Safe and Responsible…Well, Some.

My memories of lining all of my children up in the kitchen or front yard (Lord, Mom, Not at the Bus Stop!) for that obligatory first day of school picture are pure, misty nostalgia. These often made the Christmas card cut as well. I miss those days and the innocence we all shared. Last week, I saw the annual “first day of school” pictures for my friends’ children and one of my granddaughters on Facebook. Two or three weeks ago, I saw many of my college-aged friends posting their own back-to-school pictures. At my age, no one wants to see my own first day photo in the fall, but my colleagues and I have been back in school for four weeks now. Our students have been back for two weeks on a hybrid schedule or a virtual one. What follows are a few of my own observations; some from my teacher experience, some from watching the experiences of students, parents, and community members.

  1. I was wrong about having to shut down again almost immediately. My district seems to be doing a really good job of keeping the virus at bay. We are requiring masks when social distancing of six feet is not possible and we have closed gathering areas. They have also limited class sizes and we are required to disinfect the chairs and desks that were occupied at the end of each period. Our custodians are finally being recognized as the hard-working heroes they are. We stagger dismissals to and from classes to keep hallway traffic low. Bussing is available by registration. Those who didn’t register are on a waitlist. Temperatures are taken before getting on the bus or out of the car, and again several hours later. Is this enough? We’ll see, but I am encouraged.
  2. For students who enjoy school, the first day is exciting no matter what it looks like. Most local districts are beginning with a 100% virtual model. Most kids dressed for their pictures anyway. One or two proudly stood on their porch to commemorate their first day of virtual learning in pajamas and slippers. My parent friends on Facebook still polled their communities to see which teachers their kids’ friends had been assigned. Many posted positive reviews after the first day or week of virtual learning. True confession: I was thrilled to see many of my students come in for open house or for their first hybrid day after not seeing them since March 12. For nerds like me, the first day of school is exciting stuff.
  3. Everyone can wear a mask. When I saw some of the community’s most differently-abled citizens managing to wear masks despite extreme challenges to their comfort and security, I was moved. Then I got mad. We are still in pandemic mode because so many people don’t feel a responsibility to protect others from any cooties they may be carrying. I don’t enjoy a mask either, and I am aware it does not do a lot to protect me. It does, however, offer some protection to those around me should I unknowingly be infected. I won’t consider not wearing it around you and I appreciate the same in return.
  4. Many children and young (and some older) adults do not understand the potential consequences of ignoring health and safety recommendations. Notice I did not say ALL, because that wouldn’t be true. However, there are too many people who feel immortal or perhaps are simply naive about what is happening. It is not surprising that universities are having to shut down in-person learning when I see some of the pictures posted of the return to campus. We all have quarantine fatigue, but it wasn’t just a summer inconvenience.
  5. Masks are not a fashion accessory although no one appreciates a clever one more than yours truly. They are, however, supposed to remain over the nose and mouth of the wearer. Taking it off to eat means just that. Eat, then put it back on. You are no more inconvenienced than anyone else. This is where the compassion and guidance of us older folks becomes so important. We don’t let children make the family’s financial decisions, we don’t let them decide on their diets…this is for their protection. Therefore, as adults, we must kindly put our collective foot down about the responsibility we all have to keep each other as safe as possible. And remember, our children and students are watching what we DO way more than they are listening to what we SAY.

My wish for all of us is that we come out safely on the other side of this unique challenge and are better people for it. I know we can.

Ethical Gardening. What a Sh*t Show!

For the first time since our days in the Pacific Northwest, we decided to grow a vegetable garden this year. We are living in farm country, fertile land, favorable conditions. Let’s plant tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini, I said. It will be great, I said.

My husband and son both got on board and dug me a plot. It was smaller than I’d envisioned, but when I saw how much work they did, I bought into the smaller plot.

Then we added purchased soil. Then planted said tomatoes, cukes, and zucchini. Staked the tomatoes. Began watering. Enclosed the whole garden in chicken wire. Planted marigolds around the perimeter to discourage bugs.

So. Little growth but no deaths. Local friend decides to also venture into gardening and purchases raised beds and plants tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers. They used a fertilizer enhanced soil. Her plants have exploded while mine have languished…weakly. I have canned three batches of pickles…with her cucumbers. I have harvested two small Roma tomatoes. I have thrown at least ten into the woods due to the insect and/or bird damage.

Really don’t know where I am going with this. Just that I am pissed. My harvest: 2 small Roma tomatoes. That’s it. I suck at gardening.

So Who Am I To Say?

Well, here we are. School should be opening in the next 5-6 weeks and we know…not much. My district plans a hybrid where there will be two days in school, two days virtual, and one teacher workday per week. Ok. I am assuming bussing will be taken care of, assuming kids will be eating lunch in the room with me (don’t we have to move our masks out of the way for that?). And when half of my students are in the classroom, the other half will be virtual. It looks like a continuation of online learning from spring of 2020 where there was no time teachers were not on call.

I understand this and I am not complaining. However, to make distance learning work this fall, we have to have internet access for all students (come on, we have created a vehicle that backs itself out of a parking spot and comes to pick you up).

Also, with internet access implied, I need to be able to record who is there for each day’s lesson. I also need to be able to grade their work, including it being turned on on time.

This will require more from the infrastructure than has previously been required, and for sure we will need to be flexible in multiple cases (nothing new there). But if we are to make online education work, we need student accountability and daily lessons. Here’s hoping it isn’t necessary.

This Should be the Least of my Worries

Our country and our world are going through so much right now that is heartbreaking, frightening, and in some cases inspiring. This post is not about any of these monumental changes. I have been ripped off, and I’m not going to stand for it. Actually, difficulty standing is what has started this. Aging feet have rendered many of my current shoes too painful to wear, so I’ve been in pursuit of comfortable footwear.

Pandemic restrictions have led a lot of us to use more of the many online shopping opportunities lately. Mostly with no problems at all. As an experienced online shopper and a reasonably tech-savvy adult, this was easy to embrace. Some necessities since mid-March have only been available online. For many of us, not only are we buying more online than usual, but we have a little more money to spend since entertainment expenses such as air travel, vacations, and eating out are being saved. If your income was not negatively affected by the pandemic, you might even have a bit more disposable income and a perfect opportunity to make more generous charitable donations and embark on a quest for foot nirvana.

Having to replace your (almost) entire cute shoe wardrobe with those built for comfort is not a welcome prospect, but having the time to research brands and bargains while other activities and obligations are cancelled is one silver lining. Start every day with a grateful heart.

Social media sites were most helpful in providing multiple options. Almost all of them seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. Several of these sites had some clues to their impermanence and were avoided. Others were a great help in providing savings for comfort brands. I discovered Zulily, Sketchers, Duluth Trading Company, and Orthofeet and bought shoes on sale from each of these sites. I’d also had mail and advertisements pop up for such reputable brands as Rothy’s, Vionic, and Chacos, and set out to look for the sites with the best prices. Some were too good to be true. Others seemed like a reasonable discount. One such was JointSandals. I know better. My “Chacos” arrived loose in a black plastic bag carrying a label with a return address in City of Industry, CA. This was slapped on over a different shipping label with a different alphabet. That was a clue. The “Chacos” inside had no packing slip, no return information, and nothing to do with the Chaco brand. At first the shoes looked like what I’d ordered. Unfortunately the sandal straps could not be tightened adequately and I was able to fit one foot on top of the other into the same shoe. I know better.

Pre-pandemic me would have tossed the shoes and noted the valuable lesson. Pandemic me has a little time on her hands to think about how she feels about someone stealing from her. And to get angry. Again, I know better. This is not important in the big picture. But I have time to follow up. After digging back among old emails to confirm what site I’d ordered from, a series of emails followed. I alerted JointSandals that I had received knock-off (and unwearable) shoes from their company and wished to return them and get my money back. I was offered five US dollars as a refund. “Abby” from the company didn’t seem to understand that this offer was $62.50 short of fair. I persisted. “Abby” wrote that I needed to understand that five US dollars was a lot for them and asked that I see their side of things. “Abby” was reminded in my next email that five US dollars couldn’t be that much to them since they had $68.50 of my US dollars and I had two useless chunks of plastic, which I was happy to return if they would only provide an address. “Abby” generously reconsidered and in the reply offered me a ten percent refund if I returned the shoes (no address provided) but also advised me not to take them up on this because overseas shipping is very expensive and didn’t I just want to keep the shoes?

This is where my generous new friend, “Abby” and I are now. Incidentally, I reached out to Chaco and sent them pictures of the “Chacos” I had ordered and of the shipping label and the website link. I will buy from their website next time. I am also following up with my bank. In both of these correspondences I hastened to explain that I know better and expect nothing from them. But I got ripped off. And I am not going to take it quietly.

If you can relate to this and my other mostly mundane, middling meanderings, please consider following my blog, and feel free to share.

A New…Normal?

Let’s say it right up front. Coronavirus. COVID-19. Market crashes. Unemployment. Recession. All true. Little confidence in our leadership, although, to be fair, we are all feeling our way through something unprecedented in our time.

For me, personally, my school year has been changed. I will be teaching remotely for the rest of this year. To a population that mostly has no internet access. Where I am forbidden to go to them physically (and I totally understand this). My husband is working from home full time. Come to your own conclusions.

So where are the silver linings? I have seen several. Families are spending more time together. Parents are getting to know their children, and vice versa. Prioritizing has taken a front seat. People are feeling kinder towards others.

My children and their families have had many family adventures that they might not have otherwise had. The staying home directives have given opportunities for family bonding that might otherwise have occurred only on weekends and late evenings. Busy parents have reconnected with the childcare and teaching routines.

My daughter’s family went camping. They had to isolate anyway. Two adults, a toddler, and a large dog camped out for a few days in the woods. Several beautiful photos followed, along with stories and memories to last a lifetime.

My son’s mother-in-law has been with them for several days now. My granddaughter has a loving grandmother in her daily life, my daughter-in-law has help and support, and all are riding this out together. Even though Nana is working from where she is, with three adults working from home, Madison has constant care and options.

I am teaching from home, and despite many of my students not having internet access, I have been able to make meaningful connections with some of the ones who do. I am still working on how to reach those who have limited or no access. I have, however, again realized the importance of keeping things basic. Provide what each student needs. The waiver from high-stakes testing for this year has helped. Now I can focus on what my students really need to succeed in learning English and not spend as much time on test preparation which would be memorization and a hope for application. I have another year in which to teach them the English skills to graduate along with their native English-speaking peers.

And toilet paper? Really? We were fortunate to have made a trip to Costco before the proverbial S*&^ hit the fan, so we are currently ok in that area. Also, I had purchased several boxes of tissues for my classroom in light of allergy season right before the schools closed, so we’ve got that going for us. But like everyone else, we are scrabbling for paper towels, hand sanitizer, and sugar. We will be fine. We are a resourceful bunch. My worry, of course, is for those who don’t have food security. Someone who does not have to cull the leftovers from the fridge before grocery shopping. To help with that, we have to continue to support our charities and communities. If we can afford it, let’s order takeout from one of our local businesses.

As has been said countless times, we are all in this together. Love your neighbors. Help where you can. Forgive when you are able. Love at all times. We are living history. Help write the story.

 

Letting Go of Vanity

So here I am, living in a new place and teaching in a new school, with a new age group of students, in a new specialty. But I wanna talk about my hair. I am certainly late to the party on this. Many of my peers have walked before me, with varying results. I want to go back to my real hair color. What color might that be? Well, by now, certainly some shade or percentage of grey.

To provide background, my hair has defined me for most of my life. Judge if you must. My hair was very long in my youth. It was so dark brown that most described it as “black.” Painfully, a friend’s mother in my pre-teen years described it as a “rat’s nest.” I could sit on my hair for most of my elementary and middle school years. Not that I did. It was thick and long, the kind of hair that gets attention, both positive and negative. I did not appreciate it…I wanted the thin and silky hair that flowed like water over my shoulders and blew in wisps in the wind. When I once expressed a desire to cut it, a close relative told me that my hair was what made me special.

Enter my high school years and my Farrah Fawcett ‘do. My hair could hold a curl, was long, and there was plenty of it. An hour each morning to prepare this hair for the world was no problem. It was the least I could do.

In my twenties, pregnancy and its accompanying hair loss did not affect me at all. Sure, I lost a lot of hair. But I had plenty to spare. A few minutes with a curling iron could give me couture for days!

By the time my third child was a year or so old, I started seeing some grey hairs like those I had gleefully pointed out on my own mother at the same age. I plucked until I could no longer keep up, then began coloring. I was 32 years old.

My color has evolved with current styles over the years, and currently I am sporting a nice brown with subtle gold highlights. According to many, it is a great and youthful color. But here’s the problem…I don’t feel like it matches my face. Who am I kidding when I color my hair, every three and a half weeks? I am 56 years old and perfectly ok with that. Why should I not be ok with everything that entails? I am a grandmother. That is the best job I have ever had. I have had lots of life experiences. I am proud of those, for they have given me perspective. So as comfortable as I am with my age and my wisdom, why do I continue to spend time and money to make my hair look like I am not in my fifties?

I don’t know. But I am going to find out if it has been a mistake. In three days, I will be at my hair dresser’s salon getting my every three and a half week color. This time, however, it will be grey highlights. Hopefully they will blend my color while I grow it out. I am inspired by the women in my life who have either embraced their grey or not really noticed it. My hair has served me well for my entire life, but it no longer defines me. I am looking forward to a more authentic and natural me. I may not love it, but I will experience it…and go from there.

 

Where Did My Summer Go??!

No summer, for me, has been as eagerly anticipated as the summer of 2019. This is our first summer living in a beach community, we are on a tidal creek, we bought a boat, and I will be starting a new job in the fall. Except here, “fall” starts for me on August 12. That’s right. Summer is over in nine days.

So what did I spend all of this time doing? As it turns out, I ended up getting quite a bit accomplished. Except enjoying the long, relaxing days with no commitments and gorgeous weather. I took a week-long graduate course, the final one in my ESL (English as a second language) cohort. After that, I spend ten days studying and practicing for the Praxis test, the passing of which is a requirement for my new job. I took and passed it on July 1. This still leaves plenty of summer for relaxing, right? Six glorious weeks. And while I’m enjoying them, I thought, I will finish unpacking the rest of the boxes from our move. Uh-huh. I will organize my office and create an easy system of filing and storing paperwork. Sure.

First, however, I needed to take a look at that list of required paperwork for my new position. Seems I had forgotten about an online training and a hands-on CPR/FirstAid/AED certification (another one). Fingerprinting at my new local jail (don’t ever let anyone tell you teaching isn’t a glamorous occupation). A current TB test. Asking the NBPTS board for a second time to send me the renewal certificate that didn’t arrive before I moved. Little things, no big deal.

Also had to get the annual doctors’ appointments out of the way; as a new employee I don’t want to take too much time off. So appointments with the primary care physician, the GYN, the dentist, the eye doctor, the mammography imaging center, and a minor surgery with a follow-up went on the calendar. Also a trip to New Jersey for my niece’s graduation, a weekend in Maine for the wedding of a dear friend’s son, and a glorious five days in Spokane with my daughter, my son-in-love, and my beautiful two-year-old granddaughter. Two trips to Northern Virginia to see my son, my daughter-in-love, and my beautiful one year old granddaughter.

With the approaching week being my last week off, the only things remaining on the calendar are the mammogram, eye doctor, and follow-up visit. Also must cross the bridge again to get the hair done (a must, every three weeks). A meeting at my new school has been added. I still need to paint four small rooms and a short hallway.

The few days I have had or times I’ve made for fun in otherwise busy days have been worth the effort and the move. There were a few days I slept in until I felt like getting up. We love the boat and are learning how to navigate the bay. We can still do that once school starts. We have kayaks ready for use on the dock. Soon. The beach will still be there, and with the waning summer it will become less crowded. I’ve spent some time in the pool. Yesterday alone my back was sore so I spent four and one-half hours in the hot tub, reading a novel from cover to cover. The unpacked  boxes, the painting, and the organizing will always be here for me. Comforting. My challenge this year, as it has been for the past several, will be to set limits on work. To take more time for myself and my family. To do more personal writing. To enjoy what we’ve worked so hard for. I wish us all a renewed sense of commitment to free time and loved ones; teachers, parents, clerks, medical professionals, accountants, first responders, all of us. If you’ve already mastered this art, please comment and let me know how!

 

 

Change…Really?

Since it has been such a long time since I’ve posted, there have inevitably been changes…good ones. We have moved. My husband and I have both been commuting an hour to and from work each day. He can work from home a few days each week. I can’t. We are in a town where we know very few people but it’s ok for me because I am rarely here in daylight. We were so steady where we were. We both worked nearby. We had friends and knew all of our neighbors (and liked them, too!). However, when it is time to change…it is time to change.

We bought our new house on a whim. Sold our old one and got here before the dust settled. Our work schedules and sites remained the same for the most part, so there was some continuity. Our youngest son and his girlfriend (who I really hope will be my daughter-in-law one day) lived with us at the old house and moved with us to the new. That has been a huge help both physically and emotionally. My mother plans to move to our new town as well so for the first time in my adult life, I will have family nearby. All in the near future. The real reason for this house, although not the pushed-up time frame, is to have a place where our family can gather. We had plenty of room at our last house, and some entertainment options, but this home, despite or because of its remote location,  offers so much more…nature preserves, beaches, kayaking from our own dock, boating from the marina…plus great restaurants and fabulous parks. In short, we downsized to paradise.

For the first time ever, our older two children and their families saw our new place today. We didn’t have a lot of time together, but enough for the kids to want to return with their kids and make more memories. We have wonderful pictures from the few hours we had together.

I will be leaving my work home of the past 17 years and my elementary cupcakes at the end of the year to teach English to students of other languages in the high school and middle school close to our new home. This is a professional change and a new challenge for which I feel ready. I am learning the first language of most of my new students beginning in August…if they can learn English, the least I can do is make an effort to learn their language. Like my new students coming to a new country with a different language, I am learning a new place and a new language. We are focused on being a blessing to our community and to making a memorable childhood for our grandchildren (and to giving our own children opportunities we were not able to give them when we were in the daily business of raising them).

So as we embark on this new adventure with all of the experiences from our previous adventures, we hope to be helpful, memorable, and available not just for our children and grandchildren, but for all in our lives. I will continue to post about the challenges of this endeavor on the blog so stay tuned! From our little piece of paradise,

Deirdre

There is a Piano in my Bathroom

Here we are. We’ve moved (?) into our new house, Christmas has come and gone merrily, and I still have two glorious days off until returning to school and beginning the life of a commuter. Must admit, I’ve always said that my quality of life standards would prohibit a long commute yet here I am, now living an hour plus away from the school from which I have lived within four minutes for the past 17 years. Am I compromising much? We’ll find out. Are we settled in? Not even close. Do I regret moving? Not for a minute. Yet.

There is a piano in my bathroom. This is not so I can practice during bouts of menopausal digestive issues…it is because the master bath and the guest bath are the only rooms that currently have floors. The rest of our furniture and possessions are largely stacked in our garage…an 18′ by 18′ cube by my eyeball reckoning. Somewhere in that impenetrable cardboard wilderness is our furniture, the rest of our clothes, and hopefully the charger to the dustbuster. We are camping in what my sister so charmingly described as a “crack den” (minus any illegal drugs) when I sent her the requested pictures of the new place. She’s not wrong. The floors are bare plywood, the essentials that we could find are stacked and spread throughout. We hadn’t yet hung any pictures at the time I sent her photos. We since have but it just lacks a certain…you know…without floors. Hopefully we will have that remedied within the next three or so weeks. Yes, there was a mistake made, no, it wasn’t ours, but really, by next year we will be laughing at this. Bring it.

We have discovered that the fireplace doesn’t work and the pool hasn’t been opened in years. The boat lift on the dock is currently inoperable. We were here for eight days before we got internet. The driveway is long yet narrow enough that every time someone has to leave we have to jockey the vehicles around. And yet we are delighted to be here. We have seen deer and cranes in our yard, we have met several friendly neighbors (two of whom even delivered oven-warm goodies to welcome us), and we have proven once again that we can overcome some inconveniences. We will emerge more appreciative than ever once the floors are laid and we can move in the rest of our belongings and have a comfy place to sit together. We will have our family visit and be able to offer them a real bed and a home-cooked meal with the oven back in the cabinetry instead of in the middle of the kitchen floor. And, most importantly, when we arrive home in the evenings after our commutes, we will be exactly where we want to be, and there will be quiet discoveries awaiting us as well as the excitement of new adventures. Our weekends will be mini-vacations and our time will be ours. Right?

On Dreams Fulfilled…?

So, my friends, here I am again further into the process of moving. We are still in our house, although it is under contract. We own the new one, although the flooring boards can’t be delivered until Friday (three days ahead of schedule!) and must sit inside the house for up to a week before they can be laid. Closing on our current home is scheduled for next Thursday and the movers are coming on Monday. So, when we had our bathrooms remodeled last spring we put a beautiful old-fashioned claw-foot tub in the guest bath. We attached the shower apparatus to it, for almost the same as the cost of the tub itself, and my granddaughter enjoyed it while she was visiting. I vowed when we decided to move that I would enjoy a long soak in that tub before leaving this house.

Last night, I had my chance. We had ordered out, eaten dinner (I certainly can’t cook in a kitchen that I’m packing up!) and I wasn’t feeling the whole packing thing after having some wine and watching last Sunday’s Outlander episode with a friend. So I decided this would be my night. My one and only night to enjoy a long, hot soak in my gorgeous tub with one of the lovely Lush bath bombs I’d purchased to sit on the counter in a glass bowl. I poured myself one last glass of wine, set it up on the stool I’d purchased to make it easier to bathe grandchildren in the tub, chose my bath bomb, and started the water.

Almost immediately I realized that I’d forgotten a lot since the summer when bathing a grandchild. I eventually figured out how to fill the tub, only to discover that there wasn’t much hot water available. Undaunted, I dropped the bath bomb in. I don’t remember what scent it was but it had herbs in it. The bath bomb dissolved without any issues, but the herbs floated in the water after they were set free. Not a problem. The first filled bath, due to the lack of hot water, turned cold fairly quickly. I drained some of the water then turned the hot on again and sat in glorious expectation. I got about two inches of warm water before the flow again turned cold. Once this second fill-up turned cold, I again let some out and turned on the hot water again. This time I got a decent amount of hot added to the cool, so I finally stretched out and was about to take that first sip of my glass when I heard the door being jimmied open with a Q-tip. My husband entered  the bathroom and enquired as to whether or not I’d fallen asleep in the tub. No. Sigh. Try to relax again.

Before long, the water was no longer warm, so again I let some out and turned on the hot. This time it had been off long enough to build up a decent store of hot water in the heater in the garage, so I enjoyed a nice, deep, hot bath. I sipped my wine, I brushed the lingering herbs off of me, and I sunk myself as low as I could go without getting my hair wet. If felt fabulous.

Then I remembered all the packing I wasn’t doing. Also that I was soaking in water but I was neither washing my hair nor shaving my legs. And I still had an almost full glass of wine. No, I didn’t get out at this point as would a less-lazy version of me. I stayed in until the heat started to leave the water, then I got out. I’d had my soak. My bath in the fabulous tub. Wow. Yea.

So, of course I have a reflection on this…I have always wanted a clawfoot tub and I do love a soak in a bathtub. So we bought a clawfoot tub and I bought fabulous bath supplies with which to enjoy it. Then I used it and the everyday intruded…you know, life. So was my bath all I’d dreamed? Not even close. But having the perfect bath would have left out my children who worried that I’d fallen asleep, my husband who insisted on checking, and an experience that would have made me want to stay in the tub far past the time I should have been sleeping.

You can’t always get what you want. But if you try, sometimes, you get what you need. ~ Rolling Stones