My People

I love quotes.  I often look at quotes for inspiration.  So in this blog today I found lots of quotes about family:

“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces”

“Families are like branches on a tree.  We grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one”

“Family, where life begins and love never ends”

“The love of family is life’s greatest blessing”

Those are all fine and dandy and touching, but the one that seems to fit me the most is:

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I am the oldest of four children.  I have two brothers, Ryan and Greg and the youngest is my sister Kate.  Whenever we all get together it is absolutely crazy.  I live the farthest away in California.  My brothers stayed in Iowa and my sister lives in Arkansas.  We always try to get together at Christmastime in Iowa at my moms house.  When we do get together it is absolute chaos.  We laugh until we can’t breathe.  We quote stupid movies and finish each other’s sentences.  We are so loud that our spouses end up in another room rolling their eyes at us.  We play board games, that Kate seems to always win, we eat favorite foods from our childhood that mom graciously makes for us, and we tell stories about our dad whom we lost too long ago.

I love every freaking second of it, and I always leave lamenting that I live so far away.

My nieces and nephews are growing up too fast.  I told the story of my both my brother’s kids Tyler, Sami, and Joseph and our adventures at Incredible Pizza, but my sister has two kiddos too.  Abby is in fourth grade and is so stinkin’ smart, just like her mama.

We all got online last night and played Jackbox together and I am telling you it was the highlight of my quarantine (which I know isn’t saying much).

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We laughed until we couldn’t breath, and Kate won.

Some things never change.

Next time I want to include the Iowa folks, but that might make our spouses have to go into another room.

I’m going to leave you with this on this Friday.

This is Mason, he is 4 years old.  He is Kate’s little boy and Abby’s little brother.

He has my heart.

He is a performer through and through.  For Christmas my mom made him a Greatest Showman outfit with the Top Hat and cane.

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This first video is him singing “Come Alive” (before outfit, hat and cane came along so he is using a toy saw.)

He is also a big fan of John Denver so here is him singing “Take Me Home Country Road”.

I just love his cute southern accent.

I just want to eat him up!!

“If you meet my family you would understand”…

…how blessed I am.

Love y’all more than a great John Denver song.

Amy

 

Happy Together

 

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Yes, yes, yes when I think of the word “together” I certainly think of Mr Webster’s definition.

1.  With or in proximity to another person or people.

This is what I am aching for lately.  I really love being around people.  I love being around my family, my dogs, my students, my parents.  There is nothing like a room full of teenagers plugging away on really hard music, light bulbs going off constantly, you know really digging in.

When we are “together” in that way you can just feel the energy.  It is addicting and I, for one, am in total withdrawal.

Our world, pre-pandemic, was harrowing at times.  We ate on the go, worked too many hours, stressed over big stuff (and small stuff) and hardly saw our families.  We dropped kids off at daycare, preschool, high school, and college.  Every parent missing them when they were not together.  We often said “one day I’ll slow down and spend more time with my family”.

Well, my friend that day has come.

I love seeing my friends and family posting on social media that they are really enjoying Mr. Websters definition of together. They are getting to have more time with their kids and family.  They eat together, play games together, binge watch TV together, and probably do some staring at each other wondering what to do next.  They worry with each other and console each other.

They even Tik Tok together…I see you Bertagnas, Lorenzinis, and Batemans!!

However, we forget that Mr. Webster had another definition of “together”.

2.  In companionship or close association.

I have not been able experience Mr. Webster’s first definition at all lately.  I have been isolated and physically alone most of my days.

But this second definition has been abundant.  I have had countless text messages and emails:

“I just love you – you got this sister!!”

“Sending you lots of luck and love today”

“Thinking of you and love you, happy each day you remain in good health!”

“How can we help you?”

“Words cannot describe how grateful I am to be a part of an amazing choir department with an amazing director”

“No words express how grateful we are for all your love and kindness for our kids”

I have never felt more companionship with people.

Each day this week I have opened up a Zoom hangout and have been able to share smiles and laughter with my students.  I have watched these young people embody Mr. Webster’s second definition and really connect with each other.  Their companionship, even across many miles, gives me hope and the strength to get through these tough times.

Don’t get me wrong.  I cannot wait to start practicing Mr. Webster’s first definition.

But as I was watching my top group butchering a virtual Happy Birthday to our beloved Matt smiling and laughing the entire time I realized that as the poet T. Bolton pointed out, we truly are “All in This Together”

Love y’all more than family Tik Toks!!

Mrs. R.

 

A Whole New World

My brain hurts.

Before this week I thought a Google Slide was one of those dances you did at weddings.

So to get myself prepared for my magic carpet ride with Aladdin I have traded binge watching  House Hunters for binge watching 4th grade teacher’s Michelle Ferre’s Google Classroom vlogs.

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I know what you are saying…

Amy!! you are not a 4th grade teacher!!

I know, I know, but she is absolutely adorable!!  Everything in her life is color coded and her classroom closets are full of labeled bins.  She loves a perfectly set up classroom, refuses to keep cardboard game boxes and puts all her games in nice plastic storage boxes, and loves The Office merch.  I’ve got sucked into watching her set up her 4th grade classroom, her leaving-work-on-time-for-a-month challenge, and her cute cats Zora and Luna.

I am now hoping her and her fiance Billy vlog their upcoming nuptials

(Plus she tells you at the end of each video to put on your positive pants.)

Where have you been all my life Michelle Ferre??

Did I mention I am stuck in a 120 square foot room??

All that aside she has taught me how to use Google Classroom, and for that I am forever grateful.  Maybe, just maybe I’ll be an expert before I retire.

That is very optimistic…

So, the first day of online classes have come and gone.  I feel like it has gone OK.  I found myself constantly saying “Well, let’s give it a whirl” , “Do I click this?”, & “Ooops”

Here is some feedback from my students:  Names have been changed to protect the innocent:

Billy – “I tried multiple times to use the Google Classroom code but it says it’s invalid”

Karen – “TELL ROLNIAK I AM MUTED”

Jim – “It says the host has to unmute you”

Carol – “I was signing up for Flipgrid and I noticed that womens and vocal had the same code…that can’t be right, can it?”

Suzi – “I keep trying to upload my assignment in many different ways but it says it isn’t found…not sure why?”

Bob – “I’m completely frozen”

Karen – “TELL ROLNIAK I AM STILL MUTED”

But most importantly I heard

“I’m scared”  “I miss my friends”  “I miss choir”  “I realize that I took so much for granted”  “I love you guys”  “I can’t wait until we can be together again” “I’m sad” “I am alone”  “I need a hug” “Has it been an hour already?” “Everything is going to be OK” “We love you too”

And I got to provide them all with about an hour of community, support, friendship, laughs, assurance, and commiseration.

It felt really good to see their faces, hear their voices, and get to reassure them…even if it was only a little bit.

And yes…I figured out how to unmute Karen.

Love y’all more than Zoom!!

Mrs. R.

One Foot In Front of the Other

No this isn’t a post about one of my favorite Walk the Moon songs…

…but if you haven’t heard it go listen.  It’s a bop.

This is about my nephew Joseph whom we lovingly call JoJo.

He is 13 years old now, practically a grown man, but in this picture he was about 7 (he’s the one on your right).  His cousin and my oldest nephew Tyler is in the middle and Tyler’s sister Sami is on the far left.  Now Sami and JoJo are only about 6 months apart, and since they all live very close to each other have grown up as almost siblings…twins in fact.

It is absolutely amazing to see those two in action.

Fiercely loyal, and fiercely a whole bunch of trouble.

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This picture was taken at a place in Iowa called Incredible Pizza.  We would go there when I was in town because all of our children (6 at the time) could play and us adults could sit and chat, and eat pizza!!

This place had this harnessed rope course that ran on the ceiling above everything else.

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Tyler and Sami had done this one before, so of course they wanted to do it again.  And gosh darn it if Sami was going to do it JoJo was going to as well!!  The only problem was he had never done it before and it WAS a little daunting.

But before you knew it he was harnessed in and put at the end of the line.

However…about half way through the course JoJo got spooked, and wanted down.

Now my initial instinct was to tell Bella to hold my earrings so I could climb up there and help him down.

Trust me many McDonald’s Play Places have been a witness to what I will do when my child is stuck, being picked on, or just plain not listening to me.

I realized I couldn’t do that for JoJo.

He was harnessed in so he was safe, he had all of us cheering him on so he was supported, but he was the only one who could take those steps in a that precarious situation and get to the end.  No one could do it for him.

His eyes started welling up with tears.

His dad, standing below him, calmly talked him through each step, and we all started cheering “Go JoJo go, go JoJo go”.

He took one step, wiped his eyes and took another.  Slowly but surely he got through it and jumped into his mama’s arms.

Now who do you think got more out of that ropes course; Sami who breezed through it or Joseph who struggled and persevered?

I am telling you the rest of the evening his chest was a little bit broader.

He now knows that he can tackle obstacles, even ones that scare him a little,  with just one step at a time.

And of course, a little support from the people in his corner.  We all need to learn that lesson.

With our new adventure of online learning that we start today I know what JoJo was feeling about half way through that ropes course.

Thankfully, JoJo showed me how it is done.

Love y’all more than PIZZA!!

Mrs. R.

Q.O.T.D. What obstacles have you overcome? How did that make you feel?

 

 

 

Over Compensating Is as Over Compensating Does

It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down with Friday…

Wait…it IS Friday right?  Oh, yeah, it is…phew.

I seriously had to check before I sat down.  This is insane.

But let’s be honest, we might well just call all of the days Friday.  It doesn’t really matter what day it is and it might make us feel better!!

So I thought I’d start out this blog by updating all of you on my crazy circumstances.  I know what I am doing to stay healthy might sound a bit…let’s say…much for some of you.  To be totally honest that “some of you” was me last week.

I am no longer that person.  I am now Over-Compensating Amy.

OK someone needs to come up with one of those grids that gives you your Quarantine Name.  You know like your elf name, Wu Tang Clan name, or your stripper name.

Mine would be Over-Compensating Amy.

I have lived without a spleen and have been immunocompromised for over 22 years.  The ONE thing they have always told me is just don’t get pneumonia.

I am scared of pneumonia.

Covid-19 has some associations with pneumonia, it messes with your lungs.

So Over-Compensating Amy’s fear of pneumonia has put me into our 160 square foot guest bedroom.

When I say “guest bedroom” it simply means the only room in our house that isn’t assigned to a person.  The really only thing about this room that can remotely label it a bedroom is the fact that it has a futon in it.

This 160 square foot room also has: camera gear, a cello, two guitars, a shelf of old books, the family printer, kitchen items that don’t fit in our kitchen, and a dresser full of picture frames, old computer stuff, and curtains.

Now it contains me, and all of the things that I need to live, eat, sleep, and now as of yesterday run an online choir classroom.

I am so glad I watched “Swiss Family Robinson” a few weeks ago.  I can fashion anything out of a whiskey barrel.

I also have, right next to me, the downstairs bathroom.

And by bathroom I mean a half bath with no shower, but I am very lucky to have a bathroom so close.

Before I go on I want to make myself perfectly clear.  I could be in a far worse a situation.  I am very lucky to have what I have and will be JUST fine.

Right?

So to be thankful today I thought I would share with you 5 of my Quarantine Essentials.  I certainly have more than 5 but these are pretty important.

  1.  My stash of tiny Anti-Bacterial Hand GelIMG_0648

This isn’t even all of them.

“OK Amy are you SURE you need ALL of those tiny bottles of hand sanitizer?”  “What are you going to do with ALL of those crazy smelling hand sanitizers?” “They are just going to sit in the bathroom drawer and take up space”

Who’s laughing now…sucker??

2.  My Cleaning SuppliesIMG_5791

Seriously, if you need to know ANYTHING about the effectiveness of these products on Covid-19 I am quickly becoming an expert.

Here are some fun facts:

  • You need to spray enough of the spray on a surface to stay wet for 10 minutes.
  • You need to use enough wipes to keep the surface wet for 4 minutes.
  • Wet Ones don’t kill the virus but they make good barriers for when you have to open a door or push the button on your Keurig.
  • Gloves are helpful but you have to STILL remember what you touched.
  • The painting by my daughter is just pretty and makes me happy!!

You’re welcome.

3.  My Puzzles…crossword and otherwiseIMG_8478I love puzzles, all kinds.  I never get to do them because I am SO busy usually.  So this is keeping me sane.  I showed the picture to Bella, my resident illustrator, (from 6 feet away of course) and she immediately criticized the person who did it.  “Wow that illustrator really was sloppy with their photo shopping abilities.”

So be on the lookout for a Bella original puzzle, she’s bored and now challenged.

3.  My Computer (and a sneaky hand sanitizer)IMG_4241

This computer is OLD, not much storage space left, and runs very slow.

She will now become the Tom Brady of my Online Schooling…I just hope she will work for less money.

And finally…

5.  My Crocs

IMG_0971Sure they are adorable.  I mean look they have my name on them, a couple of flowers, a cup of coffee, music stuff, ice cream.  But when Audrey McDonald and Baylee King got them for me a few short months ago they never knew that these shoes-of-doctors-and-nurses-and-hospital-workers would become my way to keep my feet virus free.  I can wear the all day and then wipe them down or throw the into the washing maching.

Croc’s new slogan “Stuck in a pandemic…have we got the shoe for YOU”

So there are my 5 Quarantine Essentials…

Q.O.T.D. – What are your 5 Quarantine Essentials?? 

So in honor of all the birthdays today LIZ KASTNER and this weekend JACKIE KUNCEL AND BROOKE SALLIN my Fitness Marshall song today is Birthday!!

PLEASE SEND THESE FOLKS SOME LOVE TODAY!!!!!

It’s a fun one.

And if you have to over compensate for a while to feel better, then go ahead.

It’s really OK.

Love y’all more than my cool Crocs…but just barely.

Mrs. R.

 

The One Where David Plays My Crappy Piano

True to Amy fashion after my little pity part yesterday I snapped out of it and turned into my usual perky let’s get stuff done self.

And until that ominous email at about 5:00 “stuff” consisted of my puzzle, listening to iheart 80’s, a crossword, and downloading a pattern for knitting a hat…beginner level of course.

YOU get a hat, and YOU get a hat, and YOU get a hat…

You think I’m kidding…

Plus I had some help in this mood switch…

Bella and David came to visit!!!

IMG_7660Ok…I realize it looks like David is trying to tell you, with his eyes, that he has been kidnapped, but I assure you he came freely.  Even though it was hard, I stayed 6 feet away or wore my mask.  Bella also brought me my favorite iced coffee (which I throughly wiped down with a Lysol wipe).

It was Creme Brule flavored…yum!!

These two make me smile.  They are both far wittier than I am, which made it really hard to be depressed.  Have you ever heard him laugh?  It’s the best.

Then David just had to play my crappy piano.  The piano in my house is my piano from my childhood…moved several times…and very old…just a little twangy so be nice.  I should have known that by having David over my crappy piano would get played.

There isn’t a piano that boy doesn’t want to play.

To be honest he makes any piano sound good.

Then we got THE email and I sprung into action.  I know that May 4th is a long ways away and is optimistic, but have we met??? I made lists of stuff that I need to do.  I have lots of ideas I tell you!!  I am once again hopeful.

They let us go to school today and grab stuff we might need for this “distance learning”.  I felt like Steve Martin from the movie “The Jerk”.

This movie is a comedy I promise.

I looked so silly with my mask on and arms full of notebooks, my pencil case, my box of Kleenex, and anything else I could get my hands on as I walked out.

It was so weird being back in that empty room.

I got back on the Fitness Marshall train this morning and really enjoyed this one!!

It’s fun!!

Try it!!!

No really put it on and DANCE!!!!

No Birthdays today, so pick one person and send them some love!!! OK??

Q.O.D. – In light of all these TikTok dances if you could choreograph one song for our choir what would it be??

Mine would be Beyonce’s Love on Top…

Joey would have to help me…

I’d give him a hat as payment

Love y’all more than hope

Mrs. R.

 

The Nitty Gritty

I am having a rough go of it lately.  I couldn’t sleep last night and woke up this morning and could hardly sit for 5 minutes without crying.

Ok, Ok…I know…most of you are saying right now…”and this is different how??”

It’s different because these tears are in total desperation.  This is what I cried for this morning:

  • my seniors who have lost so much already.
  • my other students who have lost this year
  • my kids and husband who have to suffer too

OK who I am kidding…my tears this morning were a big old pity party for ME.

I sobbed this morning for ME!!!!

I am stuck in this room, and when I leave this room I have to be very careful.

I have to stay 6 feet from my family, including my dogs.

I have to face the fact that it might be a long time before I am able to do the thing that got me out of bed everyday.  The thing that I was put on this earth to do.  The thing that has defined my life for so many years.

I love teaching…for so many reasons…all very selfish.

I love teaching choir…for so many reasons…all very selfish.

I love being in a room full of teenagers, singing, laughing, learning, achieving, growing…  Not just ordinary teenagers, Westlake High School Choir teenagers.

My teenagers.

As I sat there ugly crying, I felt lost, and hopeless, and full of despair.

In that moment, very still, slowly breathing in and out.  One word kept coming to my mind.

Grit.

This word has been constantly thrown in my face during my tenure at Westlake.

I mean seriously.

Grit: **taps me on the shoulder**

Me: turning around “What?”

Grit: WHAM

Me: “ouch that hurt”

Grit: “I’m not going anywhere, do you want to be friends?”

Me:  “OK”

Grit and I have been through a lot of things.  Fires, shootings, power outages, bus mishaps, losing an accompanist, scheduling conflicts, calendar issues…

Oh and don’t forget exploding toilets.

Grit has held my hand at the beginning of this journey, when I felt like everyone was against me.

Grit takes care of my students.

The ones who don’t have a lot but give so much.

Those who feel like they want to quit, but seem to keep showing up.

Those who have family issues and academic challenges and language barriers and extra chromosomes and brains that challenge them and demons and constant fights with their self esteem and…

Grit will be with them now.  The seniors who have potentially lost so much.  The other students who have potentially lost this year.

Grit Why???

Because it’s worth it.

Grit: **holds out hand

Me:  OK, let’s do this.

All my love,

Mrs. R. (and Grit)

 

BIRTHDAY’S TODAY!!! – Brodie Rogers and Sanjana Chandrasekar.  Please send them some love today.  I’m sure it is really hard having a birthday during this isolation.  I’ll start…oooooooooooooooooooooo

Didn’t Fitness Marshall today…(see pity party above).  Will more than likely take a walk later.  Finally the sun is peeking out.

Q.O.D. – Do you have a favorite story about grit, in your life or others?  Let’s hear about it!!