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?     

declutter

Talking to myself

Finally. I have channeled the inner YouTuber that exists in the depths of my soul but was too busy or afraid to summon until now. I started a personal blog as a hobby two summers ago. I created an unlisted YouTube channel out of necessity about two weeks ago.

“Hey Guys!”, as the elite YouTubers and vloggers would say with such enthusiasm. Welcome to the world of remote learning. This place is strange. On Friday, March 13th, I was not so cordially invited to the world of distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Other educators across the nation, around the world, and in my own living room, because my husband is also a teacher, have had no choice but to deliver instruction and learning guidance to our students using online platforms.

 The college course for teaching elementary students remotely during a pandemic was never offered in the credential programs. Strangely, I have a distant memory of sitting in a Saturday Seminar teacher course at Saint Mary’s College in 2005. One of the keynote speakers mentioned something called YouTube. It was described as some form of online communication. I jotted it down somewhere but didn’t spell it right. I think I scribbled down, “You Too”.  I was half listening at the time.

It is now April, 2020. I made the official decision to upload some of my teaching content on YouTube as a supplement to the other components of my remote learning model. The virtual audience for this new platform is the most important following I’ve ever had. They are the 8 and 9 year olds whose physical classroom setting and teacher were suddenly taken from them this year and they won’t be getting them back as a third grader. It’s been life-changing and heartbreaking. I wanted to give each of the kids an opportunity to still see and hear their teacher somehow.

It felt awkward at first, filming and essentially talking to myself, but it has evolved into a fun and creative outlet for me as well. I purchased a cheap ring light and a microphone. I taught myself how to edit video clips and add music and some cheesy time-lapse effects and transitions. In these trying times, I’ve actually found something that’s motivating and fun, and I thank my “followers” for this.

Imagine my delight when I found out that one of my students watched my writing videos and in turn, wrote a beautiful personal narrative based on the strategies and tips that I had demonstrated. Someone was listening! If not the student, their sweet and helpful parent who may have learned something too. I remember what that felt like within the four walls of the classroom and I’m still mourning the loss of those powerful teacher-student moments when information clicked for all parties involved.

This is a challenging period in everyone’s lives, but as I try to convey to my students often, we should keep learning, keep creating, keep documenting this historical time, and try our best to keep having fun. I’m not sure how many of my students realize it, but they’re all motivating me to do the same.

The face of someone who talks to herself and still needs to use a teacher bag while working from home.

In case you would like to read my 3rd grade level writing.
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.