Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Getting off the Bench...

As a coach's wife, I have tried to train myself to stay quiet during games, support from the sidelines, keep the home-front going so he can find success on the field, etc.  Most coach's wives have mastered one-pot and crockpot meals, picnic dinners, packing the car with blankets and chairs and entertainment for the kids, time management for getting to games and so much more.

We pride ourselves in being behind the scenes and off to the side.

But now I'm getting off the bench because this year is now different.

This year there is no softball.

Today it was officially canceled by our state athletic association. 

Our seniors are devastated.

Our underclassmen are frustrated.

Our coach is heartbroken.

Our kids are sad.

And I'm at a loss. 

Spring means softball.  It means the insanity of managing three different seasons at three different fields every day of the week.  It means packing the car for every type of weather, including snow, and being okay with it.  It means getting friends to help out with carpooling while trying to make as many games as possible.  It means getting creative with keeping the 5-year-old entertained while we head to another game. It  means packing dinners that stay warm for the player to eat later.

It is seeing the young women he coaches mature and grow as individuals and teammates.

It is watching them interact with our kids.

It is experiencing growth in our own children as they see how the players deal with losses and failures and successes.

But not this year.

It's hard not to feel selfish mourning the loss of a game when there are so many heavier losses happening right now. 

But it's not just a game. 

It's seeing the girls come back after a disappointing season.  It's seeing them work hard in the off-season to improve their skills.  It's seeing them join together after a game, win or loss, and laugh and dance and stay connected.  It's seeing them mow through more food than the D-line during team dinners.  It's seeing them interact with my husband and help him grow as a coach, a teacher, a husband, and a father.

But not this year. 

And I'm not sure what to do.

It can't be changed or shifted or improved or fixed.  I just have to watch it.  Like I've done so many games but there are no games.  I can hug my husband as he gets teary calling the seniors.  I can comfort the kids who lose out on the "fun" parts of the game days.  I can tuck the supplies I bought in anticipation away for next year.

Because there will be a next year.  Too much has been lost this year to sit idle.  So I'm getting off the bench. 

I'm getting off the bench by staying home.  I'm going to do my part to keep the larger community safe so our scientists and doctors can help those who are sick and develop the vaccines we will need so next year, I can sit on the bench and cheer on my girls and my coach.

Get off the bench by staying home and staying healthy.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Sharing Stories

Millions infected.  Around 200,000 deaths. 

That was the estimate given by Dr. Fauci a couple days ago.  To which he immediately said, he doesn't want to be held to that number.  There is no guarantee in any of this.  There is some rough science, getting a little more solid each day, but no guarantees.  The virus is unpredictable in many ways as are the behaviors of individuals.  As large groups, we will probably follow the majority of the rules, but there will always be individuals. 

I can't help but think of all the stories lost with those deaths. 

Many deaths have come and will come from our elderly populations.  Those living in nursing homes or hospitals, nearing their own natural end only to be hastened by a virus. 

Then I think of the loneliness they must have experienced pre-virus only to be exponentially made worse post-virus.  It happened that a chapter I read from my book this morning touched on this.  It was about a teenager going to visit the lonely in nursing homes and how, though uncomfortable, it profoundly changed his life.  Matthew Kelly was that teen and he stated, "These elderly men and women in the nursing home were intensely lonely in many cases, and they didn't have a lot of tomorrows to look forward to.  Every single one of them had a story to tell about their lives, and these stories were filled with fabulous lessons about life, love, work, success, failure, marriage, parenting, hopes and dreams, fears and regrets.  But they had nobody to tell their stories to."

So many of those included in the numbers above will be lost without their stories being shared.  What can we do?  Can we capture their stories before they are gone?  These are war veterans and teachers and leaders and inventors and musicians and artists.  There is so much to unlock from them that they haven't shared yet. 

So what?

Visitations have been restricted.  But maybe there is someone out there, some inventive teen who comes up with a way to have staff record responses to questions.  You probably wouldn't need many questions to get these people talking.  Can we capture their voices before they pass?

And what about moving forward?  Can we start to go into our nursing homes and assisted living homes to visit and listen and hear their stories and their voices? What harm would that really do to us?  Should anyone die alone without having their voice heard?

That is the challenge put forth from Kelly and during these times.  What change will we allow this time to have on us? On our behavior?  Visit the lonely.  Care for the sick.

These are powerful words now and forever.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Shelter in Place

Today was the last day of "freedom".  Our Governor ordered a Shelter-In-Place order last night, which means we are hunkering down.  No going out without a specific purpose and restricting general movement.  We can go on hikes, etc. But we need to be aware of how often we go out in general.

This is okay. 

We also had our first death from COVID-19.  A 77-year-old man from Bull Lake, Lincoln County. 

He is why we need to stay home and away from others. Try to flatten the curve.  There's going to be people who balk at it, so that makes it more important for those of us who are rule followers to do it.  We can do our part by staying home.

This shouldn't be too difficult for us since we've been doing it for about two weeks now.  We'll just keep it up although I do think we are starting to feel the strain of being together 24/7.  I have a cold, which is incredibly annoying and not making it easier to deal with the whiny moments from the kids.

My bigger concern is a selfish one - what comes after spring break? How do I teach my students the actual content online?  Keep it simple while trying to cover a massive book like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby?  I really don't know if it's possible.  The guys in the PLC don't seem to be very worried.  I'm freaking out. 

I'm really struggling with it right now because the spring semester is my favorite to connect with the students.  I really see the connections being made and the learning happening and now I'm going to miss out on it.  So how do I recreate it online?  What is essential?  It's the themes and the writing and the skills.  So what's essential from it?


Someone should just tell me what I'm teaching! AGH!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Wise Words from Bill Gates

I had one idea for my post today then I was sent this from my sister-in-law who had been sent it from the head of the Benefis Healthcare System in Great Falls.  So much rings true and much of this is what I've been contemplating the last few days.

*What is the Corona/ Covid-19 Virus Really Teaching us?*

I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad. As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ Covid-19 virus is really doing to us:

1) It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should to. If you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.

2) It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.

3) It is reminding us of how precious our health is and how we have moved to neglect it through eating nutrient poor manufactured food and drinking water that is contaminated with chemicals upon chemicals. If we don’t look after our health, we will, of course, get sick.

4) It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick. Our purpose is not to buy toilet roll.

5) It is reminding us of how materialistic our society has become and how, when in times of difficulty, we remember that it’s the essentials that we need (food, water, medicine) as opposed to the luxuries that we sometimes unnecessarily give value to.

6) It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this. It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into our home and to strengthen our family unit.

7) It is reminding us that our true work is not our job, that is what we do, not what we were created to do. Our true work is to look after each other, to protect each other and to be of benefit to one another.

8) It is reminding us to keep our egos in check. It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.

9) It is reminding us that the power of freewill is in our hands. We can choose to cooperate and help each other, to share, to give, to help and to support each other or we can choose to be selfish, to hoard, to look after only our self. Indeed, it is difficulties that bring out our true colors.

10) It is reminding us that we can be patient, or we can panic. We can either understand that this type of situation has happened many times before in history and will pass, or we can panic and see it as the end of the world and, consequently, cause ourselves more harm than good.

11) It is reminding us that this can either be an end or a new beginning. This can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes, or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.

12) It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off of shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.  

13) It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease. Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass. 

14) Whereas many see the Corona/ Covid-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a *great corrector*

It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.

Bill Gates

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


I have a love/hate relationship with rollercoasters.  I kind of love the thrill but also am terrified of heights and get incredibly motion sick on almost any kind of ride with movement.  Or even in my car. 

So rollercoasters are a bit of a sketchy dice to toss for me.  Love...hate.

Kind of like online learning.


There are aspects I love.  First, I get to work in sweats.  That's pretty sweet.  Second, I can kind of set my own schedule.  Love that.  Third, I get to be with my kids.  Most days, that's a love.

Then there is the hate.  I hate not seeing my students to see how they are grasping the material.  I hate being alone on this journey away from my colleagues.  But I hate the ridiculous questions and the...I don't know what to call it.  Laziness I guess!  I hate that about some of my students.  Guys - this is reality! You have to take ownership.

This is kind of baptism by fire though.  I try to teach my students to take ownership for their own stuff all year long.  Now they have no choice.  I can't catch them in the hall to remind them or swing into their study hall.  They have to check my website.  They have to click on the videos.  They have to do the work on their own.  I can no longer babysit them. 

And if anything positive comes out of this experience, it's the problem solving skills our students will develop.  They will have to figure some stuff out on their own.  Like what website to go to to enter information for the ACT (maybe the one in the slide!).  Or how to turn in an essay if there's no basket (try the email).  Or where this video possibly is at that I'm supposed to be responding to (read the post that says the name and contains a link). 

Yes, yes, yes.  Reading directions and problem-solving.  Two life-long skills our students will need. 

Gonna learn today!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Silver Linings

I've been going through the cycle over and over the last couple days (if you don't know what I'm referring to, go back a couple posts).  Today, with the sun shining and the kids racing their bikes up and down the street in front of our house, I decided I needed to focus more on the silver linings.  So here is my Top 10 list of the good happening right now:

1. More time with the kids.  As much as they drive me crazy on the daily, being there as they go through their moods and being together has helped us be more patient. I think.

2. More time with the husband.  I love my guy.  And now I get to see him all day.  Even with the gross mustache.

3. Time to read.  I actually took some time today in the middle of the day to sit in the sun and read. For fun.

4. Time to run errands.  Yes, I know we are social distancing so I really tried to keep my errands focused on essentials - running to the preschool to grab Dylan's work drawer, grabbing meds from my mom, picking up a prescription, and dropping off the donations to the Food bank.  Hand sanitizer was used regularly.

5. Not so much stress.  During a regular school day, I'm inundated with emails and drop-bys and paper work and grading and teaching and planning and all that.  I feel like there's time to breath. 

6. More families out walking.  I swear I had no idea there were so many families in this neighborhood but they are walking all throughout the day!  It's awesome!

7. Quiet time.  Yes, we implemented quiet time.  Right after lunch.  It.  Is.  Awesome.

8.  Tea Time.  Yep - did this too.  At 4:00 the kids get a light snack to get them through to dinner coupled with a cup of tea or hot chocolate. I'm loving this.

9. Letting us all sleep in.  The kids are getting an extra hour of sleep than they normally do as am I and it feels really good!!


10. Seeing how resilient our students are and how adaptable they've become.  It's been hilarious to video chat with them or listen to my husband's video chats with his kids or even our kids' video chat with their teacher.  They are still our kids and still goofy and still hilarious and even more amazing because they are embracing this challenge head on. 

A little positivity never hurt anyone. :) Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Lack of Resources

Today I was thinking about our students who aren't in the "have" category.  Shockingly - this fact is still debated: there are those that "have" and those that "have not".  Some people actually believe this is a myth. 

How can they think that? It is so glaringly clear in so many ways that should be obvious to anyone.

But it's not.

Because our "have nots" are resilient as hell. 

They consciously try to appear as not a "have not".

They figure out how to use their 1st generation phones to write papers using hotspots they find while driving around in the borrowed family vehicle.  They get stuff turned in on time or early - because it's easier on their lives if they do their homework right away so they can then help with household duties or their jobs.  They understand the power of their education so they try their hardest to get what they can from it.  Sometimes, it doesn't seem like it, but the fact they are at school at all is a victory.

But then we have to go online.  Straight online.  No in-person checks for understanding, no stopping in at lunch to talk over the homework for clarification.  All alone.  But not really.  Because they are all alone in their house full of others.

And we try as a district.  We check out Chromebooks and hand out breakfasts and lunches.  We do some pretty amazing things to help support our kids.  Our admins and counselors and SPED teachers are calling and emailing all day long.  They are breaking the "rules" to go to their houses to get them connected.  They are contacting Spectrum and Charter and whoever else might be able to help. 

But the lack of resources go beyond a computer and Wi-Fi.  As I contemplated the fate of my high schoolers over the next few weeks, my heart was pulled towards the littles.  And my eyes fell upon my shelves of books.

How many kids are sitting at home all day without a book in sight? They don't have the picture books or chapter books or informational texts that weigh our shelves down.  Their only sources of literature are now closed - school and public libraries. 

And we know reading can be a silver bullet.  The research on reading to children before they enter kindergarten is staggering.  "Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a new study found" (Science News).  That is staggering.  Most fourth graders are not at a proficient grade level.  If they don't make it by 4th grade, it becomes exponentially harder to "catch them up" so we have 12th graders sitting in classes at a 3rd or 4th grade level.  

How many of our children are now in a home without five books? 

"But there are so many free e-book resources out there! So easy to access."  Yes, they are.  If you have the resources.  Like a web browser.  And internet.  Or a stable hotspot.  And enough devices to go around to all the kids that need access to the e-books. 

How can we deny that some of our students don't have the same access?  How do we fight that inequality?  

We can try.  We can continue to provide kick-ass free public education.  We can provide free resources like Chromebooks and First Book opportunities.  Our librarians can continue to turn a blind eye when that one student keeps that book all year.  Teachers with classroom libraries can quietly delete the missing book from their catalogs so that their kid can keep it. 

But please don't come to me saying those efforts are unnecessary because there is not a divide amongst our students.