Ad hoc

This is the first time I have ever written directly on this site, without brainstorming, and prewriting on a word doc first. But everything about our lives these days seems sort of ad hoc. So I am letting my stream of consciousness prevail.

While on the one hand, I struggle to exercise some form of order and control over my day to day existence, a fog descends on that structure periodically making it hard to steer the car properly and drive, no matter how well marked the roads may be.

My classes are all set up. I work painstakingly on giving very explicit detail and structure to my students so they won’t have the added burden of being confused about what they are supposed to do. At the same time, I tell them that I am not trying to add stress to their lives, and I expect them to do the best they can do, nothing more. Yes they can contact me for help, and I will respond. We are in this together and I hope to give them a meaningful way to pass their time at home. But I know they may have other responsibilities and anxieties they and their families are experiencing. My work should take them away from that, not add to it.

We are trying hard to do all we can do to be safe. Will it be enough? We have grocery shopped before the serious home quarantining set it, and I have discovered already how kind people can be. I have had a couple offers of people willing to shop for us and a neighbor picked up a few items last night, I am grateful for that kindness So we are prepared, but we are not prepared. …. Who is really prepared for this? What does that even mean?

I know that life is really in God’s hands. So I am reassuring myself that as ad hoc as day to day existence feels,there really is a plan for all of us, including my immediate family i have to give myself over to the plan. I have to relax and roll with the punches. i Have to accept that as humans we can never see the whole plan. Hence, no matter how organized we try to be, we will never fully control our destiny. Do we influence it? Yes, or course What we do, say, and feel all matters and plays into our destiny But we don’t deal the cards, we only play them. I am trying to play this hand the best I can.

To all the nurses, doctors, grocery story clerks, pharmacists and others in the front line of this war on the invisible enemy, I send my love and ask for God’s blessings.. You are the heroes, the destiny drivers in our universe.

Speaking of the universe, I can only begin to imagine the fears and suffering that go along with fighting this war with little or no weapons at your command. The hearts of the entitled world go out to you, and hopefully aid will follow closely behind to materialize the soft spoken compassion that cannot in a just world be ad hoc.

Learning about Leprechauns

Indoctrinating your grandchild

I sit with Ollie on the couch in the family room and hand him a present from a dear friend at school.  He takes off the paper one small piece at a time, very carefully  He is not a rip it off fast kind of toddler.  Then he gurgles with delight, points to the cat, and says “cat” very proudly, one of his new words.  He looks up at me for approval, smiling over his accomplishment and waiting for the expected and forthcoming surge of delight his every new gesture and word evokes from Grammie.

Ollie learning about leprechauns from Grammie, Irish culture indoctrination 101

But we are just getting acquainted with the book.  The cute cat, who he already knows, is a great hook to pull him in, but that is not really what the book is about.  Pete the Cat, The Great Leprechaun Chase is going to be Ollie’s first memorable Leprechaun story.  Just shy of his second birthday, Ollie becomes intrigued with the Lehleh (his word for it).  I have read him books before with leprechauns and other Irish imagery but he never go into the story and made the connections.  This time was different.  The reading level was just right for a 2 year old and the pictures were bright and inviting.  Some of the pages even open out into giant fold outs  This book is now Ollie’s Irish culture 101.  Page one is a giant fold out poster of the cat and the leprechaun.  I may have to tear that out and laminate it for his bedroom upstairs, when they visit.  

Ollie’s eyes are glued to the big poster.  A lehleh stands with his pot of gold on the other end of a rainbow and the cat’s eyes are big as he contemplates how to catch the lehleh.  In the end Pete the Cat, after catching the leprechaun, lets him go, and the books says “Pete decides he will be the good luck his friends need by helping them out himself. “ So it even ends with a positive message (sorry should have given you a spoiler alert) and the illustrations explode with color.  Ollie loves the book  He keeps pointing the cat and the lehleh and giggling.

Grammie is loving this,my grandbaby in all his sweetness cuddled up with me, hearing him giggle and seeing him wiggle, and knowing that he is absorbing a new character, the lehleh…..This is the beginning of a long journey of Irish folklore, I hope to share with him over the years.   I hear Irish music playing.  I see him dancing. I sit back while my Irish angel, sent to this earth to bless us all, makes friends with the lehleh. 

Looking for a Pot of God, Try the Grocery Store!

When Looking for a Leprechaun (I meant to say Pot of Gold, but I am enjoying the slip…)

Looks like I didn’t need a leprechaun this year.  Every year I recruit a leprechaun to come visit my class on St. Patrick’s Day.  Obviously this year, it wasn’t necessary.  >Now that St. Patrick’s Day is over, and with it my search for the perfect leprechaun, I am going to share with you a little secret I have uncovered.

When leprechauns are not making shoes, they are selling groceries.  Take last year, my perfect leprechaun was at Trader Joe’s. His profile screamed leprechaun from every rainbow.   And, this year I found my leprechaun at Mom’s.  She let me take her picture, a rare event for a leprechaun.

My Trader Joe’s Leprechaun last year
and the Leprechaun from Mom’s this year

So now I know that next year, when I look for a leprechaun to add to my collection, I will have to try another grocery store.  You see I think they will each be having their own territory.  Maybe the Cherrydale Safeway next time or better yet, Harris Teeter, it has more of  leprechaun ring to it.

Come to think of it, why wouldn’t a leprechaun take shelter in a grocery store?  Where else could you find an Irish 7 course meal…. A six pack of Guinness and a potato- (that is not original- it’s a bad Irish joke, been around for a while) Seriously, there is nothing in Ireland, foodwise, of greater importance than a potato.  Did you know that there are 90 words in Gaelic for potato?  There are 15  railway stations in the country named after heroes of the Easter rebellion and their mainstay was none other than potatoes.  The main word for potato in Gaelic is “prata” pronounced (prawh-tah).

 That is when I realized I had come to the right place. As I placed my groceries on the counter, the clerk picked up a potato, looked at the cashier and said “prawh-tah” as she placed it in the bag.  A paidrin (paahdreen ) is a tiny potato.  She looked at one of my smaller spuds and sputtered out “paadreen” as she threw it on top of my prawtah.  The cat was out of the bag.  The gold was out of the pot and the leprechaun smiled at me in a knowing way and began to laugh, throwing back her green hair.  At that point I asked to take her picture as I knew that having processed my spuds, she wouldn’t be around for long.  A meal of bangers and mash was probably awaiting her and keeping our social distance, there was no chance I could catch her.  I would not see her pot of gold today, but maybe her pot of potatoes.

Now the one thing I had to reconcile when I got home and thought about it  was the roasary my mom gave me which was also called a paidrin in Gaelic.  What could my roasary possibly have to do with a tiny potato?  Did people pray for potatoes for dinner?  Did they pray when the crops were damaged and only giving them small potatoes (that is one explanation I found), or did someone make a rosary out of tiny potatoes back in St. Patrick’s time when leprechauns roamed freely eating potatoes, mending shoes, and dancing jigs?  Only the wee people know for sure, and you know where to find them.  SSSShhh, this is our secret

St. Patrick’s Day

May the luck of the Irish be with us all dear God….

It has been a  beautiful  and calm day   We face timed with our precious grandbaby, my favorite leprechaun.   My hubby made his signature corned beef and cabbage. Of course I wore green, even if I wasn’t going anywhere… To know me is to know that I am the queen  of St Patrick’s Day celebrations.  For twenty years, I have held over the top parties in my class, and before that for my family and friend, and church community. today was totally different, but wonderful in its own way. Just being able to be together and be well was Irish blessing enough.

Writing this is making me think of St Patrick’s Day past.  I used to organize a party at church every year with extensive entertainment.  The entertainment involved our priest and his brother playing the fiddle, and Irish tin whistle and singing.   I remember recruiting a Salvadoran woman  who danced to a jig with a bottle on her head.   I also included a belly dancer from the restaurant down the block from the church who danced in green  to Irish music. It was always a multicultural Irish celebration and lots of fun.

 We also celebrated in my children’s classes at elementary  school.  Every child got hats, pins, beads, and green donuts.  I later put on parties like this for my own classes in middle school  When my children reached middle school, I moved on to the faculty providing lunch for everyone.  Before children, my husband  and I put on lavish Irish parties and Irish brunches  preceding the D.C. parade.  By Irish I mean most o fthe food was green.  The decorations were awesome. I usually had a fiddler playing live at the events.

Why did I go through this diatribe about past St. Patrick’s Day events?  Perhaps to bring home to you that if anyone loves St. Patrick’s Day, I do.  But, even I can see that this year, it is backdrop.  It cannot be the main show.  This was our second day working from home.  I started to hear from some of my students and the difficulties their families face.   I listen to the news, and suddenly nothing else matters..

I wonder how Ireland is dealing with this crisis and what about our friends in France, Germany, Albania, Pakistan, Greece, and  Morocco?  What about our friends and family here in the U.S?  What about my own family and yours?  So much uncertainty…. So much vulnerability…..I literally have two drawers of green clothes, but today there was only one themed  shirt I could wear.  It was given to me by Portuguese friends.  It says, “I can’t keep calm, I’m Irish”  That says it all.  But a cute dog does help…

Leprechaun at my Door

Where did this come from?

I came home from walking the dog and I saw it.  There on my doormat, I found a rectangular shaped box with a big gold bow.  It had Christmas paper and a St. Patrick’s Day card.  Quelle surprise!  What could it be?  The note said, “Here is something Irish, that could only be for you.”  I tore off the paper and what did I find? 

Where did this come from?

With tomorrow being St. Patrick’s Day, only a leprechaun could have left me something so wonderful with a leprechaun symbol on it even.  Actually it was a thoughtful and lovely gift from an old friend.  Such touches of kindness are all the sweeter in our current atmosphere of angst.

Beneath the green and gold crepe tissue paper, lay a wonderful surprise…This was no ordinary sweatshirt. It had embroidered symbols of the faith, first used by St. Patrick to explain the trinity, the shamrock. It even had a green collar and was made of far finer quality than your run of the mill sweatshirt, so do not underestimate the fashion busting quality of this gift, that only a leprechaun could have envisioned. I will wear it proudly, except for tomorrow, when I will break out as much as green as possible, even if I am not going anywhere but home. You never know when one of the little people might invite you to the other side of the rainbow… best to be ready

So, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.  Normally this evening I would be sorting through my green beads, buttons, hats and other assorted green paraphernalia that I normally pass out at our annual school party.  I would be putting the fine point on games and activities and selecting which music to bring.

Tonight is different, due to the Corona virus.  The Chicago river will not be getting dyed green and Savannah will not be exploding with jigs and reels.  Boston and New York will not be putting their Irish on display.  But that’s okay.  Every now and then nature throws us a curve ball called perspective.

I will miss celebrating with my students and carrying my Paddy day goodies about to friends, but I will not miss going out into the world at this point in time.  I am happy to be home with my hubby and will welcome the leprechaun’s visit.  Leprechauns do not want to be caught and always keep social distance.

The Ides of March

Not like in Rome, we hope…..

This year it really feels like the Ides of March… A sense of foreboding hangs low over us like a dark cloud about to release a storm.  Reassurance comes primarily from Anthony Fauci, who should be Time magazine’s person of the year.   The news is sometimes scary and worse yet uncertain, but he is a voice you can believe and trust.

Being a fairly  extraverted person, I might have expected social isolation to be a challenge.  Admittedly, this is only the beginning, but I am finding this time of self-quarantine to be a time of solace, soul searching, and peaceful enjoyment of time with my husband.  That is of course when I am not freaking out, not over the social distancing, but over the threat of the virus itself.  There has never been a better time to be part of a writer’s blog than this March.  This is such a good venue to express our fears, hopes and anxieties.   

I fall asleep seeing pictures of those little prickly acorns dancing before my eyes, you know the ones they show of the virus in scientific articles. They are always a burnt orange color and seem to be moving about uncontrollably like windswept leaves.  When I walk out the door I imagine them to be waiting to ambush me and it is hard to know how to protect myself completely.  I fear getting the virus myself, but more so bringing it home. .My husband is careful but relaxed.  He meets this as he meets all challenges with confidence and an intentional sense of calm that helps steady my boat as well.

We make eggs and toast with green bagels, and drown our uncertainty in coffee   We sit by the fire reading, soaking in the solemnity of it all, and the way it seems so natural all at the same time.  A neighbor invited us to dinner last night, and I thought “Are you kidding… we are not going anywhere.” I know they meant well, but we are living in parallel universes, this feels far more real to us.  And it feels fine, just being here… and being grateful for being well. The Diocese of Arlington has cancelled mass, but there is always room for prayer. The gray blue sunlight filtering through the window is perhaps a reflection of the silver tinted lining wrapped around our prayers.

Are we going to die?

Life in the age of the Corona Virus

Are we going to die?

I don’t have time to write tonight.  I am planning a professional development session for tomorrow.  Never mind, my husband says, “Do everyone a favor and just write a 50 word observation.  Have a look at someone’s behavior and don’t get pedantic about the details.”  He suggested I write about my students’ reaction ot the COVID-19 virus.

“Are we going to die Mrs. D, are we? I hear it’s in Arlington now.”

“Is school gonna close?  Come on please, say yes.”

“ I heard Andy coughing.  Don’t sit next to me…”

“What’s going to happen if they close school, did they tell you anything?

“Actually there are plans, just in case school does close.  I am going to show you today where to go on CANVAS to receive communications from me, and let’s talk about what you would do for this class.  I don’t think we are going to close, but you never know.  And, the school system is planning, so we will all know what to do if it happens. …Does everyone have access to the internet?  If your ipad isn’t working, you need to let me know.

Everyone pulls out his or her iPad and goes to my homepage on CANVAS, we begin to prepare for the apocalypse..“ It feels like the end is near one minute, and it’s business as usual the next.  Are we in denial?  Is this the Contagion movie being played out in real time?  Or are we all deluded captives of a low hanging anxiety, produced by an oversubscribed society with its eye on the wrong ball?

In any case, I have overstepped my husband’s 50 word advice.  When you are Irish, it is hard to stop talking or writing.  Could this all be due to having kissed the Blarney Stone?  I bet nobody’s doing that in the age of the Corona Virus…

Stay well everyone!


Hammenstaschen Galore

I walk into the bakery, which is my second home of sorts.  And what do I see? Endless trays of hammentaschen… This is only one section there were 4 times this many, with trays propped on  every glass showcase on the floor. The bakery was flooded with hammentaschen.  This was no ordinary day.

At the Heidelberg Bakery

“What’s going on?  Today must be a Jewish holiday!”  “Yes,” one of my two favorite workers at the bakery responded. “    “Purim,”  she answered. I knew something was up.  This amount of hammentashen is only baked for Jewish holidays.  So then my friend working there says, “It’s all about Esther. Do you know her story?”  “No,” I respond.  “Well let me give you the short version….It’s like pretty much every Jewish holiday..Our people are being persecuted.  We fight the bad guys.  The bad guys lose, the Jews triumph, and then everybody eats.”

She made me laugh, but she also got me wondering about Esther.  So, I went home and looked her up.  This is what I found.  “Esther, the beautiful Jewish wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), and her cousin Mordecai persuade the king to retract an order for the general annihilation of Jews throughout the empire. The massacre had been plotted by the king’s chief minister, Haman, and the date decided by casting lots (purim).”

Wow! So maybe the hamen in hamentaschen is actually related to the chief minister,Haman.  Taschen in German means bags. So maybe these are pastry bags to celebrate a victory over Haman?  I don’t know but I am fascinated to know that there is somebody named Haman involved and that the name of the pastry could be rooted in the old Testament.  You learn something new every day.  As someone who is very fond of hammentashen, in any season, I find this amazing.

I leave the bakery armed with three boxes or hammentaschen; apple, raspberry, and apricot.  And I feel connected to Purim through these little triangles folded over scrumptious fillings.  Heidelberg is a German bakery that knows how to celebrate the holidays of a myriad of cultures.  Along with the hammentaschen, I leave with Irish soda bread, which is actually far tastier than most Irish soda bread. 

I am a regular at the bakery and don’t miss much in the way of celebrating with food throughout the year.  This is the bakery that baked our wedding cake, as well as our daughter’s cake.  Our son, who worked at the bakery himself for a while, made his own wedding cake.  I know everyone there, I have good friends there and I always feel right at home.  This bakery is for me  is  the equivalent of the corner pub on the Eastenders ( a favorite BBC series)  I get my coffee, find a table and settle in a couple times a week.  I rarely leave without running into more people I know. 

I also leave feeling fuller than when I arrived.  Sometimes you can chalk that up to lemon stars, cheese danish, or cronuts.  Sometimes the fullness comes from unexpected encounters.  Today it came from learning about Purim and about hammentaschen.  So, now I am wondering, what is the story behind rugulah? Hmmm…..


The Art Teacher’s Chair

Where else would you find this chair but outside the door of the art teacher on conference day?  “Bonjour!”  The chair is beckoning me with its colorfully streaked wooden canvas. 

“I am no ordinary chair….mais non!  I am the chair of an artiste. I am unique, playful, and bursting with the unexpected, like any good work of art, and like my mentor, the art teacher “

“If you want to see ordinary, stroll down the grade level hallways. Linoleum newly waxed floors are the red, or gray, carpet of every day existence.  And those school color tinted plastic chairs, quelle cauchemare…They scream of eighties warehouse surplus.  They line the hallways from one end of the building to the other, filled with parents waiting to see teachers. At the end of the day, they are merely endless rows of empty seats who no longer have a sense of purpose.”

Now I am classic and edgy all at the same time.  I wasn’t born yesterday,  I was here long before the plastic interlopers appeared.  

I thought I heard the chair talking to me as I walked by   I started to respond… “ So true, you are exquisite.  You are a lovely invitation to parents on conference day to say, the world of art has a wide and deep seat ready to host you and arms  ready to embrace the artistic impulse of your child

Let your painted freckles splash across the wooden palette, your alternative throne. You will remain a step above the molded plastic that slowly encroaches, making the unnatural natural. 

The Language of Parent Conferences

Parent conferences are among my favorite days.  I had parents tonight who spoke Spanish, Portuguese, Mongolian, and French.  I met mothers, fathers, aunts, and big sisters.  It was a circling of the wagons of all of us who care about each child.  I specifically chose “child” here and not student, because these are children of the universe, and they feel so much like family.  It is easy to see the silver threads spun through the tapestry of this community that connect us  No matter what language the families were speaking, they were all embracing the same nouns; opportunity, education, progress, readers, writers, and support.  They were weaving the community web of caring with the same adjectives; successful, fulfilling, engaged, confident, responsible, helpful, and kind.  We all want so much of the same thing for our children. So, what do we want?  I think it goes something like this:

When the cherry trees bloom we want their beauty to endure beyond the blossom

When our children learn, we want their newly opened hearts and minds to flourish beyond time

We want to see our children’s eyes sparkle with wonder and confidence that tomorrow belongs to them.

Read, child!  Inhale the sweet air of new ideas and swallow new words that make your sentences dance on the page

The more your read, the better you will write.  The more you write, the more likely  you are to  leave your mark on the world.

We want our young people to come to the table ready to grow and eager to seize the day-“ carpe diem”

Dance, sing and revel in the joy of knowing how much you are loved, and how proud the world is of you.

Give the world your best and trust that you are part of the plan

That is  intended for you

A new horizon that shines bright

In any language