IN with a crash, OUT with a whisper.

I started this month slicing about a car accident I was in (my first). I had high hopes that the rest of the month would go as planned- or at least be more positive than that very first day, but, alas, it has not.

This month has been bizarre, to say the least. I am not happy with the way the last half of the month turned out, and I know many of you share my sentiments.

Sometimes I feel a bit….wishy washy when I write. Yesterday was about how we would be victorious. Other posts were about how hopeless and helpless I feel. This month has proven that it is OK to be all of those things and whatever else- nothing is off limits. Today, upon hearing the actual, official news that we all knew was coming- we are closed thru april 30th (and probably beyond)- I slumped back down into my “sorry-for-myself” hole. I don’t like being away from my students or my boyfriend or my people. I don’t like being stuck in my house all day. I don’t like that before all of this, I thought I was an introvert and it turns out- I get more energy from people and places than I thought. I’m not happy. I’m sad. And I’m hurting. And I’m thankful that my loved ones are safe. And I’m grateful to still have income and access to groceries and necessities. I feel like the main character of “My Many Colored Days” – when he’s all mixed up. The entirety of this month has felt like being trapped in a radiohead song.

“Your services are not required,

Your future’s bleak,

You’re so last week,”

Pretty much sums up how I feel about teaching digitally to seven year olds and their already overwhelmed parents. I know that we will emerge from this stronger, better, and more together than ever, but I also know that right now, it’s okay for it to suck and be sad.

I won’t end my month with pithy Thom Yorke lyrics, though. I would like to sincerely thank each of you for your vulnerability and your sweetness. Your positivity and your honesty. Your community and your comments and the human connections we made even in this isolating and scary time. Thank you for another meaningful, momentous, monumental, (and at times monstrous), March.

What do Simon, Garfunkel, and Teddy Roosevelt all have in common?

My inspiration today was sparked by a fellow slicer (who wrote “30 ways to write your slice”). Simon and Garfunkel. Iconic duo. I can still remember listening to their music through the crackly speakers at my grandparents house, dancing barefoot and footloose with my papa on his lunch break. Tossing Bear in the air and tooth-speckled kid gums bared in a grin.

I am drawn back to a particular song of theirs, often. The original and this cover. “The Boxer”. There’s a particular stanza in this song that has always struck a deep, reverberating, soul-frequency level chord with me.

” In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains, mmm mmm”

The fighter still remains. No matter what we are going through right now. Absence. Distance. Grieving. Worrying. Anxiety. As a collective psyche, we are taking a beating from every direction. The fighter still remains.

In typing this, I can’t help but to be drawn in another direction, to one of my very favorite speeches of all time, “Citizenship in a Republic” by Teddy Roosevelt. In this speech, he delivers the iconic lines seen everywhere – football stadiums, churches, schools.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

We are in the arena, folks. We are getting beaten down by the media, incompetent leadership (in many forms), emotions, and grief. So much grief. But- we are in the arena. As a country. We are banding together. As teachers. We are supporting each other in this transition from what many of us have been doing for decades to something completely new to everyone. We are daring greatly. We are accepting the error and shortcomings. We are falling short again and again (it’s the reality of a new medium for teaching) but we are sharing resources and knowledge and helping those around us get better every day. We are connecting.

The fighter(s) still remain. Thank you for being in the arena with me. Thank you for sharing sanity when I need it and giving me slices of your lives to fill my March. Thank you for (metaphorically – 6 ft!) wiping the dust and sweat and tears off of my tired teacher face and reminding me of all the good out there right now. Thank you for sharing your families and your smiles and your memories. Thank you for fighting this fight with me. We find ourselves together, every March, for a reason- this March, an especially important one. Thank you.

Stay well.

Killing of the Sacred Deer

I was reminded today of a long-forgotten, deeply ingrained in my psyche memory today.

Back to the alley for this one. During the summer one year, I was probably 8 or 9, our regular gang was outside in the hot morning sun. All of a sudden, we heard a weird strangled cry. We dashed out from underneath the playground equipment and out into the alley to investigate. It didn’t take us long to find what made the sound.

Trapped on the top of one of my neighbor’s wire fences was a deer. A doe, to be more specific. She had tried to jump the fence and snagged her back leg, right where the belly meets the leg. Needless to say, she was frantic and bleeding and in a very bad emotional state.

Being 8, I was also freaked out by this, and promptly burst into tears as I Usain-Bolted back to the house along the cracked brick cobblestone pavers. I told my mom what happened and within minutes, we had the whole West Avenue Mom Squad circled around the deer. The three decided to call animal control.

When animal control showed up, they were as shocked as we were (well, probably not AS shocked, because as an 8 year old the only blood I’d ever seen was from ripping my own teeth out so that I wasn’t excluded from the tooth chart….separate story maybe..). Nevertheless, they were shocked at the state of the animal they drove up to on our alley. Within a few minutes, after trying (unsuccessfully), to remove the deer from the fence…they told the mom squad to send us inside, and have us cover our ears and stay away from windows. We didn’t know why at the time, but as adults…we can all figure it out.

I remember my little brother Jack sobbing after this- he had the softest, sweetest, most empathetic heart. I remember our parents explaining to us that it was an act of kindness- the deer wouldn’t have been able to do the things she needed to do with a leg that badly damaged.

I also won’t ever forget the cries of anguish from that sweet doe. Wrong place, wrong time, unfortunate circumstances.

Mullets, Murders, and Meows

Hey there all you cats and kittens,

It’s me, Steph! Have you watched Tiger King on Netflix yet? If you haven’t, I highly suggest you check it out.

There have been a plethora of memes surrounding the release of this show- including ones that hint it was made for a long time and released during this specific moment of “everyone stuck inside with nothing to do”.

The show details the life of Joe Exotic- “Tiger King”. It has a colorful range of characters to say the least, all of whom are shady to the nth degree. It has everything you could dream of in a show- drama, love, mullets, meth, revenge, jealousy, and LOTS of fringe / leopard print. Even a few murder plots!

It’s interesting, the things we use to distract ourselves. It has made me laugh over the last few days seeing almost everyone I know sharing opinions, memes, and clips from this show. It’s such a bizarre unifier, but I suppose it gives us all something else to think about and talk about than the obvious. Anyways- if you haven’t seen Tiger King on Netflix….you really should.

Tiger King memes: 41 of the craziest reactions to the Joe Exotic ...

Shake it off

Anxiety feels

like a heavy, invisible creature on your back.

Hands over your mouth. You can’t breathe.

Calls you names in your ear.

Whispers all of the nasty little “what-ifs”

Doesn’t listen to reason or logic.

Feeds on fear.

It drags you under a blackness of

panic and sadness.

The worst part is,

nobody can see it,

so you start to question whether or not it’s really there,

or if it’s just you.

If I were a Spoon

If I were a spoon,

I’d be the sturdy kind. Thick metal handle, not dainty or designer.

Practical.

Reliable.

If I were a spoon,

I’d avoid the edges of mugs, bottoms of bowls, and back rows of teeth.

(I don’t like clinking or grinding noises)

If I were a spoon,

I’d be picky about where I hung out.

Probably in close proximity to the Phish Food ice cream,

or Broccoli Cheddar Soup,

or the sauce of mom’s Paprikash.

If I were a spoon, I’d avoid situations like

Cleaning out the grease trap,

Scooping out cat food,

Stirring alka-seltzer into water,

and mixing drinks (that stuff eats away at your finish).

I’d be sure to scoop just the right amount of sugar (never spilling on the floor),

mix your coffee just right (with no clanks),

and hold up with the most frozen of ice-creams (bendy spoons are the WORST).

I’d avoid water spots,

Stay off the floor,

and only occasionally be used as a drumstick in an air-drum solo (remember, no clinking).

If I were a spoon,

I’d hope you’d choose me first.

I’d do a good job. I promise.

Steph sans routine

I’m struggling a bit without a regular routine.

I tend to “Go Robot” and get tasks done rapid-fire when I have a deadline and a set schedule for things.

Without that- in this weird, online, e-learning limbo we’ve been thrust into, I find myself forgetting to slice in a timely manner.

Pre-closure I had my slice done before 7:30 am, most days. I had an alarm on my phone at 7:15 saying “Daily Slice!” so that if I caught up in one of the other millions of tasks a teacher has to do before school, I was reminded to take a second and slice.

Now that I don’t have to be awake before 7:45….I turned off the alarm. So, here I am, at almost lunch time, writing a slice about nothing. My whole routine has been thrown off, and I feel, probably how the kids feel, unmotivated and blobbish. Honestly. This is new for all of us. Today, I’m giving myself grace and telling the truth: I’m frustrated and uninspired. For the moment. I’m sure I’ll be struck with something spectacular and steph-like in the next 24 hours, but for right now, this is what I’ve got.

Better Together

Today, we had a district-wide, grade level zoom call with our upper admin. It was just to check-in and see how everyone was holding up. It was also a place for us to share ideas of things that had been working for us in our journey to support families with learning in this strange time.

As each person shared out what they were doing / the feedback they were getting- a few things became clear to me.

First and foremost: the creativity of people in this crazy time is unmatched. I am so impressed by so many of my colleagues and what they are doing to support the families they have direct contact with.

Second: The resiliency and grit of my colleagues. Everyone has experienced a challenge in the last two weeks that has changed or pushed the limits of what they thought they knew / could do. The willingness to try anyways, despite the hardship, is inspiring and heart-bolstering.

Third: the realization that we are so much better together than apart. Our minds, our hearts, our souls, our dedication and our passion- much better as a unit than as separate entities. We need each other. During this time especially, but always. We need to lean on each other and embrace the ideas of others and move forward. Out of the hole. Into the light.

Friends, we really are #BetterTogether, and #TogetherApart

Face Time

I think all of us are learning to be more appreciative of our technological capabilities in this weird time of “e-learning”. 15-20 years ago, had this happened with as little notice as we had- we would’ve been SOL! There would’ve been no way to get parents information-except maybe a mass phone call or a segment on the evening news.

Last week, the first week of “distance learning” for us- I left my students / families pretty much alone. I was there to answer questions about the packets that were generously provided by our instructional coaches, there to be a shoulder to cry on when things got too much, there to provide reassurance…but I did not assign anything extra or mass email resources. There are too many parents either out of work or now working from home that just don’t have the emotional space to be teacher, parent, employee, homemaker, therapist and daily schedule organizer all at once. A million emails with “helpful” suggestions for “maximizing at home learning potential” would be waaaaay overwhelming in my opinion. So, I let them come to me.

Over the weekend, I sent out a google doc- the first “document” I’ve sent out during this week of “distance learning”. I had time slots opened for FaceTime with the teacher. Within 24 hours, I had 10 kids sign up the first day, and about 4-5 the second. 🙂 Today was the first day of video calls. I have had SUCH a blast seeing their faces. They were smiling, laughing, walking me around their houses, showing me their pets, and of course- keeping me up to date on the books they’re reading.

It was awesome to see my little people again. I can’t wait for more of it this week. We could all benefit from a little more face time, don’t you think?

Stay safe, stay well, wash your hands (even in your own home). 🙂

Gaming in the time of Social Distancing

I finally understand the appeal of videogames.

I never really got it. I was very much into the playing with my brothers (as I mentioned in an earlier slice from this year), but beyond that, I never really played a whole lot.

When a new game was released in my favorite franchise (Zelda fans, anyone?) in 2017, I started playing regularly. It was fun, it passed time, but I quickly grew antsy and wanted to do other things. I couldn’t sit for hours at a time and play a single player game. Just not me!

This past Friday, a new Animal Crossing game was released for the Nintendo Switch. I have had this game preordered since the announcement- Animal Crossing is adorable, wholesome, and so much fun! Friday came, and I started to play. This game has an online feature, where you can “invite” other players to come visit your town and interact with you. My best friend and a group of others (my brother, his friends, a few of my cousins and old work friends) all have the game- and we’ve spent the last few days hanging out virtually on our islands together. Social distancing, but also connecting.

I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time on this game over the last few days- but it hasn’t been alone! I’ve been chatting with people, sharing resources, tips, and exploring this new virtual landscape with some buddies. It’s made me laugh and focus on something other than the stress happening in the world. I haven’t been obsessively on my phone looking at the news since this game came out. It has given me a nice reprieve from the onslaught of bad out there.

If you have a switch and want to play, my friend code is : SW-2864-3919-4191. My fruit is cherries 🙂 Let’s connect!