Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Phantom Pain

Phantom pain is a phrase that came to me during my early morning workout.  Phantom pain the kind you get from missing something that should be there.  You hear of people who have lost a limb remark that they still feel pain in the missing limb.  This pain is the mind getting used to the absence of something that should be there. The pain is real, not imagined.  This pain is felt in the soul of the person experiencing it.

Websters defines the word phantom as a ghost or something that is imagined.  Phantom pain is defined as pain, that was once believed to be imagined, generating from a missing limb or organ.  Science has since proven that this pain is generated by the brain and/or spinal cord as a result of rewiring the neurons.

Phantom pain.... missing something that is not there.  A rewiring of the brain so that the brain grows accustomed to its new normal.  To me, this sounds like what educators and students are feeling now.  A pain, a soul-deep pain, over a loss of what should be. We are all struggling to find the source of the pain, to force the brain to grow accustomed to its new normal.  Many of us, educators, parents, and students, are struggling to ease the pain, to work through our new normal. To find normalcy in the unnormal.

 A phantom pain.... a rewiring of the brain......an acceptance of what is now normal. Events are moving so quickly, our brains.... our hearts.... our souls can not keep up.  We are left with unease, worry, pain.  Our minds are in overdrive trying to reconcile all the images, the feelings, and all the information.... trying to find the source of the pain and determining our new normal.  The magical thing is our brains will accept the new normal, our souls will recover and our hearts will expand.  We will find joy in simplicity, find the silver lining in our storm clouds.  We will adapt and grow stronger.

*** I feel as if I need a disclaimer... in no way was I trivializing the loss of a limb.  That is far worse than the temporary loss we are all experiencing. I was just borrowing the phrase!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Empty Classroom

Yesterday, we got the news that school would be closed for the remainder of this year.  Closed for the remainder of the year.... I had a feeling that those words were coming, yet when they were said I was still shocked.  Flabbergasted, heartbroken, devastated, lost.... all emotions that I experienced in a span of minutes.  It is one thing to think something is going to happen and another for it to happen.

I had to take the night to process the depth of my emotions and how to move forward with purpose and positivity.  See, that is what I do... I am a one foot in front of the other kind of person.  I have experienced great loss, both my parents and last year my sister in law, and I put one foot in front of the other and came out the other side with lessons learned.  I just needed a minute to get my bearings, to allow myself to feel the loss, to have a good old fashioned cry.

I have taken my minute and I am putting one for in front of the other.  I believe the loss is so profound this time because it involved 51 nine and ten-year-olds who I love dearly.  These kids make me smile, laugh until I have tears rolling down my face and give the best hugs.  They always seem to know when I needed a break, or a joke or a riddle...they love riddles.  They are silly and smart and at times drove me CRAZY.  But I would love to be back together again. We had so many things that we were going to do, so many things that we still needed to learn.  Just so many things....

Although I won't see their smiling faces in my classroom anymore or hear their giggles or see them choosing kindness, their legacy will be felt in years to come.  I will look out into my classroom and remember the good times that we had, the silly times and of course, the times that were not so great and I will find comfort in it.  I will tell stories to the next group of fourth graders and reminisce with this group when I see them in the hall.  We will forever be tied together by this shared experience and I can not think of a more perfect group to be associated with.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The End!

Wow! About a month and a half ago, I stumbled across the Two Writing Teachers site while researching ways to improve my teaching of writing.  Little did I know that my research would lead to the growth of my writing, the building of a community of writers that I am proud to be a part of, and the empathy I have for my students. I could have never predicted or even imagined the change in our world in the last 31 days. March has been a bear, a beast, a month to be reckoned with.

So, to end my slice challenge I have decided to reflect on lessons learned, experiences I have had and plans for my writing.

I Have Learned....

What I start out writing, often takes a turn and takes me in a different way
Writing is hard but so rewarding
Patience and Grace in times of struggle or change is paramount
A kind word from a stranger can brighten your day
Sometimes, just putting pen to paper (fingers to computer) is all it takes to break writer's block
Having someone "get" what you are writing about and agreeing with you validates you
21 days makes a habit
The world is really small
People all over the world can share in one experience and benefit from their sharing
Washing your hands is very important
After washing your hands a million times, lotion is your friend
Never take for granted shaking someone's hand or giving a hug
People really like toilet paper
In times of crisis, people band together to help others
I am not cut out for a sit behind a computer kind of job
School is not just the books or curriculum, school is the people in it
School is about relationships more than it is about education
I miss my 51 fourth graders a lot
Family is a blessing
We should not take our health for granted or our family
Life is all about your attitude, you choose how your day is going to do
Be happy, choose to be positive, make the best of a crazy situation
You can not make everyone happy, accept that
Finally, above all choose kindness.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of a wonderful writing experience. My plan is to keep on blogging, either every day or a few times a week.  I have benefited from the outlet and the release. My ability to empathize and help my kids grow as writers has changed in unimaginable ways.  Till next March....

Monday, March 30, 2020

And....the Machine Won!

It was day three in my family's journey to assemble a home gym.  Friday was the first day and we got a majority of the way through the assembly until we didn't have all the parts.  After many trips to Ace Hardware on Saturday, we had the gym assembled and began to deal with the pulley system.  Saturday ended with everyone frustrated and in need of a break and the promise of picking it back up on Sunday.

My first clue things were not going to go well should have been the dark, large clouds that loomed in the sky.  The outside atmosphere seemed to mirror that of the inside.  As I came down the stairs, I stared down that pulley system and gave a quick glance at the mechanisms.  I am still convinced that we have assembled it correctly.  Anyway, I go about my morning waiting eagerly for the men in the house to wake up and tackle this beast of a gym.

When my husband finally wakes up, we begin to discuss the gym and where we could have gone wrong and what the possibilities for quick fixes are.  We head into the gym armed with caffeine and can do attitudes.  My oldest is up and has agreed to put his young mind to the task.  Step one for us is to go back and look at the stupid directions.  Now, I know it is not nice to call something stupid but at this point I have them memorized and I can not figure out what the pictures signify.  I mean if you are going to put all of the technical words and then put the pictures to help people, at least make the pictures decipherable!

We study the directions like we are studying for final exams and come to the conclusion, we have followed all the steps and the pulleys are going in the right direction.  Step two is to tighten all the loose bolts, we decide that there may be some play in the pulley system.  The boys begin the arduous task of tightening an endless amount of bolts and I go and wake the youngest.  I can't decide whose chore is worse! The youngest makes his way downstairs, looks at the machine and groans... even he who wants the gym more than the rest of us, can't believe we are still working on it. 

Tightening the bolts does very little, we get maybe 3/4 of an inch closer to connecting the last pieces of the pulley system together.  Back to the drawing board, we go!  We decide to change out the piece of carpet that is under the gym that does not match the others thinking that maybe the differences in height are affecting the pulley system.  Nope! We are all back to staring at the drawings and at the pulley system.  We believe that one section is causing the problem, but we can not figure out how to fix it... our set up is exactly like the pictures show (or at least from what we can tell). So, we decide to try and rig the system to work.  We had back to Ace Hardware in search of a fix.  After what feels like forever, we decide on chains and carabiner clips.  The reluctant consensus is that we can connect the chains and clips to the pre-drilled holes in the pulley system and it should work. We find a super helpful employee he cuts the chains, we pay and drive back home.  After washing our hands for the millionth time today, we get to testing our idea.  Ah... this doesn't work either.  The clips are too big and we know that they have to be that size to support the weights. We are out of ideas, out of patience and are just done with this gym.  You know how you get to that point where you are so frustrated, everyone is mad at everyone else and it becomes not worth it anymore?  That is where we are, we just can't anymore today.  Maybe we are done for good!

Today is another day, the birds are chirping and the day looks like it will be a good one.  Hopefully, after working at home today, we can look at the directions again and try and tackle the pulley system.  If not today, I know we will look at it again this week.  We do not give up... maybe we take breaks, maybe we step away, but we are not going to give up.  The machine will not win!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Saga Continues....

If you read my post yesterday, you know that my family spent it's Friday night trying to build a long-forgotten home gym.  We put a good bit of it together until we discovered that we did not have all the nuts and bolts.  So my bright idea on Saturday morning was to order the missing parts from Home Depot.  Here is how the saga continues...

After writing my post yesterday, I did a precursory look of Home Depot's website and they seemed to have what I needed.  When my husband finally came downstairs after sleeping in late, I presented my idea. He had thought the same thing, so I went back on the website and ordered everything but two carriage bolts.  I figured I could ask the people at the store as they are always so helpful.

We jumped in the car for our outing for the day and headed for Home Depot.  Well, much to our surprise the line is out the door and weaves around to the side of the store.  We get closer and realize they are restricting who can go in.  I suggest that we call the store, surely since I ordered and paid, they have a separate line or can bring it to my car.... nope! I have to stand in that line.  We decide we do not want to stand in line with all the pollen that is in the air.  I call Ace Hardware which is a smaller store and they are open.  We head there, after what felt like FOREVER, we found what we thought were all the nuts, bolts and screws and headed home.

We woke the youngest teenager and got to work.  It was probably 12:30.  We quickly discovered that one of the carriage bolts was wrong, but we pressed on with what we have thinking that we would wait until we needed more.  Soon enough we discovered other things that we need and decided to make another run.  This time my oldest and I go off to hunt for these last things.  Well, we find what we think is right but once we get home.... still wrong. At this point, it is around 3:30, and we are all over it... but we press on.  The teenagers go to the store this time, so much for social distancing., and come back with what they absolutely believe is right...ah, no it's not!  Being teenagers, they did not listen to the part about taking the screw with you so that you can be sure the nut fits.  So, back to the store they go.  Three phone calls later, they come back with the right stuff. 

It's about 4:30 in the afternoon, and we have been at this all day.  Good news is the gym is assembled bad news is we have the pully system to put together.  We stare at the stupid directions again, marvel at how these pictures actually represent anything and press on.  My husband takes a break to grill dinner and the boys and I decide we are going to work on one side.   I start to see the picture in my mind how it is supposed to go and work backwards from the drawing.  FINALLY, after we break for dinner and my husband comes back, we get it to work... we think. Nope, something is wrong and we have to figure that out.  We do in pretty short order and have one side that works.  Yeah us!

It's probably around 6:30 at this point and we have the hardest side to go.  My husband has gotten the bottom portion correct and needs a break... he can't see how the top is going to work and he is DONE.  I look at it backwards again... and my oldest and I go to work undoing things and reworking the pully system.  After his much-needed break, my husband is back and he can see what I envision and we complete the pully system! Yeah us.... we think until we try and attach the one last piece and it won't reach! Somehow, somewhere something is wrong!

It is around 8PM now, we have been at this almost all day except for a dinner break.  Noone can figure this out and we are tired...all our creative juices have been exhausted.  We decide we will give it a rest and look at it tomorrow.  Hopefully, today we will figure out the last little bit quicker and we will not spend the day wrestling with the last pully.  All I know is that everyone better use this machine!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

It Finally Happened....

The majority of my family are big work out buffs.  We all have a different "thing" that we like to do....I lean towards more cardio and organized workouts, like Beachbody or my Max Trainer, my husband lifts and runs and my youngest has been hitting the gym hard.  My oldest, well he doesn't have the love for working out like the rest of us do...he's an I am gonna start working out soon kinda person. (Who can't relate to that!)

With social distancing and the county's suggestion that we shelter in place, we have been anticipating my son's gym will close.  This week the gym changed their hours and limited to ten people.  If you were the eleventh than you have to wait until someone leaves.  The system seemed to be working out well, until yesterday.  Yesterday the announcement was made that the gym would close effective today (Saturday) and remain closed until at least April 6th.  Who knows if that date will hold true or not?

Drew was very disappointed... the gym has been his outlet, he has made amazing progress and the joy it brings is immeasurable.  So my husband in all his infinite wisdom suggested that we get the home gym out of the basement storage space.  Now, this gym has been down there since we moved into this house in 2007... yes, you read that right!  It has been in a closet since our realtor gave it to us 13 years ago.  This gym is a beast... it takes up lots of space and is pretty heavy to carry.

Our relaxing Friday night turned into building this gym.  The boys helped their dad carry the pieces upstairs.  The previous owners of this gym had taken some pieces apart and others were left together.  That in itself is a challenge, it is hard to read the stupid directions anyway but now we have to figure out what has been done and what needs to be done.  Needless to say, this is a lesson in patience and reading closely. 

We made good progress until about 3/4th of the way through when we began to attach the pull - up bars and the dip bars.  We have been working on this for about two hours and it is around 9PM.  My husband has been on and off work calls, and my oldest is trying to register for classes all while putting this thing together.  Anyway, back to the bars... in all the pieces and all the boxes there are not any screws and bolts for these bars.  We look high and low, we crawl through the nasty storage space, try to take out screws that probably don't need to be taken out and we come up empty-handed.  The most important pieces are missing! They have vanished and we are stuck with a giant machine that doesn't work. 

Everyone is frustrated, so we stop for the night.  Being the type A Mom that I am, I immediately look through the directions and the parts list and make a list of the missing parts.  I then google the equipment and locate the parts....except they won't get here until April 27th and they cost over one hundred dollars.  I head back to my search, and head straight for Amazon...they have everything.  Nope, they do not have parts for this. What to do? What to do?  The boys head for their rooms, my husband tries to find something to watch and I grab my book.  We have decided that tomorrow will bring answers.

Well, its tomorrow... so far I haven't found the parts but I did find an idea. I am pretty sure I can find these parts at Home Depot. Now, I don't know for sure but it is something.  It is a glimmer of hope... isn't that we all need? Just a glimmer of hope.....

Friday, March 27, 2020

More than Brick and Mortar

Schools are more than the bricks that hold them up.  They are more than desks, chairs, and papers. Schools are more than the curriculum, the whiteboards, the technology.  Schools are not just brick and mortar.  They are so much more.

Schools are the people that move about the halls. They are the energy that is derived from the sheer force of the people that inhabit that space for eight hours a day.  Schools are living, breathing entities that are the life-force for so many people, young and old.

Schools are the sounds of laughter, of play, of excitement.  They are the sounds of frustration, anger, and anxiety.  Schools are the sounds of acceptance, of accomplishment, of success.  Schools are the sounds of kids and adults coming together with one common goal.

Schools do not live within four walls... they have a much greater reach.  Schools are places that people remember forever, whether good or bad.  Schools influence people for lifetimes.

Today, schools are living rooms, dining room tables and playrooms.  They are still filled with learning, frustration, acceptance, and joy.  The outside shell may be different but the mission and purpose of school is still the same.  Schools are for discovering new things, charting new paths and finding your purpose.  Schools are the people inside of them, doing the best that they can at any given moment.

So, ask yourself today...What is my school like?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Random Thoughts on a Thursday Morning

I couldn't quite decide what to write this morning, no great post or small moment came to mind.  There was no one thread running through my mind, just a great big bunch of randomness.  So, I thought I would follow the lead of some of my other slicers and post my random thoughts.

Peeps, you know those marshmallow treats at Easter, should not come in random flavors. I like the different shapes, I love the ones dipped in chocolate but COTTON CANDY.  Totally, gross! I love cotton candy by the way, but not in Peep form. Bleh!

Taking a break, practicing self-care is good for you.  I just shut it all down yesterday afternoon and enjoyed reading my book, which is something I haven't been able to do in weeks.  Take the break!

Talking on the phone again is kinda cool.  I text so much with people because it is easier I guess.  I have been talking on the phone with friends and it is great.  I remember when that was the only way to communicate... no texts, no snap chats, no tweets or posts. Just good old fashioned conversation!

A good mindless read is magical. I am all for improving my knowledge base, reading for information and blah, blah, blah.  BUT there is nothing quite like just being swept away by a story. Beach reads for the win!

Boys are messy....like really messy. When they go away to college, you forget that they are really messy and leave everything behind... you know their trash, their clothes, their shoes, and the list goes on and on.  Seriously, I found two empty bags of chips, an empty bag of Cheez-Its, an empty pringle can and about 5 empty water bottles under his bed.  GROSS!

Boys also eat a lot of food.  One teenager eats a ton but two teenagers...WOWZA!  I keep thinking to myself we are only supposed to leave the house for essentials...have they fed teenagers before? 

We all adjust to new routines.  Things that were so difficult last week are easier this week and the same will happen next week.  Humans adapt, adjust and things become the new norm.  We will have to adjust to getting back into the real world.  I wonder if we will complain about going to work when this is over?  Will we hug people more?  Appreciate the beauty of the world and those that live in it?  I want to say that we will, but we will just adjust, adapt to that normal again.  #appreciation

Random thoughts for a Thursday morning....

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Porch Sitting

The night was the perfect temperature, you know the one, not too hot, not too cold.  I can actually sit outside without any type of sweatshirt on, which is an amazing occurrence. My husband, who is never home at twilight asks if I would like to sit on the back porch.  Our porch is free from bugs as it is screened in, faces our backyard so the sun isn't an issue on this perfect night.  We stroll out and sit on our blue slider and begin to reflect on the day. 

The discussion starts with our most talked about topic which is the COVID - 19 virus.  We reflect on the changes and lament on how it is affecting us and our community.  I repeatedly tell him that I wish that I could hit fast forward, a refrain he has heard a million times.  See, I am not good with the unknown, he knows this and nods his head.  He has run out of things to say to my comment, so a nod of his head will suffice.  He also knows that I just need to talk it out, get these things out of my head so we can enjoy our porch sitting.  I guess being together for 25+ years will do that to you!

The topic quickly shifts to the yard work we did today.  I describe in detail the power our youngest son had when he was axing down the bushes.  His hard work at the gym was clearly paying off.  We laughed at how our college-age son who in typical fashion, didn't see the point in yard work but begrudgingly went outside to help. He was a champion root ball digger and made quick work of all the bushes that we dug up.  The yard topic shifted to what we had on tap for tomorrow, more ax swinging and root ball digging for the boys and pulling weeds for us.  Pulling weeds.... not my favorite part of yard work, but the ivy from next door has slowly made its way back into our yard and must go.

While we have had our peaceful discussions, the boys have been playing basketball.  This may sound like a great way for boys to release energy in this time of social isolation.  But anyone who has boys know the game goes south quickly.  I quickly become distracted by the increasing rough play, the raised voices and the tension that is building.  I look at my husband to gauge his reaction and typically he has that "boys will be boys" face on.  I am not a fan of that face! I know where this is heading and my quiet porch relaxing is taking a less than relaxing turn.  Sure enough, they are done, doors are slammed, words exchanged and they head to their respective rooms.  Wonder when that behavior will stop? 

Porch sitting.... a wonderful way to end a week of isolation, to connect with those who are the most important to you.... until your almost grown boys turn a friendly game of basketball into hand to hand combat.  #momofboys

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Embracing the Crazy

It's 5AM on day who knows what of social distancing and I am embracing the crazy.  We have all felt it that feeling of "I can't believe I am stuck in this house again!" Those quiet moments I love on the Max Trainer, when I get all my thoughts for the day together when my mind settles into the groove of the day are gone.  Replaced by new thoughts of worry, anxiety and unease.  I can't seem to shake the restlessness within my thoughts. 

So today, I am embracing the crazy.  I embrace the million pounds of Lysol Wipes that I use to wipe every surface of my house.  I embrace the crazy thought that maybe I should spray the dogs with Lysol.....I didn't but I really did think about it.  (Totally off topic, but one year we all got the flu from the dogs...everyone would cuddle with the dogs for comfort when we were sick and sure enough whoever petted them next got it!) I embrace the fact that I will continue to respect the government's suggestion to stay socially distant. 

I am also going to embrace seeing my students for the first time in over a week via a video conference.  I am going to embrace their laughter and let them talk all over each other.  I am going to embrace the increased workload.  Begrudgingly, I am going to embrace this computer.... I could never work at a job where I have to sit behind one all day!

Today, I will embrace the crazy.  Crazy looks good on me!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Miller, the Wonder Dog

Miller is my family's large blond lab with a personality to match his name.  Well, calling him a lab is questionable. 

We set out about three years ago to get another dog.  After months, maybe even years, my boys and I convinced my husband to get another dog.  We really did not want a dog that sheds, so I began to research dogs.  The boys and I wanted a large dog with lots of personality and of course, we wanted to stick with the one requirement my husband had....no shedding.  We didn't tell my youngest since this was going to be his birthday present, so I searched alone for the perfect dog.

I came across a post for Labradoodles near us at a very reasonable price.  I knew this type of dog did not shed, so I showed my husband the pictures and we agreed that this was it.  We eagerly awaited my son's birthday to give him his gift.  He was so excited!

We had the pick of the litter and drove the hour plus to pick him out and up.  I was leaning towards the chocolate one, they were leaning towards the yellow ones.  When we arrived, the super nice lady showed us to her barn with all the puppies. I wanted to take them all home, I almost convinced my hubby to get two!  My husband and Drew quickly bonded with the puppy with the most energy.  Of course, my oldest, Cody, and I bonded with the largest, most cuddly of the puppies.  Drew won and we brought home the puppy with the most energy.   I mean look how cute he is!!

Well, that little dog grew and grew and grew.  I mean into a 110-pound lab....yes you read that right a lab. There is no doodle in my lab!  The vet actually laughs each time I tell her that he is a Labradoodle.  He is the best dog ever!  He has a personality to match his size.  He loves everyone and everything....which can be a lot, if you have never had a 110-pound dog sit on your lap, you haven't experienced his level of love.  He barks when he wants you to play, often making a weird closing of his jaw sound.  He yips when a toy is stuck, he flips his bowls over when they are empty... in general, he lets you know he is here.

 I am so glad my husband loves him to pieces since this dog sheds everywhere....like you could knit a small dog from the fur that is left around my house.  Maybe I should have listened to all the clues that were present, the price for one, but I didn't and I am so glad that I didn't  We should all be loved by someone like Miller loves us!

Phantom Pain

Phantom pain is a phrase that came to me during my early morning workout.  Phantom pain the kind you get from missing something that should ...