Haiku Saturday

I try to participate in Haiku Saturday by posting one haiku on Twitter each week. Today I decided to take it to a new level and create my slice with a series of haikus.

It was a long week
So many things on my plate
Wanted to give up

Overloaded mind
No nourishment for my soul
Weekend finally here

Time to think of me
What is really important
Relax and refresh

Home is what matters
Where we come to be ourselves
Just the family

Be in the moment
Enjoy the downtime for now
Monday will come fast

Morning Wonders

Each morning when I enter my classroom, I walk to the opposite side of the room to look out the window. There is a wooded area that separates our campus from a satellite campus of Temple University. I search for the deer that often make their way through the wooded area in the morning. A tornado in September of 2021 thinned out the woods a great deal, but my deer friends with their natural camouflage aren’t always easy to see.

This morning I saw a rather large brown mass. I couldn’t tell if it was a deer sitting down or a tree stump. I watched a little more and then went about my morning routine. A few minutes later, the teacher in the next room came in and pointed out that several deer were sitting out back. Just then a couple of them began to lift their heads. There was the answer to my question – it was a deer.

By now, a student had arrived, and we looked at the deer together trying to count how many were moseying around out back. We were up to about ten (which was more than usual) when all of a sudden two deer railed up on their hind legs and began fighting!! Neither Sean nor I had ever seen this happen before. I sent Sean into the next room to alert the teacher to look out and see the conflict going on outside.

The skirmish went on for a few minutes and then the deer started running and chasing each other, leaping over fallen tree limbs, and circling back around. It was like the deer were filming a new version of the rumble scene from The Outsiders, but it was hard to tell which were Greasers and which were Socs!

Unfortunately, they were too far away to take a good picture, especially through the screen, but they looked something like the two pictured here.

They romped around for a couple more minutes before they dated off in different directions. It was time for us to get moving on with our day, but the sight of those deer fighting (something until today I had only seen on TV) has really stuck with me.

Lackadaisical or Lazy?

I really don’t like packing my lunch. My husband is a chef, and he cooks dinner every night. You would think I could handle assembling my lunch since I don’t ever have to think about cooking, but I am always procrastinating.

At the beginning of the school year, I was packing my lunch the night before. I had all the cold items neatly stacked in the refrigerator and the rest of them on the kitchen table ready to be placed in my lunch bag. Unfortunately, that only lasted a few weeks – maybe a month.

I use to enjoy taking leftovers to school for lunch when the teacher next door to me had a microwave. About a year ago, all microwaves were banned from classrooms because they interfered with the Wifi. The faculty room is at the opposite end of the building, so I stopped bringing leftovers because I had difficulty walking that far without my cane. Now that I have two new knees, I don’t have any excuses, yet I still don’t bring leftovers.

I tried packing for several days at once and stocking the mini-fridge in my classroom. I did that a couple of times, but that strategy didn’t last very long either. I could order lunch at school, but the cafeteria is three flights of steps each way, and I am not sure my shaky hands would make it back to my room without spilling something from the tray. Plus, there really isn’t any reason for me to spend money when I have plenty of food at home.

I do try to make a salad a few times a week, but lately, I have resorted to waking up in the morning and foraging through the fridge for whatever is the easiest to grab and go. Usually, that looks like yogurt or string cheese, some veggies, or a snack pack.

Am I alone in this predicament?

Relaxing – Let Me Count the Ways

Yesterday my Slice was about wanting to have a tantrum like a toddler. Today I am taking a healthier route and focusing on ways I can relax. Almost everyone is going through life at breakneck speed and trying to check off an ever-growing to-do list. There is so much on our plates – places we need to be – deadlines we need to meet – that focusing on ourselves usually takes a backseat in our day-to-day existence.

If you Google ways to relax, you will find site after site of suggestions on things to do to de-stress your body and mind. Some seem very doable, and some seem like they require too much effort – as silly as that sounds.

Here are some favorite strategies I use to help me relax which are quick and easy.

A Warm Beverage – I like to brew a cup of tea. Everything I have read indicates that it should be decaf, but I don’t always take that advice. My favorites are tea with lemon and sugar (I like it sweet!) and chai latte. I actually have the server in my dining room set up as a tea bar. My family knows how much I like tea and has kept me stocked with all the different flavors you might be able to imagine.

Breathe – Sometimes that’s all I need to do to de-escalate a stressful moment. First I try some focused deep breathing, and as time goes on, I try to bring my breathing back to a normal rhythm. It really works!

Progressive Muscle Relaxation – I use this before going to bed if I am having trouble settling in. I often use the CALM app for guided relaxation, but it is easy to do on your own. You just start with an area of your body and systematically tense different muscle groups then you release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them.

Hand Massage – I use this at school very often. All you need to do is take a favorite lotion and massage your hands – each joint – the webbing between each finger – the palm – the back of your hand – the wrist. Use your thumb and put pressure on each of these areas. Take your time and notice how it feels. I especially like to use Bath & Body Works Stress Relief lotion. It is eucalyptus and spearmint, and when I am finished massaging my hands I breathe it in and that is an extra calming benefit.

Stretch – I could never do yoga because of my bad knees, but now that I’ve had them both replaced I might try it. In the meantime, I stretch. I have a series of stretches I do to help my back, but when I am feeling stressed it helps to strategically stretch my neck and shoulders. I even have my students stretch when they have been reading or writing for a length of time. I tell them to reach up high like they are trying to get cookies from on top of the fridge and then reach way down to their toes. I can often see their faces soften after stretching.

These are a few of the many ways I try to relax. The problem is that I don’t do it often enough. You know what I mean. How many times do you find yourself clenching your teeth? Are your shoulders up by your ears at the end of the day? Remember to take time to relax. It is important!

I am sure you have your favorites as well. I loved to know what you do to relax.

#SOL23

But I Don’t Want To…

tan·trum
/ˈtantrəm/

(noun)
an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child

Wouldn’t it be nice if adults could have tantrums? (Yes, we all know people who do, but it’s not really acceptable.) What if we could just pitch a fit, blow up, boil over, blow a fuse, fly off the handle, rant & rave, erupt, seethe, let off steam, have a hissy fit, explode, or have a conniption?

I know that having an adult tantrum is frowned upon in all professional settings, but some days you just want to let loose and wail! That’s how I’m feeling today.

We are on day three of our four days of standardized testing. The students are tired of having to wait for me to read all of the directions, and I am tired of reading the same directions over and over. “Open your test books to the first page of… ” We will begin by doing two sample questions.” “Fill in the circle that goes with the answer you choose.” “Make your mark heavy and dark.” YIKES! My students are in 7th grade and have heard these directions year after year. I don’t want to do any more testing!

Because of Terra Nova testing, we are on a modified schedule where each period is 30 or 35 minutes long. While I like the idea of seeing all of my classes, I feel like a gerbil in a wheel. By the time everyone is finished asking questions, settled, and working, it is time to pack up and move to the next class. I don’t want to have another day of shortened classes!

On top of that, the grading period ends on Friday! I have a stack of final, short answer assessments to grade and a bunch of missing assignments to track down. Once I have all the assignments graded, I need to put qualifiers in multiple reading and writing skills categories. Oh, the joys of middle school ELA. I don’t want to finish grading everything for report cards!

But worst of all is the ever-changing weather! I am a human barometer. If it isn’t my arthritis and creaky joints letting me know rain is approaching, it is my sinuses telling me the temperature and pressure are changing. Today it’s sinus time. All of a sudden I got a wicked headache and stuffy nose. On top of that the allergy index for my area went from 2.2 yesterday to 7.8 today! Achoo!! I don’t want to keep sneezing and taking meds!

I want someone to send me to my room to nap until I have my big feelings under control!

Calgon – take me away!

Self

Where am I on my life’s journey? How do I want to spend whatever time I have left on this planet? Who am I really? In my current season of life (autumn, I hope – not winter), I have been spending time looking back at where I began, the stops along the way, and how far I have come.

As I journey down this path I set out on at birth, I realize I have come to a section where I feel a little wiser. I am less hungry for the “things” of this world and more hungry for the meaning of my last 64 years. How did I get here after so many twists and turns, shortcuts, and detours? What lessons have I learned along the way? The sojourners who came before me – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances left pieces of themselves for me to discover and learn from – contributing to the woman I am today.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines self as: “the set of someone’s characteristics, such as personality and ability, that are not physical and make that person different from other people.”

I have played so many roles in this drama called life. They include daughter, sister, student, friend, wife, teacher, mother, and colleague – just to name a few. Each of these roles tapped into different characteristics of my “self.” In some way, each of these roles shaped me. Part of me is still searching for my “self.”

The name flashes before me –
my name.
But who is this being?
The flashing continues.
With each blink a new name –
Wife
Mother
Nona
Sister
Teacher
Friend
Colleague

All of these titles,
yet one eludes me –

SELF

Who am I
at my core
when stripped of
my monikers?

Who?

#SOL23

Aging

Getting older is not easy, but it is a privilege not afforded to everyone. Today’s post is based on the format of one of my favorite books to use with my students, Fortunately by Remy Charlip. It is a see-saw story that moves back and forth between fortunately and unfortunately. So here we go…

Things they didn’t tell you about aging.

Fortunately, you have lived a long time.

Unfortunately, your family and friends begin dying.

Fortunately, you learn not to judge.

Unfortunately, you are often judged on your age.

Fortunately, you begin to want/need less.

Unfortunately, you start needing replacement parts.

Fortunately, your children become your friends.

Unfortunately, you need a secretary to handle all the calls to make appointments for your doctors and tests.

Fortunately, your grandchildren increase the size of your heart.

Unfortunately, time moves more quickly.

#SOL23

A Balancing Act

Life is so busy. This year I am making a concerted effort to maintain a work/life balance. To achieve this goal, I have been focusing on the things that bring me joy and making time for them. During the week I am tired after teaching all day, and my evenings seem to be getting shorter and shorter as my eyelids become heavier and heavier. Even so, I try to find something that brings me joy every day.

Weekday joys…

  • an afternoon chai latte thanks to my classroom Keurig
  • Sweater Weather Instrumentals on Spotify
  • observing nature on my drive to school
  • a beautiful sunrise
  • playing Wordle
  • an after-school nap
  • dinner with my husband
  • Facetime with my grandkids
  • changing into comfy clothes and slippers

When the weekend rolls around, I want to make the most out of it. Right now we don’t have too much scheduled, and having free time is such a luxury. What I like most about the weekend is having more choices than responsibilities.

Weekend joys…

  • sleeping later than 5:30
  • reading
  • writing
  • attending church
  • listening to an audiobook
  • catching up with family
  • Book Club (this weekend)
  • Lunch with a friend (this weekend)
  • completing a project around the house

It is so easy to focus on all the things we “must” do during the week and forget about the things we “love” to do. There is nothing wrong with the “must” do things, after all our jobs are what afford us the means to do the “love” to do things. I just don’t want to let the “must” dos take up all the room in mind and soul. I need to care enough about myself to find room for the “love” to do things – the things that bring me joy.

What brings you joy? Are you making room for it in your life?

#SOL23

Productivity vs. Presence

What does being productive mean? What does it look like? Feel like? Today is Friday, and I am thinking back over my week and wondering if I checked enough things off of my many lists.

List making makes me feel in control when I know that there is not such thing as being in control. No matter how well you plan your week, there is always that one or two or twenty things that pop up unexpectedly. Sometimes those things end up being the best parts of your week.

The older I get the more I realize that I don’t have as much stamina as I once had, and some things just don’t get done on a rigid timeline. I will get to them eventually, but I am done beating myself up over perceived lack of productivity. I am more about presence these days.

This week I got to be present with my grandsons. I had time to talk to both of them and ask them about their school day. Parker regaled us with his fabulous recorder skills. (You may think I am bias as a grandmom, but as a former music teacher I have heard more than my share of bad recorder playing!) Nolan had time to show me his special dinosaur and organize a few “group” hugs.

What might productivity look like through the lens of presence?

  • writing a shopping list
  • savoring a cup of tea – noticing its unique aroma
  • cleaning out one drawer
  • finishing a book
  • playing a board game

This weekend I am going to focus on being present, and maybe productivity will come along for the ride.

#SOL23

Through the Fog

Winter and Spring have been having a tug-of-war lately here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. While no clear winner has emerged we do have a recurring by-product: FOG.

Setting out for school on a foggy morning requires me to be much more vigilant than normal for oncoming cars and kids on the corner at bus stops.

When there is a thick fog with poor visibility, I am forced to see only what is right in front of me instead of looking too far ahead.

This past week I noticed a few things that I probably would have missed on a sunny day. First, there was my sighting of my first Robin Redbreast. The heralder of spring was perched on my neighbor’s mailbox post just daring me to take its picture. So I did! Just a couple of minutes later, a fox darted across the road in front of me. No time to get my phone out for a snapshot.

Today was again a foggy morning, and I was paying close attention to what I could see, or so I thought. I must have let my mind wander for just a bit when out of the corner of my eye I saw a deer on the side of the road. I don’t know who scared who first, but I gasped out loud and moved my foot to the brake pedal, and the deer stopped in its tracks, took a look at me, and darted off in the opposite direction. Whew!

My takeaway from these foggy mornings is to focus on the now, prepare for what might arise, but keep it at the proper distance until it requires your attention. Last but not least – keep your head in the game at all times.

#SOL23