writing the moments #2

Confession: I am wrestling a bit with the Brene Brown quote shared on today’s call for slice of life stories. Making meaning by creating, at least in the ways she names, has been the furthest thing from my mind. In the last six months I haven’t cooked much, knit at all, written more than a few words, or been able to read an entire book until last week. My only attempts to make sense of this moment have been internal dialogs, usually in the middle of the night, often at the expense of a good night’s sleep.

Slowly though, I am finding my way forward. Beginning to write again. Halfway through my second book in as many weeks. (Finished All You Can Ever Know and well into The Gifted School. I recommend both.) Printing out new recipes with vague thoughts of creating something delicious for dinner.

My proudest creation (my only creation) is reopening school. We are 13 days in. Much to my relief and somewhat to my surprise, children are happy to be in classrooms, in masks, at desks, with distance all day long. Creating structures that allowed school to open in Covid is what I’ve made. And in this work I am making meaning in this moment. Because at the end of the day serving children, facilitating their learning, guiding their growing, that’s all I know to do and the only meaning I can make right now.

writing the moments

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ff23b-sliceoflifepicture.jpg

“Write the moments,” Kathleen Sokolowski’s blog post was titled. Kathleen, along with a talented team of educators, shares wisdom, resources, lesson ideas, and invitations to write on the Two Writing Teachers blog. I’m a huge fan of the team and the blog.

Those three words… write the moments… have rolled around in my brain for the last week. I am reminded that writers write to make sense of the moments. And boy is this time in schools full of moments. Moments that are all new. Hard moments. Uncertain moments. Confusing moments. And… joyful moments. Lots of joyful moments.

Yesterday, in my corner of the world, we all woke up to pouring rain. Rain, I had hoped, would not happen Monday- Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Alas, my wish was granted for the first seven days of on-campus, in person school. Day eight brought something completely other.

I stood outside with several colleagues to help with arrival. Cars pulled into the circle, Holding an umbrella in one hand, I used the other to open car doors, and students emerged, some in raincoats, some not. As the rain grew heavier, we all ushered students towards the entrance manned by more adults overseeing temperature scanning devices. It’t hard to see smiling eyes on gloomy mornings when everyone is masked and wearing raincoats with hoods. But I could hear the smiles in the “Good morning” greetings. Hearing smiles is new for me. Before COVID I only saw them. Now, I feel them, I hear them, and I know them. Maybe I also look for them.

School arrival never felt special or notable before. It was always fun to see families, to open car doors, say hello to families, and welcome students for another day of learning. Now… it’s special. Every day that I get to stand out in front of our school, pouring rain or shining sun, arrival is a moment I savor. We are at school in person for another day. And no matter the weather, it was a mostly a joyful day.

an almost summer moment

slice of life updated

Once the clouds drifted north, it didn’t take long for the heat to take over. The air was still and heavy. Today we had the small beach almost to ourselves, unlike yesterday when it was so full I was reluctant to sit on the sand-too close to too many people. I opted for the grassy hill in front of our house instead and convinced my mom to sit there with me.

This summer we’ve had precious few moments like this, my mom and I. Time to sit on the beach and talk about everything and nothing. Time to read or watch boats or just be. Time to lose all track of time. Some days are too hot, some I’m too busy on the phone and in front of my computer, and sometimes we’ve just given in to the not-really-summer-feel of this very strange summer.

Today though, we found time. Except it got so warm we had to relocate to the water, which thankfully had warmed to just over 70 degrees. The jellyfish were nowhere to be seen today. They’re here too early this summer. Then again, nothing’s quite right this summer.

My mother waded into the water, taking slow, deliberate steps, navigating the rocky surface and brushing aside clumps of seaweed. I kept a watchful eye- there are no good falls for an 85 year-old. Finding a sandy spot to stand, she turned toward the shore and beckoned me to join. I grabbed the big inner tube, feeling lazy and undecided about how wet and cold I wanted to be and wobbled over the rocks, just far enough in to place the float in front of me and ease backwards into it, my legs hanging over one side, my shoulders resting on the other. The water cooled my feet, ankles, wrists, hands and backside and I paddled towards where my mom stood waist-deep. The moment felt normal and familiar in this not so normal world.

The conversation we’d begun while sitting on the sand resumed and wandered from topic to topic- my daughter’s job search, our plan for tonight’s dinner, her cat’s health, the neighbors who aren’t in their beach home this summer for the first time in memory, Dr. Fauci, the President, and of course the virus. Always the virus. I can’t remember a conversation with anyone where talk of the virus didn’t creep in.

We stayed there for an hour, in the water, cooling off, being together, talking about everything and nothing, the way we do every summer. And for that moment it felt almost like summer.

no…i’m not writing

“I hope you are writing,” my friend’s text to me nearly two months ago read. No. No, I’m not. I have not. What would I say? There is no time. Like many others, I’m busy keeping my head above water. Finding my sea legs in this new normal that isn’t the least bit normal. Working longer and harder than ever. Acutely aware that I am lucky for my work. Really. And for my work people. Even if I only see them on the screen and I live on a screen way.too.much. of the day. Missing being in the presence of children. A lot. And feeling grateful for the energy to notice and sit with and sometimes even celebrate the silver linings- two young adult children who should and want to be out in the world finding their own way, home for a bit. Nobody has burned the house down or stomped off for (too many) hours (yet). We sometimes find ourselves in the last hour of the day burrowed under my bedcovers, watching another episode of Grey’s or Little Fires Everywhere. Mostly mindless. Something other than the here and now. We often share the last meal of the day together. Everyone contributing a bit to the effort which is often halfhearted and not the least bit Insta-worthy, but is full of love and laughter. We regularly walk or hike. They always lead and I follow, panting, feeling old and out of shape, and profoundly happy to be in their company during these strange, strange days.

So, no, I’m not writing. Yet. Like you, I’m navigating. I’m looking for and smiling about the silver linings. I’m doing what Dory suggested, “Just keep swimming.” I can do that. You can too.

#sol20

slice of life updated

Somewhere in all of this chaos, I think there might be a book. I’m mulling over titles, which I understand is an odd place to start.

From the Land of Yoga Pants and Comfy Tops

Going the Distance, Socially and Otherwise

What Began When It All Ended; How I Started To Live When the World Came To a Halt.

In all seriousness, it is occurring to me that I need goals, structure and maybe a new project. Working remotely is keeping me busy. Last week was all about working as quickly as I could to support as many of my colleagues as possible. It was about learning many digital platforms and exploring resources. It was a hard and strangely beautiful week. But something is missing- students and colleagues and families of course. And something I haven’t yet put my finger on. I am craving a way to document and process this whole experience.  So this morning, I’m playing with ideas for a book.

 

 

#sol20 #coronadiaries

slice of life updated

I sat on the sofa, between online meetings, reading and responding to the emails and texts that had come in since I’d last checked.

Claire stationed herself at the large square table next to the kitchen, plugged in her computer, and prepared to join her first online class since her university had closed. She wondered aloud how this online class would go, how any of them would go, what her last few weeks of college would be like. This wasn’t the ending she had imagined.

We were only a few yards apart. The first floor of our house is essentially one open room that used to be a hay barn, divided into sections, sort of. This week I’d begun to appreciate what it must feel like to work in an open-concept office space. Claire probably had too. She’d listened to her share of my meetings with admin and teachers over the last few days. A far different experience than chatting with her friends on the way to the library or lounging with her roommates after late-night study sessions. Far from what she had expected.

I looked up to see her adjust the tilt of the screen just as a voice emerged from her  computer.

“Claire… I see you,” I heard her professor say, his tone steady, calm, friendly. I watched a smile spread over my daughter’s face as she looked at the screen of her computer.

“Hi, ” she replied.

“How are you? Are you safe? Tell me where you are and how you’re doing.”

And in that moment I knew everything was going to be just fine. Not what we had pictured. Maybe even better.

 

#sol20 number 15

slice of life updated

“I want to go see the peach trees,” I declared. For a few minutes or maybe a couple of hours my head and heart needed to step away from the computer and phone, away from work and into nature. Just for a bit.

“Okay…” he said. He’s generally very agreeable, but I could practically see the thought bubble over his head… “She’s losing it. I better just humor her and drive out there.” He didn’t say that out loud. Instead he said, “Let’s go.”

We climbed in the car and headed west. Nothing about my request violated the social distancing habits we are all trying to adhere to right now. It was just us in the car. And it was just us on the edge of the field when we arrived.

I spotted the pink haze on the horizon while we were still on the paved road. Soon the car tires crunched on the gravel and we were driving alongside the field full of trees with gnarled limbs, full of knots, and covered with a blanket of bright pink blooms. Peach tree flowering season is my favorite. And this year the beauty brought added joy and comfort.

“With any luck,” I thought, “by the time the fruit is ready to pick, COVID-19 will be something we are living with, not something we live in fear of.”

IMG_8461

#sol20 number 14

slice of life updated

By 3 pm one or two had begun to break out in song, others were cracking silly jokes, gently poking fun at one another but nobody was laughing at anyone. We were all laughing together. We were entering our sixth hour of work- fifteen of us there, two on the screen in the front of the room, joining us remotely since they hadn’t had enough time to get all the way home before the decision was made to not wait until Monday to meet. Google docs were open, links were being added, lists were being made and emails drafted. We’d begun the morning with four bullet points on an otherwise blank white page, and now we had pages of thinking to guide us as we prepare to help teachers plan and execute distance learning. We stopped at 4, because it was after all Saturday and it was after all still Spring break. Far from finished of course, but our Sunday and Monday action plans were ready to go. No hugging, no high-fives, but lots of “We’ve got this,” from a distance of course.

 

#sol20 number 13

slice of life updated

She- I assume but do not know-

Usually appears at the edges of the day. This time it is evening.

Perching on the top railing of the dock at the end of the pier.

Her neck stretches long. Her small head positioned to one side. Wings tucked under. She casts an elegant shadow on the wood planks below.

I move slowly, close enough to watch and feel her stillness,

Close enough to see the occasional slight shift in her elongated neck and direction of her gaze.

I’m told she never visited before six years ago,

this place that embodies the woman who grew up here and left life suddenly.

Gone but not forgotten,  she whose family’s home sits just on the other side of the small,  sandy hill covered with the beach grass she planted with her parents.

She who had never visited before comes often now.

crane

 

 

#sol20 number 12

slice of life updated

My slice today is inspired by an email in my inbox this morning titled “A Short List of Good Things.” I’m using it as a mentor text as I think about writing as a means of processing and coping and distance learning/ writing opportunities for students. How we will stay connected with them and support their emotional as well as their academic well being?

The email begins with these words:

I don’t need to tell you it’s an intense time. Between the churn of virus-related news, the unsettlingly warm weather in NYC, and a bunch of uncertainty and malaise around the presidential election, the ambient stress out there is REAL. So far, my preparedness plan has involved…

The middle of the email says this:

So far, my preparedness plan has involved the following:

And it ends with these two sentences, and a list:

Anyway, here is a short list of stuff that’s making me happy—or at least distracted—right now. It was a good relaxation exercise, putting this together. I hope it helps you too. 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t need to tell you it’s an intense time. Between the steady stream of articles full of graphs and statistics and dire warnings about the possibility of our health care system being overloaded, the stockmarket spiral, and the newly inducted into our everyday vocabulary phrase “social distancing,” and the canceling of events, the sense of dread out there is REAL.

So far my preparedness plan has involved the following: watching and then turning away from the news, indulging in too many Tates cookies (I think they contain a secret ingredient that triggers instant addiction), a trip to a favorite local bookstore where I purchased a cookbook and a novel, and a couple of naps to make up for the hours of nighttime insomnia caused by my racing mind.

Anyway, here is a short list of stuff that keeping me happy- or at least distracted- right now. It was a calming exercise, putting this together. I hope you try it too.

  1. The aforementioned cookbook. It’s full of gorgeous photos of inventive recipes that use fresh and interesting ingredients. I am hoping to have time and reasons to cook for my people soon.
  2. Long walks around the point where my mom lives, close enough to the shoreline to hear the waves on the ocean side of the point and see the ferries crossing the Sound. I am not exaggerating when I say that the steady roar of the water helps me remember to breathe in and out deeply.
  3. Listening to this book on Audible because I love Alice’s resolve and resilience.
  4. Watching my elderly mom love on her aging dog. Their bond is so lovely.
  5. Facetiming with my grown children and sharing that experience with my mom, whose delight with the technology that makes it possible for her to see and hear her granddaughters makes me grin just thinking about it.
  6. Cozy slippers, comfy turtlenecks, and soft leggings.
  7. Children’s book authors like Kate Messner, who are sharing lessons and resources with schools and students experiencing distance learning.
  8. Soup. This one seems self-explanatory. My favorites? A good chicken soup. Butternut squash, as long as it isn’t sweet. Carrot- with a grind of pepper on top.
  9. Fires in the fireplace. Anytime the temperature dips below 60 is a good time for a fire IMHO.

What’s on your list? I hope you’ll share it too.