Another Wrap-Up

I keep seeing some funny post on Facebook about this being like the 947th day of March. It feels like it. March is always the month I look forward to after winter because spring is right around the corner. But this March? Wow. It’s been a doozy.

This is my third year completing this writing challenge. I felt such a sense of accomplishment the past two years after completing this. And I guess I’m proud of myself for doing it again. I just don’t have a lot of energy right now to actually care. I know…sounds pathetic. But I enjoyed a lot of posts, read a lot of amazing ideas and thoughts and feelings and experiences. I shared a lot of my own and got wonderful feedback. I’d say I’m going to keep writing, as I hope to do each year after the challenge ends, but I’m not sure I want to write post after post of what is happening right now. Hmmm…actually, maybe that’s exactly what I SHOULD do. Something to think about…

But tonight, I’m hosting online Zoom trivia tonight for my staff. It will be fun to “see” everyone. And even though things haven’t changed much after they have changed so much, tomorrow is April. And I’m just going to think about sunshine and flowers blooming, and things getting better.

Too Much of a Good Thing

This time of year when spring break is happening and I should be enjoying 85 degrees and sun, I think about a trip I took my junior year of high school.

It was spring break and I was 15. My pseudo aunt and uncle took me, along with my friend Kelcey, to Clearwater Beach in Florida. The first full day we were there, we went to Disney World. But the day after that, Kelcey and I had no other plans except to go to the beach. We packed up everything we would need for the day, and Uncle Ray dropped us off. He and Shirley were going to visit Ray’s dad, so Kelcey and I would have 3-4 hours to bake on the hot sand to the tune of crashing waves. It was going to be a fantastic day.

And that it was. We slathered on our tanning accelerator–our time in Florida was short, after all–and prepared to soak up the sun. We met people on the beach who rented jet skis and we went for a ride. We swam in the ocean. We dried off under the hot sun, with no clouds to block its tanning rays. As the afternoon wore on, we had no reprieve from the sun. But we didn’t yet know the damage it had wrought.

That night, we hung out with our new friends and I could feel the sunburn setting in. By the time Kelcey and I got back to the hotel, my body was an angry red and the heat coming off my skin was palpable. I slathered myself with aloe, and went to bed. Nothing could have prepared me for how much worse things would get.

The next morning, I couldn’t open my eyes. My face felt funny and tight; exploring fingers told me it was swollen. My back was on fire and itched like poison ivy rash. But to touch it to scratch was like injecting millions of needles all over. Uncle Ray got me some ice for my face and Kelcey helped put aloe on my back. She was in pretty bad shape, too. We had planned to spend the day on the beach at St. Pete’s with other friends, but that turned into lying on the beach under an umbrella, covered with sunscreen and towels.

As the day went on, my cheeks began to blister and bleed and the intense itching pain on my back only got worse. I was headachy and nauseous. It became clear that I had sun poisoning and second degree burns. It was hard to enjoy the last couple of days of our trip.

I suppose a lot of people would tsk tsk me for being in the sun too long. And that was probably part of the problem. But that was the first and last time I ever used tanning accelerator.

Happy Thoughts in the Strangest Places

If you had to choose a food that you enjoy that you think most people don’t like, what would it be? Mine would be liver sausage.

When I was a kid, a favorite snack was liver sausage on Saltines or Town House crackers. My dad likes liver sausage, too, so I’m guessing he’s the reason I ate it as a kid. When I would go to Grandma’s house, my favorite lunch was liver sausage on rye bread so fresh, you had to take your time delicately spreading the liver sausage as to not tear apart the bread. I liked to have ramen noodle soup or potato chips as a side with this sandwich. But the liver sausage was the main course. No mustard or mayo, or onions, or anything else on that sandwich. Just an evenly spread layer of the meat, that either had to be my grandma’s liver sausage spread or Oscar Mayer. No other kind would do.

It wasn’t often a sandwich or snack I would eat anywhere but the comfort of home or Grandma’s. The few times I brought it for school lunch, I can remember the scrunched up faces and displeasure of my friends at such a repellent meal. It became a secret-eat-at-home treat that I kept to myself.

As I became an adult, I continued eating the controversial food, though not as often. When my kids got older, they tried it, and to my surprise…LOVED it! So it seemed I would pass down the love of liver sausage to my children. We often have it in the house now, and though no one but I will actually go through the trouble of buying it–I can’t always find it everywhere–and setting it up for a snack, everyone in the house will eat it when I do.

So here I sit, at my dining room table working, listening to the wind seemingly tear apart my house, enjoying my Oscar Mayer liver sausage on crackers, and all of the memories that go with it.

Never Say Never

Did you ever do something you thought you’d never do? Even go so far as to maybe make fun of people who did the very thing you said you’d never do? Then you went ahead and did it yourself? That would be me, in December of 2009. I made an online dating profile on eHarmony.

Back when I was married, we would see the commercials on TV about people meeting the match of their dreams on eHarmony or Match.com. Those were the main sites back in the early 2000’s. I used to think, “How awful to have to meet someone online.” And even, “I’m SO glad I don’t have to worry about dating.” Fast forward to a divorce, being 34 years old, and finding myself a single mom of three kids. Then somewhere in that mix came an unexpected relationship and subsequent break up. That all led to a whole lot of events that eventually led to 3 bottles of wine with a good friend and an eHarmony dating profile.

The matches came. But I didn’t act on any of them until after 2 days. One piqued my interest, and I initiated contact. After two more days of answering questions back and forth–eHarmony didn’t allow direct contact–we decided to exchange numbers. We talked. For hours. Set up a date for the day after Christmas. And we met.

That first date was the only online date I ever had. Fast forward over 10 years later, and here we are. Still together in the best relationship I’ve ever had. And when I stop to think about it, I realize it’s the best thing I’ve ever done that I said I’d never do.

My Poor Girl!

My daughter Hannah really went through the wringer as a kid. She’s almost 21 now, and with her being home from college with all this quarantine stuff, we’ve reminisced a lot.

At the very beginning of her 4th grade year, after just a couple of days into the school year, we decided to go camping. We camped a lot back then, and Hannah liked the camping part; she just didn’t like the port-a-potty part.

On the day we were leaving for camping, Hannah came down with a “stomachache.” She kept going to the bathroom and complained that she just couldn’t go camping because of her stomach. I chalked it up to Hannah not wanting to use the pit toilets at the campground.

We camped with two other couples and their kids. We had a great time playing games, grilling out, and making s’mores by the campfire. But I frequently had to stop one of those fun activities to take Hannah to the bathroom, which just got more traumatic for her as it got darker. At some point, late into the night, the kids all retired to their individual family tent. The adults all sat around the fire, enjoying the conversation and cocktails. Hannah’s need for the bathroom persisted. I stopped drinking. And tended to my girl.

We traversed back and forth, back and forth, from tent to toilet. At some point, Hannah needed to be carried by piggy-back and I knew something was really wrong. She didn’t have the energy to hold herself up on the toilet. She was crying because her stomach hurt so badly. This went on until the sun started to come up. I woke everyone at the campsite early and started packing up. It was a Sunday and Hannah needed a doctor.

I took her to the ER when we got home. They gave her an IV and chalked her symptoms up to a virus or “something.” The blood in the toilet after she went to the bathroom was certainly something, but they were not concerned and sent us home. That night was the worst yet; Hannah slept on the floor right outside one of our bathrooms. A trip to the doctor’s first thing Monday morning resulted in a hospital admission; Hannah had lost 10% of her body weight over the weekend.

Hannah spent 3 days in the hospital. I spent them there with her. After growing cultures for 3 days, the doctors were able to determine that Hannah had E-coli. If you’ve ever experienced this, or had a child who did, you know that it’s not only extremely painful, but it’s shocking to see what comes out of the body when you are sick with this bacteria.

Hannah missed her entire first full week of 4th grade, but had quite a story to share when she returned. This story is only one in the many of the Adventures of Hannah. Luckily, her teenage years and adult life have been pretty calm. So far……

 

Stir Crazy

It’s funny how when I have a weekend with nothing planned, I’m perfectly fine with sitting around and doing anything I want to, even if that something is nothing. Once in awhile, I love a weekend of reading on the couch in my pajamas in the morning until 11. I love skipping right to lunch because it’s way past time for breakfast. Then I’ll spend a couple hours catching up on shows or starting a new Netflix series. But now?  I’m going stir crazy.

I think knowing I CHOOSE to hang out and do “nothing” is a lot different than being forced to do nothing. Let’s be honest…there’s a lot more than nothing going on around here. My dogs are exhausted from all the walks. My refrigerator has never been cleaner. I did a 1000 piece puzzle with my daughter. I watched the series Dead to Me. I’ve played Zoom trivia and talked to my students. I even talked on the phone–yes, a phone call!–with an old friend. But none of it feels like when I choose to do it on a random weekend.

I know it could be so much worse. And I’ve spent more quality time with my 18 and 20 year old kids than I have in a long time. But I want normal back. I want crazy, stressful, normal back. Because the thought of having to do this for weeks more is just about more than I can fathom.

 

Making Do

I’m so thankful for technology right now. Sometimes I have a love/hate relationship with it. All the usual stuff…we use it too much, depend on it too much, give our kids too much. But it’s helping me to keep in touch easily and often with my students right now, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

There is nothing like connecting face-to-face with my students. But now we are all connecting in different ways in a very different environment and I’m getting to see my students in a way I don’t get to see at school. I also love how much contact I’m getting from parents! Parents I don’t normally hear from at all are reaching out and responding to me.

My students are emailing me to ask questions. They are sending me videos. They are commenting on each other’s posts and videos and I smile at seeing their personalities come out in their comments. I’m meeting pets, seeing kids’ hobbies, having conversations about books. It’s a scary time. It’s an uncertain time. I just want to be here for my kids, and their families. And technology let’s me do that.

My Body Won’t Listen

It’s odd that my body knows I’m not supposed to be sleeping in right now. My schedule has been so much the same for my 16 years of teaching, that my body knows when I should be awake every day, and when it’s okay to let me sleep.

I love to sleep in. I prefer to stay up late and sleep the early mornings away. I love the house at night when everyone is in bed and I can have some quiet time listening to the sounds of my 100-year-old house settling and sighing, while I’m curled up with a book and my dog.

Anyone who knows me knows if I have to wake up to an alarm, it’s probably not a good idea to talk to me right away. I need at least an hour to acclimate to the morning when I am forced from slumber. And when I say “sleep in,” I’m not talking about sleeping until 10 or anything. 8:30 is perfect. Something about that time makes me feel like it’s not too early, and not too late.

But these weeks of being off school unexpectedly are messing up my desired circadian rhythm! No matter how late I’ve been staying awake–which hasn’t been too late, but much later than I usually would on a school night–my body will not let me sleep past 6:30. I’m almost angry when I shake my Fitbit to life and it shows me the time.

Ah, well…if this is all I have to complain about right now, I guess I’m doing okay. But I do know that when it’s time to go back to school again, waking at 6:30 isn’t going to be this easy.

The Bright Side

I think this quarantine thing is going to save me some money.

A few years ago, when my two younger kids were both in high school, I usually went to the grocery store at least once a week. And I don’t think I ever left spending less than $100. If I went more than a week without shopping, I had to bring back up because I usually needed more than one cart.

Hannah would come with me. We would go to Target to shop because with coupons and Cartwheel and the 5% off with Redcard, we couldn’t beat the prices. I’d be armed with a list, of course, but that didn’t mean that was ALL I’d buy. Hungry teenagers in the house meant needing a lot more than I could think of to put on a list.

We would move slowly and methodically up and down each aisle, Hannah finding things we had to have. But sometimes, about 2/3 of the way through the store, we would find our cart full. And we still hadn’t finished getting everything on the list. Which meant Hannah had to go back to the front of the store and get us another cart. For some reason, this embarrassed her so! She’d come back with the cart and try to keep her distance from me so that no one would know we had two carts of groceries.

The humiliation sunk in deeper when we had to go to the same checkout line together once we were finally finished shopping. I laugh now when I think back to how sheepish she was to put all of these groceries on the belt. Quite some time later, when all the items had been rung up, Hannah would balk at the total bill and would quietly be telling me we shouldn’t have bought so much. Yet, I knew in a couple weeks we would be doing this all over again if I didn’t keep up shopping every week.

Both kids are home again now, but I’ve been avoiding the grocery stores these past couple of weeks. I can’t stomach the crowds I know will greet me if I go. I send the kids or Lee with a list and that is ALL they are allowed to get. My grocery bill has been cut in half. We are making do with what we can get, and what we have at home.

I guess I’m just seeing the silver lining in all of this, if there is one.

Memory is a Funny Thing

Have you ever thought about a memory you have, but you’re not sure how much of it is really what truly happened?

When I was a kid, my dad took my brothers and sister and me to the Dupage County Fair. It was your typical county fair, with games and rides and attractions and food and music. I think he probably took us more than one year, but this one time sticks out in my memory.

We had gotten to the fair early, so there were not yet a lot of people there. And we were milling through the section of the fair where all the games were. My brothers loved the games and tried to get our dad to let them play. I, on the other hand, loved that silly machine where you pushed a quarter in a tiny slot and tried to get it to fall so that the bulldozer would push a lotto winning’s worth of quarters into the catch tray below and you would become rich.

So I don’t know if it was because we were at the fair so early, or what had happened, but in my memory, I was the only person at this “game.” And as I walked around the square of machines, I noticed a pile of quarters on the counter in front of one of the games. I looked around; there was no one who could have been playing and simply didn’t collect their winnings. So I swiped the pile of quarters into my hand then put them in my pocket. And in my memory, there were a few other machines that presented me with the same situation. And I responded the same each time. I amassed something like $25 worth of quarters. Maybe it wasn’t that much, but I can remember my pockets being weighed down heavily.

In this memory, I used the money to play other games and maybe bought a souvenir or two. I also recall coming home with some of the money. But the weird thing is, it’s one of those memories I’m not sure really even happened.

Guess I’ll have to ask my dad how he remembers it.