Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

How do I manage my mental health during the Coronavirus?

Lenten Reflection #35

Experiencing and processing our emotions during this time of uncertainty may be new for some of us. Personally, running and exercise provide the daily respite I need to keep my sanity.

Luckily, there are several ways for all of us to manage this new inevitable stress seeping into our lives.

According to the CDC:

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Here’s what they recommend:

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

  1. Take care of your body.
  2. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  3. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  4. Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
  5. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  6. Make time to unwind. 
  7. Do other activities you enjoy.
  8. Connect with others.
  9. Sleep – it will improve your brain health.
  10. Know the long term effects of social isolation.

With the spread continuing and the fear of what lies ahead looming, we must continue to optimize our human resilience. People throughout history have made it through terrible times and as their descendants, we will too. a955307432ce1e28b4c6c3ff966169cc.jpg

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Teenagers: 6 funny reasons for bad grades

40 Days of Lenten Reflections

Day #7

I’ve read numerous articles about why we should let our kids fail. So I gave it a try.

For a few months, I was the hands-off mom. The cool, “Study…um…or not…up to you” mom. Turns out, it worked. The failure part, that is. 

Some parents regard any failure by their children as a crisis. James Lehman, MSW with Empoweringparents.com said,

“In a crisis, parents see the danger part very clearly, but often don’t see the opportunity part. They don’t see that their child has the opportunity to learn an important lesson. The lesson might be about the true cost of cutting corners, what happens when he doesn’t do his best at something, or what the real consequences are for not being productive.”

Or in some cases, the lesson may be to craft clever reasons for why they failed. Here are some popular examples I compiled based on experience and research:

1.  “SHE didn’t give me a study guide.”

Typically teachers give students tools and strategies to study for tests, but there are those kids who think their teachers should hand deliver the said study guide to their home, place it on the kitchen table, and maybe even complete it for them.

Trust me, under the crumpled paper, broken pencils, and PE clothes in their backpack lie a study guide.

2.  “EVERYONE did bad on the test.”

To be executed correctly, this excuse should be said with backbone. Stress on the word EVERYONE while holding onto evvvvvvv——eryone should help their case. Teenager’s pre-frontal cortex has convinced them that if the masses failed, it clearly wasn’t their fault.

Maybe the class is full of slackers or maybe, well, nevermind.

3.  “He hasn’t put in the grades for the work I did REALLY WELL on yet and he takes FOREVER to grade!”

(except for tests, apparently)

This excuse is usually coupled with “There’s only one grade in the grade book, so that’s why it seems like such a bad grade.”

Nope. It’s actually a bad grade.

4.  “I had THREE OTHER tests to study for!”

Helping students develop good study habits is insanely hard. Teaching them to prioritize and manage their time is even worse. Ultimately it’s up to them what they study for first if at all, but if this is their excuse, make your follow-up the classic:

“Well, you should have started studying earlier.”

5.  “It’s not my fault the teacher doesn’t know how to teach!”

Once your kids get into the harder subjects, like AP Calculus and Physics, using the ignorance of the teachers bodes well as an excuse and is surprisingly convincing…I mean the reason for not doing well is coming from a child who qualified to be in the class, so…

NOPE! Don’t fall for it! They should have studied.

6.  “I THOUGHT I did well, but I didn’t.”

This is my son’s favorite. It’s the moment when parents have two choices: admit their child did not study enough or at all; or worry they don’t understand any of the content and cancel the family’s summer vacation.

So it turns out failing is an important ingredient in life, but learning from failure is a natural consequence we can all benefit from.

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Puzzles: why seniors benefit from these brain boosters

Lenten Reflections #6

Nowadays, the thump of a newspaper hitting porch steps is about as rare as hearing the beeping drone of a telephone’s busy signal.

Up until a few months ago, you could hear both sounds at my parent’s home. (They have caller ID now which they completely ignore).

Every morning, nestled under coffee cups and bowls of Cherrioes lies the Albuquerque Journal spread across the large table (which once sat six) as if poised for a large art project. Dad takes the front page, Mom pores over the local news, they both rotely read through the obituaries. Then Mom starts “the puzzle” as they call it. She nearly completes her half of the daily crossword effortlessly (depending on the day) and passes it to Dad. Inevitably they finish it together.

Crossword puzzles, jokes, riddles, and intermittent episodes of Jeopardy are a huge part of my parent’s lives.

According to wordwealth.com,

“When it comes to senior people, the daily crossword puzzle is a game-changer. The benefits of solving puzzles for the elderly are innumerable, including enhanced memory, better cognitive skills, improved concentration, and much more. It can even reduce the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly.”

Mom and Dad are no exception to this rule. So when my sister sent the above picture of our parents with a beautiful puzzle they had recently finished, I had to share it with you all. The text attached, read “FINISHED!” Yet another successful puzzle solved and completed by Mom and Dad.

These jigsaw cardboard conundrums remind us to take time to sit and search for the tangible corner pieces, edges and crazy pieces we try so hard to force-fit into a spot, but also, help us to weed through our own lives and piece together who we are, what we are destined to do, and how we can gracefully arrive where we belong.

Thank you kindly for reading.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings, Uncategorized

Substitute teaching and recess: learning in the field

I’ve worked as a substitute teacher at my children’s former elementary school for years. It’s a good gig. Flexible, most tough moments are healed with a hug or a shiny sticker and there’s recess every day.

Working at the school was especially nice when my children attended. One of my favorite memories was peeking over at my son at lunch when he stealthily said his prayers before he ate. He bowed his head and mastered the speedy 7-year-old sign of the cross touchdown style without the pointing-up-to-heaven and chest bang parts.

Simply said, substitute teaching is like being the crazy-fun aunt who visits every few months, has secret dance moves and always has gum.

Kids like a new face once in a while and most students already know I love recess so it’s a win-win. I actually thought about contacting Meghan Markle and asking if she’d like me to be her substitute Duchess of Sussex. I have the experience, I can pull off a crown and a good cockney accent (I sang an Eliza Doolittle song for Jr. Miss in high school) and being an old soul, I think the Queen and I would really hit it off.

This week I was lucky enough to substitute in a 2nd-grade class. My primary job was to shadow Maddie, an invincible gal who needed a little bit of support, physically.

My favorite moments of the day were during recess…where invaluable lessons are digested into their little souls.

Once in the recess “field”, Maddie dashed directly to her dear friend Keegan whose toothless smile seemed to say I’m glad you’re here. I pegged him as one of those friends you could sit with when you’re 40 and tell him your messy and sweet stories and he would listen with wide eyes.

My gal continually asked Keegan, “Do you remember when we met… SHORT PAUSE…it was in the hallway in first grade…SHORTER PAUSE…do you remember the face you made?” She told him he smiled when they met. She relished the memory.

Keegan gave her a quick side hug and said, “Let’s play portals!”

He orchestrated a game where each section of the field served as a “portal” (safe place) and we had to RUN from one to the next BEFORE the doors closed. I love to move but gee whiz the portals were really far away from each other. Maddie was quick and determined to keep up with her classmates and I jogged alongside like a cicada bug arms outstretched blocking flying soccer balls and tag games.

After we arrived at the fourth portal, Keegan announced there was a monster coming and we had to run! I was trying not to interject my ideas in the game, but craving a little break, I told everyone I packed invisibility cloaks in my back pocket and we could hide. That worked for about one minute. On the next GO! we followed him to the next portal and as he ran off he said, “Don’t worry, Maddie, we’ll keep the door open for you!” 

Breathless, we jumped in the invisible doorway and a new portal player said,

“Okay, huddle up! Here’s a big cauldron (he pointed to a grassy area), and if we put one of ANYTHING inside, the cauldron will give us ONE MORE…(he stuck his hand in)…see, now I have three hands!”

They went around the circle and announced their superpowers which ranged from strength to crystal transformer. Then they took turns reading secret messages written on leaves and wrote notes of wisdom with sticks in their own language.

We heard the jingle from the handbell across the field which signaled it was time to go inside. One boy hugged his friend and said, “I doubled you in the cauldron so I’ll leave you here and take one of you with me.” They all giggled as he ran off with his hand outstretched hugging his invisible friend. Maddie and I decided we should walk to the line and just like that, we were back inside – invisibility cloaks stuffed in my pocket for next time.

It’s true, most days I learn more from substitute teaching than I can ever give. In just that 30 minutes I was reminded:

  • as we age and our souls callous, deep in our hearts lie our 2nd-grade superpowers.

  • someone is always holding that portal door open for us so why not take a risk and jump over the threshold.

  • 30 minutes of play is priceless.

  • be the crazy-fun aunt.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

failure

You know when you get that slight tickle in the back of your throat and you’re certain it’s the precursor to a long sinus/cold/allergy situation? I get that same feeling when a stressful week for the kids is on the horizon, except there’s no tickle, it’s more like the sharp, piercing pain from stepping on stray legos. 

There’s a good chance every week is taxing and cumbersome when you’re a teenager these days, so I make it a routine to cross my fingers and pray for success…or failure…both foster growth, one just has more tears. 

I rejuvenated this post: Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail from a few years ago on how my kids mastered failure.

Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail

The folding. The flying. The fixing.

After each failed flight I taught them to tweak it. Adjust it. Change it.

To try again.

They used paper clips, tape, rubber bands, light paper, heavy paper, newspaper, tissue paper.

The INTENTION was to make the plane fly.

If it didn’t work, they made another plane.

They learned there’s no guarantee for success.

Sure it was small. But they tested, they measured.

They learned what each fold was for and why they made it.

No score was being kept.

They learned what uncertainty and failure felt like and danced with it.

They were invested in finding the flight.

They learned the worst that could happen was it wouldn’t work.

They still tweaked and fixed.

They learned when you care enough you will fail and fail and fail again.

It’s their airplane. Their flight. Their crash. Their landing. 

But they were curious and hungry.

Let them fold. Let them fail.

Let them create. 

After all…the creative mind who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.

Here’s a great article for more information on how to succeed by failing:

How to Help Kids Learn to Fail

Only through trial and error can children become resilient adults

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

The moment you realize you’re on your daughter’s group text…

As I sifted through my email today, unsubscribing from Groupon, Domino’s Pizza and DSW for the 37th time, I heard a ping on my phone. I glanced down and saw I was added to a group chat.

Let’s see…is it a bunch of moms from the PTA meeting last night? Uh oh, what did I volunteer for? Maybe it’s the 8th-grade dance committee.

Clearly, my choices are limited and telling.

Wait…the top of the text said APUSH…where have I heard that…APUSH…APUSH…APUSH.

Oh! AP United States History. That’s right, teenagers are “SO TIRED” they’ve given all their classes nicknames. APUSH, AP Psych, AP Calc, AP Bio, LIT.

Clever.

Suddenly, “APUSH me OVER A CLIFF!” with a smiley emoji lit up the screen.

Now that’s funny, I thought. Oh good, it’s a fun group.

Maybe I signed up for updates for Cora’s history class?

After a few minutes, I realized I didn’t recognize anyone on the list UNTIL I saw Cora’s name float across the screen.

Uh Oh. It turns out I was inadvertently added to the APUSH study group text. What happened was this, back in middle school, when Cora was “the only one in the ENTIRE world” without a phone, her friends used my phone number to call her. So she was listed as: “Cora’s Mom” which of course was my phone number.

Cora told me as she was laughing about this with her friends at school, another long-time friend who used to call me “Cora’s Mom” said, “don’t delete that number, she’s a good resource!”

I love being “Cora’s Mom”.

About 30 seconds later I received a message:

You have been removed from the group. 

Well I guess I was APUSHED out…good thing, that class is WAY too much work. 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Once the teenage years hit, there’s no pause button

It wasn’t long ago when I could still pick up Zavier, our youngest. He’d nestle his head in the cozy crook of my neck and we’d sway back and forth savoring the moment.

Then one sunny day after picking him up from baseball practice, I looked into the rearview mirror and there it was…adolescence.

Oh, you’ll know it when you see it.

It looks a lot like the top of a teenager’s head. Yes, all I could see in that little rectangular reflection was a blue screen shining up at my son’s face and the curved top of a baseball cap.

Where was my little guy who would yell out the make and model of every car that passed and guessed how long it would take for every light to turn green? Why wasn’t he singing loudly or recounting his practice play by play?

He was changing by the minute. One second we’re holding hands coming from the bus stop talking about recess triumphs and the next he can’t wait to start weight lifting class and drive to high school with his brother and sister. Ugh.

Honestly, Zavier is a teenager who is quite independent. But he’s still just a kid. I mean, out of habit (and my keen sense of smell), I still have to remind him showering is not optional. And like a broken record, I futilely encourage flossing and turning clothes right side out. Luckily his love of play supersedes all. He still asks me to be his quarterback, play Yahtzee and read together…I’ll hold onto those moments as long as possible.

Yet time just ticks by without even asking. So as I file the snuggly moments away in my heart, I remind myself to make every minute count. Zavier and I may see nose to nose now, but I still get my hugs — that’s usually when I whisper…”time to shower”. 

Here’s a great blurb I found from The Center for Resilient Leadership. I love the way it describes adolescence:

Adolescence is a period of transformation, not unlike a chrysalis changing into a butterfly. If you have never seen this process, it can be painstakingly difficult to watch. The butterfly gradually breaks free of his cocoon, pulling and pushing, stretching and contracting for what seems like an eternity before he finally emerges. If a benevolent onlooker decides to help the process along, the butterfly will likely die, because it is only through the struggle of metamorphosis that he gains the strength to survive on his own.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Goodbye Carpool Line…

When you’re a mom, job security is still a thing.

A few years ago, I worked in a Pre-K Special Needs Classroom with one of my favorite people in the world, Debbie. When daylight savings time came around, she teased that she was the ONLY one who knew how to accurately adjust the time on the classroom clock. “Job Security” she declared, hoisting herself on a chair to take down the clock.

So when my two oldest kids drove off to school in our “new to us” car, I saw a bit of my mom-job security circle the drain. No need to take them in early or pick them up after meetings. IMG_1115.jpegThe “always late” bus complaints will be a thing of the past. Here’s the bus today…guess they’re right.

Wait, should they be out there on their own? I’ve heard discussions both ways…there are those parents who are SO excited to have their kids drive themselves to school, practice and “to the store for milk”.

Not me.

Since the get-go, I’ve been the mom who lugged everyone everywhere…storytime, grocery store, soccer. Outings just made the day better. On our drives to elementary school, we built our stories. There’s the time I accidentally rolled over a rabbit and told the kids, “Yup, missed it!”

Sorry.

Or during morning prayers when we’d say, “Good morning sweet Jesus our Savior…” and our young Zavier would laugh and laugh thinking we were praying to him.

Even now that the kids are older, I relish our time in the car.

Fine.

I despise the arguing, poking, seat adjusting, music changing craziness that goes on, but the conversations can be pretty good, the singing mostly on key, and the stress level relatively low…since I’m at the helm.

Over the years, I’ve discovered change truly is our only constant and it’s up to me to loosen my hold and afford them the chance to share their experiences with each other.

Wow, those words really sound better than they feel.

Naturally, I worry as I stare at the bouncy faces I see on the Life 360 App zooming down roads, and I am crazy stressed about the late-to-work-speeders, moms-on-the-phone, and texting-teens circling them like sharks. But now it’s their responsibility to figure out the best time to leave in the morning. It’s their turn to find the most strategical place to park to avoid long carpool lines, and most certainly their turn to watch the gas gauge closely.

As I stand on the other side of the driver’s door in the morning, I give Cora the international “roll the window down” sign by moving my fist in small circles. I kiss her again on the forehead, reminding her to be careful and to let me know when they arrive. “If you need anything, just call.” They drive away and I feel anxious and proud like I’ve just handed them the keys to a Nissan and the world.

This is the cross-country course of parenthood. Full of roots to stumble on, downhills to relish and inclines to power through. I suppose if there were operating instructions for  kids they would say:

  • care and coddle when they are young,
  • provide a cozy, loving chrysalis as they grow, and
  • eventually, release them and let them fly — THE SPEED LIMIT!

So what if my job security was threatened this week? Thankfully being a mom has about 3 million other duties — ha, I’m suddenly reminded they are still just kids as I imagine them belly laughing as they blurt out, “You said duties!!”

I suppose the DMV can continue to issue permits and licenses to our teenagers but my kids know my “helicopter mom” license never expires, so I’ll be watching.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

The lost art of writing

I recently watched an episode of Ellen with Henry Winkler as a guest. He’s a lovely man. Kind and soft-spoken. Simply said, he’s more Arthur than Fonzie in the “Arthur Fonzarelli” character he played on the TV show Happy Days. He’s the side of Fonzie on Happy Days who was sweet and bashful when he thanked “Mrs. C” for dinner, as she endearingly served him more mashed potatoes and called him Arthur. (For anyone born after the year 2000, Henry Winkler is “Barry” on Arrested Development).

What I learned in the quick interview with Henry Winkler is his love for writing fan mail. “I think if you see a performance like Sam Rockwell as Fosse [in ‘Fosse/Verdon’], you have to write a letter…if you see Patricia Arquette in ‘Escape From Dannemora’, you have to write a letter. I write fan letters.” Yes, he writes real-find a stamp and put the letter in the mailbox with the flag up- mail. And more importantly, he writes because he wants to let someone know he admires them. He’s just a good guy.

Back in the ’80s, I was a big fan of the TV show Silver Spoons, a time when goofy kids like me called Ricky Shroeder “The Ricker”. After unearthing the show’s coveted address in a

rick.jpg

Teen Beat magazine in our school library, I wrote my first piece of fan mail to Ricky. Months later, I received an autographed (stamped!) picture, which, when your 12, was life-changing. Unfortunately, if you google “The Ricker” today, as I just did you’ll realize he didn’t pan out to be an upstanding guy. Nonetheless, at the time, I wrote a letter.

I come from a generation of letter writers. Starting with my mom. Once, when I was about 11, the cashier at Sears was abrupt with my mom when she pulled out her coupons…so, mom asked the woman her name, went home and wrote a letter to Sears. When mom didn’t want to receive the ten donation envelopes every month from St. Anne’s Catholic Church, she put pen to paper and let them know she and my dad donate quarterly. If she enjoyed a restaurant? Letter. Strongly disagreed with the editorial in the Tribune? Letter. Even today, after reading an article in her Gluten-Free Magazine, she wrote a letter telling the editor about the gluten-free hosts she and her dear friend Toni make for their church so mom can receive communion every Sunday.

Writing a letter is most certainly a lost art. Receiving a letter (other than bills) is always a joy. Just yesterday I received a thank you note from our family friend Connie. She wrote the kindest note thanking us for our Christmas card and my detailed update on our family.

Connie just turned 87 and is faithful to the written word. She sends our kids birthday cards with crisp dollar bills inside and a handwritten message in cursive that throws their brains into shock. She’s a gem.

So whether you’re thanking someone for the Instapot you probably won’t use, wishing your parents a happy anniversary, or opining about an editorial in the newspaper, write a letter. If you don’t, not to worry, Henry Winkler and mom have their pens ready.

Thanks for reading, it means a lot to me. 🙂 

Need help getting started on your thank-you notes? Here’s a guide:  How to write a thank-you note in 5 easy steps.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Every 2020 moment counts

In college, I remember the first week of every term. A handful of syllabi for five or six classes clutched in my hand leafing through each to see when the final was scheduled, how much it was worth, and when I should start stressing about it. Tapping into some crafty self-talk, I told myself, “I can do anything for a semester”.

Somehow, back then, I knew I could get through the readings, homework, papers, and tests semester by semester. Anne Lamott tells a story of her brother tackling a last-minute report on birds when their father stepped in and told him to simply pick one bird and write about it, then move on to the next. Just go “Bird by Bird,” he said. So I also went bird by bird. Small steps eventually led to my Bachelor’s, a ton of real work experience, and later a Master’s Degree.

In our longer-than-most Christmas card, I wrote: “This year I feel our lives have been hitched to a race car skidding from school to work to practice and maybe home for dinner. The busy is as exhilarating as it is exhausting. In all the frenzy, even our traditions have been flipped on their backsides and altered to squeeze into schedules. But the moment we allow ourselves to log off digitally and mentally is when personal connections have a chance to resurface. So, in my attempt to keep the good stuff from rolling away with the tide, I bottled up some moments and stories to share.”

So friends, in this new decade and new year, let’s gather our moments, parse them out and share them. I’ll do my best to amass the virtuous with the vicious moments and share them here, bird by bird, moment by moment.