Pushing Myself to Write

I really don’t want to write tonight.

My brain is on overload.

Maybe I’ll just skip a slice.

Would anyone really notice?  Would anyone really care?

I’m so tired.

I don’t want to sit in a chair in front of a screen for another second.

I would just be missing ONE day.

Out of 31 days.

But it’s day #25.

I’ve made it this far.

I can’t miss a day.

It just wouldn’t be right.

So I sit here and try to write something.

It’s not good.

It’s not thoughtful.

It’s not meaningful.

But there is writing on the page.

I guess that’s something.



Distance Learning, Family Style

Our two daughters are home with us, practicing social isolation for who knows how long.  Today was the first day that everyone practiced working/schooling from home.  My daughters are both involved in graduate work, and one daughter is still working as well (lucky girl). My husband is launching a new business (not great timing, we know).

We have a small house, and we are now four adults.  This distance learning involves a lot of talking and noise. Yesterday, we decided to get organized for the week. I set up my office in the guest room.  Morgan decided that she would work from her bedroom (which is right next to the guest room.  Tim and Mackensie planned to have offices downstairs. Mackensie took over the sunroom, and Tim, the living room.  This seemed like a good plan.  We wanted to make sure that people were free to go in and out of the kitchen, that the dog had someone to let her in and out (She seems to want to go in and out all day now!), and that everyone had a space that offered privacy.   But when the morning came, it quickly became clear that adjustments were needed.

I had my first meeting at 8:30.  Both girls were still asleep. I certainly can’t be talking in my Google Meet in the room upstairs that sits between the girls’ two rooms, so downstairs I went to the sunroom.  At 8:55, Mackensie sent me a text.

“When do you think your meeting will be over?  I have a class starting at 9:30.”

“I’m finishing up in a few minutes,” I texted back. (Texting each other from one room to another may be another strange part of this distance learning situation.)

Thankfully, my meeting came to a close, so I went up to my office, and she took over hers.

Then Morgan’s classes started.  Did I mention that Morgan is getting her MFA in dance? Classical music started playing, professors were talking, and she was, yes, dancing.  I really enjoyed the experience, but it was a bit distracting. Morgan quickly realized that her small space in her small bedroom does not work for a dance floor. Tomorrow we are redesigning the dining room and making it into a dance/exercise space. We are all pretty desperate for exercise at the end of the day, so maybe we can have a family exercise class in the early evenings.

Then it was my time to have another meeting, and Morgan was on a meeting at the same time.  My desk is just on the other side of the wall from her desk.  This won’t do!  Into my bedroom I went for the next hour or so.

This new distance learning/working is going to take some adjustment, but we all survived the first day.  We will see what tomorrow brings.

Embrace Boredom

I don’t know about you, but I have had some moments over the past weeks when I’ve been really bored.  Today, for example, I walked around the house to find something that needed doing.  Everything was clean.  All the dishes were put away.  The garbage and recycling have been taken out. I had completed and posted my writing.  I had taken a nice walk. I had read my book AND the newspaper, and it was still only 4:00.  What, I wondered, was I going to do now?  I can’t go out and run errands.  The movies are closed.  I can’t call a friend to meet somewhere. I can’t even run down to the coffee shop for an afternoon latte (not that I ever did that before, but I could have).

So I decided to go read some of the emails and blogs I had flagged this morning.  And that’s when an email from Brene Brown popped up.  I should have known that Ms. Brown was going to give me the wisdom I would need to dare greatly through this challenge. I clicked on her latest blog post (Collective Vulnerability, the FFTs (“Effin First Times) of  Online Learning, and the Sacredness of Bored Kids).  There is so much wisdom in this post, but the thing that resonated with me was this:

But, we must be ready. Boredom will be an FFT for a lot of our children who have TikTok, memes, and games at the ready, 24 hours a day.

Just as we can come out of our skin during hard first times, they will too. It will take hours of complaining about feeling like they’re dying before they settle into that strange place that’s rarely visited by today’s children – their imagination.  We don’t need to entertain them, we need to model vulnerability for them and support them in this FFT.

Boredom is sacred. We shouldn’t deny our children this holy experience.

Brown got me thinking…..

Maybe boredom is our answer……..

I’ve noticed the way my two grown daughters have embraced this time.  I’m sure they are bored.  After all, they live huge lives in New York City; lives filled with friends and dining out and shopping, and visiting museums, galleries, and musical performances.  They also work long hours. Now they are sequestered in their family home in a very quiet suburb.  (There’s not much happening here even when everything is open.)  They have to be bored.  But I’ve been amazed at what they have been doing.  Morgan cleaned, painted, and completely re-arranged her bedroom.  This morning, Mackensie was sitting at the piano practicing pieces she had played when she was in high school.  They have both spent a lot of time quietly reading.  My oldest daughter, a teacher with two children,  has taken a trip to some beautiful outdoor space almost every day since her school closed.

And then there are my grandchildren.  They are usually very busy with school and sports and dance classes.  Now that they have been home for a few weeks, Cole has decided to start a stamp collection and write letters to his grandfather.  Elle has created a schedule that includes things like family walk time, create time (make something!), academic time, and, of course, before bed reading time.

I think Brene Brown is onto something.  Let’s embrace the boredom.  Let’s let kids get SO bored that they start to invent stuff to do.  Maybe kids will start gardens, or start a letter writing campaign.  Maybe kids will collect stamps or shells.  Maybe kids will press flowers or start scrapbooks.  Maybe kids will observe the birds in their back yard.  Maybe kids will learn to cook or paint or crochet.  Maybe the answer to this distance learning question is to let kids follow (or develop) their passions.  If that was the result of these months away from the school building, I think we would have accomplished something quite magical.

Improving the Environment

My daughter told me yesterday that one of the positive consequences (Yes, there are actually positive things happening.) of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the environment is actually improving. The air and water are cleaner now because factories have shut down and planes are not flying as much. She told me that the water in Venice is so clean that dolphins have been spotted in the canals.

My environment is improving too.  Yesterday my second daughter was rescued from New York City, unfortunately now named the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.  Last night, I set the table for four and we gathered around to have a family dinner.  We ate, we talked, we laughed. After dinner, we gathered in the living room to watch a movie. Morgan was perched on the high back chair, Mackensie on the couch wrapped in her favorite blanket, Tim on the couch, and me in my favorite tag sale rescue chair, to watch one of our family favorites, The Secret Garden.   The night felt so right in this world that feels so wrong.

The pandemic is an awful situation. The few positive outcomes will never make this situation OK. But tonight I am breathing in the beautiful air of my family.

Thank you, Teachers!

Today I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people I am lucky to call my colleagues.

Today I heard about teachers who are reaching out to children through Flip Grid and Homeroom and Google Classroom and just plain, old fashion phone calls.

Today teachers shared their deep concern for children and families who hadn’t signed in and might be lacking computers and internet and printers, or worse yet, might be ill.

Today teachers told me they were worried that kids were going to run out of books to read.

Today teachers asked me how they might be able to provide access for different learners while we are teaching remotely.

Today teachers wondered how they could give each and every child feedback on their reading and writing.

Today my colleagues came together to fight for what is best for our children and our families.

Today my colleagues made a plan to reach out to our striving readers to make sure they get the extra instruction and emotional support they will need over the coming weeks and months.

Today my heart is full.

Today we came together.

Today I say, “Thank you, teachers!”

Italian Night

Today was another long day of distance learning.  I can’t remember the last time I sat in a chair and stared at a screen for so many hours.  I think we are all going to have to find some more balance for ourselves and for our kids. I’m beginning to grow worried about the amount of sitting and screen time this is going to create for them. We know that is not a good thing.

But tonight my husband and I are getting quite a treat.  My daughter is home and decided to create an Italian Night for us.  She has spent the past four years living and working in northern Italy (She came back this fall to attend graduate school.  Talk about perfect timing!).  Tonight she is going to share some of her love for this country with us.  We are all just devastated by what is happening there and want desperately to find a way to connect and share our love with the Italian people.  Maybe this is one way to do that.

She started by making us some Italian cocktails.  Negronis for my daughter and husband, and an Americano (no gin) for me.  Now she is behind me in the kitchen cooking up gnocchi with brussel sprouts and fava beans.  After this fine meal, she has picked out an Italian film.  We don’t know the title yet, but can’t wait to continue our celebration of all things Italian – drinks, food, and art.

Here’s to Italy.  We are with you.  We love you.  We hope that you begin to heal soon.

And here’s to daughters.  We love you.  We thank you. We enjoy every second of having you home.

I’m Frustrated!

“If you can name it, you can tame it!”

These are words of wisdom from Marc Brackett, Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Professor in the Child Study Center at Yale University. We are using Brackett’s approach to social emotional learning (RULER), and part of that work is to teach children (and adults) to name their feelings (and then try to shift them if desired).   The single act of naming your emotion with precise language is supposed to help you begin to deal with your feelings in more constructive ways.

I’m trying that today.  As we try to figure out this distance learning model, I’m finding that some things that were pretty straightforward when we were doing this teaching and learning thing in our schoolhouses, are rather complicated when using technology.  Everything seems to take too long to figure out.

I’m frustrated!

Read Aloud, for example, turns out to be a pretty complicated idea.  When we first shut our schools last week, I made a list of things I could do during this remote learning period.  One of those ideas was to video or audio record some Interactive Read Alouds.  I figured this would be a nice way to stay connected with children and families, a way to help teachers with their literacy instruction, and a powerful way to layer in some good teaching and learning.  But then I started hearing about copyright issues.  I get it.  We certainly want our authors to benefit from the sale of books, and we would never want to impact their work in a negative way.  I just never thought it would be so complicated.

I’m frustrated!

A group of us worked together on this for the last few days.  We tried to read and understand the law, we talked with each other, we reached out to librarians and technology experts, we talked with other teachers via Twitter and email and Facebook, and we tried to get some sort of guidance from our district administrators. Eventually we found a way to record Read Alouds and share them with families without violating any laws or hurting any of our favorite authors. It’s just that it took such a long time.

I’m frustrated!

Naming my emotions has been helpful.  I feel a bit calmer.  I feel like I’m being authentic and sharing how I feel with all of you.  Now I need to move to the next step, which is working to shift my feelings to a more positive place.  Hopefully I can make that happen.

Thanks for listening! It helped.