Skating Sunday

It’s cold. The days are short. COVID is raging, again. We are back to living close to home and limiting our time with friends and family.

So when our daughters called last week to let us know that they would be coming home to celebrate their dad’s birthday, I was nothing short of ecstatic! The girls bring such light, energy, and laughter into our home, never mind the amazing food they create for these events! Near the end of the call, they mentioned that they were going to bring their ice skates home and were hoping that we could go skating on the pond in our neighborhood park.

My initial reaction was excitement. I grew up skating. There were two small ponds in the front yard of my childhood home. My sister and I spent most winter afternoons (It was definitely colder then.) skating and pretending we were Peggy Fleming (I know. That kind of dates me, doesn’t it?). I took lessons as a kid and then again when our younger daughter began to take lessons. I have always loved the feeling of freedom that comes from gliding across the ice.

But after a few minutes of working through these happy memories, a feeling of terror took over. Am I crazy to think I can still skate? It’s been at least 15 years since I last laced up. Can I still do it? Am I too old? Is it foolish? What if I fall? What if I hurt myself? What if I look like a complete idiot? Maybe I should just stand on the side of the pond and watch. I secretly wished that when Sunday came the ice would be too rough, or the weather would be too warm, so that I wouldn’t end up having to make a decision at all.

The morning dawned. It was cold. Really cold, and it had been cold for days. The sun was shining. It was, in fact, an absolutely perfect day for ice skating. After some deliberation, I decided to go for it. I decided to embrace my fear and take to the ice with the girls. After all, how many chances do I get to do something like this with my grown daughters? We bundled up. We walked down to the pond. We checked the ice in a few spots. We laced up. We pushed off. At first I felt tense. I felt myself holding my breath. I took small glides. Then a bit longer. Then longer still. I began to relax, and the child skater in me started to emerge. I skated forward. I skated backward. I even tried a few spins! The girls were gliding and jumping and spinning all around the ice. It felt so good. It felt so right. It made me feel young and capable and happy. I could have stayed on that ice all day long!

I’m so grateful that I embraced my fear and experienced the joy and freedom and thrill of ice skating with my girls on a gorgeous, sunny, cold January day.

The Januaries

I think I have a case of the Januaries.

I’m cold.

I’m tired.

I’m a little bit bored.

I’m eating too much.

Sleeping more than I need to,

And just feeling a bit low.

I am taking some time to think, reflect, and plan.

I am spending more time reading and writing.

I’m cooking a lot.

I’m actually getting somewhere on the afghan I’m crocheting for my daughter.

I’m even spending some time just being quiet.

Maybe there’s a place for the Januaries of our lives. Maybe I just need to hibernate a bit. Maybe I’ll come out in February feeling stronger and re-energized.

OLW, 2022

Dear Winter,

Thank you for the snowstorm, cold temperatures, and threat of rain and ice. You closed schools and kept me inside for a while. You gave me time to read and write and think. You gave me time to ponder, consider, reflect on, and finally choose, my OLW for 2022. As I read all of the emails and newsletters I had saved for a snowy day, I came across this gem by Ruth Ayres. She said that when she sends her children off in the morning, she recites this line with them: “Good things are going to happen to me and through me.” This is my new mantra. I need some hope (last year’s word). I need to believe that good things are going to happen to me. I also need to take action (last year’s word also (Yes, I picked two!)) and make sure that I am making good things happen in the world. So I’ve decided to pick a new word for 2022 that embodies both. Here it is….my OLW for 2022 is:

Belonging.

I am going to continue to work this year to search for spaces where I truly belong and to create spaces of belonging for others, especially for those people who are feeling isolated or oppressed.

Thank you for helping me arrive at my OLW,

Erika

What’s the Word?

It’s time for the TWT OLW! I always enjoy this new year’s act of choosing a word to live by. It feels like a fresh way to start a year. I also find it powerful to look back on words I’ve chosen in past years and reflect on how well I did living by that word. A lot can change in a year, so some years I’ve found that the word I chose in January is not so relevant when it comes to November or December of the year. That was not the case last year. I needed my words all year long, and it’s looking like I will need to lean on them this year too. Last year I chose the word hope, but then quickly added action. Hope plus Action. OK, that is TLWs (Two Little Words), but it’s what I needed last January.

I’ve been struggling with my word for 2022. When the pandemic seemed to be waning (just a few weeks ago), I was sure I was going to choose the word belonging. It’s an idea I’ve committed to working on. I want to build spaces of belonging everywhere I go. Everyone should feel that they belong; in a school. in a family, in a community, in the world. But then late November came. My daughter (fully vaccinated) got sick with COVID and couldn’t come home for Thanksgiving. Then we started hearing about Omicron and the Fourth Wave. My son was sick over Christmas (also fully vaccinated and boosted). The return to school is filled with new safety protocols to try to stave off this contagious variant. We are back to masks at recess, desks in rows, plexiglasss at lunch, and virtual meetings. I’m starting to feel like the good coaching work that was gaining momentum before the break is going to come to a screeching halt again. I’m back to not letting people in the house unless they’ve had a negative result on an at home test. I’m feeling a bit lost. A bit frustrated. My list of words is starting to shift. Maybe survival or persistence or patience are the right words for 2022.

I’m going to keep thinking. Maybe I’ll try to wade through this wave before I decide on my OLW for 2022. A lot can change in a year. Let’s hope that things change for the better.

The Word Sharer

This morning I feel like Jerome in Peter H. Reynolds’ picture book, The Word Collector.  When Jerome had collected lots and lots of beautiful words, he chose to share his words with others. This morning I am full.  Full of knowledge,  Full of wisdom, Full of ideas.  Full of inspiration. Full of words. I am bursting.  I need to share these ideas and inspirations with the world around me. I want to throw open my windows, and instead of banging pots like the New Yorkers did during the pandemic, I want to yell out tips and quotes and bits of learning!  

I spent this past Saturday on Zoom with the staff (and some incredible alumni) from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  I was among the close to 5,000 educators who had shown up from around the world to learn on a Saturday (For some it was the middle of the night, or the middle of the day, or even the day before or the day after due to time zones!).  Here are some bits of inspiration that I want to share with all of you (some thoughts are paraphrased):

Jason Reynolds:  

Live with humility, intimacy, and gratitude.

Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie:  

Get in the water with your kids: Know your content, expect and get comfortable with trouble. Momentum without joy is a grind!! 

Pam Allyn

Learn to listen.  Learn to see.  Find your voice.

Randy Bomer: 

Teachers need to be thoughtful, adaptive decision-makers.  

You notice more when you know more. 

We need a learning culture that values experimentation, curiosity, and solitude; time to sit and do our own thinking. 

Kate DiCamillo: 

If you want to do something easy, do something else. (Advice from her dad.)

The path is often full of dark stones.  When the dark stones (representing those that have failed at the task at hand) tell you that you can’t make it, plug your ears and keep climbing. 

It’s up to us to unfold our own wings.

Lucy: I’m going to work to be kinder.

When Jason talked about gratitude, he said that he thanks people for showing up.  I’m just so glad I did. 

A Visitor

I first heard him as I was reading and settling in for the night. That deep, soft, repetitive sound that could only be one thing; an owl. I went to the window to listen more closely. Every few minutes, he’d hoot again. I ran downstairs to tell my husband who loves these kinds of sightings. We went out on the back porch to listen. Over and over again, he hooted into the night. He was pretty close to the house. He must have found a nice spot in the line of trees by the stone wall.

I heard him again the next day as I was making coffee in the darkness of the early morning hours. Hoot, hoot, hoooooot. Was he happy and just singing out to let us know? Or was he calling for a mate somewhere, or maybe protecting his new territory? As the sun rose in the sky, the hoots stopped. I hoped he’d be there tonight when the girls arrived home for a fall weekend.

We arrived home after a nice dinner and made our way quietly along the stone wall. The fall leaves crunched under our feet. I worried we might scare off our new friend. We found a spot and stopped to listen. We stood in silence and waited. Had he moved on? We’d had owls before, but they had only stayed around for a day or two. We whispered and waited. And then we heard it. So quiet at first. Just a muffled hoot. Was that him? We waited and listened. Listened and waited. Then a few minutes later, it started up. Hoot, hoot, hooooooot. He was above us. Watching us. Welcoming us home.

We Made It!

Well…here we are…heading into the last two days of this incredible school year.

When this year started, we were filled with fear. What if we get sick? What if we carry this disease back to our families? What if our students get sick? Can we figure out how to teach well in this new environment where kids have masks and are behind plexiglass and need to be socially (I prefer physically) distanced?

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer. Sit behind plexiglass.

Hybrid. Quarantine. Full time. Dedensify (Was this just our district, or was this a thing?). Mitigating measures. Distance Learning.

Zoom. Breakout Rooms. Sharing screens. The Chat Box.

And now, here we are. Vaccinations are plentiful. Graduations are happening. Kids are having recess without masks, and we are finding ways to celebrate the end of another school year.

We have all been pioneers. We have reached a destination. We will celebrate. Teachers have taken it on, made it work, overcome obstacles, and made the school year everything it needed to be for students.

I’m beyond proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish during this school year. I’m ready for a break.

We made it!

We Gathered

We gathered – around a table in my back yard, overlooking the apple orchard, on a cool and breezy May evening. No masks needed now. Beautiful smiles all around.

We ate and drank – beautiful platters of food filled the table. Each person bringing their own specialty – delicious cheeses, soft lemon bars, homemade guac and chips, skewers filled with cheese, tomatoes, and shrimp, and a fruit and nut platter. And some summer rose to sip as we nibbled.

We talked and laughed – about work, family, the upcoming summer. About the crazy year we were experiencing. Just about stuff.

We relaxed – We sat and ate and drank and talked for hours on a Monday evening. It felt like we could just stay like this all night. It felt so good to spend time with colleagues off of Zoom, gathered around, laughing and just being together.

We need to do this again….soon.

Thank you

“Just say, ‘Thank you.'” my dad advises when I try to deflect compliments. He’s right most of the time, but this time “thank you” just didn’t feel like nearly enough. It was Sunday evening and I was heading to bed after a most spectacular Mother’s Day. I tried to express to the girls and my husband how much the day had meant to me.

“I can’t tell you how touched I am by all you did to make this day special.”

“Thank you for making me a mother and for being the most wonderful daughters.”

“Your kindness and thoughtfulness is beyond….just beyond.”

“Thank you for a day of fun, love, and spectacular food and entertainment.”

None of it seemed quite right. None of it felt like enough, but I couldn’t keep blabbering on like this. I wanted so badly to capture all that I was feeling with words, but I couldn’t do it. I wanted so badly for the girls to know how full my heart was. Even as I lay in bed thinking back on the day that started with my coffee and cereal served on a paper doily, a beautifully set table filled with handmade cards and the most thoughtful gifts, followed by brunch with my dad, stepmother, and extended family (for the first time around one table in more than a year), and then on to a walk along the beach, back home for some crossword puzzle solving and newspaper reading, and then fancy appetizers and the New York City Ballet Gala, a most delicious dinner of my favorite swordfish, and finished off with a game of Baby Boomer Trivial Pursuit and doughnuts from THE best doughnut shop around, I struggled to find words.

Maybe there aren’t words for this. Maybe it’s just this overwhelming feeling of joy and love and gratitude that can’t be captured. Maybe I shouldn’t even try to capture it. Maybe I just need to let it fill me up. Maybe I just need to savor it and hold onto it as long as I possibly can. I guess I just have to trust that my family knows that they created this experience and that I thank them. Maybe I’ll just have to leave it at that.

Thank you.

Feeling Some Normal

Do you want to come over for dinner?

How about if I order some pizza and we come by for an early Sunday dinner?

I haven’t said these words for over a year! COVID has kept us from seeing our friends and family over the dinner table. We have done our best to stay in touch by phone or Zoom. We have gathered outside around firepits. We have had meals together, but sitting at separate tables, at least 6 feet apart. We have taken walks with masks and more recently, without.

But this week, Tim and I gathered on several different occasions with friends and family (We are all vaccinated, of course.). We gathered around the same table, inside, and without masks. We talked and laughed and ate and drank for hours on end. We hugged on the way in. We hugged again on the way out. We made plans for our next dinner gathering.

I’m feeling some normal. It feels so good.