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Confessions of a Cooped Up Teacher

Day One: March 16, 2020

I don’t want to stay home, and yet I want nothing more than to stay home.

I’ve been home for a week. It was spring break, and five glorious days off school were mine! No big plans for me, just some work and some r & r and some time with Mom, doing the mother daughter things: lunch, shopping, movies. The week started off just fine. Yes, there was some rain, but that only made staying in doing nothing that much better. Then it cleared up some, and Mom & I got together and did our thing. It was great. That was last Saturday. On Tuesday we got together again, this time we went to the movies. We had a terrific time and planned to get together again on Thursday. Then all hell broke loose.

1200px-Pandemiclogo.svgWatching the news and reading articles left me with a sense of dread and doom. I did not want to be a part of that, so I switched off my social media and got off my behind. My sweetheart and I did some grocery shopping, made sure we had tp, and planned to lay low. I called Mom to see how she was doing and if she needed anything. She was fine, and said she did not need a thing. Then I told her our plans Thursday were going to have to be delayed. I was not willing to take my eighty-something year old mother into a crowded place just so we could have a nice lunch. She was disappointed, but claimed to understand my reasoning. I think she was just trying to be agreeable.

Since then schools have been shut down in several states, my own included. It was a weight off my chest when the announcement was made last Thursday that our district would close. The entire state is now closed at least until March 27, but between you and me I don’t think schools will be ready to reopen that soon. I keep getting snippets of information, like everyone else. One friend in New York has told me what her district is doing, another friend, who has a daughter in Seattle, has shared some of her experiences. Getting these first and secondhand accounts is powerful. These are REAL people, not alarmists.

Each day I recommit to staying away from people, but it’s so difficult. When my 21 year old called me and asked if we could go to the grocery store together (clearly he was low on funds) I, of course, said yes. And when my brother, mother, and niece asked me to join them for a family St. Patrick’s meal, well, I said yes to that too. But that’s it. I’m not going anywhere after that. Unless I have to.

As of right now, I don’t really know what I have to do. I’ve been gathering some resources for teachers and parents, but honestly, there’s simply too much to sort through. I’m so grateful to all the children’s presses, publishers, authors, bookstores, and curriculum websites. You’ve been so generous with your time and resources. The only issue is that there’s SO much that it’s overwhelming, even for someone like me, who is familiar with much of it (unlike parents). How are we going to pare this down to its most impactful elements and share it equally? How are we going to reach and engage our students when we’re all living in a shared state of disbelief?

I’m sure some guidance will be forthcoming, at least in regard to work. For now I’m grateful that my loved ones are all healthy, and we have what we need. I hope you can say the same.

 


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Alone, At Last

Being alone is a strange thing. We are welcomed into the world with at least our mother near us, and for those of us born in hospitals, many other people as well. We spend much of our early years in the company of others, aside from our sleeping hours, and for many infants and young children, those hours are spent with others too.

When my son was about four he pointed out to me that it wasn’t fair that he had to sleep alone when his dad and I got to sleep together. I wasn’t a family bed proponent, and I still contend that none of use would have ever gotten a decent night’s sleep had he been with us, but he made a point. Why do the most vulnerable among us sleep alone? glacier-national-park---robert-glusic----photodisc-na008587We humans are generally pretty social beings, even the anti-social among us. Complete solitude gets old quickly, even in the most beautiful of surroundings.

My sweetheart used to work for the park service. He had many lonely nights and solitary days in some of the most beautiful country on the planet, but alone is alone. When there’s nobody to share the experience with, it somehow loses some of its meaning. Certainly I would prefer isolation in the beauty of nature, provided I was safe, than in a solitary holding cell, but even solitude in comfortable surroundings would become a burden after a short while.

I’m not talking about that kind of alone. I don’t mean the alone that seeps into your bones and leaves you cold and hungry; the kind of alone that stretches in front of you without an end in sight. I’ve never known that kind of alone. I hope I never do. That kind of alone frightens me. I’m not afraid to be with myself, in fact I think I’m pretty good company, it’s just that I’m afraid to never have anyone to share experiences with. I’m afraid I would stagnate and begin to rot from the inside out.

The kind of alone I’m talking about is a break. A short separation from those I love dearly. After three days cooped up in close quarters with limited diversions, I’m glad that today we’re back to a somewhat normal schedule. After dropping my son off at his volunteer work, I ran a few errands and returned home to an entirely peaceful house. As I released the dog from her kennel I looked around and felt a sense of peace settle over me. She and I have a few hours before anyone returns home, and we’re going to make it count. DSC00002She has already begun her work on a new nap, and I’ve taken to the keyboard. We are both using our talents in ways that we find satisfying. We are sharing the afternoon in companionable silence, aside from the occasional passing comment. We are alone, together.

I don’t feel the need to do the laundry or vacuum or make the beds. I’m okay with letting things slide a little bit today. Today I need to recharge my battery. Tomorrow it’s a trip to the dentist, then a long overdue lunch date with a friend. After that the laundry can have its turn, but not today. Today it can sit in the hamper and just be still. I have peace and quiet to catch up on, and I’m going to make it count.


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Going to the Show – The Quilt Show, That Is

When I first moved out west I was working as a substitute teacher. I moved from school to school, grade to grade. I was seldom in the same school twice in a month. This type of existence didn’t allow me to make connections with others. I was a nomad. The only person I knew was my then-fiance, now former husband. I felt rootless, and it made me a little uncomfortable.

I had left behind my family and lifelong friends, and now there was just the two of us. We were more or less broke, so we weren’t exactly living the high life, but that was ok. What wasn’t ok was the sense of isolation that was starting to creep in. In those days the internet was in its infancy, and we certainly didn’t have it. Long distance phone calls cost a mint, and nobody had heard of texting. We were on our own.

I had always liked creating, and had taken an introductory quilt class from the adult ed department of a school district in my hometown. We did everything the old fashioned way, by hand, and I learned a lot. I decided that I would expand my horizons and head out to the local quilt shop in my new town. suzyLittle did I know that I had moved into a quilting mecca of sorts.

I walked in the shop and was awed. The bolts of fabric were proudly displayed around the perimeter of the store. There was display table after display table piled high with fat quarter bundles and baskets of goodies. Stunning quilts lined the walls and hung from the ceiling. I loved it. I was home.

I spent a long time going through that shop. I fondled the fabric, and browsed the books. I examined the samples and ogled the threads. I had been a sewer for a long time, and had all the basics, including a sewing machine, but I didn’t have a scrap of fabric.

Not my actual quilt, but very similar.

Not my actual quilt, but very similar.

As I said, we were on a budget, so I carefully weighed my options and eventually purchased a package of precut squares. They were a nice variety of prints and tone on tone fabrics. I also purchased a small amount of unbleached muslin to patch them together. I was delighted with my choices.

I went home and played around with those pieces until I was happy with their arrangement. I sewed them together with my sewing machine, then headed to the fabric store to find material for the outside border and back, plus some batting for the inside of the quilt. I purchased a deep green tone on tone print that I love to this day.

I quilted that first little quilt by hand, then bound it. I was hooked. I went back to the quilt shop and signed up for a class. It was incredible. My horizons expanded greatly. Then I learned that there were quilt groups that meet all over the state as part of a state wide quilt guild. I looked up my local chapter, took a deep breath, and walked in the door.

At that first meeting I was immediately greeted and warmly welcomed to the group. I jumped in with both feet, joining swaps, signing up for secret sisters, participating in workshops, and eventually becoming the chapter chairperson. I volunteered to serve as a traveling teacher, visiting chapters all over the state to teach them I project I had designed. I also joined the board of the state guild. It was busy and fun and I made so many friends. I also made a connection that led me to a full time position at our local university, which I held for seven years before returning to teaching.

Quilting saved me. It provided me with an incredibly fun and creative outlet, while also furnishing a way for me to connect to many other people. I formed lifelong friends, I took on challenges of organization and leadership that helped me to grow individually, and I made a heck of a lot of really nice quilts.

After my son was born, I had less time for these activities. I was a full time working mother, and I spent more time at home. I also returned to life in the classroom. I did still make quilts on my own, but I drifted away from the busy life of the quilt guild. From time to time I visited, and I was always warmly welcomed. Many of the same friends remained, but many others had moved on, and new friends awaited.

That’s one of the remarkable things about the quilting world. It doesn’t seem to matter where we’ve come from, or what our current situation is, when we get together we have a common love of quilting that bridges any divides between us. We come from all cultures, all different backgrounds, all educational levels. We are young and old and everything in between. We are wild independent spirits or traditional matriarchs. We are a cross section of people, primarily women still, at our best. We are creative, warm, open to learning, and generous with our talents. I am proud to be a part of that community, and today I look forward to walking amongst my fellow quilters, admiring their work.