Teachable Moment

I work at a Title I school which means that over half of our students qualify for free or reduced meals.  On school days this means these students generally eat breakfast and lunch at school.  Through community support the school also sends food home with the students on Fridays for the weekend.

We have been out of school for over a week so far due to the snow storm that came through.  Without school, our students don’t have access to this food.  This morning an email went out with a game plan to collect donations, shop, pack, and distribute food.  I decided that it would be awesome to help our students while also teaching my own kids at the same time.

I don’t think that I’ve ever talked to my kids about “food insecurity” or the programs that are offered in our county to help families in need.  This offered me an opportunity to give them some insight into our community that they didn’t previously have.  Parker’s first question was, “If they don’t eat at school, do they just not eat?”

After a quick text out to family for additional monetary contributions and a budget in mind, Parker and I headed out to BJ’s to stock up.  The second lesson that came from this experience was that it is challenging to shop for non-perishable foods that have decent nutritional value.  We looked at labels and tried to buy a variety of foods that would be pleasing to a kid’s palate and yet not completely sodium saturated.  My instructions to her were that I wasn’t going to buy anything that I wouldn’t feed my own family.

We loaded up the back of the Subaru and dropped everything off at school.  There were many hands that unloaded the car within minutes.  As we drove away feeling like we had had a productive afternoon, we also laughed.  The few things that we had picked up from BJ’s to have at our house had been scooped out of the car along with our donations.  Both of us saw it happen but neither one of us wanted to say anything.

Today was a good day.



PS  The kids have done volunteer work around hunger before but this was the first time that it was at so personal a level for them.  Hunger doesn’t just exist in other places.  It is right here in our backyard.  Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, and we have so many families struggling.  We have 44 elementary schools receiving Title I funding.  44 schools out of 196.  In one of the wealthiest counties in the country.  Mind boggling.

Sometimes They Find Us


Well, we survived the blizzard of 2016.  Depending on who did the measuring, snow totals were between 28-30 inches here in Reston.  I watched my back deck steadily fill up with fluffy, white snow which first engulfed flower pots and then the table and chairs.  I am extraordinarily grateful that we never lost power.  We spent most of Sunday digging out but didn’t leave the house until today.  Freedom tasted very sweet having felt somewhat cut off from the world for 4 days.

Last Thursday, I got an email from a friend of Dave’s whom Dave met through his brother.  He was checking in to make sure that I was ready for the impending storm.  I was touched that when he heard about the storm, he thought of us and checked in.  I appreciated the kindness.  And the communication.  We stayed in touch over the weekend and dove into all manner of topics which were interesting and thought provoking.

Today I got an unexpected email from someone I only know through this space.  She was letting me know that she and her family were also going to be awarding scholarships this year in memory of her husband.  I love that she is going to be helping others and honoring her husband at the same time.  I was humbled that she felt encouraged by some words that I shared.

I’ve talked a lot about people “being there” for us before, during and after Dave’s death.  Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea that sometimes the people we need find us.  Both of these kind souls lifted my spirits and gave me something to think about outside of myself.  Much needed unintentional intervention.




January has been a bit of a challenge so far.  I’ve been a little down and also experienced an underlying feeling of anxiety which is not something I have ever had to really deal with before.  To be honest, when people talk about being depressed or being anxious, although I am empathetic, it is not something I have ever been able to relate to.  I have always thought that Dave and I were lucky in that our natural threshold for happiness is pretty high.  So no matter how crappy things got, we couldn’t stay in that place for too long before we rebounded back to our natural places.  It hasn’t been a paralyzing depression or a permeating anxiety more like a nagging feeling that won’t completely go away.  Perhaps it is post-holiday let down or the cold, grey weather which is in stark contrast to being in Orlando over Christmas.  It is not really the emotions themselves but more the duration of their presence.

We are hunkering down getting ready for a “historic” blizzard.  I am definitely wishing that Dave was here.  He could make anything fun and funny, even three feet of snow.  The kids and I have provisioned and done all the recommended preparations so now we are just waiting.  Too much time for me generally means that I get lost in my head and contemplate and likely over think ideas or situations.  Lately I have been thinking a lot about marriage and relationships and what I learned throughout this process.

I have said it before but one of the most important lessons I have learned is that people are doing the best that they can.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t wish they could do something better or differently, but we cannot change what others do, we can only change how we respond or interact with them.  Dave used to say that I held on to past wrongdoings.  I never saw myself that way, but there must have been some things that I did that caused him to believe that.  I am a big dumper of information – “I am so annoyed that so-and-so did such-and-such.”  I hope that by venting I am able to let go of most things.  It isn’t a perfect science though and there are definitely still some areas for growth.

I have learned that it is better to be kind than to be right.  When I think back to challenging times in my marriage, I wonder how much faster we might have moved through them if I had had this insight.  When both people are fighting for their point of view or decision, it is easy to stop hearing what the other person is saying.  My sister-in-law used to jokingly call me “Wife Yes” because often times when Dave had something he really wanted, I would just go along with it.  Honestly, I wish I had always said yes.  Many of the times when I put my foot down or dug in my heels over an issue, I realize weren’t worth the heartache.  That is not to say that I think my opinions or ideas aren’t valuable.  It is more that I believe you have your best chance at being heard if you listen first.

I have learned to be more generous.  Generous with actions.  Generous with words and kindnesses.  If I was angry at Dave, I wouldn’t be quick to tell him that I loved him or that I appreciated him.  I regret every single time that happened.  He knew, of course, but who doesn’t want to hear that they are loved as often as possible.  I am learning that every word that comes out of your mouth, or that is stifled within, matters.

Lately, it seems that more people have started to ask me about dating and encouraging me to consider it.  I definitely don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone, but I don’t think that I am quite ready yet.  If I had a wish list though “must be able to laugh together” would definitely be at the top.




The Next Chapter

On Friday, I went to a meeting for math resource teachers in the county.  It started off as many meetings do with an ice breaker.  This particular task was to write down the titles of the chapters of your life and then mingle and share with others.  I was struck by the different approaches people took – one person had chapters that were about the different places he had worked, and for another, each chapter had to do with the life cycle of a flower.  It never occurred to me to make my job even one chapter let alone the whole book, and I certainly wasn’t creative enough during that few minutes to come up with an analogy.  Instead this is what I jotted down…

  • Growing Up as an Army Brat
  • I Married the only Male Teacher in the School
  • The Roller Coaster
  • Moving Forward

I am sure that people would be lining up at Barnes and Noble to read this book!  Anyway, that final chapter has had me thinking.  What is the next chapter in my life?  For so many years, decades really, my story has been so closely tied to Dave’s.  Now I find myself in foreign territory – making decisions for myself by myself.

Samantha is doing really well at school.  She had a outstanding start to her junior year and is back at school ready to knock it out of the park once again.  Grant is finishing up his last year of high school, and last night we celebrated senior night for the swim team.  It is hard to believe that he is also getting ready to launch.  It could very well be that in seven months or so that it will only be me and Parker.

I can’t say that I have any big plans.  Yet.  I want to do some work around the house that is desperately overdue.  I hope to take the kids to Europe this summer before they scatter to the winds.  I am exploring the idea of getting another endorsement or degree.  It seems to be the time of year where various cohorts are starting or classes are being offered.  In the past, my reaction when asked about getting a leadership degree has always been, “Heck no.  Who needs that headache?”  Lately I have begun to wonder if this is a path I should be considering.  Then again, I am in my mid-40s.  Do I really want to shake things up at this point?

For today I am considering it a success that I cleaned the guinea pig cage and took down the Christmas decorations.  I’ve got a long way to go to get from point A to whatever point is waiting for me down the road.  One day at a time.





5 Super Simple Ways to Help a Friend

Not sure why I woke up thinking about this, but I thought I would just jot down my thoughts, in case they are helpful.

We all want to help when we have a friend going through tough times.  Sometimes we are afraid we will say or do the wrong thing.  Here are 5 ways you can’t go wrong –

5. If you would like to bring a meal, replace “Let me know if you need a meal.” with “I would like to bring you dinner.  What day next week would work best for you.”  I have never been turned down since I changed the way I was asking.  When it was me, I was too embarrassed to let anyone except those closest to me know that I needed help, .

4. If you have the means, send or drop off a gift card to a restaurant – hopefully one with carry out or delivery service.  These were a Godsend.  We didn’t want to think about food so being able to just order from some place made life easier.

3. It’s okay to talk about the person/situation/treatment.  Just be mindful of the whole “comfort in, dump out” rule.  http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407  We talk about Dave all the time.  It keeps him in our daily lives.

2. Mark your calendar weekly for as long as needed,  “Check in on ____.”  Life is busy.  In being there for several friends going through different life changes, I found that marking my planner helped remind me to see how they were doing.  I wanted to know how they were doing, and I didn’t want to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget to check in.

1. Let them know you are there.  If you are not comfortable phoning, you can send a card, email, or even text.  If you are not sure what to say, you can’t go wrong with “I am thinking about you.”  There isn’t a good excuse for skipping this one.  It sounds terrible, but we noticed.



PS Thank you to the people who have reached out to me after reading this. I PROMISE that isn’t what I was after with #1, but I appreciate the love.  I am lucky to have such amazing friends and family!