I looked around and was so grateful that we did not downsize and sell our family home. Many times it has been a haven for our adult children as a place to land, rest and recharge to get back out into the world.
It is okay to need this in life. I longed for my childhood family home in Long Beach and drive by it often. Stepping into the house you grew up in brings back daydreams and memories. I went through so many phases — I wanted to be a nun, a teacher, a dancer and the possibility of all of those choices was real. Being outside all day was filled with adventure.
At some time or another all of our four children have had to come home for a bit. It was always a bit stressful but it cemented their desire to be back out on their own as soon as they had spent enough time sitting on the couch, with the remote, thinking.
Life never follows a straight road — no matter how well the plan is.
When we bought this house we had a plan. We had no idea if it would work or last this long. This is the house we bought together after each of us had been divorced. We raised his, mine and ours the best we could. It was not smooth nor what each of us needed at times but it was familiar and filled with love and good intentions.
Family gathering place
Now the four grandkids are growing up with a sense of fun and wonder in the remodeled house. We renovated about 10 years ago and it turned out to be magical. An art room for him and an office for me. Seems as we’ve gotten older we needed more space to stretch our creativity. So many lives have been nurtured here and I can’t imagine a moving truck coming to take it all apart.
I saw Winnie Cooper interviewed the other day — I mean Danica McKellerwho played Winnie on The Wonder Years. She was a character in the show who was unapoligetically smart. She loves acting and she loves math. She continues to this day to do both and seems joyful that at a young age she accepted both sides of her brain.
She explained that she learned early on that acting could be unreliable as a career and decided that she would develop her math career as fervently as her acting. We are all lucky that she did.
She has used her love of math to study and create a series of math books that could change a child’s life when told that math is not their strong point. I was one of those kids. Unfortunately, I got excused from pushing myself as a girl in the 1970’s. I used the age old excuse “when will I use this math anyway?” I went on to limit my math exposure and therefore, I believe my brain growth. I always shied away from solving problems, I just learned to get along.
There came a day though in my thirties when I longed for more challenges in my life. I enrolled in college and my first roadblock was math. In order to get my degree, math was a required subject. I tested and was enrolled in a prerequisite to the math that would give me credits. An entire summer of catch up — three weeks, 5 hours a day. I was not enthusiastic to say the least, but I stuck with it. I began to thaw my rigid mindset that I was not good at math. Once I opened the door to that thought, I started understanding how to solve problems. I credit that course, that did not count toward my degree, as my confidence turning point.
I found my love of math through keeping financial records for individuals, businesses and myself. I gravitated toward numbers and find that when they are put together in monthly reports can tell a story that words cannot. Most people shy away from knowing their financial standing and guess at what their level of security is. I help them not be afraid of it, I stand in the way of worry. I create a safe environment to learn how to plan for the future. I love helping people lose their guesswork and give them facts.
Danica had it right from a very early age. She now authors amazing books and I have bought two of them “Do Not Open This Math Book”and“The Times Machine.” In addition to my fascination with monthly income and expenses, I now help students learn math in special education. I have a new frontier, how students learn and to accept that everyone learns differently. Confidence is the essential building block to the open door to never again being told you are not good at something. I kept challenging myself and even though it took me a bit longer to obtain my bachelor degree, I pushed hard to break the stereotype that I was too old to conquer new things.
I have come to learn that creativity is essential to every day life. There is so much bad news and stress — waking up can be overwhelming. I realize that I don’t have to work every minute of the day to feel worthwhile.
I found what I love — I write to express all the thoughts that build up in my head. I take apart and put back together closets and cupboards to sort my brain and help it organize itself. I listen to podcasts to make sure it is not just my opinion that I listen to. I walk to take in the feeling of calm that nature gives. I clean to be able to start fresh and know what I have.
There are times I am called to come and make things right. People are not happy but cannot pinpoint the reason why. I have long learned that “I can’t fix the space if the people are broken.”
There are so many reasons to get stuck and it usually ends up with never being able to donate, trash or organize our stuff. As a raving fan of Marie Kondo — I love this quote by her;
The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.
I enter a person’s space and can visualize their headspace. Priorities surface immediately. I just let them talk about their frustrations and listen for clues. I leave with a notebook of ideas but wait for that second call to start. No one wants to empty a room, drawer, desk or closet but that is where I know the process begins.
I now use this concept as a teacher’s aide. Desks have a flow. Finding a place for everything gives a feeling of calm. A cluttered room leads to cluttered thinking or in particular overwhelm. Overwhelm leads to getting nothing done. People need a space of their own and a way to keep it exactly the way that gives them peace. Make time to use your creative side. . . . . . . .
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” — Jamie Anderson
I can’t think of a better way to describe the emptiness that comes with sudden loss, irreversible loss, loss of a future.
I have had two neighbors lose their husbands in the last few months. Their grief is deep and inconsolable at times. Their planned futures are cut short and they are left with daily chores that seem meaningless. It speaks to the magic of a couple who work together side by side to create a home and a life. When one is gone — the dreams die quickly.
While not the same, the grief the world is feeling is quite like dreams dying while we wait out the pandemic spread to wane. No one was prepared to abruptly stop normalcy and stay home with no end in sight. That is the scary phrase “no end in sight.” What do we do with our plans, our goals and all the pent up energy that feels wasted?
It took me a while to accept change. One month turned into three and then four and we are entering month five. This length of time of altered plans will stay in our brains for a long time. I am finally believing that life will not return as it was last year.
That fact is not easy to accept. Seems that the 21st Century is trying to tell us something about normalcy. It won’t let us get complacent. There was 9/11 which shook our security to new lows. There was the financial meltdown of the stock and real estate markets of 2008-2009. Now the pandemic has created a world wide shift of the economy, business solvency and social gatherings. Every day there are more deaths to report. Seemingly healthy people suddenly end up in the hospital in a life or death situation. Staying home is the safest place.
My life had evolved into very little staying home. I found joy in the career I had created and spent my free time at my local coffee shop writing. Home was just a place to regroup and set up for the next day. The forced stay at home was not easy to accept.
As in the past, I have found that boredom breeds creativity. I discovered that being outside gardening is much more fun that sitting inside watching TV. Sitting outside with my IPad is better for me than sitting in a coffee shop. Staying home more is better than getting up early and being gone all day.
I’m getting more sleep. I found gardening is a great hobby. Getting outside is relieving anxiety and giving me a new sense of peace. I don’t miss the busyness I created.
Losing my daily routine is not near as difficult as the grief my two neighbors are experiencing. The grief that the world is going through is on different levels but grief nonetheless.
Has this been eye opening? Yes. Has it been easy? No. Do I want my life to return to how it was in 2019? No.
I have found a new joy in a simpler life. I appreciate what my husband and I have built together. To lose him in the middle of our journey would have been devastating. I am grateful that we are facing this together. Plans have to change for many reasons.
Slowing down has helped me prioritize where I spend my time. Slowing down has opened my eyes to appreciation. Slowing down has made me focus on where I hope to be in a few years. Needing recognition and “stuff” is not necessary. Being outdoors, exercising and eating home cooked meals are a start to a better life.
I have taken a lot of time to think this week. It is not enough to be enraged by what is going on in our country. It takes a total “rewirement” of thought process and development of new habits.
I had signed up for the Yale online class “The Science of Well-Being” a few months ago and found that the last few sessions focused on ways to rewire the brain and reach goals by making new thought connections to what I wanted to accomplish.
I have never worked harder on a homework assignment. I found that being aware of each detail of where I am in my day really helped me focus on the moment and realizing where my thinking could keep me off track. I am training to set out certain times of the day to change my routine. I moved slower but accomplished more. I listened to the voice inside my head telling me to pay attention.
I now have new tools for the bigger change in me. To really listen and understand that others life experience is wrought with daily fight or flight responses. They cannot just wish it away. It is a humanity problem that has long since been swept under the rug for another day. Being kind is not enough. It takes paying attention to how I listen, what books I read, what podcasts I follow and diversity of my social world. It is time for me to get schooled on how to effect the change that black lives hope to see. They have a lot to contribute to our nation and it is time to stop just wishing it were so. I am as responsible as anyone to make this happen.
Like the new blooms on the rose bush, I need to start from the beginning and rewire my old habits. There is more beauty to discover in the differences of others experiences. I am listening instead of giving my opinion and watching through different eyes.
This week has touched me in ways that I realize come from my own soul searching. The first change I made with myself was to learn to listen differently. I quit trying to fix the situation with my opinion. Instead, I asked questions. Big difference to the person talking to me. I hear the story and then let them tell me what they think. Listening now consists of NOT talking.
I am NOT coming to the conversation with preconceived ideas. Every situation is different and warrants a thoughtful list of facts. That should give a thoughtful list of solutions.
I am just beginning to react to our week of protests. I needed to be made aware of my own biases. I did not have a diverse group of books, business owners, music and last but not least Instagram people I follow. I needed to broaden my world and understand what it would be like to “walk in different shoes.”
I can’t believe how much I have missed out on in our yard. I never took the time to appreciate how many birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees and flowers have been waiting for me to notice them. Why did it take a pandemic to wake me up to nature.
This morning I decided to move my office outside. I remember being excited as a kid when the teacher said “Let’s move the desks outside.” I realized it re-sets my brain to be a part of nature. It opens up new connections to be surrounded by trees, natural air, clouds and sky. It is impossible to be sad when I’m outside. I have always wondered why my husband never tired of yard work on our 1/2 acre property. He had a secret that the kids and I never asked about or participated in. Our loss ~~ he has made it beautiful.
I find myself gravitating toward books about birds. They are fascinating to me and it seems they can teach me about life and how to be resilient. Seems timely on the “learning to be resilient” part. Funny, I am late to the game but have found authors who have studied birds for decades. Jim Robbins writes for the New York Times and studies wildlife at his home in Montana. Jennifer Ackerman has been writing books about science and nature for over 30 years. Both are people to pay attention to.
My new routine is to find my way outside first thing when I wake up. This is before I ever touch a phone, computer or TV remote. It is amazing to listen to the sounds of morning. Everything is new and filled with optimism. What a great way to begin my day with a positive outlook to combat this terrible time of sickness and worry.
Now I’m adding working outside in the afternoon. I think I have found a way to create my new normal and look forward to it. I know for sure that I am changed ~~ and for the better.
What do you miss during this time of staying home? I miss going to my favorite coffee shop — Bodhi Leaf Coffee. It’s not about the coffee as I drink tea (which they have my favorite iced green tea) but about the atmosphere and my motivation while there to write my blog. It did not matter that there were noise distractions from other customers, I was able to focus and put myself in a very calm zone. I miss the friendly faces behind the counter who always greeted me with “Hi Sherry!”
I have been ordering their coffee online for my entire family. I am doing the next best thing I know how to do by ordering their products online and surprising my out of state family with coffee delivered to their door.
I miss walking freely around my town. Most of the public places have been closed to keep us safe from group gathering. I miss going out without a second thought about my health. Who knew that masks, gloves and cleansing wipes would become a part of going out in public?
The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking.
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.
You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control.
There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.
And, I believe we will find meaning in it. I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning.
So that word MEANING jumped out at me. What has helped me navigate the fear is trying to think about what might change for the better because of this. Here are a few of my ideas:
Traffic problems will ease if more people are set up to work remotely at least two days a week;
Teachers have become the new heroes to everyone — no one will ever wonder what they do to teach our kids;
Doctors and nurses are as vital as firemen, police officers and first responders ~~ they went to the frontline to do battle;
Custodians in every type of business are the people we never see ~~ they do their work at night when we are home ~~ they are as necessary to our survival as the CEO of the company;
Stay at home parents are set up for a thankless “what do you do all day” job ~~ that will never be a problem again;
I hope all leaders of every country realize that by working together we can overcome anything;
Kindness works — a smile or a thank you goes a long way.
I know that I am making my life simpler each day. I am seeing nature in a different way. It can teach us about renewal and that no matter what forces try to destroy it, there will always be something green growing from the ground.
Every year at Thanksgiving I ask the question “what are you thankful for” at the table. I get a lot of sighs and “oh no not again” but reluctantly everyone finds an answer and whether it is real or not, they comply.
It is tough to answer honestly with such a broad question. Most everyone was giving general answers to this general question and I realized we were not getting to anyone’s true self. In order to change it up, I had to think of a better question.
There had to be a better way to make this fun and make it memorable. I remembered a list I saw on a bulletin board while teaching one day that intrigued me — It was from an article printed in HuffPost
25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How was School Today?’ ‘Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today?’
By liZ Evans Blogger, Simple Simon and Company
Here are a few:
What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
Tell me something that made you laugh today.
How did you help somebody today?
How did somebody help you today?
Where do you play the most at recess?
Who is the funniest person in your class?
If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
I thought the questions were brilliant and after trying them out, I realized I learned a lot more about a day at school. It takes some effort to dig deeper to ask questions that will give you insight into another person. I am inquisitive. I like to know the deepest parts of a person. It takes the right questions to get there. The most interesting people don’t give up their thoughts easily.
Is everyone as bored as I am watching those 4-5 minute question/answer segments on the morning shows? You come away with nothing new about them and realize they were only there to sell a book, a movie or an album and that everything is scripted. I can’t imagine being asked the same question over and over again and trying to look interested. Guess what? That is what I was doing at Thanksgiving every year!
At the last second I changed it up — “What is one thing you did this year that you did not feel you were capable of?” Okay, I got the same looks but after a minute of hearing the answers of the kids, the adults took notice. The kids answers were heartfelt and genuine. They knew right away that a 100% on a math test was a huge accomplishment. Semester grades that had more A’s than C’s were worthy of a huge smile on their face. Getting through the first months of a new grade and feeling good about it was huge to them. It was their world and they were tackling it. It’s funny how math became the pinnacle of success. It told me that math was a tough subject to master. It is ever changing and you must keep up. It has exact answers. I know in my substitute teaching that I can see a lightbulb flash over the head of someone who understands a concept for the first time.
I was thrilled with the answers of the adults at the table who may have thought their revelations were simple — BUT — they displayed real amazement at their accomplishments. Painting a wall to painting people for the first time; moving to a brand new area and adjusting better than expected; finding a new way to visit Las Vegas and it being more fun; to my own revelation that working five days a week at jobs I loved proved to be more satisfying than I ever thought it would be.
I learned something new. Change up the questions. Find ways for people to talk about themselves in a different way. Be interested in learning what others are trying to accomplish. Most of all get them off guard and give them a reason to dig deep and reveal something no one has ever asked them before.
I saw lightbulbs over everyone that day. In the end, they may still roll their eyes at my questions but I think next year they will look forward to letting us in on their secret.