classroom, health and wellness, live in the now, pandemic, teaching

End of 100%

Sometimes a piece of paper needs to be cut exactly in half and scissors aren’t readily available. There is another method that can potentially get the job done.

The edges of the page can be carefully matched up, corner to corner, in near perfect alignment.

A beautiful crease can then be made right down the middle. The fold is created exactly in the center, and it’s almost as if the line is evidence of some kind of satisfying achievement. The last step before the main event.

Then, the moment arrives. The goal and intention has always been to divide the original in two, knowing that the method is not ideal.

Carefully, with close attention to detail, the tearing apart begins.

That exact nerve wracking moment when the paper fibers initially begin releasing from each other with the hope of creating two equal shares feels very similar to what some teachers and educational professionals have felt while preparing for pandemic hybrid learning.

The pressure has been intense. The expectations all around us and of ourselves has amplified that pressure. We have made decisions that involve everything in terms of halves; half days, half of classes, two cohorts, two platforms for delivering instruction, dividing supplies in half, and dividing our time and attention in half.

Just like the outcome of a piece of torn paper, it’s going to turn out the way it’s going to turn out, no matter how much thought and planning was put into it. Each separate part is NOT going to turn out exactly the same as the other cleanly and the fear of judgement about the final result is real.

The hope is this: Just as some people who may not feel right about wasting perfectly good pieces of paper that have been torn in some way, or are uneven, we can still find value in it before we think of throwing it all out when it’s over.

Some may want to simply forget when this moment in time of crisis teaching and distance/hybrid learning approaches the end.

This is also the same moment to acknowledge everything that has been done behind the scenes to try to make it work, and that many pieces and parts although very different in many ways, are worth holding on to moving forward.

What is going to hold value for us now as we move forward? What are we going to let go of and what will we hold on to?

family, gratitude, health, health and wellness, live in the now, mindful

The Concept of Time in The Year 2020

My toddler son made a couple of big kid transitions during the past two months while sheltering at home. He outgrew his afternoon nap. He doesn’t need a stroller or anyone to carry him anymore during long neighborhood family walks.  

These milestones were never on the calendar, marked neatly in a box labeled with a specific date and time. They just happened. He definitely didn’t plan ahead for them either, (however, in the potty-training department, I wish he would). The attention span and thought pattern of a 3 year old probably doesn’t include the concept of what’s going to happen five minutes from now. When we attempt to tell him to wait because something is going to happen in two minutes, it’s sometimes a risky move; an invitation for a potential meltdown.   

With everything that has been going on in our world over the last months, thinking with a toddler mindset can be beneficial sometimes. Some of the most stressful moments that I’ve experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic stemmed from unproductive thoughts about something far into the future that I have no control over. It was either that, or I was looking back too far, sulking over silly things that I miss; ways of life and memories that are no longer a reality. 

Last year, when my father passed away, I wrote a post about looking to the future only ten days at a time, to help heal and grow through the grieving process. Now a new adjustment is necessary. Five minutes. The future that may exist in the next five minutes seems easy enough to handle, especially when the answers that I want aren’t there, and it may be quite a while until they come. 

It’s also a very grim and humbling experience to remember that so many people have fought until the end for the next, (or last) five minutes of their lives. Struggles and challenges have taken on such an intense and whole new meaning for everyone: health, life, food, finances, safety.  If a “struggle” involves not having an exact plan for something that is a non-emergency or non essential  situation, waiting for five minutes at a clip is good with me.

My son lives his life and makes his toddler moves based on what’s right there in front of him. He sometimes refers to the past using phrases such as “earlier” or  “last earlier”, when he wants to talk about something that may have occurred a week ago, or even pre-pandemic. At this point, many of us are questioning what day it is anyway, so making less references to the past could be a good thing.

The word “tomorrow” isn’t a high frequency word for my son yet either. Wouldn’t it be interesting to view life this way, even for a small chunk of the day? If tomorrow wasn’t on your radar, but the next five minutes of your future were guaranteed, how would you spend the time? I’m going to ask myself this question the next time I’m stuck in an unproductive thought or worry. Most likely that will be sometime tomorrow, being that today is Sunday. 

Until then…

How do you try to keep yourself focused on the present moment during a global pandemic?     

family, health, health and wellness, live in the now, travel

Free to Move About

Almost exactly one year ago today, I was about two-thirds of the way into a 12 hour flight to Beijing; the first stop on a family trip to Thailand. School was very much in session, so as a teacher and a mom, I had all the plans in place. I prepped for a 10 day substitute teacher for my third graders. I also made sure I followed the rules and guidelines to apply for and set up my daughter’s independent study for learning abroad while she was on vacation halfway around the world with her mom, grandmother, and extended family members. 

My husband and two-year-old son stayed home and held down the fort. My father was still alive. He stayed back too, mostly at peace with the ladies of his life embarking on this big life-changing travel adventure.

Now it’s March 18th, 2020. Since then, dad passed away nine months ago. Other family members and friends have also become ill or died. And of course, most recently, and unrelated to the loss of those loved ones and purely by strange coincidence, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

I’ve spent the last four days scrambling, collaborating with colleagues, and piecing together “remote learning” plans for another group of third graders who I’ve had to leave, this time with no real date of return, due to school closures. 

 Over the course of the last 365 days, my family and I have been through a journey of travel and grief; life changes, hope, and social distancing. I’ve lost track of how many versions of “The New Normal” I have lived through to this point since March of last year. 

I still bring myself back to that Air China flight from SFO to Beijing. I was scared and anxious. I didn’t know what to expect. Things that happened around me were already so different from what I was used to, and I hadn’t even set foot on new land yet. I had to adapt right then and there. 

Currently, I continue to move freely about this airplane cabin of life, confined to my own home, hours on end. Fear of the outside. New ways of navigating the interior, and forced to adapt. There’s nothing to do but make the most of the situation, meet basic human needs, find entertainment value in things, and keep the blood circulating. Eventually, I’m hoping that I and everyone else will land.             

A year ago, I had one of the most beautiful life experiences that ended up helping me through some of the most difficult ones down the road, and I am thankful everyday for that time in my life. Even though at one point I was anxious, and wasn’t sure it was going to end, I wouldn’t have gotten there without that long flight.

gratitude, health and wellness, travel, working mom

The Astro Friday

I like to think that the Instagram posts of date nights with my husband are largely sponsored by my mom and the kindness of her heart and free childcare. I apparently missed the train on monetizing my social media presence, but the gift of time is a real thing. I’m just as accepting and grateful to enjoy opportunities for “extra time” to have fun and reset the soul. 

My husband and I took a quick overnight getaway to Santa Rosa one weekend, an hour away from where we live. The place where we chose to rest our head was called The Astro Motel. It’s a gem that was recently renovated into a beautiful mid century modern themed roadside inn. We were in vintage aesthetic design heaven during our entire stay. All of the interior and exterior color, decor, and authentic pieces from the 1950’s and1960s made my heart happy. 

Our little trip also included an unnecessary 4 minute Uber ride to a brewery that was pretty much just around the corner. We enjoyed live music, beer, a food truck dinner, Saturday brunch, and an unplanned couple of hours of antiquing.  I was inspired by creative people, small businesses, and a part of the Bay Area I know very little about. I’m glad that I could enjoy it exclusively with my husband because it’s nice to have a break from having conversations in the presence of little ears.     

 The weekend getaway brought on the same type of renewed energy that our precious phones or devices obtain when they’re left plugged in overnight to achieve the coveted 100% charge. 

Sometimes the bonus minutes that are gifted to us in life allow us to focus on less things all at once. Those moments hold so much value. Maybe it’s seven extra minutes of awake time in the morning that was traded out for another round of snooze, allowing less of a rush out the door. Other times, it’s a rare random half hour when the house is empty or quiet and there’s time to actually gather thoughts, read, write, or do something creative. Twenty four hours or so of uninterrupted one on one time with your spouse is also a pretty nice token of time to treasure. 

So this is another thank you to anyone who has ever helped others or helped yourself with the gift of time, the extra minutes, an extended stay, or even more time with a beloved borrowed library book by means of a renewal. The truth is, the time we have has an unknown limit, but when we feel like we have some to spare, we should enjoy it.

https://www.visitsantarosa.com/

balance, declutter, family, gratitude, health and wellness, live in the now

Keep the Original

December brought on a big wave of house reorganization and another much needed reminder of the People Not Things philosophy. The story remains pretty much the same since I started this blog. 

I still have too much stuff. 

I have more than enough. I went “shopping” in cabinets, closets, and the garage. I rearranged and recreated new living spaces all around the house. I transformed my living room with less than 3 simple furniture moves and now I have a new and noticeably better open space that also sometimes doubles as a behind-the-scenes home gym. 

The inventory is constant. I just hadn’t stopped and evaluated it since the summer. My kids discovered new old toys; awkward additions to their brand new Christmas gifts. I was reminded of how much blank paper I have in the house. Unopened printer ink cartridges that I forgot about sweetened the deal.

I still believe that I have enough craft supplies to entertain the most bored child who ever walks through the front door. I came up ahead and “made money” with gift cards that were freed from the junk drawer. Free crafts and caffeine might make for an epic rainy day experience. If it happens to be a high UV day, the family and I will be thoroughly protected from the sun AND from germs for many years with the amount of sunblock and hand sanitizer that I found.

The rediscovery of all this great stuff came with a price, even though I didn’t make any new purchases. I easily spent hours sorting through piles, bags, and papers. My kids had their share of screen time sessions (when they weren’t playing with their old new toys)  as I wrangled clothing, shoes, and USB charging cords. 

I learned the same lesson all over again. Every item or group of items in my house requires varying amounts of time and attention. Reusable grocery bags sometimes delay the departure to the store by about two minutes due to the trip back inside the house or to the other car to get them. On a cold day, three to four warm winter coat options are nice to have, but storage and maintenance, along with the decision-making process could easily add up to the equivalent of total coat-wearing minutes altogether. 

The one item that holds the most value after this recent decluttering session is one of the new board games that my daughter got for Christmas. She asked me to learn and play the game with her at the height of the “stuff shuffle”, and I was a bit stressed. Initially, I didn’t have enough patience to focus because I was devoting my time and my thoughts to the things that needed to be put away. It was a poor showing of being present.

Luckily, my board gamer husband and YouTube stepped in, and we all learned to play and enjoy it around the family table. I then realized that the neatly stacked pile of other board games (new and vintage), that are rarely played deserve time and attention. Playing Plastic Bin Tetris for an hour in the garage to either put something away or apprehend an item isn’t as fun. 

A reminder.

I’m once again trying to slow down the stream of incoming items that arrive here. I am aware of the inventory. I have a lot of stuff. I have the people. The amount of time and energy however, are unknown and limited. Some of the clutter will outlive some of the people. It’s a morbid thought, but it’s real. 

So instead of cleaning the cleaning supplies tomorrow, I’m going to enjoy all the things that will never fit into a basket or a box on a shelf in the cabinet: Eye contact. Hugs. Holding tight and laughing. Sending a genuine text to say thank you. Tastes and smells, and certain sounds that keep me grounded. Letting go and breathing.

I’ll never be able to store these things away and rediscover them later in their original form. But there’s time for all of it now. I’m sure of it.

I’ve cleared the space.       

family, gratitude, health and wellness

That Was Fun

It’s a real gift to access any bit of information that you need on demand. I could have just done the math, but the answer to my question was a tap away, so I just looked it up. 

It’s been exactly four months and 23 days since I lost my dad. 146 days. I know what this length of time has felt like, but I wasn’t aware of the exact number. It’s already felt like at least a year. 

So much has happened, including vacations, the transition back to work, and the celebration of birthdays, family milestones and gatherings. I’ve been blessed to have my family with me, direct household and extended; at least one member close by at all times, even at work. 

It’s a rare occurrence when I am completely alone with the time and space to just be involved in my own thoughts with no other tasks or to do’s. These times often occur in the car on solo drives from here to there, 10-15 minutes at most. When I’m behind the wheel, especially on sunny cloudless blue-sky days, I reminisce. I remember the days that he would drive us back home from San Francisco from my grandma’s house. We never said much on those drives, but I still felt safe and connected to him. Other memories include road trips up to the lake for a camping trip, or back down from the mountains, heading home from a ski weekend in Tahoe. 

Sunny day windshield memories live on in my mind, and the most recent ones hurt the most. The day of his funeral and burial was one of the most beautiful days I’d ever seen in the Bay Area. The convoy from Vallejo to San Francisco was a bittersweet tribute to his life, and I had no choice but to catalog a new memory in my mind. The way the sunlight hit the hearse and that little back window with the weird curtains to shade his casket was a new memory of saying goodbye to Dad. 

I said goodbye yet again a month or so ago, and it caught me off guard. Mom and I spent the morning preparing Dad’s truck to be officially handed down to a dear family member. We made sure it started and we cleaned it up a bit. We decided to bring it back to my house. She drove the truck, and I followed her and drove behind for the 12 minute journey back home. There wasn’t one cloud to be found in the sky.

Once the tears came, I decided to make it a full on emotional release. I cued up my Bob Marley playlist, and watched dad’s truck lead the way back home. Every turn and stop gave me glimpses and memories of him picking me up from school, and towing the family boat. I wasn’t able to see him through the window or in the side view mirror driving this time.  

Mom and I arrived safely and parked the vehicles in the driveway. I wiped away the remaining sun-blinding tears so I could ask her how the truck was running. She was happy and excited that it was running well.   

“That was fun!”, she said.

I was so thankful for that little moment and those three words. The simple statement reminded me that the memories that I invite back into my mind are fun memories. The outer layer of sadness from loss is real, but the fun times that I’ll always know are still there, just like those cloudless blue sky days.

https://howlongagogo.com/

gratitude, health and wellness, thailand, travel

A Little Bit of Travel Scents

Ten weeks ago, I was in Thailand. I was taking it all in, pushing myself to live in the moment, but excited about archiving my experiences through writing. To keep the memories alive, I’ve been relying on photos and random rounds of reminiscing with my daughter and my mom.

The one thing that instantly brings me back however, lies at the bottom of a an up-cycled Zipfizz tube. I “borrowed” a small amount of body lotion from the Anantara Riverside Hotel in Bangkok. Every time I flip the cap and take a whiff, the memories flood back. Then I realize how silly I must look, standing in my closet taking a hit of jasmine-scented lotion aroma from a pink plastic tube. My face before and after this ritual is ridiculous, I imagine. I dare not apply any of it on my skin anymore. A very small amount remains in the tube.

Currently one of my most prized possessions.

I tried tracking down the lotion and other bath products through the hotel spa, and I was even willing to pay for an actual bottle of it. However, it cannot be ordered or shipped out of the country. Bummer. Whatever remains is still enough to keep the memories and travel archives going with sights, sounds, and scents.

Until then, how do you keep your travel memories alive?


Below are some snapshots from Anantara Riverside Bangkok. It is located along the Chao Phraya River. It was our “home base” for the start and end of our Thailand travels. Yes, it is a very pleasant smelling hotel. In addition to that, the staff and customer service is superb. The hotel grounds are beautiful and family friendly. The food is delicious, and the pool and amenities are fabulous. The riverboat ferries that dock right from the hotel were fun and convenient for exploring around Bangkok. I would love to go back someday and take my whole family so we can discover even more around the area.


https://www.anantara.com/en/riverside-bangkok

health, health and wellness

Fight or Flight

I am lucky enough to live in an area where you can catch some beautiful sunsets if you happen to be standing in a good spot at the right time. The day was coming to an end, and I was enjoying some time catching up with some teacher friends in the Industrial area of Benicia. We were sitting at a table in a building that was partially indoors. A big warehouse-sized garage door was opened all the way up and it overlooked the parking lot. Every now and then, I would glance outside from where I was sitting, and I would notice the natural lighting change slightly. It had been a beautiful sunny day, but I knew daylight was slowly disappearing as the minutes went on. I also knew that if you walked outside the door and walked to the right, you would see a beautiful view of Benicia, complete with the hills and water off into the distance.

Since I love to take pictures of scenery and landscapes using my phone, I announced to the group that I was going to go take a few photos of the view, since it wasn’t visible from where were at the moment. A friend joined me and we got up to walk across the parking lot to check it out.

With my phone in my hand, and my left foot still planted on the paved parking lot, I took a step with my right foot, slightly landing onto the very edge of a small bush. The next few moments all happened in a flash. I heard some movement from the bush, and then suddenly, I felt a sting on my leg slightly around the back of my knee. I looked down and saw the shape of an animal figure. At first glance, it looked like a dog, but then I realized it was not. It looked grey and white, and a bit small, but it was definitely a wild animal. I couldn’t quite remember what happened next, but the animal was no longer close to me. But my leg felt like it had a stinging ring around it.

My friend asked me something like, “What just happened? Did you just get bitten?… It was a coyote!”

Feeling the sensation of slight burning and throbbing, and just having heard my friend’s statement, I looked down at my leg, and I noticed two very small spots of dark blood showing through my grey jeans. It was then that I realized that yes, an animal just bit me, and I had to take action right away. Other people around me had confirmed that it was a small coyote.

I was rushed home, and then proceeded to take a quick look at my leg. It was still slightly bleeding and I could still feel the sting, but luckily, I was feeling ok, and I was safe.I saw a very small triangular shaped wound on my skin, along with a scratch and bruise. This was definitely considered an urgent situation, so a family member got me to the hospital as soon as I could.

When it was all said and done, I got proper medical care, which included a series of tests, medicine, and shots to make sure I didn’t catch a disease from the animal. The doctors and nurses, as well as my friends and family were shocked and amazed at what had happened. I was told that I was brave and calm. This particular coyote was also apparently feeling brave, and bold. Some people think it was protecting its young. I’m just glad it wasn’t feeling courageous enough to stick around for any longer. Now I know to be super cautious at the edge of any outdoor open spaces, and to be aware of wildlife that may be situated close by any shrubbery. It may be the right time and place for a photo, but the local wild animals may have other plans.   

balance, gratitude, health and wellness

The Furthest Point Away from FOMO

My mom casually apologized to me after we settled back into our beach view villa for a mid afternoon break from the day’s activities.

“I’m sorry we never really traveled like this before”.

Before meaning perhaps during my childhood, early adulthood, or anytime before this current situation of approaching  40. She had somewhat of an upbeat tone as we both enjoyed fruity cocktails and the feeling of true vacation relaxation, 4 days into our Thailand adventure. It just clicked at some point. International travel is a life changer. It’s amazing and incredibly fun. It is especially fun and life changing when you witness your own young child taking it all in while learning, enjoying, and melting down (only once during the whole trip) every step of the way. I didn’t follow up my mom’s apology by asking why we never traveled like this back in the day, because now as an adult, of course I get it.

Taking a journey to the other side of the world was expensive. Between transportation, accommodations, and in my case, unpaid time off of work, this was definitely a big financial chunk of my year. The fear of the unknown and the fear of missing out took my anxiety levels and emotions on a crazy roller coaster ride. I also left other family members at home for 10 days, including my husband, my toddler son, and my dad. However, in some circumstances, and for this particular opportunity, it was worth it.

The lead up to the trip dates back to almost a year before our departure when my cousin, (my mom’s brother’s daughter, who is like a sister to me), called me and informed me of her destination wedding plans. Thailand. Not just mainland Thailand, but for the big event, a remote island in the gulf of Thailand by the name of Koh Kood (known to the locals as Ko Kut). One of the least populated places in the country. I’m pretty sure that she strategically chose her wedding date and made these plans about  the same time that FOMO officially became a thing and was at the peak of trending on social media.

After a few think alouds and productive conversations with the family members who would be directly affected by the endeavor, (and on that note, SO supportive), we decided to go for it.  My mom, my daughter and I traveled to Thailand for 10 days with the company of our other extended family members, and had the experience of a lifetime. As stated before, it was all worth it. I can’t wait to officially write about the amazing experiences and small moment stories that support this claim.

Thailand is about to takeover the blog for a bit. And for the record mom, no apologies needed. Ever.

On The Tuk Tuk:
The Faces of FOMO no More

Until Then,

Where was your first and/or favorite international travel destination?

balance, favorite things, gratitude, health and wellness, mindful

Morning Routine

During the school year, the first 53 minutes of my morning are filled to the max with a whirlwind of must dos that begin right from the moment I exit the bed.

  • I must make myself look presentable so that everyone who I interact with at work today, including my 26 students take me seriously, but also appreciate the elements of a good outfit of the day.
  • I must make sure my own two children are awake and allow time for that process in itself.
  • I must load up the lunch bags, nuke the veggie bacon, and toast the waffles.
  • I must haul the daily “baggage claim” collection of items out the car, which feels like we are taking a week long road trip to somewhere.
  • Above all, I MUST get the hot coffee into the vessel, then it has to be safely placed in the vehicle with the same care that I give to the children when they get buckled in.

The continuous action of opening and closing doors, drawers, containers, and bags puts me in a bit of a tizzy. I also have to factor in the additional flights up and down the stairs well after shoes have been put on for those forgotten items that are either game-changers for the day or completely unnecessary. The scarf that I went back up to get which ended up making me overheat and literally start sweating during Writer’s Workshop probably wasn’t worth the extra minutes.

My brain is already working overtime well before 6:50 a.m. That is the target goal time in which the kids and I bid my husband farewell and get into the car to drive 10 miles in the opposite direction to drop off my two-year-old son to my mom and dad’s house for the day.

Upon arrival to my childhood home, both of my kids in tow, the morning mental reset begins. I get to breathe for a bit, about 15-20 minutes to be exact. Mom and Dad’s house is familiar and comforting. I enjoy the sights and sounds and reminders of my upbringing. The kids get to play together for a few minutes. I get to sit and chat with my parents and catch up on breaking news regarding family or other topics. I sit and sip my beloved coffee. Sometimes I find treasures that are perfect for a Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday post.

I cherish this window of time each morning despite the angst and grumpiness that may have occurred an hour or so before. I’m truly grateful for my parents taking on the full time job of watching my little one, (again for a second time), but also for the blessing of a few moments to just enjoy the company, the moment, the Now.

The morning rush inevitably starts up again, when I usher my daughter out the door so we can head back toward school. We say our goodbyes and hit the road. Even though the angst of the day starts creeping back, I feel good knowing that my favorite morning must do always helps me to recallibrate the stress to gratitude ratios of the daily grind. I have a lot to pack, plan, and do every morning, but I have a lot more to be happy about and to be thankful for.

Until then,

What are your favorite or least favorite parts of your morning routine?

Thanks for reading!

Jenn