Philosophy

Politics

In reflecting on the past two years and the pandemic, I can see how the experience has changed me in many ways. One of the biggest ways is with my views on politics and political issues.

What I actually think about the individual issues is not the important thing here. What is important is that I live in a very diverse area, and the majority of my friends have slightly different political leanings than mine. So during this time of incredible polarization, I have had a number of conversations that have altered not what I think about the individual issues as much as how I view the system in general.

Before I go into the specifics, I do want to say that I welcome your views in the comments, as long as there is no personal attacking. I am not going to argue, because there is enough of that. This post is my place to be heard, and the comments will be a place for others to be heard, if they wish.

So here are some of the ways my views on politics have changed during the pandemic:

I Think the Two Party System Discourages Independent Thought

Honestly, I find people’s political arguments and meme-sharing to be annoying, because it is unnecessary. Nobody in the U.S. dares to go against their party. And political party affiliation dictates everything from how we feel about the issues to what fast food restaurants we patronize. It’s ridiculous.

What is the point of even voicing opinions, when they are just every single opinion that our favored party holds? Why not just post “R” or “D” on Facebook and be done with it? And the fun part is, if we really look at it, many of the opinions contradict each other.

Around election time, I started a thread on Facebook, asking people what views they held that were different than their typical political leaning. It was a great discussion. There were Republicans who thought health care needed to be improved, Democrats who were against abortion, and so on. It was a positive discussion that focused on finding common ground. And it went well until I shared one of my views and people started arguing.

It needs to be more acceptable to hold these views. Political parties are dictating people’s opinions, not the opposite. It is perfectly okay to be against gun control but in favor of marriage equality. We can want lower taxes and green energy. Who we vote for is our choice, but we don’t have to pretend to agree with them on every single issue.

The Two-Party System Discourages Actual Solutions

The polarization also seems to discourage people from working together to solve actual problems. Take the pandemic for example. One side pushed for lockdowns. The other side pushed for 100% business as usual. It seems like the real solution lie somewhere in the middle.

It does not help when the politicians’ rhetoric is on defeating or blaming the other party, rather than working together. We have opposing views, because each side has concerns to bring to the table. But when one side wants all or nothing, we usually end up with nothing.

My conversations with my friends have shown me that there is plenty of common ground. There are plenty of solutions that would make us both happy.

It is time to focus on what is right, instead of who is right.

There is More to a Person’s Character Than Political Affiliation

There have been plenty of memes going around, stating that someone’s political leanings indicate their values. And that we should only associate with people with similar values.

Just because someone votes one way, does not tell very much about their values. Since the two-party system has made independent thought unnecessary, we assume that everyone has adopted all of the positions of the party they voted for.

The truth is, if people actual think about each and every position their favorite party holds, they will find many they disagree with. People vote based on the positions that are most important to them in their lives. That position will be weighted against the others.

Demonizing people with different ideas is not the way to find solutions. Listening to them, even if their ideas sound absurd, and trying to understand the root of their concerns, is the way toward win-win solutions.

Everyone Wants to be Heard

Social media echo chambers are so popular, because people just want to be heard. We live in a time where everyone feels threatened if their views are not echoed, when, really, someone else’s opinion is no threat to them at all.

I get it. I had a hard time with the lockdown and threats of more lockdowns, so I saw it as a personal threat when friends expressed views in favor of such measures. But those friends were not trying to hurt me. They had their own experiences, and their own fears, which led their view to be what they were.

In the same vein, education is very important to me, since teaching is my livelihood. If someone speaks out against public education, it is hard for me not to see it as a personal attack. But it is not a personal attack. That person has their own life experiences, their own story, and that is the reason behind their views.

The important thing is that we hear the stories. When someone tells us their views and the reasons behind them, we don’t need to choose a side or argue. We only need to hear and understand that person.

The real solutions lie in hearing and understanding. It is when people feel heard, when they feel like their experiences, their voices, are being considered, that they will begin to listen and work together.

The Truth is Very Difficult to Find

When I was a kid, at 6:00, my parents would turn on the local news program. The anchor would read the news stories, and we would formulate our own opinions about the facts that were presented.

That is not reality anymore.

Now I can choose any current event, Google it, and find results that toward whatever bias shows up in my search history the most. And if I search further, I can find the same story with the opposite slant. Finding truly neutral facts is very difficult.

This makes it extremely difficult to be informed about current events. Based on my own research, both sides agree that Reuters is neutral, so that is usually where I go to fact-check. But it is a lot of work, and it is very easy to get sucked into opinion-based articles masquerading as fact.

How I am Dealing With It

So what is my solution, for my own life? I know that I am not going to single-handedly change our political system. My world is very small, and that is fine.

What I am going to do is listen and understand more. If I begin doing these things, perhaps those around me will do the same. Peace begins that way, in the community, on the small level. And it is from there, that it grows.

I am going to do my best to be an educated voter, and I am not going to stay tied to the two parties. If I think a third party candidate will be best, I will vote for them. The only way to change the two party system, is to start voting for third party candidates as well. I am only one voice, but that is how I am choosing to use my one voice.

Finally, I am going to focus on what I am doing and what I can do to make the world a better place. Because how we live our lives, is the most powerful vote that we cast.

About Us, Health, Philosophy

Reflecting on the Past Two Years

Two years ago today, was the last Friday of spring break, 2020. I was obsessively checking my email, to see if we would be going back to school on Monday, but it didn’t have the excitement of a snow day.

Spring and Summer 2020

In the beginning, we thought sheltering in place for two weeks would keep things under control…

It’s hard to pinpoint when normalcy ended for me. In February, Rob and I had taken a bike riding trip in Montrose, Houston and had a lovely weekend. These were the “last normal” pictures that would be on phone as things changed.

Shortly after our trip, we both got very sick. Coincidentally, people were just starting to talk about “coronavirus,” but I wasn’t worried. I had taught through SARS, MRSA, H1N1, and even ebola scares. Iliana even caught MRSA and, after a minor ordeal, had recovered. I remembered when we all had waited in the auditorium at the school where I taught in Michigan, so we could get our H1N1 vaccines. I never joined in a the panic for any of these–practicing good hygiene and self-care seemed to be adequate.

Everyone at work was sick with the same annoying bug, so I figured it was just that. Rob ended up in the ER at one point, and I wondered if I should be wearing a mask, since they had signs up about coronavirus precautions. I sneezed and coughed, and nobody offered me one to wear or even said anything.

We recovered from whatever, just in time for spring break and a 4-day trip to Elijah’s Retreat, our happy place. This was a completely normal visit as well. Nobody wore masks, and there weren’t even any signs up at the Walmart in town. All three cabins were occupied.

Iliana cried our last day there, so Cheryl, the owner, cheered her up by booking our next visit, which would be in August. Little did I know how much would transpire before then.

When we returned home, nothing was normal. There were posts on Facebook about “social distancing” and how we should stop hugging. People were beginning to wear masks, but CDC was advising against it.

Places were closing, and Michigan went on lockdown. The whole notion of lockdown terrified me, because we only keep one week’s worth of groceries on hand at a time. I ran out to the store and stocked up on a month’s worth of supplies, hoping that would be enough to sustain us! Like many people, I didn’t realize that grocery stores would stay open in a lockdown. I think a lack of communication from our leadership led to a lot of the issues with panic shopping in the early days of the pandemic. We did not, however, contribute to the toilet paper shortage, as we used the marina’s bath house.

Yoga, of course, made me nervous. First, because my community at Moonlight is like an extended family to me, and yoga is a major support for me, especially in times of stress. Second, because I knew that my teacher was a single mother of 3, who relied on her income from teaching in order to survive and care for her family. I wanted her to be okay, and I wanted our community to still be there after the craziness was over.

I assured Cass, in private, that I would bring my own props and be very careful if school stayed open. I knew that students and teachers had a lot of resistance to coronaviruses in general, because a number of colds are caused by coronaviruses, so that I would likely catch the virus but be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

At our last class in the studio, when Cass was in the restroom, we all agreed to keep paying our regular amount, even if everything shut down.

And so, that Monday, Texas shut down.

I Facetimed two of my friends during this time, and I think we helped keep each other sane. This is when I began to do “What if Up” with a friend who was very high risk. None of us knew what was going to happen, and not being able to see other people made it more difficult.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with school. I was a behavior assistant, and we were told we would be paid our regular salary for the remainder of the year. We were to stand by for further instructions, and a virtual meeting was scheduled for Friday.

In the meantime, I tried to homeschool Ili. Sometimes it was fun. We did science experiments and she enjoyed her art projects in the beginning. I bought badminton set and gave her options for P.E. She often chose yoga or bike riding.

By Wednesday, however, we were both feeling down. She didn’t want to do her reading or social studies. I didn’t want to worry about my future.

During the lockdown, Walmart was open. So I went there Thursday morning, before Iliana woke up. After I made my purchases, she texted me and asked what homework she should be doing. I sent her a picture and asked her, blue or green?

She chose blue.

Ili’s school is very strict on dress code, so dying our hair was a big deal for both of us!

The hair dye did the trick, and I got a lot of smiles from people when I went out.

On one of my grocery trips, I bought Ili her first yoga mat…

Her teachers posted lessons, and she kept busy in every subject, especially cooking and art class!

And I bought lots of matching outfits! I shopped, a lot. It seemed like buying things for us to do, and sending Amazon gifts to friends I could not see, was all that I could do.

And of course we were us! We played the board game, “Pandemic” and otherwise tried to make the best out of doomsday.

Once the teachers were up and running with distance learning, the assistants were given orders. I began tutoring second graders, who were fascinated that I lived on a boat!

Ili kept Jasmine busy!

Easter was forced and disappointing, but it did bring some funny memories!

Meanwhile, marina life was becoming less enjoyable.

In the beginning of the shutdown, we decided that the entire property constituted “home,” so we roamed about freely, talking to neighbors and otherwise socializing. Quarantining is not really possible in a communal setting.

However, by April, the marina limited the hours that the bath house was open. You could only use the shared restrooms and showers between 8 am and 8 pm. And the pump-out for holding tanks remained broken. Our tank was full, so if nature called at night or early morning (which it often does, for me), I was out of luck. I am prone to stomach issues anyway, and soon I began to look pregnant. We bought a porta-potty, but since the porta-potty dump out was also broken, our days of having a toilet were limited. We needed a permanent solution.

Enter the apartment above the store Rob managed. It had me at hello, even if we did need to install flooring first!

While the world was shut down, we moved to the most beautiful place we have ever lived.

My employer sent me a decal that made me tear up…I still use the mug today!

“Educators work from the heart, no matter where they are. #IheartOdyssey”

I got to go back to my classroom to clean up for the end of the year. I saw my bulletin board…

And the board for our unfinished Pokemon tournament. We had one game to go, after spring break.

Iliana became a teenager on May 27. We had a Zoom party, and all of her friends were send Dairy Queen gift certificates and packs of Pokemon cards! The kids had a Pokemon game, but the virtual “socialization” tired them out quickly.

Ili’s stuffed animals attended in person.

We did our best!

Rob and I had resisted virtual 5k’s, but the “Social Distancing Run” had a cool medal, so we gave it a go! It appears that I set a PR…(which is likely, because I am early enough in my running that I set a PR in every race)

Happily, we had a bit of normalcy in June, when the Wednesday night sailboat races resumed. Ili and I had our first experience eating out, since the restaurant had outdoor seating!

I tried to do an outing with Ili everyday, even if our options were limited. We went to dog parks, watched Jurassic Park for $5 at the fancy movie theater, and went on lots of picnics on the walking trails near our apartment.

I was starting to wonder if I had had the virus back in February, so I got antibody testing. I was optimistic, thinking that a positive result would mean that I was done with masks and precautions. I tested negative. It really was just a flu bug or whatever.

We enjoyed a weekend at Brazos Bend campground, which had just reopened at half capacity. It was a mask-free outdoor weekend that we enjoyed. There is no cell reception there, but cases were declining when we left. We relaxed, thinking it was the beginning of the end…

Of course when we got back, we saw that cases were surging. It was a surge that would continue for about a year.

I shopped more than I should have at that time, and that is when I began my Marshall’s habit. It was there that I found a mug with the Bible verse that is on a sticky note on the wall of our favorite cabin at Elijah’s Retreat. And the cup was made by Sheffield House, which is significant because Elijah’s is located on Sheffield Rd. I took it as a sign that we would be keeping our August reservation (Elijah’s was still closed at that time).

The Fourth of July was like Easter–we tried. There were no fireworks, and we shot off snakes and sparklers in the parking lot. We spent the 3rd camping at a KOA, where Iliana did enjoy the playground and barrel train. And of course we got matching outfits!

There was a trip to the beach, with a scary misadventure that we don’t like to think about…

And eventually, the return trip to Elijah’s became a reality! It wasn’t the end of the pandemic, but it was the end of the beginning of the pandemic. Fall awaited, with uncertainty.

During that time, I had one friend whose husband got sick and was unable to get off of a ventilator. This was terrifying, but otherwise I knew very few people who even caught the virus.

Fall 2020: Falling into a “New Normal”

During this time, you wore a mask and carried a spare!

In August, our county was in even more of a surge, and we wondered if we would be returning to school in person. It was a scary time, and my mind went through every possible “what if.”

What if I got sick and lost income while I had to quarantine? What if I needed the ICU but was denied treatment because I do not have insurance? What if I spread the virus to my family?

It was decided that Texas schools would be in-person within a short amount of time, and that virtual and hybrid options also had to be available to families. I planned on having Iliana attend using a hybrid model, since that would help keep classes smaller.

Masks were required, students had clear dividers on their desks, and our school had a UV air sanitation system installed. Everyone was nervous on our first day of staff development, and our principal tearfully urged each of us to do all we could to keep our students safe.

Then, the students came in.

Everyone was happy to be back, and the mood was light, even with the masks and dividers. We decided that Iliana would attend in person full time, since she was going to be exposed to the virus from me anyway (and also, Rob was working, since his store was considered to be “essential.”

Ili was happy to be back, but she fell asleep as soon as she got home!

Shortly after we began going to school full-time, there was talk of storms approaching in the Gulf. First there was Marco, and then there was Laura. After a tense weekend, it seemed that Marco was dissipating and Laura would miss us. So, I was surprised when I arrived at school on Monday, and no students were there.

I learned that Marco and Laura had combined and were now heading our way. It was imminent enough that we were to prepare the school building, then head home to prepare or evacuate.

We had stayed during Harvey, and our building had not flooded in Harvey or Ike. So we stocked up our apartment, filled our emergency water tank, and hunkered down.

Ultimately, the waiting game kept us out of school for a week. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued, but we still felt like we could safely stay. Then the day came, when Laura was supposed to hit.

Here are some pictures from that day…

Laura missed us and turned toward Louisiana. They were hit with what was called an “unsurvivable storm surge.” We decided that we would evacuate if a storm like that ever headed our way again.

I had been moved to the special education department that year, and during our time off, our teacher unexpectedly resigned. Two years after I quit teaching, I put in my application and did a quick interview. On September 11, 2020, I began teaching full time once again!

This was not a time of staying at home for us! We took precautions that seemed reasonable and did a lot of outdoor activities.

Other states were going on and off of lockdown throughout this time, but everything in Texas stayed open, with a lot of regulations. We decided what we were comfortable doing, and what would be best to wait to do. Yoga was the only indoor activity I did at this time, since we took a lot of precautions and for me, the benefits clearly outweighed any risks.

To that point, every holiday during the pandemic was disappointing. I was determined that Halloween would be different. We carved some pumpkins to put in front of the store, went to socially distanced trunk-or-treat, and wore masks while we handed out individually-bagged candy by the park on Clear Lake Shores island.

After our Halloween success, we decided to go on a trip before Thanksgiving. We went to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone park, which has long been a favorite destination for Iliana. While it was a pleasant enough trip, it was disappointing for a few reasons. First, Iliana’s favorite activities: the hay ride and the movies, were cancelled due to Covid. And second, Iliana had outgrown many of the other activities that were offered.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, was a rousing success! We had not seen my parents often since the start of the pandemic. We occasionally had outdoor meals at their house, and one time we met up at a park. We invited them over for Thanksgiving, since having a socially distanced meal was easy to do in our apartment.

And we had a wonderful Christmas! I bought decorations for our apartment, opting for the silver-and-gold motif, since we were expecting to live there for awhile. Santa was very good to us, and we had a lot of fun visiting my family and coming up with fun activities for just the three of us.

We were able to see our friends, the Davises, over Christmas break as well. Things were definitely looking up, going into 2021! I chose “faith” as my word of the year.

Winter and Spring 2021: The End is in Sight?

If only!

January 2021 was a mess right away. I knew the election would be contentious, but as the conflicting versions of “truth” and the violence became worse, I worried that there would be divisions between my friends who have different views and me. Of course that was not the case. Everything is black and white nationwide, but individual people have individual view and values. We decided to live our lives and do the best we could, where we were.

So let’s skip to February. February was one of the most eventful months of 2021. We entered the month optimistic, because the vaccine was out and would become available to teachers by the end of the school year. It seemed that the pandemic would soon be over, and we were fully expecting to celebrate the fourth of July without masks.

I continued with my yoga practice and celebrated by “yogaversary” on February 1.

Rob’s birthday was was February 9…

I knew a few people who had the virus. Everyone recovered completely, but most people were coughing a bit when they returned to school. I decided to help myself to a week’s worth of TEA-issued N95 masks (wearing each mask one day a week at work), just to be safe.

I wore my regular mask (made from a bedsheet with a HEPA filter) when Rob and I went thrift-shopping on his ill-fated birthday trip…

I missed a week of yoga after a student in one of the classes I worked with tested positive. Then, right when it was time to go back, we had the freeze. Of course, we had a full apartment. I had a UTI right after our trip, which cleared up with antibiotics. During the freeze, my knee hurt like crazy and I was constantly slathering Lidocaine on it. I blamed the cold and lack of yoga.

Right after the freeze, Rob got a nasty cold. He was struggling to get through days at work, and he even took a couple days off. I laughed at him for being “man sick.”

February 26 was “Go Texan Day.” Iliana and I found some cowboy hats to wear.

My allergies started bothering me that day, and I started smelling strange musty smells. I wondered if I had left something in my room, or if I were starting with a sinus infection. I didn’t feel sick.

That afternoon, Rob texted me and said that he had lost his sense of smell. It would be two weeks before Iliana and I would see the world outside our apartment!

Rob tested positive that evening. I slept in Iliana’s room that night, but I woke up with muscle aches and a slight fever. I tested positive the next day. Ili tested negative, but we assumed she would get it, since we could not really quarantine from each other in our small apartment.

What was my first thought when Rob tested positive? Missing even more yoga, of course! Cass sent me some very encouraging texts and assured me that there would be a place for me once I recovered and returned. She urged me to do her yin videos on Facebook. I did them religiously every morning while I was in quarantine, and they gave me two hours of feeling really good and energetic right afterward. I also think they helped keep the virus from affecting my lungs.

I texted back and forth with my team and tried to work from home, but the virus seemed to be mainly attacking my brain and central nervous system. I found that while I felt energetic after taking some ibuprofen, I was completely unable to focus and got really tired if I spent too much time on mental tasks.

On February 27, the day I tested positive, I received an email, stating that teachers were now eligible for the vaccine. I knew I would have at least three months of immunity, but I didn’t want to miss out on my opportunity to get the vaccine. So I signed up for the Friday after my return-to-work date.

Since Rob’s symptoms started before mine, he was able to return to work before me. He still had a cough and shortness of breath, and it was three months before he was able to run again.

I bought a pulse oximeter, which always read a reassuring 99%. I used it before sneaking out to run, near the end of my quarantine (it was in the evenings, and I had a route where I could avoid people easily).

On March 9, I returned to work, but I needed a lot of help to do my job duties. Physically, I felt fine (although it would be another week before my sense of smell returned), but I still had difficulty focusing and got tired from mental tasks. I wore a face shield, since I knew I had temporary immunity.

That day, I got an email from work, saying that my vaccine appointment had been moved to that day! So on day 10, I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

I figured that I wouldn’t notice side effects, since I already felt crappy. Boy, was I wrong! I was absent from work the next day.

Thankfully, spring break was just around the corner, and we went on our bike riding trip in Montrose!

Ili and I also ventured to the zoo during spring break.

Then it was back to school! I was on temperature-checking duty, as usual.

Iliana designed a giant kite and won multiple awards for it!

Easter was much-improved and relatively normal.

Iliana and I returned to Camp Be an Angel that month. It was a modified format, to allow for social distancing, and I had a feeling that Iliana was outgrowing many of the activities. This appears to have been our last time going to camp.

In May, Iliana had an antibody test, which would have been helpful for summer camp. (Campers needed a positive antibody test within the past 3 months, a negative test within the past week, or proof of vaccination–and Iliana couldn’t get the vaccine yet). We assumed that Iliana had had the virus when we did, because she had seemed a bit tired and under the weather, and she snuggled with us a lot.

However, her symptoms were all in our head, because she tested negative for antibodies. Which means that, as far as we know, nobody caught Covid from us.

The day after school got out, we celebrated Iliana’s 14th birthday. We enjoyed racing with the Mario Kart home edition, and then we went to a hotel and played some Oregon Trail (I died of dysentery).

Things were definitely looking up, going into summer!

Summer 2021: Lipstick on the Fourth of July

Summer began with a ceramic-painting outing with the Davises, since Ili and Ava share a birthday. They wore masks, but I tried not to. At that time the vaccine was very effective, and I had heard that people who had the virus and then got vaccinated might have more immunity.

Speaking of vaccines, it was now Iliana’s turn to get her first Pfizer shot! (Rob got the J & J around the same time I got my vaccine). This would make summer camp much easier.

With our new immunity, Iliana and I embarked on a long-awaited mall date!

Then it was time for a mask-less camping trip at Brazos Bend!

Ili had a get-together with her school friend, Elly.

And we made what would likely be our last trip to Elijah’s Retreat. It was fun, but bittersweet, because Ili had outgrown most of the activities.

All of my excursions off the property led to Lyme disease symptoms a week later, but unlike Covid, Lyme disease is easily treated by staying on antibiotics for a LONG time, if you catch the symptoms early. I was symptom-free after my first week on the medicine. Interestingly enough, Jasmine our dog, tested positive for heartworm around the same time, and we both had to take doxycycline for the rest of the summer.

Most importantly, I was able to wear lipstick on the Fourth of July!

We had the Davises over and watched the fireworks from our sailboat.

With her vaccine card in hand, Iliana headed off to Camp Blessing! (It would be her last year as a camper, but she is going to be a volunteer this summer!)

While she was gone, Rob and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in San Antonio.

Summer was winding down, but it was looking to be a relatively normal school year. I threw out all but a couple of our masks and was ready to get on with life.

Before school started, we decided to bookend the summer with another bike riding trip in Montrose.

What didn’t make it into the pictures were the masks that we wore in every store that we entered. Precautions were back, and more so than during our trip in May. The Delta variant had emerged, and other countries were going on lockdown. Suddenly, the prospect of being locked inside again and school going virtually, was a definite possibility. And vaccines were no longer the get-out-of-jail -free card that they had been.

Fall and Christmas 2021: Dealing with Delta

We got ready to go back to school

And the issue of masks at school became a contentious one. Over the summer, our governor had signed an order stating that masks could not be required on state and municipal property. This included schools.

However, with the Delta variant, the local judge had signed an order requiring masks in schools. Their bickering was annoying, because we just wanted to know what we were supposed to do. I did the research and learned that because I had the virus and was then vaccinated, even with Delta, I had a 1 in 10,000 chance of getting the virus. So I was not worried. But I wanted those around me to feel safe, so I opted for a face shield (with a stick-on rhinestone tiara, of course!).

Iliana got herself a black mask and found ways to incorporate it into her look.

September, of course, brought hurricane Nicholas. This was a rather nice storm, as it got us a day off of school and didn’t do much damage.

In spite of all the Delta craziness, Rob and I did manage to enter a 5k for my 43rd birthday!

Up to this point, I knew one person who had lost a loved one to Covid. During Delta, I lost count. I knew people who lost their parents, their spouses, and other loved ones. I had a student whose dad spent 3 months in the ICU before recovering. I had a friend my age who arrived in town, lost, after losing her husband.

Before Delta, most of the teachers who caught Covid had mild symptoms–not as mild as mine were, but mild. Now I was sending flowers to co-workers in the hospital.

Students were catching it left and right. Iliana missed a week of school, because there were not enough students present in her grade for classes to be held. (She still didn’t catch it). At one point, 5% of our student population had it. If it had gotten up to 10%, we would have gone virtual.

But there was still the great outdoors, and Rob bought a wind surfing board.

And there was still Halloween! School parties were on for this year, and Iliana got involved in activities at the library, which included a Halloween lock-in. She put together at least 3 costumes.

We carved pumpkins of course…

And this year, we decided to let Ili go trick-or-treating again!

Ili’s class put on “Frontier Day,” and Ili was the school teacher.

There was another trip to the Shard Yard, albeit with (very blingy) masks.

Thanksgiving was a DIY affair, since my parents were spending it at an RV park. We enjoyed our fancy meal then sprung into the Christmas decorating!

After the fun we had last Christmas, I was more than ready this year! I had most of my shopping done before Black Friday.

Of course, life is what happens when you are making other plans. While my parents were away for Thanksgiving, they decided that they would be moving into an RV park permanently. This was exciting, and they would end up living closer to us. But then we found out that they were not the only ones who would be moving.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we learned that we would have to move out of our apartment in less than a year. One thing led to another, and I spend most of Christmas break getting things moved onto our new boat. We rung in the New Year on Cruise Forever, which may well be our forever home. 2022 was looking like a good year. Delta was waning, abut the pandemic seemed to be stuck in a holding pattern. However, the pattern was livable.

Winter and Spring 2022: Omicron

Before school resumed after break, we were all warned to wear our masks and be prepared for a lot of absences. I had heard it predicted that omicron could be the beginning of the end of the “pandemic” phase of Covid, leading it to become endemic, like the flu. But that was because omicron was so contagious and had milder symptoms, and basically everybody who hadn’t gotten Covid yet was going to catch it. We were getting ready for the world’s largest chickenpox party.

I was not excited about the prospect of being short-staffed, but I was excited about the idea that things could get more manageable soon. The constant worries about lockdowns and virtual school (as well as concern for the safety of my friends and family) were draining.

It was during this time that I first heard the term “super immunity.” It was confirmed that because I had Covid before getting the vaccine, I was unlikely to get any variant (or any coronavirus at all, including those that cause colds). Still, I got my booster shot for good measure. If I never had to quarantine again, it would be too soon.

So, donning a blingy mask to make everyone feel better, my antibodies and I headed back to school!

Gradually, Cruise Forever started to come together and feel more like home.

On February 1, I celebrated my sixth “yogaversary,” and it was refreshing to see classes absolutely filling up. Our studio was one of the few in the area to survive the pandemic, which is something we will never take for granted.

Iliana became more involved in the library and also started taking an art class. She was never bored!

Once again it was Rob’s birthday! Ili was in charge of the decorating this time.

The weather was colder, so we went on yet another thrift shopping trip.

Iliana has had a great spring break and is having fun hanging out with her besties!

It’s been a low-key spring break, with some fun activities and a lot of time spent getting our home in order. Unlike the past two years, I don’t worry that we won’t return to school after break.

So is this the end of the pandemic? It seems to be, at least for now. Within the past 5 days, there have been 8 positive cases in our county. Of course there could be another variant. If this has taught us anything, it is that things can change quickly.

But it has also taught me that it is better to have hope than fear. That it is okay to enjoy the present and look forward to the future, even when we don’t know what is going to happen. Because we will never know. We never did know–that was just an illusion. But we can’t stop living and stop hoping, just because we don’t know.

Today we can gather with friends. We can hug, we can go out to eat. We can get ready for school to start again on Monday. Tomorrow I will go to yoga, then squish around a small table at Shipley’s to enjoy a coffee and donut with my friends from class.

The past two years have taught me to enjoy those little moments, the small social interactions that intertwine to weave the fabric of our daily lives. The tiny moments that can never be replaced by Facetime calls and Zoom happy hours.

Philosophy

Liberation Day

This week’s post is a story, explaining the significance of March 1 and the decision I made that day, four years ago. While I am not a big fan of “trigger warnings,” I will give you a heads-up that this story does involve sexual assault, which I will not be describing in detail.

Summer 2017

2017 was the summer I started going to 6 am yoga. It was the summer when our teacher, Cass, told all of us to watch “The Secret” (which I did, of course!), to envision exactly what we wanted to accomplish, and to believe it would happen. After watching the film, I bought the workbook for my Kindle. I wrote out my dream. I wrote that I would be recognized at work, and that I would be Teacher of the Year.

That August, I ditched my long, bright red hairdo, dyed my hair ash blond, and got a polished, angled bob. This was the year I would look more professional. People would finally take me seriously. I announced to Cass that this year, she would not hear me complaining about the other teacher in my program, and that we would work together for a change!

I knew I was slated to have a challenging group of students, but I was ready.

August 21, 2017

The first week of school was rough. I was prepared for students with high needs, but the behaviors were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I had a student who was acting out sexual scenes and was starting to touch staff members inappropriately. I spent most of my day following him out of the classroom and trying to coax him back in.

On Thursday of that week, I felt like I was starting to get things into a rhythm, but I was called to the office and written up for a situation involving this student that was not entirely (or mostly) my fault.

In my 14 previous years of teaching, I had seen some crazy situations, but I had never been left (without support) in such a high-need situation. I texted a co-worker that day, talking about leaving. I swore this would be my last year teaching.

What I needed, was a chance to regroup. And I got it.

August 25, 2017

Hurricanes can always be counted upon. And Harvey got us two weeks off of school.

September 22, 2017

We went back to school September 11. While I tried to keep a positive attitude and reworked my classroom, the student only became more violent. He constantly tried to grab my assistant inappropriately, and we were not allowed to physically manage him. We were only allowed to block. So I stood between him and her, multiple times a day. When he was trying to get past me, so he could attack her, he pushed on my previously injured left arm, which quickly aggravated my shoulder injury.

It got bad enough that I finally saw a doctor. I was diagnosed with a sprain, and an MRI was recommended. I was given restrictions, and my principal put me on a leave of absence. During the three weeks that I was on assault leave, my worker’s comp claim was denied, because someone told the adjuster that I was making up stories to retaliate against my employer. In the end, I never did get an MRI or treatment, other than the yoga exercises that Cass gave me. Fortunately, the yoga did help me recover completely.

October/November 2017

This period of time is a blur. I went to 6 am yoga twice a week, where I had the conversations with Cass that kept me moving forward. At work, I was being touched on a regular basis–top, bottom, front, and back. I knew it was happening a lot, but when I looked at the data sheets later, I saw that my assistants documented that it was happening 50-70 times a day. I sought help from our district coaches and from administration, but I was blamed and simply given more hoops to jump through.

I tried working with a union rep from AFT, which I had belonged to since I started teaching in Texas. He gave me stock advice, which did not apply to special education, and he urged me to speak up more than I was capable of doing at that time. What he did not do, was come out and help me. I was written up constantly, and when I told him, he asked me what I wanted him to do about it. Finally I emailed him, saying that I was being sexually assaulted repeatedly, daily, and I needed help. He never responded.

My hands were constantly scratched from being clawed on a daily basis. I stayed late at work and stayed up late, creating the new classroom materials that the district people claimed would solve all of my problems. (I am trained in using visuals and other supports for students with disabilities–however, they could not be successfully implemented until our needs for physical safety were first met). I had no conference period, so everything was done after hours.

December 2017

Oddly enough, there was somewhat of a lull after Thanksgiving. I thought I might stay in my position for another year. It felt like things were manageable, even though the data sheets indicate that I was only being touched about 20 times a day.

Around Christmas, the incidents started to pick up again. I was under contract, and in Texas, if a teacher breaks a contract, their teaching certificate is put on hold until the time when the contract would have expired. I was also told that breaking a contract would be suicide for my career.

So I planned to resign, effective at the end of the year. I was not able to get a meeting to do this before Christmas break, so I did it immediately afterward. I also cancelled my membership to AFT and joined TSTA, which is Texas’s branch of NEA. I met our rep in person, and she was eager to help me. She said that there would have to be a new incident, 30 days after my membership date, in order for her to be able to help.

Christmas 2017

January 23, 2018

January was worse than anything before. The scratching, the touching, and the assaults increased. Students and staff members were getting hurt now too.

I was alone with him the morning of January 23. It wasn’t my choice, but I was.

We don’t talk about what happened on January 23.

But the scars you see on my chest when I wear any shirt that isn’t a t-shirt, and especially when I wear a bathing suit…Those are from January 23.

The blessing is that an assistant from the room next door felt compelled to check up on me, and walked in right after it happened. She calmed him down and told me to call whomever I needed to. I called the office and a co-worker who is involved with TSTA. It hadn’t been 30 days yet.

I can remember the events of January 23 in perfect detail. The only way I move forward in life is by not thinking about them.

January 24-February 13, 2018

District provided an aide to work one-on-one with the student. He was a rather large, muscular man, well-trained in ABA. We learned a lot from him, and life was manageable during these few weeks.

Still, I calculated that I had 30 sick days, and I knew the day when I could start using them up, if need be.

February 14, 2018

On this day, I was observed. I was written up for doing Valentine’s activities, and then I was informed that this was the last day the district aide would be with us. “Use your strategies,” they said with a smile.

We used our strategies, of course. Or at least two of us did. Our third team member had taken a leave of absence.

Needless to say, it did not work out well. He started to attack my very young assistant, and I did all I could to keep her safe. My mind started slipping at this time as well, which I now know was a response to prolonged trauma. I didn’t recognize faces, and one student had a terrible diaper blow-out, and I did not notice. I was, of course, written up. And the assistant principal expressed her concern about my competence.

On February 25, I contacted a lawyer.

February 26, 2018

I received an email from the teacher next door, whom I had sworn I wouldn’t complain about, who was also our department lead. She stated that she noticed that I had not been doing my progress reports, and she CC-ed the principal and assistant principal on the email.

She was not wrong. I had not done my progress reports.

The principal responded by saying that I would meet with the assistant principal after school on March 1, to go over all of my progress reports.

I had done no progress reports. I am usually 100% on top of paperwork, but I had done almost none of it this year. And everyone knew why.

I contacted my co-worker who was involved in TSTA, and she told me to contact the rep and absolutely have her in the meeting. I contacted the rep who said that, yes, this was a new incident, so they could help me. However, I definitely was at fault, and admin could deny her attendance in the meeting. Their attendance is only required at termination hearings.

I also informed my lawyer, who had become a lifeline in a very short amount of time.

I knew one thing. I was NOT going to attend that meeting.

February 27, 2018

I was still not going to attend the meeting. I wasn’t sure how, but I would not be there.

That morning, I received an email from my lawyer, “You have the right to request assault leave.”

I knew that. I had used assault leave back in September, with my shoulder. He said I could get it for psychological reasons as well, but it would be more difficult.

I already had a therapy appointment scheduled on the 28th.

I called HR and asked how much FMLA I had used. They said none, that my absence in September had been 100% assault leave. There were 12 weeks from March 1, until the end of the year. If my assault leave were denied, I could still go on FMLA and leave without breaking my contract. I would lose pay, but I would get out.

I let admin know that I would be leaving early to make it to my appointment the next day. And I texted Cass to let her know it would soon be over.

February 28, 2018

I gave the students lots of independent work that day, since district had taken pity on me and provided an aide to work with the student for that day. The aide was an old friend, whom I had grown apart from during the past year. She gave me quizzical looks as I gathered up certain possessions, which I took out to my car while the students were in art class. The last thing I removed were the dozen roses I kept on my desk.

I texted my friend from TSTA, who was off campus that day. And I told another friend in our hallway.

It was my week to do the diaper changes for a very sweet student in a wheelchair. He gave me a huge bear hug before I lifted him back to his chair, as if he knew. I blinked back tears.

I left the campus without any fanfare, without any good-byes on my last day of teaching (or so I thought it would be). I didn’t see the students to their bus, as I made my way to the parking lot, so that I would be on time for my appointment.

At my appointment, I handed my very concerned therapist the FMLA paperwork. I said, “Today, you are going to be the hero in the story.”

We hugged at the end of the session.

March 1, 2018

Instead of commuting to work, I commuted to the HR office. I texted my yoga teacher, saying that if all goes well, I would be in her early morning yin class on Friday.

The HR ladies inspected my paperwork very matter-of-factly, and said that I should fill out the paperwork for worker’s comp as well. I knew it would be denied, but I did as I was told. They then wished me a good day, and said they would call my principal.

So ended a 15-year career. Or so I thought at the time. I was free. The nightmare was over.

At the bus stop with Ili, on my first day of freedom!

March 2, 2018

I got to sleep in a bit, before heading to the 8:30 yin class. On my way, I received a text from my friend at work, whom I had told, saying, “OMG, you actually did it! You are not here today! That is so bada–!”

I was greeted by a friend in my yoga class, who knew about my adventures. She immediately grabbed my hands and we danced around, gaining strange looks from the other yogis, who were trying to meditate. Then a sat down, embarrassed, until Cass patted me on the head and whispered, “I am so glad you are here!”

After a shopping trip, on my first day of freedom.

Epilogue

Healing took a long time.

For the first month or so, I went to yoga and slept. My pay was eventually docked, and I applied for food stamps. We visited food pantries and got what we needed to get by.

The first day I substitute taught, Cass played “Stronger” during our sun salutations at the 6 am class. I began subbing in October, and I was very fussy about where I would work. I found a school district that I loved, as well as a small charter school. Eventually, I booked 4 days of work in advance, then took the 5th day off.

Charities made sure that Santa brought plenty of gifts that Christmas. We enjoyed a donated turkey for Thanksgiving.

On March 1, 2019, the first anniversary of Liberation Day, I began a long term substitute teaching assignment in the school district where I was working. The teacher I worked with knew about my past and was eager to help me take steps back into the classroom.

The day after I began that assignment, a factory caught fire in that town. Because I couldn’t work, I took subbing assignments at the charter school. I was encouraged to apply for a position as a behavior assistant during that time.

My interview was right before the end of my long-term assignment. I was offered the position for the next year. My boss knew about the trauma I had experienced.

Working full time was difficult. In addition to dealing with behaviors, I was the cashier in the lunch room. I struggled with the multi-tasking that this position required, and I often found myself emotionally triggered. However, I made it through the year, Covid and all.

The next year, I still did not have 100% of my cognitive ability back. I began the year as a special education assistant, until our teacher resigned after hurricanes Laura and Marco nearly missed us. (She resigned due to extenuating circumstances unrelated to school). I applied for the position and told very few people I was doing so. I thought it seemed ridiculous, but Cass said, “It’s yours.”

She was correct.

Teaching again was an emotional roller coaster, but I was safe and appreciated. I had an amazing team who was also great at talking me down when necessary! Gradually, I took the lead in showing what I could and could not handle. By the end of the year, I was offered the position of district department lead. So I never did realize my goal of being Teacher of the Year, but I did find recognition and leadership in my career.

I think I now have my cognitive ability back, but that doesn’t mean that 2017-18 did not happen. That will always be a part of my life experience, for better or for worse. I become compromised when I do not feel safe, so I have learned to help myself feel safe.

Just like the scars on my chest, I will always carry the experience with me.

Why am I telling you this? First, I obviously have some processing to do, and I think that is an ongoing thing after experiencing a trauma.

But also, I want you to know that there is life after horrible experiences. Once it was over, I eventually got out of bed and started laughing again. And I love everything about my life right now. The one thing that always exists, is hope.

And finally, I want you to know that I am not alone. While my experience was extreme, there are many teachers with PTSD, and many teachers who left the profession due to PTSD. That is unnecessary, and violent students can be helped without causing unnecessary trauma. There are options and programs that work for these students.

It doesn’t take a “special person” to help these students. It takes a special team and special admin. I have seen it happen and work.

I am glad that I have grown and become who I am from my experience. But let’s help other people grow without ever having to experience the same.

About Us, Boat, Family Fun

Updates on Our Adventures!

All right, friends, it has been awhile since I posted an update. I have a very tight routine during the school year, with minimal decision-making, because my job requires constant decision-making. And also, I can not stand disruptions at work, so I try to avoid doing any non-school business during the school year.

So you can imagine how jarring it has been, to move right in the middle of the school year!

And add to that, multiple freezes and unusually cold weather, and you have a recipe for crabbiness…

Nevertheless, we are moved into our new home, and we are very warm and toasty here! So I thought I would share some of our adventures since Christmas break.

Getting Settled In

My goal was to get as much moved as I could before break ended, and we made a lot of progress!

My incense and yoga plaques found a home in the main salon…

My tea kettle settled happily on the stovetop.

We have almost never planned our last night in a place, during a move, and this was no exception. We rang in the new year on Cruise Forever, and we have not slept in the apartment since then (we are officially moved out on February 8).

One of the first things I did on the boat, was take a bath. I have not owned a home with a bathtub since 2014! We don’t have enough hot water to fill it even halfway, but it is enough, and lovely. The tub is extremely deep and the same length as the tub in our mobile home.

Rob has occasionally washed the dishes…

Iliana made herself at home…

She loved lounging on our bed!

We bought yet another Walmart Keurig. We name the “Kreg”!

We had some time to walk the docks before it got dark…

2022 promised great things for our family!

Paring Down

We were once minimalists. Then we lived in the apartment for almost 2 years. It was time to pare down again!

We cooked some meals in our new kitchen.

We burned incense.

Ili spend some quality time with her saxophone and guitar.

We had custom stemware and travel mugs printed…

My vintage handbags made it onto the boat!

We enjoyed meals in our horseshoe dinette!

Boat Schooling

Most people assume that live aboard families homeschool. We do not.

And if you have looked at Iliana’s pictures, you may have noticed her uniform and assumed she goes to a private school. She does not.

When we first moved to Texas, we enrolled Iliana in a traditional public school. With all of our moves and with her special education services, she ended up going to 4 schools in 6 years! She started attending a public middle school, through the district we were zoned to, but because of her special education program, she didn’t get home until 5:00 pm or later. There were a lot of bussing complications over 2 weeks, and the school was 30 minutes away by car, so driving her was not an option for us, with our jobs.

That was the year that I started working at Odyssey Academy, which is a charter school. There are a lot of misconceptions about charter schools, but they are actually just public schools that are not a part of a school district in the traditional sense. Odyssey has 3 campuses, but nobody is zoned to go there. Parents must request to have their child attend, and they must provide their own transportation with a few exceptions (high school students can go to their previous campus and be bussed to Odyssey’s high school, for example). Students wear uniforms, classes are smaller, but it is a public school with no tuition other than paying your taxes.

The best part? While there is a geographic zone that is allowed to attend Odyssey, it is much larger than the zones for the local public schools. Basically, if we move to any marina in this county, Iliana will still be eligible to attend. So she did not have to switch school for this move. As long as we stay in the Houston/Galveston area, she can count on graduating from Odyssey.

The middle school modulars at Odyssey! And Ili and her bestie walking together.

The added advantage is that her classes are small, and she has had the same teachers through middle school. Special education is handled on an individual basis, so Iliana has been supported and challenged appropriately. She is in algebra and pre-AP language arts, and has gotten “masters” on the state test in both areas. She sees a therapist weekly at school, and she will continue to work with the same therapist in high school.

I definitely recommend charter schools to anyone living in a transient situation, and to anyone who is looking for something that is a better fit than their zoned public school. (And yes, they treat their teachers well too! I am on my third year working for Odyssey, and it is the best job I have ever had!)

Update: Before publishing this post, Iliana and I went to a meeting at Odyssey’s high school, where we discussed her options. Students can go to Collegiate High School, where they start their freshman year taking high school classes on the campus of a community college. In the upcoming years, they take college classes and graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Students also have the option of doing dual credit, where they take high school classes on Odyssey’s campus in ninth and tenth grade. In eleventh grade, the teachers from a different community college come to Odyssey’s campus and teach college classes. Then, during their senior year, the students are bussed to that college’s campus. They will either finish with an associate’s degree, enough credits to be close to an associate’s degree, or a vocational certification. And of course, there is the option of taking traditional high school classes.

I decided I would leave the decision up to Iliana, but I was hoping she would choose dual credit. She asked a lot of questions during the presentation, and we took an impromptu tour of the high school afterward (a perk of having a mother who is a staff member!). She listened to her music during the drive home, then announced that she would like to do dual credit! Parenting win for me!

Freezes and Low Water

Our first, very cold, morning on the boat, we noticed that our world was slanting to port. When we went for our morning walk, we saw that someone had pulled the plug on Clear Lake!

We could see our prop and rudder. Our boat was leaning on the dock, and the intake for our a/c unit was in the mud. This meant that we could not run the unit, which meant the only heat we had was our electric fireplace. After Iliana took a shower, the bilge pump would not turn off, because the float was stuck due to to tilting boat. Our toilet could not draw lake water in order to flush, so we had to flush it using the hand shower.

We have since had multiple freezes this winter, and we are very prepared now for a grid crash. (And we have a Mr. Buddy heat for the super cold nights and just in case our a/c intake ends up in the mud again!) However, it has not happened, and this winter was been more annoying but less dramatic than last year.

Happy Birthday, Rob!

This blog post has been a work in progress, with me getting spurts done before the next major event happens. And between writing the first part and now, Rob turned 44.

Ili was eager to decorate!

Every year, I take Rob on a weekend getaway for his birthday. Two years ago, we had our “last normal” weekend and went bike riding in Montrose…

Last year, we went “glamping” in Conroe, and most likely caught Covid while we were there…

This year, since it was going to be cold out, we rented a house on the Southeast side of Houston and went thrift shopping!

Crab Day, Salon Visits, and a New Piano!

When you’ve been married for 20 years, Hallmark holidays get a little boring. So Rob and I have decided that Valentine’s day is now Crab Day. We celebrate by eating all things crab! This year, we had fake crab, crab cakes, and crab dip.

I have been slowly getting into a rhythm at the boat, but it wasn’t until I got my nails, done, that I felt like a lady again!

Before
After! I also got my toenails painted pink!

While we were on the weekend trip, Iliana stayed with her grandparents and got herself a new hairdo!

Yes, she also got a new phone during this time! She took excellent care of her iPhone 6S that she has had since fifth grade, so when she wanted a new Android, we were happy to get her one. She chose a Samsung Galaxy.

And yes, we got a piano for the boat! Our beautiful electric piano from the apartment would not fit here, so we bought a Korg keyboard that fits perfectly into the desk in the main salon. (Ili and I both play).

So that is a summary of our latest adventures! Life is settling in, in spite of yet another cold snap. Thank goodness for the marina’s hot tub! (That is where I am heading tonight!).

Philosophy

Community: The Antidote to Isolation

One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”

God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of vegetable stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell.”

Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful vegetable stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The man said, “I don’t understand.”

God smiled. It is simple, he said, love only requires one skill. These people learned early on to share and feed one another.

The Parable of the Long Spoons

When I was 15 years old, during a very challenging time in my young life, I unexpectedly found myself attending an Episcopal retreat called Happening. I had been searching for answers to life’s bigger questions, and I can’t say that I found them over that weekend.

But what I did find was a safe place to discuss them. A place where wondering and doubting were not taboo. I found a place where my quirkiness and awkwardness were accepted, and where the mistakes I made were not judged. What I found was unconditional love.

At one point during the weekend, we were supposed to imagine what it would be like if Jesus came back, and what it would feel like. All I could think was that I would feel exactly as I did in that moment. Loved. Heaven and community were one and the same.

At the end of the retreat, we were given a talk about going “back to reality.” The purpose was to prepare us for re-entering the “real world.” However, the teenager who was speaking told us to touch the arm of someone next to us, so that we could see that the person was real. “This IS reality,” she told us.

From that day on, I spent my life seeking that reality.

I found it in my high school marching band, as I bounded with the other members of squad 13. I found it within my site as I worked as a day camp counselor for the Salvation Army in college. I found it in the teachers’ lounge as we laughed and cried together at my first teaching job in Farwell, Michigan. I found it in the marinas as we cruised the Great Lakes.

And I found it in Texas, six years ago, at Moonlight Yoga.

I’ve known my teacher and mentor, Cass, for a long time now!

I’ve written about my yoga journey here, about the lessons I’ve learned here, and about Cass’s role in my life here.

My yoga practice and the friendships I have developed within our community have seen me through some major life changes, to be sure. Even before the pandemic, we showed up to practice as we were, greeting each other and ourselves with an honesty that is not present in most friendships. We saw each other through marriages, divorces, job changes, losses, moves, and self-discovery.

Lulu, whom I met in the 6 am class!

And then Covid hit.

During the ill-fated spring break of 2020, the classes were still packed. We were afraid of the virus, but we were even more afraid of the unknown…and the prospect of facing it alone, without our community.

During the shutdown, Cass posted classes on Facebook, which helped to save our sanity. We enjoyed the classes and felt a small remnant of connection as we read and liked each other’s comments.

We kept our connection through texts and video chats, surprise Amazon gifts, and eventually, socially distanced outdoor coffee dates. When someone’s loved one needed meals delivered, we signed up and left them on her doorstep. And we each did what we could to support the studio and make sure that our community would still be there when everything re-opened.

Melani and I were texting buddies during the shutdown, but it is great to be able to hug in real life again!

The studio did re-open, with all kinds of precautions, and we were glad to be able to support each other in real life once again.

Since then, we’ve seen pictures of new babies and marriages.

We’ve held each other, as so many members of our “family” have lost loved ones to Covid.

We’ve seen pictures of teenagers who are growing up during this time, and we’ve seen lots and lots of pictures of new grandbabies!

We are here for each other, with unconditional love and respect.

Since the pandemic has begun, we have all done a little bit more for our community.

Some time ago, I found myself taking on the role of tidying up the props, but now I feel so much more love and purpose as I do it. And I have quite openly become the “water fairy,” leaving water bottles in the fridge for any who would like one. But now I bring it less, as there are many water fairies!

And there are many “plant fairies” as well! And “toilet paper fairies.” And around Cass’s birthday, there were even a few “wine fairies!”

The fear of losing what we have, made it all the more precious to us.

Those props need some love!

This is a time of division and polarization in our country, but the community at Moonlight is beyond that.

We are like minded. We share a desire to grow spiritually and do what is right. We want to understand.

Some of us are Democrats. Some are Republicans. Some are Christians. Some are atheists. It doesn’t matter. And the only reason these topics ever come up is because we care about each other and want to understand one another. Nobody is ever going to be hated or ostracized for their ideas.

There are people who take every precaution to avoid Covid, and they are respected. Nobody is shamed for any choice they have made, regarding the pandemic, and everyone honors everyone else’s choices. Personally, I have given many hugs and socially distanced air-hugs. The love is present in both.

We live in a difficult time in history, and it is tragic that so many people are facing it alone. Humans have been lacking community for a long time, and the pandemic is making that reality more difficult than ever to face.

We need to find our tribe. They don’t need to vote like us. They don’t need to pray like us. They just need to connect with us. To love like us. In this room, we need to learn to feed each other.

Danna! The biggest fan of my home made muffins!

You can check out Cass’s yoga classes on Moonlight Yoga’s Facebook page. Also, check out her website!

adventures, Boat

Home for Christmas

In the 20 years that Rob and I have been married, we have called many places “home.”

Our first home was a 1968 Fawn Springbrook mobile home that we purchased with a money order for $1000. We had it towed to an RV lot in Pleasant Beach Mobile Home Resort on what was then Wixom Lake (and is now just the Tittabawassee River, after a series of earth dams broke in 2020) in Albright Shores, Michigan. We celebrated Christmas there in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

In 2005, we closed on a 4-bedroom house in Harrison, Michigan on Christmas eve. We had no decorations that year, but we went on to celebrate seven more Christmases in that house. In 2007, Iliana was born, and Santa became busy making her presents!

And of course there were lots of memories with grandparents!

In August 2013, we moved to Texas and celebrated Christmas at Lakeshire Place apartments, unit 501, in Clear Lake City/Webster. We were unable to bring any of our decorations, so we found a used tree and made our own ornaments! My parents moved to Texas in November, which was an early Christmas gift! We flew to Michigan to celebrate with the rest of our family.

In August 2014, we moved to our second home in Texas, the S/V Breaking Tradition, an Ericson 35 sailboat on East Pier in Legend Point Marina, Clear Lake Shores. This had 100 square feet of living space, which made for a creative, cozy Christmas!

In August 2015, we upgraded and moved to the S/V Morning Mist, an Irwin 37 center cockpit. We lived in the same slip in Legend Point for the next two Christmases.

Starting a new tradition, Iliana put reindeer feed on the bow…

We visited my parents Christmas eve and rented a hotel room for our Christmas relaxation!

In 2016, we also celebrated on Morning Mist.

2017 was the year it all hit the fan, although it wasn’t finished hitting the fan until mid-2018. At Christmas time, things were relatively calm. I had tried to give my notice (about resigning at the end of the year) before break, but I wasn’t able to get a meeting with the principal until right afterward.

We moved to our fourth home in Texas, the M/V Loco Lobo, which was a gigantic 47 foot Chris Craft Commander that everyone in Legend Point knew. It was very fitting, since Rob was the harbor master at Legend Point at the time. We had intended to fix up the boat before moving on, but in August, Morning Mist’s a/c quit working, so we moved in to Loco’s slip on the Island Pier sooner, right before Harvey hit. But it was a lovely Christmas, nonetheless.

Iliana enjoyed meeting the Grinch and having pancakes with Santa (and Miss Kemah!).

We enjoyed two more Christmases on Loco, which had to be relocated to West Pier after a piling (which had survived Harvey) failed in our slip on the island.

In 2019, we managed to catch Santa on film!

2020 brought the pandemic, but we kept busy during the shutdown…by moving into our new apartment! We celebrated two Christmases in the most beautiful place I have ever lived, a spacious apartment hidden above Boaters’ Resale of Texas, the store Rob manages.

While 2020 was a stressful year, it also marked a number of changes for our family, including my return to teaching. Santa was very generous that year!

After Thanksgiving this year, we excitedly decorated our apartment, ready to enjoy another Christmas in this home…

…What I didn’t say was that shortly after Thanksgiving, we learned that, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, we would have about a year to find a new place to live. This came as a surprise, since we expected to be renting the apartment for a number of years.

We considered renting a house or fixing up Loco Lobo. My time on land has spoiled me, and I really wanted our next home to be at least as nice and clean as the apartment. It could be done with Loco, but it would take a lot of time and money (and most of the year to do it).

Then, unexpectedly, a customer wanted Rob to look at his Morgan Outisland 51 foot sailboat. We were leery, because we knew we couldn’t pay what the boat is worth, if it is in good shape. Still, Rob looked at it, and it was beautiful! It was in Waterford Harbor, the marina where we went for my work Christmas party. Before we knew it, the boat was ours!

So today, we closed on our sixth home in Texas and our eighth home since getting married, the S/V Cruise Forever in Waterford Harbor, Kemah, Texas!

And a special thank you to Joe, the boat’s previous owner! We are definitely going to have invite you over for a happy hour or two!

There is some work to do before we move in–it needs new heads, the refrigerator and freezer need to be repaired, and I would like to replace the carpet with linoleum. We need to work with Iliana to set up her room the way she would like it. We are aiming to be moved in (or at least moved out of our apartment) by the end of January.

I hope your Christmas is every bit as amazing as ours has already been!

Family Fun

Christmas Break!

Happy Sunday, all!

Today I have more pictures to share with all of you. The past three weeks have been an eventful blur, due to some exciting news that I will share in another post, when the time is right!

But first, our Christmas activities! I will admit that we didn’t do one everyday, but we have kept in the spirit.

We made God’s eye ornaments…

Then we broke into the foam ornament-making kit and let the creative juices flow!

Then it was time to make some extremely tasty dipped pretzels…

…And friendship bracelets!

The dipped Oreos were especially yummy!

The foam snowflakes were fun, and Rob’s coronavirus snowflake helped to commemorate our adventures last March!

Because we hadn’t eaten enough sugar, we made cookies and had a popcorn and cocoa bar!

We made fancy s’mores and I drank plenty of my beloved St. Regis non-alcoholic wine!

We enjoyed green waffles, and I made myself waffles eggs Benedict…

I deviated from my usual French manicure for the season…

Rob and I had a lovely time at my work Christmas party at Waterford Harbor, a very nice marina not too far from where we used to live. We even briefly crashed a party with some boaters afterward!

Shortly after the party, some things happened and we missed a few days of Christmas activities. I did, however, count down every morning on social media, with selfies at morning duty! The teachers follow themes with our dress during December.

Then Iliana got me back on track my starting the cookie house!

And we even made some bead and pipe cleaner ornaments!

So here we are on Christmas break! I have just over two weeks off, so I will have time to catch up on everyone’s blogs and share more of our adventures.

I hope your holiday preparations are also fun and low-stress!

Family Fun

Thanksgiving Week!

This week marked our ninth Thanksgiving in Texas. Over the years, we have celebrated with Friendsgivings, potlucks at the Yogi Bear campground, and small gatherings with my parents. Last year, we have a socially distanced meal with my parents, and it was the first time we had them over since the start of the pandemic.

Our week began with a trip to the Shard Yard with our friends from Michigan.

We had a great time creating our masterpieces!

For Thanksgiving, my parents decided to do their own thing and go camping, so we created a feast for three.

I’m pleased to say it was a resounding success, and produced so many leftovers that I will not have to pack lunches for the next week!

Everyone relaxed while I cleaned up, and then I surprised them by bringing in all of the Christmas decorations!

We enjoyed this year’s matching pajamas!

We put on some final touches…

And had some fun taking selfies!

Since my job keeps me busy, Christmas involves a lot of planning ahead. I finished all of my shopping before Black Friday, and I bought enough activities for Iliana and me to do one each day, from Black Friday until Christmas. The first activity she chose were ugly sweater cookies.

The next day, we made chocolate candies!

Every year, we have intended to send out Christmas cards, but last year was the first time it actually happened. I had discovered Postable, which prints and mails your cards for you. I like to send postcards, with a short message. It’s a good way to update everyone without having to write a long Christmas letter. Unfortunately, none of our digital cameras were working, but we used my phone to take some fun pictures!

And the winner….

I hope everyone in the U.S. had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I hope all of you have a joyful holiday season!

Family Fun

Fall Adventures!

Happy Thanksgiving week, y’all!

Since it has been awhile, I thought I would share some pictures from our adventures this fall. It has been another whirlwind of a school year, and while I usually do a good job prioritizing self-care and family, while still getting the important things done at work, at this point my writing has not made the priority list. But things have been going well.

One of the newest additions to our life this fall, is Rob’s wind surfing board!

For Halloween, Iliana made multiple costumes for herself, and she enjoyed some independence at a lock-in at the library!

And of course, none of us are too old to carve pumpkins.

Last year, Ili decided that she was too old for trick-or-treating, so we drove to Clear Lake Shores Island and handed our candy from our tailgate. This year we did the same, but Iliana noticed that many teenagers stopped by for candy. So she left Rob to hold down the fort and did some trick-or-treating of her own!

And in case you are wondering, I went as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse!

I did some thrift shopping, and Iliana was happy to borrow some of my finds…

I found myself a lovely non-alcoholic wine that is only 1 smartpoint per glass…

Iliana spent a month designing a mouse trap car that ended up winning first place for distance!

And finally, right before break, Iliana’s class put on “Colonial Day” for the school. Ili was the schoolteacher, and she used hornbooks to teach phonics. She had fun but decided that she will leave the reading instruction to me!

So there is a quick update on our fun! I will do a Thanksgiving/gratitude post at the end of the week.

Family Fun

5k’s and a Brief History of my Running Habit

In first grade, I learned that I was a slow runner.

We were in P.E. class, playing a game called “Snow White.” One person was Snow White, and they stood in the middle of the gym, while the class ran across. Snow White tried to tag as many people as possible, while avoiding getting tagged by the Wicked Queen.

I was a lanky, energetic 6-year-old, and of course I raised my hand eagerly when the teacher asked who wanted to be Snow White. It surprised me when the entire class burst out laughing when I was chosen. The teacher said, “Now, just because someone isn’t fast, doesn’t mean that they can’t be tricky.”

I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t fast, and that apparently this was common knowledge in the first grade. I was quickly tagged by the Wicked Queen after everyone safely made it across the gym.

And thus began my dislike of physical education class.

In fourth grade, when we did relay races, I was moved to a different team for each round. I was the only one who was moved in this way. And everytime I was put on a new team, the members of that team groaned.

We did physical fitness testing every year, and I learned that I was not flexible. We had to do this v-sit, forward bend, where they would measure how many inches we reached past our feet. The last time I did it, I got -10. My teacher told me that I needed to be more flexible.

Our teacher had a quarter mile track drawn in the grass behind our school, and we would occasionally go out to run a mile. I learned that for some unknown reason, my legs would start screaming at me well before a quarter mile was up. I could, however, walk indefinitely.

Over time my legs became very muscular, but I was never able to run. I even tried a couch-to-5k program in Prevention magazine. I could do intervals of running and walking, but I never could run very far in a stretch.

We moved to Texas, and Rob and Ili rocked her school “Mustang Stampede,” while I took pictures from the sidelines.

And then this happened….

Yoga has changed my life in many ways, and running is one of them. Stretching my hips and hamstrings allowed me to take a larger stride and run without pain. Shortly after I started practicing yoga, I decided to sign up for an untimed 3k “Family Fun Run.” Ili ran the 1k.

By August, it was time to try a real 5k. Rob and I signed up for the “Night Moves Trail Run.” We would run the race at night, then camp in the park where it was held. My training was going well, and I knew I could do it!

We excitedly lined up at the starting line, and everyone was too shy to go to the front of the group. Knowing I would be passed, I marched to the starting line and announced, “I am going to be victorious!”

Once we started, I was in the middle of the pack, and Rob was in a commanding lead. Then we entered the woods, where the trail was poorly marked. After tripping over a few roots, I walked with a group of other runners, trying to find our way with someone’s GPS. I actually stopped at the rest stop and poured water over my head. Then there was more getting lost, until we found our way to the road, just in time for an ending sprint.

Much to my dismay, Rob was not at the finish line to cheer me on. My time was terrible–I had finished my first 5k in 57 minutes. But still, I had finished my first 5k! I marched to our tent to give him a piece of my mind, but he was not there. In fact, he was nowhere to be found.

At this point, I was starting to get worried. We had been given GPS trackers, so I asked the officials if they could track him down. It turns out that the GPS trackers were not working.

Finally, after an hour and a half, a very exhausted Rob ran across the finish line. It turns out that he had gotten lost by himself, since he had been in the lead. At one point he had ended up on the 10k course., and, regrettably, he had not stopped at the rest stop.

I decided that my medal was well-earned! And surprisingly, I finished in the first half for my age group.

September came along and brought with it another trail race, the Zombie Run. This time, it was light out and the course was well-marked. However, we had to wear belts with strips of ribbon velcroed to to them. During the course, we would encounter “zombies,” who would try to pull off the ribbons. Once all the ribbons were gone, we were “dead.” There were prizes for the winnings “survivors” and “zombies.”

This race was a challenge, because we had to sprint everytime we encountered a zombie. It was actually a relief for me, when I was finally “dead.” In the end, I finished in the top third of my age group, with a time under 40 minutes. Rob was a “survivor” and finished in second place overall.

The rest of fall passed without any fanfare, until we were greeted by a chilly December, and my friend suggested that we run in the “Santa Hustle” in Galveston. This was my first road race, and the temperature was in the 40’s.

We ran in a loop, and the longest stretch was into the wind, along the seawall. There were over 1000 runners, and all three of us set personal records, because we were so cold and wanted to get it over with! My time was 34:58, and I finished in the top quarter of my age group.

That was the last 5k I ran, for a long time. The next school year was extremely difficult, and it took me a couple years to get back on my feet. Then 2020 and the pandemic happened. We did a virtual race, the “Social Distancing Run,” but that was hardly scientific.

So here we are, just coming off of a spike in Covid, but still with things returning to normal, especially in Galveston county, where the virus hasn’t been as bad. September 30 is my 43rd birthday, and when Rob asked me what I wanted, the answer was easy.

It was time to start running 5k’s again.

I am determined to eventually run a marathon, but I want to keep doing 5k’s until I break 10 minute miles. Then I will move on to 10k’s, and so on.

So we found ourselves a race in Galveston, and I actually trained a little bit this time.

This race was a road race along the seawall, and it was not officially timed. However, I do know that I finished in 33 minutes (not sure how many seconds). So it definitely was a personal record! Rob finished 4th overall.

After the race, we enjoyed a walk on the beach…

…and a lovely lunch with a view!

We picked up Ili, who was with her grandparents, and she wanted to go sailing. She enjoyed being on crew, so I had an easy time!

Iliana was right at home at the helm!

When we got home, Iliana informed me that she is going to start training for her first 5k, and she asked me how I stretch. She and I have the same tight legs, so I showed her how to do my pre-run yin stretches.

I should have known where this was leading! As soon as her stretches were done, Ili changed into running clothing and said, “Come on, Mom! It’s time to start training for my first 5k!”

She did impressively well, for her first day of training. And I think I will sleep very well tonight!