3Splitz Farm

Rain

5:00 am wakeup call. The faint sound…you hear it on the rooftop. Pit pat pit pat or maybe its thrummmmm. Rain. Do I drift back to sleep?

Some may say they hate the rain. For a long time, I was one of them. Rain on marching band performances made our heavy wool uniforms stink. Rain on Disney days had us dragging out the dreaded ponchos. Rain on Halloween meant a raincoat over my costume. Rain is taking things away.

Then the rain took on new meaning.

During my mother’s funeral luncheon an enormous storm came out of nowhere. We were at the Stone Mountain Women’s Club. Picture a series of long foldup tables with every variety of salad: chicken salad with grapes and almonds, macaroni salad with bits of ham and roasted peppers, bean salad with vinegar dressing. Allllllll the mayonnaise. Then the hot dishes…chicken rice casserole with peas and melted cheese, macaroni and cheese with toasty breadcrumbs, pineapple casserole under a blanket of buttery Ritz crackers. And the desserts, oh the desserts. Cookies, bars, bundt cakes, and light green pistachio fluff. A meal fitting for one of the members of the cookbook committee.

We sat at the long tables, all gathered to honor my mother. The old wooden A-frame with the floor-to-two-story-ceiling windows. I looked over with my full plate and plastic silverware.

The trees twisted, branches ready to slip off their bending trunks. Leaves and pinestraw flying. Back and forth with abandon. If we had phones back then I’m sure they’d have all been buzzing with warnings. Summer storms come quickly in the South. We all just watched the sky turn green and the rain pour down on that summer afternoon. Wondering if the windows would shatter. Eventually it calmed down, but the storm stayed with me.

Ever since that time, rain is a comfort. But still an inconvenience. My mother is gone, why shouldn’t the sky cry?

And now today. Rain…

makes traffic worse

is a hazard on the trail

keeps me from having fun outside

makes the dogs antsy

messes up my hair

creates an endless need to sweep and mop the floor

matches the sadness inside

and and and. So while the rain seems appropriate, it still brings its challenges.

Then, a life change brings yet another shift in thinking.

This time it’s…

tulips,

daffodils,

crocus,

ranunculus,

anemones.

We’re on our way to flower farming. We just finished our first bed of spring flowers. Row after row of plump bulbs, tucked into the soil with fertilizer, peat moss, and hope. I don’t see them every day so I find myself wondering about them…are they happy in their new bed? Now my peeks at the weather forecast aren’t so much about what I should wear but about the bulbs. Like babies away at boarding school. Do they have what they need? A bit of sunshine and enough to drink?

Rain is their friend. I think of how thankful they must be for the nourishment. The refreshment. I smile when I look through my windows at work and see the rain coming down. It takes some storms and inconvenience in order to grow. Storms may bend us but not break. Welcome every season and the nourishment it brings. A change in my mind. One of many lessons from the blossoms.

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!