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.

Discovering the Unexpected

Spending so much time at home alone lately has led me to make some unexpected discoveries.

  • The first weeks of the stay-at-home order were filled with almost nonstop TV viewing and trying to get my head wrapped around the situation. Now I limit my TV News viewing, but I still have no idea which news agency is reporting the truth.
  • The dog nextdoor barks – a lot!
  • I get more accomplished when I am wearing shoes.
  • There are “conversations” that take place during the day. The refridgerator begins to speak and the water heater responds; then the creaking walls and attention getting pipes want their voices heard as well.
  • Being caught up with the laundry really is possible!
  • While I was a little envious of my retired friends, these days at home are really long, and I REALLY miss my students and my classroom.
  • I dislike partisan politics even more than I thought.
  • Evidently I have ringing in my ears that I haven’t noticed before because my life has been too noisy!

I wonder what other unexpected discoveries I will make in the weeks (hopefully not months) ahead? I am definitely learning that I have taken some things for granted, have ignored some things, and have let some things fall off my radar. What unexpected discoveries are you making during this time of COVID-19?

Stay well.

Keeping Faith

I have been reading I’ve Been Thinking… by Maria Shriver.  It is a collection of quotes, reflections, and prayers all wrapped up in a couple of short pages for each entry.  In this book, Shriver offers insights into her life and the lessons she has learned from experience. Yesterday’s topic was titled “Faith Keepers,” and in it, Shriver explains her relationship with her girlfriends and how one of those girlfriends calls the others her “faith keepers.”  

“My girlfriends keep the faith for me when I can’t find it within myself.” This line really struck a chord with me. I immediately thought of my book club girlfriends, The Chapter Chicks.  The group is made up of 10 women who span from ages in the mid-fifties to 83 who have been sharing books and friendship since 2004.  Collectively, we have been through too many life experiences to count, but one thing I can always count on is when I am going through a rough patch the Chicks will be there to keep the faith for me.

The last book club gathering was to have taken place on March 26th at my house, but I needed to cancel due to the pandemic.  We could never do a virtual meeting because we all talk too much! There are always conversations going on alongside other conversations, lots of laughing, and maybe a little discussion about the book we read.

On April 1st, one of the Chicks sent an email to check-in on how everyone was doing, and she asked each of us to reply to her email with some good news. She thought it would be a nice way to stay connected since we don’t know when we will be able to meet again in person; she dubbed it “Chick Chat.” (Try saying that 10x quickly!)

We are on our second installment of “Chick Chat,” and I look forward to reading about what everyone else is doing during these stay-at-home days. These are some of my “faith keepers.”  I know that I can reach out to any of them for advice, a shoulder to cry on, or a venting session. They each have sage advice and help me keep the faith when I can’t find it within myself.  So, thank you: Anita, Judy O, Judy S, Julie, Pat, Peggy, Regina, Robyn, and Rosanne for being such good friends over the years. I can’t wait until we can meet again! 

Stay well.

Elegy for the World, Opus 19

Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.

Kahlil Gibran

Our world has come to an awkward cadence.
Poco a poco an invisible virtuoso has taken hold.

We are sheltering a-cappella – one or two or a family
without our daily accompaniments.

We long for a melody in this new atonal reality
with its ostinato of rising cases and death tolls.

The daily recitative of politicians and medical professionals
has become an eerie refrain to a mournful dirge.

We lament in unison for those whose requiems are postponed
and hope for an accelerando in recoveries of the stricken.

This poem was inspired by a prompt by Stacey L. Joy on ethicalela.com. They are posting a prompt each day for the month of April in celebration of National Poetry Month. The challenge was to use musical terms in a poem.

Happy Little Things

I think it’s important to find the little things in everyday life that make you happy.

Paula Cole

Today, my Target order arrived. In it were things that made me very happy – little things. Since I am two weeks past my last haircut appointment, my hair is getting a little unruly. I am not worry about it getting long (can’t get an appointment until at least May) but the in-between stage is challenging when you have a slight wave and cowlicks. Getting hairclips and headbands in my package today was so exciting!

On top of that, also in the box were new marker pens. I couldn’t wait to get them out of the package and start using them, but I forced myself to wait until my schoolwork was completed!

One thing I have learned over this past month is that nothing is certain or guaranteed. Life as we know it can change on a dime, and it has, and when things you have taken for granted are taken from you, you need to find joy in the little things. This is what we should have been doing all along. I hope we all learn that lesson and continue to find joy in life’s little moments and treasures.

On this the last day of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge, I am feeling sad that it is over. This community of writers and the challenge has given me a purpose for writing each day. During these unsettling times writing each day is something that has made me happy. I am committed to keep writing although I’m not sure if I continue the every day posts, but I will do my best.

Stay well.

A Recipe for Surviving Home Isolation

#SOL20
Day 30/31

A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, have to bring soul to the recipe.

Thomas Keller

Ingredients

  • One large pack of patience
  • Several pounds of prayer
  • About 7 hours of sleep
  • 20-30 minutes of movement
  • A bunch of virtual connecting
  • At least one self-care activity
  • A smidge of news viewing
  • A sprinkle of humor
  • A dash of flexiblity

First, take as much patience as you can possibly find and mix it gently with a large helping of prayer. Next, stir in about seven hours of sleep combined with 20-30 minutes of movement combined with a self-care activity. Add a bunch of virtual connecting with family and friends, and a smidge of news reports. Place it all in somewhat of a schedule, and let it rest over night.

Take a healthy dose of this mixture each morning until it fills your soul. Be sure to top it with a sprinkle of humor and a dash of flexiblity.

Repeat as necesssary.

Stay well.

Security Blanket

#SOL20
Day 29/31

When someone loves you, it’s like having a warm blanket all around your heart.

Helen Fielding

Although we have turned the heat off for the season, there a some times in the evening when the living room feels a little chilly, so I have taken out a couple of throw blankets just in case.

One night last week, my husband questioned why I was using my blanket as I sat in the recliner watching TV. He was certain that it was not cold enough for a blanket. I just gave him a stare. Then he went on to say that he thought that I wasn’t really cold, but that I was using my blanket for security. He made me think.

This is the blanket I have been using lately. As you can see it is definitely an autumn blanket. While autumn is my favorite season, I usually put those items away before Christmas. But this blanket is special. It was given to me by my kids and grandkids as part of a larger very well thought out gift for my 60th birthday.

These days I really miss seeing my kids and grandkids in person and being able to give them kisses and hugs. So I guess my husband was right (don’t tell him I admitted that!). I am wrapping myself up in the closest thing I have to those I am missing the most, and being reminded to give thanks and count my blessings even when it is difficult.

Stay well.