Finding our Rhythm

Pick any day in 2019. The alarms go off at 5:15, 5:30 and 5:45 a.m. Coffee maker pops on. You look through the fridge and miraculously create two lunches out of two pieces of deli turkey and one carrot that has seen better days. You eat breakfast and sign permission slips. You go get dressed and drive into work. You work but leave an hour early to immediately get ready for practice and rehearsal. Dinner can either be at 4:15 or at 9:15 p.m., it’s one of those nights. At 11 p.m. you send out a sign-up genius you were supposed to send out yesterday for teacher appreciation. It’s busy – but it’s a rhythm.

Pick any day in 2020. What day is it? Coffee maker pops on. You didn’t think you would like graham cracker flavored creamer when it was substituted in your order, but its growing on you. You hear the thud of the children’s feet on the floor upstairs. Must be time for them to log in for their school assignments. You log into a zoom PTA meeting where you discuss options, possibilities and so many what ifs and maybes. You log out. You play a board game, water your plant babies and bake some bread for tomorrow. It’s a chaotic rhythm. What day is it?

Pick any day in 2021. Coffee maker pops on. We are back! I never thought an alarm clock could be a sweet sound. Kids are off to school in a building that is not your house. From the waist up you are very Donna Karen, but from the waist down you are very Old Navy 2008. You log into a zoom meeting where you see the laundry pile over your left shoulder in the camera frame, you adjust your camera only to show the science fair project pile over your right shoulder. After work, you go to a PTA meeting at a park where you sit in chairs six feet apart. You go home and log into a virtual play on zoom that evening that your child’s friend is in. It’s surprisingly cute. This rhythm is tricky, complicated and hard, but you got it, you are on beat.

Pick any day so far in 2022. Coffee maker pops on. School is closed for the rest of the week because many teachers are out sick. You drive into the office. COVID-19 numbers are starting to drop, and vacation is in a few weeks. It has been a while since vacation. You order better quality masks, and hop on a plane for the first time in two years. You dine outside, you have every scent of hand sanitizer Bath and Body works produces and you have a great time. You attempt to get back on a rhythm – any rhythm.  Your days are becoming full. You drive kids, go to PTA meetings, rehearsal, practice and work dinners. It’s a slightly chaotic, not quite normal, but almost steady rhythm.

They say comparison is the thief of joy, and it is true. As much as I know this, I can’t stop comparing where we are to where we were. We can’t compare 2019 to 2022 any more than we can compare apples to oranges. I feel like now, it is time to create a new rhythm. As much as I try, I can’t seem to land on beat. School feels almost normal. Almost, but not quite. We have some new additions and changes like hand sanitizer stands, masks, outside lunchrooms and the water fountains are still closed. Childhood is different now; teaching is different now and parenting is different now. However, different doesn’t mean bad. We can still find our rhythm, even if it means looking a little harder for it on some days.

Current global, national and state events have led to another layer of disrupted rhythm. How can we help our students keep the beat? How can we support our teachers and schools and get that rhythm back?

First and foremost, we need to vote for public education. We need to make sure that we speak loud enough for the people inside the capital with the pens can hear us when we say public education is important. Our public schools need our support, perhaps now more than ever. We all thought 2020 was the hardest year in education, however it is proving to be knocked out of place by 2022. The challenges that our teachers are facing this school year are unparalleled. They are covering classes during their breaks, making lessons accessible to children sick or quarantining at home, rewriting lesson plans to fill in gaps and also managing to find space in a career that has completely changed shape in the past two years.

Our students are trying to find stability and routine in a world where those two things can be hard to nail down. They may be in one class one week and another class the next. Their campus may close for a day or two. They may have to be at home. The event they had been helping to plan for months may have been cancelled.

As parents, we are also struggling to find our rhythm at home. I wish we could browse the self-help section at Half Priced Books to find, “How to parent during a pandemic,” because I would have bought ten copies and a whole box of highlighters. I just keep telling my children the same thing I have been telling them since they were little – the rules are subject to change at any time.  It’s so hard to teach our children to have the courage to make the right decisions even when they are hard, the character to stick to their principles even when challenged, and the integrity to not compromise their truth in a world where everything is constantly in flux. How do we know where the fence is if it keeps moving? How do we explain to our kids that different families have different rules? It is our job as parents to define these parameters as they change. Parenting has always been a full-time job, but these past two years we have been working emotional overtime. Our children are learning important lessons here, even if we wish they didn’t have to learn them in this way.

Volunteering is hard when you can’t get in the door. I have spoken to PTAs all over the state who have yet to be back inside a building. They are having to create new ways to connect families, students and teachers without being physically present. They are planning classroom parties in a box to leave outside the school for the teacher to take in. They are hosting virtual workshops. I have spoken to PTAs whose numbers are less than half of what they typically are.

It’s not that no one cares anymore. I feel that it is more that everyone’s plate is very, very full. Volunteering in this time takes a lot of thought, time and mental space. We have to think about others and practice empathy. We need to understand that some might not be able to show up like they did in the past. Don’t discount them. Hold space for your families and your communities. If you have the ability to volunteer right now, do so loudly. Show up and be heard. Remind teachers that the breakfast was brought to them by their loving PTA. Remind students that the outdoor dining area is provided by their PTA.

Earlier this year I was presenting, “Hey Dude, Nice Shoes,” at an elementary school in Leander, and it was their first assembly in two years. The kindergarteners and first graders had never sat at their assigned spaces in the gym before. That assembly was brought to them by their PTA, and I made sure the kids knew it! Make sure your community knows that your PTA is still there – although it may look and operate a little differently. PTAs are still able to make an enormous difference in the lives of our families, students and educators. As we get our rhythm back, our families and communities will find their way back to the music.

In this time of changing rhythm, it is important to listen to ourselves and our own heart while also trying to listen to other’s. It is invaluable for us to show, learn and teach empathy. The teacher that is late to respond to your email may have had a kid sick at home last week. The parent who didn’t sign the form the third time you sent it home may be busy moving back into their office after two years. The student who threw their backpack against the wall and ran out may be upset after missing two years of birthday parties, his party Saturday is now canceled. The friend in your book club may have unsubscribed from it because due to medical fragility, their family is still in quarantine and even hearing of events is hard for them. We are not all in the same boat.

We need to soften our judgements and ease into this new rhythm. For some, it may still be fast and steady. For some, it can hard to pick out a repeated pattern to find the tempo.  And for some, like me, you may feel like you are constantly clapping on the upbeat and so out of sync with the rest of the world. This is where we are at. This is where I am at. Wherever you find yourself, I see you. I hear you. I am empathetic to your situation and circumstance. This is hard work, but together we can find a new song for a new day.

The alarms go off. Coffee maker pops on. Onward. We are finding our rhythm and making music. We are making some really beautiful music! The darkness of the last two years makes the smallest bright spots so brilliant. I sobbed when I saw my daughter’s choir concert this December. Just a few years before I would have complained about the uncomfortable seats or the length of some sonata. But now, after everything we have been through and all the virtual choir experiences we have attempted, I cherished every second and every note.  I am so grateful for the new perspective.

We are all making some really beautiful music. We are hosting movie nights and inclusive family dances. We are showing up in new ways with virtual meetings and workshops. We are creating “pep squad email committees” to lift up our teachers and offer new opportunities to people who are unable to be physically present.  We are finding our rhythm and learning a way to dance to it. Some of us look like Ginger Rogers, and some of us look like Carlton from Fresh Prince. However, look at us! We are dancing! We are dancing when we used to be sitting still. That is progress. That is hope.

The 400-Day Pause

I recently used my Instagram (@heydudeniceshoes) to ask students, “What do you wish parents and educators realized about this past year?” Here’s what some students had to say:

“In person school is hard when you aren’t allowed to be close to your friends.”

“All the things I looked forward to are gone and now it’s just work.”

“I have questions, but my mic doesn’t work, and they don’t read the chat.”

“We are scared too.”

“I prefer virtual math but not virtual choir.”

“I have to help my brothers with their work during the day.”

“My computer is slow.”

“I wish I could go to school face to face, but my mom is at risk so I can’t.”

“I am not lazy.”

“How is this my senior year?”

“I actually MISS normal class.”

“I have a hard time paying attention, but I am trying.”

One response really stuck with me. It was from a high school junior named Connor. He wrote, “I wish they realized that we didn’t imagine growing up like this. I’m seventeen on paper, but I still feel fifteen.”

I reached out to Connor and asked him to elaborate. He shared that he had not been inside his school since midway through sophomore year, right before we all hit pause. As we approach the 400-day mark of the pandemic, some of us are coming out of pause while others are waiting longer to press play. But for Connor, he will not be able to return to his school building until he’s a senior this fall.

Back in the spring of 2020, no longer a new guy on campus, Connor was still basking in the “seniority” one more grade afforded him. He was happy to put freshman year behind him, but he also couldn’t help marvel at all the stuff the upperclassmen could do – and that he was anticipating – like awards, dances, and games. Connor saw juniors receive their letter jackets and then parade around campus wearing them even on warm days. He assumed that his own letter jacket and any hoopla at school would come down the road.

But when his letter jacket arrived in the mail not too long ago, Connor realized just how much all that ceremony mattered. There was no one at home who wanted to see it, or read the patches, or watch him try it on. He had nowhere to wear it but his bedroom. The only hoopla he was able to share was on social media. “Pics or it didn’t happen,” he said on the post. Connor showed his parents later that day, who took a bunch of pictures as parents tend to do, but right into the closet it went after.

Connor is hopeful he will wear his letter jacket to school this fall for senior year. I am hopeful too.

When I think back to my sophomore year: Titanic was on the big screen. I had just bought Oasis’s third album on CD. My hair was a dark maroon. Revlon’s toast of New York was my go-to lipstick. And my favorite store was tied between Gadzooks and Contempo Casuals. I was very involved in both theater and speech and had a tight circle of friends.

I remember how much older the seniors seemed. They could drive cars, date, and get in big trouble. All those things seemed so far away to me. I hadn’t even taken drivers ed yet or had a boyfriend, and what on earth would I get in trouble for? Over the next two years, I learned the answer to that question.

With license in hand, I made good and bad decisions, got into trouble, and learned a few lessons along the way. I dated, had my heartbroken, and then moved on to love again. At 18, I was growing into another person. I no longer had maroon hair or shopped at Gadzooks. And I didn’t even audition for the school musical.

“We don’t know how these kids will pick up from where they left off — socially and developmentally.”

Yes, my life had changed, and I had too. But how different would things have looked if I was plucked out of sophomore year and then plunged back in as a senior? Would I have learned those lessons, grown from heartbreak, and gotten to know myself better? Would I have kept the maroon hair? We don’t have anything to compare this 400-day pause to. We don’t know how these kids will pick up from where they left off — socially and developmentally.

As we slowly follow the light at the end of the tunnel and prepare for next school year, we need to realize that kids right now lost over a year of their adolescence. The seventh grader we see this fall hasn’t really experienced middle school yet. And just like Connor, high school seniors may feel younger in some ways.

This long pause has caught me off guard as well. I was 38 when the pandemic began. And two weeks ago, I turned the big 4-0. This is usually a huge milestone for my family and friends. We’re talking trips, parties, and pictures – pics or it didn’t happen. But instead, I started a new decade under the radar – although very contently with my three favorite people and X Files reruns and take out.

I feel 40 as much as Connor feels like he’s 17.

Earlier during the pandemic, I heard one reporter say, “Same storm, different boat.” This rings very true. As we prepare for what’s next, I hope we realize that we are all coming from different places. Some of us have weathered the storm and some of us are still in it. Some of us are ready and some of us are not. For some people, 400 days is just the midway point.

I hope that we show each other grace, patience, and kindness. I hope that if someone is excited to talk, we listen. I hope that if someone sets a boundary, we honor it. I hope we see each other in the brightest and most hopeful light after this long 400-day pause – whenever you decide the time is right for you to hit play.

Be gentle my friends, as the storm ebbs and flows our boats may re-surface in varying degrees of disrepair. Whether you hit play after a 400-day pause or more like 600 days, I hope that day is everything you’ve waited for.


When it comes to parenting, decision-making is my favorite part of the job. I like being “where the buck stops.” However, this year, decisions are at the bottom of my favorite things list. It seems like we are faced with big, scary, daunting, pandemic-sized decisions every few weeks.

As the school year approached, my husband and I had to figure out if our kids would go back on campus or learn from home. There was clearly no right answer so we decided to keep them home. As September blurred into October, I winced remembering back to the spring when my youngest daughter asked if she would be able to trick or treat. Equipped with masks and hand sanitizer, we ventured to their cousin’s house, ten feet from the front door, for what would likely be their last Halloween trick or treating – or at least a semblance of that.

Then it was November. What about Thanksgiving? We imagined gathering outside of my in-laws. But as the holiday approached and numbers continued to climb, we decided that wasn’t a great idea. So, for the very first time, my little family of four made Thanksgiving dinner. Well, more like three of us. My apple pie is going down in the history books as the worst one ever – best described by my daughter as “a stale, tart, apple flavored cinnamon cereal with no sugar.” Awesome, exactly what I was going for. Thanksgiving this year was a two-hour Zoom call with extended family, minus one apple pie.

Yep, 2020 has been a heck of a year. I have made some heavy decisions and set boundaries that sting. And then came choir.

Choir is a big deal in our house. When the girls were tiny, they loved singing in school productions and watching the older kids perform. They would get wide-eyed when the high school choir, named Musicale, visited each December decked out in Victorian costumes. My oldest first saw them perform Christmas carols in the second grade. She stood up in the cafeteria after their second song, weaved her way through the criss cross applesauce maze, and found me in the back of the crowd. She pulled my sleeve down and loudly whispered, as seven-year olds do, “I want to be the one in the frilly dress when I get big.” When she did get older, she suddenly couldn’t think of anything more horrible than singing in front of her class. Twelve is a gloriously tricky age! But thanks to a persuasive choir director, she was inspired to give it a chance and hasn’t looked back. The sixth grader who never thought she could sing has grown into a varsity member of her high school choir; she even made Musicale this year.

Cue difficult decision.

The show choir starts practicing holiday music at the beginning of the school year, and November and December are usually jam-packed with caroling performances. Of course, this year looked very different. Caroling gigs, now optional, would be held outdoors with social distancing and masks. Great. However, in-person rehearsals were required to participate.

We had been home for 260 days. On one hand, I could count how many times we had another roof over our heads or sat in another car. Without much hesitation, I made decisions about birthdays, family visits, and vacations, but somehow this decision over caroling was the one that caused me to lose sleep.

I didn’t want to let down my wide-eyed second grader or the sixth grader who didn’t think she had the courage to sing. I wanted to give the girl who turned 16 in quarantine, the one so elated when she made Musicale, everything she dreamed of. I wanted to see my daughter finally put on that frilly dress, because this would all be over by December … right?

We went back and forth for a long time weighing the pros and the cons, the hypotheticals and the probabilities. Then it was decision time. To carol, or not to carol, that was the question.

She certainly looked beautiful in her frilly dress – a vision in blue satin elegance. Despite the height she has on me, I couldn’t help but see my second grader again. “Mom,” she said. “ How do I look?”

Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the caroling gig – giant hoop skirt intact. My daughter and a few other choir members stood far apart in the courtyard outside of a retirement community. Peaking through the window, I could see how eager the residents were to hear their young visitors perform. As the first few notes pierced the cold air, I saw the residents collectively lean forward to hear more. I couldn’t see smiles from behind their masks, but I did see tears in their eyes. The breath caught in my chest as a man stood up from behind his table and put his hand on the window as the choir sang “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” In that breath, I paused. I realized that all the decisions with no right answers had somehow guided me to that moment. I have cried so many times in the past nine months. I cried over the loss of the year, or because we were out of coffee, or sometimes for no reason at all. I have cried over many decisions. But when I saw that man’s hand fog up against the window, I cried because I saw joy. I guess I hadn’t seen it in a while, or maybe I was so caught up in all the decisions I forgot to look.

Our brains have been operating in decision hyperdrive for months. And we are physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted because of it. But if you pause to look up, you will see the joy that still exists around you – one frilly dress at a time.

Endless Grace for the Endless Summer

The bell rings.

Break open the seal of your packet. This exam is timed. Please keep an eye on the clock. The clock is broken? Fashion yourself a sundial. Fill in the circles thoroughly and completely but make sure they are also blank. Remain seated and standing at the same time. Good luck.

Welcome to a very bizarre and very real world where up is down. Welcome to the endless summer. Over the past several months, parents have had to make some whiplash-inducing decisions. Never in my life would I have imagined having to decide whether to send my kids back to school because of a pandemic. I have always wanted my children to go to public school. You would be hard pressed to find a bigger cheerleader of public schools than me. Out of every piece of parenting I have relished in the past 16 years, I am lucky to say that school has been one of my favorites. Now I am asking myself, “Do I send my kids to school, or do I keep them home?” I can hardly wrap my mind around it.

In March, I was sure we would be back on campus in May. I was certain we would hold ceremonies and celebrate one another at the end of the year. I was certain we would have prom and a typical graduation where seniors walk the stage to accept diplomas. Then April came. I resigned myself to the fact that we would not finish out the spring semester in person. It was a hard pill to swallow, and it felt unbelievable and sad. That Friday before spring break, when we all walked away for what we thought would be a week, turned into the endless summer.

Usually our summers are pretty busy. My eldest works at summer camp, and my youngest is a very busy pet sitter for vacationing neighbors. Not this endless summer. This summer there was no camp. This summer everyone stayed home with their pets and, in many cases, adopted more. My family stayed home (literally within our four walls and fenced yard, perhaps the front sidewalk and an occasional drive) for over 100 days. Around the 50-day mark, I eased up on screen time restrictions. Around the 70-day mark, I pushed back bedtime and also breakfast. By the 100th day, I gave in and ordered Capri Sun in our curbside order. Meanwhile new pajama pants for the entire family were arriving to our doorstep in frequent deliveries.

It got hot. I started a garden. We dyed our hair. We played board games. We were chefs. We bought chickens. We built a coop. We made surprises for neighbors and left them on doorsteps. We took road trips. We drew with chalk. We made balloon animals. We watched the entire TV series Lost in under two weeks. We read. We set up a Zoom room in our master bathroom. We slept. We woke up. Rinse and repeat throughout the endless summer. I lost track of days and weeks as I fell into the pandemic loop. Then the question of when, why, if, what, and how for the new school year started to trickle into my newsfeed and inbox.

“This is crisis schooling during a pandemic, and none of us have played this game before.”

Is it safe to send kids back to school? Is it safe for teachers and staff? What about state and federal funding? What about the mental health of our children? What about social and emotional development? What about socioeconomically disadvantaged students? What about title 1 schools? What about equity? What about accessibility? What about working parents? What about third shift workers who usually sleep while their kids are at school? What about social life? What about senior year? What about getting back to normal? Every time I thought I had the perfect answer I found a hole. I attended many virtual meetings and town halls. I organized committees and searched for options. I wrote emails and made phone calls. I tried hard to find the right answer only to discover that there is no right answer. This is not the world as we know it. This is not school as we know it. This is crisis schooling during a pandemic, and none of us have played this game before.

Districts across the state will start school online for three weeks. After that, many families will either send their kids to school or attend virtual learning at home. And this decision needs to be made soon. Parents are looking into a broken crystal ball trying to make the very best decisions for their students and families. This pandemic doesn’t play by our rules. It doesn’t let us know what is going to happen next. Each family is faced with a headache full of unanswered questions and by carefully weighing each option they make a choice. None of the options make sense. Time is ticking by, and we have to pencil in our best answer knowing that it may look different from our neighbor’s.

The parent shame game is unfortunately a very familiar one. Bottle feeding verses breast feeding, stay-at-home verses working parent, preschool or playtime, sugar, potty training, bedtimes, diet, car seats, and everything from pacifiers to nicknames seem to be up for debate. Sadly, the parent shame game has adopted a new battleground, in-person school or distance learning. I learned early on that what works for one child may not work for another.

I remember how easy it was to potty train my eldest. When she was 18 months old, I simply told her, “Hey, I am not going to buy any more diapers.” It was that easy. She didn’t have one accident. I remember thinking how ridiculously difficult some parent friends were making it for themselves. I remember looking at them in disbelief as they bribed with gummy bears or described how much they shelled out for pull-ups. I judged them. Then my youngest daughter was born. I gave her the same line. She shook her head and then proceeded to have an accident five minutes later. Then she had an accident in the car seat, then at Costco … in the cart. Every day for over a year, I did a load of sheets in the morning wondering what I was doing wrong. That was one of my first lessons of motherhood. These precious indescribable wonders are not one size fits all and neither are families.

We need to go into this next chapter of decision-making in the time of COVID-19 with grace for our neighbors. We need to understand what may be easy for us, may be impossible for others.

As you sit down with families to make back to school decisions, make room for a teachable moment on the subject of grace. Remind them about the people who have worked hard to make this school year happen. Remind them about their teachers who have families of their own. Remind them about school staff who showed up on campus in masks and gloves over the summer to hand out laptops for distance learning. Remind them about their principals who poured over numbers and made some hard phone calls. Remind them about their school board who must carry the weight of big decisions during a difficult time. Remind them about the administrators who attended hours of professional development training so they can better connect with students online. Remind them about their PTAs who are scrambling to meet the needs of their school communities without being on campus.

I speak often about how very different this world is from the world we all grew up in. The world of pagers and pay phones seems so very far away now. We have had to adapt while raising our children. We have all had to invent new rulebooks on growing up because this world was not even fathomable just a few decades ago. We have adapted, and we will adapt again. We will make some rules that work and some that need to be rewritten. As we fizzle into a new season of endless summer, we need to give ourselves grace to do that.

The bell rings.

Pencils down. Please hand your packet to the front of the classroom. Since the scoring rubric is different for each of you, no grades will be given. You have all earned endless grace for the endless summer.

Finding Rainbows

It’s been 72 days since my family came home and stayed home. We abruptly went from two different whiteboard calendars filled with color-coded plans, times, and appointments to completely blank slates. Our once jam packed days that were scheduled down to the minute have since slowed to a crawl. Some changes have been hard to accept. Schools closed their physical doors and learning moved online. One by one performances were cancelled and there was no prom. Long-awaited dreams of trips popped like soap bubbles, and celebrations started to take much different shape.

We now eat every meal at home. We don’t get to see our friends or extended family in person. So many birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays have been celebrated quietly with the same three people. The world looks very different through these new and suddenly acquired pandemic lenses. It has been a stormy season for sure, but if you sit still and look, you can still find some rainbows.

“So many tiny bright spots and rainbows can be found in the present if we all just learn to be still enough to embrace them.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard or said the words “when all of this is over” in the past few months. When all of this is over, I am going to take that trip. When all of this is over, I am going to make those plans and see those people. When all of this is over, I am going to go to that restaurant again. With such an uncertain immediate future I found myself only making plans for “when all this is over.” But then I sat and began to think about all the little ways that life has slowed down and created positive change. So many tiny bright spots and rainbows can be found in the present if we all just learn to be still enough to embrace them.

Before the pandemic, I usually traveled a few days out of the week. I’d leave the house at 7:45 am and return about 12 hours later having had two of my meals in the car. Don’t get me wrong. I love being busy. I thrive on it. But being busy had become a habit that I built up and placed on a pedestal, and I thought I couldn’t live without it. If I found myself with spare time, I quickly looked for ways to fill it. I remember once my parents took the kids to the beach for spring break. I don’t schedule work on spring break, so I wasn’t traveling, and I found myself at home. I scurried around town looking for places to volunteer. I spent a few days at a nursing home, volunteered to speak to representatives at the State Capital, and I read Shakespeare to some hospice patients. It was a glorious week. As much as I loved it, I found myself exhausted and frustrated when the kids returned home. I hadn’t given myself time to relax.

This pandemic has forced me to slow down and embrace stillness. These days, instead of bouncing out of bed, rushing for coffee, packing lunches, dropping off children, getting ready, and then go, go, go … I am still. Instead of waking up at 6:00 am, I slowly roll out of bed around 8:00 am. I have made a habit of practicing yoga in the backyard before even getting dressed. I am much less inhibited in my pajamas! Who knew? (Sorry, neighbors.) While in the backyard on my yoga mat I have started to take notice of the birds. The same birds I’ve looked at a million times but never really seen! Am I a bird lady now? I have bought three different bird feeders online. And I have given all my regular bird visitors names. I guess I am a bird lady.

I’ve started a garden even though I have never gardened in my entire life. One day I made every member of my family come outside in a rainstorm to look at the teensiest, tiniest tomato buds and take my picture as I smiled proudly beside them. Normally my cooking talents include opening a box of cereal and making sure we are good on clean spoons. But now I have learned how to (kind of) cook! I made soup and everyone actually ate it without complaint. We are even making our own sourdough bread almost every day.

Before all of this, my friends and I could go weeks, sometimes months, without checking in, but now we text, call, or Facetime every day. One friend sent me a four-minute video of a hummingbird, and I gleefully watched every second. Perhaps the most astonishing thing to come out of this pandemic is the fact that for the first time in my adult life I have found the bottom of the laundry basket. It exists! The only clothes that need to be washed are the ones we are wearing. WHO AM I? Not only am I shocked that, after decades of washing and drying and piling, I actually have an empty laundry room, I am also shocked at how happy that empty laundry room has made me. To me, an empty laundry room is a giant rainbow.

The pandemic has robbed many people of once in a lifetime memories – yearbook signings, prom, graduation, and a semester-long goodbye that marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. But if you look close enough, there might be rainbows.

This year our entire neighborhood held a graduation parade. It was heartwarming to see the excited faces of the many high school seniors who grew up on the sidewalks and swing sets in our neighborhood. Seeing them proudly wear their cap and gown while waving from the back of their parents’ pick-up truck seemed somehow perfect.

“You can’t see a rainbow if you are running too fast chasing the sun.”

Everything is suddenly different, but different doesn’t mean bad. In no other timeline would I sit in the backyard with my two teenagers and sing the Top 40 of the 1960s for an hour. In no other timeline would I see my kids this much or talk with them this much. In no other timeline would my laundry be done. The pandemic has taken away many things, but it has also gifted us stillness. You can’t see a rainbow if you are running too fast chasing the sun.

This pandemic has forced me to slow down enough to look for all those little rainbows. Instead of trying to plan what I will do when all of this is over, I am focusing on how I will show gratitude in the present. When all this is over, I will appreciate so much more. When all this is over, I wont take a hug for granted. When all this is over, I will not complain about the length of an awards assembly or having to sit on hard bleachers. When all this is over, I will have the ability to be still by choice. When all this is over, I hope I will still look for birds, tomato buds, and rainbows.