nature

Seasons or Reasons

I have never really been a seasons girl. Meaning I didn’t really have a favorite season. I enjoyed summer as it meant lake days. I liked fall for sweatshirts. I liked the beauty of the snow but not a fan of the cold. Spring I like to see new flowers bloom but again none were really a favorite season.

This year, however, I seemed to look forward to fall more than usual. The pumpkin spices. The changing of colors in the trees. The warm jammies. The sweatshirts and of course the seat warmer. I even turned on my space heater for one day already. 

I’m looking forward to fall adventures. Extra blankets for covers. Snuggles with my dog on chilly mornings. Chilling runs outside. And maybe even seeing my breath in the air. The clean crisp air. The fresh air.

Do you think I’m most looking forward to these things because I’ve spent so many months cooped up? Behind a mask. Limited on activities. Confined in many ways?

For whatever the reason I’m dreaming of this fall season. My reason to seize the season. The ability grab the crisp air like a crisp fall apple. Crunch. Snack. Slurp in the flavor of the season.

Some apple cider. Some apple snacks. Some apple-flavored cocktails. Bring on fall and all its festivities. My season. My reason. My appreciation of fall in 2020.

What’s your favorite season? Your reason for the season?

perspective

Empty Shelves

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The end of the school year was very, very strange for this teacher librarian. We left school on a Thursday night.  I had just started a book fair.  We had a Family Bingo Night event going on.  In between the four corners and the blackout round, the school system announced we would be moving to digital learning. Tons of phones going off with the texted news.  Thankfully, we had been practicing for something like this…a snow day here and there.  No problem.

Never would I have imagined that we would go through 42 digital learning days before finally calling the school year over. Endless Zoom meetings, Google Meets, video lessons, double checking teacher pages, responding to student discussion posts. It was exhausting.  It was annoying. It was boring. It seemed it would never end. As of last week, we are finally done.

The school year is over, but I didn’t get the sweet satisfaction of celebrating with the kids.  No “high fives” with the little ones who had finally learned to read.  No “Thank you, Miss Dr. Friese” from the kiddos who loved finding their favorite book series.  No cheering kids on at field day.  No smiles and waves as the 5th graders walked their triumphant parade through the hallways on their last day, Pomp and Circumstance piped on loop through the intercom system. No final send off of the buses, waves and tears as we jump into summer.

Instead, we donned our masks and gloves and handed out their belongings and all the end of year “stuff” in large white plastic bags.  Pop the minivan trunk so we don’t risk touching.  Wave through the windows at the little ones we haven’t seen in months.  Many kids didn’t even come to pick their items up.

It is a dull, aching sadness I can’t really describe. An emptiness.  The main reason I came to work each day stopped coming to school. The kids.  The energy from their smiles, the goofy misbehavior, watching the kids grow, it all stopped. I loved seeing their videos in lessons and missed their personalities, but it wasn’t the same.  I wondered (and still do): are they ok? are they reading? do they have enough to eat? are they safe?

In a strange twist, my library was also scheduled for renovation this summer.  So in the middle of this slow-motion mess, I had to take the entire collection off the shelves and pack it away.  In some ways it was good, since I had more time to take care of it than if I were teaching up to the last day.  But the sight of the shelves, bare and dusty, just added to the sadness of it all.  Someone said it looked lonely in there.  Yes, more lonely than you know.

A school building without the kids is just a shell.  It has no soul, no life.

Summer break is ready to begin.  I will spend part of it putting the media center back together after the renovation is done.  I am hoping we go back to school on time, and I want to be sure the library is all ready for students from day one.  Budget cuts will bring new challenges for me.  But as long as the students come back, we will figure it out.  Sure, we made it through digital learning.  But a school without kids is lonely.  For teachers like me, there is just no substitute.

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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.

family

August, Where Did You Go?

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School is back in session. Child #3 is living her best life as a teen. Not quite ready to drive, but on the path to turning 21….in her mind anyway. Fall sports and a robust social life are in full swing as well keeping adults on the go or in the car! Check out me and my mini…

Work, work, work. Some say summer is slow, but for me I go, go, go. Keeping up with purpose work, professional engagements, community involvement, household chores and so on. I blinked and the month has come and gone.

Big things are in motion for my boys. Each charting their own path but lots of hustle and promise on the horizon. Moments like this make me celebrate being a mom.

Travel time. I had a little adventure to see my family up north. Good times, good memories. 2 kids in tow to visit the grandparents. Time well spent with relatives I don’t get to see often. Recharged and ready. Bring on Fall and all its adventure.

Cool Fall air has got to be on the horizon now that September is here. August has been way too hot. Despite the heat, I had a blast this summer. Fun fashion stops. Retail therapy on steroids. Plane rides, train rides, scooter rides and Uber rides made my summer one to remember.

As September sets in, its time to focus and wrap up the year. What’s left on the agenda? More writing of course!

adventure, family

Summa-time Fun, Part 1

“This summa I want to have a wicked fun time!” said the girl in her true Bostonian accent. I want to take on some new adventures that would keep me moving physically while allowing me to grow in other ways. The plan is set. The sizzling summer weather has arrived. Now it’s time to take action.

I have the usual fun in the sun planned for lake days, quick getaways and maybe some time at the neighborhood pool. That’s all good but what can I do that is different? Fun. Adventurous. And of course, memorable.

Zip, zoom, scoot, watch out new driver coming through!

Electric scooter rides in downtown Atlanta is the first of my many adventures this summer. What an amazing time! First I had to learn how to use the Lyft app for scooters to get the juice going on the scooter. That was both cool, interesting, and to me, exciting. Then the ride itself was refreshing with the wind in your face thanks to the scooters having a little pep to them. I did my own balancing act as I zoomed by folks. I may have even done a one-leg move at some point. And maybe, just maybe, I was close to crashing at one time. Clearly that would have been somebody getting in my invisible lane. Before you know it, life is just carefree in the moment. You can breathe in your surroundings. The fresh air, giggles, sunshine, the chitter chatter of passers by, the people watching, and the scenery is just amazing.

On this adventure I visited Ponce City Market area and stumbled across the scooters. It was a total accident because I really wanted to rent a bike that day and take a quick ride to see the graffiti I had heard about. Good thing they didn’t have any bikes because electric scooters sounded more interesting.

Curiosity got me and I had to check it out. I then rode along the Atlanta BeltLine which is full of graffiti and cool architecture. I didn’t want to put it back but I didn’t have much time this day. What a fun adventure I had with my family and surprisingly it wasn’t too expensive to rent the scooters. Looking for something fun to do? Check out the BeltLine in Atlanta, GA.

Teen Tidbit: Scooters are a great teen activity to do with your kids if you are looking for something new and appealing. People always ask me for ideas so here you have it.

Not too long after my scooter escapades I had a kayaking trip planned with friends. Then a torrential downpour hit and the trip was cancelled. Such a let down, but the following weekend was absolutely perfect weather to hit the river. I didn’t have a large friend group on the second weekend, but I did have a plus one. My middle son and I we were off on an excursion. Both of us could kayak but neither of us had experience on the river we set out for. Isn’t that part of the fun?

One hour drive and oh no, the boats are sold out for the day! Are you kidding me? We drove all this way to the middle of nowhere for a big let down.

Sigh! I must have had disappointment written all over my face and the lady said well, we have a smaller boat used for kids that you can go in. It’s easier to maneuver but it’s also tippable. Just my luck. “Will it hold me?” I questioned. Yes. “Will I be able to get back in easily if I tip?” “I don’t know,” she said with a smirk.

Now that I’m feeling super confident (not), my son says let’s just do it. Ummm…okay says the 150-pound athletic fit person who will have no issues jumping back on the kayak after tipping in rapids! Okay, you got me. I’m in. Here goes nothing.

The trip starts with us sliding down a 100 foot hillside covered in burlap in our mini kayaks. It was definitely a dry run…..

I was nervous but the descent was fun and I didn’t even scream. Then the hauling of the kayak to the water and an “aha” moment of okay, we are really doing this! Just me and the boy.

Off we go with no idea how many miles we were traveling or what was ahead of us in the form of rapids or water depth. The GoPro camera was on to capture our memories and we just started paddling into the unknown. The scenery was amazing. We saw beautiful birds and many turtles from small to large. It was just fun to be one with nature.

We had moments of peacefulness as we just floated. We had adrenaline rushes when we neared the rapids. We got our people watching on as much as we got to bird watch. The variety of people was plentiful and the rapids were just enough for me. Some gently rolling rapids while others had dropoffs that made me gasp. I almost tipped 2-3 times but I didn’t. I survived. I didn’t tip. I was so proud of myself. My son and I had a blast. We made some amazing memories and I learned I would want to do this adventure many more times in the future.

Travel Tip: Looking for a day trip check out Broad River Outpost just outside of Athens, GA. I highly recommend this in a large or small group, a couples adventure, teen trip or maybe even a girls day. It’s just good fun.

We may love new things or hate new things but we will never know if we like or dislike anything unless we try them out on our own. It’s that simple. I was glad I tried these two new activities this summer. I had fun. I made memories. I got to tell you all about my adventures.

Wonder what’s next? Guess you’ll need to wait for my Summer Adventures, part 2. Until next time…