This morning, I was teaching a kindergarten reading group of four adorable students. We all sat on the rug in the corner of the classroom. As we previewed the book we were about to read, one of the students commented on the pictures.
“Mrs. McGowan, this lady looks like you when you were a young lady.”
In fact, the drawing bore some resemblance. She had brown hair and brown eyes, just like me.
The other students all shook their heads in agreement, indicating that I did in fact look like the lady in the book.
Playfully, I replied, “Are you saying that I am not a young lady?”
“No. You are now an old woman.”
This student’s honesty had me chuckling inside, but I couldn’t help but be slightly offended. I am old enough to be his grandmother, but the amount of money that I spend on hair color should take away the appearance of a few years. Right?
Determined to change his mind, I tried to persuade him that I was not an old woman. Thinking quickly, I said,
“Do you really think I am an old woman? How many old women do you know that can sit like this on a rug with you?
I am not going to lie. I woke up this morning with a stinging feeling of regret. You know that feeling. The one that finds you repeatedly questioning (with disappointment) your decision to do or not to do something. Usually my regretful decisions include food, but this time my regret was not for eating the cheeseburger last night at the school fundraiser. That was delicious and worth every calorie. No regrets here on that one!
My regret is around the commitment I made again to join the Slice of Life writing challenge. Why do I do these things to myself? It’s not like I don’t have plenty of other things to do. Seriously…what was I thinking?
Okay, enough with the rhetorical questions. I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that I love writing, but I never do it anymore because other things in life have taken precedence. By deciding to participate in this challenge, I will now need to push myself to find the time every day to do something that I absolutely enjoy. So, whether I like it or not, I am back to share 31 days of stories with you because I don’t want to regret the decision not to do the writing challenge.
What do you think about regret? Have you ever regretted something? Was it something you decided to do or not to do?
Every Saturday morning, I wake up, make a cup of coffee and begin filling out this list under the tasks, appointments, people to contact and errands column. Then, I leave it on the kitchen island and go about my business. When he emerges from his evening slumber, he is greeted with his Adulting To-Do List.
My husband is a great sport when it comes to completing the list. He checks off each item as he finishes it. He also marks off the checklist section indicating to me if he “wore pants” today and “didn’t set anything on fire.” His mood and how he “adulted like” are usually colored in for me to review too.
For my children, I had to offer choice for their “To-Do List”. If I made a list like my husband’s for them, they would just moan. So, enter the “You Pick Two” list. (The title credit goes to Panera Bread …the original menu choice offerer.)
I would write down 8 household cleaning jobs that needed to be done. The first one awake got to write his/her name next to the two that they wanted to complete. Then, the second one would choose. My husband and I would put our names on the remaining jobs.
My son is a hockey player, so he tended to be up and out early on most weekend days. This meant that he was usually able to pick first. My daughter would accuse him of taking the “easier” jobs and it became somewhat of a competition in our family.
I honestly didn’t care who did what job, just as long as they were getting done. The fact that my kids were arguing about who would empty the trash or clean a toilet just made it that more interesting!
Menu lists are also a part of my list making routine. I list what we will be eating for each meal during the week. This list is done on paper and can be found hung in my kitchen. We make this list based on food that we have already in our home or recipes that we would like to make. We don’t always stick to the exact menu, but it serves as a guide to help eliminate the “what should we make for dinner” question.
Another list that I complete on a weekly basis is a grocery/household items list. I can never remember what I need when it is time to go to the store. For years, I would write down what we needed as soon as we ran out on a pad of paper, but recently we began using an app on our phones. This way, we always have the list with us when we go to the store.
I also keep a Christmas card list, a monthly budget list and writing ideas list. On Amazon, I have a wishlist.
One list that I need to physically write down is my Bucket List. I will say places that I would like to visit or things I would like to do, but have not written them down yet. I guess it is time for me to begin writing that list too!
Do you use lists to help you too? What kinds of lists have you tried over the years? What is on your bucket list?
This morning, I was conducting an online meeting with my Kindergarten students. As a part of our daily morning meeting routine, we figure out the date. After I highlighted the number “31”, I asked my students if someone could tell me what today’s date was. One student, very excited that it was her father’s birthday, raised her hand. Figuring she most likely knew the date, I chose her. She confidently replied, “It is March the last!”
Well, she was not wrong. I am sure her father told her that his birthday is on the last day in March. To her, today is “March the last.”
But her father’s birthday is not the only “last” she is experiencing today. It was also our class’s last fully remote day as all of the children will begin full-time in person school on Monday. We have been counting down the days to this much anticipated occasion.
Then I personally began to think more about her claim.
It is my last week as a hybrid teacher, who teaches fully remote on Wednesdays.
It is the last day of the 10,000 step fitness challenge that I have been competing in this month. I sliced about this challenge earlier in the month. I am proud to report that I hit the 10K step mark 25/31 days. (Technically I hit it 26 days, but I left my Fitbit at home charging on one day, so I was unable to track it. But whatever!) I am competing for skin care products, which is almost as motivating as ice cream. I will find out tomorrow if I had the most days, but honestly it doesn’t matter. I was able to shed 5 pounds of winter fat and I feel better for being more active. To me, I am already a winner!
And…it is the last day of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge. I was able to write every day for 31 straight days, an accomplishment that rivals my walking goal. I managed to comment on at least three posts almost every day. One day, I participated in a virtual wine tasting in the evening and completely forgot to comment. Oops!
But with every end, there comes a new beginning:
Tomorrow will be April 1st and I will be told about 100 times that I have a spider on my head.
My Kindergarten class will be all together for the first time this school year and I will begin teaching to just in-person students again.
I will start a new fitness challenge that involves drinking more water, which means more than one trip to the bathroom a day!
My writing hobby will continue on in the form of the Slice of Life Tuesdays. Instead of writing daily, I will commit to post once a week to the same online community. I look forward to reading the stories of fellow teachers who write. There are so many talented people in this community and I hope to learn and grow as a writer with their modeling and support.
So, “Happy March the Last” everyone. Cheers to new beginnings.
My new favorite pastime is watching Women’s College Basketball. My hobby began last year, but unfortunately, COVID cancelled the tournament so this year is my first time watching it all the way through. And, what a tournament it has been! I meant to write today’s slice last night, but I was up late watching games. I am scrambling to write tonight, because there are more games on. Not only that, my favorite team is playing for a chance to play in the Final Four. So, I am keeping it short and sweet….Go Gamecocks!
For my readers who may not know me personally, I need you to know something to help you better understand today’s story.
My husband and I are a comedy act together. We spend our days trying to outsmart the other with our quick wit. We find humor in self-deprecation, especially when it involves the both of us. This keep us entertained and in love!
So, the other day when we went to visit our daughter at her city apartment building, my husband rang the buzzer to let us in. I anticipated that he was going to say something humorous to try to make her laugh, so I my fast thinking skills were activated.
He did not disappoint me. When the automated voice said to state your name, he replied with his male voice, “Mommy.”
I quickly added, “and Daddy!”
My daughter laughed and buzzed us into her building.
But, what neither my husband nor I knew at the time, was that her boyfriend also received a phone call alerting him to the arrival of “Mommy and Daddy.” He was at work at the time, in a lab at a prominent nearby university. Unable to answer on his phone, he took the call on his Apple watch…on speaker phone. Everyone around him heard our misgendered voices saying, “It’s Mommy and Daddy!”
One very confused co-worker asked him if he was receiving a call for “adult dirty conversations” (He actually used another term, but I am trying to keep this post G-rated.)
Her boyfriend completely forgot that we were coming to visit, so he was baffled beyond measure. He knew it wasn’t a solicitation, but he had no idea who “Mommy and Daddy” were. So, the befuddled boyfriend called up my daughter to ask what the heck was going on. She quickly explained the situation to him and he laughed at our immature humor.
After that, my husband, daughter and I all had a good chuckle when we pictured him trying to convince his co-worker that “Mommy and Daddy” are his girlfriend’s wisecracker parents.
Fortunately, her boyfriend has a sense of humor too. Although he may think twice now before answering his phone on speaker!
Caitlin in the Pre-op Clinic waiting room at Boston Children’s Hospital
Ten years ago today my daughter, Caitlin had a total hip replacement at the age of 14.
During a two-year span prior to her THR, she underwent many surgeries and tests to determine why she lost the blood supply to her left hip. The ultimate diagnosis was idiopathic osteonecrosis. A total hip replacement was the only viable option.
In 2011, in order to keep family and friends up to date with her medical saga, I started my first “blog” on caringbridge.org. Today’s “slice of life” is excerpts from her page during her stay at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — March 28, 2011
Caitlin is now in her surgery, which should last for about 4 hours. She was a bit anxious to go into surgery, especially when she found out that I wasn’t going with her. After a tearful good-bye, she was pleasantly surprised by a visit by Auntie Jen in the OR. Luckily for Caitlin, she was able to stay with Caitlin until she fell asleep. According to Auntie Jen, she was talking about the beach as she drifted off to sleep.
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — March 28, 2011
Caitlin is now out of surgery. The surgeon says that it was a success! We will be going into the PACU soon to see her.
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — March 28, 2011
The Pros and Cons of a Total Hip Replacement…
We are now settled into our room on the 10th floor. Caitlin is doing very well all things considered. I think the pain medicine is more than doing the trick as Caitlin is providing comedic relief for us and the staff here with her brutal honesty. She has managed to tell the nurse that she is “amazing” for providing her with a foam pillow for her backside, accuse me and Jim of “abandoning her” when she went into surgery and call her brother just to tell him that she loves him!
We also heard the pros and cons of having a “hip replacement”. Some pros include “different pain, a new hip and the ability to wiggle her toes”. The cons include “awful pain, lying in a stupid bed all day in a stupid Johnny and butt pain.” Not to mention, “her stomach is rumbling and she can only eat ice chips, her throat is dry, she can’t get up to go to the bathroom and she has to go pee automatically (catheter)!”
Fortunately for all, she is sleeping peacefully now. Hopefully tomorrow will bring a few more pros and a lot less cons!
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — March 29, 2011
Out with the old…In with the new
Day Two with a new hip!
After a busy morning of OT (brushing her teeth) and PT (moving her leg with support), Caitlin was having some difficulty with pain, and nausea. Some adjustments to her medications seemed to do the trick and she was able to get washed up this afternoon and enjoy several catnaps. I use the term “catnap” loosely though. Each time she wakes up, she requests a drink because as she says, “My tongue feels like a cat’s tongue, all dry and scratchy”. She has also awoken from her slumber to ask me if I was able to get my roots done (of course the answer is yes!), if I am wearing my dog tags (my hospital badge) and if those people were going to stand by her bed and watch her all day?(??? It was just me and Jim in the room!) The answer is…yes, she is on a Morphine drip.
We have put on an x-ray on someone’s hip replacement that we found on the internet so you can see what her new hip may look like. Caitlin’s new hip has a ceramic socket and metal ball. We hope to be able to see her x-rays at some point this week.
Please keep posting on this site. Caitlin says reading people’s comments are the best part of her day!
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — March 30, 2011
Day 3…. Thank Goodness for Barbecue Sauce and Milk Duds!
Today was a big day for Caitlin. In PT, she was able to get out of bed and sit in a chair for a while. She has also switched to oral pain medication. For dinner, she was able to keep down some chicken fingers and fries with barbecue sauce. I knew if I ordered something with BBQ sauce, I could get her to eat!
We are so lucky to have a family who continue to love and support us so much! Auntie Jen stopped by and visited with us on her break. Uncle Sean, Uncle Kevin, Auntie Jenny, Colleen, Uncle Dave, Nana Bruce, Auntie Heather and Kristina also came to visit. It was a great distraction for us tonight and we really enjoyed the company. Caitlin Skyped her brother before he went to bed. He is coming in to see her tomorrow afternoon. Although they won’t admit it, they have really missed each other.
Thanks for checking in on Caitlin and an extra big “thanks” to the family member (Jenny?) who brought the Milk Duds. I am about to break into them now…it is the perfect late night hospital snack!
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — March 31, 2011
I am warning you that my entries are definitely not as good or amazing as my mom’s but I wanted to do an entry because I believe we need to spice it up today:]
This morning I was feeling very nauseous and felt uncomfortable but one I got some magical non-nausea medication from my lovely nurses, I felt like a QUEEN. They care so much about me. The amazing thing is that I was able to pass half of the P.T. requirements in just a little under 1 hour! I set a new record for myself. I will be heading off to P.T. in a few minutes and if I pass that then I will definitely know I’m ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO RECOVERING AGAIN!!!!
My days are full of dreams and laziness. At lunch time today, Marcia McGee came to visit and gave me a huge bear that my church family has given to me. It is amazing and I love it. Thanks for everyone’s continuous prayers for me. But I would also like you to pray for my cousin Rosie who has had a terrible skiing accident.
I have to go to P.T. now so I’ll let you all know how the outcome goes…
I have just gotten back from P.T. and I PASSED!!!!! It is totally awesome because I could be heading on home tomorrow, sooner than expected!
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — April 1, 2011
Day 5…We’re still here!
It looks like tonight will be our last night here in the hospital. If all goes as planned, Caitlin will be able to go home sometime tomorrow.
Today’s highlights included OT where she learned how to dress herself with the precautions that she has in place and a shower! It was so nice for her to be able to get washed up and have her hair shampooed. It only took two conditioner applications to get all of the bed snarls out. Thank goodness we braided her hair before her surgery otherwise it would have been an easy 3 or 4 rounds of conditioner.
We have had some lovely company over the last two days. Yesterday, Caitlin’s friend Sophie came to visit with her mother. Susan and Heather also came to spend some time with us. Today, Lee and Auntie Jen stopped by for an afternoon visit and Ryan, Auntie Heather, Kristina and Nana Bruce came to spend some time with us tonight.
It is hard to believe that this is probably my last night staying at Children’s Hospital. On our last two visits, I knew that I would be coming back at some point. Tonight, I am pretty sure that this is it. When Caitlin gets her next Total Hip Replacement, she could be married!! Worse yet, I could be a grandmother by then! If I can’t look forward to staying at the hospital with her again, I guess I can look forward to taking care of her kids.
Next post…from home (hopefully!!)
Journal Entry by Julie McGowan — April 2, 2011
Not found on caringbridge.org…
Caitlin’s healthcare experiences greatly resonates with her and inspires her to enter a career focused on supporting children and families in healthcare settings. Caitlin begins graduate school at Boston University to become a Child Life Specialist.
“In both healthcare and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.” – Association of Child Life Professionals – https://www.childlife.org/the-child-life-profession
January 25, 2021
Caitlin graduates with a Master’s degree in Child Life and Family Centered Care. She accepts a full time Child Life position at Boston Children’s Hospital in the Pre-Op Clinic (yes – the same clinic where the above picture was taken many years ago!) and in the Phlebotomy Outpatient Lab. Today, she begins her career supporting children and families who are scheduled for surgeries with subsequent hospitalizations, as well as children and families who have blood draw appointments.
March 27, 2021
Caitlin passes the Child Life Certification Exam and becomes a Certified Child Life Specialist, ten years after receiving her total hip replacement.
Most Fridays during the school year, I work late. I like to have everything in place and ready to go for Monday morning before I leave for the weekend. I am usually the last car to leave the lot.
But today, I developed spring fever and had to leave work about an hour and half earlier than I typically do.
How do I know that I definitely have spring fever? I have all of the symptoms.
I let my students eat snack outside today and gave them an extra recess.
I was feeling restless.
I was yawning.
My mind was distracted. I couldn’t focus on anything I needed to do. It was hard for me to sit down and concentrate on planning lessons for next Tuesday. I kept getting out of my seat to go and clean something.
My body was filled with excitement. I was looking forward to being outside in the warm sunshine on a walk with my husband and dog.
My mood was happier than usual.
So, in order to treat my illness and take care of myself, I turned off my computer. I left a pile of papers on my desk and I walked right out the door.
I think spring fever must be contagious, because all of my colleagues had gone home early too.
“I will persevere and do my best even when I need help. I still am happy when I make a mistake. I do not quit.”
Our school motto is:
Have no fear…Mulready Cougars persevere! This student wrote me a note and left it on my desk. It makes me so proud to see my student not only learning the motto, but demonstrating an understanding of what it means.
Not only that, but I think we can all benefit once in a while from her growth mindset, don’t you?
When my son was six, my husband signed him up for Mite hockey. I was adamant at the time that this was “their thing.” I did not know anything about hockey. (Unless you count the fact that it was played on ice and watching the fights was the best part of the game.) I would go to his games, but I did not want to be tasked with getting him dressed before a game or practice.
My husband agreed to this plan for about…a day.
On the evening of his first practice, he called me in a panic.
“You will need to bring Ryan to practice.” he said. “I am stuck at work.”
“I have no idea how to get him ready.” I replied.
“Don’t worry. Someone will help you.”
So, I drove to the rink and carried my son’s equipment into the locker room. I went to the first official looking man and asked him point blank, “Can you help me?”
I must have looked pretty pathetic, because he said he would without even blinking.
Fast forward a few days to when Ryan played his first game. He could barely skate with the puck, but I was yelling and cheering like nobody’s business. I was hooked. There was no turning back now. I had officially become a Hockey Mom.
Over the next several months, I was a dedicated student of the game. I learned the rules, the lingo and when it was time for him to dress himself. (Yes, I was a originally a helicopter hockey mom!)
When Ryan switched to a select travel team, my husband and I signed on as Team Managers. Essentially, we were the “Julie McCoys” of the hockey team. We planned everything from team practice jerseys, to tournament accommodations and everything else in between. I spent more time at the rink and in my car than I did in my own home on the weekends.
I loved every minute of it.
Ryan continued to play in High School. While our travel decreased, my enthusiasm for the sport increased twofold. I would not miss a game for anything. I was thrilled when he was selected as a Captain his senior year. It meant Team Manager 2.0 for me.
Currently Ryan plays for a college about 900 miles away. I haven’t been able to watch him play a game in person in over a year and I am having major withdrawals. My only solace is looking forward to being able to go next year.
I have come to realize, you can take the Mom out of hockey. But you can not take the love away from a Hockey Mom.
Thumbing through the latest ad from the local warehouse store, I came across the exact gas fire pit table that I had been looking for. And, it was on sale!
Past experience told me that if I wanted it, I should go and get it now. Items such as these tend to sell quickly. So, my husband and I hopped into our SUV and drove straight to the store. I quickly scanned the aisles and made a beeline straight to the fire pit.
“Here it is!” I exclaimed. (Maybe a little too loudly, but I was excited.)
There were only two boxes left.
My husband and I tried to lift the cardboard cube, but it was too heavy for me. I needed to find someone from customer service to assist us, so I announced that I was headed that way to get help. My husband started to follow me.
“You can’t leave. What if someone else comes and takes it? You have to stay here and let your claim on this item be known!” I told him.
Of course, he thought I was overreacting and a bit ridiculous, but oddly enough he listened to me and stood right next to the box until I returned with a store associate.
The two of them managed to get the box onto a flatbed. The kind gentleman even helped us load it into the car after we paid for it.
Since we still needed a few more things, we went back into the store. We walked by the fire pits and wouldn’t you know, the last one was being loaded onto a flatbed.
“See,” I said. “We almost didn’t get one.”
“Not really,” my husband replied. “If we came in now, there would still be one left.”
Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. Unknown
Last week, I received an email from the student editor of our high school’s newspaper. She is writing a feature piece on our upcoming return to full time in-person learning in April. She wanted to interview an elementary teacher to help her readers gain perspective and I was one of the lucky ones chosen.
After consulting with my principal, I agreed to the interview. She sent me her questions.
I am no saint and this year has not been easy by any standard. But, a few months ago, I decided to shift my mindset to embrace the challenges of this year, rather than lament. So with this in mind, I chose to highlight the things that are positive about our return.
The article has not been published yet, but here is a sneak peak at my answers.
How do you feel this will benefit you?
It will be easier for me to only have to plan for in-person instruction.
How do you feel this will benefit the students?
The students will benefit from the consistency of going into school everyday and from having the teacher there at all times to support their learning. They will also benefit from the increased opportunities to socialize with their peers.
Do you have any initial fears going into a full-time model?
No, I do not have any initial fears. I am fully vaccinated, so I consider myself one of the lucky ones right now. Our custodial staff and nurses have been vigilant with their commitment to the health and safety of everyone in our building. I know that this will continue to be the case.
Do you see yourself confronting any issues? How will you overcome them?
If I end up with any new students in my class from Cohort D(fully remote), I will have to spend some additional time teaching and reviewing classroom rules and routines.
Any other thoughts or ideas?
I am looking forward to the return of the familiar routine and some sense of normalcy. Some of the children will be meeting face to face for the first time, so that is exciting for them. April 5th will be a day that we will celebrate finally being able to be all together as a class.
How do you feel about students returning to in-person learning full time?
With all of the free time I seem to have lately, my husband and I have been slowly trying to clean out different parts of our home. Feeling overwhelmed with the task, I picked up a copy of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and binge watched her shows on Netflix. (I never realized how entertaining it could be to watch other people work, while I sipped coffee!)
Feeling prepared, I began with my dresser. I touched each item and asked myself if it “sparked joy.” I sorted the items into 3 piles, just as she instructs: Keep, Throw, Give.
If you noticed, I did not include a pile for Sell.
Several years ago, my husband and I came to the difficult realization that Yard Sales/Garage Sales/Tag Sales are not worth the time and effort. It may have something to do with the fact that I insisted on holding one on a day that forecasted rain. Everything we were selling got incredibly wet and we had to leave it in our garage for days before we could donate it.
Or maybe it was because I sold my daughter’s favorite Barney the dinosaur stuffed animal to a woman who said that Sophie would love it. Imagine my surprise when I went for a walk later that week and spied Barney in this woman’s backyard. It turned out that Sophie was a chihuahua and Barney ended up in shreds. I am still traumatized by this decision.
If only I had been as smart as Rose Nylund, then Barney would still be in one piece.
If you have never read Marie Kondo’s book or watched her show, you may be wondering about the whole “sparking joy” thing. I have to be honest and tell you that it is truly life changing.
Let me give you an example. When holding up a t-shirt that I got as a souvenir from a trip a few years ago, I noticed that it had a few stains on it. I had other mementos from the trip, so I was able to say “thank you” to my shirt and put it in the throw pile. Done. Next item.
Now for someone who is not as sentimental as I am, this may appear laughable. That’s okay. You can laugh. In fact, my husband and I did too the first several times we went through this process. But the truth is, many of us tend to hold onto things for the memory, not for the necessity of the item. Once we can acknowledge another way to honor the memory, we can let go of objects that get in our way of having order in our homes and lives.
Clothes are easy for me to make this decision.
Books are not. I feel joy when I pick up every book. So, I decided that I would limit the books that I keep to one book shelf. Only the books that I truly want to read again because they will “spark joy” will be put back on the shelves. All of the rest will be donated so someone else can have the opportunity to “spark joy”. I reasoned that if I really wanted to read it again, I could always borrow it from the library.
But my children’s books, that is another story. I can remember where I was when I read it. I can remember how many times I read it. I can recite lines from it. I consider myself a work in progress in this area. So, I put all of my children’s favorite books into a box labeled KEEP and stored them away for future grandchildren.
Sometimes, memories from the past are important enough that they should be become a traditions in the future.
Have you ever tried Marie Kondo’s method? Do have a hard time getting rid of items? Are you a book hoarder too?
When my children were younger, I read a few of the Positive Discipline books by Dr. Jane Nelson. Intrigued by her methodology, I wanted to implement some of her suggestions into my parenting repertoire. So, we devoted some time on a weekend night when we could all be together, and began to hold weekly family meetings.
We would begin each meeting by giving each other a compliment or thanking someone for doing something special for us. I really wish I had written these down, but as I remember they went something like this:
“Thank you for doing my laundry.”
“Thank you for driving me to dance.”
“I can’t think of anything nice to say about my brother. He just teases me.”
“I know you can think of one thing that your brother did well this week that you noticed.”
“Okay, you are good at teasing me.”
Then we would transition to issue discussion time. Anyone could add an item to the agenda. As a family, we would talk about ways to work together better and collaboratively solve any difficulties we were having. We would also plan our menu for the week ahead.
We would end our meeting with a special dessert or family game time.
One part of the process was that a person had to take notes during the meeting and it couldn’t be the same person each time. It is these notes that I cherish now.
March 28, 2004
Behavior and Consequences
Dressed in the morning before TV
Kids want a dog- We are too busy to take care of a dog.
April 4, 2004
Mornings going better- Need to remember to put out our clothes before bed
Caitlin would like a chart telling her everything she needs to do before bed.
Manners- Please remember to use our manners with each other.
Listen to each other better the first time we ask
Dog- We are too busy to take care of a dog.
April 12, 2004*
Next meeting: family job assignments
*My husband’s version of note taking.
January 19, 2005
Tantrums- We will all try to stop. Consequence for a tantrum is to go to our room to cool down.
Friday nights new family night with dinner and a movie.
Dog- We are too busy to take care of a dog.
For years I wondered if the family meetings had any significance to the way our family functioned. I am not sure if they made us a better family unit. But, I would say that there were many positives that came out of our time together.
We learned to communicate more effectively with one another.
As a family, we problem solved issues.
My husband and I still meet weekly to plan our menu.
Caitlin still uses lists to tell her everything she needs to do before bed.
We finally got a dog… once the kids grew up and my husband and I were no longer too busy taking care of them.
Have you ever tried family meetings with your children? Do you plan meals together? Do your kids ask you for a pet too?
With 18 report cards to complete tonight, I really needed my favorite comfort food. Made with just three ingredients, it checks all of the boxes for deliciousness.
Melted cheddar cheese
You guessed it…a grilled cheese sandwich.
But not everyone knows that there is some skill involved with making this one pan, calorie rich delicacy. You see, the secret to making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is patience. You have to let the butter slowly melt into the bread over a medium-low heat. This allows the cheese to melt at the same rate as the butter browns the bread. Perfection.
As I ate each bite, my body was preparing itself to get those report cards done. Thank goodness for comfort food!
I received an email today from a student I had seven years ago in my Kindergarten class. She moved to another town a few years ago, so I have not seen her for quite some time. You can imagine my surprise when I saw her name in my inbox. Curious, I opened it up right away.
So you’re never gonna guess who it is, but it may or may not be XXXXXXXXXXX Do you remember me!!!!!!
I immediately wrote back to her that of course I remembered her. How could I ever forget her? (Especially considering she wrote her name on the side of a bookcase I still have in my room.) I asked her how she was doing and told her that I missed her.
But, it made me think…how many of my students ask themselves that same question. “Does my teacher still remember me?”
To all of those who may be wondering, here is your answer:
Dear Former Student,
Even though I am no longer your assigned classroom teacher, I will always be your teacher.
Even though I am not responsible for your report card grades, I will always care about how you are doing in school.
Even though I am not there to celebrate your accomplishments, I will always be proud of your achievements.
Even though I am not there to cheer you on when you think you can’t, I will always be the voice inside your head that tells you that you can.
Even though you move to another school, I will always be here if you miss meor need me.
Even though we are no longer together every day, I will always have you in my heart.
Even though I may not recognize your maturing face right away, just say your name and I will always remember you.
Confetti filled gold, nestled among black and white balloons tied in a bouquet were placed precisely in the middle of each black tablecloth. The sound of 80s pop music filled the air while people of all ages mingled around the antiquated hall.
“Do you think she knows?” rang as the conversation starter of the evening by both family and friends.
Guests filled their plates with an assortment of hors-d’oeuvres. Her children watched the clock. She should be here any minute now.
“Everyone, she has arrived!” exclaimed the DJ from the makeshift stage in the corner of the room.
The laughter, music and friendly conversations were replaced by a quiet hush as the party guests silenced themselves in anticipation of her arrival. The faint smell of pulled pork and BBQ ribs filled the noiseless air.
“Surprise!” everyone shouted as she entered through the front door.
Her eyes opened wide. Her head dropped in disbelief. Her hand covered her mouth as she began to cry. The guests remained in their spots, watching her reaction. A few took photos, while the rest just smiled.
The youngest guests, her grandchildren, ran up to embrace her in warm hugs.
Turning 70 wasn’t nearly as difficult as she imagined because she was surrounded by everyone she loved.
What color am I in the mood to write with today? Coral or teal?
Hmmm. Coral. I am definitely in a coral kind of mood so I grab the orange-pink Paper Mate Flair pen from my pen bag and begin to write. My eyes marvel at the way the color absorbs into the paper with just the right amount of diffusion. Not so thin that it is hard to read, but not so thick that it bleeds. I take my time as I write, enjoying the way the cheerful color contrasts with the stark white paper. Each letter closely resembles the writing I use when I am teaching my students how to properly form them. I pause to admire my penmanship.
This feeling never happens when I use a ballpoint pen. My writing with a plain, old pen resembles a mixture of partially formed cursive and print letters that only I am able to read. This is the exact reason that I use a ballpoint pen when I am writing sticky notes after conferencing with a student. I want to keep what is discussed un-decodable to their phonetic eyes. I can’t do that with a Flair pen. That would be disrespectful.
My headings are done and it is now time to list the lessons under each subject. Decision time. Should I choose a complementary color such as yellow or go bold and pick up the teal pen that I dismissed only minutes earlier?
Or, I could also switch to using a gel pen. There is a similar array of colors available in that bag too. But, I don’t feel like chancing the fact that I may get wet gel ink on the side of my pinky and a big smear on my paper, so I push that bag aside.
Back to my Flair bag I go and take out the neglected teal Flair pen. I carefully craft the learning targets for Monday. Wow. It’s looks beautiful.
Decision time again. Should I switch to a different color for Tuesday? Well, I have the 24 pack, so why stick with just two colors when I can use more? I take out a vibrant pink Flair and begin to write.
My plan book begins to resemble the Lilly Pulitzer storefront in Key West. I smile.
Yes, it is the little things that make planning on a Sunday slightly more tolerable. Flair pens are definitely one of them!
What do you use to motivate yourself to do something when you would rather be doing anything else?
This morning started off almost like any other school day. The only exception for my students was the last minute cancellation of our field trip. Disappointed that we could not go, but determined to continue with the unit, I planned a different lesson for Social Studies.
All of the staff were buzzing around asking each other if we thought that school would be cancelled next week because of “the virus.”
My reply was adamant. “No. We keep the sick people at home, not the healthy ones. School will not close.”
There is the reason why I am a teacher and not an epidemiologist.
Then the emails began to come in. Questions about student internet access at home were among the first. Rumors began to swirl that we would be closed for the next two weeks to students, but that staff would still need to report on Monday. Much to my surprise, I left my classroom on that Friday afternoon and did not return until it was time to pack up for the summer.
But if I could go back in time, these are the things I wished that I had appreciated more on that fateful day.
Top Ten Things That I Miss About March 13, 2020.
Read Alouds- I miss having the children directly in front of me on the rug as I read to them. I miss holding a book in my hands, above my shoulder, a skill that every teacher has mastered so gracefully. I miss having the students approach me to get a closer look at the pictures. I miss redirecting the children who tickle each other instead of paying attention to the book.
Sharing- In Kindergarten, sharing was one of the Golden Rules. We shared school supplies, toys and materials with an unselfish attitude. There was no mine. Everything was ours.
Partner Work- I miss the intimacy of two students working and learning from each other, without a pool noodle extended between them.
Tables- I miss my tables. I miss pulling a chair up to a table and conversing with the group about what they are working on or doing a small group lesson.
Recess Playground Equipment- It bothers me greatly when my students go outside and have to stare at an enticing playground structure and basketball hoops, but are unable to use either. There is only so much fun in walking around and playing imaginary tag!
Cooperative Activities: Blocks and STEAM Projects- Upon arrival, my students have an opportunity to participate in some free choice time, while others eat breakfast. I miss taking out my tub of wooden blocks and watching my students work together to engineer a structure. I miss them asking me to take their picture in front of the completed design before they have to knock it down.
Holding Hands- I miss holding hands with my students as we head to the nurse with a scraped knee or return inside from recess. I miss watching my students hold hands as they go to the bathroom or play a game together.
Centers- I miss my Math and Literacy center time when the children played games with shared manipulatives. I miss the independence and interdependence that developed during these activities.
Volunteers- I miss my classroom volunteers! My amazing mother was in my classroom two mornings a week reading with my students and helping out wherever help was needed. I miss having parents come in to assist with center games, special projects and celebrations.
Hugs- I miss the completely unsolicited hugs that I received from my loving students when they entered and left my classroom each day. I am sorry, but an “air hug” is not the same.
When I began teaching last century, I was in the age minority. One of only a few new hires at the time, I found unlikely friendships with people ten to twenty years my senior. While in my late twenties, I regularly celebrated milestone birthdays such as 40 and 50. My work friends and I acknowledged the last day of school with wine and cheese in the privacy of a home. When they spoke of their children’s high school sports or college search, I shared about my pregnancies and potty training.
As the years went by, one by one, they began to retire. Each retirement resulted with a new, young teacher taking his/her place. In a natural progression, my role slowly evolved from mentee to mentor. I happen to have a few more years of experience is how I viewed it the first few times. Of course I would be happy to help a new teacher.
As the years went by, the newer teachers got younger and I just got older.
I think the first time it hit me was about two years ago when I was a mentor to a new hire in her twenties. I asked my mentee how she was doing and how I could best assist her. Her fond reply included something to the effect that she valued my support and that I was a mother figure to her. A true compliment by any measure, but really… A MOTHER FIGURE? That sounded so old!
But the real icing on the cake was just the other day. My newest mentee, also in her twenties, cheerfully joined me for lunch. As she walked in, she asked me if I used to teach in the town she grew up in. I enthusiastically replied that I did before I came to the town where I currently teach.
Then BAM, she hit me with the right hook.
“I think you were my best friend’s Preschool teacher!” she exclaimed.
If that wasn’t bad enough, she managed to pull up a picture of me (with very large hair) and her best friend (about 4 years old at the time) on her phone. It seems that her best friend recognized me from a Facebook post and the connection was made. There was no denying it was me. I have the same class picture in a photo album from the mid 1990s.
Now, I suppose I should feel somewhat flattered that she was able to remember me after all of these years, but that thought escaped me at the time. I just focused on the fact that I am old enough to be the former Preschool teacher of a colleague!
Now, someone please answer me this…when did I become the old teacher? On second thought, please don’t!
“Everybody hop in,” my Dad states as he unlocks the doors of our rust colored Caprice Classic Station Wagon.
“Do you think Grandpa would want to sit in the way back with me this time,” questions my brother.
We all begin to smirk as we envision our grandfather, in his late sixties, sitting in the rear-facing third seat.
“You can ask him,” my mother replies.
But, we all assume that he will definitely respond with a “Hell No!”
As my father pulls up to my grandfather’s split entry house on the top of the hill, we can see that Grandpa is ready and waiting for us. He walks towards our car with a spring in his step. Since my grandmother passed away a few years earlier, our Sunday car rides are something he looks forward to and today is no different.
“Grandpa, do you want to ride in the back with me?” my brother asks.
We all hold our breath awaiting his reply.
“Sure,” he says.
He climbs right in and positions himself on the seat next to my brother. My mother asks if he is comfortable. He is either a good liar or he really is fine, because he tells her that he is. He and my brother face backwards, looking at all that is now behind us.
“Where would you like to go today?” my father inquires.
“Do you know any routes that will take us by an ice cream stand? My treat!” Grandpa replies.
While I do not recall the exact route we travelled that day, I do remember going to visit my grandmother’s grave at the cemetery. I also remember my brother teaching my grandfather how to get a trucker to honk his horn as the eighteen wheeler passed by us on the highway. And of course, I recall stopping for ice cream on the way home.
My grandfather passed away 23 years ago today. I can still recall him riding in the back of our family station wagon as if it were yesterday and not 40 years ago.
Sometimes in life, it is the simplest memories that last the longest.
What is one fond memory that you have of your grandparents?
I would like to thank fellow Slicer, Suzanne for her inspiration for this post. Your comment the other day really got my creative juices flowing.
My husband says that there is a song for every occasion. He has been know to quip lyrics right in the middle of a conversation. Sometimes I find it to be funny. Other times, I am annoyed. I guess it all depends on my mood at the current time.
But today, I am getting my second dose of my vaccine and I wake up with a song in my head. I jump out of the bed and start to sing “Vaccine, Vaccine, VACCINE, Vaccine…”
On my way to work the sun is shining. I am thinking, “Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling. Everything’s going my way…”
At 9:55 my husband is on his way to pick me up for our appointments. Afraid we are going to be late, I start to walk up the school driveway to meet him on the street. “Hold on, I’m coming…”
On the drive to the clinic, I think about the excitement and nerves that are brewing inside of me. “Anticipation is making me wait…”
We arrive at the appointment and I sit down in the chair. I am prepped and my second dose is administered. It is as if invisible streamers and balloons float down from the ceiling. “Celebrate good times, come on!”
We are sitting in the observation room. I look down at my vaccine card. “I’ve Got A Golden Ticket…”
As my husband and I exit our appointment, I take him by the elbow and quietly begin to sing “Zip A Dee Doo Dah, my, oh my, what a wonderful day!”
My husband seems rather annoyed by my singing in the parking lot. I guess it is only fun for him if he is the one singing!
Have you had your vaccine yet? Do you find yourself randomly getting a song stuck in your head related to what you are experiencing? Do you secretly wish that you worked with Zoey at SPARQPOINT too?
I am sitting down to write my “Monday Slice”. A warm cup of tea serves as motivation. I am tired tonight and not sure how easy it will be for me to write. I look at my list of ideas and one jumps out. Yes, I can tell this story with a touch of humor, while still keeping it real. I begin to write.
As I put my thoughts down, my phone begins to ring. I am just getting in a writing groove, so I am tempted to hit the ignore button. I can call her back later, I think. But it is 8:30pm. Will I really call her back tonight? And, is everything okay? She rarely calls me at this time. Something inside me tells me to answer the call.
Relief enters her voice as I say, “Hello.” I ask her how she is doing and she says not well.
My tea begins to cool as I listened to her share her worries. My creative energy shifts to empathy. I have had days when I have needed someone to talk with too. I share that I have also felt overwhelmed at times. I help her to see some positives in her troubling situation and give her a few ideas to help distract her mind from what worries her. I tell her a funny story.
We hang up with a laugh and I tell her that I will talk to her soon.
I am no longer feeling the story that I initially began to write so I hit “save”. Maybe tomorrow I will be in the mood to be creatively funny again.
Today, I will write about what made me change my mind.
Have you ever had your plans interupted because someone else needed you?
Every Kindergarten teacher knows that a single knot does not suffice, so I bend down to tie my shoelaces in a double knot. I inspect the thermometer outside. Definitely a hats and mittens day, so I put on a matching set and don my recess jacket. I check to make sure that I have a mask and plenty of poop bags. With my dog’s coat (yes, my dog has a winter jacket!) and harness securely fastened, I attach her leash and head out the door with my husband by my side.
It is a brisk day. The wind is blowing sharply are we make our way up our first incline. March came in like a lion, I think. We put our heads down to avoid greeting Mother Nature’s breath full on. We begin to notice the sporadic litter that seems especially out of place in our residential neighborhood. We comment to each other as if we were engaged in a game of I Spy.
“Look, another empty nip bottle,” one of us remarks.
“Why do people clean up after their dog and then leave the bag behind?” the other one questions.
Our dog begins to bark as she notices a Black Lab mix ahead. We talk to her as if she were our four-year old child and not our pet.
“Oh, Sadie. That’s just Shadow. He’s your friend.”
I comment that social distancing and lack of playdates has affected her. My husband politely agrees.
We read the signs that decorate our neighbors’ yards. We glimpse only one sign from a realtor, but there are many campaign related. These are the ones that we are used to seeing as candidates prepare for upcoming elections. Others are personal statements of political beliefs or acknowledgements of milestone achievements. Still others show support for frontline workers or local businesses. I mention that the pandemic has brought new ways to communicate with each other and lawn signs seems to be one of them.
Some of our neighbors still have the outside of their homes decorated for Christmas and a few still have their tree up. Of course, this warrants a comment from one of us.
“I wonder when they will take it down,” one of us states.
We could really care less, but it seems like the right thing to say at the time.
I check my Fitbit and announce my step count to my husband. He checks his and reports back to me. I poke fun at him because my count is higher. He retorts by saying it is because I take smaller steps. We both laugh, but secretly I am happy to be beating him!
We see children playing in a yard. There is laughter as they run around in their snow gear. Children spend much too much time in front of a screen, I ponder. Seeing kids outside makes me happy. I silently praise their parents.
We notice a dumpster and pickup truck with a construction company’s logo on the door parked in a driveway. They must be getting work done to their home, we infer.
As we approach the last hill before we return home, a car slows down next to us. We chat briefly and wish each other a good day. But the wish is unnecessary because I have already concluded that I had a great day today.
What are some of the things you notice as you take a walk? Have you noticed more signs in the yards in your area? Does it bring you joy to watch children playing outside? Do you treat your dog like your child too?
Definitely another one! I flop over to look at the clock. Convinced this was definitely my time, I watch the numbers intently as I wait for the next contraction to present itself. Five minutes pass so I wake up my husband. “I am in labor,” I calmly state.
“Are you sure?” he replies.
He can’t be serious, I thought. My due date is today! I ate Chinese food for dinner and walked about 5 miles around the mall yesterday. Clearly he has forgotten about the vow he had taken on our wedding day 6 years earlier: “I promise to never question my wife. She will always be right!”
Irritated, I simply restate my earlier declaration and advise him to get out of bed so I can change the sheets. I will soon be calling my sister to come over and stay with our sleeping three year old daughter. She needs fresh sheets.
Then, because nesting is making itself apparent, I decide to go down the two flights of stairs into our basement to wash the sheets. I pause at the washer to breathe through another contraction, then I put in a load of laundry. (Yes, I do have another clean set of sheets, which I immediately used to remake the bed. I think I just do not want to come home from the hospital to a pile of laundry.)
“Is it time?” my sister exclaims into the phone. “I will be right over!”
I travel back downstairs to switch the sheets into the dryer. A large puddle of water greets me as I approach my machines. I call to my husband and report the problem.
“Are you sure?” he replies.
Breathing through another contraction, I sarcastically state, “Tonight is not the night to play this game.”
My sister arrives at my home with a packed bag, prepared to stay for the next few days. I have already prepared our daughter’s lunch for daycare, but I feel the need to go over everything that she will need for that day. My sister listens carefully and says that she will be by to meet her newest relative as soon as she can.
We are in the car on our way to the hospital. As I am breathing through more frequent contractions, it suddenly dawns on me that I am about to give birth to our second child. And it is going to hurt!
My husband and I pull up to the hospital. We enter through the Emergency Room doors as instructed. A kind nurse gives me a ride in a wheelchair up to the Labor and Delivery floor. I am immediately brought into a room. Monitors are hooked up and I am told that everything looks great. I decide that I want to give birth naturally, so all I need to do now is focus on my breathing.
“Can I have the drugs please??!!!” I plead to the nurse. It had only been a few hours, but the pain is exhausting and intolerable.
“I am sorry,” she says. “That window is closed.”
“Can you open it?” I ask. She chuckles.
My husband and I are all alone in the room. I have this incredible urge to push. I tell him to get help.
“It will be a few minutes” he says upon his return. Then he mutters something about the shift change.
“That’s not the right answer.” I scream. “Get someone now!”
My obstetrician and a nurse come into the room. One of them pulls out the table portion of the bed as the other one puts on gloves. I don’t think my legs are even in the stirrups yet, but seeing them gives me permission to push.
And with that, a healthy baby boy burst into my life.
March 6, 2021
I dedicate this story to my amazing son, Ryan, on his 21st birthday. You entered my world with determination and have displayed this trait every day of your life. You have brought your father and me countless hours of pride and joy. You make me laugh with your quick wit and keen sense of sarcasm. You amaze me with your independence.
While I can not be with you in person today to celebrate your first legal drink, I want you to know that I will be toasting you all day. I love you!
For the last few months, I have been working with a trainer to help me get back on track with my diet and exercise. As a part of my rehab, I am in a texting group with two other women and the trainer. We check in with each other daily and report if we have stayed within our caloric limit and if we hit our exercise goals.
Last month, the group decided to add a challenge into our routine to help motivate us. We connected on the same app and tracked each other’s progress each day. It went fairly well and bragging rights sufficed as a reward. Congratulations go to my group member who had more minutes of activity than our trainer did!
Feeling the success of competition, we agreed to do another one in March. This month, we are competing to see which one of us can meet their daily step goal of 10,000 steps the most times.
For this event, we decided to up the ante and have a reward for the winner. Initially I suggested that we all pitch in $20 and the winner would receive a gift card to Hello Fresh or Misfit Market.
Then, one member (who will forever remain nameless) suggested that we all go out for ice cream and the loser would pay. Ice cream or veggies? It was a no brainer. The three of us agreed to compete for the ice cream prize…
Until our trainer nixed our reward. I proudly shared that we would only get a child’s sized, so she need not worry. Still no. She suggested that we work towards a personal reward that did not involve food and graciously offered up skin care products to the winner. Of course we all agreed, knowing down deep that she was right. Why is she always right?
So now we are a few days into our challenge. It has been hard to hit the 10,000 step mark each day, especially given the fact that I am sitting far more at my job than ever. In order to meet the goal and try my best to win the prize, I have resorted to running around the kitchen island several times at the end of the day. I am not sure if I will win or not, but I am definitely going to “step it up.”
Sometimes in life, we just need someone there to support us and hold us accountable for our goals. We may also need some motivation to get there too, whether it is bragging rights or a child-sized dish of mocha chip ice cream. I mean skin care products.
What personal goals are you working on right now? Do you do better when someone holds you accountable? Would you have said “yes” to the ice cream reward?
Every June, our school hosts a school-wide event to celebrate the end of the year. Events include sack races, water balloon tosses and jump the brook. One year, someone thought that it would be a wonderful idea to include a dunk tank and recruit staff to sign up for a time slot. So, the tank was reserved and the sign-up list went out.
This was not my first rodeo, so when the list was posted, I conveniently ignored it.
Then a reminder went out to all the staff that there were still openings. I debated it for a hot second, then I deleted the email. “Let the young teachers do this one,” I thought.
Fast forward to the day of the event. Lo and behold, the dunk tank is delivered right outside of my classroom window. Imagine the delight when my five and six year old students saw the tank in action all day long. Did I mention…RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW? Right before my class prepared to go outside for their turn, one of my sweetest students, who never asked for anything, said to me, “I can’t wait to dunk you Mrs. McGowan!”
His eyes twinkled with such delight that my heart melted and I began to waver. It was the end of the day and the temperature was warm enough I reasoned. I could drive home in wet clothes just this once. I mean, it is for the kids, right? I told him that I would see if there was a spot open for me, but that I did not know if I would be able to do it.
But, wouldn’t you know? There happened to be an opening at the exact time my class joined in the fun. So, after finding another teacher to supervise my students, I climbed up the ladder and perched myself on the collapsible bench.
Some of my former students were outside at the same time and once they saw me, they lined up to get their chance to dunk their former teacher! The first few students had horrible aim, so my confidence grew and I began to playfully taunt the children. This wasn’t so bad I concluded.
Then, bullseye! All of the sudden I went crashing into the water with an enormous splash. The children cheered as I emerged from the water. Carefully, I climbed back onto the seat and prepared myself for the next dunk. Regret began to fill my body, but the parent volunteers praised me for being a good sport. I couldn’t leave now. My ego would not let me.
A few more children threw the ball and I landed in the water again. It went this way until one of my former students thought it would be funny to run up to the target and manually push it in. Down I went, totally not prepared at all. I climbed back out of the water and reset the seat. Or so I thought. As soon as I transferred my weight onto the seat, it collapsed and I fell back into the tank in the most awkward position. My right foot hit the step and my knee hit the bottom. (What I learned later was that the lever was stuck from being pushed in so hard and the seat failed to lock.)
As I climbed out of the water, I knew something was very wrong.
And, I was right. A trip to the orthopedic doctor confirmed my biggest fear. A torn MCL would be the diagnosis. I was gifted a shiny, new pair of crutches to use throughout my summer break and several months worth of visits to my local PT. If I had only trusted my first instincts…
The moral of this story is to trust your gut and ALWAYS stay very far away from the dunk tank!
What have you done, that you have later regretted? Have you ever had an injury ruin your plans? Do you have a weakness for sweet students who never ask for anything too?
For almost thirty years, I get together every few months with my “College Besties” for a Girls Day Out or GDO for short. For at least a decade, we have been meeting at the same Panera Bread restaurant. Conveniently located off the highway, this location is geographically located in the middle of our two furthest travelers. Due to COVID, it has officially been over a year since we have all been together, but I can recall our experiences as if we just met yesterday.
Typically, we meet around 10:00am at our table in the corner of the restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly; “our table”. We sit at the same table every time. Lord help the family or group that is already sitting there when the first one of us arrives. She will typically do one of two things:
Sit at a nearby table and politely asks the people if we can have their table when they are finished.
Or worse, she will keep looking over at them, readying herself to pounce on the table as soon as it becomes vacant.
(I share this experience with you in the third person because being early is not a trait that I posses. By the time I get there, the table is secured and ready for the six of us to commence our ritual).
And it is a ritual. We begin with the usual conversations inquiring how each of us are doing personally. After about 30 minutes of this, one of us reminds the others that we should probably order something.
So, we order breakfast.
Then the conversation shifts to catching up on the latest about each other’s families. How are your husbands, children, parents, pets, in-laws…?
Clean up from breakfast.
Inevitably, work topics now weave their way into our conversations. Since three of the six of us are teachers, there is always something that we can talk about. The other three have listened to so many teacher stories, they have now acquired the jargon and use it appropriately in their questions and comments.
Refill our coffee cups.
Now is about the time that we get to the juicy stuff. You know, the stuff that has each one of us at the edge of our seats with anticipation. It is usually the latest gossip that we can only share with each other because anyone else might judge us!
Order lunch from the app on our phones so we don’t miss any of the conversation.
Our battle with middle-aged weight becomes the topic of conversation while we eat our salads and discuss how many Weight Watcher points we will have left over for dessert.
Get up, walk to the bakery counter and choose a dessert.
While eating a cookie, we begin to discuss our ailments. This hurts, that needs to be operated on, I am going to PT for this, etc.
Order a cup of tea.
Our closing conversations almost always include reminiscing about our glory days.
“Do you remember that time when…”
“I can’t believe we did that…”
“Thank God there wasn’t Facebook then…”
Now it is time for dinner and we do not want to overstay our welcome at Panera Bread, so we discuss where we should go for dinner...
What are some of the ways you stay connected with your childhood or College friends? Do you share similar conversations with your longtime friends? Do you save WW points for dessert too?
I hate cleaning my fridge! There, I wrote it for all to see and therefore confessing my deepest domestic engineering secret. My fridge is a hot mess and on my “To Do” list for today. Instead of tackling it right now, I have decided to write about how much I hate doing it.
For those who know me personally, it is apparent that I enjoy cleaning. This is what makes my detestation of refrigerator organization even more baffling. I would like to say that I get my adoration of neat and tidy from my mother. Growing up we were always taught to clean up after ourselves and help around the house. Daily chores included wiping down bathrooms (my personal favorite) and drying the dishes after dinner (my sister’s least favorite). To my sister’s defense though, I personally did not love drying the dishes either. I think we both wanted to be the “washers”, but my mother NEVER relinquished this role. When washing the dishes, you get to play in warm soapy water. Drying the dishes involves holding a cold, wet rag. My mother knew where the fun was at!
I equate it to the modern version of loading and unloading the dishwasher. No one groans when I say, “Please load the dishwasher.” But when I make the similar request to unload, I am greeted with grumblings about how much they hate to do this. I am not sure of the difference here, but clearly there is one. If you know, could you please enlighten me?
So today I am faced with the dreaded chore of taking everything out of the fridge, wiping it down and organizing it. It is just so overwhelming to me. Maybe it is the decision making that is involved with cleaning out. Do I want this? Is it still fresh? Will my husband eat it for lunch? Is it good enough to pass off to the dog?
Or could it be being faced with the fact that I need to throw out items? Maybe it will be the angst of realizing that I have wasted money by not consuming the rest of the cheese I purchased from the speciality cheese shop for the virtual wine tasting last month? (Which was AMAZING by the way!)
Or perhaps it is that I am unable to see the fruits of my labor. When I mop the floor, I can step back and look at the glistening white tile with a sense of accomplishment. When I look at my icebox, all I see is doors. If I open them up to admire my work, my husband will be right behind me telling me to shut the doors because I am wasting electricity.
Whatever the reason may be, I just do not want to do it. But, unfortunately in life, we all have to do things that we do not want to do. For me, today, it is undertaking the task emptying the refrigerator and magically applying the skills required for food storage and organization.
Right after I take my online fitness class…
What one household job do you detest doing? How do you psyche yourself up to complete it? Why do people like loading the dishwasher better than unloading? Does your husband follow you around turning off lights in order to save money too?
When I hit SUBMIT on the form, it seemed like a great idea at the time. I love writing, but I have put it on the back burner recently because my professional life is all consuming. Signing up for the “Slice of Life Story Challenge” for the month of March on https://twowritingteachers.org/ would give me permission to focus my free time and energy on writing and not feel guilty about it. Anticipation and excitement filled me as I pondered all of the small moment stories I was ready to share with a new audience.
Eagerly, I sat down to write my Day One entry. I pulled up the list of ideas I have been accumulating and measured the feeling of appropriateness for my first submission. After-all, I wanted to impress my latest readers. Much to my chagrin, no story felt right. What has always come easily to me, suddenly felt overwhelming. The more I tried, the more I could only think about the fact that I was unsure what to write about. Only one “right story” revealed itself…my experience as a First-Time Slicer or FTS to be short.
Debating which story to bring to life, made me think about how hard it is to do something the very first time and being a FTS is no different. I am about to share 31 personal stories with complete strangers and allow them to post comments and feedback on my writing. If this is not an exercise in vulnerability, then I don’t know what else is. I wish I had Brene Brown next to me right now encouraging me to embrace this experience, rather than my sleeping Cockapoo, whose only offering is her warmth.
So, I did the next best thing. I relistened to Brown’s podcast from March 20, 2020 titled FFTs. If you have never listened to it, I encourage you to download it, take a brisk walk or car ride and absorb the advice she shares. If you don’t have time to listen right now, here is the synopsis from her site:
The first Unlocking Us podcast is here! Along with the excitement of sending this into the world, I’m feeling equal doses of fear, awkwardness, and vulnerability. In this episode I talk about my strategy for staying in tough first times versus tapping out and shutting down. When we get to the point that we only do things that we’re already good at doing, we stop growing. And truly living.
Like Brene Brown, I am feeling a sense of fear. I even debated withdrawing from the contest. I mean, what if no one liked my writing or worse…no one even read it?! But, I have decided that I am going to welcome this opportunity and give it my best shot. My style of writing is going to be different from others. My stories may not be as interesting or funny as someone else’s. Readers will comment and offer me feedback. This is all okay!
Participating in this challenge is pushing me in more ways than I initially realized. What I initially viewed as a guilt-free opportunity to spend time doing something I love, is evolving into an opportunity for me to grow and learn as a writer. While today’s topic may not be the “wow” story I was initially hoping to share, it is a direct reflection of my desire to become a better writer. This has to be something with which each one of my readers can relate. Ultimately, they were FTSs too.
Today is the most anticipated day of 2020…the last!
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “This year can’t be over soon enough,” I could retire.
But as I lay awake, unable to sleep, I find myself reminiscing of the past year. Call me crazy, but I believe we have a lot to be grateful for this year and in many ways, I will be sad to see it go.
Why? 2020 is the year when all Americans had an extraordinary experience, the Coronavirus Pandemic. Research tells us that as humans, we bond more when we have something in common with someone else or a shared experience. It allows us to relate to one another better and develop camaraderie.
So here are the five reasons why 2020 was the best year of your life…
Family Bonding: We are closer. My husband, two adult children and I spent countless hours in each other’s company. Of course, some of it was bickering, but most of it was quality time conversing with each other, playing a game or simply watching TV. With my extended family, we generated experiences from Zoom gatherings to tailgate celebrations. During this time, we made the best of it, created memories and built stronger relationships, ones that will carry us well into the next phase of our lives.
2. Tech Gurus: We are smarter. While initially, many of us had no choice, we have gone outside of our comfort zone in order to connect with others personally and professionally through technology. From kindergarten students learning on iPads, to retirees connecting to loved ones using FaceTime, we have all learned something new. I was even brave enough to post one of my technological teaching creations on a Facebook group. Unfortunately, I did not share it correctly and had to personally respond to hundreds emails requesting access. Oops! Chalk that up to a another learning experience.
3. Healthy Habits: We are healthier. Many of us have been the healthiest we have been in a while, thanks to good luck, social distancing, masks, frequent hand washing and “hanitizer” (the adorable term my students call hand sanitizer). I haven’t even had a sniffle in almost a year.
4. Grit: We are resilient. We have been faced with challenge after challenge in both our work and personal lives and we have persevered. Yes, we may have been discouraged from time to time, but it only made us stronger. Alcohol has also helped us face these challenges, and fortunately we learned when to open a bottle of red and when to go straight to tequila.
5. Compassion: We are kinder. From families decorating their yards for the enjoyment of others, to running errands for those who are ill or at risk, to volunteering to help at a local food bank, to supporting a local business, people are going out of their way to show compassion towards others. I even noticed people holding doors for each other more often and smiling (under a mask, of course) during the holiday frenzy.
While 2021 brings hope for a renewed sense of normalcy, let’s not devalue all that 2020 taught us. Just like, Moira, Johnny, David and Alexis, we are better people because of this!
Tomorrow you will be perhaps making your most important vote of your political careers. This one vote could make or break your future bids for re-election. Whatever you decide could cause an uproar among your constituents from 5 to 95 and you know it. What our town wants to know is…
Will you allow door to door Trick or Treating?
This question has caused the greatest debate in our community since the decision of hybrid or remote learning, and fortunately for you, that was not your concern. But now, you find yourselves facing a similar decision as your dedicated elected counterparts on the School Committee.
As a teacher, I can tell you that Halloween is second, only to Christmas, in a school aged child’s mind, as far as holidays go. The day I introduce the month of October, I am told that the name of the month is Halloween and I am reminded daily of their costumes! It makes for a long 31 days…
But, before you decide, I want to provide you with some history of Halloween so you will have all of the facts. According history.com, Halloween as we know it now, began in the late 1800s as a way to turn a morbid observance of ghosts and witchcraft into a holiday about community gatherings; focusing on costumes and seasonal food.
Unfortunately, in the 1920s and 1930s some people decided that vandalism was how they wanted to celebrate this occasion. So, in order to prevent their homes from being vandalized, families would provide the children with a treat and a new tradition was born. Trick or Treat.
Here we are, one hundred years later faced with a conundrum. Do we allow our children to go door to door for a candy treat and risk a potential spread of Covid? Or do we say it is cancelled and risk a night of community vandalism or house gatherings that spread the virus anyways?
A vote for the traditional holiday experience offers your citizens a choice. If you are an adult who is at risk, you can decide to turn your light off or leave a bowl outside your door. If you are a parent of an at risk child, you can decide to make your own celebration at home. We already have mask and 6 feet of social distance requirements that should be encouraged to follow and parents can “quarantine” or “disinfect” the candy wrappers and give their children hand sanitizer after each house. It also gives our youth some sense of normalcy in a year that has been anything but normal.
On the other hand, we have the thought of potential Covid carriers going door to door sharing their germs with treat-giving neighbors, many of whom are at a higher risk for complications from this disease or carriers themselves. The potential for an increased outbreak in the community is real. No one wants that, not even the CDC!
You might think I am over-reacting, and I pray that I am. But let’s be real here. The coronavirus has brought out the best and the worst in people. Peaceful protests have been highjacked by delinquents looking a “reason” to display their destructive behaviors for months now. What would make cancelling Halloween traditions any different? One hundred years ago, our country had a pandemic and people vandalized, what is to say that history won’t repeat itself?
The reality is, Halloween is on a Saturday. If you cancel “trick or treating”, it is just going to encourage families to get together for house parties, making your efforts to protect our children null.
Tomorrow you will vote, already well aware of the potential risks and benefits of your decision.
Do you keep the annual tradition as is and let the people of our town decide what is best for them and their children? This vote puts the responsibility of decision making at the hands of citizens.
Or, do you vote to suspend traditional door to door trick or treating as a way to prevent a potential community outbreak in a town that is already in the “red zone” knowing that many citizens may not behave responsibly?
You are the elected official and fortunately for me, I am not the one who has to vote on this conundrum. The good news is that I do not have young children to worry about. I will be fine with whatever you feel is in the best interest of our community. Let’s just hope that the rest of our town feels the same way!
What do you think? Should municipalities allow the traditional door to door trick or treating? Or should they prohibit it this year in an effort to protect its citizens? Do you think we should rename the month of October to Halloween to save teachers from constantly saying, ” The name of the month is October and Halloween is a holiday on the VERY LAST DAY of the month!”?
With restrictions on dining in restaurants being adjusted to include parties of up to 10 and seating allowed at the bar beginning tomorrow, I am providing you with a refresher guide (for many of us it may have been a while since we’ve eaten out!) to assist you with your dining needs.
Category 1- The Faster the Better!
McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s top the list. The kids are hungry. We are tired. We deserve the break today! I can’t say that I actually enjoy the food from the girl, king or clown, but when my kids were little, it beat hearing, “I don’t like this” after I had prepared a healthy meal after a long day at work. Besides, children are rewarded for eating with a plastic advertisement from the latest movie or video game and we don’t have to cook. Sounds like a win- win to me!
Category 2- Let’s Celebrate Something…Kids Style!
Here is where Chuck E Cheese and Apex Entertainment find their niche. Known to cater to specifically to families, these restaurants are the perfect place to spend a small fortune celebrating a birthday, achievement or visit with an aunt! These sensory overloaded establishments, complete with food on the floor, make any child joyous and any parent leave with a headache.
I personally miss the Ground Round. I have fond memories of eating peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor (yes, this was encouraged there in the 70s and 80s!), while watching silent, black and white films and cartoons. Good times! While there are none left in MA, there are several others across the country. But don’t go in expecting to have a food fight with yourself. They have “cleaned up” their image!
Category 3- Adult Beverages and Kids Meals
You want someone to wait on you for a change! You have absolutely had enough and the only person you want to make happy is yourself. Down deep you know that this is never possible, but that doesn’t stop you from trying. You suggest a sit-down meal that includes an adult beverage and kids meals. Your major chain restaurants such as the 99 and Applebee’s, as well as most local, moderately priced establishments fall into this category. These are the restaurants that try to make all of their customers happy. But… most leave feeling more stressed than when they entered. Why? Because the kids are bored and the parents are frustrated with their children’s complaints and fidgety behavior.
Category 4- It’s Worth The Cost Of A Babysitter!
These restaurants are more upscale and definitely do not market themselves to families. If you bring your child to these restaurants, you are probably the parent of an only child. Any family with siblings is most likely not civilized enough to sit and wait for their food quietly, engage in topic based conversation and eat vegetables other than a potato “french fried”. This is why these restaurants are reserved for nights when you can afford to pay the babysitter. There are a few chains that could fall into this category, but I preferred to spend my money at the local restaurants that specially put “recommended for ages 12+” on their website. This way I can just about guarantee an adult like dining experience!
Category 5- Empty Nesters Eat At The Bar!
Why do you see so many middle-aged and older adults eating at the bar? The answer is simple. We have already lived through the other categories of restaurants and we have found the perfect dining spot. We can’t hear as well, so we need to sit next to each other to keep the conversation going, despite the background noise. In addition, the TVs and bartenders provide added conversation starters. If you are an impatient middle aged person, you don’t have to wait as long to order your meal or get your check because the bartenders are always within sight. Lastly, if you ask my husband, he will tell you that you get better drinks at the bar!
In which category do you prefer to dine? Do you switch it up or tend to stay in one category? Do you miss throwing peanut shells and watching silent films while you dine too?
I am ecstatic to announce that I have officially completed three of the hardest days in teaching that I have ever experienced.
But, I would be lying to you if I did not think about quitting at least once an hour during the first three days with students. It was more than thinking actually. I would probably best describe it as fantasizing. I envisioned myself driving a Coca-Cola delivery truck. I am listening to podcasts during my travels. When I arrive at my destination, I am greeted with smiles from thirsty, caffeine deprived customers or appreciative business owners who make small talk with me about the weather. My biggest worry is if I have enough Diet Coke to fill the depleted vending machines at each school.
Then, BAM, I am brought back to reality with my name being stated repetitively, ”Mrs. McGowan, Mrs. McGowan, Mrs. McGowan…”
This is when I began to ask myself… “Am I on Candid Camera?”
For the all my Millennial and Gen Z readers, Candid Camera was a TV show that mainly ran from the late 1940s until the late 1970s, with occasional attempts at revival in the last 40 years. The premise of the show was to place unknowing participants in unusual situations and film their reactions with hidden cameras, capturing their awkward responses. The clip would end with, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”
My first Candid Camera experience was during a lesson on the first fully remote day of school. I was trying to teach my brand new Kindergarten students “how to find a just right learning spot at home.” My technology was working well and the students and parents appeared to be engaged. So, I sent them off to make sure that their home learning environment consisted of the following:
A chair and a table or desk to sit at
A quiet space to help them focus
No distractions such as toys or the TV
When the students came back to the screen, I asked them to share their “just right learning spot.” One student said she had a problem because her mother wouldn’t let her move her learning spot. I politely asked why she wanted to move it. She then informed me that the one her mother had set up was too distracting because it had too many high healed shoes next to her.
Am I on Candid Camera?
Then came Day two, the first day of hybrid learning. I welcomed 13 students in person and connected with an additional 4 at home. I lacked the necessary cord (back ordered until Tuesday!) to connect my brand new laptop to my whiteboard, so one of my colleagues let me borrow her older laptop. Ok, crisis #1 solved. So I set up my laptop to film my class during our Morning Meeting and used my colleague’s laptop to project my Bitmoji Classroom Google Slide presentation to the at home students, as well as the students in front on me. I began the meeting, then I heard, ”I can’t get the link to work. Could you please help me?” So, I respond to my laptop inquiring as to which link was not working. No response. Then I hear another question, to which I again reply. Meanwhile, the students in front of me are sitting at their desks quietly! (any K teacher knows that this alone is abnormal!) This exchange with the random person on my computer asking a question and my attempt to answer went on for a bit. Come to find out, the student at home did not have her microphone muted and the parent was on the phone trying to figure out the link for her other child.
Am I on Candid Camera?
My desperate attempts to have my students engage in some sort of age appropriate play include providing them with a Rubbermaid container filled with materials that they can use independently and I can easily sanitize. The children mastered that art of choosing one box and bringing it back to their “parking spot.” (My desks are decorated as cars and their parking spot is their own 6 foot square for learning.) But then, I found myself saying, “Please stop, you can’t share the toys!” and “No, you can’t help him!” I teach Kindergarten. Sharing and helping are the golden rules!
Am I on Candid Camera?
To say that this new school environment is awkward and uncomfortable for parents, students and teachers is accurate.
To say that we are exhausted is an understatement.
To say that we are completely overwhelmed is underwhelming.
But, when you find yourselves in these exhausting, awkward and overwhelming situations, please try to find the Candid Camera humor in it. If you can’t laugh, you will cry, so do your best. If all else fails, you can always fantasize about driving a Coca- Cola truck!
What Candid Camera moments have you experienced this new school year? What do you find yourself saying now that you never said before? What career do you fantasize about?
The other day I was shopping for birthday cards at my local dollar store. The line to check out was extra long because there was only one register open. Reluctantly, I got in line and patiently waited for my turn to pay the $2.13 for my four cards. When I was about 4 people away, another register opened up and the cashier announced that he would take the next person in line. Well, for whatever reason, the three people in front of me hopped into his line, leaving me now in the first position in the original line.
Now, you can imagine my joy thinking that I am going to be able to leave a few minutes earlier than I originally planned. I secretly thought that the other two people were crazy to follow the first guy, but maybe they liked waiting in lines? Who am I to question them?
So, when the original register opened up, I stepped up and placed my cards on the conveyer belt. Then, out of nowhere, came a woman from Line B shouting, “Excuse me honey, but I am next.” My mind began to race and I was instantly irate. First of all, I am definitely not your honey and secondly, no you are not! The Kindergarten rules of line waiting state that if you leave a line, you lose your place. That’s how it works. Apparently, this woman missed that lesson, because not only did she infringe on my six foot bubble, she literally squeezed her way in front of me to put her items on the conveyer belt in front of mine. Shocked by the situation, I replied with the response of a five-year old, “No, you got out of line!”
It is a good thing that I am a seasoned self-talker and can calm myself down reasonably quick. Otherwise, I think I could have easily got into a screaming match with her right in the middle of the store. Fortunately, my inner voice told me to reply with just a hint of annoyance, “Whatever! I am not going to argue with you about this!” And I backed up six feet to give myself the necessary social distance required in the store.
But man was I fired up!
Once I got back to the car, I retold the story to my husband, using terms such as “Can you believe her nerve?” and “Once you leave the line, you can’t come back. Even my Kindergarten students know that!”
I am sure we can all think of examples when total strangers have annoyed us to the point of an emotional response. Someone cut you off at the intersection. The waitress forgot to put your salad dressing on the side. The baby that cried for the entire flight home. The person who stands still on the moving walkway. The family that plays their music too loudly at the beach. You have been there and done that.
What I think we all have a tendency to do during these moments is to think the behaviors of others are “happening” to us. How many times have you said, “Why does this always happen to me?”
Bad news folks. These things are not happening to you. They are just happening. The baby is not crying to annoy you. The person on the moving walkway may not be in the same hurry. The waitress did not purposely forget to change your salad order and the woman at the dollar store thought that she was in the right.
Roy T. Bennett states that we can not control the behaviors of others. We can only control how we respond to their behavior. We can choose to get angry and upset or we can choose to say, “Whatever!” and move on. It’s our choice…
How do you respond when someone annoys you? Do you immediately get defensive? Does your mouth erupt like a volcano, spilling words of lava to anyone who will listen? Are you able to ignore it and move on? Do you like to shop at the local dollar store?
For the record, I still think that I was right. Once you get out of line, you definitely lose your place. But, whatever!
So, here is an age old question that I have yet to find an answer…why do women always carry around a purse and men neatly tuck a wallet into their pocket when they go out?
I know, right? Why isn’t it the other way around? I understand that many men carry a murse, but this seems to be for very specific purposes such as traveling to work or going on a hike. Women take theirs everywhere!
My first inkling says that it goes back in time to when we were hunters and gatherers and the gatherers needed something hands free to hold the nuts and berries they collected. Since I was not an anthropology major, my only experience with the stone age is from The Flintstones. Wilma and Betty carried around purses. Could the Flintstones be historically accurate?
So I did some research and found out that there may be some truth to the fictional cartoon series. According to National Geographic, the world’s oldest purse, studded with dog teeth, was discovered in Germany in 2012. It dates back to between 2,500 and 2,200 BC. While I personally would never carry around anything that contained my “favorite child’s” chompers, I do give the designer kudos for making an attempt at fashion! What the article did not mention though, was whether a man or a woman carried it around…
Here we are in 2020 and we are not longer “hunters”, but I have become a “gatherer!” I would like to describe my purse problem as this: I use a small purse for a few months, until it becomes overloaded with “things”. I complain that it is too small, so I go out and purchase a suitcase sized one. It starts off neat, honest! Then I seem to throw everything in there and never clean it out. It is like a scavenger hunt every time I go to find my keys.
I keep hoping that I will find a lost $100 bill in there, but it has yet to happen!
My current large purse, which my husband has affectionately named, “The Abyss” is the prime example of my “trash bag”. It has gotten so bad, that my husband is afraid to look inside! But then again, he is afraid to look inside my neat, smaller purse too. I honestly don’t get why men are afraid to look inside a woman’s purse. It’s not like I have anything to hide. In there, I just have…my phone, a wallet, receipts, lipsticks, hair elastics, loose coins, latex gloves, masks, straws, Advil, a flash drive, pens, Flair pens (yes, there is a difference!) gift cards, hand cream, work lanyard, hair clips, business cards, mints, feminine products, floss, cough drops, eyeglasses, shopping lists, coupons, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, protein bar, napkins, glass lens wipes, bandaids, and Poopouri!
So why don’t men feel the same need to “be prepared”? I am sure some of these men were Boy Scouts at one point in time. According to New York Magazine, it may be that women are genetically wired to exhibit more aversion for illness or lack of hygiene than men, so they find themselves armed and ready for any situation that may arise. Okay, I get that!
So do woman really need to carry around purses? Let’s be honest ladies, do we really need everything in there? Could we function with a pocket wallet like our male counterparts or would our genetic wiring prohibit us from ever leaving the home without an arsenal of problem solving products? Should I buy my husband his own murse?
I am sadly announcing that I am a recipient of the “COVID 10”, not to be confused with the “Freshman 15”. Yes, it is true. During this quarantine, I have added on some love handles and a muffin top. I’d like to think that is has something to do with my age, but in reality, it has everything to do with my relationships…with food and exercise!
When I finally had the courage to step on the scale for the first time in months, I initially thought that the scale must be broken. I couldn’t have possibly put that much weight on! So, I did what any reasonable person would do. I stepped off, waited and then stepped back on. And do you know what happened? I gained .6 of a pound! Yes, definitely broken. So, I stepped off again. Waited. And stepped back on again half expecting to have shed a miraculous 10 pounds. But, I weighed the same!
I should have stuck with the first weight.
BC (Before Covid) I was attending a gym regularly and tracked my food through the WW (formally Weight Watchers) app. At the time, I liked to think that the new WW name stood for “Wonder Woman” because that is how I felt when I followed their plan. Who wants to say that they are in a relationship with someone who watches your weight? Wonder Woman is so much cooler!
Then the Coronavirus arrived and my discounted membership to WW expired, so I ended my affair in order to save money. You know what happened next…I rekindled my relationship with comfort foods. I calmly rationalized that I had a handle on my habits and just a few times cheating would not amount to anything. Besides, we were in the middle of a pandemic. I deserved some happiness with a pint of ice cream!
Why does that inner voice always say the right thing at the wrong time?
So now I find myself in familiar territory. I have decided to end my association between pity and food with a rebound relationship. As of this morning,I have reconnected with my accountability partner…WW!
According to Psychology Today, rebound relationships are actually better than originally thought for your overall health.
Recent evidence suggests, in fact, that people who dive into rebound relationships get over their ex-partner more quickly and feel more confident…(Brumbaugh & Fraley, 2014). This evidence builds nicely on research showing that individuals with high attachmentanxiety are better able to sever their emotional attachment to an ex-partner when they start a new relationship (Spielmann, MacDonald, & Wilson, 2009).
What unhealthy “relationship” are you currently involved in? Is it food choice? Lack of exercise? Too much alcohol? Decreased social interactions? Diminished sleep? Increased anxiety or depression? Make today the day that you decide to end that unhealthy partnership with a rebound relationship. Rekindle or ignite a spark with an accountability partner. Whether it is WW, a gym membership, AA, lunch with an old friend, yoga or a visit to a therapist, you have the power to decide to make yourself better.
As for me, I am hoping WW helps me look like Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, circa 1975! Stayed tuned…
Tomorrow we will be acknowledging perhaps my favorite holiday, Independence Day. But it is not for the reasons that you may be thinking. Sure, I love history and the story behind our country’s valiant fight to be independent from Great Britain. Who doesn’t love a “we won” story when you are on the winning side? But my reasons for loving the Fourth of July are much simpler. First of all, it is in the summer, my favorite season. The weather is warm enough for me to spend the entire day lounging on the beach with family. We share stories of our recent lives with each other, as well as reminisce about our past shared experiences, while the children dig in the sand and splash in the waves. In the evening, we share a barbecued meal and then venture off to watch a radiant display of local fireworks. There is no gift giving involved. There is no large meal preparation with an even larger clean up. There is no stress about who you wish a happy holiday to and who you might offend. We all celebrate it!
But this year, there is some uncanny irony in saying “Happy Independence Day!” We will be acknowledging our country’s freedom from a rule controlled Great Britain with more restrictions in place than I can ever remember. Gone are the large gatherings of family and friends joined together to share a potluck style barbecue in the yard. Gone are the spectacular fireworks displays to celebrate the birth of our country. Gone are the patriotic parades. So what is left to do to celebrate?
Here are three things I suggest you do:
Watch “Hamilton” on Disney+
Full disclosure here: I am a HUGE Hamilton fan. Too cheap to buy the tickets in New York with the original cast, I patiently waited for it to make the national tour stop in a local city. While this may be okay with most, it is something that I regret. I have the original cast soundtrack downloaded and have become accustomed to their immense talent. Don’t get me wrong at all. The touring cast was phenomenal! But when you listen to Lin Manuel Miranda, knowing his passion behind the story, everything else pales in comparison. So, this is why I texted my nieces and asked them if I could watch it at their house this weekend because this college parent is too broke to splurge on Disney Plus!
2. Host a BYOB(Bring Your Own Barbecue)
Boston’s Mayor Walsh adamantly states that there should be no large gatherings or cookouts. So, have a smaller one. Keep it outside and sit 6 feet apart. For those who are nervous to touch the same serving utensils, just bring your own food. July 4th is about celebrating our country’s freedom. No one is saying you can’t celebrate, you just need to be a bit more careful about how you do it.
3. Start a new tradition
Take your family to the beach or visit a local state park. Pack a picnic and find a new spot to enjoy it. Make red, white and blue tie dye shirts and wear them on your adventure.
What are your plans to celebrate July 4th? Are you able to continue with your usual traditions? Will you be doing something completely different? Will you be watching Hamilton on Disney+ like me?
You made a mistake. A big mistake! Big! Huge! By not allowing Austin and other disabled adolescents and adults into your farm you have unknowingly opened up a Pandora’s Box. This box may only be closed if you reconsider your policies and change your ways. Otherwise, the only thing that may close will be your business.
In case you are not familiar with what I am referring to, here it is:
Here is your reply:
Here is the mother’s clarification:
Then the media caught wind of your story and Turtle Boy chimed in. While I do not approve of his crass word choice or vulgar reference to children, his message is clear. You made a mistake! Big Mistake! Huge!
But Davis Farmland, the thing about mistakes is that we all make them. This particular mistake is not about which side is “right” or “wrong”. It is about what is best for both sides. Clearly, this incident has brought up the need for disabled adults to spend time at your farm. You know more than I do about the therapeutic benefits of spending time with animals. This is probably one of the very reasons you began opening your farm to the public in the first place.
On your end, you have a right to provide a safe experience for all of your guests. No one is arguing that point with you and there are many grateful parents out there that visit your farm for that very reason.
So, here is what I am proposing you do: Think about the words of Carol Dweck. This experience is a chance to grow. Open up your farm on a certain day or days for a specified time period to enable disabled adolescents and adults, as well as their caregivers, to experience the wonder of your farm. Better yet, give 50% off admission to caregivers during this time. (Caregivers are either employed or financially strapped parents.) Provide experiences geared towards people with disabilities. Do some research, create programs! Not only will you increase your business, you will provide this population with a service they crave. It will be less chaotic because there will not be young children running around every where, a benefit for those who become overwhelmed in highly stimulating environments. In addition, it will be a time for them to socialize with others. You will have a win-win situation.
Facebook and Turtle Boy are already asking people to ban your business, which I am very sure is the last thing you want to happen right now. Austin and many others just want to go to your farm. Learn from your mistake. Apologize. Amend your policies. Do the right thing.
I may be late to the game, but recently I have discovered the concept of “playlists.” I know what you are thinking…what rock has she been living under? And you are right! I had been living under the “8 minute commute rock” that when timed correctly would allow me to participate in the daily trivia contest on a local radio station. Yes, I listen to the radio! What else was I supposed to listen to in my car?
I have adult children so a playlist was not foreign term, just something that I never thought to take the time to actually think about. That is unless you count the times that I say to my daughter to add a song that “makes me smile” to her playlist titled “Mom’s Funeral.” I have already decided that when I go, I do not want people to be listening to depressing organ music in a stuffy room that reeks of day lilies. No, not this girl! I want people to be gathered in a hall, socializing (pray I go after this pandemic!) and listening to music that makes them smile. For those of you who know me best, yes, “The Chicken Dance” is on that list!
Then came Key West in February and my husband created the ultimate “have a few adult beverages and sing along” playlist that includes titles with words like margarita, pina colada, sand, beach, cold beer and did I mention tequila? Who knew there were so many songs with tequila in the title? Personally, I wish he would add Pee Wee Herman’s Tequila song and then it would be complete. Who can forget Pee Wee’s unique dance moves in the biker bar?
Fast forward to DQ (during quarantine) and I find myself with time to take walks and work on those long ignored home improvement projects. What better thing to do than listen to music to help pass the time? The radio didn’t seem like an option, so I searched Amazon Music Top Playlists and viola…a playlist listener is born!
There is everything from “Top 50 Most Played” to “Cardio Workout”, but my favorite lately is “Mellow 70s Gold.” It brings me back to my youth when songs actually had more than 10 words, used real instruments and told a story. It is perfect for singing along while painting, including artists such as Earth Wind and Fire, Rupert Holmes and John Denver. Who doesn’t love “September” (on the funeral playlist!), “Escape -The Pina Colada Song” (also on the funeral playlist!) and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (not yet on the list- jury is out on how much this song makes people smile, although it is a great sing along!)
Now, here is a shocker. If I want to know what the current hits are, I just go to my mother. She knows all of the words to Justin Bieber’s latest song and is a proud Post Malone fan, partial to “Circles”! But don’t let her fool you, she is a diverse music listener too. Just put on some Michael Jackson or Bon Jovi and she will be out there on the dance floor ripping it up!
What have you been listening to lately? Do you have a favorite go-to playlist? What is your preferred streaming service? Amazon? Spotify? Do you buy your music from iTunes? Are you a radio listener? Do you wish you had a mother like mine? Do you even like music?
The latest fashion trend is not something that you wear, rather something that you carry around. If you are under 25, you probably have one right next to you right now. You most likely have yours personalized with your name and some favorite stickers that give the average onlooker more insight to your preferences and current faves. Deciding on which one to purchase is next to impossible though. God forbid if you pick the wrong color, size or lid. It is all over then because they are so expensive ($30+) that the average middle schooler or middle ager can only afford to have one, at best!
You guessed it. I am talking about the Hydro Flask craze. Almost everyone who is in Generation Z has one. It is so popular, that is considered to be one of the defined criteria to be a VSCO girl!
I am not sure if it is the fact that I am no longer grabbing a plastic Poland Spring water bottle on my way out of the door because I no longer go “out the door”, but something has me intrigued about the popularity of the Hydro Flask. Yes, I love the trendy colors, but I am more interested in the functional use of it. Do they really keep my water at a consistent cold temperature? While I was pondering whether or not the cost would be worth the benefit, I began thinking about drinking water in general.
We all know that everything in life tends to be cyclical and water is no exception. For years we drank water right out of the tap or bubbler (for those of my readers who are not from MA, a “bubblah” is the same thing as a water fountain, not some drug paraphernalia!) Then came the bottled water phase, which I must confess that I was a guilty participant. Now, with landfills filled to excess with the empty plastic bottles, more environmentally responsible consumers are going back to basics. Alas, the Hydro Flask craze was born.
Here is my dilemma. I care about the environment and want to do my part to reduce my carbon footprint, but I have a preference for the taste of some bottled waters. If I am to be truly honest with you, my absolute favorite is Voss. No judgements please. I discovered it through an ordering accident at a restaurant and was pleasantly surprised that a $5 bottle of water could taste amazingly refreshing! I rarely buy it, because it is a ridiculous amount of money to spend. But, if I want a treat, I do splurge! My husband has also been known to buy me Voss as a present. Not only is he romantic, he is also generous!
Otherwise, I tend to gravitate towards Poland Springs. I am considering ordering the large jugs through home delivery and a refillable bottle to take with me on the rare occasion that I leave my home.
So…is the Hydro Flask really worth the hype? And the cost? Should I go with the Yeti brand, which is the brand of my beloved travel coffee mug? Should I not care what others think and continue to buy the plastic bottles and recycle them? Should I just drink the tap water and get over myself?
What are you currently using? Please share your thoughts and help me solve my latest dilemma!
One thing is for sure. Many Americans are taking the opportunity to use the repercussions of no social life to spend time completing those home projects that have been looming. A word of caution though to all of those spouses out there, Laura Numeroff If You Give A Mouse A Cookie style, you may want to think twice before you say “yes!”
If you give your wife the okay to paint…
If you give your wife the okay to paint the kitchen walls, she is going to want to paint the trim too.
Once you paint the trim (4 coats to cover the previous wood stain!) she is going to ask you to fill in the nail holes…again!
When she notices how clean the walls look next to the old backsplash tile, she is going to ask you to replace it. If you only had a wet saw..$$$!
In the meantime, while she is waiting for a professional to do the new tiled backsplash, she will notice that the ceiling can lights are discolored, so she will head back to the local home improvement chain to buy LED can lights.
When purchasing the energy efficient lights, she will remind you how much money you will save on electricity so she will suggest that you purchase new hardware for every…single…door on the first floor.
Once the new lights are installed and the hardware is gleaming, she will notice that the mudroom and half bath and hallway and living room and dining room and office need a facelift too.
So, you will head back out to the local hardware store to purchase more paint and wallpaper remover.
Realizing that you are in way over your head with projects, you will call your in-laws for reinforcement!
Once your in-laws arrive, the wallpaper is stripped and the walls are painted, you will notice that the bifold louvered doors in the mudroom are hideous and even an attempt at painting them will be grounds for divorce. So, this time you will send your son to the home improvement chain to purchase pre-painted doors.
Waiting for the new doors to be installed (by a professional because your closet opening are smaller than the standard width) and your in-laws armed with brushes, you will notice that the entry doors need some refreshing too, so you will head back to the local hardware store to choose “Tiffany Blue” to brighten things up.
With eye-catching fresh paint on the doors, you will notice that the house is in extreme need of a power-washing, so you will hire a professional to remove the mildew stains from the filthy structure.
Once the exterior of the house is sparkling clean, you will notice that the shutters need a coat of paint too…
Back inside, with your bathroom brightly painted the Benjamin Moore color of the year, your wife will suggest that you update the towel rack and toilet paper holder. Armed with a drill and anchors, you will drill and patch, then drill and patch some more until she determines that they are both in the “perfect accessible locations!”
Thinking you are done and walking along exterior and interior of the house to inspect your work, you wife will compile a long list of other outside minor repairs that she “happens to notice”, including the damaged siding.
Chances are, if you give your wife the okay to replace the siding, she is going to want some trim paint to go with it!
What kind of home updates have you been doing? Have you been able to limit your projects or are you having the domino effect too? Do you wish that all of your home renovation projects turned out exactly like the ones on Chip and Joanna Gains’ hit TV Show Fixer Upper?
Currently, I am teaching my kindergarten students about opinion writing, where they state their belief on a topic with a supporting reason(s). I teach them that there are three steps to forming an opinion:
Think about it…
Decide how you feel…
Explain your decision with a reason…
When we are in our classroom, we have a sharing time at the end of writing where selected students read their opinions to the rest of the class. Students are encouraged to ask questions and give comments to the author.
There is one rule that I have when I am allowing my students to share their opinions with their classmates. We will not tell the student that their opinion is WRONG. There are no wrong opinions as long as you have reasons to support your stance. We respect all opinions and we will not argue with anyone whose opinion is different than ours because our opinions are shaped by our experiences.
For example, a few years ago a student wrote about her favorite president. It went something like this:
Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president because he is so handsome.
I am not sure about her past experience with President Lincoln but she met the rubric with that response by thinking, deciding and giving a reason.
In our country today, there are so many opinions being shared out there. Unfortunately though, many of us have forgotten the Kindergarten rule:
There are no wrong opinions as long as you have reasons to support your stance. We respect all opinions and we will not argue with anyone whose opinion is different than ours because our opinions are shaped by our experiences.
I am haunted by the images of George Floyd’s horrific death because no one deserves to be ignored. Yes, I just shared my opinion with you Kindergarten style.
By definition, ignore means “refuse to take notice of or acknowledge; disregard intentionally.”
We all have a human need to be noticed, acknowledged and intentionally regarded. From our opinions to our cries for help, we need others to say, “I hear you!”
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the basic needs of safety and security come right after our physiological needs for food, water, warmth and rest. It is a human need to feel secure and safe. If you studied Maslow at any point in your life, you know that we can not get to the next level of “Belongingness and Love” if our basic needs are not being met.
So why are so many people angry right now? They are angry because their basic human needs or the needs of others are being denied or ignored. They do not feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods by the ones who are supposed to provide them with that very protection. Your opinion may be different because your experiences are different. Remember basic Kindergarten 101: Our opinions are shaped by our experiences.
Last night, I was moved to tears by the powerful gesture of the Boston Police Department when they took a knee to show their support with the peaceful protestors. It was not about which side was right or wrong. There was no judgement. It was a statement of “I hear you…”
I think it is time that more of us acknowledge others who have opinions that vary from our own with empathy rather than contempt. We have to listen to those whose experiences differ from our own and acknowledge them. We can just try responding with, “I hear you…”
I woke up this morning realizing that today is my graduation day. I am graduating with a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies degree as a Reading Specialist major. It was so important to me that it did not even make it into my empty calendar. I have exactly zero plans to celebrate my achievement, unless you count the congratulatory comment I posted this morning on my cohort’s Facebook page. No cap and gown. No family dinner to mark the achievement. No photo opportunity with my cohort. No raging keg party in my backyard. Nothing.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not because my family is inconsiderate or that COVID-19 ruined my plans. This lack of acknowledgment is completely on me. I downplayed my achievement to everyone, stating that I was fine with not celebrating. There are more important things going on in the world right now…
But then I woke up this morning and I thought about Brene Brown. If you are unfamiliar with Brene’s work, this will change today! She is my latest inspiration because she reminds us all that vulnerability is a blessing. Yes, you read that correctly. She defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure” and tells us that “courage and curiosity are born of vulnerability.” To me, this equals a blessing.
So, I went onto YouTube and I watched her graduation speech to the University of Texas, initially thinking that I could acknowledge my graduation with some words of wisdom. I highly recommend that you watch it now. It is for everyone right now, although I would like to think she was talking directly to me.
So, I am going to take what I learned from Brene Brown and share my wisdom with my fellow cohort members…After all, this is our graduation day and we are all feeling a little vulnerable!
It is time for us to “get back up and begin again.” We have experienced setbacks or failures in the past few weeks. Some of us need to take some extra time to finish our practicum or research project, others are submitting our paperwork for the umpteenth time and we all received an empty diploma holder… What a waste of postage!
Remote teaching is definitely not what we signed up for. The most rewarding parts of our job are the connections we make with students and colleagues and the sense of accomplishment we feel when our students demonstrate their new learning. We need our volumes of books and materials that are safely stored in our schools. We miss our classrooms, colleagues, materials and students!
We have failed. Failed to get our students to attend our online classes or Google Meets. Failed to get our students to turn in work, with about 50% of our students considered “virtual drop outs!” Failed to teach the state standards needed to complete the grade or subject level. Failed to learn how to use technology efficiently. Failed to give our own family the time and attention they deserve. Failed to put on make-up and do our hair everyday!
But, Brene Brown tells us that in every failed or set back experience is a gift because we have the opportunity to learn something from it. So what can we learn from COVID-19 experience? You still matter as a teacher. Your connections to students are important, but your connections to families are even more important right now. They are the ones who need your expertise and support. Your efforts are making a difference to the 50% of students who are participating in your remote lessons. You have learned to use technology in ways you never even thought of before. Your family will be ok. You are modeling to them the importance of vulnerability, failure and resilience by being courageous and curious. You will do your hair and make-up again everyday because we will return to the classroom “when the world readies itself for our plans”…
Congratulations to my amazing cohort! “Let’s get back up and begin again” as Reading Specialists!
The other day, I was in a meeting with several staff members planning for an upcoming staff meeting. We all felt frustrated with the limitations of our abilities to teach and reach out to our neediest students. We hated asking parents to do one more thing at home, especially when many of us are parents and know what the challenges of home schooling and working full time entail. We saw our glasses as half-empty!
After much discussion, we decided that if we were all feeling this way, we could only assume that other staff must be in the same boat. We then realized we were focusing on the negatives and completely abandoning the accomplishments that we have achieved in the past 2 months. We determined that we all needed a reminder of what we have been able to do from home and to see our glasses as half-full. So today, our staff meeting is going to be a celebration of our accomplishments!
But let’s be honest here. It is not just teachers. I haven’t heard a lot of people in the media actually talk about what is happening to our society, so I am going to name it now. We are dealing with DEATH. Our life as we knew it BC has deceased and we are all grieving!
According to the work of Elizabeth Kubler- Ross and David Kessler, there are six stages of grief.
Denial- We simply cannot believe that this is happening to us.
Anger- We display feelings from a minor annoyance to complete rage and everything in between. It is in this stage that we play the blame game. We blame the bat soup in Wohan or the person who is not socially distancing properly in the grocery store. Anger is a way to assign structure to our grief.
Bargaining- The if only stage. We want to return to the past, so we begin to analyze our present. If only I had done xyz, then maybe today would be different. If only I had known how long this was going to last, then I could have prepared myself and my family better…
Depression- We are overcome with sadness, loneliness and desperation. We do not know how we can go on living like this.
Acceptance- We have found a way to make a truce with our grief. While we will never feel the way we did before, we can find ways to accept the loss and move forward.
Finding Meaning- This is when we take our grief towards finding meaning, acknowledging positives amongst the pain and honoring them.
So today, I encourage you to fill your glass and toast yourself for all you have been able to accomplish. Find the meaning in your grief by recognizing what you have been able to do during this time. Acknowledge the achievements of others and send them a note or give them a call and let them know that you are proud of what they have been able to do during this challenging time.
In case you are wondering, here is what I will be celebrating today:
I have successfully learned about Google Meet, several Google Add Ons, Screencastify (including Editor) and Seesaw, using all of these tools to help me connect with my students and families remotely.
My co-workers, who have jumped right in to help me address the needs of my most struggling students at home.
What have you been able to accomplish? What have you noticed that others have been able to do? How have you found meaning? What will be in your glass?
The 1950s will be forever remembered for poodle skirts and cardigan sweaters.
The 1960s brought mini skirts, go-go boots and plaid pants.
The 1970s saw the arrival of bold prints, bell-bottom pants and prairie style dresses.
The 1980s was the era of spandex, leg warmers and neon colors.
The 1990s brought colored jeans, overalls and pleather (plastic leather!).
The 2000s had us dressing up and down with jeans…capris, bedazzled and pocketless.
The 2010s was the decade of the leggings, skinny jeans and boots.
Here we are in 2020 and the first fashion trend has arrived… The Face Covering!
Since it looks like this trend will be around for a while, I thought I would spend some time going over the benefits the hottest and safest fashion item of the year David Letterman “Top 10” style.
Think about the time and money that women will now be saving on make-up. No need to apply foundation, blush or lipstick. You only need to worry about your eyes and forehead. Who cares about double chins, acne or cold sores now? Just throw your face covering on and no one will be the wiser!
Your ears can only take so much elastic, so you can invest in a matching headband. Who doesn’t love a little accessorizing?
Fashion designers are now going to design outfits with a coordinating face covering, taking the angst of trying to match what you wear away from you.
When someone slips a SBD or you visit New Jersey, you now have some protection from the putrid odor.
You can hide your smirks and gasps, allowing you to feel a bit more relaxed when experiencing awkward situations.
It is a built in nose wiper! No need to worry if you forgot to keep that tissue in your pocket. Simply give your face covering a little rub and it is all taken care of.
The phrase “cover your cough” will be gone. You will no longer have to raise your elbow. You will have the freedom to just to let it out!
You carry an instant conversation starter right on your face. So, when meeting strangers, you can begin with “I notice you are a dog lover too” or “How about those Red Sox?”
Gone will be the awkward “sunglasses tan lines”. Your entire face will be protected from the sun’s damaging UV rays.
The best benefit to wearing a face covering is that we can provide ourselves and others with some protection against germs of all kinds.
I am not going to lie to you. There is not one part of me that is looking forward to wearing a face covering on a daily basis. I can assume you agree. But, if it allows us to return to some sense of normalcy, including socializing, I am all for it. And when we find ourselves frustrated with it, we now have a list of ten reasons why wearing one may not be so bad!