Celebrate this week

celebrate-this-week

As I often do, I kept an eye this past week on the weather forecast for coastal Connecticut. Yesterday, I checked the local radar to see what the conditions there were. Snow. Again.

My 82 year old mom lives with her German Shepard and old cat in a beautiful old house on the Connecticut coast. I worry for all kinds of reasons about her living there, alone. And I worry more when the weather is inclement. No matter the weather, her dog still needs to go out.  There are steps to sweep and porches to shovel. I know the neighbors keep an eye on her, but still…

So last evening, just after I finished an early dinner with my two daughters and the son of a dear friend, I called my mom to make sure she was okay. She didn’t answer, so I left a message and assumed she might be eating dinner or watching the news as she often does at that time of the evening. Or maybe she had stepped out onto her back patio to keep her dog company while he ventured into the yard.

She didn’t call back, which also isn’t unusual. But since I knew it was snowing, I was pretty sure she wasn’t out for the evening. I tried her again about an hour later. This time she picked up. I could hear all kinds of noise in the background. My 82 year old mother proceeded to tell me quickly that she was in the middle of hosting a dinner party for nine people and she’d have to call me back in the morning.

Today, this week, and often, I’m celebrating my mother who continues to delight and surprise me. She attends lectures, drives hours to visit beautiful gardens, walks at least two miles a day, and completes the New York Times crossword puzzle in record time. And oh, she hosts dinner parties during snow storms.

Thank you Ruth Ayres for hosting a weekly writing celebration. 

Not Enough

Love and prayers aren’t enough.

Healing thoughts and comforting hugs aren’t enough either.

Carefully crafted statements from the President and politicians feel routine and far from adequate.

We can talk. We can pray. We can hug.

We can hold hands and hold vigils and hold in the light those we’ve lost.

But we need to do more.

The madness has to stop.

How many times will we hear the story of someone who was on officials’ radar- or not-barging into a school and cutting short innocent lives with bullets flying from deadly machines these individuals never should have had? This morning I had to turn away from the screen instead of watching the tearful seventeen year old survivor who shared horrific details of the trauma she lived yesterday afternoon. I couldn’t watch because I would have broken down and I needed to get ready for a day of learning, leaning in, and laughter, connection, conversation and creativity with the children I know in the school where I teach.

How many times will we have to watch the images, the interviews, the faces of devastated family members, the responses of victims whose lives will never be the same, the photos of those who didn’t make it?

How many of us know someone, or know someone who knows someone who has been touched by this sort of horror in schools?

Yes, I know it doesn’t just happen in schools. But a school is where I spend my days. Where I try not to imagine the possibility of this kind of tragedy.

Do you realize that those of us who teach have learned to keep one ear open for unusual sounds in hallways or at entrances to our schools? And that we carefully scrutinize anyone we do not recognize who enters our buildings? That when we encounter someone unfamiliar we sometimes default to a stance that hints of suspicion?

Do you understand that we look around our classrooms when the children have left for the day, or maybe just for lunch and recess, and we consider where the best hiding spots are in our spaces?

Do you get that we dread but know the value of the drills we do with children so that heaven forbid we are “ready” should the unthinkable happen?

Do you think about how we think about how we would do whatever it takes to protect the children in our care in our schools which should be safe?

Do you imagine the questions they ask and the careful, calm responses we practice and share so as to reassure these young citizens that they are safe and cared for and known in their learning communities?

Do you know that teachers are scared? Teachers.

What will it take before those who can make meaningful changes realize that they must do just that?

What can the rest of us do?

What will it take to stop the madness?

When will we have more answers than questions?

Prayers and hugs and love help. But they’re not enough.

Celebrate This Week; Quiet and Alone

celebrate-this-week

My mother tells me that when I was small, on days when I was sick with a high fever or a stomach bug, or in my case usually tonsillitis, that even when I felt awful, I would drag myself out of bed and settle somewhere near a family member. She says I didn’t like too much quiet or to be alone for too long.

These days I think about her observation for lots of reasons. I live alone, sort of (my daughters’ ancient cat Lucy is here too, following me from room to room, meowing for food at predictable intervals). Now that my children are in college it is awfully quiet most of the time at home.

Weekdays are busy, long, and full of interactions with children and colleagues. Weekday evenings are usually short as I’m not much of a night owl. The quiet and alone are not terribly noticeable, and as an introvert that time is often necessary for me to recharge and feel ready for the next full day at school.

And on some evenings during the week I have plans- dinner with friends or some other event to attend.

Usually my weekends fill up. The thought of a weekend with no plans leaves me feeling uneasy. Remember, I don’t like to be alone for too long. I stay busy with exercise classes, walking with friends, dinner or a movie out, Sunday church. Sometimes I try to squeeze in so much that I’m barely home and the laundry goes unfolded and the vacuuming is put off.

But this weekend was different. There has been a lot of quiet and alone. And rain. Nonstop rain. And fog. I’ve been home and leaned into the quiet and alone time. I came home late morning yesterday after exercising and haven’t left the house since. Built a fire yesterday afternoon. Napped, read an entire book, made banana bread. Watched in frustration as UVA lost a basketball game last night they shouldn’t have lost. It’s Sunday morning and I’m still home. Today I’ll clean my closet, pay some bills, listen to my book on Audible (A Gentleman in Moscow), make a quiche and maybe watch some of the Olympics.

It’s been a quiet and alone weekend. I’m celebrating it. I think my mother would be surprised.

Thank you Ruth Ayres  for providing encouragement and space each week for us to pause and celebrate.

 

 

 

Celebrate this week: a list of good

celebrate-this-week

“Okay,” she said, looking me in the eye, ‘but if all of that hadn’t happened, what else might never have been? What are the good things that you’ve experienced during this time? Make a list.”

I looked back at her and took a deep breath. It felt like some combination of suggestion and challenge.

“I’d be curious to see that list. I’m betting it’s got a lot on it.” she added.

Her suggestion settled into my brain over the next few days. Perhaps, I thought, I should use my 2018 OLW “shine” to guide me in casting light into the corners of my life, the quiet but lovely happenings, all the good stuff.

the list:

the quirky barn with beautiful views that we’ve made into a home

new friendships

a year of keeping a gratitude journal that I continue to reread three years later

a rewarding and challenging position at school

writing- with others, professionally, and just for me…this blog

a cozy christmas dinner in the dining room that was once mine, and now was bursting with  laughter and love

a year of time with claire, where she was not the younger but the “only,” and it was just the two of us

long walks on my country road

discovering and loving the russian stove

learning to grill- sort of

rekindling old friendships

sunday morning yoga

sunday afternoon walks in the woods

a teaching award I never imagined receiving

rediscovering my love of lap swimming

phone calls that mattered

evenings on the sofa with dear friends discussing big things

beach afternoons with my mom, sitting and talking about everything and nothing

grace

learning to care less about the mess

baking nights with my girls

fireside games on snow days when all three of us were home from school

kindness from friends at unexpected moments

a winter long workshop based on Brene Brown’s research

learning to play paddle tennis

reading more mary oliver

discovering acupuncture

stand up paddle boarding

two summer writing institutes

hikes on trails new to me

discovering podcasts

beach walks in maine

delicious dinners

vineyard visits

sunsets in jamaica

finally understanding the benefits of massage

seeing and smelling the lavender of provence

afternoons and evenings with family and friends around the firepit

raw oysters and steamed mussels

laughter- lots and lots of laughter

the care of compassionate clergy

a little book of love from frances

the honor and pleasure of reading beautiful writing crafted by a friend who continues to work through unimaginable heartache and loss

tennis with katie

It’s a long list… and it’s not complete. I’ll be back…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 One Little Word

 

As I got closer to settling on my 2018 One Little Word, I realized that it was important to me that my word be not only one that would help me stretch and grow in the coming year, but one that would also remind me to share. To share myself, my time, my ear. I contemplated quite a few words during the month of December including be, explore, forward, rise, and believe. Each of them held appeal for me, but none seemed quite right. And I couldn’t figure out why until just a few days ago when I understood that I was looking for a word that would reflect the precious connections I have with friends, family, and colleagues…a word that would also encourage me to be open to new experiences and relationships.

A few days ago I wrote a Celebrate This Week post  in which I reflected on all of the lovely in the midst of hard. Two commenters used the word “shine” in their responses to my post. That word, shine, has been hanging around at the top of my list and the front of my brain, but I wasn’t convinced I was brave enough to commit to it. I went in search of dictionary definitions and synonyms. To give out light,  to glow with reflected light, a quality of brightness, to perform well… I found my word that will encourage me to stretch and share.

So… shine it is. I’m still thinking about how this word will stretch and guide me and what goals I might form around the word shine.

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to the shining—they just shine.”

– Dwight L. Moody

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

– Edith Wharton

If you’d like to learn more about the tradition of choosing one little word, in lieu of making resolutions, check out Ali Edward’s blog . If you are an educator, consider sharing your word here at Two Writing Teachers.

Celebrate This Week; Celebrating 2017

celebrate-this-week

The final months of 2017 have been full of hard. Hard conversations, hard news, hard goodbyes, hard days. I am more than ready for a new year to begin. When I saw Ruth’s email inviting nudging us to celebrate this week/year, I wondered what I’d celebrate. My 2017 One Little Word- breathe? It’s been a good word for me. Breathing through the hard helps. I’m still choosing my 2018 word and am grateful to be part of a writing community that will connect and celebrate as we reveal our choices.

Not long ago I listened to a podcast that included a conversation about happiness versus joy. Happiness, it was suggested, is not a sustainable state. We experience moments of joy rather than a perpetual state of happiness. And it is those moments of joy that sustain us during the hard. 2017 has held many moments of joy for me.

  • Putting together a new resume and applying for an instructional coaching position at my school, and being offered the job.
  • Being a member of the Two Writing Teachers team. While I was only part of that for a year, it was an amazing experience and opportunity for me to grow as an educator and writer.
  • My older daughter deciding to apply to transfer to a larger, more rigorous university and being accepted.
  • My younger daughter coming home from college with friends for supper and sleepovers.
  • Attending my 30th college reunion and spending the weekend catching up with some of my favorite people. Surviving the hike. Staying and reconnecting with a couple whose children I babysat when I was in college.
  • Working closely with three women I admire deeply, and from whom I learn daily.
  • Laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Laughing with colleagues during a game of pictionary. Laughing with friends at the dinner table. Laughing at myself.
  • Friends who recommend books. Even better, friends who show up to visit with a stack of books for me to read.
  • That morning when Melanie drove 45 minutes to walk for an hour with me, just so we could talk about everything and nothing.
  • Spending a week during each month of the summer with my mom at my family’s summer cottage. In August my girls came too and we celebrated birthdays and family time.
  • Attending a fantastic two day coaching institute at Teachers College and learning so much about adult development and feedback. And sneaking in an unexpected weekend visit with my mom in Connecticut at the end of the workshop.
  • My cousin’s oldest daughter becoming engaged and his youngest daughter and her husband announcing they are expecting their first baby.
  • Attending an amazing concert for unity in Charlottesville in September.
  • Reconnecting with a friend I’ve known since I was four, but with whom I’d fallen out of touch, and picking up right where we’d left off.
  • A winter break full of wonderful gatherings and time with family and friends.
  • And on almost this last day of vacation, spending a snowy afternoon planning a three generation trip to Paris in March with my mom and my girls.

 

Thank you Ruth Ayres for being steadfast in your belief that we can write and through our writing share our stories and connect.

The Gift of Time #celebrateu

celebrate-this-week

Those of us who teach are blessed with moments during the school year when everything comes to a halt, temporarily. It’s as if the pause button is pressed. Our work in the classroom, our work with students,  our work on our professional growth all goes on hold for a moment. And for a few days, or weeks, we get to catch our breath, catch up with family and friends, and catch up on our sleep. We have time to attend to life beyond school.

The older I get, the more I see time as a gift and the more I want to slow down and savor the moments. Many years ago I heard Anne Lamott speak. She shared all kinds of wisdom in her sassy, faith infused way. But the line that has stuck with me most is “Be where your butt is.” Those words, for me, are not just about being present, but about honoring time.

Today is the first day of my winter break. I plan to celebrate time over these next two weeks. It’s a gift.

Thank you Ruth Ayres for reminding us to celebrate this and every week.

Celebrate This Week: Full

celebrate-this-week

Lights. Sparkle. Laughter. Love. Gatherings. Music. Family. Friends. Food and drink.  Expectation. Anticipation.

December is full. Full of so many of my favorite things. Full of precious moments with people I love. School is full of excited children who are wishing for snow and making lists for Santa. School days are full of happy interruptions- the upper school choir caroling through our halls, holiday concerts, the annual reading of The Polar Express. Our all-school Lessons and Carols service. The mailbox is full of cards from faraway friends. The house is full as my children move home while studying for final exams. The kitchen sink full of their dishes, the fridge stocked with foods they can eat on the run. The calendar is full too.

And while I love it all, there are moments when I find this month exhausting. Moments when I need to take a pause, crawl into bed early in the evening with my book or the next episode in the new season of The Crown and take a break from the full. Last week I wrote about how this season  has changed for our family. I am grateful that four years later it feels more joyful than bittersweet, that we’ve learned how to do it differently.

Today I’m celebrating full. And the moments of fatigue that come because of the blessings of this full month.

Thank you Ruth Ayres for reminding us to stop and celebrate this week.

The Same But Different

slice of life updated

I often refer to it as a left turn. “My life took a left turn, ” I say when referring to this time four years ago. And from the moment things changed, I looked for ways to keep them the “same” for my children. Sort of.

That first year we went to the same Christmas Eve service. We saw the same friends we see during our winter break. I baked the same treats. Put the same ornaments on the tree and the same bow on the wreath at the front door. Even though everything was different. It was different to stay up late on Christmas Eve, just three of us sprawled on the rug in the family room, sifting through photos, putting together an album for the girls to give their father the next day when they went to be with him and his parents. It was different to be on my own watching them slowly unpack their stockings. It was different when Claire said mind-morning, “We need to laugh. Let’s watch Elf.” It was different when I took a Christmas afternoon walk alone and returned to an empty house.

But with each year, what was different became familiar. The girls and I kept alive some traditions our family had created. They continued others with their father. And what seemed almost impossible in the beginning became doable, even good. Things changed too. We’d get the tree into the stand at the end of their Thanksgiving  break. I began giving each of the girls an ornament for their own someday Christmas tree.  We sent out a holiday card that now read “with love from Lisa, Frances, and Claire.” I took that Christmas afternoon walk alone, but each time it was easier. And I looked forward to joining family friends for Christmas night dinner.

Much of it is different. Some of it is the same. All of it is just fine.

 

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for the weekly nudge to write.