Friday, September 25, 2020

Friday Feature: How to Be a Grown-Up

On my way into work this morning, I heard on the radio that several notable Republicans opted not to attend today's ceremony for the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Okay, so I don't know what I'd do in their place, but I'd like to think I'd rise above and put in an appearance. I would think that, in death, political parties no longer matter. 

Please, God, tell me that's the case.

Anyway, all of this left me feeling a bit sad and disheartened and so I'm writing this post a bit backwards. Usually, I have an article in mind and craft the post around it. Today, my sarcasm and Jersey girl perspective went in search of an article appropriate to today's news. Snark aside, it's a good read, one that left me wondering what the other 458ish steps were.

Without further ado, I bring you "How to be a Grown-Up in 10 Steps." Feel free to share with a friend.

Or a congressman.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Let Me Tell You a Story - Part 8

I missed last week, so here's a slightly longer installment to make up for it :-)

The woman swooped in, ready to wrest Adam from Charli's arms, but Charli saw her coming. She turned her back on the woman and held Adam out to her father. "Here, Dad. But be careful. He's just nodding off."

The woman froze. "Who do you think you are, telling my son how to handle his own child?"

Charli stood tall, meeting the woman's stare. "I'm Adam's big sister." She turned away from the woman and kissed Adam on the forehead. "Mom, can we go now?"

"Charli, these are--"

"I have a pretty good idea who they are, Dad," Charli walked around to the far side of the bed, putting distance between herself and Jim's mother. She leaned down to hug her stepmother. "Bye, Angel. See you Wednesday?"

Angel nodded, her eyes teary again. "I should be home by then. Think about what you'd like for dinner."

"Pizza sounds good," Charli said. "That way you don't have to cook anything."

Angel pulled Charli to her and whispered something in her ear that made Charli blush.

Charli stood up. "Come on, Mom."

Marita looked at her daughter, torn between the urge to do battle with Jim's mother and the urge to whisk Charli away. Charli stood tall, but when Marita looked at her daughter closely, she could tell Charli was wavering, pain replacing the determination in her eyes.

"Bye, Angel." Marita set the water pitcher on the table beside the bed. "Call me if you need anything." Marita grabbed Charli's hand and, to her surprise, Charli allowed Marita to pull her along, past her father and her grandparents and out of the room. 

In the hallway, Charli quickened her pace, capturing the attention of Nurse Ramona who was at the nurse's station. 

"Where do you think you're going in such a hurry?" she teased.

"'Bye Nurse Ramona!" Charli called over her shoulder.

"Don't you 'Bye, Nurse Ramona' me," she called, following Charli and Marita to the elevator. "What just happened in there?"

Charli shook her head, valiantly trying to keep the tears inside.

"Just a little extended family drama," Marita said.

Ramona looked from Marita to Charli, brows pulled together, demeanor stern. "Do I need to go kick some butt in there?"

Charli burst out laughing, tears coursing down her cheeks at the same time. "No. That'll only upset Angel and Adam."

"Well, somebody has apparently upset you," Nurse Ramona said. "And no one does that on my watch."

Charli stood tall again. "I don't need anyone to rescue me."

"'Course you don't." Ramona wrapped an arm around Charli. "But it never hurts to know there's folks on your side."

Charli nodded. "I handled it."

"Of course you did. So I'm guessing you want me to stay out of it?"

"Depends, " Marita said. "Can you kick that old battle-ax and her milquetoast husband out of the hospital?"


Ramona stood upright, towering over Charli and at least a head taller than Marita. "If they're upsetting my patient, I most certainly can."

GDJ via Pixabay

"Angel seemed uncomfortable," Charli said.

"Did she ask you to get Nurse Ramona?" Marita asked. "Is that what she whispered to you?"

Charli shook her head. "She said...she said I was amazing."

"Well, she got that right," Ramona said. 

Marita leaned against the wall next to the elevator. Leave it to Angel. Marita had been so torn between shock at seeing Jim's parents and pride at Charli's strength that she'd just stood there holding that stupid water pitcher, never opening her mouth. But Angel, in the midst of the storm that was Hurricane Carmella had found its eye and pulled Charli into it with her, giving her the courage to hold her head high.

"Honey, I'm sorry. I -- "

"Mom, I handled it. Can we go now?"

Nurse Ramona punched the button for the elevator. "That sounds like a plan. And my plan is to go check on my patients -- several times -- until I am absolutely sure that Mrs. Alessio and that little man of hers are surrounded by nothing but love."

"But doesn't your shift end soon?" Charli asked.

Ramona looked at her watch. "Seven minutes. But you'd be amazed at what I can accomplish in that time. Now, you two take care of each other, and don't you worry about what's happening here."

Charli nodded and stepped into the elevator. "'Bye, Nurse Ramona."

"Good-bye, Miss Charlotte. And Miss Charlotte's mama."

The elevator doors slid shut, and Marita reached out to put her arm around Charli's shoulders, but Charli shook her head and pulled away.

"I can't, Mom. I'm not going to fall apart. Not here."

Marita nodded, her stomach churning. So much for peaceful resolution.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Happy World Gratitude Day

I try to be a positive person -- and for most of my life, I didn't even have to try. Optimism and enthusiasm were part of my nature and sometimes spilled out even when I didn't want them to, often to the chagrin of those around me.

Lately, though, optimism, enthusiasm, and positivity have been harder to come by. I never wanted to become a grumpy old woman and so I keep trying to tap into the personality I know is there, under layers of fear, frustration and exhaustion. I worry sometimes that that girl is gone -- the one who, as Sara Bareilles might say, "used to be mine."

And then I discovered that today is World Gratitude Day and -- oh! -- there she is again! Imposing a moment of gratitude on her students ("Today's World Gratitude Day, guys, so we're going to take a moment and think about what we're grateful for. You can share or not -- up to you.") whether they want it or not. Injecting a bit of positive psychology to tell them why gratitude matters and how powerful it can be in reducing stress and leveling off our negativity bias. 

Flipping the glass to half full.

Not all gratitude is untinged by other emotions, though. My husband and I had gotten used to being empty nesters, but the new graduate job search in the time of COVID-19 has made my daughter a semi-permanent resident in her childhood bedroom. There have been adjustments all around, capped off with the fear that, now that I'm used to having her around again, it will be that much harder to support her eventual declaration of independence.

But mostly, I'm grateful. I love having her here and I'm trying to soak it all up as much as I can between the writing and the planning and the teaching and the grading. Most days, I feel frustrated by the sheer imbalance of my improbable balancing act but, today in particular, I'm grateful and reveling in it.

It is, after all, World Gratitude Day. What are you grateful for?

(Graphic courtesy of

Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday Feature: Nappuccino

Last night, I was looking for a light article to share with my students so they could practice sketchnoting, but I was coming up empty. Then, this morning, as I lay in bed thinking through my day, I came up with the perfect topic.


In his book, When, Daniel Pink writes about (among other things), how to take the perfect nap, something he dubs the "nappuccino." As a fan of both Pink and naps, I determined that this was the perfect article to use with my students. Friday + sketchnoting + naps.

Not a bad combination. 

Enjoy your weekend. And maybe even a little nappuccino.

Monday, September 14, 2020

3 Things I Won’t Relinquish

cromaconceptovisual via Pixabay

Last week, I warned my students that I was ramping up my sense of humor in class, and that sometimes, it was on a par with Dad jokes. It was part of a larger discussion on the particular challenges we're facing this semester. Like me, they are mid-semester tired, though we’re only four weeks in. Antiseptic is in the air, an inescapable and metaphoric cloud that hovers over every class, every interaction. Masks obscure social connections, robbing us of a primary source of the stress relief we need so desperately.

But this is not a self-pity post. It’s an empowerment post. When I realized one day last week that I could feel things I value eroding, my Jersey girl kicked in. I decided to enumerate them and fight back. COVID and its associated restrictions may put a damper on things, but I refuse to lose: 

  • My sense of humor. Too much fear and isolation have made it hard to keep things light, but no more. If a Dad joke or a bad pun is the best I can do, so be it. Better a feeble attempt than none at all.
  • My social skills. Isolation from everyone but my family has made me question the sharpness of skills I’ve always taken for granted. Lack of interaction (except from behind a mask or computer screen) has cast an awkwardness over social exchanges and the politics of everything make it hard to speak out for fear of offending. I will weigh my words to avoid intentional hurt, but keeping all the words to myself is unnatural and burdensome. Time to recapture my gift of gab and learn how to send a smile beyond a mask.
  • My sense of self. Who is this person who stays in the house and is perfectly content to do so? Is she a hidden side of my personality? A new me? A result of (God forbid) age? Whoever she is, she can stay if she must, but she has to step back and give the old me some room to breathe. Caution is good but an overabundance of it runs the risk of giving way to fear. I’ve had enough of fear running the show.
When it comes to COVID, each of us has (or has perhaps already had) our breaking point, our day of reckoning, our line drawn in the sand. Mine, apparently, was last week when I realized the precariousness of things I hold dear — things beyond health and unmasked exchanges. 

 I’m not relinquishing them without a fight. Even if I have to learn how to do them in a stylish mask.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Friday Feature: Nibbling on Foreign Languages

This summer, when we were at the beach, I decided to play with Duolingo. At first, I started refreshing my high school French. Then I tried a little Spanish, and dabbled in the German I hadn't looked at since high school. Finally, I looked to see how much of the Hebrew I took in college I remembered (pretty much none) and played around a little with Irish. 

Though I haven't looked at the Irish or the Hebrew in over a month, I do a little French, and sometimes some Spanish and/or German nearly every day, and I love it. I'd be perfectly happy never to have to solve another equation in my life, but languages come easily to me, and finding a free program was a great way to revisit the languages I haven't looked at since high school, and to bring my daughter along for the ride.

As it turns out, my daily Duolingo is like a healthy food I actually like eating -- delicious and good for me, too. I like the challenge and enjoy trying to develop my budding Spanish accent and recapture the accents I had when I took French and German decades ago.

I seriously doubt I'll go back to Hebrew, but I am considering dabbling in Italian. 

Too much?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Let Me Tell You a Story, Part 7

Jumping right back in :-)

Nurse Ramona pulled her gaze from Charli and Adam. "My shift is over in fifteen minutes," she said. "But you just ring for one of the other nurses when Master Adam is ready to go back to the nursery. But be sure and feed him first. That's probably why he's fussy." Nurse Ramona nodded to Marita and patted Charli's shoulder. "Nice seeing both of you again. It sure is nice when folks can work together."

"Nice to see you, too," Marita said to Ramona's retreating back.

"Oh, hello, Mr. Alessio!" Ramona's voice drifted into the room from the hallway. "And who might you have with you today?"

Marita froze. She had intentionally called Angel before they'd left for the hospital to make sure she and Charli would arrive when Jim wasn't there. True, Marita and Jim had reached a d├ętente early in Angel's pregnancy, but thirteen years of hostility didn't dissipate simply because they'd agreed to do what was best for Charli. 

Glancing at the drab, olive chair in the corner of the hospital room, Marita briefly considered returning to her safety zone. But why should she? She was Charli's mother, and Charli had every right to be here. 

Still, a bit of distance sounded good. Escape sounded even better. She grabbed a water pitcher off the table beside Angel.

"Marita?" Jim's voice was strained, as though he'd just finished a coughing spell and had barely caught his breath. "This is a surprise."

"I was just going to get some water for Angel," Marita said.

"Hi, Dad," Charli whispered, snuggling Adam close to her, her eyes leaving the baby's face only long enough to glance up at her father.

"Well, look at you." Jim leaned down and kissed Charli on the top of the head, then kissed Adam's forehead. "He's not too heavy for you, is he?"

Charli shook her head, eyes still glued to Adam. 

"She's a natural," Angel said. "He stopped crying the minute -- oh."

An older couple had followed Jim into the room. Except for the gray sprinkled through his sandy crew cut, the man's coloring was identical to Jim's. Marita had never met Jim's parents, but she was certain the man was Jim's father.

The woman just looked mean. Frigid blue eyes were narrowed into a gaze that looked as though it had the power to mow down everyone in its path. She was a substantial woman, too, with the sort of build and style that made her the poster child for the phrase battle-ax. Except that she wasn't a child and no poster would want her.

"Why is that child holding my grandson?"