Letter to the governor

I am just sick about schools being closed for the rest of the school year and can’t quite get over myself.  Truth be told, there were so many days I had wished the year done and gone, but now want to be back in school to finish the year–who knew this was the stuff I was made of!   Therefore, even though in the end I may be wrong and we may need to be out of school for good this year anyway, I have decided to write the governor.  Here goes…

Dear Governor Northam,

I appreciate all you have done and all you are doing for the Commonwealth of Virginia and I know you are doing your best to make informed decisions. That being said, I am not sure closing schools for the rest of the year is in the best interest of the students, teachers, staff, parents, vendors and all other people associated with educating the children of Virginia. I am an educator and parent of public school students, but represent myself solely as a tax-paying resident of Arlington, Virginia.

I am certain you have spent many hours and sleepless nights looking at the pros and cons of school closure for the rest of the school year, but I am left wondering today if closing the schools in segments, as Governor Hogan did in Maryland today, is a better course to take. I am urging you to reconsider your stance and perhaps close the schools until the end of April or middle of May having students return, if circumstances allow, for the last month or so of school. This would give all parties concerned time to end the school year together and give the year closure.

I am aware that you will need to recant your stance. I am also aware that after recalling your message, schools may need to close for the rest of the year anyway. But I feel, as do many, many other teachers, staff, students, parents, etc. that this move may have been too hasty so we seek a different plan.

I am asking that you please reconsider your directive and examine the possibility of re-opening schools before the school year ends, if conditions warrant. It would mean so much to so many people living in Virginia. Thanks for your consideration.

Anne Brown

And instead of being full of bluster and a bit all-bark-no-bite at times, I am going to send it–you can’t be heard if you don’t speak.

Letter to the governor

These next 3 weeks…

No unrealistic expectations.  Trying to make this my mantra.

3 weeks ahead of me with plenty to do and much free time, and nowhere to go.  I gave myself yesterday to be a sloth and know that I could spend the next several days lazily streaming shows and eating, turning both my brain and body to mush, all the while fostering a lifelong low grade anxiety.

Instead, I attempted to spend some time this a.m. working up a calendar with due dates and daily tasks, another neurotic pastime.  So how do I balance all of this time with productivity and personal growth, without driving myself, AND everyone around me, around the bend?  What do I know that is good for me? (I know, weird grammar.  Whatever.)

Besides getting the necessary work done (grading, planning and posting online lessons, getting homework done for the class I’m taking), exercising both my brain and my body and simplifying my life are the things I constantly wish I had time for. In an effort to practically quantify this, I’ve made a simple list (another neurotic pastime)…

1 hour of simplifying (keeping this idea broad)
1 hour of reading
½ hour of writing
½ hour of exercise

So maybe, just maybe, it is time to give myself these hours every day to slow down the hamster wheel, reconsider my priorities and recondition my days.  Maybe, with practice, these are things I can continue once this crisis is over and I return to the frenetic, daily grind of the teacher.  Are these unrealistic expectations?  Maybe.  And I know that if I think too long before acting, I’m usually met with a visceral NOPE, DON’T FEEL LIKE IT.  Perhaps it’s time to add in a little meditation…

DING. Hey, I’ve already done my writing for today–how about that!!!


These next 3 weeks…


Everyone in my family has different hands.

Mom had skinny bony hands, bejeweled in platinum and diamonds, pointing the way she felt we should go or reprimanding for something she assumed we’d done, but always, always ready to provide.

Susan has long delicate fingers, used for intricate work, gracefully scripting out her life, ripping things up and seaming them back together, picking up the pieces of her sweet shattered dreams.

Betsy has freckled dry hands, the product of hard work, helping others and doing too much, making art out of nothing, finding discarded artifacts from someone else’s life and making them beautiful once more.

Mark has large, sure, fine-tuned hands, excellent for pushing paper and making money,  shaking hands and making decisions, arms out, an extension of his generous heart, reaching coast-to-coast.

Me, with my broad meaty hands, trying to take on the troubles of the world, attempting to fix the broken, occasionally making mountains out of anthills.  They used to bother me, but now they remind of the man who gave them to me.

And that would be my Dad.  My Dad, the gentle giant with a huge heart, had the biggest, warmest hands of all.  He held us all in the palms of his hand, working with a drive like no other, a product of his immigrant parent’s ethics, his sole aim to provide for us well.   There was nothing like holding his hand; you felt safe and sound, held up like a prize, the most important thing in the world to him.  He spread the glue and held the world together.


*[I wrote this based on an assignment I gave my students, using “Hairs” from the novel, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, as a model to write a vignette about their own family using one common physical trait to reveal something about each family member’s personality.]


I can’t thing of anything to write about

I have two jars on my shelf for students to use if they can’t come up with anything to write about during free-write time.  Today, that’s me.  Here goes…


  • The day Albert Einstein invaded my brain
  • The day I woke up invisible
  • Describe how you would modify a snail to go faster
  • My pet tarantula is loose
  • Explain how you would use a hat to catch a butterfly
  • The struggle to eat neatly while in a car or on a plane

[Self-defeating sigh.]  I expect my middle schoolers to have no problem letting loose and and use their young brains to creatively write about these silly topics.  Unfortunately, I’m finding it hard to do the same today.  Perhaps an influx of adult-ing has stifled my whimsy.  Maybe I’ve spent too much time writing academically.  It may be that my willingness to put forth the effort between classes and afternoon meetings has dwindled.  Formulating decent lesson plans, managing a few challenging classroom situations and attending collegial gatherings as well as the work associated with a last minute 10-week course to satisfy a county requirement has squashed my brain.  Hopefully it’s just for today.  Better luck tomorrow.  OH WAIT.  We have parent-teacher conferences tomorrow after school and Friday.   Such is life for a teacher.


I can’t thing of anything to write about

I do believe…

I do believe in miracles
I do believe in democracy
I do believe music can change a mood
I do believe in the purity of raw talent
I do believe working hard makes one stronger
I do believe in asking for help
I do believe avoidance causes anxiety
I do believe in confronting fears
I do believe the only thing constant is change
I do believe in second chances
I do believe in centrifugal force
I do believe in momentum
I do believe digging in the dirt is good for the hands
I do believe walking on the sand is good for the feet
I do believe alone time is good for the soul
I do believe in being connected to others
I do believe in having vocations
I do believe in taking vacations
I do believe in paying attention to grace
I do believe beauty is personal and subjective
I do believe in quieting the mind to see clearly
I do believe that so much is no one’s business
I do believe in karma and kismet
I do believe there’s no sense in trying to escape oneself
I do believe in the ceaseless function of love
I do believe in an infinite power greater than me


I do believe…

The Pixie

When I was younger my mother

would take me (unwillingly)

to get my haircut

and would ask her hairdresser

(yes, that’s what they were called)

to give me a pixie.

God, I hated how short my hair was.

And after washing my hair,

my mother would smoodge it

(yes, I made that word up)

to give it this strange wave

on the top of my head.

I would have done ANYTHING

for glorious, straight blond hair.

And a tan.

For a fair-skinned freckled

redhead preteen with glasses,

this pixie was

a fate worse than death.

And I swore when I had my own kids

I’d let them have their hair.

So far I’ve held up my end of the bargain.


The Pixie

Just another Sunday

As I slowly edge towards retirement (sooner rather than later, please) and my kids are becoming adults, my thoughts turn to the need for purging.  In my mind’s eye, I survey my home and reflect on just how much crap we have accumulated over the past 20+ years we have lived the hell out of this house.

Is it age?  Mortality?  Is it the desire to simplify?  Or do I want my house to look like the pages of a magazine or HGTV show?  Is it perfection I seek?  Or do I just want to be one of those carefree people who welcome people into their home without worry?

Truth be told, I was raised by a clutterer.  Not a hoarder.  Just an accumulator.  Parts of our house were organized, but behind the scenes were many piles of good intentions. Good stuff.  An overabundance of good stuff.

In order to move any further, I’m going to need a plan.  A goal for today.  But since it seems I was born without that gene, I’m not so sure I have it in me to formulate said plan or make that goal. I know that there’s a lot of help out there, from Marie Kon to Youtube tutorials, books and magazine articles, people who will take your money to organize your stuff, companies for hire who will essentially shovel your crap into the back of their truck and dump it in a landfill.

But it’s our stuff.  A lifetime of it.  And it’s not going away without a fight, this I’m sure.

I’ll start in the office.  The catch-all room.  I find a few bags of clothes and shoes all ready to be donated.  That’s a good start.  Move them to the front hall.  Done.

Next, the big stuff. An occasional box of things from a car we got rid of.  Or a job one of us once had.  Since they’ve been in the room for a while now, the contents have lost their importance.  Promptly pitch.

Then there are the things that come into this house that I have no time or desire to deal with.  Junk mail.  Magazines.  Community newspapers and newsletters I swore I’d get to.  Wrapping paper.  Gift bags.  PAPER.  Too bad we don’t warm our house with fire.  We’d be warm all winter (and yes, I know burning some of those materials are environmentally unsafe).

DVDs. VHS tapes (aren’t some of these worth money?).  Old computer games for the desktop.  Tons of them.  Camera equipment.  An old computer.  A printer that stopped working for no obvious reason. Pencils, pens and the like (where are you when I need you?!). Odds and ends.  Everywhere.  No rhyme or reason as to how or why they are where they are.  Thank God for desk drawers.

Still more paper.  A couple of guitars. A violin.  A ukulele case but no ukulele. An occasional guitar pick or string.   Not even going into the closet today.

A couple of hours and seven bags of stuff later, it’s time to load the car and the trash can without delay and get it out of the house before anyone of reconsiders its importance.  I wonder how long I’ll drive around with it in my car?  Nevertheless, feeling accomplished.  How many rooms to go?

Just another Sunday


I could write about how stretched to the limit I am.  Like…

How a day of benchmark testing students is never an easy day, regardless of my suppositions.

How my timing is off once again, requiring students to turn in a critical piece of writing just days before quarterly grades are due.

How I’ve over-committed myself AGAIN to activities both work and home related.

How I’ve just heard some of my favorite people are moving to a new school in the fall.

How I really want to eat a pound or two of chocolate but it’s spring and since my fat clothes are getting tight, I imagine what it’s going to be like getting into shorts.  Yuck.

How the rest of the world isn’t cooperating with my plans.  And even though I’ve learned in the past not to pin my hopes on the actions of others, it seems like I’ll never learn, will I?

How sending a package to my son at college will bring me joy instead of a headache due to all the minutia of packing up: the box not being the right size, the crappy tape, the smell of a sharpee, finding stuffing and finally having to stop at the post office before finally making it home to lie on the couch for a few minutes before someone needs me.

How I feel like I disappointed my spouse because I asked him to delay his birthday for a day because I was exhausted from the weekend with houseguests, and then ended up being really crabby the next day anyway (maybe more so?).  And I forgot my credit card and he ended up paying for his own birthday dinner (even though the money all comes from the same place).

How I had to find a lifeguarding recertification class IN NEW YORK instead of Virginia for my 19 year old because he starts his summer job the day after he comes home from college.

How looking for stencils and borders for some ugly white cabinets as an alternative to new ones will be exciting and creative, instead finding WAY too many choices and becoming  too overwhelmed to even care.

How much time I’ve wasted looking for things I don’t need instead of taking care of the time-sensitive things that need to be done (for example, grades).

How every time that damn loudspeaker comes on I jump out of my chair and want to scream and commit hari-kari.

How soon I will own three houses and have no business owning three houses.  And how I’ll be in debt up to my eyeballs.

How my knees and hands hurt.  Aging sucks.

How exhausting it is to have houseguests, even if they’re family and you love them more than anything.  It’s just that there’ll be someone in my space who wants to talk after work and all I want to do is stare at a blank wall for a while.

How I seem to be the glue in most areas of my life: home, classroom, family.  What happened to my devil-may-care life?

But I won’t write about those things today.





Too loud?

We are the loud family.
Relentlessly noisy.
Music.  Voices.
Crashing.  Clinking.
Clashing.  Sniping.
Barking.  Yelling.
Chatter.  Sarcasm.
And above all, laughter.
Our family heals when laughing.

You know you are adult
when you can laugh
about your childhood.
The dysfunction.
The greatest generation.
Their cocktails.
Their approach to child “rearing”
and manners.
Much of it was too much.
And some of it is not enough today.

All of this going on
around me makes
my head spin.
It’s exhausting.
And I wouldn’t want it
any other way.

Too loud?

Reality Break

Every once in a while, I find myself in a situation where I pretend I’m in a scene of a movie.  It’s unpredictable when this will occur and it happens in bits and pieces.  Today this happened.  It goes something like this…

I’m sitting in a library waiting for someone.  I have my headphones on and a very dramatic lone piano is playing a melancholy tune. There are expansive windows in front of me with tinted glass, making twilight even more pronounced—the blues bluer and the yellows yellower.  I look around and the patrons are in their own little world. There’s a sad little man who is making the rounds with a surplus of bags hanging off his arms and shoulders, passing me again.   Everything slows done and I begin to perspire.  I gaze out the window a bit more.  What am I thinking about? Am I pleased with my life or depressed that I haven’t become what I had hoped? I forlornly stare into the distance, pensive.

Scene break.  My husband draws me back into reality with a hand on my shoulder and it’s time to go home, walk the dogs, figure out dinner and catch up on the Walking Dead.  Back to my extraordinary ordinary life.  How I love these strange, unexpected brain vacations.

Reality Break