us actually miss today (traffic/people/hotels). Coffee was served until 10 am to spark the day but nothing after lunch. How would this impact the audience? Would limiting caffeine hinder learning or attentiveness? Another reminder of how much I miss coffee dates with friends, sigh.

A couple of the speakers were slow in getting their concept across or ill-prepared at times. Unfortunately that seems to make time move at a turtle’s pace for many, myself included. When time seems to stand still for me my mind wanders. I people watch. When time slows in the afternoon the overall audience aura changes. I especially enjoy people watching during and after the shift. I wonder if people carb loaded at lunch or if the lack of caffeine caused their shift.

As day one ended I noticed a gal using play doh in another row. I thought it was odd then saw another doing it. I was ever so curious so I asked what the significance was and both said stress relief and ability to concentrate is the motivation. Okay I can buy into that I said to myself and moved on.

Next day it was a couple different people this time with coloring books. One had felt tip markers, one colored pencils and another crayons. By the next day the color sheets seemed more elaborate as well. I wasn’t in shock rather I thought if I was the presenter I might reevaluate my performance, that I wasn’t being engaging or there was too much idle time built into the day. Neither seemed apparent to the presenter.

The next day I noticed a woman knitting. Not just knitting a cap for a baby this was a full blown scarf or blanket of sorts. At this point I seem flabbergasted. How would I feel as the presenter? Shocked that the focus was not on the presenter and the content he/she was supposed to present. Then I saw the neon stress ball group in the back row. Then the smackers who used food to soothe their environmental stresses.

Using tools of soothing was normal behavior in this class group. I have doodled in the past in trainings and school in general but have never taken these more extreme measures. Or are they extreme? If my kid used this strategy in high school or middle school would it be an acceptable concentration method? Would a teacher be offended? Would the concession be allowed or would it cause chaos among other students?

Is this a new trend? Am I old? How would this culture affect you as a trainer? I neglected to mention there was also the classic person who nodded off but we had a full-fledged snorer on day 4 after lunch. Might have been my favorite to watch from a distance.

In a world of videos, I wouldn’t envy the person sleeping as it might be sent digitally to their big boss. Just food for thought. For me I will stick to my old school training and try my darnedest to pay attention in this type of formal training. Mostly out of respect to the person conducting the training as the content may be difficult to present at times.

No matter what your perspective is, I applaud bold folks for taking initiative to calm their minds and nerves to enable themselves to focus and realign as needed to be successful in their environment. As a footnote to this paragraph: I wrote this weeks before the corona pandemic. I had no idea how it would totally come full circle as I sit in my own home on lockdown. A time out from life.

This is clearly my observation post. Maybe you are a stress ball person or maybe a coloring book type. Whatever your stress relief I applaud you. Don’t mind the people watchers like me. My tool is observing my environment. Assessing the whos, the whats, the whys and so on.

Thankfully my in service training has come and gone so I can get back to my routines being routine and keep my people watching distractions to a minimum especially while
in isolation. It is again an irony that I initially wrote this post pre-corona yet it’s applicable to life today. No routines, keeping my distance, and of course limiting my
people watching because I’m on lockdown.

It’s also apparent that in these crazy times people of all ages and mindsets need refreshing and new ideas to comfort them and shift their focus. I chose to take a long bike ride today. I enjoyed the crisp fresh air. I listened to the peaceful sounds around me.

Knitting may be your thing or maybe it’s playing cards or playing video games. Find your niche and get your groove on when you need to. This blog post was written sometime during the self-quarantine phase of the great corona virus 2020.

While in quarantine I have resorted to coloring my driveway with sidewalk chalk and chalk paint. I have blown many bubbles with those super size bubble blowers. I planted flowers and even a few trees. I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned more times than I can think. I colored. I sent care packages by mail. I binged watched Netflix more than I should have. I’m sure some of these idea came from my people watching time in the past. And the list continues….

Drop me a note to let me know what you have been up to in isolation.

fitness and nutrition

My Dumbbell Museum

A few days ago I shared about some “vintage” Easter treasures that have found new life in our home during the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s another area in our home that has found some new life as we have become more and more isolated.  All the members of my family have lost access to our gym and fitness facilities / practices, so our makeshift basement gym space has become a hub of activity on and off from 6:30 am (my exercise time) on throughout the day.

As with many things in this new “normal” we are making do with what we have. Stuff is coming out of corners, emerging from piles, being excavated after years of gathering dust.  Most of our gym stuff is old, inherited, or has other stories.  Here’s a glimpse of my fitness lives through my gallery of dumbbells.  And these are only the ones that I use(d)…those above 25 just aren’t on my radar at the moment.

Starting with the smallest:

Empower handweights: 2.5 lbs

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I used these when I was trying to walk my weight off.  Before running, before CrossFit, before any of it.  I would pump my arms up and down as I walked. Not sure how to use them in my current routines but anything is possible!

Reebok coated baby dumbbells: 5 lbs

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These are from my “aerobics in front of the TV while the kids are napping” phase.  Seems like not that long ago, but it really was.  I showed these to my son this week and he remembered watching me do my little routines with them from the stairs. Now they are paint-splattered and worn.  But, I remember holding the weights over my head and lowering them behind my head to feel my triceps burn. They work for T-raises and other isolated accessory movements.

Super Star Orbatrons: 11 lbs (yes, 11 pounds which makes them extra awesome!)

These babies, with their sand-filled copper sheen, date back to my childhood. They’re almost as big as my head! And I use them almost every day. I know, you’re jealous.  They’re fabulous. My dad would sit and do curls with these at the dinner table while he was reading the paper.  He was always fighting to retain any bit of strength he could on his ultra-arthritic arms. So these have sentimental value.  They are big and clunky. They are round, which adds a challenge when I am trying to balance on one in pushup position while picking up the other.  But they make me smile in all their 1980’s style glory.

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(Pause to note: I am reallllyyyyy missing 15-pounders right here. I often used those in weighted situps and some of the slower accessory movements.  I keep scanning the internet for used ones almost daily!)

Metal Hex Dumbbells (on bench): 20 lbs.

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These came from my in-laws. They at least have flat sides so they don’t roll around like the 10s do. These are my go-tos for overhead presses and many other movements.   Not much to say about them but they are durable and well used.

Rubber Hex Dumbbell: 25 lbs.

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Finally, the only “new” dumbbell in the bunch.  I bought this when I was at my first CrossFit gym.  That gym had nothing between 20 and 35 pounds, and that span was too big of a jump for me.  So, I bought myself *one* 25-pound dumbbell. I hid it in the ladies dressing area when I wasn’t using it.  It was not too long ago that picking this up was a feat!  I remember doing my first 25-pound single-arm snatch with it only a couple of years ago.  Now, I mainly use it for snatches.  Using it still gets me winded.

I don’t have 30-pounders which stinks.  We have 35s but they are metal.  I’m not especially confident (and I am truly clumsy) so I tend to leave everything over 25 alone, especially since I don’t have a coach watching these days.  But that’s ok.

I move every day, I lift weights, and I’m making do with what I have.  I guess that’s a motto for me at this point fitness-wise.  Making the best with what I have, and hoping for the best as time goes on. It’s not glossy or shiny or perfect or new, kinda like me. As with these dumbbells, there are many ages and pages to my fitness story.  This chapter will be a memorable one.

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giving

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

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Since we’ve been at home more in recent days (following social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines), passing the time has presented challenges. Yup, to put it bluntly, at times we are just plain bored.

My daughter had been asking to go shopping for painting supplies for about a month, well before the virus hit our home state. Then, like many other families, we went from extremely busy to having very little to do, but unable to go out and get much of anything that isn’t truly necessary.

So, I started rummaging.

And out came…watercolor paints (metallic, matte, at least 4 sets!), watercolor pads (in 2 sizes!), paintbrushes, pastels.  Voila! Art is possible.

Where did it all come from? When my kids were younger, in addition to the toys and candy-stuffed eggs, I would always put an art supply or two in their Easter baskets. Who knows why?  Just to balance things out.  Most of these art supplies were left on the living room floor along with the torn candy wrappers and cracked plastic eggs.  I’d eventually tuck the artsy stuff in a drawer along with the ones from the year before and all the other art supplies I’d collected through years of teaching, student-ing, and projects galore. Now, it’s all coming out to play.

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In these times of slower pace and waiting, many people are taking up old-fashioned pleasures.

Friends are asking, too…the group chat question about sidewalk chalk…so many people are chalking messages of encouragement or just drawing on the driveway with extra time.  And, lo and behold, of course I have a shiny unopened box of 48 Crayola sidewalk chalks! (I’ve probably had it for 5 years!) Sure, I will share them! Don’t thank me, thank the Easter bunny! (and, okay, my hoarding tendencies…which this whole situation does not help, by the way. But that’s a different post.)

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(Seriously, that big box of sidewalk chalk is in this Easter photo from 2011. Yes, 2011!  Over a decade ago!  Yikes!!!)

Add in a long-ago purchased rolling table from Ikea that I never set up and presto, it’s our own little mobile art station.  And we’re using the portion of the chalk we kept to cheer up outside.

Making stuff and sharing art and time are doing our hearts and minds good.  When I think of Easter coming in a couple of weeks, I am not sure what it will look like.  But for now, we are celebrating and sharing with creativity, with gifts from Easters past that are suddenly gifts all over again.

How are you passing any idle time, in old ways or new? Board games, card games?  Share in the comments!