Slice of Life . . . A Place to Grow

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A few years ago, a close colleague encouraged me (not so nicely) to step out of my comfort zone.  I took her suggestion to heart and generalized it to both my personal and professional life.  I have a ritual of self-reflection just before getting out of bed each morning.  I ask myself,  how will I push myself today, even just a little bit, to move beyond my level of comfort.

On my phone, I have saved a screenshot of  ‘10 Ways to Overcome Fear and Break Out of Your Comfort Zone.  This evening, as I am celebrating the completion of my third Slice of Life Challenge, I am able to connect some of my writing to the ‘ways’ I have saved on my phone.

1.  Take nothing for granted.

In writing Conundrum, I realize that for years I take have taken my healthy vision for granted.  It wasn’t until recently that my once crystal clear vision no longer exits; and what an inconvenience this is.

2.  Switch up your routine.

While completing the monotonous task of cleaning my bathroom, I found myself stuck in a horrible mindset.  To make a shift of mindset, I switched it up a little by belting out one of my most favorite songsCloser to Fine.

3.  Move toward your fears.

I am not a writer.  I don’t see myself as a writer.  I don’t like to write.  I avoid writing as much as possible.  Just when I wanted to give up this year’s challenge, I wrote The Struggle is Real, definitely moving toward my fears.

4.  Give up control.

Giving up control is incredibly challenging for me.  I tend to let the perfection get in the way of the good.  The Slice of Life Challenge had me struggling to come up with a topic to write about, then writing, revising, rewriting, revising again, and rewriting; a vicious cycle.  In writing Ten Minute Slice, I gave up control; when my ten minutes was up, the publish button was pressed!

5.  Try something new until you feel comfortable.

Three years ago I tried something new, the Slice of Life Challenge.  Love-Hate Relationship sums up how I really feel about this challenge.  Since I’m still not comfortable, it looks as though I’ll be back in 2021!

6.  Ask the questions other people don’t like to.

I wrote To the Woman in Aisle 12 because I didn’t ask a woman why she was being so abusive to her daughter.  In my younger days, I wouldn’t have hesitated to question a person who I felt was ‘wronging’ someone else.  With the uncertainty of mental illness, I am now reluctant to take matters in my own hands.  I approached security and made them aware of the situation, but in my heart, I wanted to take action myself.

7.  Start conversations with strangers.

A Conversation Better Not Had is the slice that I think was the most difficult for me to write.  In caring for a friend who is at a progressed stage of Alzheimer’s disease, I made the difficult decision to contact her estranged brother (a stranger to me).  I started the conversation, ended the conversation, and will never have another conversation with him again.

8.  Agree to something you wouldn’t normally consider.

In attempting to connect with my 20-year old son who was home from college, I agreed to participate in a virtual poker tournament.  I wrote Last One Standing to capture this experience.  I have a lot to learn about playing poker before I agree to join in again.  Perhaps for the next tournament, I’ll be on the sidelines providing food and beverages.

9.  Get in front of the camera.

To me, getting in front of a camera means taking a hard look at oneself.  In writing Mental Health, I was in front of the camera; owning my many emotions.

10.  Keep a list of growth goals.

My growth goals are completely dependent on my mental health.  In writing Wellness Toolbox, I took time to identify strategies that I hope will support me in getting to a better place.

I participated in the 2020 Slice of Life Challenge, stepping way out of my comfort zone.  Have I grown as a writer?  Hmmm, not so much, but I can say that I have lived to tell it!

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for this year’s challenge.  Until March 2021 . . . I’m off!

*‘10 Ways to Overcome Fear and Break Out of Your Comfort Zone’

 

Wellness Toolbox

Wellness Toolbox

List what I like about myself

Turn OFF phone message alerts 

Set Smartphone Limits and adhere to them  

Minimize the news coverage

Create a list of small tasks and complete them

Listen to music

Read a good book

Spend time outdoors

Watch a funny movie or television show 

Take an extra long shower or bath

Reorganize a closet

Play with a dog

Cook a meal to enjoy with the family

Yesterday I owned my struggles; today I committed to working on them.  

 

Closer to Fine

I begrudgingly dressed in my Saturday uniform, old bleach spotted sweatpants and a tattered Old Navy tank top.  I pulled my hair back and tied it in a high ponytail, grabbed my caddy, and fit my hands into the Grease Monkey rubber gloves.

As I began to remove all items from their usual spot and place them in an empty laundry basket, my mind reviewed the week’s happenings.  What a week?!!  I worked to support teachers going well beyond their comfort zones as they planned Distance Learning Opportunities.

I collected all the used towels and carried them to the laundry room reflecting on how smoothly district administrators managed to distribute hundreds of devices to students.

I grabbed two mats, placed them outside the room and stopped to think of the thousands of bagged breakfasts and lunches that were handed out to families . . . If students’ basic needs aren’t met, how can they learn?  Quickly I tried to distract myself from the thoughts of so many hungry families and I placed the trash can in the linen closet.

Without thinking, I grabbed the long armed duster and methodically worked to remove any cobwebs in corners, on light fixtures or in vents.  I went on to vacuum the floor, calculating the number of teleconferences I participated in the last five days.  At least six a day times five days . . . thirty conferences?!!  I wondered, “Is that really possible?”  It’s no wonder my mind and body were asleep just after sunset.

As I flicked the switch to turn on the fan, I couldn’t help but wonder if my students were properly getting their meds.  When parents granted permission for the school to administer medication, our students thrived.  Adderall, Concerta, Quillivant, Ritalin, Strattera . . . I opened the window.  

I applied cleaner to three walls and the door thinking of the challenges parents would endure supporting their students’ at home learning.  I reminded myself to be patient and let the cleaner soak.  Were parents being patient with students’ impulsiveness, low frustration, lack of focus, and difficulty completing tasks?  

I added spray cleaner to the sponge and wiped down the light switches, towel rack, shelves, baseboards, doors, and windowsill.   Working in sections from the top of the room to the bottom, and left to right I pondered, what could I do to begin wiping away students’ fear and anxiety about their new way of learning.

Do students have the necessary materials; pens, pencils, writing paper?  Are we really providing a guaranteed, equitable curriculum if students do not have access to their learning and their materials?  Filling a bucket with warm water and all-purpose cleaner, I tried to think of anything; anything other than this new normal.  Using the cloth diapers my teens wore as infants, I began to hand wash the floor, belting the ‘Closer to Fine’ (Indigo Girls) and hoping to wash the pandemic away.  Washing it away so my students could return to their normalcy.

Finally, knowing that the cleaner had soaked long enough, I went back to the shower, scrubbing in circular motions.  My head was throbbing, the pain was pulsating. Will this pandemic spiral out of control?  I knew what I needed to do;  focus my attention only on the task at hand.  At that exact moment I realized I was . . .

. . . onto the next bathroom to start all over again!

#timetohireahousecleaner

6 Percent

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6%

6 percent

I am so worried about how our students’ are managing Distance Learning.

5 percent

I can only imagine the level of stress and anxiety of parents who are juggling working remotely and homeschooling.  

4 percent

I am incredibly concerned of the mental well being of my teachers and staff.

3 percent

I have not stopped stress eating since that Thursday night when I learned school was unexpectedly closed. 

2 percent

this could have possibly been the longest week of my career.

1 percent

I am too mentally and physically tired to get up and retrieve my charger.  

 

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Heading to bed to recharge for tomorrow’s challenges.  

 

 

Kids’ Best Friend

Dear John, Georgia, Zachary, Garrett, and Eliza,

I hope that you have been enjoying your vacation.  Mimi has been giving me a day by day summary of all of the things that you have been doing.  I still don’t understand why you decided to go on a cruise mostly because you knew I couldn’t go.  For months you debated different vacation destinations and quite frankly, I would have loved any one of the other ideas – – just not a cruise.  I guess I wasn’t important enough to you.

While you’ve been gone I have been holding down the fort.  Mimi and I have been taking care of each other.  The Mumm kids have been coming over to swim every day.  It’s pure chaos.  You would be so annoyed because they keep coming into the house all wet.  I’ve been trying to keep them outside, but haven’t had much success.  Being home without you all is quite lonely, so as frustrating as it might seem, I do love when they are here.  

This afternoon Mimi assumed that I was taking a nap, but I was really listening to her having a conversation on the phone.  I still don’t know who she was talking to, but she was so upset.  I was overhearing her share her version of what happened this morning.  I could tell that she was doing her best not to cry but before she hung up the phone, she was sobbing.  

I tried telling her that he was sick.  

I tried telling her that every time he had a seizure, it took him a week to recover.

I tried telling her that it was so scary for me to have to watch his body tremble out of control and not be able to do anything to help him.

I tried telling her that it wasn’t her fault and that everything would be okay.

I know she was listening, but she didn’t hear me.

So now the two of us are just waiting for you all to come home.  We can’t eat, we can’t sleep, we can’t stop crying.  We have no idea what we are going to say to you.  How will you even understand?  Will you forgive us?  

I decided to write you this letter, hoping that it will give you some time to process what has happened.  I’m glad that you all took your time to say your goodbyes before you went away because when you come home things are going to be very different.  While you were away, your brother had a round of seizures.  The first two were not unusual.  Sure they lasted a long time, but he came out of them like he always does.  This morning though he had another seizure.  His body wouldn’t stop shaking.  His arms and legs were flailing and I saw his eyes roll to the back of his head.  I knew this one was big because he was making sounds; sounds that I had never heard him make.  Mimi tried talking him through it, but her words weren’t helping.  Her words weren’t making him stop.  I had to leave the room; I couldn’t watch him in such distress.  Mimi called Auntie Jen and Uncle Craig to help, but it was too late. 

I was counting the days for you to all come home and now I am dreading your return.  What will I say to you?   What will I do? The house is incredibly quiet now; the silence hurts my heart.  I’m so so sorry Cosmo died.  I’m sorry you all lost your best friend.  I know that another dog would never be the same, but may be some day you will open your heart to rescue another one and give that dog a second chance; just like you did for me and Cosmo.

Barking sadly,

Boomer

 

Vitameatavegamin

I work in a district where most of the students do not have access to technology.  While there are so many online opportunities available to students during this time of Distance Learning, students at my school need to be provided with print materials.  With that said, teachers were asked to submit ten days of ‘print opportunities’ for students.  I spent most of today sitting at the computer, reviewing and providing feedback on submitted lessons.

Grade 3 

Subject Area:  ELA – Writing

Task:  Think about a character from a tv show or movie.  If they were in your shoes right now, who would be home with them?  What are they thinking?  Where is their home?  Who would argue or play with them?  What things would they say?  What would they do to pass the time?  

As I was reviewing the task, I couldn’t help but hear a certain voice in my head . . . 

I’m your Vitavigavegivat Girl. Are you tired, run down, listless?  Well, are you? The answer to all your problems is in this little ol’ bottle, Vitameatavegamin.  

I . . . LOVE . . . LUCY!

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If Lucy were in my shoes right now, who would be home with her? 

  • If Lucille Ball were in my shoes right now, reviewing and providing feedback on submitted lessons, she would be dressed beautifully, smoking cigarettes, and chatting and laughing with her best friend Ethel Merz. 

What are Lucy and friends thinking? 

  • Lucy and Ethel were always up to some kind of mischief with Ricky and Fred so I would bet the two would be thinking of how to take FULL advantage of Social Distancing.

Where is Lucy and Ricky’s home? 

  • Lucy and Ricky lived an old reconverted brownstone apartment in New York City.

Who would argue or play with Lucy? 

  • Although I Love Lucy did  not air at the same time as All in the Family, I would love to be a guest at the dinner table of Lucy, Ricky, Edith, and Archie!

What things would Lucy and friends say? 

  • Lucy, “I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
  • Lucy, “Ethel and I have decided that you have married us and not a television set!”
  • Lucy, “I was going to but then I asked myself why.”
  • Ethel, “I can’t help it, eating is my hobby!”
  • Ricky, “Ever since we said ‘I do’ there are so many things we don’t!”
  • Ethel, “That won’t be a novel, that will be a short story.”

What would Lucy and friends do to pass the time? 

  • See who could stuff the most chocolate in their mouths.
  • Make clothing using the living room carpet.
  • Collect steering wheels from old cars.
  • Impersonate Harpo Marx.
  • Visit a winery and stomp grapes.
  • Invent scalp treatments for men to prevent receding hairlines.
  • Come up with a better tasting Vitameatavegamin Health Tonic.

Perhaps Vitameatavegamin is the cure to the Corona Virus! 

Love-Hate Relationship

Once again, I find myself staring at my computer with only 30 minutes until the Slice of Life deadline.  

Do I have any idea what I am going to write about tonight, NO.  

Do I even know where to begin writing, NO.  

Do I even want to write this slice, NOPE!  

I do know how I will feel in six hours if I wake knowing I didn’t slice – –

frustrated . . .

discouraged . . .

defeated. 

If I spend the next 20 minutes complaining about writing, will it count as a slice?  

If I simply write about how much I despise this challenge, will it count as a slice? 

If I write something about nothing, will it count as a slice?

Tonight, my 20 minutes of writing about nothing and complaining about how much I despise this challenge will count as a slice.  

Slice of Life, we are in a love-hate relationship.  

As much as I hate the challenge, I love the satisfaction of hitting the ‘Publish’ button!  

 

 

 

Turn the Filter Higher

I sat down to write this slice three hours ago.  

Three hours ago, I thought I was settling down, unwinding, and wrapping up my day with a slice of life. 

Three hours ago I got a request from a teacher for a teleconference . . . and here I am now, with only forty-five minutes before the midnight deadline and a computer battery of 4%.

At first the teleconference started with a simple question.  The teacher was so anxious about creating her first digital learning lesson.  I get it.  I have been dabbling in creating Facebook Live read alouds.  I was able to talk her off the ledge, at least for tonight, was just about ready to start thinking of my slice when . . .

. . . I received a second teleconference request.  I wasn’t too concerned; this chat would be easy.  Well, not so much.  This teacher was incredibly escalated.  Her role in the district is defined as Family Partnerships and Social & Emotional Learning Support.  However, during this time of digital learning, she was being asked to work  way outside of her ‘lane.’  I finally was able to disconnect from the teleconference,  grabbed myself a cup of hot tea, and settled to think about and compose my twenty-second slice.  Hoping for a little inspiration, I thought, why not scroll through Facebook?

I happened to come across a very distressed post from a colleague who happens to be the district’s Director of Technology.  I repeat, she is the district’s Director of Technology.  As the district is about to launch digital learning, it comes to no surprise that she is feeling quite anxious.  She posted her worries and my heart was aching, practically crying for her.  During a time when so many people’s backpacks are filled beyond capacity, can’t we all just be kind?!  Can’t we all just be compassionate?  Can’t we all just treat each other with respect?  

Dreading what tomorrow will bring, this woman reached out for virtual support.  That she received.  Her friend commented,

You are stronger than you or I ever give ourselves credit for…
It’s good practice
Just turn the filter up higher…
I know you can    

While I have been working to support teachers, families, and students embarking on this journey called “distance learning,” I have also been struggling . . . words have been exchanged; comments that sting.  I have tried really hard to dismiss the comments, knowing that district leaders are barely holding on . . . but when I enter my safe space, I have a much different mindset.  

Facebook stranger Vincent, as I am really dreading what tomorrow will bring, I thank you for advising me to ‘just turn the filter up higher.’