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Offering a small school atmosphere for the Corvallis-Philomath community since 1984

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Mid-Winter Check-in

 Dear Friends,

I visit very little with  the parents of PhMS these days.  As the parents arrive to bring their little ones to school, standing 6 feet apart, shouting through our masks is not conducive to the peaceful greetings and COVID symptom checks that Madi must accomplish with each incoming child.  Therefore, I have had very few "deep and meaningfuls" with parents outside of parent-teacher conference confessions.  Fortunately, through this blog, I have a forum in which I can connect with you.  Did you know that there is a "comment" button at the end of each blog post here?  There is! And it is almost never used.  Let's see if it works, hmm?  You can answer back!

As I see it, we are about 3/4 of the way through this marathon of social distancing.  I believe that by the end of the summer, we should all be vaccinated, God willing and the creek don't rise.  Don't mark that on your calendar as that is just my most optimistic, lay-person's guess.  That means that there is still a long way to go before we reach our new "normal," which, I anticipate, will involve yearly COVID booster shots.  In the meantime, I myself have come to have a better understanding of just how much people's mental health is declining during this period of isolation.  As an introvert myself, I have taken the lack of socializing pretty well in stride, but I also have the in-person contact with my beloved colleagues and students, my weekly work with the animals and a few humans at Safehaven Humane Society and walking dates with my friend, neighbor and PhMS board member, Kathleen.  Many others in my circle are greatly on their own and it is taking a toll.  I am starting to understand the emotional desperation, not just the financial, that is leading people to defy recommended and mandated practices.  

Depression, often unrecognized, is widespread.  Unaddressed, it leaches out into the few remaining relationships that are still on-going, damaging the connections between friends and family members.  I see this happening around me and I think that if my peers are suffering, with all our years of practice in self-reflection and adaptation coupled with the resilience of our relative youth, how much more terribly might some of our children and our elders be struggling.  For the very young and very old, the situation must feel much bleaker.  We have all heard about how school-age children are experiencing depression, even suicidal thoughts.  I think I am only now just really letting this sink in.  I hope and pray these kids can hang on for the rest of this unpredictable school year.  

For all of those around us, regardless of age, let us be attentive.  Let's bring up the subject.  "Do you think you might be suffering from some depression due to all this isolation?  It's not a natural way for humans to live, you know" might be a way to bring up the subject with a loved one.  A telemedicine visit with one's primary care provider could be a great first step to finding the help and support needed.  Many of us have  Employee Assistance Plans that provide us with access to mental health professionals. There are several online mental health organizations that provide a tele-appointment with professionals in as little as 48 hours from the time of contact.   Meanwhile,  physical exercise, time spent outdoors, regular hours for sleeping,  a healthy diet , consistent routines and expectations and purposeful activity are wonderful modulators of mood.  Doing things for others brings joy.  I got a great boost from making Valentines for nursing home residents, friends and family and my students.  (Please don't tell.  It's a surprise.) 

I reach out to you with love.  If you are having a "hard time" (which is how some of my students express being down in the dumps,) I am holding you in my heart.  Please don't suffer in silence yourself and extend yourself to those who may need you.   If you feel moved to do so, hit that "Comment" button and let us know how you are doing.  You can keep it anonymous, if you wish.  Let's keep up the good work necessary to defeat this virus and then, we can get back to our hugs!

Wishing you all the best,

Doni

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Covid Consensus

Well, mortals make plans and God laughs, eh?  If you read my previous post, you know all about the holiday plans that my family and I are now cancelling.  My brother and his wife in Eugene were the first to say they had, in light of the ever-worsening pandemic, changed their minds about attending ANY holiday gatherings.  No amount of adjustment to our plan would suffice.  They were just out.  That got us all thinking about the risks and, as a group, we all decided that we will not be celebrating together in-person.  We will have a Zoom party on the Saturday before Christmas.  I'm not sure what we will do besides imbibe, but that will be a good start anyway!  

The day after our Zoom party, I will drive up to Vancouver to see my mom, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, who are all in one household.  I will remain outside their house.  I'm going to back my Subaru Outback up to her front porch.  I will sit in the hatchback of my car, protected under cover rain or shine, while my family sits on their porch and we will sing Christmas carols.  It is very important to Mom to set eyes on me, but this particular weekend is our only window in which I can travel outside of Oregon and be back within our state's borders two weeks prior to reporting back to work.  It's 3 hours of driving for one hour of togetherness, but it will be worth it.  Never let it be said I wasn't a dutiful daughter!

This situation is disappointing to me and I'm sure many of you are making sacrifices to keep your family and community safe, too.  I am sad and sorry for all that you must give up this year, but very grateful for your willingness to do so.  I thank you and I wish you all a very happy holiday season: one unlike any other.  We will all remember this one, won't we?  

Warmest Winter Wishes,
Doni

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Hygiene for the Holidays!

 Season's Greetings!

I am very curious about how people are managing their holiday expectations this year and perhaps others are, too.  In that interest, I am writing today to tell you how Andy and I and other members of our family are spending our Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I will begin, however, with Veteran's Day, which was yesterday.  At 8 AM or so, I learned that Albany was putting on a "Reverse Veteran's Day Parade " out in the parking lot of the newly constructed YMCA.  The idea is that veteran's groups and businesses hosting veterans would set up an area in which veterans could stand or sit, some decorated and some not (I refer to the staged areas, not the vets themselves, many of whom, I'm sure, were very decorated!) and citizens could circle by in their cars and wave and call out their thanks.  I immediately started painting some posters that said "Veterans, we thank you!" and "We 💜 you!" and blew up many balloons.  I figured we would drive to the Y and then quickly tape up the posters and balloons to our ride.  We took our Chihuahua-mix, Penelope, in a color-coordinated sweater to match our decorations.  We left our lab-mix, Miley, at home as she is disturbed by loud noises and we were expecting a big turnout of motorcyclists.  I felt really badly about leaving Miley behind and gave her extra pets and treats as we left.  That is probably what distracted me and caused me to leave the bag holding the adhesive tape sitting on the kitchen floor.  When we got to the parade route and pulled over, I was so excited to decorate our "float," but found no tape!  We settled for holding our posters up ourselves out the open windows.  As no other vehicles decorated at all, we still stood out and the vets really appreciated our home made posters and cute puppy.  "Chihuahuas for veterans!" we called!

For Thanksgiving, our holiday will be largely unchanged.  We will go to our cabin on the lake as usual.  It has a propane oven and stove and we will cook a feast for two, read a lot and try to identify as many migratory waterfowl as possible.  Autumn and winter are best for birding on Ten Mile Lake!   Some years, we do attend a large family gathering in North Albany hosted by Nancy, my stepmother, who was married to my dad while he lived and is now married to my daughter-in-law's widowed father.  It's all very interwoven and Appalachian.  Our family tree twists around like a curly willow!   This year, however, Nancy and Gary will not welcome their usual 12-15 guests, but will instead prepare a delicious meal and deliver it to the would-be guests who live nearby.  That is the compromise they have chosen.  It allows them to stay safe and opt out of hosting a dangerous dinner, but they can still have that feeling of connection by sharing their sweet potatoes and stuffing with loved ones.  

My sister in Vancouver, WA, began planning a Christmas get-together a month or so ago.  She is the youngest of  us 3 siblings.  My older brother lives in Eugene with his wife.  Our mom is 84 and in good health, but does have some risk factors besides age.  She will be living with my sister and her family in Vancouver from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  Mom's age makes it feel timely and important, yet also risky for us to gather.  We are still weighing the risks and it is entirely possible that we may scrap the whole thing, but for now, this is our plan;  On Saturday, December 19, we intend to gather in my sister's old house, which is HUGE.  It is a former sanatorium for cerebral palsy patients and has also served as a dance studio and church offices.  It has since been moved high on a hill out of town.  It features a large, square central "hall" which is open via 3 archways to a library, parlor and dining room.  Since there are 3 households attending -  my sister's, mine and my brother's, she will set up a table for each group in each of those 3 rooms. We'll be at least 12 feet apart, but will see and hear each other across the empty hall.  We will all wear masks except for when dining.  Windows will be open and sweaters will be worn.  There will be no table of appetizers nor open bar to hover over. My mother will cook a simple, but delicious meal of turkey divan and, huzzah! will bake two desserts!  One lucky teen niece or nephew will do all the serving so there will be no shared utensils.  We will limit the gathering to 3 hours and will include a Christmas sing-a-long as I have been practicing carols on my ukulele!  We will wear masks and stay distant during the singing.  

My sister has recently suggested that we seek out COVID tests prior to our holiday.  I received an order from my doctor easily and have an appointment for the drive-thru testing facility near the Albany hospital 5 days before the dinner.  I will be quarantined as soon as school lets out.  That test will cost $150.  I have been informed that RiteAid offers free COVID tests and I will look into that as well.  I want to point out that although  I am traveling out of Oregon state for this gathering, it is early enough in the Winter Break that two weeks will have passed before I am reunited with the children and staff at PhMS.  

As you can see, we are putting a lot of thought into our holiday plans.  As COVID numbers rise in Benton and Linn Counties, this is the worst possible time to loosen up and become lax in defeating the spread.  The urge to congregate with our family and friends is stronger than ever due to our love of holiday traditions and the forced separation we have all endured thus far.  Unfortunately, NW winter weather is not conducive to planning outdoor gatherings unless one is hooked up with a sturdy canopy and outdoor heaters.  Although I remember sitting on the front porch in our shirtsleeves on Christmas Day more than once, my dad still alive and enjoying the sunshine, that is a blessing one cannot count on.  So we must all be self-sacrificing, creative, detail-oriented and disciplined this holiday season.  We must show our love by, perhaps, not being with those we love.  We may spread holiday warmth by sitting in a cold, but well-ventilated room.  We may fill charity food boxes instead of the mouths of our relatives. We may feast our eyes on just the eyes of our masked friends.

 You now know that I have, so far, not resisted the siren song of "Home for the Holidays," but my family and I are taking such precautions that I feel very confident that I am fulfilling my obligation to all of you at PhMS.  My highest priority is to be a good citizen of our state and our school and rest assured, I am playing my part in keeping our kids and staff safe and our school open for in-person instruction.  I know I can count on my PhMS community to do the same.  Jessica, Madi and I wish you and yours a joyful and safe holiday season. We treasure you!

Warmest Holiday Wishes,

Doni

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

No hugs?!?

 Dear friends, 

It is so wonderful to be back in the classroom, finally, with real live children!  All is going well and we get to practice lots of new procedures, such as putting work away, not directly back on the shelf, but on the “sani-table,” where Madi sanitizes it and then places it back on the shelf for the next child.   We get to practice hand washing a lot and that gets us all counting to twenty. We should all be able to chant the numbers 1-20 very well, very soon. 

One thing we don’t get to practice is hugging.  And that is sad.  The older kids and I were discussing this today.  They understand and accept this new requirement and are very agreeable to sitting apart, using the same table all day, wearing masks properly and all the measures we take to protect each other from “the virus.”  But we all agree that we miss hugging.  I was quite bereft at not being able to hug all the returning kids and their parents!  The children came up with a list of actions we can take, instead of hugging, to show our love for other people.  They came up with the following: saying “I love you,” writing love notes and letters, doing sign language for “I love you,” making a heart-shape with ones hands and drawing pictures and giving them to people, especially pictures of hearts.  I thought this was a really good list!  Great ideas there and I’m sure they’ll think of more.  

I later told the children that it was very important for humans to experience touching.  I said that it kept our spirits, bodies and brains healthy.  I suggested that they might need some extra touching from people in their household, such as their parents.  The kids came up with a number of ways that would be nice to touch and be touched by their parents.  Here is the list: hugging, holding hands, snuggling, back rubs and back tickles.  As one child said, “There are lots of ways to touch!”  

This is a short blog post for me, but I really just wanted to reach out and connect.    We have all been through and are going through some extraordinary times.  Seeing you returning parents in the parking lot as you drop off kids, restraining myself from coming to hug you and ask you how you are, knowing we will not be potlucking and catching up is distressing to me.  I feel as if we are in a war, have been away from each other fighting this war, and as if some of us never came home from the war.  I say this to acknowledge the families who have decided to keep their kids home instead of joining us for their second or third year.  Of course, I understand their difficult decisions, but I miss them just the same.  But in times like these, it is vital to focus on what we do have, rather than what is lacking.  I am so grateful to be working at my craft and providing this opportunity for our kids.  I am grateful for all of you who have joined us and trust us to keep your kids safe and developing as normally as possible in a year that is anything but normal.  Thank you!  And as you’ve no doubt heard many, many times, “we are all in this together!”


Warmest Regards,

Doni  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Doni Distances

Dear Friends,

I am missing you all!  I just thought I would check in and let you know that my PhMS community is very much in my thoughts.  I hope you are all doing well this summer and living in the "now" as much as possible as that is all we have.  I have done some socializing under these new conditions and I thought some might like to hear of my adventures!

My BFF of 3 decades, Carla,  lives in Vancouver, WA.  We met at Willamette Mission State Park, which is equidistant between our two homes, for 4 hours of picnicing in our own folding chairs, catching up and singing along to my ukulele.

I went to Pauline Tanaka's (our school's founder) and Allan Rack's home in Alsea for an outdoor luncheon and a long visit.  Allan has created a veritable arboretum out there and we lunched and listened to the birdsong emitting from the 27 different varieties of trees that he had planted.  With just 3 of us it was pretty easy to keep distant, although I would have been comfortable with a longer dining table.  I felt very at-ease eating their delicious food as I understand the novel coronavirus is not easily spread through food.  And they have excellent hygiene, I must say.

Andy and I spent a few days at our small cabin on Ten Mile Lake and Carla joined us, camping in her own tent and socializing only outdoors.  There were a few moments that I wish we had had masks handy, because we were a bit close, but didn't.  These are awkward times, socially, are they not, when one's mask protects others better than oneself and we rely on others donning a mask to protect our personal health?  I feel a bit helpless and ineffectual at times, relying on others to save me from a terrible fate. 

In a couple of weeks, I will go up to Vancouver, WA, where my sister and her family also live, for the day.  They have been working on their outdoor space and now have an entertaining area.  We plan to break bread and have an outdoor screening of "Hamilton!"  (They have Disney+ and we do not.)  If it gets too late, I can sleep in my Subaru.  I've kind of always wanted to! 

This morning, I had a beautiful walk with my neighbor, friend, Montessori colleague and PhMS board member, Kathleen Lloyd.  It was heavenly to renew our fellowship and for me to spend quality time with  another of my tribe. She had lots of personal news to report, all happy.   At some areas of the walk, where we couldn't be spread out due to traffic, we wore our masks.  It was reassuring to spend time with someone so intelligent and science-minded who is as equally cautious as myself.  It lets me know I'm on the right vapor-free path!

Well, folks, that's what I've been up to, in case you've wondered about me.  I have also been having nearly daily afternoon naps on my front porch and I am back to volunteering at Safehaven, now twice per week. It's kitten season, by the way - lots of kittens!  And we have the most charming and friendly little Dutch rabbit - Luna.  You can see our animals on our website and meet them by appointment these days. 

Very Best Regards,
Doni




Sunday, June 14, 2020

Congratulations, Graduates!


Dear Friends,

I am feeling the need to process my feelings regarding our end-of-the-year punctuation mark, our graduation celebration.  My heart is so full because our grads really got into the spirit of the event, that spirit being manifested in the awesome vehicle decorations we beheld!  I wish we could have all strolled around, like at a car show, and admired the fantastic artwork and party decor on display, but that would have been unwise and unsafe.  I think Jessica and  I got to see more of your efforts than anyone and I can testify to the excellence I saw.  So, thank you, everyone, for your enthusiasm and spirit.  I thank especially the two families of younger classmates who waited patiently to drive through and show their support of their elders.  I refrain from using families' names here in the blog, but you two families know who you are and you warmed my heart and those of us all, yes, you did! Thank you!

Here is a cute story:  As those of you who attended already know, Lisa Pierce, wife of Dr. Jim Pierce, pastor at the College United Methodist Church, recorded not only the ceremony itself, but the arrivals of our families as well as the departure of our "parade" after the commencement exercises.  She made that link available to me and I shared it with my bestie of 30+ years, Carla.  She watched the whole thing.  I myself would have fast-forwarded through A LOT of it, but then I would have missed what she saw in an unguarded moment.  Carla knows that I have been dedicated to remaining inviolate from the novel coronavirus.  I have been to nary a store nor establishment since mid-March. No one has crossed our threshhold.  (Although I have just started back volunteering at Safehaven, all masked up and distant from the skeleton crew.  Yay!)  So when she saw one of our sweet little graduates approach  me from behind, bouquet outstretched, unbeknownst to me, after I had been making obvious efforts to remain distant from the gathered company, she could not help, as she watched,  but start humming to herself as he drew nearer, ever nearer, the theme from "Jaws!"  Da-dum...Da-dum...Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum DA-DUM! DA-DUM!!  End of cute story.

Then, as we took off for our "parade" (Jessica privately pondered, "Is it a parade if no one is watching?" But that is one for the ages) and went through town, we passed by a socially distant group of  Black Lives Matter demonstrators!  (Note to future demonstrators; being spaced out from each other like that really increases the visual presence of a small group!)  Some of us honked and waved  to them and they gave it right back, hollering "Congratulations!" as we passed! I just loved that mutual support going back and forth and was happy for the kids that they did have parade-attendees, after all!  And maybe this exchange lead to some important conversations, who knows? 

The weather was cooperative, the CUMC bent over backwards to lend us the PA system and tech support and our grads showed up in full-force and in full regalia.  We had unexpected community support on our parade route and we all got home by wine-thirty.  All in all, a very successful mid-pandemic pre-school graduation, as those things go.  Thank you to all for being so game!  I wish you all a safe and happy summer and a happy school situation next fall!

Warmest regards,
Doni

Friday, June 5, 2020

Racial Injustice and Unrest Right Now


Dear Friends,

I think it would be cowardly of me not to address the unrest in our country at this time, which is symptomatic of our troubled past and troubling present as a nation.  I have no words of wisdom to offer, only a commitment to be part of the solution to the shame of racial injustice in America.

As regards our children, it is important to have conversations about fairness, equality, diversity and prejudice during these "formative" years: the First Plane of Development, from birth to age 6 and then beyond and into the Second, Third and Fourth Planes.  We make it a practice at PhMS to tell true stories and read children's books about the civil rights struggle, about the plight of enslaved persons in the US and in other places as we learn about world history and geography. During those same studies we learn of the challenges that history has presented and the triumph of the human spirit witnessed in all races, religions and walks of life.  We share stories about historic persons of all races and events pertaining to empiricism and the longing for freedom.  We relish the works of indigenous poets, authors and artists of the countries we study. We take care that our library represents a rainbow of experiences offering both "windows" and "mirrors" for all of our children to see. They see their own culture(s) reflected as well as glimpses into lives unlike their own.

I tell you this not to congratulate ourselves for all we have done to combat prejudice and celebrate differences. That would be grossly tone-deaf when there is clearly so much more to be done; merely the first step of this journey has been taken, inspired by the most recent martyrdoms of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the dangerously ridiculous harassment of birdwatcher Christian Cooper. I tell of some of what we do with our charges to illustrate that difficult subjects can and should be addressed with pre-school-age children.  Parents have their own wisdom regarding what they wish to share about racial inequality and at this age, the values you impart become part of the child's world-view and character.  Our public library has many age-appropriate books to support your message.  Even Pinterest has your back.

I encourage you to read a post just one or two prior to this entitled "What Do We Tell the Kids?" which I wrote to aid parents in discussing the pandemic, but is meant to be helpful regardless of  difficult subject matter.  I strongly, strongly discourage, however, sharing with young children the current images of violence being perpetrated either by law enforcement or by looters and rioters.  These images are too immediate and current to be safely processed by the immature mind. We are all having trouble ourselves, are we not?  Pathological levels of stress and anxiety, bad dreams and fitful sleep and the absorption of prejudice could easily result.  Keep the news off when the children are around.  They truly cannot handle it in that raw form.  It must be thoughtfully distilled to a child-friendly potency.  Rather, print an image of unity: cops kneeling beside protesters, hugs, listening, peaceful marching, and hang it on the fridge.  Evil has awakened our collective and overdue outrage, but only goodness and love will move us forward. 

In Peace,
Doni