I’m a Teacher, A Teacher Teaches

As a fourth-year teacher teaching fourth graders, I was not prepared for the lockdown drills that followed the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. My pint-sized principal, Mrs. Ure in Orem, Utah, assured me that if someone came into her building, she’d go out to her silver Toyota pickup truck and get the shotgun. I knew she would protect us.

Years later, practicing for a lockdown with my eighth graders, I continued to teach. We huddled in the corner, but I was determined to finish reading Flowers for Algernon. My principal, a former lineman, sent me an email — “Practice like you play.” I knew to take drills seriously after his coaching.

On Thursday, February 15th, the morning after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I walked into my classroom and measured where the safe spots, the places where my students and I could hide, behind my wall of glass after drawing the curtains, were.

Now, in 2020, school safety and security has been pushed aside by the pandemic. Frankly, I am more afraid of Covid-19 than any of the scenarios we practiced in drills. Instead of securing entrances and fencing, districts across the country are installing plexiglass; purchasing PPE; retrofitting filtration systems; and trying to figure out how to keep children separate from each other.

In the musical, A Chorus Line, Cassie, desperate for a job in the chorus line, says, “I’m a dancer, a dancer dances.”

She continues:

Give me somebody
to dance for.
Give me somebody
to show.
Let me wake up
in the morning
to find I’ve somewhere
exciting to go.

I’m like Cassie, but I’m a teacher, a teacher teaches.

Each August, I get the back-to-school jitters. I set out my outfit for the first day of school a week early — just to make sure I’m ready. I read my attendance lists. I see if I have repeat customers — those students that I taught in 10th grade, then 11th, and finally, as seniors.

Right now is when I start planning, loading my Canvas pages, and organizing relevant readings. I’m doing that. My colleagues are doing that.

On August 20th, the scheduled first day of school with students, I want to “wake up in the morning to find I’ve somewhere exciting to go,” if it is safe for my students, my colleagues, my community and me.

If Covid-19 is not contained, we need to ensure that teachers can teach; students can learn; and that we are not acting irresponsibly and spreading the virus.

Therefore, maybe my somewhere exciting to go is my laptop and a GoogleMeet. I hear over and over to “look for the silver lining.” The silver lining is keeping everyone safe. Let’s use what we have, build on all the good we created in the spring, and transform education instead of rushing into full classrooms. Let’s use our talent and our tools to be even more effective.

This is my personal opinion. This is how I feel.

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Love You Bunches

I found this at my favorite state-managed store today.

When I choose my nail polish, I buy it because of the name, not the color. I own colors like “I’m not Really a Waitress,” “Do You Lilac It,” and, even “Exotic Birds Don’t Tweet,” not because they look good on me, but because I like the names.

Today, while in my favorite state-managed store, a “natural wine” on sale for $23 caught my eye near the register. With the dramatic uptick in cases of COVID-19, Salt Lake County is tightening up restrictions — thank God!

While my bottles of Sauvignon Blanc were being boxed, I asked, “How is that?” Both the guy behind the plexi glass at the cash register and Christine, the darling woman who was manning the front door said, at the same time, “I haven’t tried it.” Christine added, “a $25 bottle is out of my price range.”

We laughed. I shared my philosophy for buying nail polish and said, “I just have to have it because of the name.”

Christine showed me on the box that it needs to be served chilled. I promised to return with a review.

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We Can Do Hard Things

This is Happy. If she can do it, we can.

We Can Do Hard Things

In the beginning, I joked. I called it CORONA-cation.

Years ago, we had SWINE-cation with the Swine Flu. The day Superintendent Timothy put Park City School District under quarantine, my principal and I drove to the Governor’s Mansion to watch our eighth-grade student, Skye, receive an award for her essay on bullying.

SWINE-cation came and went.

It did not interrupt learning. It did not cancel prom. It did postpone graduation.

Even though I knew better, I assumed CORONA-cation would be a quick re-set and we would all be back in the classroom, skiing, and in the grocery store in a few weeks.

My first wave of panic, yes – panic– that’s the right word, came in Smith’s on Sixth Avenue in Salt Lake City. Gloved and masked, I heard silence. I paused in the produce to find what was missing – there were no children. No kids asking for this or that. No babies crying. No laughter.

Going to the grocery store every two weeks became daunting. The quiet overwhelmed me. It felt surreal. It was dystopian.

Now, I order groceries online and have them put in the trunk of my white Volkswagen and hope that my eyes twinkle enough to express gratitude while wishing the personal shopper could see my smile under my mask.

Sure, it was 2020: The Year I Actually Was a Stay-at-Home Dog Mom and I made lists, long lists: clean the baseboards; write; practice yoga; organize the pantry; put the Christmas decorations in the garage (well, now Christmas is just a few months away, so they will have to stay put in the closet downstairs); clean my closet – if it hasn’t come out in a year, OUT with it; read; exercise; plant a garden . . .

So many things to do with so little energy.

Teaching took twice the time and provided none of the fun.

As an English teacher, I get to see the rawest and the most real sides of my students in their writing. COVID changed their plans for college as parents were furloughed. COVID changed their schedules. Some became nocturnal gaming until 4 am, sleeping, waking, and doing it all over again. COVID challenged their roles in their families. Some became providers. Some became the parent – parenting their parents and their younger siblings.

Now, however many days, however many weeks later – I lose track – all I know is that I have been in COVID-casual clothes (“pants” without a waist) since Thursday, March 12th. I know this because the last day of school with my students was Friday the 13th – a school spirit day so I “twinned” with my colleague wearing sweatpants and a basketball hoodie.

I’m angry. I try to control things that I can’t.

I’m frustrated. I don’t understand why others won’t control things that they can – wearing a mask in public, washing their hands, writing complete sentences, and using spellcheck.

Instead of my “to-do” list, I shopped at Hell’s Backbone Grill online, of course. I made biscuits and smothered them with apricot preserves. I didn’t gain the COVID-19; I added 10 pounds.

I drank too much. In fact, it was that afternoon cocktail that I looked forward to, that gave me hope—that, I told myself was my reward for figuring out how to deliver curriculum to my students who were separate from me, from each other. That was my reward for answering questions and having writing conferences online. I looked forward to a glass of wine as a break, a stop.

But it didn’t stop. Instead, the lid on my laptop stayed open – just in case – just in case someone needed an answer, clarification, or, just me.

As for reading, I read a little. I consumed Hot Zone, started The Magicians, perused Erosion and listened to Glennon Doyle read Untamed as I drove between Salt Lake City, Park City, and Francis.

Now, from her book, I know, “We can do hard things.”

Last night, I was filled with sadness.

“Please I can’t breathe,” said George Floyd before succumbing to his injuries in Minneapolis. I grieve for Mr. Floyd. I grieve for the families and friends of the more than 100,000 killed by COVID-19. I grieve for students missing out on tradition and moving into a new world. I grieve for what we called normal.

We can do hard things.

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MOMversation about Men and Murder

MOMversation about Men and Murder

or, Why I Should Date Women

29 June 2019

On Saturdays, mom visits Helen at Salon Enchante. Helen is renowned for her skill with thinning gray hair. No one can insert rollers and get someone under a hot vintage bonnet dryer like Helen.

I call it, “the fluff and fold.”

Mom and I have some quality time driving to and from the fluff and fold.

Yesterday, before I had even backed Tiggy, my Volkswagon Tiguan out of mom’s driveway, she started the conversation.

MOM:  I just can’t get that poor girl out of my mind. (I knew she was referring to Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old student at the University of Utah who was murdered earlier in the week.)

ME:  I know. It’s awful.

MOM:  You just can never date men again.

ME:  (Thinking, is this a slippery slope or a hasty generalization?) Should I date women?

MOM:   That’s not funny.

ME:  So, if I was a lesbian and dated women I wouldn’t have to worry about being murdered?

MOM:  You know what I mean.  I hope you never date again.

ME:  That is one of the meanest things you’ve ever said.

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In the School Parking Lot

Today, Monday, after school, my friend, my colleague was strapping her son into their Toyota minivan.

I stopped.

Friend: What are you going to do now?

Me: I’m debating about going to Food Town.

Friend: Don’t do that. Go home. Drink your dinner.

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Another Mom-versation

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Driving to mom’s fluff-n-fold.

MOM:  What are you wearing?

ME:  A dress.

MOM:  Does it zip on both sides?

ME:  Yes.

MOM:  So, you have to zip it from the bottom?

ME:  No. I just pull it over my head.

MOM:  Well, what are you wearing under it? You look naked.

ME:  Mom!

MOM:  Well, when you were walking away from me, I could see EVERY bump.

ME:  Mom.  I’m hot.  I wear as little as possible.

MOM: You know what your Nana said.

ME:  Yes. Wearing clothes keeps you cool.

MOM:  Modest light coverings.

 

 

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11 Things I Did Not Know about Getting Old

11.  Always order the expensive glass of wine. At 47, I can’t drink more than one without getting a headache.

10.  Arthritis.  It’s a real thing.

9.  Physical therapists are super heroes sans capes.

8.  Acne is still a thing.

7.  Being a size 2 is not still a thing.

6.  Jeans are uncomfortable.

5.  My body has developed an intolerance for things I love like ice cream, potato chips, and cheese.

4.  Staying home is fabulous.

3.  Coffee after 9:00 am keeps me awake.

2.  While my waist gets bigger, my lips get thinner.

1.   Sleeping makes me sweat.

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Can Openers for Old People

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Arriving home from school is an adventure. When I press the garage door button, the dogs perk up, rush the laundry room door and bark “hello.”

I back into the garage, shut off the Element and put the garage door down. After collecting my computer bag, lunch tote, and water bottles, I work my way to the door into the house.

The barking quiets, but Houston and Hef scratch on the door telling me to HURRY UP.

I brace myself, bend my knees to make sure the 300 pounds of dog coming at me do not tear my ACL.

After hanging my bags in the laundry room, I wedge myself through the dog gate along with the three big dogs. Then, holding my breath, I creep around the corner wondering what I will find.

Today, I found the gratitude journal I kept in 2014 scattered in the living room and across the snow in the backyard.

Upstairs, I found the rest of the gratitude journal; a book about “transforming my life” that never worked; and, a chewed up can opener.

Looking on Amazon, I found a can opener for “seniors with arthritis.” I’m 47. Do I qualify?

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MOM-versation about G-Ma-ing the Dogs

Booker T. Washington is having a stay-cation at his G-ma’s house.

Growing up, my brother, Jeff, always (and I mean that literally) stayed at my Nana’s house. One night, I planned to sleepover. But, when mom came to tuck me in and leave, I confessed that I was scared. Mom packed me up and let Jeff stay instead.

Booker T. Washington is much braver than me.

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After driving G-ma to her fluff-n-fold (hair appointment), Deseret Book and the grocery store, Booker stayed.

Mom called to fill me in on the details.

MOM:  When I give him his M-E-D-S, I put them in his T-R-E-A-T-S. But, I don’t tell him they have his M-E-D-S. I just spell those words.

ME: (Writing it all down so I can blog about it.) Well, that’s probably for the best.

MOM:  Today, he played with his downstairs piggy and learned how to squeak it. He jumps up on the sofa, but won’t jump up on the chair. I’m going to measure to see if they are the same height.

ME: (Thinking, seriously?) I’ve never thought about the height of the furniture.

MOM:  Well, and, he won’t jump up on my bed. He’ll jump down, but he waits for me to pick him up and put him on the bed.

ME:  He won’t want to come home.

MOM: He knows I’ll be careful and put my hand under his backend so his back doesn’t hurt.

The Next Day

MOM: I measured the sofa and the chair. They are both 18″. But, the bed is 21″. Booker did jump up in the chair today, but I’ll still pick him up when we go to bed.

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And in the End

2017

And in the end

the love you take

is equal to the love you make

January

The Hooker Horde celebrated snow and Princess’ tenth birthday. Our Berner Bunch of Buddies cheered for us.

Somehow, Princess overcame the odds. Even our pet communicator said, “I don’t know how you did it, but she loves them and they love her. She loves you, too. She’s not going anyplace.”

February

Our home was covered with yoga mats. Both Faith and Princess needed the extra grip to get up and down.

On February 8th, just as I left for school, Faith’s legs gave out. I helped her settle.

When I came home, she could not walk.

We loaded up in the Element and went straight to Dr. Prior.

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Princess and I puttered around the waiting area. When we walked into the big room, Dr. Prior had tears in his eyes when he explained, “She ruptured her ACL.”

Sitting on the floor, Faith rested her head in my lap, looked at me with her pretty brown eyes, and told me, “Momma, I’m done. I can’t do it anymore.”

Knowing the history with Faith’s breathing and elongated soft palate, she was not a candidate for surgery at 8-1/2 years-old.

Dr. Prior, knowing the history with my “Berner Peeps,” offered to let me take her home.

Faith said, “no.”

The next day, after I lost my Kaibab family for the choice I made, I was given flowers and a note that “Faith lives.”

And, she does.

Faith lives.

Then, on February 24th, the cancer came back.

I poured myself a glass of liquid courage and Princess helped herself.

Big tears were cried with Dr. Prior when we said “goodbye.”

March

Our friends sent this beautiful portrait of our girl.

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The Little Prince came home on St. Patrick’s Day.

Ten days later, he did not feel very well.

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Turns out, the baby had a liver shunt.

April

He made me brave.

We traveled to Fort Collins. We even took his Princess from Auntie Barbz.

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But, my Little Prince couldn’t make it.

He said “goodbye” and took our hearts.

May

We celebrated Mother’s Day.

My girls and I picked up Honey.

 

June

Graduation.

This ended my first year at Park City High School.

June

Diesel arrived.

He fit right into the Hooker Horde. Diesel was Princess’ boyfriend. He slept on her bed and loved her furry siblings. He even loved the puppy.

We took “The Little Prince” to see “Prince.”

All of our hearts broke again.

September

Betty White was tired. Her knee was displaced. Dementia was difficult; it isolated her from the pack.

With a growl and snap, Betty left.

September 9th

With BW leaving, there was room for Hef (short for Hefner and Hefty).

He flew in from Houston on my birthday.

October

Diesel was so proud of himself. He snuck off and jumped in the pond.

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A few days later, Dr. Keri, Christie, and Dr. Prior and I wept.

My boy, Princess’ buddy, was filled with cancer.

October 28th

Heidey Hooker arrived from Missouri.

 

December 30th, 2017

2017

In the end,

the love you take

is equal to the love you make.

We made a lot of love in 2017.

2017, you kicked my ass.

2017, you broke my heart.

2017, you gave me the Liver Shunt Society; new Berner friends and family; and, you made me brave.

2018, BRING IT.

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