Zooming Nowhere!

This morning I was running late for my monthly WCWP writing groups Zoom meeting. I grabbed my school hoodie and threw it over my pajamas (now the secret is out writing project friends), grabbed my notebook and a bottle of water and headed to the dining room where my laptop was situated on the table. Great! I will only be a couple of minutes late.

I fired up the HP and waited, and waited, and waited. My laptop decided to pick now as the exact moment it would do an update, and another, and another. I texted P. to let her know I was waiting on my laptop and would be joining the group soon. Then it dawned on me – I could join the Zoom meeting from my phone. Ta da! Faces!

When the computer was finally finished updating, I tried to log on – wrong password, wrong password, wrong password. Seems like three is my unlucky number today. I tried to access it with my alternate email, and apparently I don’t know that either. I was finally able to access and log on after requesting a text messaged code. Phew!

#SOL22

Next month I will be setting my alarm for an early wake up and give myself enough time to handle and technical difficulties which arise. My luck I will be able to log on on the first try!

Happy Weekend.

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by twowritingteacher.org

I Can See Clearly Now

#SOL 22

Since June of 2020, I have been complaining to my optometrist and optician that I could not see clearly. Street signs were getting progressively more difficult to read. I got new glasses in June 2020, then a lens change three months later, and another new prescription in June of 2021. Apparently, I had cataracts in both eyes, but they weren’t “ready” yet. Well, I was ready!!

When school started in September, I noticed a significant change in my distance vision. I couldn’t recognize who was speaking to me from across the faculty parking lot, so I would wave and say hello so as not to appear rude. It was frustrating not to be able to feel confident driving even the short distance between home and school; I felt like my vision was the same with or without my corrective lenses. Forget about driving at night; the lights were blinding. I was beginning to feel like Mr. Magoo. (If you are not of a certain age, you may have to Google him!) Thankfully, I met with my ophthalmologist in November and was finally able to schedule cataract surgery for January and February. Hallelujah!

Fast-forward to post-surgery. After having a new lens placed into my right eye, I was shocked by the difference in the vision between my eyes. Not only was my “bad” eye still blurry, everything I saw was cast in a yellow tint or glow. I hadn’t realized this before. I kept closing one eye and then switching and closing the other eye, it was mind-boggling to me and probably questionable to anyone watching me. I couldn’t wait for the second eye surgery!

The first time I could see clearly out of both eyes post-surgery was a day I will never forget. I was in awe of all the beautiful things I had been missing for at least the last two years. I was seeing the same landscapes that I had seen every day but now with literally “new eyes.” The bare brown branches of the winter trees against the blue sky were amazing; I could now see even the smallest of branches!

These “new eyes” got me thinking about how much of my vision might be clouded in other ways. Am I seeing people and situations in clear light or in some clouded view that I have learned to live with? I can’t answer that today, but I can work on finding out.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by twowritingteachers.org.

Embrace

I have spent the last year mourning the loss of things I could not do because of COVID, health issues, or finances. There always seemed to be something being canceled or postponed; life became  a game of surviving rather than thriving. I kept waiting for things to change, but it was only this past week I realized I am the one who needs to change. 

Every year, for the last 10 or so, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I have chosen my “One Little Word” to be the focus of the year ahead.  This year is no different.  These were the contenders.

After carefully considering my options, I chose the word EMBRACE which according to the Google dictionary means to “accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.”

My goal is to refocus my view of myself and the world by embracing rather than pushing away whatever comes my way.  I don’t have to like everything, but in every situation there is something to be learned, something to be celebrated, something to be embraced. 

What kinds of things will I be trying to embrace? Here’s my list in progress.

  • Myself
  • The journey
  • Imperfections
  • Change
  • Life
  • Uncertainty
  • Failures
  • Roadblocks
  • Slow progress
  • Alone time
  • Other people’s achievements

As I usher out 2021 and ring in 2022, I look forward to being inspired by my “One Little Word,” to living instead of just surviving, and to embracing whatever life has in store for me.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Foggy Morning

Opportunity is often delivered in a fog of clarity. ~ Unknown

This was one view on my morning commute. There was low visiablity, and I could only focus on what was right in front of me and not much more in my rearview mirror. I drove a little slower to be sure I was ready in case anything jump in front of me.

That got me thinking about how this past year has forced me to slow down and await the next COVID-related thing to jump out at me. It has been a year with very low visiblity and very high anxiety. Not being able to plan or see past the next COVID update.

Some days I have felt lost. I lost the opportunity to come and go a I please, see my children, grandkids, family and friends, and go out without a mask. It has been as if I have been driving in the fog and a part of me vanished in the mist. The part of me that enjoyed reading and writing, the part that looked forward to things, the part that knew how to teach in my classroom, all of them changed.

I didn’t mind the changes when I thought they would only be temporary, but when they persisted, I had to find a way to persist. I had to decide to make the best of the little bit of life I could see or stay lost. There certainly were some good things that came out of this past year, but I am looking forward to what new opportunities await me once the fog of COVID lifts.

Sometimes when you lose your way in the fog, you end up in a beautiful place. Don’t be afraid of getting lost.

Mehmut Murat ildan
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sol.jpg

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge for the month of March. I will be posting every day this month. It is sponsored by twowritingteachers.org. #SOL21

Languishing in a Creative Desert

Your perspective will either become your prison or your passport.

Steven Furtick

Covid has taken its toll on my life in many ways. Thank goodness my family and I remain healthy, but I don’t feel “well” in other ways.  I have lost my creative drive.  I cannot focus on a book for pleasure and my “free time” is often spent watching TV – Hallmark Movies, reruns of Shark Tank, and Guy’s Grocery Games.  I realize that these programs need very little real attention since they are a set format, which is good because my attention span is minuscule.  I am not faring much better in my writing life either as my last blog post was almost three months ago.  

A few days ago, one of my former students posted a video message on Facebook, and the student became the teacher.  Michelle Trifiletti. regularly shares experiences from her journey through life with her followers.  One of her followers made the statement that she wished she had her life “figured out” the way Michelle does.  Michelle took to Facebook to assure us she doesn’t have it all “figured out;” she just has a different perspective. Michelle went on to explain that “things don’t happen to you; they happen for you. They are all in God’s plan to make us into the person we are meant to be  – to learn the lessons we are supposed to learn  to be able to help the people we are supposed to help.” 

Michelle made me realize that it all comes down to trust – trust in the journey –  trust in the process.  As adults we want to be in control; we want to plan and execute the plan; we want to get a certain result.  You would think that by the ripe old age of 62, I would know that control is overrated and plans are meant to be changed, but sometimes we need a reminder. 

So today I am changing my perspective. Maybe I wasn’t languishing in a “creative desert” but rather in a short “hibernation” resting up for a restart and a new adventure. Perhaps all the reasons that I couldn’t focus on reading or writing were happening for me so I could focus on other things that needed my attention. Regardless, I am going to stop trying to figure it out and remember to trust the process.

Thanks, Michelle!

Staying Grounded:Letting Go

Today’s notebooking

How do we stay grounded in the midst of confusion? Somedays I wake up with that thought. How am I going to stay grounded today?

Early on in my daughter’s career as a mental health therapist, she would often listen to her father or me ranting or raving about something going on in our lives. It could have been about any number of topics that in the grand scheme of things were not truly important, yet seemed important ot us at the time. She would listen attentively and when we seemed to deflate to a semi-calm state, she would reach out her hand and say, “Here is your balloon; let it go.” She wasn’t being sarcastic; she was providing us with a visual metaphor for releasing the things that were weighing us down and letting them go.

Today there is a storm moving in (literally), and I can hear the wind whistling and whipping around the house. The lights have flickered once, and the forecast is for stronger winds tonight. Will it be as bad as predicted, or will it pass us by? I have flashlights with fresh batteries, so I am ready for whatever it brings.

I feel like the weather is a metaphor for how life right now is so unpredictable. The forecasts are all slightly different; we are not sure what to expect, and we need fresh batteries every morning to get us through the day.

Have you ever seen someone with a bouquet of balloons struggling against the wind to get them in their car? That’s how we are if we hang on to all the things that are weighing us down. We are struggling to keep everything inside when what we should be doing is letting go of those burdens and hanging on to the things that keep us grounded.

My notebooking page above illustrates the things I am desperately trying to let go of and the things which keep me grounded. If I let my balloons go today, these winds will surely send them far and wide. (Yes, I know they are not good for the environment; it’s a metaphor!)

What balloons are you holding on to? Isn’t it time to release them? Look at your two feet firmly planted on the ground and think about the things that keep you grounded. Then you might be better prepared to weather the storms that may come your way.

Stay well.

Quarantine Playlist

Music is the soundtrack of your life.

Dick Clark

Last night I tuned in to watch One World: Together at Home, a two-hour program of music and uplifting messages from musicians, comedians, and other stars each coming from their own homes.  This morning I planned to write about what lessons I had learned this past week of quarantine, but now there is a new twist. After making a list of some of my favorite performances, I realized that my lessons match up perfectly with some of the songs on my new playlist. I am very thankful for the lessons I have learned this week. 

“Smile” sung by Lady Gaga https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCNM706Iv8M

The current situation is difficult, but it does not mean that I have to spend my time wallowing in gloom and doom. Smiles are contagious and laughing rejuvenates the soul.  Several times this week I was lucky enough to have experiences that had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. These were brought to me courtesy of my daughter, my granddaughter, and my husband.  Thank you.

“Lean on Me” sung by Stevie Wonder (originally by Bill Withers) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vgfBJhlEEo

Most of us pride ourselves on being independent but in this time of uncertainty, I am finding that I need to lean on other people for a variety of things.  I am leaning on my family and friends when I am feeling frustrated or fearful and on my colleagues when I need help navigating distance learning. Everyone is so generous and patient.  Thank you.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” sung by The Rolling Stones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7pZgQepXfA

I have been very fortunate in my life, not rich, not without financial worries, but fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and a soft pillow on which to lay my head at night.  When my husband and I make a list for grocery shopping these days, we are not sure if we will be able to get everything on our list, and sometimes we don’t, yet we have not gone hungry. My priorities are starting to be rearranged, and I am re-learning the difference between needs and wants. “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.” Thank you.

“The Prayer” performed by Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, John Legend, Lady Gaga, and Lang Lang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYJCYr1I-Sk

“Lady Modanna” by Sir Paul McCartney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUL7K7RQ8HM

Prayer has always been a part of my life, but in these days of quarantine, it has increased and taken on a new dimension.  I am praying more often and for more people. Praying the rosary to Our Lady, Mary the Blessed Mother, is a powerful Catholic devotion.  My mother prayed it faithfully, and I hope to be a fraction of the example she set for me. Thank you.

“What a Wonderful World” sung by Camila Cabello & Shawn Mendes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32uSO-1zBL4

Despite the tragedy and devastation of COVID-19, the frustration of stay-at-home orders, and the derision caused by dueling political powers, this is a wonderful world.  The news is filled with the good works of healthcare professionals, grocery store employees, and other essential workers. People are rising to the occasion and having drive-by birthday and teacher parades. Neighbors are shopping for the elderly, children are chalking uplifting messages in driveways and on sidewalks, and people are finding new ways to stay connected while still social distancing. If we look for the good and the wonderful, we will find it.  Thank you.

“A Change is Gonna Come” sung by Lizzo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVr-Iqr0GTs

These are just a few of the lessons I am learning during these challenging days, and I am sure I have many more to learn in the days ahead, but I want to leave you with my hope. You may have seen lists circulating on social media about hoping that we don’t go back to “normal” when this is all over.  It is my hope that there is a change in the world beginning with myself. My list has just two words on it – gratitude and respect. It is my hope that we no longer take things for granted, that we are thankful for every minute of every day because nothing is guaranteed nor deserved. I also hope that there will be a new respect for “essential workers” who so often go unnoticed such as healthcare workers, therapists, police and fire personnel, and EMTs, and for the essential workers who get little respect: trash collectors, bus drivers, grocery store workers, mail carriers, delivery persons, and truck drivers. I hope we learn from this that every person in this wonderful world has a special purpose and that each is deserving of our gratitude and respect.

The Great Pause

Over the last couple of weeks I have been seeing the words “The Great Pause” in news articles and blog posts. It has been used in reference to the pause that the coronavirus is causing in our lives, the economy, the world.

The pandemic has caused chaos and closures, confusion and grief. Having stay-at-home orders and school closings is beyond our imaginations. This incidious virus is wreaking havoc and endangering the lives of not only of those who contract the illness but all of those healthcare professionals and essential workers who are still working. This is definitely awful, yet there is a silver lining.

This “Great Pause” is forcing people to stay at home with their immediate families, to spend more time with their children, and to rethink everything they thought they knew. This pandemic is much more than an inconvenience; it is really an eye-opener for those who are ready to see.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day I would normally have spent with my kids and grandkids at the home of my brother and sister-in-law with their family. Instead, we all ate separately in our own homes. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it because I knew I would be missing the egg hunt and the kidding and laughing that family gatherings bring, but it actually turned out better than expected. Why? I think it was because we knew we weren’t going to be together, but we made an extra effort to connect.

Last night my sister set up a Zoom meeting with my siblings and spouses. We spent over an hour talking and laughing. It felt good.

Today, we watched church services live streaming from our parish, and had our traditional Polish breakfast of kielbasa and eggs. Then, there were early morning video chats with my grandkids who were so excited about what the bunny brought them, and that made me so happy. It felt good.

This afternoon our niece set up Zoom meeting with some of my husband’s siblings living in three different states. There was the typical sibling bantering and laughing. It felt good.

We played Houseparty with our kids and grandkids, and there were many calls and video chats back and forth with them over the course of the day. It did feel very odd for my husband and me to be the only ones seated at the dining room table, but dinner was delicious because it was made with such love. It all felt good.

I know that there are so many people suffering right now, some more than others, yet I keep thinking that there is a lesson to be learned here. I am a beliver that everything happens for a reason even when I don’t know the reason. I am searching for the lessons I need to learn. The one I learned this weekend is to just be happy in what is and stop worrying about what isn’t.

Stay well.

Control


Today is Holy Thursday, probably my favorite day of the year to be in church. For many years I played string bass as part of the music ministry at my church; lately I have been in a pew. This year I will not be sitting in a pew but in front of my TV watching the mass streamed from an empty church.

It is out of my control.

Today I learned that my school will be closed for the rest of the academic year. For over 30 years I have shared in the bittersweet end-of-year activities that signal the moving up and moving on of my students. This year my classroom is empty way too early, and I am not getting the chance to say goodbye in person.

It is out of my control.

This Sunday is Easter when we would normally have dinner with my brother and his family followed by an Easter egg hunt for my four grandchildren. This year they will be hunting for eggs in their own homes.

It is out of my control.

These are difficult days for everyone, and each of us is coping the best we can. Just how are we coping? Some people are drinking more, eating more, crying more, or watching more TV. No judgment here, just observations.

This is within my control.

I joke that I need to put a padlock on my fridge and pantry, but it’s no joke. I am a stress eater, and watching too much TV news and not being on my regular schedule is causing me to forage like a bear just waking up from winter hibernation.

This is within my control.

Life has thrown us a curveball, and all we can do is try to stay in the batter’s box. I have learned during these past four weeks of isolating at home that I am not in charge; I have control over very little in the big picture, but I do have control over whether I spend my time worrying and being afraid, or making the most of this situation and keep moving forward.

This is within my control.

I am very aware that I will have good days and bad days, and that’s OK. What is most important is that the bad days don’t string together. I can control what I do with my day, how I take care of myself, and how I keep in touch with my family and friends. It’s time for me lean into my faith and get on a better schedule now that I know life will be like this for awhile.

What is in your control?

What are you going to do to reliquish control over the things beyond your reach? How are you going to take care of yourself? How are you going to stay connected?

Control what you can; let go of what you cannot.

Stay well.

The Wind

April is National Poetry Month, so I am trying to focus on my poetry writing. I am an eternal optimist, but these days you need to be a realist. This poem didn’t start out being about our current situation; it was about the weather this week, but the poem had other ideas.

The Wind

The whipping wind,
with its invisible
yet massive arms, pushed full force
against the side of the house
pelting the siding with pebbles
lifted from the empty flower bed.

But the house stood firm on its foundation.

The wind circled round
to the back of the house
wanting to rearrange
the deck’s chairs.

But the deck stood firm on its frame.

The wind raced around
to the front of the house,
knocking and knocking
on the front door.

But the door hung firm on its hinges.

Homes were being attacked
by an invisible nemesis
carried by the wind
person to person.

But the people remained firm in isolation.