Sunday, March 31, 2019

One Final Thought for March

It's been a quiet, lazy morning, spent sipping my vanilla latte and watching The Ted Bundy Tapes while leaned back in our new recliner with a sleeping cat curled up at my feet. I will admit there is a twinge of guilt because, of course, there is a whole list of things that need doing today. But those things can wait. I think I'm finally learning it's wise not selfish to take care of myself.

It seems appropriate that this last day of March, this last day of the writing challenge, has arrived with bright blue, beckoning skies full of hope and promise. It is a welcome change from the churning gray and doubt and fear that has colored much of the month. Although nothing has really changed, today I feel that I have. On the days when the sky was dark and threatening, I learned to put up my umbrella and soldier on. I learned to look for rainbows and believe in their promise. I learned that every storm passes eventually and that blue skies are always on the horizon. It may not feel like it at times, but just hold on and wait and they'll appear.

During this month, I have read blog posts about needing to stay positive and watering flowers not weeds. All right and true words, and yet, in the face of some challenges, wholly inadequate. Demons, like weeds, sometimes do appear and need to be dealt with, not simply ignored with a cheerful expression plastered on your face. And there are times that demand our tears, no apology necessary.  We just can't let those days defeat us.  

The sun streams through the windows and the chirping of birds flitting through the air can be heard just outside. I don't know what the day holds in store. There is a part of me that is afraid of what waits just ahead. But in this moment, all I know is clear blue skies and the promise of a beautiful day. 

And that is enough for now.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Shoes, Shoes, and More Shoes

1...2...3...4...5. Five pairs of shoes strewn across the entryway floor. Which is interesting, really, because only four people live in this house and not a single pair of shoes is mine. The reason none of them are mine is because I've learned a secret that the others clearly don't know. Quite some time ago, I discovered that after I took my shoes off, I could pick them up and carry them upstairs. And put them away in my closet. I know, crazy, right? Who knew it was possible to carry things up the stairs?

It drives me crazy, these shoes all over the floor. You walk into the house and it looks like you accidentally walked into a shoe store, albeit an extremely messy one. It's not like they're neatly stacked in a corner, mind you. They are. all. over. the. place. Last night I didn't turn on the light before heading up the stairs and stumbled on an oversized pair of hiking boots sitting right in front of the bottom stair. My own fault, really.  I should have assumed they were there. I mean, where else would they be? The closet?

The thing is, too, the boys of the house all know it drives me crazy. How many times have they heard me rant about keeping the entryway neat? I once bought a cute box for them to put their shoes in, figuring that if I couldn't get them to take their shoes to their room, at least they could be neatly contained in the corner. Do you think that worked? Of course not. The pile of shoes just grew until they overflowed onto the floor.

This morning before I vacuum, I will carry those five pairs of shoes up the stairs and deposit them in the room of their rightful owner. (Although, truth be told, the kids' feet have gotten so big, it's getting harder to tell them apart.) I will hope, once again, that my boys will get the hint: shoes are either on your feet or put away.

But I know how this story will end. You probably do, too. Later today, a curse word or two will be mumbled under my breath after I trip over yet another pair of abandoned shoes.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Third Grade Enthusiasm


"Yes?" twenty-three voices respond in unison.

"So, here's the plan. You have all been divided into the four tribes we will be studying. Everyone got either their first or second choice. I have two sources of information for each group. You will research your tribe, and then you will work as a team to create a Google slide presentation to share your research."

Honestly, I wasn't expecting the reaction I receive. Hands clap together. Smiling faces turn to look at each other in eager anticipation. Cheers erupt.

"Along the way, we will also do a few craft projects to explore the cultures of some of the California Indians," I continue.

More excitement erupts from the crowd of third graders.

"I like social studies now!" one boy enthuses, grinning from ear to ear.

After announcing the groups, giving them instructions on what to do, and getting them settled with their first source of information, I stand back and watch them get to work.

Personally, it hasn't been a great day. Just moments after announcing to my coworkers in the morning that I was hopeful that this would be the first "normal" day this week, I had received a message that quickly squelched that idea. More not-so-great news had followed, leaving me feeling deflated.

But now, as I look at these eager young faces, I can't help but smile and feel just the tiniest bit excited, too.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

District Writing Assessment

The only sound in the room was the clacking of pencils hitting the paper as my students began to fill it with their minds' creations. I looked around the room; every head was bent down over their desk, each person in the room intently focused on the task at hand.

I had spent the first few minutes running from raised hand to raised hand. They were full of questions. Unfortunately, most questions were met with an apologetic "I'm sorry, I can't answer that." It wasn't because I didn't want to answer their questions. In fact, I had had to stop myself a couple of times; after all, answering questions was what I was there for. But the rules today were different. My students were taking their district writing assessment.

Watching them in this moment, hurriedly moving their pencils across their paper in an attempt to keep up with their minds, it struck me just how committed they were as writers. Fifteen minutes in and several had already gotten up to get another piece of paper. There hadn't been a single "I don't know what to write." It was clear that everyone, even my kiddos who struggle with conventions, knew what to write. There wasn't even the slightest hint of ADHD in the room. 

These kids had come a long way. At the beginning of the year when they were asked to write a narrative, it was clear that many didn't know exactly what that even was. Now, my only concern was that they would have too much to say and wouldn't be able to finish in time. (The directions say the writing is untimed, but they have only two days to write. Yeah, I don't really get it either. Sounds like a time limit to me.)

When they are done, I know their stories won't be perfect. You are, after all, dealing with the imaginations of eight and nine year olds. But, man, are they confident writers! It is clear they know they have stories to tell and that there will be someone excited to read them.

Another hand went up. I walked over, prepared to recite my "I can't answer that" line. I could see that J had filled two sheets of paper, cramming a final line into the bottom margin.

"I'm finished. You said there was a limit to what we could write, right?" he asked.

"Oh, no. We have to finish these tomorrow, but there's no limit to the number of pages you can have," I assured him.

"Oh, phew!" he replied, and turned back to his piece of writing.

Which reminds me. I need to get more paper.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

For My Husband

"Whatcha doing, honey?" I called to my husband from the bathroom where I was getting ready for work.  I could see him sitting on the edge of the bed, phone in hand.

"Reading your blog," he answered.

"Aww. Thanks!"

"It better be about me and it better be flattering," he added.

"Tomorrow," I responded, and we both laughed.

It's now tomorrow, and I have to say, if anyone deserves a flattering blog post, it's my husband. Now, don't get me wrong, he has his faults. We all do. But I honestly don't know how I would survive without him.

Dan has been my rock the last few. . . well, I was going to say weeks, but since we've been married for almost 21 years, it's really been much longer than that. We certainly have had our ups and downs along the way. Broken communication lines have at times threatened to pull us apart, but never went so far as to sever the ties that bind us. We have had our share of challenges, I suppose: years of struggling with infertility, job stresses, sick children needing to be rushed to emergency, and the loss of loved ones. Recently, though, I have realized that overall we have been pretty blessed. The challenges have been few and far between.

Over the last couple of months, though, it seems like the challenges just keep coming. And while one could argue that they're my challenges, he has accepted them as our challenges.  

Dan has taken time out his day to make phone calls to make sure my mom had transportation to and from the hospital. He has made trips to the pharmacy and then delivered the meds to my mother, all after spending over 10 hours at work. He has spent his days off taking her to the doctor, stopped by after work to check in on her, and convinced her to come over for dinner when she resisted. 

He's done countless little things for me as well. Just last Sunday morning, I had shut myself in our bedroom to grade my students' narratives. Suddenly, Dan appeared with a plate filled with toast and an omelet. (I didn't even know he could make omelets. After 23 years together, you'd think there'd be no more surprises.) He brings me coffee and cooks the occasional dinner or picks it up when we're both too tired to cook. He gives me space to write my blog and encourages me to keep going. He picks up the kids and takes them to appointments. He pours me a drink at the end of a long day and listens to my rambling tales and my angry rants. He sits with me on the couch and binge watches Netflix when we just need to escape reality for a while. He makes me laugh and plans our future with me. We get each other in a way no one else ever could.

So, Dan, this one's for you. During all the recent rainy days, you have been my rainbow, promising me that we will weather this and every storm. . . together. I know it may not always seem like it, but I do notice and appreciate everything you do for me and for our family. And even though, as we are quickly learning, growing old kind of sucks, I am so glad that I get to grow old with you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Too Many Questions, Not Enough Answers

I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of keeping it together, but last night I lost it.

I was finishing up a few things at work before packing up and heading home. My husband and teenager were on their way to pick up my son's car after being serviced, so it was my job to pick up our younger son. Dinner with a glass of wine was all that was on my mind.

Then, my phone rang.

Ordinarily, I would not have answered it since I didn't recognize the number. Lately, however, there have been countless calls regarding my mom so I have learned to pick up anyway.

"Hello?" I said hesitatingly, hoping fervently that I was not about to be greeted by a telemarketer.

"Hi. Is this Amanda?" an unfamiliar voice queried.

"It is."

"Hi. This is Catherine, your mom's home health nurse. How are you?"

Well, I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be good all that much longer, but I did the polite thing and said I was fine.

"I wanted to update you about your mom. . ."

It went downhill from there.

Over the course of the conversation, my plan for a relaxing evening at home was replaced with one that involved a trip to the ER. Only it wasn't really an emergency. (Why would you go to the Emergency Room if it weren't an emergency??) I had a hard time wrapping my head around what she was saying. One minute we had to go, the next we could wait until tomorrow. What made me lose it however, was the fact that I was just learning that when my mom had started antibiotics for an infection a week ago, the doctor had told her to send my mom to the ER if the wound wasn't looking better in three to five days. Why was I just hearing this now? It seemed like this would have been good information to have had a week ago. Forewarning us certainly seemed preferable to urging us to go to the ER at five o'clock at night.

I'm afraid I wasn't very nice as all my frustrations and worries of the past few weeks (or has it been months?) came spewing out all hot and fiery like lava from a raging volcano.

I got off the phone once again not knowing what was the right thing to do. It was a feeling I was experiencing a lot lately. I still hadn't figured it out when my husband and I arrived at my mom's. She ended up making the decision for us. She seemed stronger and more self-assured than she had the last few days and stated plainly that she didn't want to go to the ER. I told her that I would get in contact with her doctor to find out what her orders really were and made my mom agree that she would do whatever the doctor advised. I left, hoping we had made the right decision..

At an age where I used to think I'd have it all figured out, I'm finding myself all too often with so many questions and too few answers.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Taste of Home

I reached into the cabinet above the oven and pulled out my old wooden recipe box. Rifling through the tattered pieces of paper and index cards, I found just the one I was looking for and pulled it from the box. I walked over to the kitchen counter, set it down next to the ingredients that I had already gathered there, and began the necessary preparations without even a glance at the recipe card. I don't know exactly why I even got it out. I had made this casserole so many times I knew the recipe by heart. But I guess there was a measure in comfort in just having the recipe near. 

Comfort. That was what I was looking for. That was the reason I had decided to make the casserole my mother had made hundreds of times while I was growing up. I figured we could all use a bit of comfort food tonight.

As I chopped the yellow onion and green pepper, I thought about the article my sister-in-law had shared on Facebook the day before about the emotional benefits of cooking. Honestly, I had scoffed at the idea. Cooking was not one of my favorite things to do, although it may not be the cooking itself but the piles of dirty dishes afterward that stress me out. Aside from the casserole dish it would bake in, there would only be a knife, cutting board, and a couple of measuring cups that would need washing afterward. I began to feel the tension melt from my shoulders as I fell into a familiar rhythm measuring and layering the ingredients. My husband and younger son were working in the yard, and my older son was shut up in his room, hopefully, but not likely, doing his homework. It was just me and the task at hand. I began to think cooking might be therapeutic after all.

After laying a few slices of bacon on top, I covered it and slipped it into the hot oven. Now, all I needed to do was wait. It would be one and a half hours before my mom, husband, sons, and I would be able to sit down to dinner. It would be worth the wait, though. When it was done, it would emerge from the oven bubbling and sizzling and smelling like home.