Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Stopping to notice

I was moved by the introduction to this week's Slice of Life blog post.... by how important it is to stop and notice things around us and how our words live on when we are no longer.  WOW! In these turbulent times in our lives, it is more important than ever to stop, take stock of the wonders around you and be appreciative of what you have.  Somewhere along the way, people have lost the amazement of being alive, of appreciating the wonder all around us.  I mean, come on, the world is pretty amazing if we take the time to appreciate it.  We have become caught up in rushing to the next big thing or racing from point A to point B never stopping to realize we are missing things along the way.

I am as guilty as the next person, I spent my time rushing from one kid's practice to the next, trudging through my morning runs just to get through them, counting the hours to the next break in school, and never once stopping to realize how special it all is.  If this pandemic has afforded me anything, it is many moments to reflect on what I have and how lucky I am.  And boy, am I lucky!

I have started to just pause mid-moment to take it all in... I think my kids think I am losing it!  But when will I ever have both boys willingly under the same rough, not fighting and actually talking to their parents about stuff?  This just doesn't' happen... teenagers are always on the go and boys say so few words.  I have been so impressed with the kind of people they have become, so different from each other but yet so alike in their core characters.  They are going to be amazing adults, fathers, and husbands someday.

I have been married for almost 25 years and for the majority of those years we have spent our time in different ballparks, different work locations.... like two ships passing in the night.  Now, we are both working from home (or I was...it's summer) and have spent more time together.  Now, for some that might be troublesome, but for us we have really had the chance to talk, to hang out, to just enjoy each other's company.  I will miss that when we all go back to work but am now really ready for retirement!


If nothing else comes of this trying time in our lives, I hope that people spend the time to reflect on what is important to them.  I worry that we are still all caught up in "it's all about me" ideal that we have had for so long.  It's time to get back to the basic tenet of treating others as you want to be treated.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Normalish....

When will things go back to the way they were before the end of March?  When will I be able to see a friend, give a hug, and not worry about getting sick because of it?  When will I be able to run into the store for a quick stop without a mask and washing my hands two million times?  Is it just me?  Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one that finds myself wondering these things.  As the numbers of cases around me, and the world's, continue to rise, I know that I can't be the only one to worry about these things.  

I keep taking little steps back to normal but with each one am left with anxiety and unease after.  I met friends at the cutest outdoor winery on Friday evening. I was so excited to go, the venue was outside and I could practice social distancing.  Well.... I saw so many people I knew... which is awesome but everyone just jumps up and hugs.  We have always greeting friends that we haven't seen in a while with a quick hug... it was so normal.  Until I get home, and I am met with unease and a million questions that run through my mind.  "How many days until symptoms show up?" "That was a quick hug, surely you can't catch it that quick."  "I washed my hands right after, will that help?" And on and on and on.

We finally scheduled our annual family beach vacation.  I have been busy planning this like I normally do.  I found a great place, right in between the activities and the beach.  We have enough bedrooms for the boys to bring friends and a patio to drink my morning coffee. It is exactly what we wanted.  Yeah me.... until the questions begin in my head.  "How far apart can we get on the beach?" "Will we go out to eat?" "How many cases of Covid are there?"  So, I do what I have always done and look for answers and reviews.... bad mistake.... just negative comments that increase the questions in my mind.  

These are just two examples of the new normal of my mind.  I want to be out there, I want to do things I did before but when I do, I worry.  I have never been a worrier, so this is a new normal.  I can't even imagine what will happen when school goes back.  Maybe the answer is just jumping in with both feet and seeing what happens? Maybe by getting back out there, I will find a new normal or something normalish....

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Fathers

Father's Day is right around the corner. Such an important day to lavish respect on the unsung heroes of the family.  Father's have it rough, I believe.  According to norms in society, they have to be strong and stalwart, providing for their families and providing the "wait until your father gets home" kind of discipline.  I know these norms are old fashion and out of touch, but I will venture to say that in more homes than not this is the role the father takes on.

In my childhood, that was the kind of dad I had.  He was quiet and calm.  He could correct a behavior with the shake of his head. He worked long hours, often leaving the house before 6 and returning around dinner time.  Five days a week, he spent at the office providing for his family.  The weekends were not days to just lay around, no way! My dad worked in the yard or his garden on Saturdays.  Sundays were spent watching his beloved Steelers and eating Sunday Roast Beef dinner as a family.

Sundays were my favorite because he was home all day and we could share an apple and peanut butter while watching the game.  I am the only daughter and as most daughters do, had a special bond with my dad.  He was the calm in a storm, the safety net when I was scared and the voice of logic in all things.  He was the nicest man I knew and had the best belly laugh around.

I often hoped that I would find someone just like my dad.... calm, strong, faithful, kind and wicked smart.  I hit the jackpot! My husband has shown my boys the kind of dad that they should be.... strong, loving, kind, fun, hardworking and wicked smart.

Like my dad, my husband works long days to provide for his family.  Lets face it... my teaching salary is not enough for anyone to live on! He has missed out on many games, or school events while working.  He has tried his best to make all their games... often eating at the field, or taking a call while coaching first!  He has spent the majority of his weekends for the last 13 years or so at either at a baseball or lacrosse tournament.  Cheering them on, offering advice when needed or strategizing over the next opponent.  The "boys" have spent countless hours watching sports.... MLB baseball, LSU football, NFL football and on and on.  He has arranged trips to all their favorite teams games and provided them with unbelievable expereinces.  All while quietly showing them what a dad, husband and man should be.

Mom's may be the north star of the family, but dad's are the vessel that carries you through a storm.  Strong, trustworthy and silently doing their job.  Thank you to my dad and to my husband!  Hats off to all the Dad's out there!!


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Little Dog

The youngest and the smallest of the dogs is fierce.  He is the first to bark at all things real and imaginary.  He watches the neighborhood like a scout in the army... surveying, watching for danger, and giving a loud warning when things are amiss.  The dog stands about 24 inches tall with a white face, white paws, and a reverse brindle coat. 

He makes his presence known.  When you enter his house, he barks furiously at you.  He does not bite or nip, merely demands your attention.  He will jump on you and stretch his body to the max to ensure that you see him as if you could miss him with his incessant barking.  If you happen to move floors and reenter, he will announce your arrival with a series of barks.  He is fierce and determined to garner attention.

He is as equally loving as he is loud.  He is the first to jump up to sleep snuggled up to you.  He will find his spot next to your legs on the recliner only moving when you move.  He will sleep all night snuggled up to your legs.  (this makes it very hard to sleep).  Once you are his person, you are his person forever.

The little dog loves to play with the large yellow dog. He doesn't seem to know that the large dog has him by 65 pounds and almost 12 inches in height.  He attacks with veracity and might.  He lunges and yips, darting in and out making it hard for the larger dog to keep up.  He will race through the yard with speed and agility, often leaping over plants, steps, and his larger bff.  He is amazing to watch.

The little dog is loved beyond belief by his human and canine family.  Tiny but mighty all the way!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Big Trucks and Kayaks

"Hey, Bill... Can you help me load this kayak?" That is how my trip into real life began. I met my BFF Emily for much-needed girl time, exercise, and a chance to dip my toe back into the lake of life.  With help from my husband, my kayak was loaded into the back of my oldest son's black F 150.  I ran around like a crazy person gathering waters, a protein bar, and sunscreen.  "Have I forgotten anything?" I pondered my list... water... check, snack...check, sunscreen.... check. "What am I missing?"  A towel, I need a towel! I ran to the laundry room and grabbed a blue patterned beach towel from the top of the dryer.  So glad that I never got around to putting that away!  I hoist my small self into the big truck, put the key in the ignition, and begin to back down my steep driveway.

I roll the windows down, plug in my Spotify place list and head down the road. Jamming out to a variety of country music, I choose the scenic route to Red Top Mountain and Lake Allatoona.  As I am driving along, I frequently glance back to double-check the kayak.  I am always a little afraid that thing is going to go sailing out of the back of the truck.  I know that it is strapped in with the super fancy yellow ratcheting straps... but still I can't let go of the notion that the kayak is going to fly out.

Whew, I made it to Red Top Mountain Road and crossed the super narrow bridge.  Seriously, if you have ever been across this bridge you know what I mean... it is one of those bridges that were made a long time before ginormous SUV's,  two can barely fit and I always feel like I am going to bump along the side of someone.  Around this time, Emily calls to tell me that she has bought me a parking pass and to give me exact directions to the place that we are going to put in our kayaks.  They go something like this......" Go to beach road, go to the left.... stay on the main road.... go past those orange barricade thingys, go down this really steep hill and park."  Ok, I think I can do that.  Nope.... I miss the beach road and have to turn this big truck around and head back towards the bridge.  I see the street and turn left onto another impossibly narrow road....seriously people I am driving this big truck.  Anyway, I bear left on the road, go past the barricade thingys and down a really steep hill.  What was she thinking... is what goes through my mind as I lose sight of the road as the grade of the hill is so steep.  As I make it to the bottom, I see her standing outside of her son's black F150 (that's funny right... our kids have almost the same car... it's a Georgia boy thing). I stick my head out the window, wave and attempt to park.  Well, it takes me a couple of minutes to decide where to park and then to actually park the truck.

I jump out of the truck and we laugh at the absurdity of us in these trucks.  We decide on a place to put the kayaks in and begin to unload.  As we do, it as if we haven't missed a beat.... "Your's first... sure....... Did  I tell you.... No way really?...  And on and on the easy flow of conversation continues as we make our way to the water and begin our day on the lake.  "You first... OH MY GOSH this is cold... I knew you would say that!"


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Simple Joys

Life is full of simple joys.  In this time of uncertainty, change, and anxiety it is important to seize the moments that bring us joy.  All to often, we are caught in the muck and mire of the day... never pausing to smell the roses or marvel at the sound of the birds.  I say that we use this tumultuous time in our lives, to reflect,  to grow, to seize the moments of pure bliss.... whatever they may be.

For me, the smell of morning coffee and the pleasure of drinking it hot and not in a rush is a simple joy.  Many teachers can attest to the fact that our coffee is either consumed lukewarm or in such a rush that you don't get to enjoy it.  I am going to enjoy my coffee hot, while not rushed and enjoying the quiet start to another day. 

Hearing the sounds of laugher from people young and old playing outside is a simple joy.  My boys have played countless games of corn hole and the sounds that they make are hilarious and smile-worthy.  The sounds of the two young boys next door playing whatever made-up game they play daily takes me back to when my own boys played outside with their imagination.  Pure, simple joy.

Watching multiple movies in a series, or multiple seasons of a show with my family brings me simple joy.  How lucky am I that my almost 20 year old wants to watch tv with me?  He isn't rushing off to be with his friends or girlfriend, he is content to sit with me.  We rewatched all the Avengers movies and are now on to Survivor.  Silly, shows I know, but who cares he is watching them with me and I get a chance I wouldn't have had without this pandemic.

Do I miss things? Sure.  Do I wish things would go back to normal? Sure.... for the most part.  But right now, I am choosing to see the simple joys in my life.  I choose Joy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Today is the Day

Today is the day! My 16-year-old is finally getting his braces off.  This kid has had them on since the sixth grade.... he is just wrapping up his sophomore year of high school.  At times, I feel that this is the longest time anyone has ever had braces on before!! He didn't have major problems with his teeth, they were a little crooked and he had a mild overbite but nothing that constituted years of wear.  But in typical Drew fashion, things happen that could only happen to him.

See Drew is my if it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen to him kid.  You know the kid that if the flu is in a 3000-mile radius he gets it... twice.  Or if someone is bleeding or broken, it's him.  Most sentences that concern injury or illness start with, "Mom.... Drew is...". I mean he is the only child I have ever heard of who broke their permanent front tooth by being startled in class and banging their tooth on the desk.  True story... the morning of ITBS of his fifth-grade year, he startled for some unknown reason, banged his face on his desk, and knocked out half his tooth.  Seriously, right!!

His brace experience has been no different.  One such instance, the dental hygienist, when cleaning his teeth, knocked off a bracket.  Weird but ok..... until the orthodontist couldn't get us in right away.  Then we left for our planned vacation and by the time we got back, went to the orthodontist the damage was done.  His timeline was extended and we had new wires and new issues.  Another time, he was playing with the dog.  They play pretty rough as boys and their dogs do.  Well, one thing led to another and the dog and Drew went for the toy at the same time.  The dog raised his head at the same time that Drew lowered his.... you guessed it, his front tooth that was bonded on fell off below the bracket.  Of course! That involved a trip to the ortho to remove the bracket, then the dentist to glue the tooth back on, back to the ortho to have the bracket back on.  The kicker was they couldn't put the wire on for a week or so to let the tooth bond.  So, new timeline, new problems, new issues! Finally, Covid... the gift that keeps on giving.  Drew was scheduled for his final visits two separate times over the quarantine. Of course, they were canceled and his timeline was extended.

But today is the day!! He is getting them off and I can't wait.  I think I may be more excited than he is... that could be because the appointment was scheduled for 8 AM and teenagers don't wake up this early.  Personally, getting up early to get them off is worth it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dipping My Toes.....

I have been venturing out into the real world in small situations.   Dipping my toe in the pool of life, so to speak.  It has been exciting and anxiety-ridden all at once. It is strange to me how things that were once so normal are now met with equal parts of nervousness and joy.  I find myself holding myself in check, holding back, assessing all the angles and situations.... I have become like one of those TV spies..... checking how many people are there? can I safely go this way? should I approach this person? is this person showing signs of illness? and the list goes on and on.

I spend time wondering if this is my new normal.  Will I remember this as the time that I became anxious, that I stopped giving hugs when I greet people?  Is this when I changed?  Is this when I stopped running into the store for every little thing?  Is this when people stopped giving handshakes or gathering in large groups?  Is this when school became different?  I would really like a crystal ball to answer these questions!

Maybe what this dipping of my toe kind of caution is a way for me, and everyone else, to adjust to facing uncertainty head-on.  Maybe small doses of normal are how I build back up to normal life. Maybe I learn to let go of what may be and embrace what is happening now.  Maybe I put faith in my fellow community members that they too are trying to ease back into society.  Maybe in time, testing the waters will seem like the right thing to do.

So, I will keep venturing out.  I will wear my mask and wash my hands every chance I get.  I will learn new ways of greeting people. I will learn to have happy eyes and a  joyful voice until I can stop wearing a mask.  I will embrace this shallow end until I am ready (and the world is ready) for the deep end.


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Pack Up

Late last week, my colleagues and I were given the green light to go into school and pack up the kids' stuff.  When we left that last Friday in March, we had no idea that we would be out for so long.  The kids packed up what they were told they would need for a two-week time frame and heading out the door.  Sadly, that two-week time frame ended up being the remainder of the year.  And kids being kids, they want their stuff.  Which is funny in itself since their stuff is textbooks and folders.... like they weren't all that excited about that stuff on March 12th!!

Our admin is very conscientious about following the CDC guidelines and adhering to the rules of social distancing.  We were emailed a sign-up genius, with specific instructions on the number of people allowed in each room and to ensure that we were not within 40 feet of another classroom.  Being the rule follower that I am, I changed my sign up many times to ensure that the new person that signed up wasn't too close.  My day was Monday.

It was such an eerie feeling to be in the school with only 7 other teachers.  Now granted, a few of those teachers are some of my favorite people on the planet and good friends of mine.  It was so hard not to give them a hug hello, to maintain my distance, and to not run down to their classrooms to chat.  I settled for very far apart brief hallway chats, a few texts back and forth and a quick see you later when we were done.  It was just not the same.

The whole thing is not the same.  The kids should be there packing up their belongings.  The noise should be loud and silly and mixed with the occasional, "Oh, that's where that is" or "Mrs. Garrison, I found that Scholastic I was supposed to turn in!"  Instead, it was quiet and calm and sad. (Although, I did find lots of work that should have been turned in a LONG time ago!) It was just another way to show me how much I miss the kids, no one got into teaching to be alone in the classroom.

I hope that when we come out on the other side of this madness, we remember all of these feelings.  I hope that we do not get so caught up in all that we have to do, how far behind they will inevitably be or become irritated by them saying our names a million times in a school day.  I hope that we remember that empty classroom pack up, the loneliness we felt, and the desire to see our kids and give them one more hug or high five.  I know I will remember!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Can't Never Did Anything

A common phrase tossed around social media, teacher's lounges and the pool is helicopter parenting.  Sometimes the phrase becomes lawnmower parents or bulldozer parents.  We have all heard the phrase, the reference to parenting styles today.  We are often quick to say, "When I was a kid, my mom just had me drink from a hose and gave me a bologna sandwich on white bread".  Right... who hasn't heard the tales of how parents in the 70's or 80's parented?  Like it is a golden elixir to what ails the parenting world today. If we could just turn back time, today's parents would see the amazing parenting styles of the parents of yesteryear (insert sarcastic eye roll here!).

I am a child born in the 70's and I did drink from a hose and ate LOTS of bologna on white bread with Hellman's mayonnaise.  I stayed out until the streetlights came on, got dirty, went on adventures and rode my bike a million miles a day.  It was a great childhood!  Was my mom doing anything different than any other mom?  No, everyone in my small town did the same thing.

I have children of the new  Millenium who have not had the same childhood experiences that I have had.  They don't stay out until the streetlights come on or the fire station blows the whistle. Why not?  Mainly because it is a different time and place.  We live in an era where kids have easy access to electronics that were not around when I was their age.  They are presented with a million different options for everything.  I mean Saturday morning cartoons are not a big thing for kids today, they have cartoons 24/7.  They will never know the excitement I felt to get up on Saturday and watch the cartoons with my dad.

Did my mom let me learn somethings for myself? Absolutely! Did she help with school work? Absolutely... she was an elementary school teacher and her projects were always better than mine! She struck a balance between doing everything for me and allowing me to figure it out.  I have tried to do that with my kids... help when needed but allow them to fail.  Without failure, they will not learn anything. I think that is the hardest concept for parents to not only understand but to follow through on.  We all want what is best for our kids, we want them to have a great life.. better than ours.  When they cry or are angry it feels like a direct hit to the heart, we want to scoop them up and make it better.  At some point we have to allow them to feel things, to experience what it is like to fail, to learn a lesson, and to pick yourself back up and move on.  Bulldozing, helicoptering or lawnmowing... whatever you want to call it.... will not help the kids in the long run.  Will it be easier in the moment?  Absolutely!  When they go to college and can't write a paper? Not so much!   Can we offer our kids help? Absolutely!  Should we do the work for them, or micromanage their every word? Not so much!

I have a sign hanging above my kitchen door, it is a quote attributed to many professional athletes so I can't give credit to who said it, but it says, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take".  Without trying something on your own, without failing and learning from your mistakes, you can not grow into the person you are destined to be.  As my mom said (at least four billion times!), "Chrissy, can't never did anything."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Parenting Boat

Parenting is like being in a small boat amidst a powerful storm.  You have to be a strong seaman to navigate the parenting waters.  The waters are always choppy, seldom calm and shark-infested.  At times, the life vest is deflated or missing from your proverbial boat. The winds whip and the rain falls in one breath and in another it is a beautiful, sunny day.  It takes all of your effort to keep the boat afloat and all the members in your small boat alive.  As the captain or co-captain, you realize that with each passing storm another storm will soon be on the horizon.  Such a tough job.... the constant change, the constant struggle, the days of calm seas followed by the hurricane-force winds. 

It is a relentless pursuit of ensuring the well being of the members of your boat, who often question your every move.  Should we be doing that? Wouldn't it be better if we did this? Why are we doing this? Or present their facts and ideas on the best course of action for your small vessel, acting as if your years of being a captain and seaman are irrelevant.  I think we should do this because....., or the current facts are.......  or my personal favorite.... when I am in charge we will do it this way (Don't you really want to say...go ahead get your own boat and see how you do?).

The people in your boat have emotions that rival the storms your boat encounters.  One minute they are as calm as the sea, the next their emotions rival the storm around you.  (Maybe they are the cause of the storms?? ) Just when you believe that your boat has passed the worst of the storm, the clouds grow and a new storm approaches... just like the emotions of the people in your boat. You, as captain, can never quite get a handle on the storms as they change with the wind, come from all directions and threaten to sink your boat at any time. 

Being captain is a tough job. You do not receive any formal training for navigating these waters, you learn as you go.  Some days, you are a great captain. Others, your boat barely stays afloat.  The rewards, like sunshine after a storm, are breathtaking and leave you with a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of the sea.  Likewise, when the storm is bad,  you bail water out of your boat as quickly as you can with your eyes on the storm and you hope that it is a small squall and not a hurricane.

Eventually, your boat will be smaller with less responsibility.  We all know that.  We know the storms will pass, the waters will calm and the sharks will move on to greater pursuits.  But while navigating the waters with a full boat, it is hard to see past the storm, to look for the sun amidst the clouds. So, my fellow captains... hold tight to your life vest, keep rowing towards the sun, there are brighter days ahead.

Stopping to notice

I was moved by the introduction to this week's Slice of Life blog post.... by how important it is to stop and notice things around us an...