All dressed up with no where to go . . .

When I arrived home this afternoon, I was greeted by my youngest, with a big hug, which I relish as hugs are getting rarer with each passing year.

I asked him what he was doing in his good shirt and jeans.

He said he just missed school and wanted to dress like he would if he was going to school. My little first grader takes his fashion cues and much of life’s instructions from John Wayne. Not only was he in his pearl snap shirt and cowboy boots, he had his belt, with the big buckle, on and had combed his hair, even using mousse.

‘Mom, will we get to go to school next week?’ he questions me.

‘No, Buddy. We are out until at least April 6.’ I don’t have the heart to break it to my boys that we are likely not going back this school year. Better to hold onto the hope.

‘Well, at least I can dress like I am going to school.’

‘You sure can, and your hair looks really nice. I bet Mrs. Robinett could use a smile today. Let’s send her a picture.’

We have to focus on the sunshine each day! In case you are running low, I will share mine with you. I hope his little grin brings a smile to you as well.

My Obsession with Hot Beverages

Thanks to Watching My Garden Grow for the inspiration for this slice. Day 25 of the SOL20.

Coffee or Tea?

That should be a simple answer, but instead this leads me to many stories.

First, it was tea. Living with my Gram in high school, I learned that comfort can come in a cup. Gram drinks all kinds of tea, all day long, and for all sorts of reasons or for no reason at all. Our favorites to share are Lemon Lift and Earl Grey.

I still love those old favorites, but my favorite for many years has been jasmine green tea. I first had this tea as a gift from a student during a short trip teaching English in Fuqing, China. The tea is native to this part of China. It continues to be a gift.

I also love the sleepy time or dream easy tea. It is so helpful on nights I just can’t shut my brain off.

So I was firmly a tea drinker. ‘Have electric kettle, will travel’ could be my bumper sticker.

And then I studied in Costa Rica for a semester. You just cannot turn down some of the best coffee in the world, especially when it is served at a roadside cafe from what looks like a dirty sock connected to a wire hanger bent into a holder. This original ‘pour-over’ is how each cup is made. I had to put about a third of a cup of sugar in it to drink it. But it was delicious!

When I returned to the states, that is how I would continue to drink it-very strong and very sweet. It was not until we lived in my in-laws basement for a spell that I became a regular coffee drinker. I don’t really know why, but I did.

Today, I drink my coffee black. I like to have a cup on the way to school and then the rest of the pot goes in my thermos to drink before ten. I want a real mug and have a few favorites at both home and work, but that is for another slice.

My favorite way to drinks coffee or sometimes hot chocolate is with my youngest on our front porch. He is very serious when we start our weekend on the porch watching and listening for birds and sipping our special drinks. Things I love all together, a warm drink in my hand, my sweet boys, and the view from my front porch. (The photo on my blog page is of m coffee cup on my front porch)

A difficult truth: When school is out, the hotline goes silent . . .

People questioned why we stayed in school so long with a lot of hate on social media aimed at our leaders.

If they knew you and your story, they would have begged we stay open no matter what.

When I saw you today, it was just by mistake. You are not at the address I had for you from just a few days ago.

I don’t know what you were doing. Were you taking your dog out or were your parents just getting some air? Or was it fate helping me to see you and to feed you at least for today?

I gave you and your siblings your lunches and said I would see you tomorrow. I don’t know if it was just the strawberry milk or seeing me or a little of both, but I got to see your smile.

I didn’t know what was wrong with your mom. Did something happen to her since the last time I saw her? It wasn’t until later that I understood it was the drugs.

It didn’t matter that a call went out and even that an officer came to your door, you are going to be out of sight, likely for awhile, but never, never out of my mind.

This is just one of the encounters I have had in the last couple of days delivering meals to some of our students. Our state rep once said that when school is out, the (child abuse) hotline goes silent. My greatest fear in this entire pandemic is for so many children, who may not be seen by a safe adult for many months to come, than anything to do with the virus.

An Overflowing Cart that has nothing to do with panicked shopping

As a part of my various positions, I often find myself behind an overflowing cart.

As a mom with three growing boys, I am always looking for a deal and often buy in the off-season for clothes and such. If it doesn’t fit one of my boys, I can always donate it to our closet at school.

At the grocery store, four gallons of milk makes it easy to soon have an overly full cart.

For various workshops or supplies for my agriculture teachers, I am usually buying 25-50 or more at one time. The best for this kind of shopping was at Hobby Lobby trying to get 45 of 25 different flowers. People there wanted to know what I was doing with three full carts of flowers that shared no common theme. They were likely thinking, ‘That is going to be one ugly wedding!’

And then there is shopping for our afterschool program. I am used to people giving some sideway glances when I am purchasing school supplies. When they are really huffy and impatient, I like to make comments about my slight obsession with school supplies.

On Saturday, amid the continual lack of most groceries and all toilet paper in our state, I found fleece blankets for half price that we need for summer enrichment. This deal will make the pillows just over $1 each! That is what I call a score!

As I head to the checkout, I can tell people are really wondering what I am doing with this cart full of blankets. If I was in our hometown store, they know me well enough to just ask what project I have going. I guess this poor checker has seen it all in the past few weeks. He just asks how many I have and starts ringing them up. The people behind are just too curious and have to know what I am doing, likely worried there is some other shortage they are unaware of. I told them I was just trying to get ahead for our hopefully larger summer school.

As we leave the store, my son asks, ‘Mom, why do people always ask you what you are doing with whatever is in the cart?’

‘I don’t know. I am just doing a little shopping . . .’

Mommy, I’m seven!!

‘Mommy, I’m seven! It’s my birthday!’ This was the morning greeting from my youngest son as he tried his best to whisper, when he really wanted to yell.

He decided last night that he would spend his final night, as a six-year old, sleeping with Mom and Dad.

I wish I would have woken up just a bit before him so I could watch him sleep. Seven! How can my baby be seven?

And now, he informs me, seven is definitely a big boy. Unfortunately, I think he is right!

But judging by his smile, we still have some fun, mischievous days ahead of us this year!

Daffodils and sunshine

Today was a beautiful day. It was a cool start this morning, but the sun was shining and my spirit has risen.

I was reminded yesterday, by some fellow SOLers, to renew my attitude of gratitude, and that is what I focused on today.

Grateful for my husband and my boys. Thankful for the gentle spirit of my middle son and the time we spent together today.

Thankful for meaningful work.

Thankful for spring flowers and the promise of the return of life that spring brings.

Thankful for the greening grass and the blooming trees. Thankful for the land I get to enjoy each day and the adventures that are always awaiting.

And so thankful for my many countless blessings.

Exhausted . . .

This is not a word I use very often because I rarely feel this way. I am sometimes tired, like when I don’t sleep well or when I move supplies to and from storage and rack up several thousand steps and flights of stairs.

But exhausted has an emotional component. Today, I feel a weariness of my soul and a bit of defeat in my spirit.

When I think of all this week has entailed, it is no wonder this is my state of mind.

So many struggles and emotions pertaining to our school and students, my work, and how this virus is controlling so much of my life.

The uncertainty is draining. I never considered myself a huge planner, but the lack of control on even what next week may bring is so unsettling.

I thought I would enjoy the additional time with my own sons, who I dearly love, but who are made to roam outdoors. When weather forces us inside, we all seem to have no patience with each other.

The distance we must keep from our loved ones. We must stay at Grandma’s door instead of sitting at her side.

Even in our grief, we must keep the distance. I have two funerals in the next three days, and I don’t know if I will be able to attend either due to limiting numbers allowed together. I feel so bad for the loved ones left to mourn without friends and loved ones physically there to support them.

Yes, exhausted is the word. I don’t have a silver lining and the sun is not shining in any way today.

Here is hoping tomorrow will feel like a new day.

The Bearer of Bad News

I felt like everyone around the table had a grasp on the seriousness of the situation.

Only two days ago, we agreed we would stay open as long as we could-as long as there were no cases in our immediate area. That had now changed as a case was confirmed thirty miles away.

The conversation circled multiple times and included important concerns like the constitution test and postponing prom and graduation. No students should have these experiences denied. But then again, this is a global pandemic. There are many experiences people are missing out on right now.

I thought the conversation was winding down when the topic of the room cleaning came up. I finally understood that we were not on the same page.

“Yes, we need to make sure kids get all their stuff out of the lockers and their desks.”

The gasp was not quite audible, but the silence was. It was like sound did not travel at the same speed on my last comment.

Suddenly, everyone was buzzing with questions. It was obvious that no one else had any thought that the next two days might just be the last two days of the school year. And even if we do get to return to school, there is a lot of cleaning that needs to be done without a bunch of stuff to deal with.

Today, we said our good-byes just in case. I am positive that I hope it won’t be the last day but also realistic that it might.

And I am positive all the uncertainty may also be deadly with all the stress it is causing.

Love-Hate with Lots of Laughs

Most people who know me would not believe that I watch the show Impractical Jokers. But in my house of four boys (three sons and my husband) farting and other stupid humor just seems to be a given.

On some hotel trip, one of the only channels we could watch was Impractical Jokers. This is a show where four lifetime friends dare each other to do embarrassing and often stupid activities.

Even though it is so stupid, and try as I may to not laugh, I can barely make it through an episode without laughing until I am almost crying.

I fear I am actually regressing in maturity. I used to feel like I had a sophomore boy in my head when I taught that age group. Now these ridiculous, immature pranks, crack me up.

Then again, on days like today, laughter for any reason is welcome . . .

Remembering Father Pat

For me, St. Patrick’s Day is about much more than leprechauns and the color green. It always makes me think of a great mentor and spiritual leader in my life, Father Pat Shortt.

Father Pat grew up in Ireland and rode his bike to school many miles to and from school. As a young man, he was called into the priesthood and soon would be called ‘across the big water’ to a budding diocese in the middle of Missouri.

Father Pat was a ‘man’s man’. He enjoyed the outdoors hunting and fishing. He could create many masterpieces out of wood as an excellent carpenter.

Father Pat was a large man and had an equally large laugh, which he used often. He was easy to love.

I first knew of Father Pat as a priest in the diocese and met him when he married my aunt and then when he served as my confirmation priest. But I had no idea how years down the road, this man would be such a pivotal part of my life.

As my husband and I prepared for our wedding and married life, Father Pat was assigned to our parish. We were one of the first couples he married. He was a great support for my husband to make it through the ceremony without fainting (Chad would have much rather gone to Tennessee to the drive through chapel! He greatly dislikes being in front of people).

From there, Father Pat taught us how important our role of parents would be, as we awaited the arrival of our first son. I heard Father Pat tell parents many times, “Kids learn more from what is caught, than what is taught.” This was a challenge to live like Christ in our daily lives and not only lecture kids on how they should behave. He encouraged all church gatherings in order for the youth and young families to engage with older members of the congregation.

Father Pat loved babies. He would take a newly baptized babe from the arms of the parents and walk the center aisle introducing the little one to his or her new faith family. This was a bit discerning as a new mom-this giant man holding my little baby, but then Father Pat’s gentle and kind spirit was something even a very small child could feel.

Father Pat has been gone almost two years now, but his teaching and shepherding can still be felt. And there are reminders like the line from this Irish prayer, which he often blessed us with. It was the reminder that you could take the boy out of Ireland, but Ireland would never be out of the boy. As we face many unknown trials in the near future, this is my prayer for each of you today:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Author Unknown, but often attributed to St. Patrick.