Some Great Things About Being Home

While many of us are starting to go a bit stir-crazy being confined to our homes, there are a good deal of things that I have started to appreciate. I have been home since March 12th and while it is difficult to follow all of the shelter-in-place guidelines here in New Jersey, I am doing it with a smile! Here are a few things that I can appreciate while being in this situation:

  1. Not having to apply make-up or nail polish! My skin and nails are enjoying the break.
  2. Letting my hair air dry. When I think about the last time I did not put product in my hair or dry my hair with a blow dryer, I have to go back to about 6th grade. I think that’s when I got my first perm. Chemical city! Am curious to see how my hair does with less product and residue in it an no heat on it for awhile. I am thinking it will be much healthier!
  3. Putting on sweats and leggings each day! I know. I know. Some people are saying to keep a sense of normalcy and to get dressed each day. I am getting dressed, just not wearing anything with zippers or that is too confining. This is the most comfortable I have been since I was a baby in one-sies and footsie pajamas!
  4. Doing less laundry! Normally, I would wear three outfits a day – my workout clothes, my work clothes and then my lounging clothes. Not now! I am down to two outfits a day. My husband had his work clothes and his lounging clothes but now is now making interesting fashion choices, as many people have also done, and tends to wear a work shirt for his video conferences paired with his sweats or lounging pants. He still looks cute!
  5. Leaving the ironing board in the closet. Waaahoooo! One of my least favorite chores is on hold…for now…
  6. Allowing the girls be free much earlier in the day. Ahhhhhh. So liberating!!!
  7. Having/making time to read. I love reading and am enjoying the time I would have spent commuting enjoying some excellent books – some to entertain and some to inform (will write about them another day!)
  8. Going to pee whenever I want!
  9. Attending virtual happy hours with friends and family. Thankful for the technology available to us so that we can enjoy a libation and “see” our loved ones each day!
  10. Walking my dog several times a day. My little terrier is in his glory now that my husband and are home every day. He dutifully splits his time lying in his bed in my husband’s office and lying on the couch or in his crate while I am doing things downstairs. I take him out on his normal schedule and add one or two for good measure. It is also a great reason to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air!

Think of all the positives of being at home, laugh at yourself and your situation and remember that this is temporary! We will get through this and life will return to normal!

May God bless you and keep you and yours safe and healthy today and always!

Coronavirus – A Time to be Thankful

You may be a little confused about the title of this post. Thankful? How can we be thankful for a deadly virus that has infected the world and is taking the lives of so many? How can we be thankful for the mass disruption of our lives? People have lost their jobs. Kids are not in school. Parks, gyms, restaurants and salons have closed. Sporting events have ceased and the summer Olympics are now postponed. How can we be thankful?

It’s easy. We must remember –

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJB)

We have become a society that is used to getting whatever we want almost immediately. We are a “same day delivery” culture and now that we have to wait for things and not get our overpriced coffee or enjoy our favorite restaurant cuisine, we are getting grumpy. We are used to immediate gratification in so many things. Want to watch a movie? Get it on Netflix. Out of dog food and Cheese Its? Get them delivered tomorrow from Amazon Prime.

This pandemic is horrible but it could be way worse – think Anne Frank and Laura Ingalls Wilder, two of my personal favorites that we can all learn from.

Anne Frank. I would hope all of you know who she was, but just in case you do not, she was one of the many unfortunate victims of Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust.

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/who-was-anne-frank/

She and her family went into hiding in an attic with seven other people for 25 months. 25 months IN AN ATTIC! They had to be quiet during the day, were forbidden to go outside and endured a great deal of turmoil and tension between the inhabitants, not to mention the daily terror and fear of being caught and sent to a concentration camp (which eventually happened). They had to wait until food was brought to them and there was not much to do to occupy their time in seclusion other than read, write, talk, sleep and daydream. Her diary is still in print. Get it and read it! Or, if you had to read it in 8th grade, reread it as an adult. It is a whole new perspective.

WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL! We, including our children, have plenty of things, especially technology, to keep us occupied during our shelter in place. We have television, the internet, our phones, etc. This leads to a myriad of activities we can do to keep us from going stir-crazy. We can exercise, play board games, card games, video games or games on our phones. We can grab a cookbook and cook a new meal or go on youtube and learn a new skill or craft. We can have games, books, puzzles, toys, clothes, food and many other things sent to us from Amazon, Walmart, Target and the like, though they may take a few days to get delivered right now. Be thankful we have these opportunities to keep us busy and our minds active. Anne Frank and her family did not. Nor do many others in isolation around the world.

Also, think about Laura Ingalls Wilder and other pioneer and Native American families who endured The Long Winter of 1880 and 1881 in DeSmet, South Dakota. (If you have a little extra time, read The Long Winter, it is one of her most popular books!) There was a blizzard every three to four days from October to May. They and other families went through their winter reserves rather quickly and although the Ingalls family was living in town (not on the prairie) the trains could not get through the 12+ feet of snow that had fallen. They were soon starving without much to burn for heat, not to mention limited with activities to pass the time.

https://www.startribune.com/the-long-hungry-winter-of-laura-ingalls-wilder/244068281/

WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL! We are not in the dead of winter, though some of our fellow Americans are suffering from terrible weather (my thoughts and prayers are with you). We are allowed outside (six feet apart, but we can leave our homes!)

We have indoor plumbing so we can go to the bathroom without freezing!

We can keep in touch with our friends and families via texting, phone calls and video conferencing. Back then, people did not know if their children, parents and neighbors were okay or even alive!

Many of our children are still being taught online (thank your child’s teachers for all of the extra work they are putting in planning quality lessons!) Schools were closed for months during that long, snowy winter.

In addition, we have heat, we have food and we can get our food and supplies delivered (though it is taking much longer now). We can run to the store if needed. We can pick our food up curbside. Natives and pioneer families did not have that luxury.

Finally, we should be thankful that we have what so many of us lacked before – extra time! While many, like my husband seem to be working MORE hours, a lot of us now have those precious extra hours in a day. So many of us have said, ” I don’t have time to…” Well, now you do! Try something new. Here is a quick list of ideas for adults and children:

  1. Exercise – many of us are turning to comfort foods during this time and may put on some extra pounds. Try a new workout online or download one of the many fitness apps out there. There are also great workouts on Pinterest and Youtube. Two of my favorite workouts on Youtube – HASFit and Heather Robertson. Both will get your hearts pumping and put a smile on your face at the end! Exercise is such a great way to relieve stress! And kids will enjoy it as well!
  2. Walk your dog several times a day. It gets you out and moving and your four-legged friend will love it!
  3. Take inventory of your fridge and freezer and meal prep. Chop those veggies, make the soup you only had time for on Sundays, plan your meals for the week. Try a new recipe. Include the kids! Depending on their ages, let them plan a meal one or two nights a week. Don’t forget baking a healthy dessert! Or even a not-so-healty one!
  4. Go on Youtube and learn how to do almost anything! Draw, paint, crochet, knit, change a tire, sculpt…you name it!
  5. Clean, organize, and figure out what you do not use, like or need and donate it to those less fortunate. Many organizations will come right to do your door to get your donations. My personal favorite – http://www.purpleheartpickup.org
  6. Read a book or one of the many magazines you may have stacked on a shelf.
  7. Write a poem, a song, a novel, a short story, anything to get your thoughts on paper.
  8. Teach your dog a new trick. Pets are loving having everyone home with them!
  9. Start a gratitude journal and list all of the good things that are happening in your life and in your homes.
  10. Relax and veg out with your favorite shows. It’s okay to do that too!

We need to be thankful in these trying times. I know it is not easy. I know it is tough being cooped up at home, especially for those with a big family in small quarters, but IT IS TEMPORARY. It will not last forever. We are so used to having things immediately gratify us, that it is tough to be patient and make these changes. However, to truly triumph over all of this, we need to make the best of it and be thankful for our health, the time we have together and all of the many opportunities we have to keep our brains and bodies active.

We are a part of history. We will look back one day and tell our children and grandchildren all about the time the entire world shut down trying to fight this horrible illness. We will tell them how most businesses closed. How there were no sporting events or shows in theaters or concerts. But I hope and pray that those conversations will be dominated by the things we did, made, learned and created while we were home.

I pray for all of you who are reading this to stay safe and healthy. I hope that you have a grateful heart and stay positive. Never lose hope. Never lose faith and never forget to be thankful.

As I Hung My Flag Today…

As I hung my flag today, I said a prayer, like I do every day for our military, policemen and firemen. I pray for their protection and thank God for giving us people who risk their lives for total strangers.

Today, almost two decades later, my heart hurts again remembering and thinking of what happened 18 years ago today.

I will never forget.

I will never forget hearing the news that a plane hit one of the towers. I thought it was an accident.

I will never forget hearing the news that a second plane hit and that it was a terror attack.

I will never forget trying to comprehend what that meant and what I should do with my new 5th graders, bright eyed and innocent.

I will never forget the terror I felt when I heard another plane hit the Pentagon.

I will never forget seeing the people running, covered with dust, fear and disbelief.

I will never forget seeing all of the brave and courageous firemen running into the burning towers.

I will never forget hearing that people were trapped above where the planes hit.

I will never forget hearing about and then seeing the jumpers.

I will never forget seeing the towers fall, feeling weak knowing that people were still in them but knowing I had to stay strong for my students.

I will never forget seeing the Pentagon, a symbol of our mighty military, on fire with people running out.

I will never forget hearing of a plane going down in Pennsylvania.

I will never forget seeing the unbelievable heroism of the firemen, policemen and first-responders we saw evacuating people and trying to get others to safety.

I will never forget crying and feeling a deep pain that I had never felt before or since.

I will never forget the helplessness I felt that day. And the anger.

I will never forget.

I will also never forget the mixed feelings of patriotism in the following days and weeks.

I will never forget the fundraisers, blood drives and carts of food and water we donated to at the grocery stores.

I will never forget the prayer services held for those who died and those who were still missing.

I will never forget.

I will never forget the strength and tremendous leadership shown by President Bush and Mayor Giuliani.

I will never forget hearing the amazing rescue stories and incredible bravery of people saving their coworkers, strangers and friends.

I will never forget hearing the chats of “USA USA USA.”

I will never forget the flags on cars, on doors, on homes, on clothing.

I will never forget that sense of unity we felt after.

I will never forget that day or what it meant to our country.

No one should EVER forget.

To Those Who Don’t Remember…

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those of us who lived through it know full well what happened that day. We remember the crystal clear blue sky that morning, with all of us going about our normal day, when in a split second, life in the United States and the world changed forever.

But as I learned over the years, much to my dismay, the majority of children who did not experience that day have no emotional connection to it. They see it as the day some planes were taken over by bad people who crashed them into buildings causing the twin towers to fall.  And while we cannot expect them to truly ever feel what we did on that Tuesday morning, we must try and preserve the impact. The horror. The heroism. The confusion. The disbelief. The anger.

I know not everyone agrees with me about remembering this day and that is fine.  I know there are parents who do not even tell their children about it because it is so disturbing but you cannot hide history.  I know there are schools who sugarcoat what happened because they do not want to scare students or make them feel unsafe.  I think this is wrong. We MUST remember.  We MUST acknowledge what happened that day and how we came together as a nation and how we helped each other and how we we rebuilt the greatest city in the world.  Students today should know about the amazing heroism and sacrifice of those aboard Flight 93.  They should know about the rescues that occurred at the Pentagon.  They should know. They must know.

To those of you who don’t remember – September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in American history.  You have heard that before. It was so much more than just two buildings getting knocked down. People were in those buildings. People were in their offices.  People were riding in elevators.  People were in restaurants and at the front desks greeting visitors and employees as they arrived for work. There were firemen, policemen and first-responders who went into the buildings to assess the damage and see if they could save others. I often wonder how many of those firemen knew the extent of the damage and yet, went into harm’s way anyway knowing their own lives would very possibly end.

It was more than just planes crashing into buildings and into a field in Pennsylvania. Innocent passengers were on those flights. Pilots and stewardesses with families and friends were in those seats. The heroism on the passengers on Flight 93 is something that should be celebrated, as they likely saved the lives of hundreds of others. What did it feel like for them to willingly give their lives to save others? What about those at the Pentagon? The hub of our military operations.  One of the “safest” places in Washington.  When I heard the Pentagon also got hit, my legs felt weak and  a feeling of despair and terror washed over me as I realized our country was under attack, not just New York.

More importantly, I hope that each person reading this never has to experience what we did on that day, but for those who don’t remember…

Look at the pictures and video footage  of that day- our eyes were wide with horror, confusion, helplessness and disbelief.  As we closed our eyes to try and sleep that night, our minds replayed images of people running away from the buildings, of heroes running into the buildings, of people crying, of dust and debris all over New York, of papers from offices flying in the air, of the hole in the ground left by the plane in PA, of the fires at the Pentagon.

Listen to the stories of those who were in New York and Washington, of the cell phone calls made to loved ones from the towers or from Flight 93 – our ears were filled with the sounds of our countrymen in distress, of those who knew they were doing to die, of buildings collapsing with people still in them, of sirens, of voices yelling directions.  And the most poignant for me – the wails and cries of despair. They hurt my heart to this day.

Touch a friend or person you love – strangers were grabbing and hugging each other as they went through the worst experience of their lives. They helped each other to safety. We hugged our friends, families and coworkers, yearning for some type of comfort.

We must remember.

Americans rebounded, as we always do, from that devastating and cowardly attack on the innocent and on our country. But we are Americans. We are resilient. We are compassionate. We are determined. We are strong.

But on that day, we did not feel strong. We felt despair, we felt horror, we felt helpless, we felt confusion, we felt shock, we felt anger. We felt vengeful. So for those who don’t remember, I beg you to try. We cannot forget.

The songs below are three great summations of how many of us felt that day. I encourage everyone to listen to them.  I chose the live versions of all three songs so that you can see and feel the emotion these men put into them.  May God bless all of those who perished that day, all those who lost loved ones, and all of our troops past and present defending our freedom.  We will never forget.

 

 

Be Nice

Years ago, I worked with an incredible special education teacher and friend, Nick Stelmak.  He was my in-class support teacher in my fifth grade classroom and we got along really well.  He and I played off each other’s strengths and I think our different personalities were great for the kids.

Unfortunately, Nick died suddenly at the age of 44 and while I remember many great things about him, there is one thing that embodies who he was and what he modeled for adults and children alike – be nice.

Nice. It is a word that we would tell the students not to use in their writing.  It was too simplistic, too common and not nearly descriptive enough. But there truly is power in this tiny four-letter word.

On the first day of school, there are a million things to do and say to the kids to set the precedence for the year.  We had a rough group of students that year and I was going over the typical classroom rules – raise your hand to speak, always come prepared, do not interrupt others when they are talking, etc.  When I turned it over to Nick asking if he had any rules to add, he said, “Yeah. I have one rule. Be nice.”

Nick’s words have been in my head a lot lately, mainly because the anniversary of his death is approaching, but also because of being on social media and reading all of the cruel and heartless things that people say so freely to and about each other while they hide behind a keyboard.  From celebrities to sports figures to teachers to politicians to the president of the United States, no one is safe.  Why are people doing this? Why do they think it is okay to insult others? Why do people feel the need to comment on people’s looks, weight, clothing, hairstyle, boyfriends, girlfriends, political views, personal choices? And why is it done in such a mean way? When people attack others because they disagree with something, things get out of control. Why the attack? It has happened to me by some of my own family members and I am sure it has happened to many of you reading this.

What has happened to us? Why have we become so cruel and bold and mean and disrespectful? Why aren’t we nice anymore? Who do we think we are that we can publicly insult others? Why is it so difficult to be nice to others especially when you do not know them? The fact that there is a segment on a late-night show called “Celebrity Mean Tweets” where celebrities read aloud the cruel things people have said about them, says a lot.  I guess they have a sense of humor, but it still has to hurt to see how mean people can be.

Be nice. That’s it. That’s all we have to remember. Be a role model for others, especially for the children in your life. Just be nice.

A few other phrases we can all live by…

In the words of Frank Reagan from Blue Bloods, “Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.”

In the words of so many mothers, grandmothers, teachers and pastors, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then do not say anything,”

And most importantly, Proverbs 4:23-24 NASB) tells us: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.”

If we could all just be nice, the world would be such a better place. 🙂

 

 

 

Do It Every Day

On Monday, we remembered and mourned those lost on 9/11/2001.  Many people proudly displayed their flags in honor of those lost in the attacks and to observe Patriot Day.

We see flags proudly flying on the 4th of July, Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day and it got me wondering why people do not fly flags every day? After all, we have active servicemen and women deployed around the world. While we enjoy the freedoms we have here in America and go about our daily lives, our military is protecting us and fighting for us each and every day.  Should we not fly the flag every day to honor them? I think we should.

If you are going to hang a flag at your home, make sure you follow the proper protocols. According to http://www.vfw.org:

Per Federal Flag Code, Section 2, paragraph (a), it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

There are many other protocols to follow such as never letting the flag touch the ground and those can be found at the website mentioned above.

Each time I hang the flag in the morning and bring it in at night, I take a moment to look at it.  I marvel in the red, white and blue and think of all those who wear the flag on a patch on their arm going into battle for you and me and how Old Glory is used to blanket the coffins of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for his/her countrymen. I say a quick prayer asking God to protect the brave men and women in our military and thank Him for putting such selfless and courageous people on earth. Without them, our lives would be totally different.

A few years ago, a campaign was started called “Green Light a Vet” to honor veterans. Green  is a symbol of hope, renewal, well-being and moving forward.  Many veterans returning from service are struggling in many different ways.  Shining a green light is a simple way to show our local veterans that we support and appreciate their service. It took quite a few trips to the store to finally find a green light to participate in this initiative, but it makes us feel good that if a veteran walks, jogs or drives past our house, they know they are not forgotten.  We never turn it off.

Flying the flag. To me, it is like eating, drinking breathing and praying. It is something I proudly do every day and hope more will too. 20160703_204316.jpg

 

(John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.)

“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

Continue reading ““Other” Families”