Categories
Life People

February

When I close my eyes and think of the word February, I see the word love. I see the colors of warmth and affection, red and pink.

Unfortunately, when I think specifically of February 2021, I also see grey.

First came Covid-19 symptoms, which led to a positive Covid-19 test, which then led to several weeks of quarantining and restless discomfort. My husband and sons didn’t get sick, however, and I’ve recovered. We are lucky, and I am grateful.

Next came snow and ice and electricity failures. Days and nights of freezing temperatures with no power, no heat. We fared better than most, and again, I’m grateful. For some, the situation was extremely bad. For some, far too many, the situation was deadly.

Then, without electricity and heat, the water stopped flowing. Later, in the thaw, the water raced through once-frozen pipes, finding the weak spots, punching holes in the metal. It poured into homes and buildings, through ceilings, out of walls, up through floors, finding all possible exits and creating new ones where none existed.

Again, my family and I escaped the worst – not all of it, but our experience was mild in comparison with the experiences of many others. We were fortunate. But lots of other people weren’t.

Still, in the midst of the frozen heartbreak, there were moments of warmth. Neighbors looked after each other. Emergency personnel never stopped providing care and protection. Employees at grocery stores and restaurants did what they could to get food and supplies to the those who needed them. People stepped up to get it done – “it” being whatever was most needed in the moment, even if that was simply a few sticks of firewood or a bottle of water.

Now that the snow has melted, that empathy, resilience, and compassion hasn’t ended. Instead, it’s bloomed. Lots of organizations are marshaling their people and resources to support those who’ve lost so much, those who must recover and rebuild. If you’re in a position to assist, your help is greatly appreciated. I’ve listed a few of them below, and a quick internet search will find additional options that would welcome whatever you can give.

Yes, when I close my eyes and think of February 2021, I see grey. But, I also see yellow and orange, the colors of hope and generosity, courage and kindness. And the red and the pink are also there, front and center.

February is still the month of love.

North Texas Food Bank – https://ntfb.org

Tarrant Area Food Bank – https://tafb.org

Central Texas Food Bank – https://www.centraltexasfoodbank.org

American Red Cross – https://www.redcross.org

Meals on Wheels – https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org

Categories
Good Life People

Teachers

Every year on this date, I think about teachers.

There are countless examples of jobs that provide value to society – doctors and designers, lawyers and librarians, bakers and builders – just to name a few. Some are well-known and well-paid. Others, not so much. All contribute in some way to the intricate, delicately-balanced web that holds us all together in this world.

The foundational profession, however, is teaching.

The people who teach are the ones who help us do more than we did before. They help us be more than we used to be and build more than exists now. They help us imagine and evaluate and understand and create so that then everything else is possible.

So, here’s to the teachers. Thank you for seeing our potential, believing in us, and guiding us forward on the journey to tomorrow.

“I touch the future. I teach.” – Christa McAuliffe

Categories
Family Life Pets

Baby

My dogs, Mollie and Charlie, wear sweaters. Yes, I’m one of those people who puts sweaters on her dogs when it’s cold outside.

When we first adopted Charlie, a few months ago, he was just a puppy. His sweater was small and fit him perfectly, covering his back all the way to his hind legs.

Today, I realized that he’s outgrown his sweater. I was watching him run around the backyard and noticed that his sweater only came halfway down his back. It was a bit of a shock, the suddenness of the change. I’m almost positive that the sweater was still the right size yesterday.

I ended up taking one of Mollie’s sweaters and putting it on him instead. Mollie seemed ok with it, but I’m an oldest child and know that it can be hard to watch your stuff be handed down to the younger ones. So, I’ll be buying Charlie a new sweater of his very own pretty soon so that Mollie can have hers back.

I suppose that, having had human children, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the fact that Charlie had outgrown his sweater. That’s just what happens with babies, including puppies.

You get used to letting go of most of the toys, the shoes, the books and trinkets that represent the moments. For sentimental reasons, however, I have saved some of my children’s clothes, the ones that they wore for special occasions or that carry special memories. I’ll pull them out of their storage boxes from time to time, look at them and marvel at how small they are, hold them gently in my hands and remember those tiny, sweet boys. Sometimes, I can do so without tears, but most often, I find myself misty-eyed, deep in happy memories.

I’m a little embarrassed at having some of the same emotions today when I replaced Charlie’s sweater. He’s a dog, not a human. Then again, he’s one of my babies. Furry, with four legs instead of two, and, of course, different in so many other ways. But one of my babies, nonetheless.

Here’s to the passage of time and the sometimes obvious, sometimes surprising changes it brings. And, here’s to parents. We must let our babies grow up…but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember the babies they once were.

Categories
Life

Fragile

A while back, I wrote about how there are times when it’s easy to find the words, and understanding the world around me is simple. But sometimes, the world feels too heavy and the feelings too complicated, and I can’t make sense of any of it.

These past few days fell into the latter category. As I watched the news of the chaos at the Capitol, my emotions – sadness, anger, disbelief – took center stage. They demanded my attention and froze the parts of my brain where the recognition of what is happening connects with here’s what it means and then here’s how to move forward. So, I gave myself permission to simply absorb the events and move through the days, trusting that at some point, there’d be a thaw.

This morning, I woke up with an earworm of Sting’s song, Fragile. It’s funny how the mind processes things even when we don’t realize it’s doing so.

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the color of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star, like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are
How fragile we are

Here’s to picking up the pieces and moving forward. Here’s to starting once more in this fragile world.

Categories
Holidays Life

Resolutions

I’m making two resolutions for this new year. Just two.

I’m sure I’ll end up setting other goals and working toward them as the year progresses. However, my optimistic resolutions from New Year’s Eve, 2019, didn’t survive the 2020 roller coaster ride. Best to start slowly this time around.

So, for 2021, just two.

One is measurable, easy to define: Read one book per month, for a total of 12 books by the end of the year.

I didn’t used to have to set a goal to read, but in recent years, my reading dedication has been displaced by other…stuff. That stuff is mostly social media silliness, which can be fun but which also eats up time without necessarily giving anything of value in return.

I’ve also found that I can’t concentrate like I used to, that I have to go back and read the same paragraph several times because my mind wanders in the middle of it. This state of distraction is related to the constant barrage of information coming from social media, 24/7 news, and eleventy-billion digital entertainment options, I’m sure.

Whatever the reason, I don’t want it to happen anymore. What I do want is to get lost in a story again, to become so wrapped up in the plot and characters that I lose track of time and forget where I am. I want to be inspired by words, to learn new things, consider new ideas, and enjoy the message.

One book per month is attainable and realistic. I suspect I’ll end up reading more as I get back into the swing of things, but one per month is good to start.

My second goal is not really something that can be measured. It’s more of an idealized perspective, a state of being: Be a nice human.

It’s a simple goal, one that can be achieved without much planning or preparation. However, it does require intent. It sometimes requires deliberate action and conscious choice. And that can be hard, at times.

So, I’ll work hard to achieve this goal, but I’ll also forgive myself when I’m not perfect. I’ll grant myself grace when I have a bad day.

I’ll also remind myself that being a nice human doesn’t have a finish line. Nobody’s waiting to hand me a gold medal on a podium as I complete the race. What matters is each decision I make, moment to moment, day by day. And if I keep trying, if I mostly choose to be nice instead of selfish, nice instead of angry, nice instead of rude or mean, petty or hurtful, I’ll have done something worthwhile.

Here’s to a new year and new resolutions. I wish you health, happiness, and all good things in 2021.

Categories
Fun Life

Snowman

The weather forecasters have been talking about a very small (itty-bitty, teeny-tiny) smidge of a chance of snow around here in the next few days.

So of course, I woke up this morning with an earworm of “Do You Want to Build A Snowman?” from the movie Frozen.

Odds are that all we’ll end up with is a lot of cold rain. We don’t get much snow in this area, especially this early in winter. Mother Nature likes to play jokes on us when we think we’re smarter than she is, however, so either way, snow or no snow, I won’t be surprised.

Still, I’m hopeful. It would be nice to be able to give this year the chilly send-off it deserves while welcoming the new year with fluffy frozen flakes of fun.


Categories
Life

Bookstore

At my elementary school, there was a little bookstore set up next to the cafeteria entrance. After we finished lunch, we had the choice of going outside to play or visiting the bookstore.

I almost always chose the bookstore.

I don’t know if my school bookstore was an exception; at that time, I assumed all schools offered something similar. Our bookstore wasn’t anything fancy, just some shelves in the corner of the hallway. The book prices were discounted, making them more affordable for children, and a portion of the book sales went back to the school to support various programs.

If I remember correctly, they restocked with new inventory once or twice per month. On those days, I eagerly looked through the fresh options, hoping to find something interesting to add to my personal library. On the days when there was nothing new, I still enjoyed looking through the familiar titles. I’d note which ones I already had and which ones were my favorites. Sometimes, I’d discover something I’d passed over previously, and I’d reconsider my earlier disregard of its merits.

Occasionally, my friends would join me at the bookstore, but most often, I was alone. That was fine with me. In my opinion, book shopping worked best as a solitary venture. Evaluating content, deciding if the story was worth my investment of money and time – that required thoughtful consideration, the kind that wasn’t possible if I had to carry on a conversation or think about what somebody else was doing.

I did also love the school library. My bookstore moments, however, were especially significant to me. I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s because I was purchasing books as opposed to borrowing them. I was adding titles to my personal collection, inviting them to become permanent members of my book family, rather than having them over for a short visit.

Being in that little bookstore felt warm and comfortable, like being wrapped in a blanket. The time I spent in that hallway corner was often the best part of the school day.

Those memories resurfaced yesterday as I read an article about the current state of school bookstores. With the recent shift to online learning, many schools have shifted to offering an online bookstore model. It’s a good move, a logical move, one that I’m sure children, teachers, and parents appreciate, especially since in-person library visits have also been affected by current circumstances. I’m glad the option is available.

I can’t help but feel a little sad, however, at the disappearance, even if only temporarily, of in-person schoolhouse bookstore experiences. I’m sure there are children who, just as I did, treasure the process of lifting a book from the shelf, holding it in their hands, turning it over and flipping the pages as they decide whether to make a purchase.

Those children will still be happy to find new material via the online option. They’ll still enjoy their reading experiences. But they’ll miss the feeling of being enveloped by written words and imaginary tales, the hopeful anticipation of stepping into a space full of stories. They’ll miss those tangible moments that used to accompany the start of a new reading adventure. For their sake, I hope that, when the pandemic ends and it’s once again safe to do the things we used to do, the school bookstore experience is one of the things that returns.

In the meantime, I’m happy to have my memories. I’ll always be grateful for those moments of contented delight, standing in the middle of those shelves in that hallway corner.

Categories
Life Neato

Amazing

Today, Jupiter and Saturn will appear to meet in the sky, the result of an alignment in their orbits as viewed from Earth.

This event is being called the Great Conjunction, and the reason it’s getting so much attention is because the two planets will appear to be closer together than they’ve been in hundreds of years. There was a conjunction when Galileo was alive in 1623, but it was virtually impossible to view because of the sun. The most recent conjunction that was visible and similar to today’s occurred in 1226, almost 800 years ago.

Tonight’s Great Conjunction will be visible without a telescope; all that’s necessary is a clear view of the horizon. The event will occur shortly after sunset.

When it’s over, the planets will continue their journeys, as they’ve done for billions of years and will do for billions more. Here on Earth, our human existence can’t compare. We can, however, look forward to the next Great Conjunction, which will be visible in 2080.

Barring a scientific miracle, I won’t be there. But perhaps my sons will, and perhaps their children will, as well. A simple moment in time, in celestial terms – but an amazing human connection through time and space.

Categories
Life People

Switch

Yesterday, I read a story about an experiment with an evening online kindergarten class at a New Jersey elementary school.

Educators noticed a high number of absences in the daytime online classroom. They surmised that the challenges faced by working parents, coping with job and other changes brought about by the pandemic, made it difficult for some children to attend online learning during the day. When they did attend, they were frequently distracted.

So, the educators offered an option: a 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. class. Eleven students signed up.

The results have been excellent, according to the educators and the parents. Attendance improved, as did student engagement in the lessons. In some cases, the parents have been able to shadow their children, supporting them during the lessons and reinforcing the information. That would not have been possible in a daytime class.

This switch to nighttime education is not a solution that will work for everybody. But it has been successful in this case. Perhaps it could be a positive option elsewhere.

There will come a day when the pandemic won’t be a part of our lives anymore. We’ll go back to living without having to take the extra steps that keep us safe right now. When that day comes, it will be worth celebrating – a return to “normal.”

At the same time, it’s unlikely that we’ll think of things in exactly the same way as we did before. There will have been a shift in how we perceive the world around us, our options and expectations. A shift in how we define “normal.”

It will be interesting to see which of the experiments, which of the ideas and innovations created during these challenging days, will leave a lasting influence.

Categories
Life

Favorite

I woke up with an earworm of Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

This morning’s brain tune came with a bonus memory video of the scenes in the movie – Maria von Trapp and the children, dancing around the bedroom while thunder and lightning stormed outside. I let it replay in my mind a few times as I snuggled under the blankets, enjoying a few extra minutes of quiet comfort.

It was a good way to start the day. Thank you to the von Trapp Family Singers.