Play ball – SOLSC Day #31

There is nothing that represents the beginning of April more than “One Shining Moment” (after the National Championship basketball game).  There is nothing that represents the middle of April like the crack (or ping if it is aluminum) of a bat.  There is nothing that represents the end of April more than watching the lacrosse ball hit the back of the net (and just hang there for a second).  While all this happens, cue the crowds jumping to their feet and roaring in the background.  It is all that is wonderful about sports.  It is all that is wonderful about April.

As I walk by the local elementary school (and park), I notice that the basketball rims have been taken off the backboards.  No Shining Moment.  As I drive by the community baseball field (gripping the dashboard because my daughter is driving me), I notice that the entrance gate to the field is locked and a sign is posted on the pitcher’s mound that reads “Closed Until Further Notice.”  No crack or ping of the bat.  As I run by the local high school, the varsity football field is closed and the lacrosse nets are locked to a fence behind the far goalposts.  No ball in the back of the net.  This April there won’t be any fans jumping to their feet and roaring.  The courts and the fields will remain quiet.

But at the end of March, there is a glimmer of hope that sports will be back.  As I walk by a neighbor’s house, there is a pickup basketball game going on.  Dad is trying really hard, maybe too hard, as he takes on his three little kids, but there is laughter and there is “One Shining Moment” when the littlest girl shoots the ball over her dad’s outreached hand and it swishes the net.  As I run by a house near the school, I hear the ping of a bat.  Could it be?  Yes.  There is a middle school girl in her driveway hitting a softball off of a tee and into a net.  She’s crushing it.  As I drive by a house in another neighborhood close to my own, I see a boy getting ready to attempt to score a lacrosse goal against his little sister.  You can barely tell it’s a little girl because she’s in a football helmet, chest protector, lacrosse gloves that are way too big, and she is wearing arm and leg pads (the cutest part is that she is wearing a skirt).  She is looking like a true goalie, but her skills aren’t sharp enough because her brother rips one by her and the tennis ball (I hope its not a lacrosse ball) hangs in the net for a millisecond.  With every scenario, I wanted to jump up and roar, and in fact, I imagine a crowd jumping up and roaring.  It leaves me with the hope that there will be something to cheer about soon.

Believe me, I have been cheering.  I have been cheering on the nurses, doctors, police officers, mailmen/mailwomen, grocery store workers, firefighters, teachers, and all of the other people who have been helping through this difficult time.  Sports aren’t life, but it provides life with competition, determination, passion, teamwork, self-esteem, accountability, leadership, and physical health.  It provides balance.  So, April might be as “normal” as March, but there is still hope for May and that we will hear those two beautiful words, “Play ball.”

Things I miss vs. Things I don’t miss – SOLSC Day #30

This morning, as I communicated with kids and teachers, I started to create a list of things that I miss and things that I don’t miss while being stuck in my house.  Here is the list of things that I miss: my students, friends (other adults), daily routine, outings (concerts, museums, libraries), Wegmans (grocery shopping), coffee (from my favorite local spot), and watching sports.  Here is the list of things that I don’t miss: driving my children to dozens of sporting practices and events a week, eating take-out or at a restaurant, waking up at 5:15 AM, the hectic weeknight schedule, (useless) meetings at school, listening to people complain (about school, students, their schedule, etc), nightly trips to the grocery store to buy things I don’t need (example: chocolate), and wasting money on coffee and treats (that I can make at home).

I found it very strange that my lists were almost even (7 things that I miss and 8 things that I don’t miss).  I guess in my mind, before creating the list, I predicted that I missed more things than I didn’t miss.  This leads me to a quote that I read on Saturday.  It reads:

“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”                                          – Dave Hollis

Is it normal that I drive anywhere between ten to fifty miles a night driving my children to sporting practices and games?  Is it productive to sit in a meeting for thirty to one hundred and twenty minutes if nothing is getting accomplished?  Do I need chocolate every single night of the week?  Why do I arrive at 6:20 AM to school when the day starts at 7:45 AM?  Can I ask a fellow teacher not to include me in all of the negative talk about school and students? 

While I contemplate these questions (on runs, long walks, laying awake in bed), I am starting to find answers to these questions and my goal is to return to normal a different person (not better, not worse, just different).  My goal is to have a different “normal” and more focus on what is important.

What do you miss?  What don’t you miss?

April is coming – SOLSC Day #29

A soft, warm breeze,

wind chimes singing.

Tulips budding,

and blooming.

Long blades of green grass,

growing again.

Warm spring rains,

worms swimming in puddles.

Bicycles racing,

up and down the street.

Baseball fields.

come alive with action.

Birds chirping,

building homes as nests.

Squirrels scramble,

from tree to tree.

Longer, brighter days,

with a warmer sun.

Windows cracked open,

laughter in the air.

We’ve waited all winter,

for April.

For the most part, the weather has cooperated in Central New York.  Outside of a stray snowstorm, we are moving in the direction of green grass and warmer breezes.  Another winter snow is possible in April (can never be ruled out), but the day-to-day weather pattern promises for a more typical April.  I hope.

Almost a bad parenting moment – SOLSC Day #28

“My gratuitous two cents, see if you can’t find a silver lining in all of this.”

                                                                                                – Governor Cuomo (NY)

On Thursday, I had my first virtual faculty meeting on Zoom.  The meeting ran for an hour, and then, my teammates texted me to see if I could set up a meeting for 1:30 with them (the first meeting that I’ve ever hosted).  At the same time, my wife was on a sixty-minute webinar with the head of her school’s technology department.  While we were both working, something important slipped our minds and made us question our parenting abilities.

The door to the television room in the basement opens and my wife has a panicked look on her face.  She has her computer in her hand and ear phones on, but she slips me a piece of paper.  It reads, “Where is Fiona?  She has a Google Meet visit with her teacher scheduled for 1:30.”  Obviously, now I am in panic mode, so I calmly tell my teammates that I will be right back.

I head upstairs and check out the front window.  No Fiona.  I head to the back sliding glass door.  No Fiona.  I run upstairs and check her bedroom.  No Fiona.  And then as I head back down the stairs, I hear her voice.  I go back upstairs, into her bedroom, and open the playroom door off of the bedroom to find her sitting in front of the computer screen talking to her teacher.  She has a huge smile on her face.

After our meetings are done, my wife and I find out that Fiona did tell my wife that she was heading upstairs to talk with her teacher.  My wife was in the middle of the webinar and shook her head but didn’t really hear her.  She had set an alarm on her watch for 1:20.  She came in the house (she was drawing with chalk on the driveway (art class), washed her hands, grabbed a Chromebook, and went to her meeting for a virtual meeting with her teacher.

This begs the question: Does she really need us?  She’s in fourth grade. She’s the youngest of four.  She tests our pool and puts chlorine in it each summer day (completely shocked a teacher friend that was over one morning), she puts away her laundry (sometimes does it), she makes her own lunch (and sometimes her siblings’ lunches), and does her homework without being asked (she sometimes helps her ninth grade brother by saying, “Did you read the passage before answering the questions?”).  She is more independent than all three of her older siblings.

There are so many things that are awful about the Coronavirus and the sickness that it is causing in the world, but I do agree with the governor on his quote from today.  There is a “silver lining”.  I know that Fiona is independent, but I have taken it for granted.  I am noticing so many things about my family that I did not notice before.  In the hustle and bustle of life, you take so many things for granted, so for me, the “silver lining” of this time of quarantine is that I’m seeing all of the wonderful aspects of my family.

Singing from the Windows – SOLSC Day #27

After reading a wonderful Thursday post (Morning Reality) from my friend, Amy, I spent so much time thinking about the power of the written word (the meaning that it presents and the meaning that is lost).  So, last night, when I sat down to enjoy a free concert by Dave Matthews (from my basement and his garage), all of my writing thoughts came full circle.

I found inspiration is Dave’s words and music.  I was inspired to buy local and help the small businesses get back on their feet when the nation is ready.  In fact, I plan to place a craft beer order tomorrow at a former student’s local brewery.  I was also inspired by his song selection and his approach.

Dave stood in front of his computer with his guitar and microphone, but you could tell that it felt awkward to him.  He didn’t know who was in the audience (come to find out there were approximately 1.7 million people in the audience), but it was evident that he wanted his music to comfort them.  Isn’t this the same with us as writers?  I don’t know who will read my words today or any day, but I just hope that I can provide the reader with a smile or a tear (depending on my intention).

Dave picked specific songs to sing (evidence: Virginia in the Rain, Singing from the Windows, Don’t Drink the Water), and he wanted them to sound good (evidence: he critiqued himself for missing a verse in a song).  Isn’t this the same with us as writers?  We pick topics that we hope will have meaning for someone else, and we want our words to be perfect (at least as perfect as they can be).  We want people coming back to read more of our words.

I couldn’t help but to find similarities between Dave Matthews performing a concert in front of his computer to us, as writers, typing posts into our computers each day.  I was inspired to write.  I was inspired and hopeful that my words will make a difference (even if it’s for just one reader).

Side note: I’ve been to MANY of Dave’s shows, and for the next show that I attend; I will be wondering why he picked the songs for that specific concert.  I’m sure that there is a message.:)

A visit with Gram and Pop – SOLSC Day #26

“Do you want to take me driving, Dad?” My oldest asks.

Before I can even answer, the younger two have already stated that they are also going and are calling out their specific seats in the van.  My kids still call their seats.  My son would have to sit in the back, so he decides not to go.

In my mind, I have the perfect place to visit.  “Let’s go to Gram and Pop’s house for a visit.”  And this is met with cheering from the back seat.  The kids haven’t seen my parents (their grandparents) since March 4th, which might be one of the longest stretches without seeing them in a long time.

We make the two and a half mile drive over to their house.  With every new mile that I drive with my daughter, I feel a little more at ease.  Not completely at ease – I still need an adult beverage after a trip, but it’s getting easier.  While driving over to their house, I send a text to my mom that we were coming.  Obviously, they are at home without a ton going on, so as we pulled into the bottom of the driveway, the front window slides open immediately and there is my mother hugging herself.  She actually knocked my dad out of the way so she could get a better view.  The first thing she tells the girls is that she is hugging herself as if she is hugging them.  She is a real hugger, but because of their age and some health issues (my mom has been a life-long diabetic), we aren’t taking any chances.

So, our family reunion happened on their front lawn.  All four of us (the three girls and I) were gathered on the lawn, and Gram and Pop from the front window.  It was wonderful to see them.  I could tell that they needed a visit, and as we talked about the visit on our way home, it was evident that we also needed a visit.  My poor dad barely got in a word while my mother told us about everything that they have been doing, which is basically eating, cooking, reading, and watching television.  She even took a picture of us on the front lawn to put on her Facebook account (She tagged me.  The picture has hundreds of likes.  I don’t even have 100 friends.  Who knew that she was so popular?).  Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be visiting with my parents through a front window.  It was definitely a sign of the “current” times.

We were about a mile and a half away from their house (my daughter wanted to do some extra driving, so we took the LONG way home), when my oldest daughter said, “Gram and Pop are so awesome.  If I had to live in quarantine with my future husband, I’d kill him.”

The little one in the back pipes in, “Well, Mom and Dad haven’t killed each other yet.”  A huge smile on her face.

And my oldest, mind you has been driving me nuts lately, answers, “Well, they’re like Gram and Pop.  They’re soul mates.”

This made my night.  We may be struggling with the fact that we are confined to our houses without our students, but at the same time, I’m learning so much about my family, and even a bit about myself.

A Healthy Hobby/Habit – SOLSC Day #25

These times are unprecedented.   We are living in isolation.  Many people are using social media to stay connected, but I find that is not helping me.  It may be helping others, but not me.  I have found two things are helping me through these strange times: writing and running.  This writing community is helping me.  And if I reflect on these two hobbies that are helping, I find that they are both very healthy.

Last March, I was part of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I loved it (and that’s why I am back this year), but last year, I squeezed writing into my already hectic schedule.  I was writing while sitting at my daughter’s soccer game, my son’s lacrosse practice, and even while I waited at stoplights in my car.  I loved it, but it felt more like an obligation.  This year, it doesn’t feel that way at all.  This year, it is an opportunity to share, comment, and be part of a wonderful community of writers.  It is a chance to find solace and peace in a time when both are difficult to come by.

This March, the Challenge has led me down new, unexplored paths.  My seventh grade daughter is writing a book, and we talk about it every single day (it is fantasy and very much like the Red Queen, which she loves).  It has led me to helping start a writing community at school with my fellow writing friend, Amy.  As of today, there are 27 people part of our school writing community (and it started on Monday).  Lastly, it has led me to find a focus while out enjoying a walk or run.  My ideas (and even some daily writing topics) have been born during a run or walk.  It has given me a chance to share my words with a community.

So, thank you to everyone who organized this year’s (and last year’s and next year’s) March Slice of Life Story Challenge.  You have helped a community of writers feel safe sharing their words.  You have helped a community of writers cope with these difficult times.  THANK YOU!

Is it winter again? – SOLSC Day #24

Winter is back,

weighs heavy on the trees,

there is a chill in the air,

that leaves the tips of your fingers raw.

Winter is back,

only for a day,

it’s easier to take,

than the first snow in October.

Winter is back,

snow men, snow forts everywhere,

long strings of snow,

drop from the telephone lines.

Winter is back,

the thickness creates a beautiful silence,

cold puddles in the road,

it’s melting as fast as it arrived.

Spring will be back,

a little patch of grass appears,

the birds aren’t going anywhere,

they remind us of warmer days to come.

The heavy snow that fell on Monday created a winter wonderland that I know will not last.  It makes it easier to enjoy its beauty.  Streets were left unplowed because no one was going anywhere (had to run in the tire tracks someone left behind).  Today, the snow melts, the birds chirp, and there is a majestic quiet that won’t be replicated when we get back to our “normal” lives.  It was a great way to start the day.

When Sunday didn't seem like a Sunday – SOLSC Day #23

We all get some form of the “Sunday Back-to-School” blues.  The kids get it worse than we do, but “Sunday Back-to-School” blues usually set in during the afternoon as we prepare for the hectic school week that lies ahead.  The kids finish their homework and studying that they put off until Sunday afternoon.  They get their clothes and lunches ready for Monday.  We update our websites for the week, grade some papers, pack our lunches, and finish up any late minute weekend projects.  The weekends are short (and move so quickly) that you never accomplish everything that you set out to get done when creating your “to-do” list on Thursday or Friday.

This Sunday, for the first time in my teaching career, was different.  I had the “Sunday Back-to-School” blues but for a completely different reason.  There was no final soccer practice to rush my girls to on Sunday night.  There was no battle (oops…I mean productive work session) to help the kids finish their homework before Monday morning.  There was no lunch to be made or clothes to be laid out for school (I’m not wearing a tie for distance learning/teaching).  There was no school/personal “things to do” list for the week (I love crossing things off).  So, why did I still have the blues?

I had the blues because I haven’t seen my students since Monday.  I had the blues because I won’t see them this week (and likely, for the next few).  I had the blues because my own children need more than “distance learning” school.  I had the blues because I don’t get to wear a tie today (although, I may wear one to my virtual board meeting tonight).  I had the blues because this isn’t teaching.

I miss the “Sunday Back-to-School” blues.  I can’t wait until they are back.  Strangely, my own children can’t wait until they are back (during high/low at dinner on Sunday night, all four kids stated their weekend “low” was missing their friends).  I wonder if I will have the “Sunday Back-to-School” blues when we return to school?  I have a feeling that when we start hustling and bustling again, the “Sunday Back-to-School” blues will be back.  I can’t wait!

What do you dream will happen? – SOLSC Day #22

At about the four-mile mark of my run on Saturday, I am startled by a loud, “Hey!”  I just about jumped out of my skin.  Out of the corner of my left eye, I see an older man running out of his garage with garden shears in his hands.  You see, that up until this point of my sunny (but cold) Saturday afternoon run, I had seen very few cars, passed very few walkers or runners, and was enjoying the eerie quiet of a weekend run.  Not anymore.

“My wife and I watch you run by our house in the dead of winter, on the hottest days, and now, we watch you every day from our quarantined house.  You are awesome.  Thank you for the daily dose of normalcy.” And he waves and heads back into his garage.  That’s it.

Wow!  As my heart rate comes down (I honestly thought that I was going to get a shearing today), I am overcome by his compliment.  I provided normalcy, which I am searching for, for someone.  It put a pep in my running step and also gets me thinking more deeply about him and our sense of community.

I’ve run by that man’s house over one thousand times in the last decade, and when he is out in the yard, he has only grumbled a “hello” or gave a half wave.  Today, in the worst pandemic of my lifetime, he compliments me and thanks me (and I thought he might even give me a garden shear in hand hug, which I would not have allowed because of social distancing).  And this leads me to dreaming about what life will be like when our nation gets healthy.

I dream that we will be a community (neighborhood, county, state, nation, and world) again.  I dream that small local business owner’s will make tons of money and get back on their business feet.  I dream that grocery store shelves will be stocked with goods (especially toilet paper) that consumers will continue to buy.  I dream that our students will come back to school and feel safe to learn in our classrooms and school buildings.  I dream that when life gets hectic again we will remember this time that we slowed down and spent time with family and self-reflection.  I dream that all of our health care providers will be recognized for their daily acts of heroism.  I dream that all of my neighbors will wave and say “hello” when I pass them.  I dream that humanity will be stronger after all of this.

What do you dream will happen?