Thursday, April 30, 2020

A is for Alice

I had never planned on getting a second cat.  My house is small and seems better suited to be a one cat kind of household.  But then there was some tough stuff going on in my life and I thought a kitten might just pick me up a bit.  So, on a whim, I looked at a few cat rescue sites and found a tiny gray kitten that seemed just right.  Her name was Fisher- which I took as a good sign since it was my grandmother's last name before she got married.  
I can't say that my first cat, Edgar, was pleased with the new addition to the household but over time he's learned to adjust to the now-named Alice.  
All the tough things that were happening in my life eventually worked themselves out but having playful little Alice around during those times certainly made things a lot less stressful.

Life Lesson:  Sometimes help comes in small packages.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Win for the Felines

I certainly should have recognized the signs.  My two cats have been staring under the dishwasher for the last week or so.  These two felines don't do much together- except argue- so to see them so intent on solving a perceived problem in tandem was a nice change of pace.

Alice, the real hunter of the two, never came upstairs last night.  Her evening schedule usually consists of a little kitchen security followed by some kitty playtime in the living room with her toys.  Bedtime comes around 2 or 3 in the morning.

Whatever happened last night- I missed it.  I never heard a sound. Really? I'd rather not know the details but I'm happy to be mouse-free for now.

As for my feline duo- they're resting up tonight on opposite ends of the living room. Who knows, maybe they're dreaming about last night's battle.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Hitting up the Produce Aisle

The strawberries were so big and red I just couldn't pass them by.  The blueberries were plump and calling my name as well.  So there were strawberries and blueberries with breakfast and tonight there was a personal portion of strawberry shortcake. 

Yes, it was a fruitful day.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Missing Those Familiar Faces

The weekends can be hard in quarantine time.  During the week I have the distraction of my work but come Saturday and Sunday I'm stuck with not that much to do.  It's on the weekend that I miss my old life the most.

This past weekend I figured out a trick to help me pass the time.  Friday night I made up a big batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.  On Saturday, I dropped by my doctor's office during walk-in clinic hours to drop off some cookies.  My doctor and I go back about 30 years- we lived together in a group house when I first arrived in the area.  She may have voted against me moving in way back when but I managed to win over the rest of the house and eventually won her over as well.

There were no other patients in the office while I was there so we had time to catch up from a safe distance with lots of hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves at our disposal.

Later in the day, I dropped some cookies off for my niece and her boyfriend in DC.  I even managed to grab two boxes of Fruity Pebbles for them- something she had been wishing for in a group text earlier in the day.  Again, we were able to see each other and chat for a minute over the fence in her front yard.

Seeing people is nice.  Surprising them with treats is even nicer.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Working the Crowd

I think Mother Nature is trying to make sure we stay in.  Yesterday was mostly cloudy and as I drove along the Potomac to another part of town I noted the number of walkers, runners, and cyclists traveling along the bike path.  I gave up on using the path a few weeks ago after I found it to be much more congested than the roadway.

Today there was just a whole lot of rain.  Skies were gray and rain sprinkled throughout the day.  As I drove over the river from DC I saw very few people out and about on the path.  There's more rain forecast throughout the week but it looks like next weekend will bring sunshine and no doubt, crowds eager for exercise to all of the usual spots.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Clear Headed and Walking

I walk along roughly the same path for my daily walk.  I may change up the order of streets here and there but for the most part, I stay within a 2-mile radius of my house.  What never ceases to amaze me is how different the same two miles can look from day today.

Sure, all the spring blooms help bring about those subtle changes I see each day but I think there's something else at play as well.

Thanks to quarantine life, this teacher is getting a good 8 hours of sleep each day.  I'm also not working through the day making somewhere around 1500 decisions a day.  This new normal is stressful for sure, but apparently--for me-- it's not as stressful as a five-day workweek in the classroom.  That means there is plenty of room in my happy brain to continually notice new things in my environment.

I don't have any wishes to maintain this distance learning life past the end of the school year but for now, I'll take time to reap the benefits.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Nice Blanket!

I had my first virtual meeting with students today.  Much like hosting an event at home, there's always a little anxiety about how everything is going to go. Is anyone going to show up?  Will everything work out? 

Fortunately, students did show up.  We chatted a bit about home life and online learning.  I talked to one mom who thanked me for everything, checked out an old oak tree in another student's backyard, and found myself getting rather jealous of another student's white fleece blanket.

Not the usual meeting but there's nothing but unusual in the world these days so I'm not surprised.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Best Show Ever

I saw a cartoon about a week ago- it featured a man leaning on the back of the couch, looking out the window, with his dog.  The tagline read something like, "Now, I see why you got so excited when somebody walked by."

So, yeah, this is quarantine for many of us.  I spend most morning tied to my computer waiting to hear from students or waiting to join another online meeting.  I also spend part of the time looking out the back door along with my two cats.  Both cats get quite excited when a bird flies in for a stopover at the birdbath.  Young Alice can't contain herself and immediately starts squeaking as if to say, "Lucky for you that I'm behind this screen door!"

Stoic Edgar prefers to shrink down to the floor in a full cat crouch position as if ready to strike his prey.

Me?  I just like seeing all the things there are to see.  Today I got to see the usual Cardinals, Blue Jays and Robins- but there was also an American Goldfinch, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a beautiful fox. 

So, yes, I now understand why the felines in the house are impatient when it comes to me deciding to open the back door.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Thinking About the Good Ol' Days

My grandmother had a Mimosa tree in her backyard.  It was under that tree with all the shade it provided that most summer gatherings were held.  Our table was a utility line spindle.  My grandfather dug trenches for a living and I suppose those trenches were later used to bury large utility wires.  Pop Pop's bonus was the two or three spindle tables in the backyard.

There weren't really chairs for the table, although there may have been a few smaller spindle tables around that whoever was gathered used for sitting.  Mostly there were lawn chairs with a green and white plastic weave for comfort.  Us kids didn't usually have a seat- nor did we need one. We were too busy running around.  Running after fireflies, running down the dirt paths in the garden and through the trellises that supported the pole beans. 

Every once in awhile we would gather under the tree to make ice cream.  My granny would add in whatever ingredients were needed and all of us kids- siblings and cousins- would do the grunt work of turning the handle.  The rock salt tumbled and crunched as the heat of the day moistened our necks.

When the ice cream was finally done we would gather as small bowls of sweetness were passed out.  A summer day that ends with homemade strawberry ice cream- you can't do much better than that.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

What a Game!

Friday night dinner was buffalo wings.  Once I placed my plate on the coffee table I started flipping channels to see what was on television.  I settled on watching a replay of the 2008 Superbowl game between the Giants and the Patriots.

It didn't matter that I knew the Giants were going to win.  By the time the 4th quarter rolled around, I was clapping and yelling at the TV like it was a Sunday afternoon in October.

For a little while, life felt very normal and I like that.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Stop Along the Way

If there's any good that's come out of my current situation it's the daily walk that is part of my at-home schedule.

Spring is in all of its glory in my corner of the world and I'm taking it all in every day.

I've been taking time to stop and snap a few pictures along my path each day and find that spending an extra minute for an up-close look at the rainbow of colors brings a smile to my face.

Yeah, it's hard to find reasons to smile sometimes lately.  Fortunately, Mother Nature in spring never fails to disappoint.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Hide and Seek

My local grocery has a few new rules in place to help us all shop at a distance.  There are arrows in the aisles to guide us down the path that we should move through the store.  No surprise- there were a few people ignoring the aisles and going in whatever direction they saw fit.  I'm pretty sure they maneuver the parking lot in the same manner.

When it comes to checkout time there are identified distances for lining up.  So even if there are only two people ahead of me I may find myself lining up down a food aisle- creating a line length that is reminiscent of a winter storm approaching.

Yesterday I had to stand in the ice cream aisle for about 10 minutes.  I love ice cream.  I have no self-discipline so ice cream usually isn't allowed to make its way inside my house.  While waiting I checked out all the ice cream I would love to buy.  I even noted the tiny containers of Edy's Mint Chocolate Chip.  Perhaps I could buy a few of those and keep my ice cream eating under control?

No.  No, you couldn't.

I resisted and eventually made it out of the aisle.  Unfortunately, all the resistance I used for the ice cream made it impossible to walk past the 10-ounce bags of peanut M&Ms.  They were two for $7!  So I grabbed two and threw them on the conveyer belt.

Yeah, that was a bad idea. Two hours later I had already enjoyed three healthy handfuls of chocolate/peanut deliciousness.  I stopped myself when I went to reach for the fourth handful and threw them in a rarely opened cupboard- out of sight, out of mind.

It worked!  I didn't think about those treats again until this afternoon when I noticed the yellow ripped piece of plastic from the top of the bag.  I just ate another handful and then moved them to another cupboard.  No doubt I'll see them again tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Checking In

I checked in with my parents tonight to see how they were doing.  We talked about the usual stuff before I asked my dad how his poetry writing was going.  He had received his first assignment- to write three haiku-on the month Monday night.

"I gotta tell you.  This is really tough.  I mean, how old are these kids?" he asked.

Dad seemed shocked to find out I had given the same assignment to a class of sixth graders.

"School is completely different these days.  When I was that age we were.."

"Diagramming sentences?" I finished.

"Well, yeah.  But we were also fighting the Japanese," he continued.

Myself- I never learned to diagram sentences.  It was the one big thing I missed when I was out for three weeks with a broken leg.

I told my dad I'd send him a haiku of my own and he promised to help me out with those sentence diagrams.

Monday, April 13, 2020

My Kind of Student

I have a new student in English these days...sort of.  While talking with my dad yesterday I told him about the upcoming poetry challenges my now online students will be tackling over the next few weeks. He was intrigued. Years ago I showed him the poem "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyons. I also gave him a copy of the template shared with students so they could create their own poems.

He was hooked and now his "Where I'm From" poem is framed in his home office.

My dad loves a good assignment.  At the age of 85, he understands the importance of having something to take care of each day.

This afternoon he got his first assignment- to write 3 haiku.  One thing I know for sure is that he is one student I won't be pestering about getting his work turned in.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Feeling Free

Thirty days into my new socially distant life and I gotta say it's getting to me. I've been a little down the last two days. After talking with a few other friends it appears that I'm not the only one feeling that way.

I woke up disappointed that I wouldn't be going home for Easter, but I was also feeling determined to get out of my funk. Fortunately, I just needed to open my front door.  It was there that I found a surprise-  a six-roll pack of toilet paper and a small bag of peanut butter cookies along with a light blue bow. Had the Easter Bunny made a visit? Sort of- although the card that was included identified the Easter Bunny as my friend, Kathy.

Smiling, I considered how such a small gesture could so easily turn around my day. I decided to pay it forward by reaching out to another friend.  And then all of a sudden my phone started beeping.  Group chats were awake and people were texting pictures and Easter greetings. Everyone was checking in with each other. A friend in California shared a Spotify list and a video of a new puppy.  There were food pictures and smiling faces.

And before I knew it I was free of the funk.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Feline Rhythms

With all this time at home, I've become much more in tune with the daily rhythm of my two cats.  The dance begins around 7:30 or 8:00 when I awake to see four eyes staring at me waiting for the morning meal.

Once breakfast is over, I settle in with a cup of coffee and read over the news of the day.  Edgar, my aloof black cat sits nearby waiting for me to get up for a second cup so he can settle into the spot I've warmed up for him in the recliner.  From then on Edgar spends most of his day moving from perch to perch napping or watching the birds on the back patio.

Alice is a busy cat all morning.  She follows me around until she's tired enough to settle into her not so secret hiding spot in the closet where she is happy to snooze the day away.

As far as the cats go, there's not much else to their day.  I may be cleaning out closets or burning calories on the Wii but they are both content to sleep like cats do until about 5:00 pm.

After dinner, it's naptime again.  However, the one thing I've noticed is that the usually aloof Edgar is persistent about his need for attention.  No matter where I find a seat he is right next to me with his head butting whatever part of me he can find asking for a little scratch under the chin.

Even though I've figured out his needs it always surprises me as he is more of a "cat" than any cat I've lived with recently.  I quickly reach out my hand and give in to his needs- scratching the soft fur beneath his chin as he slowly closes his eyes and settles in for his evening nap.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Looking Ahead

My original Spring Break plans had me staying in Lexington, VA tonight.  I would have been on my way back from Asheville and stopping along the way for a trip to nearby Natural Bridge.  I've been to both Lexington and Natural Bridge so at least I can imagine myself there--walking the wide path along Cedar Creek to a view of the stunning limestone arch.

Frustration filled me for all of a minute today.  While I'm disappointed that my road trip plans didn't work out I'm happy to be feeling safe and healthy at home.

Okay, so I'm sort of happy.  Nonetheless, there's no point in sitting around feeling sorry for myself- especially when I'm sitting here with everything I need. 

But eventually, I think I'll need a vacation.  So today I told my sister to start planning our month-long stay in Northern England next summer.  She brought it up to me a few months ago and I pretty much shut her down.  I wasn't ready to make any sort of commitment for the summer of 2021.  Now I think it will be nice to have something to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Slow Change

For the past six weeks, I've been working out some back problems with physical therapy.  I was in pretty poor shape when I started- my back muscles were guarding to such an extent that it was next to impossible for me to roll from my back to my side without grimacing in pain.

At that point, my only goal was to feel better by April 4- in time for Spring Break.  The student intern who saw me at my first appointment assured me that wouldn't be a problem.  I can't say I believed him back then, but I think that's just because I was in so much pain.

Who could have ever guessed how my world would change over the course of six weeks?  Certainly, not me.

Over the course of the last six weeks school has closed.  My student intern has left and will be one of those students who graduates without a graduation ceremony.  I'm no longer running to an appointment after school- with my wide-open schedule I'm more likely to be there around noon each day.  There are fewer people sharing the therapy space.  Just last week my therapist called to change my appointment so she could spread out her patients.  She used to see two people at a time.  The silver lining of the pandemic is that I am her only patient so I get a whole bunch of individual attention.

Over the last three weeks, I've often questioned if showing up for therapy was the wisest decision.  Every time I've gone in I've watched as my therapist disinfected anything that was touch by me or anyone else.  And so, I've continued going.

Today I walked in and found all the therapists, and many of the patients, wearing masks.  It was my last appointment and I was glad about that.

My back?  It feels good- just as promised six weeks ago.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Where I'm From

"That grass looks amazing!"

It was hard to get over how great the grass at the National Mall looked this morning.  I met up with three other humans and two other dogs for a socially distant walk along the mall.

"America's Front Yard" will always have a special place in my heart along with the Smithsonian museums that line its border.  You see, it was a clerk typist job in the Arts and Industries building that brought me to the area.

When I told my former boss at The Bank of Baltimore that I was moving south to the DC area she laughed.

"I shouldn't be surprised, you've been drinking coffee out of that Smithsonian mug for 6 months now."

The Smithsonian didn't turn out to be a career kind of position but the friends I made there did turn out to be life-changing.  Many sunny lunch hours were spent under a tree on the mall with my work peers.  For the most part, we had come to DC in search of the next thing.  In time, we would all find it.  One went on to a career in personal management, one found a career in law, and I found a career in education.

My five years there was a blip of a federal career but it was a time I'll always treasure.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Keeping to Myself

Once again the weather beckoned.  So today I found myself about 30 miles south at a state park on the Potomac.  The new normal that meant I never had to touch my brake for slowing traffic while driving south on 95.  For a moment I considered driving as far south as I could, just so I could feel like I was actually on Spring Break. 

The long drive south didn't happen...of course it didn't.  After all, this is supposed to be a tough week Covid19-wise so the less interaction I have with others the better.  That's exactly what I kept at the forefront of my mind when I saw the Wawa on the side of the road near my destination.  Yes, it would have been great to run in for my favorite chicken salad club but for sure the virus could be in there.

Today I settled for a walk along the river in Leesylvania State Park.  There were a few people around but not so many that I couldn't easily keep my distance.  Checking out the parking lots, empty storefront and boat docks I could imagine what it must look like on a crowded summer day.  Today the beach was empty except for a few fishermen.  People strolled on trails but moved to the side whenever they came upon someone else.

The water was quiet and mesmerizing today.  Walking along the path I kept my eyes on the sky in hopes of an eagle sighting.  No luck.  The marshes were quiet as well, there would be no turtle sightings along the way.  Even so, it was a pretty perfect visit to a new-found park. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Wide Open Spaces

It's just there are only so many places to go these days. 

I wasn't all that surprised at the number of people out on the bike trail.  The sky was blue, the sun was shining so, of course, the outdoors were calling to more than just me.  I headed west on the trail and found myself just past National Airport at the usually popular Gravelly Point.

The parking lot was empty but there were still a large number of people milling around.  It was enough people to make me wonder just how smart it was to be there myself.  So, a u-turn was made and a new, less-crowded path was found.

No doubt, it will be more and more difficult to find places to get outside while maintaining the appropriate distance from others.  Even so, I'll take on that challenge.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Looking Forward

Just a few days ago, in a low moment, I said to my sister, "So I guess I'll have my birthday all by myself this year."

Fortunately, as soon as I spit out my pity party for one I remembered one important detail- "But, I still have that ice cream cake Kathy gave me last year, so I'm good!"

Obviously, there are many, many people worse off than me in this world so it's only fitting that my little pity party shut down after about thirty seconds.

And then there's all the technology-

This evening I hosted a Zoom happy hour birthday party for a close friend.  Nine of us got together through the power of Zoom to hang out, chat and sing happy birthday.  At one point, the birthday girl herself took to her piano and delighted us all with a little "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  Thankfully, Zoom waived the 40-minute limit, allowing us to chat for over two hours.

Seeing all my girlfriends, along with their husbands and dogs was just what I needed at the end of the week.

When the meeting ended I immediately set up our next get together.  I'll see them next week and the week after and the week after and...

...that makes me happy.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Waiting Patiently

It's hard to say how I would have been feeling today, one day before Spring Break, if I was still teaching in my classroom. Sure, I would be exhausted but I think it would be more of a physical exhaustion.

The exhaustion I'm feeling today is mostly mental. Honestly, I have gotten more sleep and exercise in the last three weeks than I have in months.  So, physically I am feeling good. 

My days are now filled with spurts of educational coaching.  Yes, coaching...not teaching. And then I've been doing quite a bit of wondering.  I'm wondering how this is all going to turn out? How is this school year going to turn out?  What will I be asked to do, as a teacher, after Spring Break?

That last question was sort of answered in a 10-page email today.  I'm sure it was meant to make me feel better, to make me feel like there's a plan going forward--but it didn't.  I'm left with more questions, more things to wonder about and more mental exhaustion.

Fortunately, I know myself.  I know I'm scrappy and in the end, I'll figure it all out.  I also know that Spring Break is less than 24 hours away so for now, that's all I'm going to think about.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Moving On

I'm not sure if I was supposed to but I dashed across the state line into DC this evening to help my niece move to a different quadrant of the city.

Being the aunt has its perks- as does being the aunt who had a knee replacement last August.  Megan only needed me for the room in the back of my small SUV.  Fortunately, I didn't have to schlep up and down two flights of stairs to carry bags and other assorted items.

I couldn't help but smile as I watched her two roommates haul things down from their second-floor apartment.  It reminded me of the many moves I made in my twenties and early thirties.  Each new place promised something a little better- closer to town, the master bedroom, fewer roommates or even, finally, a place of my very own.