A Swimmer

I dive into the water and the years dissolve and I am 10 again. The water invites and seems eager to feel my arms pull and my legs kick. I meet it with my own joy in rhythmic strokes and full breaths. It seems like so long since I have felt this free. I am a swimmer once again. The odd laps are freestyle; the even laps backstroke. I count the laps, remembering how my dad celebrated our lap count each evening at dinner. He gave us other challenges such as measuring how far we could swim under water with no breath.

My father taught me to swim at Tuckahoe. I remember feeling is hand under my back as I learned to trust the water to hold me while I floated. Then his hand under my tummy as I learned to use my arms and legs. He taught me all he knew about freestyle. Only later did I realize that he wasn’t a very strong swimmer (speedwise) because of the unique way he used his large, gentle hands.

Most swimmers know that a clean hand entry into the water with a strong pull of the hand and forearm is what helps you move smoothly and quickly through the water. My dad’s big hands seemed to pet the top of the water like he was petting a horse. His flat hands with his fingertips up were caressing the top of the water, never going too deep, almost like he didn’t want to break the surface tension of the water or cause too big of a disturbance.

I love the memory of my dad swimming. He didn’t often stop working long enough to play at the pool, but once or twice a summer he was there with us. Those few hours are precious to me now. Perhaps he was remembering younger days as well, when he swam in the cold North Sea off the coast of Germany where sperm whales gently migrate.

OLW – Reflecting

In January, I chose my OLW and wrote about it here. Little did I know then, how much I would miss my room with its daily parade of small groups of students, teachers, and friends.

I didn’t know then how soon I would face the days of unstructured time. It’s been hard to have my retiring year abruptly end without the opportunity to feel finished, to feel closure, and to say goodbye.

I didn’t know then how much room (brainspace) I would need to learn new tools and best practices for distance learning.

I didn’t know then that I would be home facing rooms that need organizing. With unmeasured days ahead, I’m trying to do a little bit each day.

Now I know that the room in my heart hurts for those suffering physically, emotionally, financially, or in any other way due to COVID19. I worry for kids who might be hungry or worried that mom or dad can’t go to work.

Now I know I must also keep room for joy. I find joy when I hear from my family. I find joy when I walk and hear children playing and see them riding their bikes. I find joy when I connect with teachers online.

I hope we can all find a room for peace amidst the uncertainty.


Earlier this month, I wrote about my sister and her role as “keeper of traditions” in our family. She is also the “keeper of the button box.”

My mother was a teenager during the Great Depression. Her mother and grandmother were widows, and together, they raised three children. It was a difficult time. My great grandmother took in laundry to help earn money. She stayed home and ran the household while my grandmother worked at a department store.

Many families have remnants of behaviors learned during the Depression. Saving buttons was a practice that stayed with my mom. She must have snipped off the buttons of every worn out dress shirt my dad ever had. There are hundreds of them in the box. She also strung buttons on thread to keep sets together. It was an act of love and care.

My sister said that she felt a huge responsibility when my mother entrusted her with the button box. She has kept it well. When I needed a button for a baby sweater I made, I went “shopping” in Mom’s button box. It’s always fun to rummage through the box and remember the past. Recently, I found a card in the box that was called “Movie Buttons.” A piece of the past.

The button box makes me wonder what lasting behaviors will run in families for generations to come from those of us who are alive in the time of COVID19.

A Day Not to be Remembered

My husband and I have 5 children. When each was born, my husband liked to gently push on their little noses. Somehow, he determined that we have three squishy-nosed children and two hard-nosed children. He also thinks that I have a hard nose. I have no idea what that means except that this distinction came to mind today as text messages were exchanged.

It seems that the three of us hard-nosed persons were feeling especially trapped by current circumstances (weather and COVID19) and were exhibiting similar unhealthy behaviors. I’m not proud of this, but merely stating the reality. Here is evidence from a day not to be remembered:

Helpers II

Today I was telling my daughter about the sidewalk chalk activity I wrote about here. She told me that someone in their neighborhood left affirmations on the sidewalks, such as:

You’re smart.

You’re brave.

We can do this.

Anyone who walked the neighborhood would be able to have a little message to boost their spirits.

While my daughter was walking with her children this morning, they passed a neighbor just returning from Walmart. The neighbor greeted them and asked my daughter if the children could have an ice cream. Keeping proper physical distance and not touching, Maggie and Johnny were treated to ice cream “drumsticks” at 10:30 in the morning. The neighbor was missing her own grandchildren and just wanted to give.

People are good.


She came out in the afternoon sun
wearing yoga pants and a fleece jacket.
With sidewalk chalk in hand,
she added the last box.

I asked if I could take a picture
of this gift she said she made
for all the children who walked
by her home.

She just wanted to help.

Just showing up

I have read that the secret to improving writing is showing up everyday. I’m here. I’m showing up, but I don’t really have a story because…

I didn’t heed my own advice. I was on screens too long today. It rained and I didn’t get outside. I watched several sessions of the VSRA conference, FaceTimed with a friend, researched distance learning to alleviate my anxiety, and watched Ralph Fletcher teach writing on Facebook. He made it look so easy and natural.

It was my son’s 40th birthday. That meant more time on the phone as my family brainstormed 40 ways for him to celebrate this significant birthday when he couldn’t go out to eat, or see a movie, or have friends over. Some of them were pretty funny. We actually came up with about 50 ways he could celebrate. I hope he did.

Too much screen time today. More conference sessions and a google hangout for school tomorrow. This teacher needs to set some boundaries on screen time. At least it’s not supposed to rain. A walk is needed!

Face Masks and a Shirt with Buttons

I was raised in a family that always went to Church. We marked time from Sunday to Sunday. We had Sunday clothes and Sunday shoes that we wore the whole day, not just to go to Church. Now, not being able to go to Church has been an adjustment.

My sister, Evelyn, is the “keeper of traditions” in our family. She’s the one who hosts for holidays, remembers birthdays, calls our elderly aunt and uncle, and goes the extra mile to serve. She always makes a “Sunday dinner” and while her kids were home, there was always a special dessert.

Evelyn sews beautifully and has made a new “Easter dress” nearly every year. This year, she sewed face masks instead.

This past Sunday, I smiled when Evelyn announced her “Sunday” clothes outfit–a shirt with buttons.

Little things to make life seem normal.

Face Masks by Evelyn

A Day to…

This is a day to be gentle.
This is a day to be quiet.
This is a day to process.

3/23/2020 at 2:00 p.m. Governor Northam announced we would not go back to school this year.

This is a day to try to understand.
This is a day to surrender for a time.
This is a day to balance sadness with gratitude.

May we be well.