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, perspective

Bad Things Happen In Sets of Three

I have been told over the years that things happen in sets of three. Mainly it’s been around death that I was told groups in threes. I haven’t really dwelled too much about it over the years because it hasn’t been so close to home.

This week life shook me a bit. First the death of a colleague from a not so distant past. He lost his battle with cancer. In his prime he was healthy, fit and the life of the party, many gatherings which I attended with him. As I watch the tributes to him online I have both happy and sad emotions. Why did the world lose such a bright spirit? Why did he exit in what seemed like a long and painful way?

Only a few days after, one of my bright-spirited friends lost her dog. This passing may seem trivial to some but this was her child. The trusty companion had been through schooling, marriage, death and even a pandemic over some 15 years of dog life. I’m sure age was the factor here but it doesn’t make it easier. Saying goodbye to a life companion is hard. So very hard.

Hours later as I write this entry my dad is clinging to life in his own aging battle with dementia. The word is that his time could come in hours or days. Just not sure. Is this the third in the set of three this week? Does knowing make it easier? Are we ready for the passing of such an important family member? So many questions.

Death is unfortunately part of life. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone. As I deal with the loss of the week and the pain of life I also thrust forward to see new light. What’s around the corner? What can I be thankful for? How can I keep pressing on?

I don’t shift focus to diminish the loss, rather I use the experiences to strengthen my stride in life. To live as much as possible in the time I have ahead of me. It’s these defining moments in time that I have to find a way to make an impact to honor the life lost. There isn’t really a roadmap to doing so. I just follow my heart.

The clip below spoke to me as I wrote this post and thus I am sharing it with you.

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As I think of funerals today and how they are so different I opted to write this short story to honor not only my connections who have suffered losses but all those who endured a loss and pushed through the new normal of saying goodbye in these pandemic times. Whether it was a zoom wake/funeral or immediate family only gathering, grief and goodbyes are never easy.

In closing, I hope my dad musters the strength to push forward for selfish reasons, but in reality I want him to spread his wings with the angels to take away the pain and suffering of his final days. If he becomes three it was meant to be.

business, partnership

My Morning Brew or View

Recently I was introduced to a daily tidbit or newsletter of sorts delivered electronically. It’s called the morning brew. Just before 7am it hits my box. My email box which I equate back to the day when my dad would get the newspaper off the door stoop before heading to work.

A little daily dose of what’s up in the world. It’s short and sweet but you can research on if something sparks your curiosity. Catchy little title to hit the email box bright and early in the morning. A brief read to get the mind stimulated but not too overbearing.

A recent edition had a spot on Disney. Many Disney fans may not think of the financial impacts covid has on its park division unless they had a trip planned for spring break this year. I found this tidbit interesting as I have enjoyed my visits to the park in years past and would hate to lose that travel option in the future when I have grandkids.

I have grown quite fond of my daily dose of the brew. Not sure it’s the candor in the content or just the details not being so overly political as you see on the news. It’s just raw insight.

If you have not been one to read in the morning or you you are looking for something different check out the morning brew. It’s a free subscription and you can get a little taste for what this chick reads first thing in the morning.

They even have a promo today to win a MacBook!  Check out the link. 

Sending you virtual wishes of happiness for today and beyond. This is the best that I can do since nobody wants real hugs, high fives or any variation thanks to corona.

perspective

Stripping the Fun Stuff Away

The return to “normal” has begun.  Gyms, restaurants, hair salons, sports leagues, bowling alleys, summer camps and a host of other businesses have gotten the green light to open their doors. Yay! (right?)

Of course, nothing is really normal and the “new normal” has already lost it’s luster (if it ever had any). Opening business doors often comes along with an eye-popping list of new restrictions.

Both the chicks have recently given their views on restaurant dining.

Like restaurants, for many businesses, industries, and institutions, it’s still a strange time. We are all figuring it out on the fly, customers included.  I’ve noticed that in some cases, we are stuck trying to do the hard parts but the fun parts are what we miss now.  Here are a few examples:

Gyms are starting to reopen.  But, I never really stopped working out.  I’m still exercising in my basement or on the pavement most mornings due to financial and work constraints. Some lifting, some cardio, some basic bodyweight movement, Heroes on Mondays. I get my exercise in one way or another.

Is it the same?  Yes and no.  Yes, I get my movement in.  But some of the most enjoyable parts of the gym experience are gone.  I don’t see friends and like-minded people.  I don’t get coaching.  I don’t get to use all the great equipment. I don’t get the occasional coffee and breakfast after with friends. Sure, I don’t miss certain things about the gym, but some of the parts that made it fun and special (and the hard parts less hard) can’t be replicated in my home.

My work is a similar situation.  I am a librarian that teaches in an elementary school.  We left school for a long weekend in mid-March, not knowing that students and most teachers wouldn’t return this year.  Instead, we’ve been teaching and learning online for almost 9 weeks.

Are we getting the job done?  Yes and no.  Yes, there are lessons and many teachers working extremely hard to connect with students and families.  Yes, there is learning happening.  But, some of the parts that make school fun and meaningful are stripped away.  Field day. End-of-year culminations of work and celebrations.  Social time at lunch and recess on the playground. Working shoulder-to-shoulder to finish a puzzle or create something together. For me, it’s just walking through the library with a student and helping them find a great book.

Or reading a funny or suspenseful picture book to a live Kindergarten audience, laughing and responding together in that moment. Nothing replaces those. And those are some of the things that make school worth going to for many kids (not to mention food, etc.)  Instead, online school often seems like a lot more of the work and a lot less of the fun stuff that makes school special. (And yes, this is about the teachers, too.  I miss the energy of my students! Computer screens, while helpful, don’t cut it for connection!)

On the flip side, there are also students and families who aren’t built for distance learning.  Some have limited or no access to technology. Some need the structure and surroundings and encouragement of others working.  Some need the social benefits.  Some need the food and care that come along with being at school.  Some parents are working from home while also trying to manage multiple children learning online.  It is all extremely stressful.  School isn’t working for many, and it is definitely not the same even for those getting by.

Then, there are the fun things that are just not happening anymore at all.  Most notably for me are travel plans for myself and my family, and races I was training for.  Pleasure travel by anything other than car seems risky (and if you take a road trip, where do you stay overnight?)

I was sad that the triathlon I was training for got canceled.  They can’t guarantee safety and I am sure liability is also a big part of that decision.  Would I have wanted to participate in some sort of sanitized race?  I had mixed feelings about the virtual 10K I ran recently. Although it wasn’t terrible since I was able to do it with friends, I missed the trip to Nashville, the mass of runners, all the spectators and the thrill of race day. It just wasn’t the same. I may still do a virtual version of the triathlon at some point since I am already training.  But, some things just can’t be replaced.  You can’t take away some of the most fun and challenging parts and expect a similar experience. Again, some of the most fun stuff of life is stripped away.  And it is hard not to be bogged down in the frustration and sadness of it all.

You can’t recreate the Mona Lisa with a Magic Marker. It just isn’t the same.  And will it ever be the same?  What do I expect? I don’t know. I know many people are trying their best.  I know many people disagree about how all of this is being carried out.  Frankly, between dealing with that personal and political drama and the abundance of the day-to-day changes, I am exhausted at times. The fun stuff buoys me along and there is so much less of that.  Nonetheless, I want to try to find the celebration in the irritation.  Today, I realized I would have never bought my road bike if I hadn’t set the triathlon as a goal.  My bike has been a huge part of my sanity through the stay-at-home orders. So there is a bit of sunshine.

It’s hard not to wonder when things will get back to some kind of regularity.  What will things look like on the other end? When can we plan a race, some pleasure travel?  When will I be able to read to kids again?  When is the finish line of this mess?  I can budget my energy if I have a finish line in sight.  But now we are in the long middle miles when it’s hard to stay energized and forward moving.

I think it’s ok to pout as long as you don’t wallow in it.  Acknowledge the loss then move on.  It might be easier if we knew the story had a happy ending.  I can deal with suspense as long as it gets resolved.  I have to believe that day will come.  Maybe not quite happily ever after, and maybe this is a heck of a long chapter, but it will be resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

adventure, balance, inspire

Nature Therapy

If you recall we posted a digital doomsday blog and noted all the negative vibes around what’s missing these days from the school experience from a teen daughter’s perspective. All the time stuck with eyes glued to a laptop. No time to move between classes. No friends to laugh with.

However, after reflecting on the extra time available to take a walk with my daughter outside because of the “downtime” in our schedule and her lack of spending time with friends or at sports activities, a different vantage point appeared. Again a negative turned positive. Below is a great pic we snagged on a late night stroll together. We are embracing nature in a way we never have before. Just listening to birds chirp in the morning is a new kind of peaceful way to start the day. Very different than how life started a month ago and hopefully different than next month but for today we are embracing what options one can celebrate.

One wish for us is that the vast majority of people would or could look past themselves and their immediate discomforts during this pandemic and see the sunshine that is around the corner. It may not be the brightest sunshine but even every sliver of light can be embraced in the darkest hour.

If even just a few people out out there choose nature as a stress relief today it can spread. Think about others as well. Your aura reflects on others. A joyous smile is infectious when you pass somebody at the park from 6 feet way. It’s free and simple and may be the one interaction that person has that day. It could be mind altering that day. There is always somebody in a worse situation than you despite what you see right in front of you. Pass on the positives during this dark time.

As we write this, Spring is springing forth in the USA. Color is starting to dapple the landscape. Flowers are beginning their parade of blooms. Here’s a tip: find some local flower growers and follow them on social media. If your feeds are full of gloom and doom, trim those folks back (mute them or unfollow) and add some beauty to your screen.

Even better, reach out to flower farmers near you and see if you can connect that way. Farmers near us, used to relying on farmer’s markets or florists, are now offering porch deliveries or pre-orders to open air markets. These small local farmers are suffering from the breakdown of routines and supply chains just as many other businesses are. They are forced to innovate on nature’s timeline. Many can offer you bunches of exquisite little treasures that you can enjoy and share with others. Here’s a recent pickup we enjoyed, and supported a couple of small businesses in the process.

As we have said in many ways at many times, you become who and what you surround yourself with. Get out and surround yourself with fresh air. Bright, warm sunshine. Sweet breezes. Walk your feet on fresh grass. If you’re having trouble getting out of your head or you’re feeling anxious, do a 5 senses countdown exercise out in the world. Clear your mind and notice what is happening in nature. Surround yourself with reminders that time continues on.

New life is coming. Even though part of nature is going haywire at the moment, much of it is marching in its usual rhythm. Bees are buzzing. Baby ducks and bunnies will soon appear at local parks. The earth is waking up from its yearly nap. Let this reassure you that this dark season will also pass. In the mean time, don’t miss the things we are often too busy to notice.

This post is dedicated tho those full of raw emotions relating to Coronavirus. We all have them. We opt to share ours with the world via a blog. Our posts are edited multiple times and viewed by others subjectively before going live. Although only one vantage point, it may help somebody reading along.

Nature therapy has worked for us during this crazy time. Walks in our community. Short jogs. Bike riding. Gardening. Swimming. Kayaking. Hiking. All activities that allow physical distancing while embracing nature. Chick 1 even climbed a few trees.

We don’t need to be confined to our four walls to be safe. We can be distant and enjoy nature. Opt outside when you can.

perspective

The Corona Coulda Shoulda Wouldas

So Corona has been here for a while now.  It has shaped our lives and routines.  I wonder, were you ready?

Ready?  What does that even mean?  Burning question: How do we prepare for the unforeseeable?  For something we have never experienced before?  A lot of people are playing the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” game these days, thinking of things they wish they had done to be more ready for this moment.

Well, in some ways it’s impossible.  But looking at my life now, there are some things I have done that set me up positively for this moment and other things I will do better with from now on. Yes, the lessons are already showing themselves. It’s up to me to keep my eye out and learn them. Here’s a couple I’ve thought about.

One thing I’ve done right: I am glad I took control of my health when I did.  I could not have known what was coming 5 years ago when I started working on my level of fitness, and then more specifically on my diet.  Now we know that severe obesity is one of the major risk factors in serious complications from this virus, and I am grateful I am not in that category any longer.  CrossFit and consistent exercise has also lowered my blood pressure, which some believe seems to make a difference in successfully battling this illness as well.  Still, I was morbidly obese for decades. I know I’ve taken a toll on my body. Hopefully I made the right changes in time and can continue choosing every day and being consistent.

One thing I need to work on: I could definitely spend money differently.  My house is choked with stuff I thought I liked or needed at any given time.  As I’ve noted in previous posts, many of those items are now coming out of hiding and finding a purpose.  Some have been given away to people who need them. But, there’s a lot of excess stuff. I’ll be selling or giving things away over the next few months in bulk and trying to spend more intentionally.

What I am so grateful for: I am SO GLAD I have a group of friends and loved ones to do crazy stuff with.  The “Bad Idea Club” and several others are always up for a goofy good time.  We dress in themes, we giggle from our guts.  We care less about what others may say. Judge away, we are too busy having fun.

Case in point: just before the corona wave broke, we had an epic birthday celebration for Chick 1. We dressed up in 70s regalia, took pictures, went out on the town, stayed out on the town at a funky little hotel, had s’mores late and night and a birthday breakfast at a local diner the next morning, and generally just embraced life.  It was a grand celebration.  And while it was such fun at the time, one short month later, in quarantine, when those photos came up in memories, I multiplied that happiness by 10, that we just went for it and did life and her celebration BIG.

I am sure there are many who roll their eyes (like my kids) or shake their heads at our antics.  But darnit, I really don’t want to get to the end of life and not have lived fully.  The stuff does not matter.  The memories and the people we make them with do.

So much for the coulda, shoulda, wouldas.  We need to take better care of ourselves now, and live now. What are the “I can, I do, I wills” for going forward?

I will to take more vacations, drive more scenic routes.  I will take more hikes and visit loved ones more often. I will stop waiting for the perfect time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the fall foliage change color.  I will add to my list of dreams and destinations and tick them off one by one by one.

I will keep taking care of myself and those who matter to me.  I will love and live big each day, and appreciate deeply the opportunity to do that! It has made me look at the magnet on my refrigerator (pictured below) with new eyes!

What lessons are you learning from this?  What coulda shoulda wouldas can you turn in to I can, I do, I wills…?

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