By Tina Bury
Twenty years ago, at the age of 21, I moved to Alaska from Michigan.
All by myself.
This was the time when the internet was just finding its way into homes and you had to wait patiently for that ...doo to, doo to, doo to, doo to, doo to do (yes, this is my best effort to imitate the sound of a dial-up modem in written form!) to then slowly, oh so slowly, browse websites.
One day in my 20th year, I found a job listed online when I searched for Denali National Park, Alaska. Following a whim, and before my head could talk my heart out of it, I applied for the position.
It was at a hotel just outside of the park, and a few months later I boarded my first ever airplane on my first ever solo trip, full of excitement and trepidation.
Oh, was my heart right...it was such an experience. My mind broadened in ways that only being exposed to different people can do. People who were formed from different experiences and in different locales.
I ate food I had never before eaten, often fresh from the ocean, kayaked with sea otters and hiked mountains I had never before seen...all while singing a ditty so as to alert any grizzly bears of my existence.
But, really, that's not the story I'm telling today, I'm talking about connection.
See, I spent 3 years living it up in Alaska and found myself only drawn home by the pull of family. I missed them too hard to stay.
One of the most beautiful experiences of that time was when I would "meet" my brother online, me at the public library, he in his living room in Michigan, to play euchre with two other unknown-to-us humans in the very rudimentary and simple, early online gaming spaces.
It made me giddy. Not playing euchre. I was never very good at that. But, coming together with my loved one, "connecting" online, when I could not easily see him in person.
It was a balm on my lonely, albeit fun-filled, heart.
I was thinking about that time today as we start our second week of social isolation.
I'm amazed at how authentic and real the connections I've made online feel and to that effect, I recorded you a little video!
Come together dear ones, in any way you can. (except physically, for the greater good, not that).
Host a Zoom meet up with your girlfriends for an hour and knit and drink wine and connect. Facetime your mama. Plan to read a story to your grandbaby on Skype. OR...play some euchre with your brother.
Connection, it's what makes the world go round!
In Deep Kinship,
N3 Note: Tina Bury called the Newaygo area home before tramping off to the snowy north where she found herself a mama and a sewing teacher. She hosts sewing retreats and workshops in Michigan for garment sewists who crave connection and finally want to wear and sew clothes they love. She also has an online course where you can get mindful and intentional about what you wear and how you show up in the world and give yourself more joy in your craft. She shares her musing on making in her weekly e-letter and on her blog. Kinshiphandwork.com
Looking for something to do while at home during the Covid-19 time? Newaygo Middle School has a perfect solution! Every day from March 30 until April 3, there will be videos posted of students performing their talents.
The NMS talent show is an annual event held at the gymnasium during school hours, but this year's situation called for some creativity! Teachers Jaime Harkness and Karen Graff helped to make this show a reality despite the unusual circumstances.
Head to Newaygo Middle School's Facebook page for daily updates!
By Tim McGrath
“Strange days have found us; Strange days have tracked us down…” Strange Days – The Doors
It’s been ongoing for years, and I really have no idea why. I have it, Dad had it, my daughter, too. Dad used to say he’d be sitting on a bench at Meijer waiting for Mom to finish up shopping, and someone would come and plop down next to him. That’s when the person would just start talking. The more they talked; the more intimate things would get. He’d hear all sorts of stuff from people he didn’t know – complete strangers. Often it was some health malady. He came home one day saying: “If I hear any more about somebody’s bowel troubles, I’m not going back there with your mother; she’s on her own.” Can’t blame him, really. Too Much Information from anyone is not cool, and especially from strangers. Ick.
Throughout my life from young child to the present, I, too, have found myself in places far and wide listening to other people, many of them complete strangers, laying it all out there. In these situations, I recall the 1990’s TV sitcom Frasier. The lead character, Dr. Frasier Crane, was the host of a call-in radio program. He offered advice to a cast of oddball characters seeking his guidance on a wide variety of topics. Cool, confident, comforting words would be given out after his signature opening, “I’m listening”, was cooed to the caller. I think I have those words tattooed on my forehead.
Now, mind you, being a good listener is an admirable quality, and, I do think I’m pretty good at it. But, just like everyone else, I have a dark side. Over the years I’ve developed a strategy to deal with the over sharers, TMI prattlers, and The Monologuers. These are the people who use every conversation as a springboard to drone on endlessly about one thing or the other in their world, apparently unaware there’s another person who’s part of the conversation. It’s called Active Non-Listening.
Here’s how it works, and it’s a magnificently simple survival strategy. It does take practice, but so worth the time. When I find myself in a situation with one of the aforementioned characters, and the conversation turns deadly, I shift to ANL mode. By all outward appearances I’m actively engaged: maintaining eye contact, leaning in, asking questions, laughing or commiserating in all the right spots. But my mind is thinking of many other things: what’s for dinner, I’ve got to stop for gas today, text the kids…, just everyday things. Raised in a culture where Be Nice was the way we were expected to behave, telling the babbler to STOP YAMMERING AND LISTEN FOR ONCE! would be frowned upon. I suppose that’s carried over into my adult life to a degree. So, even though Active Non-Listening really is a passive-aggressive behavior, it works for me.
I found myself in one of these places just recently – a truly serendipitous moment, indeed.
Arnie and I were returning from our annual Florida golf trip. Found my seat: row 18, aisle. No sooner did I park myself, than a couple in the aisle stood over me. Dutifully standing and allowing them in, they shuffled past, plunking into their seats. Me on the aisle, he in the middle, she near the window. Things were as they normally are on a flight as we all settled in waiting for takeoff. That’s when it started. “Where are you from?” Mrs. asked, leaning over her husband, who was trying to read his magazine.
“Fremont,” I cheerfully replied. “You?”
“Kalamazoo,” she said. That was all it took. She’d found a willing participant, and was off and running. It soon became evident she was a Monologuer. Thankfully, I recognized it sooner rather than later and deployed ANL. I’m not sure how long this went on, as I was reflecting back on what I needed to do to improve the inconsistencies in my golf swing, and how delicious the sushi was we’d had the night before. There was also a dim awareness we were airborne, but Mrs. was still in full cry. That’s when it happened.
“You can’t be too careful, especially now with all this sickness going around,” Mrs. said. I looked at her and saw she’d pulled out a large container of Clorox wipes, and was busy scrubbing down her and her husband’s tray tables, and armrests. “With all this Corona stuff going around, I’m taking precautions.” She then reached across her husband, dropped my tray table down, and gave it a good going over. Not satisfied with that paltry effort, she continued her quest in vanquishing the invisible foe. She was a short woman, but nimble. Stretching out her five-foot something frame, she even managed to wipe down my armrest on the aisle. Then, for good measure, she got a new wipe, leaned over Mr., and unlatched my seat belt. She wiped the whole thing down, then latched it back up again. “There, now we can rest easy.” Mr. looked at me with a bewildered expression. The look in his eyes said, “h-e-l-p m-e.”
There’s a quote from Mr. Rogers that’s been finding its way around social media lately. It goes like this:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Such wise words for all of us in these strange days.
I’d also like to add: remember to look for the ladies with the Clorox wipes.
Book Review: I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons
By Alexis Mercer
What day is it? Does anyone know? I have stopped watching all television. If the TV is on at night, it is a movie with the kids. We don’t have the best Internet connection, so we are talking DVD movies (not even BlueRay). I am also reading a ton of books, listening to podcasts about running and coaching, and listening to audible books.
The other day I loaded up my Audible cart (I had quite a few credits to cash in on). Because I have a lot of print books to read, I searched up titles that were completely different from what I would hold in my hand. Comedy was first on the list.
I came across Kevin Hart’s I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons (by Neil Strauss) and knew I was in business.
The book is nothing shy of hilarious.
Laugh out loud, cracking up, looking around for someone to tell how funny it is hilarious.
I can’t tell you the number of times I repeated some of the content to my husband. Granted, I’m not Kevin Hart, so the stories aren’t nearly as funny with me repeating them. But still funny.
This book has to be listened to. Hart makes it come alive. I am sure reading the print is also funny, but the audio is like having cake and eating it, too.
What I didn’t expect going in was some of the depth. It is his auto-biography, and he is a comedian, so I expected hilarity. In addition, there are genuine moments he shares with the reader. Hard times, scary times, not-at-all-funny times. The listener hears Hart’s lessons from the difficult parts of his life.
Be forewarned: If you’re offended by inappropriate language, this book is NOT for you. And even if you’re not offended, be ready for using headphones if you have little ones at home. The language is not for the faint of heart.
The last words were spoken by Hart and I was sad it had come to an end. This book provided a nice respite from current reality, one hysterical sentence at a time.
By Ken DeLaat
Photo by Lesly DeLaat
You have to give her a lot of credit, she is one patient woman.
LFC (Lifetime Spousal Companion) Lil and I have always led lives that,while intrinsically intertwined, continued to allow for ample time and space away from each other.
It’s worked and worked exceedingly well for over 4 decades of togetherness.
When we were both still readily employed our daytime hours were generally spent in the company of colleagues and co-workers. We each participated in career related conferences that inevitably led to several days of separation ever so often and we each served on boards and engaged in other such activities that required some evening hours.
Last year we retired from our regular jobs,though as an elected official I continue to spend a good deal of time at meetings both near and far as well as the occasional conferences.
There are also friends we each enjoy separately from our mutual acquaintances, thus there have always been dinners and lunches when we connect with folks we enjoy being with on a 1:1 basis.
In short, retirement gave us a bit more time together with perhaps more frequent road trips and less time spent in separate evening activities but overall we both continued to appreciate our time apart which has always seemed to lead to an increased appreciation of our time together.
Then of course came last week. Being in the targeted age group for vulnerability to the COVID-19 scourge (If you’re thinking ‘he can’t possibly be that old’ thank you for your kindness and sorry about your failing eyesight) it was decided the prudent strategy was to isolate.
Of course much of that decision was made for us as our favored haunts were shuttered, my gym closed its doors, lunches and dinners were cancelled, a variety of appointments went by the wayside, plans were postponed and those requisite meetings of mine that take up an abundance of time either ground to a halt or began to allow for touching base in a more technological sense.
We were sequestered.
Committed to staying safe by staying home, save a trip or two to the grocery when required.
And that meant being together 24/7.
Since my exercise regimen is now relegated to a basement treadmill, each morning I join Ms. Lil when she does her daily workout, always soon after awakening. This has gone well despite an occasional glance my way when, headphones firmly in place, I get a bit too loud performing my duets with Springsteen or Seger
We have breakfast together, lunch together and dinner together.
Cleaning, a chore we once took turns tackling is now taken on as a joint effort.
The spring chore of readying the gardens, once her exclusive domain because in the past I’ve done what I could to avoid it, has become a shared effort since it gets me outside and keeps me busy for a bit.
Oh, and we go for a lengthy walk each afternoon.
Our evenings are spent jointly binge watching shows of interest since there are no sports that would normally involve separate TV viewing because the sporting world has dried up including (sob!) the baseball season,
Ok, I know they’re playing repeats of thrilling sporting events from the past but seriously, for me, sports has to be live to provide any interest whatsoever. Otherwise any shred of drama or excitement has been stripped away and it might as well be an oft repeated episode of Cheers... except at least the Cheers episode might still provide a chuckle or two.
But I digress.
How has this timeless togetherness transpired?
Well, truth be told (an intriguing phrase since it implies much of the time truth is NOT being told) it is likely way, way more of a challenge for my LSC than myself.
She has always been fun to be around, is a consummate listener and as mentioned before possesses a boatload of patience.
My mind wanders which is generally ok but with us being totally together timewise I am often compelled to share these rambling thoughts.
“What about if we were to spend an entire day where we had to communicate without words?”
“When this is over would you consider moving to someplace like the Marianas Islands, Paraguay or maybe New Mexico for a year or so?”
“How would you feel about turning one of the bedrooms into a pinball room? I could buy some old machines and...”
“Let’s say we had to start naming everything over again beginning with…”
“Speaking of names let’s pick out new ones for each other and use them for a day.”
“Ever wonder what happened to that guy we knew when we lived up North? Let’s try to get a hold of him. No, I don’t recall his name either.”
“Remember that time in the Keys when we were camping and that one song came on? What was that song?”
“I’ve been thinking about the shoes alongside the road again and..”
And Ms. Lil sits there with the patience of Job and answers sweetly but firmly...
‘We’re not moving to Paraguay, the pinball room is not happening, you need to stop with the whole renaming stuff. I don’t recall the guy you're thinking of and I don’t know the song from the Keys because it was 30+years ago and you don’t even know how it goes, and as I’ve told you before, after all these years hearing about the shoes I’m a little tired of it.
‘But that thing about not talking for an entire day…’
Even the most patient among us...
By Lola Harmon Ramsey
A few years ago I had a mentor who is a very experienced and successful businessman. We were talking one day and the topic of “busy” came up. I tend to personally thrive being busy. Two young children, a husband, a small business to run, volunteering with other organizations, doing all-the-things. I like to be busy. My mentor on the other hand brought up how we glorify busy and that perhaps, busy is a choice.
That really hit me that particular day and I began to notice how whenever you would ask someone at any stage of life how they were doing, they would most often reply, “Good! Busy!” I tried to stop explaining to others I was busy when they asked me how I was. For example, my busyness is different from my grandmother's sense of busyness. Heading to the local fitness center and a dentist appointment in one week is busy for her. Many of us do that and more in a morning. I know it’s relative to where you currently are at in your life.
But now, due to our state mandated stay at home order, I’m not busy like I used to be. My once full calendar is empty. My current task is to be home with my family and keeping their young brains turning enough to stay positive and healthy.
My husband and I own a small recycling company that is still deemed essential for waste management services. We are seeing volumes of recycling that are near holiday levels. With everyone at home they are generating a lot of waste and recycling. While my husband continues to run the hauling operation I do what I can at home to keep things running smoothly. I know our work is not as important as the task we have all currently been given. To stay home unless your job is essential or you need to get food or medicine.
Instead of just being busy I’m choosing to be grateful. The outpouring of support I have seen within my community this last week has been heartwarming. School buses heading out to deliver lunches to children. Teachers creating packets and lessons online for our students to complete. Teenage baggers offering to deliver groceries to those who cannot leave their homes. Artists and educators doing online demonstrations for anyone that wants to participate. Fitness classes streaming for free to keep us moving with them. The list grows every day.
Now that my children and I are on week two of being home together we have had some wins and a few losses as well. The family favorite was dusting off our old gaming table and teaching the kids how to play blackjack. Who knew counting to twenty one could be so much fun? We have done countless science experiments and I even caved and made the dreaded slime.
We have baked treats together and I’ve made more sit down dinners with serving dishes on the table this past week than I have in the last year. I have played more games of “PIG” than I can even count, and we have tracked many miles of walking through the neighborhood while enjoying the progress of our neighbors crocuses beginning to bloom. I wouldn’t have had any of these experiences if I would have been busy doing something else.
Currently, there is too much screen time happening and some of us are having a sad day here and there at home. I worry for my children who have faced enormous disappointment and frustration with so many changes that are out of our control. My daughter won’t be able to perform in that middle school play she was working on. My son won’t get to swing that new bat for little league he has been waiting months to participate in. Spring break is a no go for sure because that airplane won’t be taking off at all. These may be trivial compared to the struggles of others but for my children they are very real and very sad. We have learned new coping skills already.
For now I need to get back to the home made ping pong table game we are making. I for one am counting it as a STEM learning activity because we are cutting out cardboard and measuring out the folding table and finding all sorts of things to engineer to make this work. We will stay busy...
By Megan Wirts
Great things are about to happen. I can feel it. I can also sense the doom, the fear, the tension and the helplessness people are feeling. I feel that too. I hear my friends say they are scared about losing their jobs, many have already been laid off. Small business owners are worried about keeping their doors open. I hear others say they are afraid of going to their jobs because of their risk to exposure. Many of my friends work in the medical field as nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists. Others work at grocery stores and pharmacies. Everyone is feeling it. No matter who you are, where you live, your age, race, your religious, non religious or political beliefs, we all are going to be affected. We cannot control what is happening around us, but we can control how we respond.
After my initial anxiety peaked and I refilled some prescriptions, no shame in that game my friends, I started making lists. Lists of food, activities, songs and recipes. I went through my pantry and made a list of meals I could make for the next 30 days. I felt lucky to be able to come up with 30 days of meals without having to go to the store. You see, I’m already a home baker, cook and person that has been in a bit of social isolation for a few years now. Being physically disabled will do that to you. I’m also a planner, not quite a prepper and absolutely NOT a hoarder, but I usually do my grocery shopping monthly so I’m pretty well stocked. There are hoarders out there and it’s not cool. Recently I watched someone haul loads of toilet paper and other large bags of things into their house. I thought it seemed excessive and now I can’t find a roll of toilet paper anywhere and ¾ of the people in my house suffer from the nervous poops. Good thing I save all my mismatched socks.
My 12 year old son and 16 year old daughter cleaned the entire basement and turned it into an awesome hangout spot and jam space all on their own. I was very suspicious. I still kind of am. The day before that my son built a rocket and my daughter painted it. They did this together. We have also been playing more music and learning new songs together. It’s only been one week, so let's see where we are three weeks from now. Currently I’m cautiously optimistic that we will not be having a Shining like situation on our hands
It feels as if the world is taking a deep breath and we all need to join in. We can do this by staying home when we need to and by helping those that cannot. I see people organizing food drives, creating mini libraries, sewing face masks for health care workers because they are running low on everything, and just being good, kind humans for the sake of humanity. I see moms that are original homeschoolers reaching out to all of us new to the homeschooling business with helpful ideas, laughs and hope. People are sharing jokes, stories, and songs trying to lift spirits and find joy in what feels like a joyless situation. We are going to show up for one another because that is what humanity does.
I’m trying really hard to focus on the good that will come of this. I’m hopeful for a more empathetic world. My daughter has asthma and I have a neurological movement disorder, we are part of that vulnerable population that needs to be protected. I know that it’s going to hurt for a while and we are going to grieve. We are going to have to pick up broken pieces and glue them back together and we all know that the things are always just a little different after something has been broken, but there is beauty in the cracks. That’s what I tell my daughter when we are singing and our voices crack when we are trying to reach those high notes. Sometimes the crack is more beautiful than the note we were trying to reach.
“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”- Carl Reiner
So, obviously it’s not enough to have a virus turn our lives upside down.
Let’s add a little late March snow to the mix.
Never fear, it’s presence will be short lived with temperatures rising to the 50’s this week (albeit apparently with rain) and we can say adieu to the white stuff for the foreseeable future.
And though it’s not April yet we love this quote from L.M. Montgomery who penned the Anne of Green Gables Series. This one is from Anne of Ingelside.
“Snow in April is abominable,” said Anne. “Like a slap in the face when you expected a kiss.”
By Kathy Morrison
Who would have thought that in such a short time, life as we knew it, would change so much. The date had been on the calendar for about two weeks. Dinner at the Morrison’s with our friends, Beth and Mary, set for Wednesday, March 18th, with an episode of “Victoria”, Season 3 afterward, accompanied by the obligatory bowl of Country Dairy Ice Cream.
But then, that looming microscopic sized killer – Covid-19 - tore into our lives. Day by day, the warnings grew louder of the dire need for social distancing. The pleas from doctors, both in the US and around the world, were becoming clear: wash your hands and stay distanced as much as possible to slow the spread and help them to manage the inevitable overburdening of our health care system.
By the 16th, Mary was coming down with a bug, I’d had a nagging sinus headache for a few days, and coupled with the strong push for social distancing, we questioned the gathering. Maybe we DO have to change our thinking and do our part to help stem the tide. This thing was spreading faster and faster worldwide and had now seeped insidiously into Michigan. Rolling up our sleeves, like Rosie the Riveter, we could do it and work to help “flatten the curve”. We all agreed our little tête-à-tête should be postponed.
However, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. Being the resourceful person that I usually am, I asked myself, W.W.T.D.? (“What Would Techies Do?”). With one of those crafty eyed looks that send my poor husband, John, running for cover, and deviously rubbing my hands together (for 20 seconds with soap and water, of course), I schemed a little scheme.
Messaging back and forth with Beth in the early hours of Wednesday the 18th, I asked,
“Will you be home tonight at 5 p.m.? If my headache subsides, we should get together tonight via FaceTime and have a cocktail time!”
(I could literally feel my headache melting away).
She quickly texted back, “Probably. Walking this afternoon with Gloria but I think we should be done by then. I don’t have FaceTime. Do I?”
“If you have an iPhone you do!”, said I.
“So I guess I do!”, she shot back.
“LOL.”, I texted back. “If I call you, it will pop up and just like a phone call, you will hit the green answer button.”
After a flurry of a few more nonsensical texts involving anger at losing online word games, political rants, toilet paper shortage woes, and our Covid-19 weight loss (or gain) plans, she was off her device and I was left to my own devices.
I looked for my bookmarked article about a clever, new drink I’d seen online, born to mark the onslaught of the virus which seemed the perfect combination of both fun and (wink- wink- nudge- nudge) “healthy”. March 2020 had witnessed the birth of the “Quarantini”, a Vitamin C and honey fortified twist on an old favorite. Into the kitchen I scurried in my p.j.s and slippers. I could hear James Bond’s sexy voice whisper in my ear, “A Quarantini, Kathy. Shaken, not stirred”, but in the proactive/ non-panic mode I have been trying to maintain through this Corona storm, I winked at him and whispered back, “No, darling, Stirred, but Not Shaken”. Coming back to my senses when I hear the cat meowing outside, I excitedly rummaged around and did a small victory dance after a quick examination of the liquor cabinet, fridge and vitamins. Plenty of Gin, dry Vermouth, honey, lemon, oranges. Indeed, I had all the necessary ingredients. My panic shopping this past week had paid off!
“Yes!”, I shouted, “my first prepper badge”.
By 3:30 that afternoon, having collected and set out all the elements for the anticipated concoction, I did a little housework, did a little yoga, read a few emails, smiled at the Quarantini ingredients on the kitchen table, prepped a few things for dinner…..and before I knew it, 5:00 rolled around. John, and I pulled our chairs around the kitchen table, ready for our first virtual Happy Hour, swirling our Quarantinis around in their way-sour Vitamin C rimmed glasses. How exciting! Damn the virus, full speed ahead. I hit the FaceTime icon, found Beth’s name and pounded on the call button.
“Ring, ring, ring…...”
“Ring, ring, ring…...”
“Ring, ring, ring…..”
WHAT? No answer? Did she forget? I hung up and redialed. Can’t she find the answer button? Maybe she’s not in the house yet. Maybe she is in the loo. I rang her once more. Again, no answer! Didn’t she know I was serious??? My first EVER virtual cocktail party date and I’m going to be stood up??? This can’t be happening! I grumbled to John, who was hovering over the salty snacks set out on the table. I texted Gloria. Nothing. A minute or two later, Gloria finally texted back. Their walk took a bit longer but Beth should be back in her house by now. Sigh of relief!
FaceTime, calling Beth! “Ring ring ring!” And BOOM! There she was, moving and grooving on the iPhone screen, with a mini-wine bottle already in her hand. That- a -girl! Cheers to ya, Beth! Praise the Lord and pass the Quarantini.
So for the next hour, the three of us talked, laughed, took silly photos of each other over our phones, laughed some more, talked some more and reveled in our first virtual cocktail party during this war Covid-19. Until this thing is over, we really do have to seek out new ways of staying connected with those we love. Over here in Brunswick, we’ve decided to adopt the motto of the United States, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, “Whatever It Takes”.
None of us know what lies ahead folks. Stay healthy, stay connected and keep finding ways to lift your spirits and those around you. Whatever it takes!
Marathon Miles: Covid-19 Edition
By Alexis Mercer
I signed up for my 2nd marathon. Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota on June 20. After completing the Army 10 Miler in Washington D.C. last October, I knew I was up for the challenge of a marathon again, but I took my time deciding where I wanted to run. There are so many great options. This is a well-known race in the runners’ circles. Many elites make appearances here from year to year. I liked the course layout, the fact it would give me a weekend travel destination, that it is along the coast of Lake Superior, and that it is in a northern state at the end of June so I might not die of strangulation from humidity.
After forking over the cash (marathons are expensive, people), I thought about a goal. My first marathon goal time was very clear: survival pace. I accomplished that goal. I never walked and crossed the line in 4:24. I can do better. I have a few thousand more miles on my legs since then and have been focused on shorter distances and speed. Sub 4 goal time. Then I found out my dad ran the ’84 Detroit International Marathon in 3:56. So my new goal became 3:55.59.
That’s A LOT of time to take off. But why have a goal if it doesn’t scare you?
I carefully laid out my spring races to build up. I would base train all of January and February. Then March 28 I would run the Kent City Ridge Run 15k (a really great local race full of hills and good competition). And because I had a deferred bib from last year’s Riverbank Run in May, I would race that as well. For the remaining 5 weeks I would focus on my long run Sundays, speed Tuesdays, and tempo Fridays with maintenance on the other days. I was all set.
Then came Covid-19.
Silly me thinking my plan would go exactly as I hoped.
March 13 was my last day of work. I am a teacher. I had to say goodbye to my students until April 13. An entire month of not seeing them. My worry for them - some of whom don’t have internet or even consistent basic needs like 3 meals a day – was eating away at me.
Monday rolled around and the reality that I was all of the sudden a homeschool teacher to 1st and 4th grade boys hit. So.Help.Me. “Oh but you’re a teacher” they say. Yes. A HIGH SCHOOL Spanish and English teacher. I know exactly zero about elementary curriculum and appropriate implementation. I do know enough about teaching to appreciate and respect that every grade (and even classroom) is completely different and we all spend years, really our entire careers, becoming as close to expert in our specific field as possible. I had officially 2 days.
For the record, I have always said I could never, ever homeschool my own children. In fact, I have maintained I would be the world’s worst homeschool teacher. Joke’s on me.
So amidst worrying about my parents’ well-being, my sister and her family, my in-laws (who were not even in the same state at the time), my students , friends, and even complete strangers who were in some way vulnerable to this disease, I was now going to have to implement some sort of homeschool schedule for my kids, be the chef, and make sure they don’t kill each other in the process. Oh and also make sure our immune systems were at peak performance with enough vitamins coming from unprocessed foods that I would somehow have to get from the grocery store without actually touching anything and then immediately sanitizing with the no-soap I had left in my cupboard. Pppsh no problem.
(Disclaimer: I don’t think everyone needs to homeschool. If it doesn’t work for your family, don’t worry. Just love your kids. That is enough.)
Sunday night I told myself “this is just another marathon. You can do this. Think long distance, not a sprint.”
So now I am training for two marathons.
I set up a plan for my new, unexpected marathon that looked like this:
-8:30 wakeup time (my kids are NOT morning people)
-8:45 breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed
-9:30 walk dog together
-10:00-11:00 academic time (no electronics)
-11:00-12:00 creative time (no electronics, but yes to Legos, drawing, puzzles, games, experiments)
-12:30 – bed time: extended recess and physical education (yup, that’s right, I love PE)
Day 1 went great. I only got “why do we have to do school?” one time per kid. No arguing about electronics. No fighting. But I knew this day was like crossing the start line of the race. Everyone is always smiling at this point. There’s no pain yet.
Day 2 started like this (no lie): “I AM SO SICK OF HAVING TO GET UP AT 8:30 EVERY DAY.” Umm, it’s day 2. We aren’t even to the first mile marker yet.
Thankfully my husband, Adam, didn’t have to work on Tuesday. So as the boys were sitting in academic time, he tried to answer their questions about why they needed to do academics. He said “we aren’t going to sit around all day and not learn. It’s a long time without school. We don’t want to get dumb.” As he continued, I knew I was in for a special treat with his explanation. It didn't disappoint. “Just start thinking of your mom as your teacher. (Insert kids rolling their eyes) And I’m your principal. And superintendent. In fact, you can now refer to me as Superdaddy due to my extensive role in your new education.”
Ok. I shut that down real quick. Now that the boys had completely lost focus and were gigging like middle school girls, I fought to bring them back.
Midway through the week my mom offered to FaceTime to do some ELA and science lessons with the boys. Yes, please. As a retired elementary principal, literacy specialist and all-around rock star when it comes to anything elementary, I was ALL in for the help. I had reached the first water break session – and it wasn’t just equipped with water, but multiple flavors of Gatorade, Energy Blox, and some pretzels, too.
By the end of week 1 in Homeschool Marathon, I am starting to figure some things out. I have changed game plans multiple times. I have made a lot of mistakes. But I’m not tapping out. It’s my 1st Homeschool Marathon – no matter how I cross the finish line, it’s still a PR (personal record).
Part of my being able to navigate Homeschool Marathon is actual marathon training. The Ridge Run has been cancelled. Riverbank Run was postponed until fall. But Covid-19 hasn’t taken away my ability to run. Alone. In the woods. In the fresh air.
I went out today for a tempo run (I still get to choose which days I run certain distances or speeds: Control what I can.) It is so cold, which is so refreshing. I drove to a nearby seasonal road. The 1st half mile I eased in. I let my lungs feel the fresh air. And then for 3 miles I pushed hard. I wanted to feel the burn in my lungs and in my legs both.
With every step I was able to let go of some of the tightness in my brain and body. No expectations or fear. Just being.
One step at a time.
As I rounded the last corner of my 4.7 mile route, I felt the significance of feeling lighter in mind and body while on a seasonal road. My clear head spoke to my calm (albeit quickly beating) heart.
This is all just a season.
Granted, not a season we are used to. Not one any of us could have possibly anticipated or prepared for. Certainly not a season anyone wants. While some of us like to think we have our training plans all laid out for the foreseeable future, the reality is that is not always true. Life happens.
I choose to train and continue through two marathons. One chosen, one forced upon me. Throughout the season of training, I am aware there will be more hurdles, huge, seemingly impassable mud puddles, and unimagined obstacles. I will forge ahead doing what I know I can accomplish: one foot in front of the other; taking one step at a time.
Be well, my friends.
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