Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Failed distance learning or sweet dance moves...it's your choice

Distance. Learning.

These two words have rocked my writer's world.
My early morning cups of coffee and solitary thoughts have been disrupted
by the home school bell.

By that I mean my own alarm clock.
And me waking up my children to come down to the kitchen table.
Will and Addison are less than thrilled with online learning.
That makes three of us. (We heart you, teachers!!!!!)

On our second day of distance learning and algebraic equations,
Addison, a second semester 8th grader,
looked me dead in the eye and said, "I NEVER wanted to home school."
Translation: You stink at this, lady.
So I looked him dead in the eye and said, "Me, either."
Translation: I stink at this, buddy.

For the love of all that is good and holy, I thought I left math behind years ago.
This was proven to be true when I was an aid for 8th grade math 2 years ago...
for about two weeks.

At one point, the student that I was trying to help looked at me and said,
"Oh, I get it, Mrs. Aughtmon! You are in this class because you need to learn math."
It was a brutal common core moment.

I agreed with him.
And asked to be transferred to helping those who struggled
with dangling participles and prepositional phrases...
because, English....

We are in our third week of online learning.
I am trying to write at the table, while the boys complete their work.
We are all having a little trouble dragging ourselves from bed in the morning.
Also, we are having trouble remembering what day it is...Tuesday...Thursday...Saturday?
The shine has worn off of school in the kitchen.

I tried something new this morning.
I thought maybe it would inspire during our math mayhem.

I busted out some Stevie Wonder on my computer to take on graphing equations.
I did a few spins around the table.
Followed the prep. A grapevine. The robocop.
(Yes, I highlight 80's aerobics moves with early 90's hip-hop classics.)

It didn't go over well.
Addie didn't even smile.
He said, "Mom, you can listen to your music. Just don't dance."
Will followed this up with,
"You are super distracting and not in a good way. You want us to learn, right?"

I want them to learn what sweet dance moves look like.
And some manners.
Scott came dancing out of the office.
They completely ignored his gift of breakfast break dancing.
They don't know true talent.

Let's be honest.
The dancing is just for me...to keep my own spirits up.
And to make myself laugh.
Because the horror on my boys faces is priceless.

Also, it's a genius home teaching method...
my awkward dancing helps my children focus on their school work in front of them...
because they are avoiding looking at me.

This is what survival is all about, you guys.
It's okay to find some joy in the midst of chaos.

We can focus on the stress of lock down and quadratic equations...
or we can humiliate our children with a well-timed kick ball change.
It's your choice. You already know mine.

Here are a few happy, upbeat dance tunes to bring yourself some joy....
and torment your own children with...






Thursday, April 9, 2020

Thoughts on the weirdness, wearing masks and gratitude

Yesterday was my first time out of the house since our nationwide lock down wearing a mask.
I got into my car with clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, and latex gloves.
If you had taken me in with all my gear you would have thought I was getting ready to operate...
on Walmart.

I made a mask out of an inspirational bandanna that I was given
while speaking at a girls youth retreat last year.
I tried it first with the uplifting hot pink  message facing outward.

In case you can't read it, it says:
You are God's
He has created you for a Purpose

Which is true and such a good reminder.
Except that when I had it on,
it felt like my face might be yelling at passersby in the store.

So I flipped to the other side which was a dark green camo material.
This made me feel like I was getting ready for a heist or a military maneuver.
Both of which I guess could be true...since I felt like I was on a mission.
On high alert. Finding vital essentials for my squad (cheese sticks for the fam.)

The problem was that when I put the mask on,
the hair bands I was using didn't fit well over my elfin shaped ears.
It kept inching forward.
Making it feel like it was going to launch off my face like a catapult.
This has the opposite effect of social distancing.

And then there was the part where the mask itself felt too big,
and was pushing up into my lower eyelids...
which I am pretty sure was giving corona virus direct entry into my eyeballs.

The video from the surgeon general said,
"Make sure not to touch your mask once you have it on."
I touched it roughly around 17 times as I entered the store.
Since not only was it introducing lint balls and other pathogens into my tear ducts,
but blocked my peripheral vision.

Due to my compromised vision I didn't realize that a carton of cherry tomatoes
had burst open in my cart.
I was leaving a trail of them behind me like Hansel and Gretel.
A cashier walked up behind me and said,
"Oh, there you are...I have been following the line of tomatoes through the store."
He was very kind and helped me pick up the few that were rolling around by my feet.

I then made eye contact with a lady who wasn't wearing a mask
as we were trying to maintain a 6 foot distance.
She looked at me with my haphazard protective gear and I just said,
"This is so weird."
She laughed and said, "Yes. It is."
Which really meant,
"Bless your heart.
You are really trying, but I think corona virus might be getting in your eyeballs."

Then she said, "I have one, too." And, "You stay safe and healthy."
With great kindness and empathy.
I hoped she could tell that I was smiling at her from behind my face mask.

My last stop was the Easter candy section.
I ended up over committing when I remembered you are supposed
buy anything you touch.
I have enough chocolate eggs for all of southern Idaho.
This I do not regret. Every body needs a little chocolate (or 7 lbs.) on lock down.

By the time I finally made it to self-checkout, I thought I was having a panic attack.
Then I realized, I had over-layered my mask and just needed some oxygen.
I started to feel a deep kinship towards surgeons, and welders and people who use hand-sanders.
My respect for all mask wearers at this time is THROUGH THE ROOF, you guys.

I came out of the store and ripped off my mask,
(pretty sure the Surgeon General would have just shaken his head at me by this point.)
And turned back to the two greeters standing at the door and said,
"How are you guys holding up?"

Because really all the work they are doing to keep us all in food and toilet paper is amazing.

They both smiled and said they were doing well.
And then I thanked them. For being there. For working.
For holding steady in the weirdness.

The amazing thing is that underneath the undercurrents of fear and uncertainty that lace our days,
I am finding an under-undercurrent of  kindness and cooperation.
Not meanness or hoarding.

When I had to drive to California two weeks and half weeks ago to pick up Jack from college,
every person at each drive thru and gas station was taking time to check in with me and I with them.

"How are you doing?"
"Ok...how are you?" "Ok."
" This is so crazy." "Yes, it is!"
"Stay safe and healthy." "You, too!"

This was all said with liberal applications of wet wipes and hand sanitizer on both sides...
because we were taking care of each other.

Have you felt it?
I have seen people go out of their way to take care of and share with and uplift each other...
inspirational masks or not.

People are pulling together.
Checking on neighbors.
Doing grocery drop-offs for friends who are battling the virus.
Sharing funny videos to keep spirits lifted.
Doing birthday drive-bys.

And I am finding in the middle of combating an invisible foe along with the rest of the world...
that I am grateful.

I am incredibly thankful for every single person who is doing so much to benefit us all.
I am thankful for the health workers and essential workers and my neighbor across the street
who texted me a picture of a rainbow that she saw from her bedroom window.

I am thankful to my boys teachers who are completely redoing their lesson plans to fit an online
format, so that my kids can continue to learn. (Rockstars one and all.)

I am thankful to my pastor who is speaking to a crowd of zero and streaming it live
to share hope and peace.
(Have you ever tried to speak to a crowd of zero? It is unnerving.)

And I am thankful for you.
Because I know you are bringing hope and light and kindness to your own people.

And if by chance this week, you are feeling lethargic or anxious or worried,
(because we are all feeling that at different moments)
just pretend I am yelling at you with my inspirational face mask:

You are God's
He has created you for a Purpose

It is so true. Especially right now!
You are a bringer of kindness and maybe some extra rolls of toilet paper for a friend in need.
Your care of yourself and others transcends social barriers and Lysol spray.

Know that I am praying this for you in the days ahead:

In the middle of the weirdness,
may the hope and love of Jesus spill out to those around you...
as you stay 6 feet apart
and smile at them behind your face masks.

And may you have all the Easter chocolate you need.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

thoughts on fear, pit leakage & sheltering in place

When I was 17, I spent the second semester of my senior year in high school
on the MV Anastasis,
a medical ship that provided global humanitarian aid around the world
with Mercy Ships ministry.

I attended the onboard school provided for the crew with my friend Heidi.

Heidi's parents, Don and Deyon Stephens, the founders of the ministry,
were my parent's friends from college.
Together we girls had convinced our parents that
a senior year adventure on the high seas was a terrific idea.
They said, "Go for it!"

When I boarded the ship in Mexico, I was hoping for three things:
friends, adventure, and maybe love.
Because giant ship and teenage girl = the love boat, right?

What I got was: friends, adventure and Miss Pedder.

Miss Pedder was a proper New Zealander, the principal of the onboard school
and our high school Bible teacher.

She was formidable. And exacting. And had high expectations.
Especially from this California teenager with over-permed hair
and a bent towards the romantic.
She didn't laugh at my jokes. She didn't have time for her students to mess around.
Or to talk in class.
It was all about work. And standards. And some more standards.
I had never met anyone quite like her.

Each Monday she would give us a chunk of scripture to memorize
and by Friday we would have to stand at the front of the class and recite God's Holy Word,
looking her dead in the eye. Alone.

I am talking serious arm pit sweats and voice tremors.
Her gaze could fell the steadiest of students.
Heidi took it all in stride. I had diarrhea every Friday.

I remember several gut wrenching recitations said with twitching lips and perspiring palms,
as her eyes pierced my very soul.

I thought maybe she was looking to see if Jesus actually lived there.

I was hoping He did and that He would give Miss Pedder the thumbs up.

Our Bible final was an oral test.
Each of us students would be called to the front of the class.
She would state the random verse in a certain section of scripture that we had memorized
during the course of the semester.

We would have to complete the next 8-10 verses. On the fly.

If you thought I was nervous during the normal recitations,
this ramped everything up. Gut rumbles. Lip quivering. Eye twitching. Pit leakage.
I was on high alert.

The scripture I was prompted to recite was Psalm 91.
Somewhat appropos for the fight or flight syndrome that was about to crash my nervous system.

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 

I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; 
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the LORD, who is my refuge--

then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."

As I focused on the rhythm of the words and their truth,
(not Miss Pedder and my mind numbing terror),
I was able to lock in on my objective....getting to the end of the test.

And the crazy thing was, I did it.
And in an earth shattering moment, Miss Pedder responded with two words, "Good girl."
The sky broke open.
Love and hope rained down.
Gum drops and rainbows were unleashed.
And I floated back to my seat.
I had passed.

Here's the thing. There are a whole lot of us that are having a Miss Pedder moment.
We are crazy scared right now.
There are gut rumbles, pit leakage and maybe even some diarrhea.

We are facing a season of uncertainty and who would have thought it,
"a plague that destroys at midday."
We feel isolated. Nervous. Alone.
And some of us are eating so much ice cream we can only wear
stretchy pants. (Bless our hearts.)

We are scared for ourselves and those we love.
Some of us are sick, most of us are sick with worry.
There is so little control to be had.
Being scared is a part of being human.

But the truth is...God is inviting us to sink into His truth and rhythm in this fearful moment.
It is a rhythm of trusting Him with every single thing.
Our people. Our health. Our finances. Our dreams. Our futures.

He wants to cover us with His feathers.
He wants to give us refuge under His wings.
He wants to shield us with His faithfulness.

No matter what today holds or the eventual outcome...
we can find a place to rest in His hope.

It's a different kind of sheltering in place.
We are sheltering in Him.

As we encourage each other and dig into His truth, we will pass the test.
As we pray for each other, bringing each other before the Creator of the Universe,
He is reminding us that He alone, is our refuge.
He is with us.
He will rescue us.
He is protecting us.
He is answering our calls.
He is commanding his angels concerning us.
He is saving us.
And most importantly,
He is loving us. Wholly. Completely. For all of eternity.

And that is way better than a "good girl."