The Loss of a Beloved Teacher

The loss of a beloved teacher.

When I was growing up, my family moved several times. In fifth grade, I landed in a new town and new school. It was a school that was several times bigger than my previous elementary school. At my “old” school, we had only two classes for each grade. Everyone knew each other, and we were a pretty sheltered bunch. At my “new” school, there were four or five classes for each grade. Everyone did not know each other, and well…they weren’t as sheltered. Fortunately, I fell into the classroom of a wonderful, caring teacher.

I feel pretty sure she could feel my pain on the first day. While everyone was friendly, I’m sure I looked like a deer caught in the headlights, so my new teacher assigned two girls to look out for me. They showed me around and introduced me to their friends, and it certainly made the transition easier. Assimilating wasn’t difficult, thanks to the teacher and those girls she introduced me to.

There was something special about this teacher. She was dealing with students from various socioeconomic backgrounds and races, and somehow she brought us all together. I don’t know how public schools work in Alabama now, but back in the day, students were grouped by reading level and math level. We had at least two different levels in our class at any given time, except math, when we went to a different classroom where everyone learned the same thing. In some cases, I’m sure students who weren’t working on the highest level might have felt inferior, but I don’t think they ever felt that way in her class. She loved all of us, in spite of and because of our differences. And while I was in the highest level reading group, I know we never looked at the other groups in our class and thought they were “less than.” That’s because our teacher pulled us together. She understood that fifth grade students needed to move around some during the day, and she encouraged us all to participate in discussions, be creative, and work with our “neighbors.”

I had always been a good student, but I had usually been pretty quiet in class. But at the end of the first grading period, the teacher called my mother before sending home my report card. She wanted to warn my mother ahead of time that she had marked “talks too much” on my report card, but she explained that she had done it for our whole group that sat in the same area. Apparently, we had bonded well enough that we never stopped talking! My mother was surprised but thought it was funny, since she had never been told I “talked too much” at school. And we, the students, learned a valuable lesson about working as a group…everyone in the group is responsible for each other.

One of those friends, James, from that class group texted me recently. He is my longest continuous-contact friend, and we were brought together right there in that classroom. We have been friends for 43 years. He texted me to tell me our beloved teacher had passed away. He loved her too. In fact, he was, quite possibly, the student who checked in on her the most over the years. She saw something special in him when we were in 5th grade, and he didn’t disappoint. He remembered her kindness and spent time with her when she was in the hospital several years ago, and then, last year, he visited her at home…spending time laughing and talking with her.

The last time I spoke with our teacher was Mother’s Day weekend in 2019…just over a year ago. We talked about old times. We talked about how she let us veer from the lesson plan sometimes to give us time to be creative. She sometimes secretly gave clothing and snacks to the students who needed it…but in a way no one else knew it, so the student wouldn’t be embarrassed. We talked about how she became a teacher. We laughed a lot while we reminisced, and we solved some of the world’s problems in that phone call. She reminded me of a few things, and I reminded her of a few things. And she asked me to write down some of my memories of her/her class and send them to her.

She taught my brother two years after she taught me. We are two totally different personalities; frankly, he’s a lot more fun than I am. And I’m sure he was quite the class clown, but this teacher? She had an appreciation for his humor. She found a way to teach him without squashing his spirit. She saw something special behind his twinkling, mischievous eyes, and she loved him. He loved her too.

When I heard about her passing, I was heartbroken. I knew her health had been in decline, but I was surprised to hear she had passed. I was, however, happy I had followed through on my promise to write down some memories and send them to her. It took me a few months to get it done, but I got it done. I emailed it and then sent her a hard copy of it too. A friend was having coffee with me at my house when I got the news, and I told her, “Wow. My fifth grade teacher just died.” I went on to explain to her how special this teacher was to all her students…how she actually cared. And then I said, “I’m so glad I talked to her last year and sent her some memories I had written down for her.” No regrets.

She had long since retired, but she made a difference in the lives of lots of children over the years. She was special. I feel sorry for the ones who didn’t get to be in her class. If you had a beloved teacher during your school days, make his/her day by sending him/her a letter, or even just an email, letting him/her know he/she made a difference in your life.

She was a lovely lady, and “lovely” is high compliment from me…one I don’t throw out lightly. God bless her family, and God bless the soul of Mrs. Stiff.

All Quiet on the Home Front

All quiet on the home front.

Oh, COVID, how I hate thee. Not only have you messed up the last six months, but now you’re forcing me to be quiet in my own home.

School has started for the 2020-21 school year…remember when we were all excited about moving into the year 2020? It was supposed to be the year of clarity. We got clarity, all right! I can see clearly now that it’s going to be another messed up school year! And it’s mostly going to be messed up, because it’s taking place in my kitchen.

Actually, I have to give credit where it’s due. At least our school is trying to get back in the classroom. Our school opted to divide the students in half and they go on alternating days. That means every other day, my daughter will be camped out in my kitchen. Last year, she opted to do “remote learning” in the upstairs game room, but this year, she wants to be in the kitchen. I get it. There’s more light.

But there’s also more noise in the kitchen than upstairs in the secluded game room…and more chance of interruption.

Take today, for example. While our daughter was working in the kitchen, I was in my room trying to get some work done. I recently started some contract work of my own…not full time stuff…just something to keep me busy. I can work on my own schedule, as long as I have my computer, so today I was working in my room with Shark Tank on the TV for background noise. Occasionally, I would look up at the screen, if something seemed particularly interesting, or if someone said something funny. A lot of funny stuff happens on that show.

And then it happened. A guy made a fantastic deal with one of the “sharks,” and I expressed my disbelief…loudly. My daughter promptly texted, “Quiet plz!” I can only hope her high school English teacher didn’t hear my exclamation of surprise…it might or might not have contained an expletive.

So here’s my question: am I actually going to have to be quiet every other day in my house?

For most folks, that likely wouldn’t be a problem…especially if they’re working on a project of their own. But for me, it could be a problem. I’m accustomed to having free reign in my own home. I’m accustomed to talking as loudly as I like. I accustomed to laughing heartily and talking on the phone as I walk into the kitchen. I’m even accustomed to playing music in the living room, which is adjacent to the kitchen, during the day.

I guess all that’s coming to a screeching halt. I guess I’ll take all my phone calls on the patio. I’ll try to keep my voice down and my laughing to a minimum. I’ll try not to walk into the kitchen while laughing and talking on the phone with a friend…like I did today in the middle of my daughter’s history class. I don’t know if the history teacher or anyone else noticed, but I sure got a nasty look from the daughter. At least I had on clothes, right?!? I’ve read about moms who have unknowingly walked past the zoom classrooms in various levels of undress. That wouldn’t happen around here, because I don’t tend to walk around the house unless I’m fully dressed, but I am in danger of dropping an occasional expletive in the middle of class.

Next thing you know, my family will start shipping me out to a hotel on remote learning days. Honestly, I would welcome the opportunity to order room service for lunch. Should I make my reservation now?

All quiet on the home front…this is going to be a tough order. Any other moms of students who are learning remotely want to meet me for a long lunch every other day?

College for Your Teen

College for your teen…

Where do you want your teen to go to college?

Someone asked me that question recently. It didn’t take me long to answer, because I know exactly where I want her to go.

I have always thought she would love a big state university. I went to a big state university and loved every minute, so I have always thought she might like the “full college experience,” just like I did.

And then sometimes, she will tell me about some smaller schools that interest her…different ones all over the country. It’s then that I think, “Maybe one of those will be best for her.” Maybe she would like being on a small campus in a cute little town somewhere.

There are so many colleges and universities all over the country to choose from. Almost anyone who wants to go to college can likely find a place that work for them. Interested in big time sports? Check out state universities. Interested in the arts? Check out liberal arts schools near you. Interested in a smaller school setting? Looking for a school that has a high commuter population? You want a school that doesn’t have a high commuter population? You can likely find something that works.

But with so many options, the decision can be difficult. I peruse brochures that come in the mail. I take virtual tours online of different campuses. I talk to friends about where they went to college and listen to their college stories. And honestly, if you talk to the right person, almost every college experience sounds great. I always encourage my daughter to talk to people about their experiences.

It can be difficult to choose.

But here’s the thing: the decision isn’t mine to make. It’s my daughter’s.

My husband and I decided a long time ago that we want her to go to the college of her choice. We want her to find her people. We want her to go into the college experience knowing she picked exactly what she wanted. We want her to be excited. When she has tough days adjusting to college life, we don’t want her to think, “If my parents had let me go where I wanted to go, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Sure, I can listen to her and help her make the decision, but she will make the decision. This is a teenager who, as a toddler, wanted to make her own decisions. She’s got this.

We have made “unofficial” visits to colleges all over the country, just so she could get a feel for the campuses. She has narrowed it down to five or six that she likes. But she’s just entering her junior year of high school. She could find new places of interest over the next two years. She will likely learn about colleges she doesn’t even know exist, and it’s possible some of them could look interesting to her.

So when someone asks me where I want her to go to college, I will give them the same answer I gave my friend a few days ago:

I want her to go where she wants to go.

For the next two years, I will be an innocent bystander in the college search process…simply a facilitator. I will make sure she has access to information about lots of different types of schools. If there is a college she wants to visit, we will do it. If there’s a college she wants to mark off the list…by all means, mark it off the list. Because, when it comes right down to it, it’s her life. She gets to live it. She is quickly approaching adulthood, and she needs to know how to make decisions. I firmly believe a child/teen who isn’t ever allowed to make decisions will become an adult who doesn’t know how to make decisions. I’m going to trust that my daughter will make the right decision for herself, and I’m excited for her to do it.

She has two years to decide.

Let’s get this party started!

8th Grade Underdogs

8th Grade Underdogs.

No, I don’t want to relive middle school. Lord, no…just no. I don’t even want to relive my daughter’s middle school years. We were fortunate she had great teachers and administrators for most of her middle school, but she wouldn’t want to do it again, and I wouldn’t want her to. Today, though, a friend posted her daughter’s field hockey stick for sale on Facebook, with the caption, “For sale! The field hockey stick has a proud history of fending off many goals plus an epic win over [our rival]. #letthemeatcake  And it brought back a great memory from my daughter’s 8th grade field hockey season.

One great thing about middle school was that it offered students an opportunity to try sports they had never played before, and our daughter wanted to try to play field hockey in seventh grade. She had been to a field hockey clinic or two, but soccer had always been her primary sport. As the school year started, she decided that, even though she was also playing club soccer, she wanted to play middle school field hockey.

And so the school year started, and she would stay after school for field hockey practice for a couple of hours. Then I would shuttle her over to another part of town for soccer practice. It was more stressful for me than it was for her, because of the traffic at 5:30, but we did it. And then one day, after one of the first field hockey games, she got in the car and said she just couldn’t go to soccer practice. She had too much homework.

Something had to give.

I told her, “It’s time to make a choice. We can’t continue like this. Your schoolwork can’t suffer because of all these sports commitments.” And right there in the car, without hesitation, she picked field hockey. She was tired of soccer, and I understood…she had been playing since she was five years old. Frankly, I was tired of traveling all over the state for it every weekend. Getting up at 5am to drive to Mebane, North Carolina, for an early game was not my ideal way to spend a weekend. So…field hockey it was!

She loved it, but I wouldn’t let her play club field hockey, because I wasn’t getting us back into the same situation we had been in before with soccer. She needed time to get her schoolwork done in a timely fashion, and she needed family time and friend time. So she just played on her 7th grade school team, and she had a great time! Most of the girls on the team had never played before, so they were all learning together. They won some games and lost some games…maybe even lost most of them, but they had a great time. It was a good learning year, and they had a coach who was patient and let everyone get some playing time. And then, in 8th grade, most of them played again.

In eighth grade, the stakes were a little higher. The girls all got some playing time, but they didn’t get equal playing time. In eighth grade, they play to win. Again, I think most of the girls had a great time, and they played pretty darn well. In fact, as the season came to an end, they found themselves in the semifinals of the conference championship (the highest level in middle school) against their biggest cross-town rival. Our team was the underdog, but they had heart…just like The Bad News Bears…but with field hockey…and they’re girls. Their coach got them motivated, and they went into the game wanting to win…on the other team’s field.

The game started, and it was a close one…both teams were playing really well. A friend’s daughter was playing goalie for our team and had some great saves. The girls were stepping up their play! They were playing together beautifully as they never had before! Coach had really pulled them together! She certainly gets all the credit. And then, my daughter, who was playing center-mid, went down with an ankle injury right after halftime, when one of her friends on the opposing team accidentally hit the ball hard right into her ankle. We heard it in the stands: THWACK! My friend who was sitting next to me sat down with me, as I fully expected to have to take my daughter to Urgent Care, where, at the time, we should have had our own parking spot from all her sports injuries. From the stands, though, I could see her crying on the other sideline and icing the ankle, and in a little while, she was back on the field! I was elated!

The game came to an end, and our little team of Bad News Bears won by one goal! They jumped! They screamed! They cheered! They celebrated! And then, while our girls were still celebrating, two or three players from the opposing team quietly approached our players. They were carrying a cake…the one that was intended for their celebration…except they weren’t celebrating. The girls said their coach wouldn’t let them have their celebratory cake, because they didn’t win…and they offered it to our team. We didn’t have a cake, so it was a gracious gesture. Our girls were in shock but accepted it, and a new motto was born: Winners Eat Cake!

Our girls went on to play another cross-town rival in the championship and lost, and although they were disappointed, they have never forgotten how awesome that semifinal win was! As our girls start their junior year of high school and a new, strange field hockey season during COVID, they are still looking forward to the season and being together…and making more memories together. Sometimes the underdogs get the win. Such a sweet memory…

Hoping we can have a great season this year…even with COVID!

Winners eat cake!

 

 

 

Big Blue Marble Penpals

Big Blue Marble penpals.

Who remembers Big Blue Marble, the TV show that came on Saturday mornings back in the 1970s (and apparently, on into the 1980s, according to Wikipedia)? Those of us who watched it know the title was a reference to our home planet. In each episode, it featured stories about real-life kids…one segment about an American child and a segment about a child living in another country. The show also encouraged viewers to send letters in to start penpal relationships with kids around the world. I loved it the show, but I never mailed in a letter. But maybe I should have! Because of this pandemic, I’ve discovered that having penpals is fun!

Weeks ago, in an effort to brighten the moods of my friends who are stuck at home, I started sending out letters and some postcards I had collected on different vacations. We are planning to travel with some friends this summer (yes, still planning to go…fingers crossed), so I sent them postcards featuring the places we will visit…because I’ve visited the places before. And lucky for me, when I was there, I picked up some picture postcards, and till now, I’ve never felt the need to use them. But thank you, COVID-19, for encouraging me to dig through all my stuff to find those postcards and send them to friends who live far away.

But here was something cool that I saw on Instagram: one hotel where we have stayed before posted something saying, “Send us your name/address in a direct message, and a member of our staff will mail you a letter from the hotel!” Because I thought it was a fun idea, I submitted my teenage daughter’s name and address…knowing she would love to get some snail mail from one of her favorite places on the planet.

And I was right! When the picture postcard arrived with a sweet note written by the director of guest services, she was thrilled! Without my having to tell you, I’m sure you know what I did. First, I encouraged my daughter to write back…and she did. And instead of just mailing her letter back, I stuck a letter of my own into the envelope, thanking the director of guest services for sending her a postcard.

Since I started mailing postcards and letters, I have had the most fun opening my mail to find some of my friends in faraway places have written back! Some thanked me via facebook or email, and that was thrilling too, because they all said it brightened their days. It’s funny how a simple gesture can make a difference. Seriously, it doesn’t take long to write a quick note, especially on a postcard, and mail it.

If only Big Blue Marble were still on, kids could all get some new penpals all over the world. If I had actually participated as a kid, it would have been a great way to learn about different cultures. I suppose it’s a little old-fashioned now, but I still think it would be fun. Sure, some people use social media to meet “new friends” in other countries, but I don’t trust that. I’ve seen a few too many episodes of 90 Day Fiance, so I see how people get “catfished.” I even saw an episode of Dr. Phil on which a woman had sent thousands of dollars to her “true love” in some foreign country, and then, every time she was supposed to meet him, he missed a flight or had some other lame excuse. He was catfishing her. So no, social media is not the same as the good old Big Blue Marble days, and receiving an email isn’t as much fun as receiving a handwritten letter or postcard.

So I’ll just keep on sending letters and postcards to friends and family in faraway places. If you’d like to receive a postcard, send a private message with your name and address!

In fact, I’m walking down to the mailbox to send off a few more postcards now.

 

Calgon, Take Me Away!

Calgon, take me away!

If you are anywhere near my age, you remember those Calgon Bath Powder television commercials from the 1970s and 80s. In one, there’s a woman who is dealing with all the pressures of life…the traffic, the boss, the baby, the dog! And she yells, “Calgon, take me away!” (You can see that vintage ad from 1978 here.) There were other incarnations of that ad too. You can see them on Youtube.

That’s how I feel about this stay-at-home order and all the things that go with it…like virtual meetings.

Today, I had a virtual meeting via the Zoom app…again. Don’t get me wrong. Thank God we can do virtual meetings via zoom, or I guess we would be spending a lot of time making lots of phone calls.

But today, during my virtual meeting, I discovered something interesting. Keep in mind that I have one husband and one child. However, for some reason, during these virtual meetings on Zoom or the app of choice, my house is always the most chaotic. How can that be?

During a Zoom meeting a couple of weeks ago, one person’s teenage son walked in and wanted her to look at his toe. Apparently, he had some sort of injury. Let’s see that happen in corporate America! Not many kids are going to their parents’ offices in high-rise buildings in uptown Charlotte to show their moms their injured toes. Another member of the meeting on another day had to get her dirty dog back outside. Both of those interruptions were short lived and rather endearing.

My own disruptions at my house might not even be obvious to everyone onscreen. They likely just think I’m easily distracted…which I am…but that’s not why I’m always muting my Zoom feed and looking around the room. I try to do the meetings from the keeping room off my kitchen, because it’s easy for everyone in my family to find me, if they need me, but it’s not usually their space.

Today, about ten minutes into the meeting, my husband knocked a picture frame off the fireplace mantel in the living room, which is right next to the keeping room. I actually saw it happening but couldn’t say anything, because well, I was “in a meeting.” And when I say it crashed to the floor, I mean it hit the ground with a loud thud and the sound of breaking glass. My husband looked at me. [Mute] “It’s OK. Don’t worry about it.” He shrugged and walked away. [Unmute] I continued my meeting, and then, about five minutes later, my husband started the vacuum cleaner to clean up the broken glass! [Mute] “Please just leave it for now. I’m in this meeting. Can you just keep the dogs in the bedroom so they don’t run through the glass?” [Unmute]

This is my life…an endless series of [Mute] and [Unmute].

At about the thirty minute mark of the call, the doorbell rang. [Mute] Lunch delivery. I walked out onto the front porch to bring in the bags and set them on the kitchen counter on my way back to my perch in the keeping room. [Unmute]

My daughter walked into the kitchen soon after that. Apparently, she was about to go somewhere and thought I needed to know. [Mute] “Please go let your daddy know your plans. I’m in a Zoom meeting.” [Unmute]

Then I started getting phone calls. I always use Zoom on my cellphone so I can see my whole computer screen, and mostly, so I can move around easily if I need to escape some of the obvious chaos in my home. But today, about 45 minutes into the call, I started getting phone calls. Someone calling about transferring my IRA. Someone else calling about a dinner order we have placed. Someone calling about an online clothing order I placed yesterday. My cousin. My brother. My friend, Mary Ann. And my friend, Kristi. I quickly texted them all, saying I will call them back. I know…I should have set it to Do Not Disturb, but I didn’t.

And I’m sure you can guess what happened next. The dogs started barking from the bedroom. [Mute] “Honey, can you let them outside? I can’t have them barking in the background of my meeting! Thank you!” [Unmute]

My own personal Calgon commercial would feature the dogs, the computer, the vacuum cleaner, and the doorbell. Calgon, take me away!

Disclaimer: in all seriousness, I have a good life. The virtual meetings are just rather humorous at my house.

 

Graduation Gifts

Graduation gifts.

Yes, it’s getting close to that time of year, and sadly, this year’s graduating class is not going to have the same experience as other classes. I have lots of friends whose children are graduating from high school during this terrible pandemic, and I know they feel “ripped off.” That seems to be the general consensus…ripped off.

As much as I feel ripped off on my favorite things…vacations, sports, etc…I’m an adult. Some might argue that I don’t always act like an adult, but technically speaking, I’m an adult. At 52, I know “this, too, shall pass,” but then, this isolation isn’t delaying my graduation, my prom, my wedding, or anything else. Sure, I’m having to delay (or even cancel) some of my vacations to some of my favorite places. Sure, I’m not getting to watch my daughter, who is a sophomore in high school, play school lacrosse. But “good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” she’ll be playing next year, and I’ll get to take other vacations.

These high school (and college!) seniors don’t get a “do over.”

And as I sat thinking about that recently, it occurred to me that, at the very least, I can let them know that I’m thinking of them. Normally, I would wait till the end of May or early June to send graduation gifts, but I decided to go ahead and start sending them now…just trying to put smiles on their faces right now…let them know we’re thinking of them. These kids are missing out on so much, and I think they will be thrilled to start getting some early gifts…no matter how big or small those gifts may be! They just like knowing someone remembered they are graduating.

So, while it’s on my mind, I want to share a few ideas for graduation gifts, in case you want to go ahead and send something to someone you know who is missing out on the fun stuff of senior year.

AMAZON GIFT CARDS. Seriously, this is what I’ve been sending. You can pick the amount you want to send, and Amazon will attach a gift note and ship it out to your favorite grad. With an Amazon gift card, they can order just about anything they want, right? I’ve been ordering the card that comes “wrapped” in a box with a bow. You can order here.

BATHROBE. For young people who will be heading off to college in the fall, a bathrobe makes a great gift. Many of them will have community bathroom situations, which in my mind, is part of the “joy” of freshman year, and they will need a good bathrobe. Lands’ End has some quality robes starting under $50, and many of them can be monogrammed. See their selection here.

OTHER PERSONALIZED GIFTS. Personalization Mall has lots of great ideas for personalized graduation gifts. When I graduated from high school many moons ago, some of my favorite gifts were a personalized laundry bag and shower caddy. Personalization Mall offers those and lots of other things. I know, a laundry bag sounds old-fashioned, but if a college student is as crafty as I was, they’ll find the nearest place that will wash, dry, and fold all their laundry for a small fee. Yep, I dropped mine off regularly…so much better than waiting for a washer and dryer to come available!  You can see their selection here.

OTHER GIFT CARDS. There are so many great gift cards graduate will love. Whether they are going off to college or not, they can use lots of different kinds of gift cards. Just think about what your graduate likes or enjoys. Most young folks in our area love Chick-Fil-A, so that’s a safe bet for a gift card. A Netflix gift card is another safe bet. Target and Walmart gift cards could come in handy for almost anyone. You can get them online at each company’s website.

CASH. Because cash is king. No doubt. Doesn’t every graduating senior love to get some cold hard cash as a gift? This year, I will be sending one cash gift to a friend’s daughter in Alabama, but I’m afraid she will have to get it in the form of a check, since we can’t see her to hand her the cash.

All these ideas are not new ideas for graduation gifts, but my point is…start gifting these grads NOW. They will appreciate the recognition. It might take some of the sting out of this isolation for them. Who doesn’t like to receive a surprise gift? Plus, you’ll not only be helping the graduates; you’ll also be helping the economy when it needs it!

 

Keeping a Coronavirus “Wartime” Journal

Keeping a coronavirus “wartime” journal.

I do think of this pandemic as wartime. We are waging a war against an unseen enemy…COVID-19. When our country has been at war in the past, we could see our enemies, but now…the enemy is all around; we just don’t know where.

We are prisoners in our own homes. Our children are missing out on real school…learning online, but missing their friends, their sports, and their social lives. Those who are supposed to graduate from high school are missing out on more…”lasts,” proms, and graduations, even.

During the “greatest generation,” people wrote letters…snail mail, real letters with pen and paper. For lots of people, that is their historical record of what happened during those days. People don’t write a lot of snail mail these days, so it’s not likely we’ll have that type of historical record of this “war.” And then there was Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary about her days in hiding with her family during the war…an historical record, for sure.

I was talking with my teenage daughter today and told her she needed to start keeping a daily journal of her thoughts, her feelings, and her activities during this pandemic. She likely thought it was a weird mom idea, but she agreed, nonetheless. At first, I was searching through the house for an unused composition notebook or spiral notebook for her to used as a journal, but after having no luck, I realized she doesn’t need a notebook. All she needs is her computer. She’ll be more likely to keep a journal on her computer. And her private thoughts are probably safer there anyway. I’m planning to keep my own journal on my computer too, simply because I know I’d be likely to misplace a journal, but I’m not going to misplace my computer. We can print our pages daily and bind them later.

Journaling, in my opinion, is a good idea anyway…in “normal” life. It’s relaxing, and I have found, in my past, that it was therapeutic. Sometimes, if I write down my feelings, I can get some clarity. Maybe I realize what I’m feeling is ridiculous, or maybe I realize my feelings are justified, but either way, it is helpful. As for journaling during this pandemic, I suggested to my daughter that we write something every day. It doesn’t even have to be meaningful…just something. But I reminded her we need to count our blessings. Sure, we can complain and write the facts about the pandemic…how many are infected, how many have died, all the restrictions to daily life, the shortages…but we need to write about the things we enjoy too and how we feel every day.

Take, for example, how fortunate we are that today is a beautiful day…75 degrees and sunny…in Charlotte. We are fortunate to have a backyard pool, where we can lounge and soak up the sun…something that is very good for improving mood, by the way. Roses are beginning to bloom on the back patio, and trees are growing thicker with bright green leaves every day. We are fortunate to have plenty of food in the pantry. And yes, plenty of toilet paper and Clorox wipes. And as far as we know, we do not have the dreaded coronavirus. Digging deeper into our situation, I might write that I’m beginning to feel really uneasy about the way the world is now. Will our economy ever rebound? Will we forget who we are while we’re all hunkered down in fear of the invisible virus? Will we be fearful of each other after this? Will we be afraid to travel?

Hopefully, my daughter will join me in journaling these crazy days in world history. I told her it’s likely her children won’t believe what we have been doing and will likely continue to do for the next few weeks, possibly months. Hopefully not months, though…seriously…hopefully not months. Her kids likely won’t believe people were hoarding toilet paper, paper towels, and groceries. They will likely be perplexed when she tells them airlines had to cut way back on flights, and people were wearing all kinds of crazy getups to “essential” stores. Hopefully, she will laugh when she tells them we made regular trips to the Krispy Kreme drive-thru, since thankfully, doughnuts are considered “essential.” Oh, I hope my daughter remembers to write all the funny stuff.

And after we write our own little historical records, I will say a prayer of thanks and forgiveness, and I will ask Him to keep us safe and end this pandemic as soon as possible.

Hanging With The Teenage Daughter (during the COVID-19 crisis)

Hanging with the teenage daughter (during the COVID-19 crisis).

I’m getting accustomed to it. I hate to admit it, but I’m getting accustomed to “sheltering in place.” If you had told me I wouldn’t be completely stir crazy after this many days at home, I never would have believed you. It’s likely there are several reasons, but I think the main one is our daughter.

Our daughter is 16, so in “normal” life, she’s rarely home. She has school Monday-Friday, like most kids, and after school, she “normally” goes straight to lacrosse practice in the spring. She doesn’t get home till around 6:00pm, and then she has to finish her homework. That leaves very little time for us to to spend together. Sure, there are weekends, but she is quite social, so she wants to hang with friends on weekends. I get it. I remember 16.

I’m not happy that people are suffering and even dying with COVID-19. We say prayers for them every day, and we are trying to observe all “shelter in place” rules. We are at home most of the time, except when we go out for “essentials.”

And while “sheltering in place” initially sounded terrible, having my daughter around more is great. She’s doing her school work online during the day Monday -Friday, but in the afternoons and evenings, we’ve been spending more time together. Our world has slowed down a little, and I’m trying to appreciate the slowdown.

Yesterday, for example, she took a break in her schoolwork to come down for lunch and asked if I would make her some avocado toast for lunch. I was thrilled to get to do that for her, but our avocados weren’t ripe enough yet, so I made her some peanut butter/banana toast. She was happy. Normally, during the week, I don’t get to sit with her for lunch, because she’s at school. Afterward, she went back to finish her studies, and later, she sat outside by the pool with me for a while…something else she wouldn’t normally be able to do on a weekday. ***I’ve since been informed that I can soften an avocado by sticking it in the microwave briefly.***

At dinnertime, we opted to go get takeout from a local favorite Mexican restaurant, something we had both been missing since all this started. We came home and had dinner as a family, and then I suggested we go for a walk around the neighborhood. I was thrilled when she said it sounded like a great idea…and off we went!

The night before, we all lay out on the patio as a family…looking at the stars and watching for satellites to identify using the SkyGuide app. Our daughter didn’t stay out as long as we did, but she seemed to enjoy it. She was much better at spotting satellites moving through the night sky, because her eyesight is better than ours, and it was obvious she was enjoying it when she would exclaim, “I see one!” She would then tell us where to look, and I would try to find it on SkyGuide to see what country launched it and how big it was. Would she have willingly gone out there for stargazing under “normal” circumstances? Probably not. She likely wouldn’t have been home or would have been doing homework.

Tonight, my daughter and I are going to start watching Tiger King, presently the #1 series on Netflix. We don’t alway agree on shows, and when I first suggested this one, she wasn’t interested. But when a teenage boy told her it was really good, she changed her tune. No, I wasn’t offended. Like I said, I remember 16. We have a few more series “on deck” to watch after we watch Tiger King. We will likely watch All-American on Netflix, Peyton’s Places on ESPN+, and a few more sports-oriented shows, since we miss our sports right now.

Additionally, she has been helping around the house…today, she will do some laundry and cook dinner for the family. She and I are going to sit down in a little while and find the perfect recipe for her to make a chicken dish for us. She loves spinach, so she will likely sauté some spinach for the side dish.

So while this COVID-19 crisis is terrible for individuals, public health, and the economy, we are using it as a time to strengthen our little family. We were a pretty tight unit anyway, but I feel like we are getting a gift of extra time with our daughter. She will be going off to college in 2022, so I’m happy to have some extra time with her. No, the reason for the extra time isn’t ideal, but I’m trying to look at the bright side. I’m making lemonade out of lemons.

We are hopeful that the pandemic will be under control sooner rather than later, but till then, we plan to enjoy this time with our daughter. Sure, we all miss sports. We all miss friends and extended family. We all miss “normal,” but we’re trying to make the best of the cards we’ve been dealt.

Till then, we’ll be hanging out with our teenage daughter.

I Never Wanted to Homeschool

I never wanted to homeschool.

Seriously…never. It never, ever crossed my mind in a serious way. There were times I thought, “If we homeschool, we can go on vacation all the time! We can educate our daughter on the road!” And I know that works for some folks. But for me? Nope, nope, nope. I love my daughter, but we don’t need to be together 24/7.

Yet here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and homeschooling is the only way. I’m not officially homeschooling, because she is still signing in to her school website and having remote video “class” and conferences with teachers. Thank God. We just returned from “spring break,” during which our trip was actually canceled, but we had a break nonetheless. And now school is starting back.

Lucky for us, our daughter is 16 and a sophomore in high school. She is old enough to figure it out herself. In fact, I have been receiving emails from her teachers about remote learning, and every time I see one, I think, “Really? Don’t y’all tell us to be ‘hands off’ when they get to high school?” Why do they suddenly want us to be hands on?!? I know the students are home, but my daughter needs to drive this bus herself. I never know what her homework is, just like my mother never knew what my homework was in the 80s. That is entirely her responsibility.

When my daughter was in third grade, another mom approached me at school one day and asked, “Is your daughter ready for the Bunnicula test?” I must have looked at her like she had three heads, because I responded, “What the heck is a Bunnicula?” Apparently, it was a book they had read, and they were having a test on it that day. For a brief moment, I wondered how the other mom knew they were having a test! I had no idea, because even when she was in third grade, I didn’t help with homework. I didn’t help her get or stay organized. I didn’t help her with her homework at all. It was all up to her. That was her job…just like it is now. I know…I know…some of you will say that was a little too hands off. Trust me, I am a very present parent in every other way, but I have always believed she needed to learn how to do her schoolwork the same way I did…without any help from parents. I remember when she was in sixth grade, I sat down with her and taught her my secret method for studying for tests, and she has thanked me a million times since. I’ll offer guidance. But helping with daily homework? I’ve never done it.

She knows she can come to me for guidance when she needs it. I will always provide support and guidance. As recently as this morning, I reminded her that she needs to stay in close touch with her teachers. She needs to email or conference with them pretty regularly, even if she doesn’t feel like she needs help. She needs to keep the lines of communication open. That’s my advice for the day. That’s how I help her with her education.

Many times I’ve told her about a calculus class I had in college. I had a low A going into the final, but I had been meeting with the teacher two or three times a week to keep that A. And then I bombed the final…I don’t mean I made a C.  I bombed it. Back then, to see our exam grades before we left school at the end of the semester, we had to go see where they were posted outside the teacher/professor’s office door. After I saw my terrible grade, I entered his office, he said, “Oh, Kelly, you did not do well on the final.” I said, “I saw that!” I then asked him what grade I would get for the semester (the final was supposed to have a lot of weight). Instead of answering me, he asked, “What grade do you think you deserve?” I would have said a C. But seeing an opening, I returned the question, “What do you think I deserve?” He looked at me, very kindly, and said, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” He was from another country…I don’t remember where…so he spoke in broken English, but he had the sweetest way of expressing his wisdom, and he was a very compassionate man. I thanked him profusely, and I was on my way. I have remembered his kindness for all these years…and when someone in our family works hard and meets a goal or accomplishment, I say, “You do good in long journey.”

That’s my long way of saying I worked hard to try to get a good grade in that class, and my teacher recognized that. That’s what I am encouraging my daughter to do right now. She has heard that story a million times, and as a teenager, she might not fully hear it, but one day, something will happen, and she will know I’m right.

So, while I’m sure her teachers and school are simply making sure I’m informed with those emails they’re sending me, I’m not getting into the fray. If she were younger, I might have to jump in with both feet, but in 10th grade? Nah. She can do this, and she’ll appreciate it a lot more if she does it on her own.

Homeschooling? It’s still not for me. That’s one thing I know for sure. I’ll be team mom. I was a homeroom mom many times when she was in elementary school. I volunteer all over the place. But I’m not planning to take the reins on this homeschooling.

She’s got this. She will “do good in long journey.”