SOLC 31 of 31: Writing to Reach Out

When I was in elementary school, my Principal, Harlan Clark, wrote students notes on blank blue index cards. He filled them with beautifully blue-inked calligraphy and they said, “You are a winner!” These cards from the Principal meant the world.

Years later, when I became an Assistant Principal, I decided that I would write a note to every student every year. This started 16 years ago and continues to this day even after moving 10 years ago into the Principal role. This year, in addition to writing notes to my students, I decided that I’d write notes home to my staff members and their families to tell each family how much we appreciate their loved one.

This week, I’ve been able to finish those notes to staff members. A simple note, with a personalized simple sentiment, has meant the world to those on the receiving end. The thanks that I’ve received in return has been unexpected, but has bridged the loneliness and isolation that we are feeling these days. While the mail is still getting picked up and delivered daily, now is a good time to write and reach out.

SOLC 30 of 31: Weird Weekend

Inspired by another blogger, here’s my attempt at the six by six structure.

This was a very weird weekend.

We didn’t attend any sports games.

We didn’t rush to see friends.

The rain added to dampened spirits.

And hampered notions of outdoor activities.

Very odd, the quiet and stillness.

SOLC 29 of 31: Mourning Rituals

Rituals are reliable comforts of habit that help us through trying times. In the Jewish tradition, when a loved one dies, you bury your loved one as quickly as possible. At the graveside, the mourners are asked to shovel the dirt on the casket after it is lowered. The “thud” of each shovelful of dirt a grim reminder of the task at hand. The shovel is passed from mourner to mourner until the grave is covered. Following the burial at the cemetary, mourners return to the house of a member of kin for food a company. Before entering the house, you wash your hands with a pitcher of water and dry them with paper towels – you wash the cemetary from your hands. Inside the house, mirrors are covered. The shiva period, the period of visiting lasts a week – where the mourners are sitting and greeting guests who come bearing food and distract the mourners. These are the Jewish rituals of mourning.

In the case of the recent passing of my brother, COVID-19 wasn’t really on our radar yet and he was cremated, so we didn’t have the graveside rituals. But we did benefit from the sitting shiva period.

Over the past two weeks, two friends and colleagues have lost family members and due to social distancing, the rituals that comfort us the most are not allowed to part of the mourning process. My one friend noted that her father died alone in the hospital – none of her family members were allowed to be with him. My other friend noted that while a graveside service was permitted with a limited number of immediate mourners, they weren’t even allowed to pass the shovel from person to person. And of course, no in-person shiva.

This pandemic is heartbreaking on so many levels. But it is those dying alone and those mourning alone that are breaking my heart today. The rituals that are meant to be our comfort in a time where there is no comfort are not even options at this complicated time, leaving the heart and the hurt to be that more heartbreaking.

SOLC 28 of 31: Irony

Irony is doing a 3-year doctoral program while working and momming full time and then being held captive in your house after all of your work is done.

Irony is having time to make challah for shabbat, but not being able to go to temple.

Irony is having Passover cancelled due to a plague (cred. FB).

Irony is having time to make new recipes, but not having the ingredients on hand.

Irony is having time to exercise, but not exercising anyway.

Irony is finding use for all of the convenience services that we didn’t need before (instacart, zoom, home chef) and now finding that they are a necessity.

Irony, COVID-19 style.

SOLC 27 of 31: Follow Your Arrow

Kacey Musgraves sings, “Just follow your arrow, Wherever it points, yeah, Follow your arrow, Wherever it points.”

This song is one of my favorites. Not only are the lyrics ridiculously clever (as are the lyrics of most songs), but the message is so on point: BE YOU, LOVE YOU, and do this, unapologetically.

Last night, I sat down to host a Facebook Live writing lesson for the students in my school. I love writing. They know this. I go into their classrooms to share my writer’s notebook. I send poems to my staff. This is my safe place. And so, while the world spins around us and spins us out of control, I found a way to “follow my arrow” and go to my safe space, just for a few minutes.

I sat on my deck, with a blank black-and-white marbled composition book and I offered a “good for all” lesson on writing a poem about the things that you see when you step outside your door. I modeled for them, read them three versions of poems along this line that I had just written and then uploaded pictures of the writing for them to see. It felt right to write.

As you feel yourself spinning these days, follow your arrow, be you, love you and find that safe space.

SOLC 26 of 31: A Letter to this virus

Dear Coronavirus,

You did it. You made us fear everything in a world where we were already afraid to travel, go to the movies, to the store and to church or synagogue. We were already in a place of “living our lives anyway” despite the constant terrorism afar and nearby.

But, you did it. You made us slow down and isolate and pay attention. You made us revisit our hygiene habits, our work schedules, our school expectations, our technology tools and expertise.

And you made us feel lonely, nervous, and terrified of the world we live in. Are we invisible carriers? Who did we make sick? When?

And you made us worry. We worry about all of those providing care for the sick. We worry about the elderly. We worry about those who are dying alone. We worry about those who will give birth alone. We worry about the children who aren’t in school and already behind. We worry for the children with special needs – will they get the care and support they need at this difficult time.

Coronvirus, you stopped us in our tracks. Not for a day or for a week. You put a dead stop to the world as we know it. There will forever by a “before Coronavirus” and an “after Coronavirus.” Just like there was with 9/11. The aftermath will be different, but there will always be a line in the sand.

Right now, it’s hard to envision the “after,” but I’m being optimistic that one day we will look back on this period of our lives when we were frozen in time and re-establishing our norms, all because of you.

Yours truly,

Feeling stuck

SOLC 25 of 31: Initiative

What’s amazing about having teenage children (ages 13 and 16) is to watch them take initiative when they want something done. No, I know, that teens get a bad rap for being lazy and not working hard, but during this “new normal” of self-isolation and remote learning, I’ve seen otherwise.

For the past few months, my daughter has been pestering me about wanting to paint her room a new color. Not wanting to spend the money to hire a painter and knowing from experience how much work it is to paint, I put her off. However, with remote learning and self-isolation on the brink, I reopened the idea of the project and put it back on her. We were able to secure the supplies needed and over the last week she has taped, primed, painted and redecorated her room – all with her own initiative and with little help. It looks great!

Yesterday, I emerged from my office around 3:30 and found my two children in the shed pulling out the volleyball net, Bocce set and Croquet. They were working together to get the volleyball set put up. They did, with just a little help from me. This allowed us to have a family game of badminton around sunset. What a lovely end to a difficult day.

It’s amazing what these teens can do when they put their mind to something and take the initiative. Looking forward to seeing what they do next.

SOLC 24 of 31: The Gift of the game

One blessing of these longs days together is the found family time that we’ve carved out. Almost each night so far, it’s been “Family Game Night,” and we’ve played a different board game for each occassion. The following is a list/review of the games we’ve played. Keep in mind, we are a family of 4 with two teenagers ages 13 and 16.

Monopoly: a classic. Needs no explanation or review.

Scattergories: a timed test of quick word work based on a category and a letter.

Word on the Street: you must be a good speller for this game. With a teammate you come up with words based on a category. As you do so, you “claim” letters with the goal of winning the most letters to win the game.

Ticket to Ride: this is a great strategic game that involves “laying down routes” with train cars and connecting various cities across the nation. There are also international versions of this game.

1901: This is Ticket to Ride meets Monopoly of sorts. We are still figuring this one out. We’ve played it once successfully, but this will need a couple of games for us to fully enjoy it. Another strategic game.

Telestrations: This is a pictionary meets the game of telephone game. Each person gets a word, writes it, draws it and then passes it to the next player where they interpret it and write down a word or draw it. They then pass it to the next player until it gets back to the original owner of the word. The results are HILARIOUS.

Coming up next: CodeNames, Scrabble, Qwirkle, Balderdash, In the Bag

SOLC 23 of 31: The weather is my mood

The cold, windy, rainy weather is my mood today.

It’s a put-on-your-pjs-and-get-under-the-covers day.

It’s a find-a-good-book-and-block-out-the-world-day.

It’s a lift-each-other-up-so-you-don’t-feel-lonely day.

It’s a snuggle-with-your-child-dog-cat-blanket day.

It’s that kind of day.

SOLC 22 of 31: Loser's Coffee Cake

Loser’s Coffee Cake. I’m not sure where this coffee cake got it’s name. The recipe is a family favorite and came to me from my mom. She’s not sure where the name came from either. Here’s my best guess. It was brought to someone’s house for a bridge game, or other game and those who lost first, got to eat it first… thus Loser’s Coffee Cake. Just one idea.

In my house, as illustrated well by the picture above, this cake doesn’t last long. The cake pictured above had been made that morning and was devoured too quickly for me to get a picture of the whole thing!

Food and recipes often serve as an inspiration for slice writing. These days, being locked in our homes, there’s lots of cooking and backing going on. So, why not share a family favorite? Maybe this one will become a family favorite for you too. Why do you think it was given the name of Loser’s Coffee Cake?

Here’s the Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Dough: 1/4 lb margerine or butter (softened), 1 c. sugar, 2 eggs, 1 pint sour cream, 2 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, pinch of salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs and sour cream.

Mix together flour, basking soda, baking powder, salt and add to creamy mixture.

Then, add vanilla.

Filling: 1/3 c. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 3/4 c. chopped nuts (optional), 3/4 c. choc. chips (Mix together in a bowl).

In a greased tube pan, layer dough and filling (dough, filling, dough, filling). Bake at 350 degrees for 40 min. Serves approximately 8.

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