Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 31/31: Walking Habits

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 31/31: 
Walking Habits

Since the Covid-19 epidemic began, I've been trying to adapt to all kinds of things: digital learning/teaching, social distancing, and making peace with all of the cancellations. At times it has been a bit jarring and overwhelming. 

However, there hasn't been a day that I have not gone for at least one walk, especially during my lunch hour. Although I often walked before or after school, I didn't walk during my lunch break. Now it's one of my favorite times of the day. I get a break from my computer. I get some time outdoors. I get to spend time either in solitude or chatting with my neighbor/friend, Dave. 

On today's lunchtime walk, I ran into one of my administrators running during her lunch break. In addition, I saw two families out for a walk. My neighbor, Rae, was out on her lunch break and walking with her friend. It makes me happy to see so many people outside.

Generally, I feel better after I walk. I feel less overwhelmed and often less cranky. I'm not sure why I didn't do it when I was physically at school.

Walking during my lunch break is something I want to continue after this pandemic is over. 



Lunch time stroll relieves/
anxiety, tension. Now/
welcome habit change. 



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Monday, March 30, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 30/31: Sidewalk Poetry

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 30/31: 
Sidewalk Poetry

On Wednesday the month of March ends and April begins, ushering in National Poetry Month

This April, in the midst of the social distancing Covid-19 Epidemic, I need to celebrate poetry and do better in sharing how it has impacted me.

On a walk yesterday afternoon, my friend/neighbor, Dave, and I walked past this piece of sidewalk poetry: 
"I call myself poet...
comfortably, happily.
My life is filled with writing...
articles, essays, fiction, history.
But poetry is what delights me,
sustains me, is my strongest need.
As long as I write,
the rest of my life falls into place."
I was stunned. Dave and I were walking in my old neighborhood. I must have walked over that sidewalk poem so many times, but Sunday was the first time that I actually took the time to read it.

Indeed, "my life is filled with writing...but poetry is what delights me, sustains me, is my strongest need..." 

I adore this sidewalk poem. 

After reading this piece and reflecting on it, I cannot help but wonder what I can do to better help celebrate poetry this April, both at home and in my distance-learning classroom.

Fellow readers, I would love your ideas. What will you do to celebrate National Poetry Month this April? 



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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 29/31: Signs of Growth

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 29/31: 
Signs of Growth 

From darkness, despair,/
and mess of barren season:/
fresh growth emerges. 




Spring reminds me that somehow growth and beauty prevail after long, difficult seasons of dormancy. 



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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 28/31: What I Have Learned So Far

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 28/31: 
What I Have Learned So Far

It's hard not to think about COVID-19 without worry. Trust me, I have. However, this morning I found myself reflecting of what I have learned about myself (and confirmed what I already knew about myself) in the midst of this pandemic:
  • I am a people person. I would not do well in a job where I didn't have much contact with people. I think that it is FAR more challenging delivering school via distance learning than traditional teaching face-to-face. I haven't figured out a good routine for myself yet. I have also realized that it takes me much longer to help a student virtually. Of course I have digital tools, like Google Meet, but my students aren't really familiar with this technology yet and many do not have access to Internet beyond their cell phone. I miss so many things about face-to-face learning. I cannot wait until I get to see students in person again. 
  • I need hugs. Yes, I am a hugger and crave physical contact. There are many staff members/friends who give me hugs when I see them at school and when we get together. Usually, I attend church on Sundays and see my church family there, providing ample opportunities for hugs. During our official "Stay-At-Home Order," I have missed hugs, especially when my kids are not with me. Unfortunately my daughter's guinea pigs only provide me with so much comfort. (Side note: I really need a dog or a cat.)
  • I need meaningful connection. Prior to about a month ago, with the exception of my parents and sometimes my aunt or grandma, I rarely talked to anyone on the telephone or via video chat. I only exchanged streams of text messages. In the last few weeks, my friend, S., and I have been talking on the phone daily. Hearing his voice (and the voice of others on the phone) makes a huge difference. I feel so much more connected to people when I hear their voice. 
  • I need daily time outside. I like to walk and move and explore, even on rainy and cold days like today. My connection to nature has been particularly lifesaving on days I've felt lonely and unsettled. I always seem to handle challenges with more clarity upon return from a walk. 
  • I need daily time to read and write. Reading and writing continue to be my most welcome companions - healthy, essential outlets. Both keep me sane - a refuge for anxiety-ridden thoughts.  
  • I can only control so much. I was under the illusion that I was in control of so much, yet daily I am reminded that I only have control over my actions, my words, and my response. I keep realizing that things that seemed to be in my control never really were. 
I wonder what else I will learn from this time and what my own children, my students, and my friends and family will teach me. I am convinced that I still have so much to learn. 

What have you learned? 



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Friday, March 27, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 27/31: Outside Play

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 27/31: 
Outside Play

Perhaps one silver lining of social distancing/Covid-19 is the gift of play. Recently, I have spent a lot of time with my kids outside. My daughter loves to play frisbee. My son loves to kick around the soccer ball. As the mother of a tween and teenager, I am giddy when I get the opportunity to spend time with them, especially when it does not involve any kind of technology. 

Tonight we chased each other. 
Tonight we giggled.
Tonight we stayed outside until it was too dark to see. 

I cannot remember the last time we played so hard we got sweaty. I cannot remember the last time we spent so much time outside. I cannot remember the last time the three of us had so much fun.

All because of social distancing.  



Playing with my kids makes this mama's heart full.  



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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 26/31: Haiku Process

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 26/31: 
Haiku Process

Elisabeth Ellington of The Dirigible Plum, commented on one of my recent posts, inquiring about my process of how I write Haiku: "Do you think of your haiku as you're walking and write in your head until you can get home and capture it? I'm curious about your process!" 

So Elisabeth, here you go...

I continue to realize that I'm a creature of habit. Any poem I write, especially a Haiku, is intially composed in my head as I am walking (or working on something). Especially when I walk alone, I always have my phone with me, so I often record the lines of a Haiku in the notes section from my phone.

For example, on my walk this morning I composed this Haiku as a note: 


Dear readers, yesterday (and still a little bit today), I'm struggling with solitude. Currently, my kids are at their dad's house. With the Covid-19 crisis and our Safer at Home Order, I don't have my usual cadre of teacher friends who provide me with endless hugs and laughter. On past Wednesdays after school I typically visit my friend Ellen's house for crochet lessons. I cannot go there either. I am doing fine, but there are times that I feel so lonely. I just don't have the same kinds of distractions. Last night I found myself stuck in the house on a rainy night. I was thinking of this as I walked this morning and wrote this: 

Yesterday's visit:/
unwanted alone time...I'm/
still navigagting. 

One of the first things I like to do when I return from a walk (as soon as coffee is ready, of course) is write. Often I will revise and edit what I composed in a note. For the above Haiku, I haven't done anything to it yet in terms of editing, revising, or even just playing with the words. For me, that's often the best part - arranging and playing with words. 

So, there's my process. It's fairly organic and simple, but it works for me. 

What's your process in writing? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 25/31: Wander with Wonder

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 25/31: 
Wander with Wonder


This morning I marveled in my morning walk. Beyond birdsongs, there was no music. I was not plugged into any podcasts. Instead I allowed my mind and body to wander. It was the perfect way to begin my day. 

Taking regular neighborhood strolls has certainly been one of the best gifts I have given myself. When I returned home, I penned this haiku: 

Take time to wander./
Notice how tree buds appear./
Wonder through sunrise. 




Being outside, taking time to notice my surroundings, and walking makes such a difference in how I approach each day.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 24/31: Spring Fling

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 24/31: 
Spring Fling

Leigh Anne Eck, thoughtful blogger at A Day in the Life, challenged slicers to a virtual party, inviting others to share their best self-care ideas


I cannot resist a good party, so here are my three suggestions of self-care:

Practice gratitude. I strive to write a daily list of three things I'm grateful for. I've found that practicing gratitude helps me reframe my attitude, especially when I am cranky or feeling negative about something in my life. 

This morning's gratitude
1. Having my kids with me and feeling their fierce hugs
2. Noticing positive sidewalk messages/drawings
3. Receiving a stream of great messages from a certain friend - one who continually makes me smile
Movement. For me, this is walking. I have a great walking partner who is also a friend and neighbor. However, I also love walking alone, especially early in the morning before most of the world is awake.

Maintaining connection. Lately, this has been connecting with friends and loved ones through conversations on my cell phone, through Google Meet, and even through traditional letter writing. Although I pop in and out of social media, this is my least favorite way to connect with someone. 

What are your best ideas for current self-care?

Thank you, Leigh Anne, for organizing this positive, helpful party. 






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Monday, March 23, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 23/31: Surprise Harbinger

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 23/31: 
Surprise Harbinger

It has been the first of many seasons in a new neighborhood and a new-to-me house. Prior to my divorce, one of my favorite harbingers of spring was noticing when our backyard tulips would emerge. I always celebrated this with my children, eagerly sharing signs of new blooms with them. 

About two weeks ago I realized that I would miss this. This thought caught me off guard, leaving me with some lingering sadness. 

This morning, as I returned from my walk, something caught my eye. On the side of the house I rent I noticed two small clumps of green. As I peered closer I realized that it was the beginnings of new growth. 

Ah, perhaps these will be tulips or daffodils?


Suddenly, my heart was filled with delight, reminding me of the new possiblities of this year's spring. 

I cannot wait to see what emerges from the winter ground. 




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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 22/31: Signs of Spring

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 22/31: 
Signs of Spring

My good friend and neighbor, Dave, couldn't be a better walking partner. As we left for a long walk this afternoon (following social distancing parameters, of course), he pointed out a mourning dove that has recently taken residence in the vines that adorn his porch. 

To me, this bird's nest is a lovely reminder that spring is here:

Plump-bodied, long tail/
mourning dove nests in safety-/
porch vine habitat. 





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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 21/31: Virtual Chats

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 21/31: 
Virtual Chats

Last Monday afternoon we got this information from one of our school administrators, "Tomorrow's meeting is only for Teachers.  Due to the latest developments with COVID-19 we will be using Google Meet tomorrow to broadcast our PD.  A link will be sent out tomorrow. " 


What? I initially thought. We've never used Google Meet. We always meet face-to-face as a staff. How will this work? 

We were instructed to report to school the next day and in lieu of meeting in our school library media center as a large group, we were to meet in our small Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in classrooms scattered throughout the building. Our whole teaching staff received the same information and we could communicate with each other through video and messaging. It was unlike any other staff meeting I had ever attended.

 
This was the first time I used Google Meet. 


Initially, my teaching partner, Krista, and I stumbled a little with getting our Hover Cam working correctly with our Viewsonics. We couldn't get the video quite right. Then we couldn't get the sound to work. We had to pop into another PLC to ask for techincal assistance. After a few minutes, we figured it out though. We got all of the information and links to documents we needed. 

Later on that afternoon, Krista and I practiced calling each other using Google Meet. It was an alternative that we could use to communicate with each other as professionals while we were homebound. It was also a technological tool we could use to communicate with families and students without giving out our personal cell phone numbers. 


Krista figured out how to use Google Meet immediately. She sent me a link on my cell phone so we could see how it looked on the parent/student end. I tried the same. It was a bit more of a learning curve for me, but after a bit of playing around, I successfully used it. 


Wednesday I used Google Meet again for a school meeting. It was the third time I used it and the first time I set it up so that I could share a link with my colleagues. I was at home, my colleague/friend Debbie was at school, and two other colleagues/friends (Mike and Alex) were at two different locations. Together, we managed to edit an important PBIS document and have a conversation about how this document would be shared with staff. 


On Thursday I talked with my colleague and friend, Jeremy on Google Meet. In the midst of learning how to use distance learning, it was so reassuring to hear his familiar voice and even see his face. I was feeling more confident that I could use Google Meet with families. 


Last night, with the help of my brother, my siblings and I used Google Meet to hang out with each other virtually. While my brother lives in town, my sister lives on the other side of the state. It made me feel good to see them and connect with them, even if it was only through the Internet.

Here I am, chatting with my sister and brother, using Google Meet
Last week I had no idea how to use Google Meet. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it. Yet, I am amazed, in the face of urgency (and pandemic), how quickly I adapted to using a new technology. 

What technology tools have you recently learned how to use? 


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Friday, March 20, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 20/31: Ukulele Breaks

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 20/31: 
Ukulele Breaks

If anything, distance learning has taught me that I have a REALLY difficult time just sitting at a desk (or in my case, kitchen table). I'm cranky when I'm not moving around. I get antsy. 

On Thursday I discovered that one thing that helps is taking tiny breaks and playing my ukulele. A few pages of sheet music, a fingering chart, and my Gretcsch concert standard are not too far from my computer. 

About once an hour I sneak in a song, and then I get right back to "teaching." Playing one song seems to be the perfect length, and then somehow I am able to focus again. Currently, my favorite tunes to play are Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and "Let It Be" by John Lennon. Full disclosure: I have been known to sing along as I strum.


Maybe I will be really good at this ukulele playing by the time we return to our school buildings?




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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 19/31: The Pileated Woodpecker

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 19/31: 
The Pileated Woodpecker

Hammer. Hammer. Hammer.

When I initally heard this noise a few months ago, I panicked. I couldn't figure out what was hammering on my house. Was someone trying to get in?

Hammer. Hammer. Hammer.

Then I saw it - a pileated woodpecker, hammering into the green siding of the house I rent. I noticed two small holes, just underneath my outside lights. Although I initially reported it to my landord, he already knew about it and assured me that there wasn't much I could do. 

Trust me, many Saturday and Sunday mornings this sound has disturbed my sleep, startling me awake. It's loud. It's annoying. It makes my old house vibrate.

This isn't the pileated woodpecker that visits my house.
Instead, it is a photo my dad took last year, somewhere in SE Wisconsin. 

But this morning, on my first day of distance learning, I heard the hammering. I peeked out the window and saw him - the woodpecker, trying to build a nest. Or something. 

I smiled. His hammering was something I expected. Especially in a world that seems so unpredictable and scary lately, I loved hearing this familiar sound of the pileated woodpecker. 

If you look closely, you can see two small holes of damage caused by woodpeckers. 

For the first time, I realized that this pounding reminds of a heartbeat - a consistent rhythm. 
As strange as it sounds, it brought me a bit a peace this morning. For this, I am especially grateful. 



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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 18/31: Practicing Self-Care

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 18/31: 
Practicing Self-Care

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a lot of changes in the last week of school. Professionally, I have had a difficult time keeping up with all of the messages and directives. I am doing my best to learn how to teach and connect with my students from afar. This is all really new to me. Yet, I know that our administrators, both at the district and building levels, are doing the best that they can - just like I am doing as a classroom teacher.





There have been several moments in the past few days that I have been on the edge of tears. As much as I don't want to admit this, there have been many moments that I have actually cried - sometimes out of frustration, sometimes out of fear, and sometimes out of just feeling incredibly overwhelmed. I don't think that I am alone in experiencing these intense emotions. 

There are so many unknowns; For me, the unknown (and what is beyond my control) makes me feel the most unsteady.  

As a parent, teacher, and friend, there are three things that have been incredibly helpful in practicing self-care for me during the past few days: 

  • Walking around my neighborhood. I am fortunate to have a fantastic walking buddy and now friend, Dave. Although Dave and I are on completely different paths in life, he and I have shared fantastic conversations and connection. It's been a good, meaningful distraction. 
  • Writing in my notebook. It's still my daily practice write at least three pages. More than anything, Writing has been my way out when I have experienced anything challenging. Each day I continue to list what I am grateful for. Practicing gratitude is often how I can flip my perspective to something more positive. 
  • Talking to loved ones and friends on the telephone. Yes, talking, not just texting. A few days ago I swear I could actually hear my friend Steve's smile in his voice. More than once, he has made me laugh when I was feeling cranky. In general, talking on the phone has helped me stay connected with people that I may not be able to see in person. It helps me feel less alone.


Fellow readers, what has been most helpful to you during this time? 




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Take 2: Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 17/31: In Gratitude of Library Media Specialists

*Apparently, the post from yesterday did not work well once it was sent via email. This is the same post, but I made it an easier format to read. Thank you for your patience; I'm still learning how to do this blogging thing. 

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 17/31: 
In Gratitude of Library Media Specialists

Perhaps one of our most unglected, unsung heroes are our librarians. 

Our school district recently posted this:


Indeed, our amazing school librarians (also called Library Media Specialists) helped ensure that all of our students were sent home with books to read. As a teacher, this was a lifesaver to me. This is even more important since our public library is currently closed, due to COVID-19.

I'm certain that yesterday was an incredibly overwhelming and tiring day for those who work in our school's library. Yet, our beloved Mary and Betsy checked out SO many materials to our students and staff. Students were squirrley and I am sure at times disrespectful, but I never heard a complaint. As usual, Betsy and Mary were patient, courteous, and smiled. 

So if you haven't done so yet, please profusely thank your school Library Media Specialists. They deserve our accolades. 

Fellow readers, I am sure that you would agree - especially in times that seem dark and scary, books can make all the difference. Many of our students do not have adequate book acess. Books help students have a place to metaphorically escape - a lifeline. 

I am especially grateful that I got to check out books for me and my own children to read. In fact, as I left school today, I had so many books, the bag split. 


I'm reminded, especially today of these two things: Libraries matter. Librarians matter.


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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 17/31: In Gratitude of Library Media Specialists

Slice of Life #20 Challenge Day 17/31: 
In Gratitude of Library Media Specialists

Perhaps one of our most unglected, unsung heroes are our librarians. 

Our school district recently posted this:


Indeed, our amazing school librarians (also called Library Media Specialists) helped ensure that all of our students were sent home with books to read. As a teacher, this was a lifesaver to me. This is even more important since our public library is currently closed, due to COVID-19.

I'm certain that yesterday was an incredibly overwhelming and tiring day for those who work in our school's library. Yet, our beloved Mary and Betsy checked out SO many materials to our students and staff. Students were squirrley and I am sure at times disrespectful, but I never heard a complaint. As usual, Betsy and Mary were patient, courteous, and smiled. 

So if you haven't done so yet, please profusely thank your school Library Media Specialists. They deserve our accolades. 

Fellow readers, I am sure that you would agree - especially in times that seem dark and scary, books can make all the difference. Many of our students do not have adequate book acess. Books help students have a place to metaphorically escape - a lifeline. 

I am especially grateful that I got to check out books for me and my own children to read. In fact, as I left school today, I had so many books, the bag split. 





Libraries matter. Librarians matter.




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Slice of Life Challenge #21 Day 31: Easter Preparations

For the month of March, each day I am writing and posting  a slice of my life , hosted by Two Writing Teachers.  Slice of Life Challenge #21...