March 12, 2020

Five good things about today:

My sister had a birthday.

I talked to my daughter and her son.

I bought myself a Ben&Jerry’s ice cream cone.

I sat in on an interview and the interviewee remembered me. She was my daughter’s best friend in elementary school. She moved, and I hadn’t seen her since 1993 when she was in 6th grade. I love small world happenings.

So far, I have not become ill. I’m grateful for Vitamin C, whether or not it actually helps.

Good thing #6:

I accepted my challenge to myself to think of 5 good things. Blessings to all.

Confusion 3-11-2020

I don’t feel safe saying I have a runny nose and a tickle in my throat.

What will people think?

I don’t know if I should take Mucinex, Sudafed, Zyrtec, or Tylenol.

Is it allergies?

Am I sick?

I don’t really want an answer.

I’m going to bed.

Four 4th Graders

I teach a group of four 4th graders who were reading on a first grade level at the beginning of the year. They have moved into second grade level reading through 3 hours a week of direct instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling. They have experiences daily with controlled text as well as additional guided reading lessons.

I think these students are so brave. In my classroom, they work so hard at what is hard for them. They make mistakes and they struggle to see the patterns that seem so clear to me. They have become a tight little group and are patient with each other. They know if I’m giving wait time to a friend to respect it. They know the next time it could be their turn to be given time.

Today was a packed lesson full of identifying syllable types in single syllable words, analyzing two-syllable words, listening to vowel sounds, and reading a one-page text applying the word knowledge they have. The 45 minutes went so fast.

Near the end of class, one boy quietly said, “Mrs. M., are we going to get coronavirus?” Then another boy said, “Yeah, they said that we are getting coronavirus because they put bats in the soup.” That took me by surprise. I was taken a bit off-guard, but I assured them that adults would take care of them. Most of all, I was pleased that my room was a safe place for questions about things that matter.

In this time of uncertainty, I’m grateful for the trust in my little classroom with four brave 4th graders.

The Woods

Many of my early memories are of running through the woods with the kids in the neighborhood, stopping fast to throw rocks in the creek, or sometimes finding a turtle or salamander. The older kids told whoppers, warned us of quicksand, and dared us to cross the creek without getting our feet wet.

On this gorgeous March day, I finally got out to take a walk. I love to look at the trees as I walk and measure the new growth with my eyes. Every tree seemed to be yawning and stretching in the warm afternoon sun. I felt a resurgence of connection to the natural world. I’ve missed that for quite some time. I’ve been craving the out-of-doors.

My neighborhood is actually named Vienna Woods and is full of oaks, maples, sycamores, redbuds, dogwoods, and tulip poplars. The builders were perhaps kinder in 1959. They built along the natural creekbeds leaving bands of forest on either side. The streets wind and curve following the path of streams flowing to the Potomac River. I like to imagine the landscape without the buildings. The rise and fall of the land is so beautiful.

My neighborhood is also going through transition. Many houses are being knocked down and are being replaced with very large homes that I could never afford. It seems like another house goes down around me every day. On my walk, I noticed that the very large trees had been cut down on one property down the street. Those trees were huge and healthy. It will take half a century or more to grow a tree so fine. Will they plant another?

Sunday Evening

I’ve heard it said that the best thing about retirement is Sunday night. On this Sunday night, not retired quite yet, I was hoping the weekend would have been more restorative. Instead, I’m still tired, still have a list of chores undone, and wonder if I have the stamina to make it through the next weeks and months.

That’s bleak.

So here’s my plan:

Get back to basics. Eat healthier. Go to bed on time (that means slicing earlier:). Take a daily walk. Write more on the calendar so I don’t have to rely on memory. Be kind to myself and others.

I’ve been reading several books about making behavior changes, knowing that I need to add more positive habits to my daily routine. I had an Aha! when I read that people who rely on motivation to change are rarely successful. Motivation is unreliable! Instead, just as we do for our students, I need to break these goals into the smallest steps where I can be successful and then, CELEBRATE the success. I know I don’t celebrate my successes enough and am much more likely to get down on myself.

My baby steps will start with adding one more vegetable at dinner, turning off media of all types by 9:00 (maybe 8:00?), and putting on my shoes. Then celebrate!

The Laundromat

I always go to the laundromat when our quilts and blankets need washing. My old washer and dryer would surely give out with those heavy loads. I recognize that I am fortunate to have a washer and a dryer and that many are not so lucky.

I sat in the car for a minute and watched as a couple came out of the laundromat with brightly colored laundry bags that were well-suited for regular trips to do laundry. I heard loud music thumping in the car next to me. I felt like a stranger here.

Taking a deep breath, I got out of the car and carried three large quilts in my arms. I dragged a black trash bag with three more blankets in my left hand while trying not to drop the laundry soap. My keys were in my pocket and a twenty dollar bill was in the other pocket. There wasn’t much parking available and the distance to the door was further than it seemed. I should have made two trips. I felt like a novice here.

A tall black man laughed good-naturedly as he opened the door for me. He said he thought I was going to “push” when the door said “pull.” He was right. I thanked him for his kindness. I imagine it was quite a sight to see an oldish white woman struggle across the parking lot like she knew what she was doing.

I wanted to be unobtrusive (invisible?) in this space where very little English was being spoken and where no one looked like me. My awkward entrance took care of that! I picked two washers at the end of the row. My eyes got big when I saw it would cost $7.00 per load. 56 quarters. I tried one change machine and it didn’t work. The manager came up behind me and said, “Try this one. It works better.”

Soon the blankets were swishing in suds and I retreated to my car to read. I set my timer for 28 minutes. I was reading about phonemic awareness when the timer went off.

Without realizing it, I selected dryers that put me directly between a woman who was folding her laundry right as she was getting ready to pull another load out of dryer 39. Her children were playing nearby. I apologized and tried to move out of her way, but she said it was no problem. Dryers 41 and 42. I needed to remember those numbers so I wouldn’t embarrass myself by losing my laundry. I tried to hurry and fumbled with the quarters in my pocket. “Okay, 30 minutes for each dryer should do it,” I thought.

Quietly, I heard a prompt from behind me, “Estart,” she said kindly. As I pushed “Start” I realized she understood I felt like a foreigner in this space. She was welcoming me and I am grateful.

March 6, 2020

I sat on a blue Adirondack chair outside Target waiting to meet friends for dinner. An hour earlier, a huge clap of thunder, a two-minute rain, and a sudden wind quickly changed the day from balmy to blustery. The way only March can do.

A young family walked by.

“Daddy, I’m cold,” said the darling little toddler.

“I told you to put on your coat, but you said no,” answered Daddy.

“I’m not cold at all,” bragged the 4-year old.

As they passed by, I heard myself think, “Since when did wearing a coat become a choice for a two-year old?”

I caught myself before blurting, “And who is the parent here?”

Maybe those are unkind thoughts. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. But maybe, just maybe, a parent who insists on the coat communicates protection, safety, comfort, and warmth.

Would children be less anxious today if they didn’t have to make so many choices? Just wondering.

I just wanted to pick her up and wrap my coat around her.

Time

The thing I crave the most is time.
It’s always there, but I never seem to have it.

The thing I fear the most is time.
When time is no longer structured by workdays, how will I choose what to do?

The thing I love most is time.
Time with my family or by myself.

The thing I hate the most is time.
Too early, too late, too slow, too fast.

Racing the clock and calendar,
I have learned

How powerful are the words:
“It’s time.”

Weary

Imagine how I felt when I received Maggie’s story a few days ago. Maggie will be five in a few weeks.

She wrote: Maggie was skipping along on the tall grass. She stepped in a muddy puddle. The weary wind was rushing by.

How does an almost five-year-old know the weary wind?

Pure magic.

Maggie, February 2020

A History of Love in 7 Couches

Interior decorating is not in my wheelhouse, but that’s not entirely my fault. It didn’t start with me, but I’ve forgiven my mom. It wasn’t her strong suit either. Our house was always neat and clean, but pretty boring to look at. It was home. I never really thought much about it. Then I got married, and somehow I was supposed to know about stuff like that. I didn’t.

Our first couch was a 1950s hand-me-down from my mother-in-law. It was a dusty rose color, weighed a TON, and was scratchy on the skin. We had it a year-and-a-half. I have a vivid memory of a similar turquoise couch we had when I was five and spent a few days on it recuperating from chicken pox.

When we bought our first little house (for the “huge” sum of $44,000), the carpet was multi-colored with brown, orange, and rust. Dusty pink wasn’t going to work. It was the 70s. A “new” fabric called Herculon was popular and inexpensive. So we bought a couch and chair to go with the carpet. I think the couch was $100 from Levitz. It survived the move to our 2nd house and lasted well into the 80s.

But when the piping started to separate from the cushions, we had four small children. A new couch didn’t seem likely. I was staying at home; money was tight. However, my nesting awakened when I had a friend who offered to make drapes for my house. I just had to supply the fabric. I thought, “If I can save so much on the drapes, I’ll be able to afford a new couch.” It will be so pretty! I bought a lovely Waverly fabric on sale. The drapes were so well-made and I loved Camille for her generosity. (When she died of cancer 2 years later, I was heartbroken.)

The intention was to buy a new couch and chair to go with my beautiful drapes. I don’t remember what the financial setback was, but instead of getting new furniture, we inherited my parent’s couch. The combination of colors and competing patterns couldn’t have been worse. Even I knew it was awful. I consoled myself by convincing myself that it was only temporary. You might recognize it as the couch on the program,”Married with Children.” Temporary lasted about 10 years.

In the meantime, the drapes got old and my dreams of ever having anything that matched vanished. One day, my son took a flying leap onto the couch and the frame broke in two. Disaster or good fortune? Both, because…

That’s when my neighbors put a couch out on the curb for free. It was in better shape than what we had, and the color worked better with the old drapes. The next thing I knew, my husband had me out after dark inspecting their couch with a flashlight. We hauled that couch half a block to our house in the dark. I only hoped the neighbors weren’t watching.

In 1995, I’d been married 20 years and felt I deserved new furniture. I went to a local store, picked out the fabric and ordered a couch and two wingback chairs. The chairs worked out great, but my fabric choice for the couch wasn’t the best (as my sisters both informed me.) The hardest part of this purchase, however, was that I stupidly kept it secret. Then, my father died suddenly. New furniture arrived a few days later. My husband was furious; I was deeply grieving. Unfortunately, those pretty chairs always made me a little sad.

Time went on with raising children, going to school, getting a job, kids getting married, etc. When I couldn’t really stand the 1995 couch any longer, my daughter had a co-worker who wanted to sell her furniture. She convinced me that it could be our temporary couch until she moved out and had her own place. Somehow, when she moved out and got her own place, she didn’t want that couch anymore. It is really the most uncomfortable couch unless you are lying down. That’s where I am right now, on this dumb old couch writing perhaps a dumb story about dumb furniture.

But what I’m really trying to say is that after nearly 45 years of marriage, new drapes are ordered; a new couch and two chairs are coming tomorrow. I picked them out myself, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll soon have a pretty space to call my own. I’m looking forward to spring break when, if my plan works out, the living room will have a fresh coat of paint, and new carpet for my new furniture.

This history of love in 7 couches wouldn’t be complete without the understanding that couch is a multiple-meaning word. For me, this new couch is more than a couch.

nouncouch; plural noun: couches

  1. a long upholstered piece of furniture for several people to sit on
    • a reclining seat with a headrest at one end on which a psychoanalyst’s subject or doctor’s patient lies while undergoing treatment.

verbcouch; 3rd person present: couches; past tense: couched; past participle: couched; gerund or present participle: couching; noun: couching

  1. 1.express (something) in language of a specified style.”many false claims are couched in scientific jargon
  2. LITERARY lie down.”two creatures couched side by side in the deep grass”
  3. ARCHAIC lower (a spear) to the position for attack.
  4. HISTORICAL treat (a cataract) by pushing the lens of the eye downward and backward, out of line with the pupil.
  5. (in embroidery) fix (a thread) to a fabric by stitching it down flat with another thread.”gold and silver threads couched by hand”

Phraseson the couch — undergoing psychoanalysis or psychiatric treatment.

Origin

Middle English (as a noun denoting something to sleep on; as a verb in the sense ‘lay something down’): from Old French couche (noun), coucher (verb), from Latin collocare ‘place together’ (see collocate)

Origin

late 16th century: variant of quitch