I’m Still Here

I haven’t posted on this blog in a while, but I’m still here.

I have been fairly active on my other blog for nursing, if you want to check it out: http://www.hurriednurse.wordpress.com

I finished my 90 day challenge of something new each day, and I miss doing it. It was so much fun and really got me to appreciate the little things I could do to get out of my normal routine and/or mindset. For days 70-90, I had done all kinds of new things, such as making muffins at bedtime, eating ice cream before dinner, trying a Tuscan melon, running in the hallway at work, flying on Delta airlines instead of my usual United flight, trying a new coffee shop, a new zoo, and a rock shop, playing a new board game, going to an old three-story book store in Detroit, running a 5K race at a park I’d never been to, trying a list of “conversation starters” with my kids at dinnertime, listening to comedy on the way home from work, trying a Peruvian cookie, going to a Saturday market, and buying back-to-school supplies at Staples instead of the usual Target or Walmart. I really think this 90-day challenge is something I’d like to do every summer. Maybe next year I’ll be better at blogging about it. Hee, hee.

I’ve been busy lately with onboarding for my new job, keeping up with the kids and their afterschool activities (cross country, cheerleading), still doing ballet, and leading a practice, policy and inquiry committee at work, and training for a race every month. My next race is the Gnarled Orchard 10K, which is located near the Appalachian mountains and was described as “knot so nice.” Hmmm, sounds like I shouldn’t expect a PR.

Despite the awesomeness of the 90-day challenge and all of our beneficial activities and projects, life always offers challenges behind the scenes, behind the happy posts and vacation pictures that are very easily shared. I know that that is true in most people’s lives. God did not promise us an easy life; He promised we’d face adversities.

I listen to a few life-coaching podcasts, and one coach in particular reminds her listeners that life is 50/50, fifty-percent positive and fifty-percent negative. When we expect only positive and we expect to be happy all the time, then we ruminate on the negative, and we end up creating more negative in our own brains. Yikes. And yet, how easily we can fall into that trap.

I am determined to accept that life is 50/50. Just like this post.

As COVID took a toll on most of industries in our country, it did not spare the development and construction world that my husband works for. So . . . we got a shocker of a pay cut last week in our household. I know, I know, I know there are always things to be thankful for–he didn’t lose his job. I didn’t lose my job (in fact, I have two now). We didn’t lose everything like people who lost businesses during covid or who are now losing their homes in Louisiana, and we aren’t refugees in a foreign country (I can’t imagine). We still have much to be thankful for.

But let’s acknowledge there’s never a good time to get a pay cut. And when your oldest is a senior in high school, the timing is . . . really sucky. Yes, sucky is a word.

One good thing that might come from this–it motivated me to write again. Some may see writing as an escape, and maybe in a way it is, but I can also see writing as an embrace. It is a way of embracing the emotions that life offers, putting words to the feelings that are often difficult to describe. Writing is working through the thoughts that create the emotions, whether writing about real life or spawning a fictional world. It is making connections instead of becoming disconnected. So, I see writing as adding to the 50% positive side of life.

And if I ever write a best seller, I’ll also see that as positive.

What about you, readers? How is your life 50/50 right now?

What’s New Today?

Yes, I got behind on blogging.

Yes, I have a million excuses.

But—yes, I’ve still been doing my one new thing a day for 90 days initiative. I just didn’t tell you about it. I have some great ones; I had one that totally didn’t work; I have some that I would do again and some that I wouldn’t. This challenge has been good about getting me to think about my days and what I could tweak–even just a small thing, like drinking a Mountain Dew instead of my standby Coke–to shake up my mind, my routines, my expectations. I would recommend this challenge to everyone. You will get something out of it.

I neglected to report from day 41 all the way through yesterday, day 70. So, I will be brief, but I have some good pictures to share, too. BTW, when travelling it was easier to think of new things; I have a few lame ones after we returned home.

Day 41) Listened to news in the morning before work (something I just don’t normally do).

Day 42) Rode my bike! The same bike that I got fixed on Day 10!

Day 43) Had a job interview . . . over Zoom! Okay, so that wasn’t me totally planning it, but it was definitely a new experience for me. BTW, I got the job! I will be a clinical instructor for nursing students at our community college, bringing them over to the hospital to get their clinical hours.

Day 44) Used a pink purse that I had in my closet that I had not used before. I had bought it from a consignment store with all good intentions of using it, but I just never did.

Day 45) Had pancakes for dinner. And this was not just stopping at IHOP on a whim to have dinner–no, I actually made pancakes and bacon at home for dinner. With orange juice! So weird.

Day 46) Did hopscotch in the driveway before work. I had planned this out a day ahead because my youngest was out doing chalk. So, I made the decision to do hopscotch, in my nursing clothes, wearing a badge, in my driveway before work.

Day 47) On our 9-hour drive to Michigan, we stopped at a rest stop and noticed a farmer’s market set up near the parking lot. Perfect! I had never stopped at a farmer’s market at a rest stop in my entire life. What a great idea for the local farm, too; they had lots of customers. We bought plums and cookies!

Day 48) Ran a running route that I had not run probably since high school or college. My motivation was to see some flood damage in Dearborn, which had gotten 7.5 inches of rain within 6 hours the day prior. BTW, this is supposed to be a park–see the blue water fountain?

Day 49) Tried rainbow carrots. They’re okay, but the colors other than orange are all a little more bitter.

Day 50) Two things–went to the Jim Henson exhibit at The Henry Ford (and the air conditioning was down, so it was instant sweating and hard to breathe). But Jim Henson is so cool! I also tried a buttercup squash today, which is similar to butternut squash, just a little sweeter.

Day 51) Tried chocolate hummus. It’s pretty good! I might not pick this flavor over Nutella or something chocolately, peanutbuttery, totally bad-for-you, but this is great for a sweet chocolate flavor, but also has a nutritional quality.

Day 52) Went to the car racing exhibit at The Henry Ford museum, which is a newer exhibit I had not been to before. The racing experience theater is a must!!!! My middle daughter now wants to race cars–God, help us.

Day 53) Lake Erie Metropark nature center and hiking. I opened up a map and picked somewhere we hadn’t been for hiking. This place was great. I just wish their Wave Pool was open again (stupid Covid).

Day 54) Made a spontaneous stop at an antique store on our way to a destination. This is totally not like me–usually I’m in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. I thought, why not try something new?!?!

Day 55) Took my middle daughter to a 4th of July 5-mile race I’ve done several times. This was just the first year I didn’t have to go alone!!! Tough course–not exactly Michigan-flat, and humid day, but we did it!

Day 56) Went kayaking on Vandercook Lake in Jackson, MI. Had never been to that lake. And I had not been kayaking in about 3 years. I loved it! The water was a little rough and wind too strong to consider paddleboards. I saw some people trying–most of them ended up sitting, LOL.

Day 57) Went to our favorite Mexican restaurant–Lucero’s–and didn’t order what I always order! LOL. It took a little self-coaxing to try something new since we only get to go here about once a year while travelling. I usually order a vegetarian combo, but I got a chicken fiesta bowl instead. It was great! But the real question is what will I get next year? Hmmmm.

Day 58) Visited an animal shelter with our dear friend in Indiana. We got to hold and pet Pitbull mix puppies. So, I’m not in the market for a dog, but my youngest really, really wants a dog and my middle daughter really, really wants a cat. This was great for me–kids get to pet and play with animals that we are not responsible for!

Day 59) Ate pizza on the patio outside of our hotel pool. This was spectacular! We got to eat one of our favorite pizza’s (from Chicago’s Pizza in Franklin, IN), and the kids didn’t have to go shower and get dressed to go out for dinner. They could swim, eat, and swim some more. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this before! Thank you to Judy for picking up the pizza and spending time with us. And thank you, Hampton Inn for providing a neat place to eat.

Day 60) Fed flamingos. Can you guess we were at a zoo? To feed a flamingo, you hold out a little plastic cup with a bit of krill suspension in the bottom, and the flamingos will stick their beaks inside, and then it feels like they become little jackhammers, peck, peck, pecking at the bottom of the cups until it’s gone. Then they’ll check to see if your neighbor has any. Greedy buggers.

Day 61) Drank Mountain Dew instead of Coke. Usually at rest stops or restaurants when they have the fountain drinks available for you to get yourself, I will get mostly Diet Coke and add a splash of regular to sweeten it up just enough. This day a rest stop actually had Diet Mountain Dew and regular, so I did my mostly diet with a splash of regular. I really liked this. I would do this concoction again.

Day 62) Cleaned out my sock drawer. I know I have done this before, but this was a deliberate decision to do it now, while unpacking my suitcase, to thin out the drawer and forever get rid of unmatched socks. How does that even happen!?!?!

Day 63) I purposely did not bring something with me to do while waiting in a waiting room for my urine drug test. Okay, so I also didn’t plan on waiting for an hour. But as I was waiting, without any books or magazines or articles, etc, I thought: this will be my new thing today. It’s an interesting time to people-watch too.

Day 64) Gave my daughter a foot high-five. (I did mention that some of these were getting lame, right? It was her idea because I was whining that I couldn’t think of anything. Ha, ha. Problem was solved)

Day 65) Took pictures of artwork at the hospital. We actually have a hallway where artists display their work. Right now we have a quilt tapestry exhibit and these artists are phenomenal! This one was in the Harry Potter section . . .

Day 66) Decided in the morning that I would not go on Facebook today. I don’t think I’m addicted by any means, but when I’m home, it’s something that I gravitate to usually in an effort to chill for a moment or procrastinate on something. So I was not going to have that excuse today!

. . . but then I got an email that someone had posted an update . . . and I knew she was hugely pregnant, so I wanted to know . . . and then when I saw she didn’t have the baby, I kept scrolling . . . and found someone else who did have her baby!!! . . . and then I suddenly realized I had checked Facebook when I wasn’t supposed to.

Darn.

Day 67) Went to our county fair and watched a little RC car race that was mostly little kids running cars into each other. One of them even drove a loop backward. Eh, it was new for me to see this. We then proceeded to watch an acrobat guy and the rodeo–which is always entertaining.

Day 68) Watched 80’s music videos in the morning before work. Oh man. As a kid, I used to love Cindy Lauper . As an adult, I don’t really get it. What did “She Bop” actually mean? And what was with her dancing style? Same with Boy George. What the heck was up with his Karma Chameleon video? What was he trying to say!?!?! I could not understand their music videos at all. Madonna’s messages were at least clear to me. She’s a Material Girl–I get that.

Day 69) Visited the National Army Museum. I learned so much! I love museums.

Day 70) Made muffins after dinner for the morning. Talk about overachiever Mom here. I never prepped muffins the night before. I made some nutritious pumpkin oatmeal muffins, using almond flour, and with walnuts and raisins. In the morning, they were perfect. (with a little whip cream, of course)

So, thanks for reading. Sorry I had to play catch up so profoundly!

Hope this gave you some ideas!

The 90 Day Challenge Continues

Okay, guys, I’m still going strong. I’m on the 90-day challenge of doing something deliberately new every day. I’m reporting on days 31-40.

Day 31: Back on Day 26, I had dug out an old fondue pot and made a cheese fondue. Well, today I did chocolate! I love all sweets, and dipping sweets into chocolate amplifies the gooey, gooey goodness to new levels. Marshmallows, graham crackers, strawberries, raspberries, pretzels, angel food cake, and Oreos all taste amazing when dipped into chocolate.

Day 32: I was a complete nerd on this one. I did a literature review for a nursing journal article using the John Hopkin’s method of lit review. I hadn’t done one of these in about 6 years, so even though it wasn’t completely new, it was new enough for me to have to dust off my review skills to make this happen.

Continue reading

Momentum

Still got it! Still got it! For those of you following, I am continuing my 90-day challenge of doing something deliberately new every day. Today I’m on Day 32, and it’s getting just a tad harder to keep coming up with fresh ideas, but so far I’ve been able to do it. Here’s Day 21-30.

DAY 21: Meditated before work. I usually do some yoga and listen to a podcast or Joyce Meyers in the morning before work, but this day I didn’t turn anything on. I stretched in silence and my brain just chattered away about nothing and everything. I’m terrible at keeping my brain quiet, but this was definitely a different vibe.

DAY 22: Attended my youngest daughter’s 5th grade promotion outdoors (pandemic style) and wore a dress! It’s not like I never, ever wear dresses, but I don’t often choose dresses; I usually grab dress pants as “church clothes” when I’m going to an event.

Continue reading

It’s a Boy! (day 11-20)

The 90 day challenge continues. I’ve done something deliberately new every day for the first 20 days. See my 2 previous posts, Imposter Parent and First 10 Days of Something New. And, no, I’m not pregnant. Here’s day 11-20.

Day 11: Ran twice in one day. I always heard about crazy people who do this for training, and I read an article about it too, but never tried it. I did it. I ran in the morning by myself and in the evening with my 14 year old. The high was 86 and humid. Even though the runs were not refreshing, the Gatorade popsicles were absolute bliss.

Day 12: Learned a new diagnosis I had never heard of: hidradenitis suppurativa, an infection/inflammation of the sweat glands that could cause an abscess. Ouch.

Day 13: Barbequed on a brand new propane grill. I don’t know how to BBQ and this was my first true attempt, and it was a half-fail for me. I need to learn more, like having the grill hot enough so I’m not baking burgers at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. But I did it! We also ate a photo cake for my husband’s birthday. Hey, it’s not every day that you can eat your family.

Day 14: Tried the pomodoro technique. It’s a productivity hack based on Francesco Cirillo’s theory (in the 1980’s) where you do a task nonstop for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break and repeat, and every so often you take a longer break. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato because the guy used a timer shaped like a tomato. I like this technique; it works.

Day 15: Entered a flash fiction contest. Writer’s Digest has a flash fiction contest where they give you a picture and you write the first sentence to a story inspired by the picture. One sentence! Here’s a link if you are interested:https://www.writersdigest.com/wd-competitions/your-story-112

Day 16: Went to an art gallery in our historic downtown area to view local artists’ work. Very inspiring! I will never afford those paintings, but I think visiting local galleries is a great way to support art and culture. The girls and I also tried a new food: seaweed snacks! Kinda tastes like spinach. The kids didn’t like it.

Day 17: Made a list of favorite things. This was harder than I thought, but very revealing. I encourage everyone to do this. I have a great template if you want one, let me know!

Day 18: No dessert. For anyone who knows me, you know this was a challenge and even more so because I just picked a random day, not a religious commitment or special reason. Just went without sugar. I hope imaginary desserts don’t count because trust me, they were in my head.

Day 19: Walked after my work shift. Not that I needed exercise after being on my feet all day. I just thought a few minutes to clear my head would be pretty neat. And it was.

Day 20: Virtually attended a gender reveal party. I’ve never been to a gender reveal party. I’ve always thought of them as a bit silly, but after thinking about it more, I concluded that anything that celebrates life and brings people together is worthwhile. In this case my friend Elayne had her baby’s gender revealed on the Ferris wheel at National Harbor. For a few agonizing minutes, the lights danced around the Ferris wheel, pink and blue, then ended finally ended on all blue!

Readers, are you inspired to try something new every day? Do you have any ideas for me? 70 more days to go–I might need some!

First 10 Days of Something New

If you read my last post, I came up with a 90-challenge for myself: To do something new or different every day. This is an attempt to think outside the box a little, get out of routines and stale goals. So far, it’s going very well. At the end I might come up with an idea list for other people to be able to challenge themselves too. I highly recommend this experiment.

Day 1: Listened to country music. For those of you who love country music, you’re probably not impressed with this being a challenge for me. But really, I don’t listen to country. I listen to pop music, classic rock, and maybe I’ll tune in to Christian here and there, but country is not something I ever think about. It was pretty good–the first song on the radio was “Just a Dog” by Mo Pitney, and it made me want to cry. I looked up the artist. His voice sounds like he’s in his 40s or 50’s, but he’s only 28 years old. Good for him, LOL.

Day 2: I read fiction first thing in the morning instead of leaving it to the end of the day when I’m falling asleep. I really liked this! I ought to do it more often.

Day 3: No complaining. Holy guacamole, this was hard. I wore a bracelet to remind myself of my no-complaining commitment on this day. I ended up breaking my rule twice–one because my middle daughter forgot to say goodbye before she left in the morning and I whined about it, and the second was because I had printed out a policy at work that got me all riled up, and I vented to my oldest daughter. LOL. Overall, this was a positive experience.

Day 4: Random act of kindness. I cleaned my oldest daughter’s room while she was at school. It took me 90 minutes, but it looked 10 times better! I set up candles for when she came home. She was incredibly happy and grateful!

Day 5: Ate fast food at work. LOL. I know most people would be like–why is that different? But, it really was different for me. Our hospital leadership had purchased Chick-Fil-A boxed lunches for staff for hospital week and delivered them to us. I normally pack my own lunch and stay completely virtuous throughout my workdays, but I decided to go for it. The chicken sandwich hit the spot.

Day 6: Listed to a TED talk. Actually I picked two. One was about sugar and what sugar does to our brains; it was only 15 minutes. The other was about stress, which was also good, but had some really creepy, cartoonish graphics that were so weird I couldn’t focus on the content. There are so many TED talks to choose from–this is an easy, fun, interesting idea.

Day 7: Offered my husband a massage, spontaneously. Another random act of kindness. These are great. I like catching people off guard.

Day 8: Wrote a “Nurse Story” and submitted it to Nurse.com. I hope I can share this story on my blog, but since I submitted it for publication to their website, I need to read the rules about putting the story on another platform. I was nervous about submitting it, but I challenged myself to have courage and see if it will be accepted.

Day 9: Watch the sunset. I recruited my husband to do this with me. We sat outside on the tailgate of his pickup truck at first, then we decided to walk up the street to see it better over the horizon of a nearby farm. It was gorgeous, like a pastel version of a rainbow. interrupted by the pitch black silhouettes of distant trees. I need to do this more often too!

Day 10: Turned my old bike in for bike repairs. I’ve been putting this off for 6 years. My orange Cannondale bike was a gift from my parents when I graduated college in 2000. It has been with me for 21 years, shipped to Alaska, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, and Virginia. I last used it in Indiana, had crashed on it just before moving (a little embarrassing), messed up the brakes and broke some plastic piece on the gears. It’s been in storage in our shed. It will be resurrected! I will use it again!

So, here we are at Day 11. I don’t think I’ll be jumping out of any airplanes or tightrope walking, but these new/different challenges are pretty cool. I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, have you ever done any 30, 60, or 90 day challenges? What was that like?

Imposter Parent

You know how it’s easy to encourage our children to shoot for the stars? Go after their dreams? Take risks and be the person they were meant to be? We want so much for them to not let fear or a bad test grade or a lost friendship to discourage them. We want them to overcome a setback and press on without looking back. We believe in them. We see past their mistakes and keep looking at the potential. We are their coaches and cheerleaders and audience and bus drivers and maybe even the post-game caterer, making sure they stay in the arena and never give up. Play hard, learn hard, celebrate hard!

And don’t mind me, I’m just over here folding laundry.

Parenting does a lot to our brains. For me, it makes me emphasize safety. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately about life coaching (thanks to my certified life coach sister), and some of them are amazing!!! But the last one made me really question if I’m limiting myself. I encourage my kids, but do I encourage myself? Why not? I already know 90% of my why not’s is because of fear. Fear of the unknown, insecurity, financial fears, fear of time limitations and aging. The list goes on. And on.

For an eye-opening exercise, I made a list of life wants and don’t-wants, seeing if they lined up with my usual goals and how I spend my time. The kids and I also decided to set up 90-day challenges for ourselves, and I needed to make my decisions fast. To squeeze in a 90-day challenge before the start of school next year, we needed to start today!

I made my want list. I made my don’t want list. Have you ever done that? It makes you very self-conscious, which is kind of the point.

Looking at the lists, I decided I am boring. I am playing life safe. I want security and to stay out of debt and plan for retirement. I chose intellectual stimulation, never stop learning, and I want to share what I learned, which is nice, but not spectacular. I want to help people, but only within my abilities to help. I want some travelling, but only English-speaking places unless I travel with a tour group. I want to keep running as long as I can run, but I didn’t specify a race goal or choose to become a running coach. I want to stay fit at my current fitness level and maintain my current weight. I want a clean, tidy house that the kids could invite friends to, but I didn’t say I wanted big parties. I want a reliable vehicle, but I didn’t aspire to own a specific model or cool sports car or motorcycle. I stopped short of listing a Master’s degree because I know myself–I’m too worried about the cost and sacrifice, especially if it takes anything away from the kids.

Dang.

You guys, I bored myself just looking at my list. I didn’t find my own wants inspiring. They were just mom-ish and typical. They didn’t involve any blood, sweat, and tears (except being a nurse implies some blood, sweat, and tears).

So, I decided for my 90-day challenge, I would do something different every day. Just shake myself up a bit for 90 days, go out of my normal routine and comfort level for a while. I will also spend some time coming up with lofty goals, even if I don’t ultimately choose them, just envision them.

Who knows? Maybe writing a best seller is in my future.

Maybe I will be running a marathon on the Great Wall of China.

Maybe I’ll design a national medication safety program that will save millions of lives and be endorsed by the World Health Organization.

And while I’m pursuing those lofty dreams, it will probably be my parents who cheer me on the most. After all, parents are pretty good at that.

What a Race Looks Like Now

I ran a 10K race in person yesterday, and I was downright giddy. I don’t know many people who get that excited about a running race. My kids would be giddy if I announced an amusement park getaway. My husband would be giddy if I proposed we all did chores nonstop for 16 hours. My sister would be giddy about a life-coach workshop. What would make you giddy, readers? A vacation? A chance to meet a favorite author? A shopping spree at your favorite store?

Me? I’m giddy about racing, and the pandemic only strengthened that desire.

I typically race only three or four times a year, partly because I work a lot of Saturdays, and partly because I’m a cheapskate and races are expensive. I ran one with my middle daughter the first weekend of March in 2020, right before everything shut down. I was so happy that we squeezed in one last race before they all got cancelled. I ran a few virtual races during the shutdown–a 10K Turkey Trot, a 10K at Redondo Beach, and a 5K Chocoholic Frolic (which came with a box of chocolates and a nice medal!), but I can’t drum up the same feelings in a virtual race compared to a real one. With virtual, there’s no variety, no energy around me. Virtual races are only mildly better than a hard training run.

I’m fully vaccinated and still careful because we–as a society–can’t be complacent about covid. If I wasn’t vaccinated, though, I would not have run in person. That’s my personal opinion and choice. In my head, I referred to the porta-potties as corona-potties just to keep myself vigilant.

The race was organized by Bishop’s Events, and this one raised money for animal rescue (Awww! That made the entry fee even more worthwhile!). The coordinators asked everyone to wear a mask when around other people. All the runners I saw wore masks around the registration area and the starting line, but I would say about 90% of us had our masks on our chins during the race itself. I pulled mine up if I passed a bunch of people. The 10K only had 21 runners, so we had our own starting wave, and the 81 people in the 5K had staggered starts to keep everyone spread apart.

The race was at Neabsco Regional Park in Woodbridge, VA, a quaint park with a beautiful, wide boardwalk that meanders over the marshy area of Neabsco Creek, which feeds into Occoquan Bay. The race was about half paved walking trail and half boardwalk. I was a complete idiot and didn’t take pictures, so I have to go back (with the kids perhaps) and take some. It had just finished raining, so the green, vibrant marsh next to the steely gray skies added a certain uniqueness to the experience. I also saw the prototypical crane standing in the marsh, probably wondering what all these brightly colored people were doing pounding along his boardwalk on a Sunday morning.

I came in second for women at 48:28 (7:48/mile pace), 7th overall for the 10K. I had a pretty even interval between me and the female ahead of me, but she beat me by 3 minutes. That’s okay–I’d rather be beat by a lot than be only 30 seconds behind and wish I could have done something different. Both her and I would have won the 5K if we had been in that race, LOL. My first mile was my fastest (7:12) and my last mile was my slowest (8:12). That’s okay too. That tells me I didn’t save anything until the end. Someone handed me a plaque with my 2nd place etched in it at the end–I was too tired to even see who handed it to me. No award ceremonies yet; we gotta keep kicking covid in the butt so we can get award ceremonies back. But I took advantage of the individually packaged snacks at the end, as in I picked out the rainbow goldfish to give to my youngest because she loves those.

I offer no complaints about this race. I was ecstatic to be back in the game after sitting on the sidelines for over a year. Even though covid took so much away, and for longer than we ever imagined, I got back a deeper appreciation for things I enjoy, and I hope others have been able to find that too.

I am looking forward to the next race at the Prince William Fairgrounds . . .

in 27 days!

If you live in northern Virginia–come run with me!!!!

Integrity

Imagine being back in middle school, those awkward days of hoping everyone likes you, finding how you fit in with your peers, and feeling pulled between doing the right thing and doing the cool thing. Lordy, you are probably saying, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to those days. But go there with me for a second. Imagine little you, wearing your brand name sweatshirt and your hair styled perfectly (in case anyone notices), and you just saw three popular people cheat on an assignment right before your eyes. What would you do?

It’s really hard for me to say what I would have done. I could picture myself staying quiet and hoping the students magically got caught because if they knew it was me who told, I don’t know if I could face their wrath. I could also picture myself telling a teacher, but very reluctantly, still thinking about how mean kids could get revenge.

My 14-year-old had this dilemma.

Let me preface what happened by saying how much easier it is for kids to cheat nowadays. All they have to do is use their computers or devices. Apparently, if they use their own personal computers, not the school-issued computers, it’s even easier. They can copy and paste and share answers and look stuff up during exams, text each other answers, have a game open on their computer instead of being present in class. Be in a chat room during class. Oh, trust me, I hear from my middle schooler and high schooler about how bad it is. If a kid is sitting there doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are a minority.

Teachers are either oblivious or do not have authority to do anything. I asked my kids, can’t teachers tell everyone “hands up!” and go around to see what is on people’s devices. My kids were like, no way, they can’t do that! According to my girls, teachers can’t make people use the school issued computers, unless it’s for standardized tests. They also can’t make the virtual students turn on their cameras or participate. They can’t look at a browser history or closed tabs or anything like that either. And then I asked why can’t teachers just do pen-and-paper stuff anymore!?!? My kids claim the teachers don’t want to touch papers because of covid.

Oh my gosh.

So, back to the dilemma. My daughter had a substitute for one of her classes, of course. When there is a substitute, the kids bring out their devil horns. She said several kids were purposely making extra noises, moving their desks, and being rude to begin with. Then during an individual classroom assignment, she witnessed three kids sending each other answers over their devices. She also told me that one of the girls is known for doing other people’s work all the time. My daughter was really in a bind, however, because they would figure out, based on seating arrangements, that it must have been her who told on them. (I’m assuming they have enough brains to think about that, but I could be giving them more credit that they deserve.)

She had already made up her mind to tell the teacher, but she wanted to do it anonymously, if possible. She even said she was willing to take a group punishment instead of singling these three out because she didn’t want them to know she told on them. I talked her out of offering that option to her teacher. Class punishments or group punishments happen too often; I remember being in those situations at school, and I hated it. Perpetrators just get away with their behavior and nothing changes.

I was very proud of her for wanting to do something, for identifying that kids who cheat need to be held accountable. I reminded her that she is using God’s gift of fortitude and respect for her teacher, and she’s standing up for what’s right. And she has to consider that middle school kids are mean–they could probably retaliate. They could spawn rumors. They could bully her. She was willing to take that risk. I asked if she ever felt the temptation to cheat, especially if it’s so easy, but she said she wouldn’t feel right. She would feel too guilty, and it wasn’t worth it.

Let’s hope that sticks.

I looked up how much cheating is going on these days, and the data sickens me. Some colleges have to hire proctoring companies to monitor kids during tests, and even with that costly program, it’s not enough. Most kids who want to cheat are getting away with it. What do we do about it? Raise kids to have a moral backbone. Pray that kids have a good relationship with God. Pray that kids don’t use the real world to teach them the difference between right and wrong because the real world is full of mixed messages and compromised values masquerading as “normal” and “expected” and, yes, the all-important middle-school value of being “cool.”

If you are interested, here is an article about college cheating issues in 2020.

So, readers, ever find yourself in a similar situation? How did that go? What are your thoughts about cheating nowadays?

Mom Grief

My youngest went back to in-person schooling on Monday, four days a week. Wednesdays are “asynchronous” days where kids are expected to do some homework, and it gives teachers time to work on lessons and strategies for doing the in-person/virtual combination. Most of the kids in our county are back in elementary school now, although my daughter said a few kids are still virtual through the end of the year. The older two will go back April 5.

Dropping my daughter off, I felt a crazy mix of emotions. I went through all the stages of grief between dropping her off and driving home. The renowned psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, first published the five stages of grief in 1969, and they still make sense. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That’s a lot of emotions for a fifteen minute drive.

The emotions started with a sense of denial that this was even real. In the car line, masked teachers opened car doors, sweet little kids popped out, wearing masks, marching into the building where they were going to use hand sanitizer before entering classrooms. Based on the communication from the school, the kids would be sitting apart, not sitting close to each other at lunch; they would be letting only one kid go through the lunch line at a time (which is why we are packing lunches), and everyone would be cleaning and hand sanitizing all day. It’s a scene I never, ever imagined would happen. It’s like the Twilight Zone.

After she went inside, and as I was staying out of the way of yellow buses, I briefly felt anger. I was just angry that COVID happened, that we’ve had to do school at home for a year, that the kids didn’t get a normal school year. That she wasn’t on a bus! (We decided that would be additional opportunity for exposure). But I didn’t stay angry for long because the tears came as I was rolling out of the school driveway.

The next stage is bargaining, which is somewhat like protesting or making promises to God if He could just change something. But bargaining can manifest as a feeling of helplessness. I felt like there was nothing I could do about any of this, and that’s an overwhelming feeling to have, especially when driving. This is the stage of loss where we dig up regrets and wonder if we should have acted differently with loved ones. I felt angst that even though we were together for a year of virtual schooling, I could have done better. We had talked about doing extra things, like making our own baking class and extra field trips, but we didn’t do it regularly. I should have read with her more. I should have been more patient with her (especially with her writing). I should have quizzed her more on math. I should have not started my nursing blog because that pulls me away from kids. All the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s slammed me like running into a school bus.

When the panic subsided, and I was driving passed cow farms, I just let myself feel sad and depressed, and I recognized that I missed her, but I knew she was getting back to where she needed to be, with friends, with teachers, and figuring life out without me around all the time.

By the time I was back home, I had accepted the new reality. I shifted to thinking about my hill workout and how I could pop into the grocery store afterward to pick up my corned beef and cabbage without too many people smelling me. Hey, it’s a valid concern.

The day flew by, and it wasn’t long before it was time to pick her up again. In the car, she animatedly talked about her school day, assuring me that everyone kept their masks on, informing me as to who she played with at recess, telling me about her art class, and about how hungry she was by lunchtime. And at that moment, I couldn’t stop smiling.