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?"

Monday, September 7, 2020

5 Things I’ve Learned So Far This Semester

It’s almost 10pm and I was congratulating myself for a relatively well-balanced day (despite the fact that Labor Day was a work day for the first time ever) when I realized that I hadn’t written a blog post. 


Since it’s the beginning of fall semester and I’m guessing you can figure out what kept me, a school post seemed appropriate. But I’m also guessing that you’ve read plenty of those lately, so I’ll keep it simple and share just a few things I’ve learned so far during this very unusual semester.

1.There’s a limit to the number of new things I can master at once.

2. The first few weeks of hybrid learning are even more exhausting than the first few weeks of traditional face-to-face learning.

3. I will make mistakes. Plural.

4. I need to forgive myself for the mistakes I will make. And, if I’m up front about them with my students, I’ll give them permission to make mistakes, too.

5. I’m happy to see my students, even if it’s on Zoom.

It’s definitely going to be an adventure. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Friday Feature: W-O-M-A-N

For my Friday features, I usually focus on something that’s a quick read. As a busy person, I assume that everyone else is busy, too, and so I choose articles that don’t require a huge time commitment.

But yesterday, on my way to an appointment, I stumbled onto an NPR interview with author Ada Calhoun. I identified so fully with her topic that I could feel myself getting emotional. Her book, Why We Can’t Sleep, its written for Gen X women. Technically, I’m not a Gen X woman, but I am a product of the same “women can have it all” cultural upbringing that she describes, using an Enjoli perfume ad from 1978 to illustrate the mindset.

In retrospect, I wonder why any of us thought that bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan, and being a 24-hour woman (W-O-M-A-N!) sounded anything but exhausting and impossible. More important, why did it take us two or more decades to come to that conclusion?

I didn’t get to hear very much of the interview because I arrived at my appointment shortly after I caught it on the radio, but I wasted no time downloading her (bestselling) book. I intentionally bought it on Audible because not only did I want to know more I wanted to hear her tell me about it.

This is a book that will rise to the top of my TBLT* pile, busy schedule or not. In fact, it already has.

*to be listened to

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Let Me Tell You a Story, Part 6

Welcome back! Marita and Charli are on 
their way to visit Angel in the hospital.

Before Marita could rummage in her purse for the scrap of paper she'd scrawled Angel's room number on, Charli was pulling her down the hall. "5109! C'mon!"

Marita slipped her purse strap over her shoulder and ran her free hand through her hair. Could she do this? Watch her daughter slide effortlessly into the role of big sister in Jim's new family?

"Here it is!" Charli was practically vibrating.

"Ssh," Marita hissed more forcefully than she'd meant to.

Charli cocked her head to one side. "Mom?"

"Sorry," Marita said. "It's just that Angel might be resting. Having a baby takes a lot out of you."

"Literally." Charli pushed open the door and peeked into the room. "Angel?" she whispered.

Angel's face broke into a wide grin. "Charli!"

Charli made a beeline for the bed, then leaned down to hug her stepmother. 

"I'm so glad you both could come," Angel said. 

"Congratulations," Marita said. "He's beautiful."

"Yeah," Charli said. "And I can't wait to hold him. Are you doing better?"

Angel nodded, taking her stepdaughter's hand. "Much. I hope I didn't frighten you the other night."

Marita sat in the room's only seat, an olive green, institutional issue chair with a pillow on the seat and matching pillow on its back to cushion the pale wood frame that creaked when Marita sat down. Watching her daughter interact with Angel, Marita marveled at how naturally the maternal role came to Angel. There was no way Angel was as fine as she pretended to be. She wouldn't fully recover for another few days and, by then, she'd have sleepless nights at home to deal with. But despite all that, she put on a brave face so Charli wouldn't worry about her.

    "Right, Mom?

    Marita blinked. "I'm sorry, honey, my mind was somewhere else. What did you say?"

    Charli tilted her head to one side and fixed her mother with a stern look. "I said of course you're not upset with Angel."

    "Why would I be?"

    Angel's shoulders relaxed. "I felt so awful dragging Charli to the hospital with us. I had no intention of giving her a crash course in labor and delivery."

    Marita shook her head. "Angel, you were in labor. You didn't exactly have time to start making phone calls."

    Angel grinned. "No, I guess not." She turned to her stepdaughter. "So, you're really okay?"

    "Fine. I'm not a little kid." Charli looked from Marita to Angel and back again. "What?" She sighed. "Okay, I was a little freaked out at first, but I"m fine now." She grinned and looked at Angel. "And you were a pretty good advertisement for how painful it is to have a baby. It did kind of gross me out."

    "Good," Angel and Marita said together. 

    "Oh, nice," Charli sat on the bed. "And here I thought you were concerned about me."

    "We were, Miss Drama Queen," Marita said. "But it's pretty obvious you haven't suffered any long-term damage."

    "Can we see Adam?" Charli asked. "I mean, up close and personal?"

    Angel reached for the call button. "I'll ring for the nurse."

    As Marita listened to Angel tell Charli how she and Jim had decided on their son's name -- Adam, from God's first human creation, and James, after his father -- it struck her how far they'd come from that mediation ten months ago, when Marita had sworn that the joint custody recommendation would happen only over her dead body. Angel had won Charli's trust in the simplest of ways, by showing a genuine interest in her feelings and what was best for her, and Charli had convinced Marita to give Angel a chance. Together, the three of them had worked out an arrangement that was a good fit for everyone and, even more surprising, they'd convinced Charli's father to agree. Now, Charli was the happiest Marita had ever seen her. Marita only hoped that this new baby didn't displace Charli, sending Jim back to the quasi-absentee parent role that had been his default for most of Charli's life.

    Nurse Ramona bustled into the room, shaking her head and carrying Adam in the crook of one arm. "You're lucky he wasn't sleeping," she said. "This little man isn't just a show-and-tell item, you know." She stopped inches from the bed and looked at Charli, then Angel. "Well, I beg your pardon," Ramona said. "Why didn't you tell me who was visiting? How are you doing, Miss Charlotte?"

    Charli turned pink and smiled at the nurse. "I'm fine, thanks, Nurse Ramona."

    "Well, it's good to see you again, child. I'm very happy you got here before my shift was over." She laid Adam in to Angel's arms, where he immediately began to wail. Tears filled Angel's eyes almost as quickly as they had filled her son's.

    Nurse Ramona clicked her tongue. "Try to relax, honey" she said. "He feels your tension."

    "Can I try?"

    Angel looked at Nurse Ramona.

    "Hold your arms like this," Nurse Ramona said to Charli, taking Charli's arms and forming a cradle with them. "Relax your shoulders, and don't forget to support his head."

    Marita tiptoed from the chair to the bed as Angel passed Adam to Charli. Charli pulled Adam slowly toward her, looked down into his face and smiled. "Hi, Adam. I'm your big sister."