The Saving Power of Writing

There’s always a new challenge to keep you motivated.

Sean Connery

Motivation to write has been hard to find since COVID hit. This time last year we didn’t know the scope of what was before us or how difficult and different life would become. School buildings closed less than two weeks into the March Slice of Life Challenge. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish the challenge, but I am not a quitter.

Posting to SOL each day was one thing that remained “normal” during the start of what would become something unimaginable. I enjoyed reading and responding so many of the posts of other slicers as well as reading their responses to my posts. It took me away from the constant barrage of bad news.

I am so grateful to my writing communities for being a constant in an everchanging reality. I credit the following groups for helping me carve out time for writing and for holding me accountable: 100 Days of Writing and Beyond, Ethical ELA, Teach Write, and my PAWLP writing project community. Even though we are still in the midst of the pandemic, I am excited to start a new Slice of Life Challenge and find motivation to continue to write. I don’t know where I would be without my online writing connections.

#SOL21

I am participating in the Slice of Life writing challenge for the month of March. I will be posting every day this month. It is sponsored by twowritingteachers.com.

Forgiveness

My advice to my children has always been that they should forgive. Forgive those who have hurt your feelings or who have wronged you. Sometimes they ask “why?” or say that they just can’t forgive. My reply is always the same – holding a grudge and not forgiving does not hurt the person who wronged you. They may not even know or care about what they did. Witholding forgiveness only hurts the grudge-holder. We can never be at peace with ourselves if we are not at peace with others.

Forgiving and finding that peace does not mean forgetting what a person did or said; forgiving is about releasing yourself from feeling bitter. That grudge-holding and bitterness will become an albatross around your neck if you are not willing to forgive. I know this from experience.

You know that old saying – “Do as I say, not as I do.” Well, I have come to a crossroads, and I need a Moonstruck moment – “Snap out of it!” I have found myself unable to forgive and let go, and taking my own advice is difficult. You see, part of me wants to hold the grudge/s forever. On some level that anger and bitterness feel satisfying, but at its core it is toxic, and toxcitity can kill you – body and soul.

Maybe it was the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, or one of the meditations on my Calm app, or “The Bible in a Year” podcast I’ve been listening to – whatever it was, I have decided it is finally time to stop witholding forgiveness, stop torturing myself, and release myself from the bitterness and anger that has been taking up too much space in my head and my heart.

This certainly isn’t going to be easy, but I am taking it one day at a time, one situation at a time. Wish me luck. I wish you peace.

Snow Weary

Another snow storm is forcasted for Thursday. Here is what we can expect according to Accuweather – heavy mixed precipitation possible. Total snow and sleet accumulations of 3 to 6 inches and ice accumulations of one tenth to one quarter of an inch possible from late Wednesday night through Friday afternoon. Those of you who live in the northern parts of the 48 or in Canada might think 3 – 6 inches is just a baby snowstorm, but to me here in southeastern Pennsylvania, it is a major headache. UGH!

First there is the whole shoveling deal. Neither my husband nor I are able to shovel snow due to health reasons. Thankfully, we have wonderful family, friends, and neighbors who will come and clear the snow for us, but it is a reminder of what we can’t do. Having to take help from others is a humbling experience, but it is a lesson we all need to learn at some point.

Then there is school. We have used all of our snow days, so moving forward any bad weather results in a virtual learning day. I totally understand that, but teaching virtually presents a different set of challenges (as most of you know). Did I bring home everything I needed? Will the wifi be working? Couple that with my shoveling anxieties and not much sleeping happens when we are on “snow watch.”

In addition there is the stress of knowing that my husband and children need to navigate the slippery streets to get to work. Only one of them is working from home. A mother never gets over the need to know that all her cubs are safely back in their dens. I still make my adult children text me to let me know everyone in their homes have made it home safely.

Don’t get me wrong; if all I had to do was stay home safe and warm on the couch watching the silent snow gently drift down, I would think it just lovely. Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works. The beauty of snow is wonderful until you have deal with its aftermath. It is the not knowing, the uncertainty that causes me to stop liking snow after the second or third storm.

If Mother Nature is reading this post, please let this be the last snow of the season. I am ready for some warmer temperatures and sights of spring.

Searching for WONDER

These past few weeks have been difficult in the US, and I found myself too wrapped up in the national and local news – the doom and gloom. So in the name of self – preservation I reminded myself to be on the lookout for WONDER – my OLW for January.

On Sunday, my daughter stopped by with my two grandsons for a socially distanced visit to exchange some things we had for each other. When Nolan, age 3, came up the driveway, he searched the blacktop and asked, “Nona, where’s the worm?” You see, the last time he was at our house (several weeks ago) it was after a particularly rainy stretch, and we spent several minutes watching a rather large worm make its way from the lawn, across the driveway, and into the flowerbed. Nolan expected to see that worm again in the same place. Lesson: look with WONDER at the innocent expectations of a child.

Last week we celebrated my grandson Parker’s 7th birthday via Facetime. My daughter made Parker a layer cake that “exploded” with Reese’s Pieces when she cut the first piece. Parker exclaimed, “Mom, you did this for me?!” Lesson: look with WONDER at loving gestures.

Of course, I can’t forget the lessons I learned from my granddaughters, Emma and Isabella (Izzy). My daughter-in-law posted on Instagram a short video of Emma (almost 7) and Izzy (4) commanding Alexa to fart! It was entitled – “Apparently Alexa can do different kinds of farts….Something I wish I never knew!” I couldn’t help but get caught up in the roar of laughter coming from the girls. Lesson: look for WONDER in the unabashed giggles of children.

There is WONDER all around us in the ordinary people, places, and things we passby, overlook, or take for granted each day. Where have you found WONDER this week?

Several Little Words

I was mulling over whether or not to choose my OLW (One Little Word) for 2021 or not. In years past my OLW has gone down the same path as my New Year’s resolutions – lost without a GPS. I was definitely leaning towards now choosing a word (I had given up resolutions years ago) until I read “Choosing a Word of the Month in 2021” by Christie Wyman. https://bit.ly/34QyFsf which was posted in the Facebook Group, Teach Write: Helping Teachers Grow as Writers https://www.facebook.com/groups/348136095622823/ If you haven’t checked this group out, you must!

Christie explained in her article how she too had trouble focusing on one word for the entire year, so instead she was going to choose a word for each month instead. I loved the idea and started to imagine what my monthly words could be. Since one of my writing goals for 2021 was to work on a collection of seasonal poetry, I thought I would start there. I chose one word for each season beginning with winter – REFLECT – RENEW – RELAX – REAP, and then looked for inspiring words for each month.

My OLW word for January is WONDER. (N) – feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. (V) – 1. desire to be curious to know something – 2. feeling doubt.

I have the feeling doubt thing down to a science. It is the other definitions I need to work on. I definitely wonder what the world has in store for 2021, but I want to be curious about life and the people and things that appear in my life. I believe that there are no accidents – everything happens for a reason and a lesson. I want to look at the world through the eyes of wonder, the eyes of a child. So for the rest of the month I am keeping my eyes open to the wonders all around me waiting to be discovered or rediscovered.

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is a good as dead; his eyes are closed.

Albert Einstein

The Tale of Two Cookies

Last week, my husband bought a bag of chocolate chip cookies – crispy and crunchy. Later in the week, he bought a bag of brownie chip cookies – soft and chewy. And so the tale begins.

The chocolate chip cookies really hit the spot with a warm cup of tea. Little by little the cookies began to disappear, and the few remaining cookies were looking lost in the bag, so I placed the three lonely chocolate chip cookies in the bag with the brownie chip cookies. That was a bad move; the next day, my crispy, crunchy cookies were soft and chewy just like the brownie chip cookies. I should have known better because when I bake chocolate chip cookies, I always store them in a tin because I prefer them crispy.

Now there isn’t anything really bad about chewy cookies; it’s all in the mouth of the beholder. Some prefer crispy, crunchy; and some prefer soft and chewy. But this cookie conundrum got me thinking about the moral of the cookie tale.

Be careful what and whom you surround yourself with because the more you are around places or people the more you can find yourself taking on those characteristics – good or bad. Don’t let your surroundings turn you into someone other than the person you were meant to be – the best version of yourself.

Joy in the Journey

I made this collage over the weekend because I needed a pick-me-up, and nothing picks me up like Autumn. When the calendar turns to September, I know that Fall is not too far behind. It’s hard to explain, but pumpkins, haystacks, cider, and falling leaves in all their splendor bring me a true sense of peace and calm.

September also brings back-to-school. Any excuse to buy new writing utensils, notebooks, and stickers makes my heart flutter like those falling leaves. This year that excitement is tempered by the “new normal” we are all facing. I will be going back in-person to my 7th grade students; and while I am really excited to be back in my classroom, my head is spinning with all the Covid protocols and new procedures put in place to protect the students and teachers. It can be overwhelming if you let it, but I am doing my best not to let it rob me of the joy of teaching and all the reasons I became a teacher so many years ago.

To that end, I have a notebook waiting to be covered with pretty paper that will bring me joy. Every day before I leave school, I will list the things that brought me joy.

I know that I will be exhausted next week when school begins – I am every first week of school every year let alone the first week of school during a pandemic! That doesn’t mean I won’t be joyfully tired!

I know it is going to be difficult for everyone, and some days might be tougher than others, but if I only focus on the tough parts, I am in danger of losing my joy, and for a teacher that is career-threatening. Although I have been teaching for a long time, my journey is not over; Covid is not going to highjack my joy!

Social Media Sadness

What has happened to the art of conversation? As a child, I remember being at my Italian grandparents’ house for holidays and being wide-eyed and wondering at the “talking” going on around the dining room table. My mom was one of nine siblings, many of whom had no problem expressing their opinions in a very “animated” style. I am on the younger end of the cousin spectrum, and didn’t live in “the neighborhood,” so I was not as familiar with this form of communication as some of my older, wiser cousins. To me, it seemed like ferocious arguing that could at any moment break out into a brawl, but by dessert everyone was laughing and talking as if they hadn’t spent the last hour at each others’ throats, and I don’t remember any fistacuffs. What happened to the “good old days?”

Admittedly over the course of this pandemic I have been scrolling Facebook much too much. (I am working on a detox plan.) I love my education groups and discovering new ideas, catching up on the lives of family, friends, and former students and their families. Lately, I have realized this is not a good practice for my health and well-being. I know that tensions are running high after being cooped up for the past five months, but things are getting out of hand.

When you scoll the Facebook feed you see a plethora of post – Republicans vs. Democrats, BLM vs. Law enforcement, parents vs. school boards and teachers. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion and to make decisions for their families based on their own thoughtful discernment, but what’s with all the trash talk? Discussions, if you can call them that have become bash sessions. While I know that going back to school is a hot button topic, and parents, teachers, and administrators are all in a tough spot, the posts I have been reading lately have been so disrespectful to public school teachers (my son is one), school boards, and administrators. I know parents are frustrated; my own kids have been struggling to make decisions about how my grandchildren will be learning in September, but where has all the “maturity” gone? Some of the things I have read have been downright disgraceful. It makes me sad.

I understand that people have different passions and post about them – sometimes when they are very worked up over the topic. What I don’t understand is why they feel they have the right to attack someone else. State your opinion; back it up with facts; sit back and consider the other side. Either you will be stronger in your own stance, move to the other side of the issue, or find some middle ground. The name-calling, insults, and defamation of character gets us nowhere. I wonder if many or most of the people writing the offensive posts would actually say those words out loud to a person? Some most certainly would; others can only “speak” in print hiding behind their computer screens.

What are we teaching our children? What kind of example are we setting for them. I am hard-pressed to think that the people writing these disrespectful posts talk any differently around their family dinner tables in front of very impressionable minds. We need to do better. Our future as a civilized society depends on it. Our children deserve more.

Color Blindness

I have had a difficult time putting into words what my heart is feeling. I never thought of myself as part of the problem, but if I am not part of the solution what am I?

My heart is heavy. My eyes are sad.

They have seen what they cannot unsee.

A man, George Floyd, was murdered this week

by an officer on bended knee. 

His desperate cries went unanswered 

falling on more than one deaf ear.

Another injustice delivered – 

Every black mother’s most dreaded fear.

I watched as many cities went wild – 

my own “City of Brotherly Love.”

I prayed for an end to the looting

And a miracle from up above.

I prayed for those in law enforcement.

I know many an honorable one.

I prayed for those doing the damage,

for they are someone’s daughter or son.

I prayed that I would listen and learn

To open my eyes to what should be.

I am ashamed that I haven’t done more.

“I was blind, but now I see.”

Window to the World

A colleague at school invited me to join the Facebook group, “View from my Window.” I wasn’t really sure about adding another group to my social media scrolling “problem,” but I am glad that I did.

During these past months of staying at home because of COVID-19, this group has become my window to the world, and I have been traveling to places far and near without even leaving the recliner.

I have imagined what life might be like in those well-manicured gardens, sandy beaches, city highrises, desert communities, and seaside villages. I have enjoyed reading the little descriptions that people post along with their pictures. Most are telling bits and pieces of their lives in quarantine. The stories are as varied as the pictures – people who have lost loved ones, frontline workers who are not living at home, people living in countries other than their birthplaces, young parents home with school-aged children, senior citizens happy to still be together – yet they are more alike than different.

I haven’t posted a picture yet because I have been a little intimidated by the beauty of the views I have been marveling over. I wonder if people take those views for granted or if they think they are as extraordinary as they appear to me?

A few things have struck me as I scroll each day.

  • God has blessed us with unbelievably beautiful world.
  • My view of the world has been so very narrow.
  • It is highly unlikely I will see any of these places in person, and that’s OK. Although nothing can compare to seeing beauty in person, traveling within my mind can still bring a sense of contentment.
  • While some people apologize that their view isn’t that beautiful or lovely because they are living in urban setting, there is somthing very pleasing in noticing architectural details.
  • Looking “out” is important in helping us see the bigger picture and in nudging us to look “in” and notice what really matters.

I plan to continue my trek around the globe this summer from the comfort of my couch. Only once school is finished for the year, I will be able to look at these photos closer, spend time researching the various places, and learn more about people around the world whose lives are so different than mine, yet have so many more commonalities than I ever imagined.

Stay well.