Leading By Example, Together We Are Strong!

I write for us when I have something to say, something I think will inspire, motivate, inform, persuade or entertain. I write to relieve stress and make sense of things, as I am doing today. I always say writing is like breathing, it sustains me. That said, this time of year I should be writing about shamrocks, leprechaun traps and spring themes. I still am in somewhat of a shock that my #oneword  for this year “joy” pops up, then gets hidden again due to events and situations not of my making or in my control.

Fairly recently, in “normal” times at our local market, I saw a guy squeeze nearly all organic tomatoes then put them back and not buy any. I am so sorry now I didn’t call him out or tell a manager. I feel like I am always the Principal out there, so I stifle my impulses a lot. I used to embarrass my kids, sure of it.

Now, I steer clear of markets. Afraid to touch anything, I see those pathogens flying around in the air. I go to sleep sometimes thinking about our children, so many ramifications, the loss of faith in our institutions, but belief in better days again. We are all resilient and modeling calm and sense of purpose is imperative for our own mental health and emotional stability, as well as our kids and families.

The panic buying, carts filled with tp, express line person in front of me had about fifty things the other day. Yesterday, I had to go out to get a prescription, so did a final sweep. So paranoid, the lady pumping gas (Oregon) handed back my credit card. What if she has ‘it’? Wiped card. Brought my own pen. Wrapped a wipe on the stylus and keypad at pharmacy. Called in one last to-go food order and two pieces of pie for #Pi Day. Then home. I may go out for three appointments this week, but that will be it, if offices are still open.

I am not speaking for you, but I should know better. I ought to be calm, in the moment, feeling my zen. But I don’t. I am working on it, and that’s rough to say as I shouldn’t have to work on it, I was feeling really peaceful for the first time in a long time, as my health improved and I found love again. How bittersweet. I happened to get a couple weird spider bites this week which decided to go big time. My primary doctor is not available any more. She is only taking really sick people. I called my naturopath and she helped me over the phone. It’s imperative I stay healthy right now, for others.

As a Principal, I handled a myriad of challenging situations on the regular, as a “mountain woman” taking care of my ill husband for six years, I know I was a champ then. Moving four times in five years, to be by, at least my Eugene kids, wasn’t easy. Sometimes I wondered how life had been different if William was still alive, but then I wouldn’t have met Sam, and at eight years widowed, so glad I finally listened to my heart and found the life partner right in front of me.

When I was pulled away from preschool with no notice, done teaching for the day, saying goodbye to the littles, my doctor called and informed me I had cancer, to go home then meet at her office. I barely survived my pea sized invader, not the surgeries, but the treatments which went afoul. I was bedridden for months, then made it downstairs from bed to couch, then finally outside. I got out for dr. appointments, but that was it for nearly a year. After, with a village, I am doing pretty well, although the complications left me with medical issues. Because of my age, bouts with pneumonia, damaged lungs from radiation burns, I am now labeled “high risk”. Oh boy. Now I have another label, one I could do without.

Last Monday, I had a fractured tooth fixed. My immune system took a hit. Allergies have also been off the chart, early spring, no real winter this year in Eugene. Bad air days. Not a great time to be warding off any virus, much less this. So after getting prepped here, no not cases of tp, I pretty much saw the handwriting and got ready to hibernate. Everywhere I went all winter here the usual colds, flus etc were wreaking havoc, coughing everywhere. But never did I think of any of this as lethal.

When I went with Sam and my kids to Morgan’s school play a couple weeks ago, this guy sat right next to me with a little who was obviously sick, sneezing and coughing all over the place. At Morgan’s school, the kids were also coughing that last day I worked with reading groups, with six out. So the other day (Thursday) I didn’t go to school. I was supposed to model my old timey phonics manipulatives, but drs. told me not to go. That ended up the school’s last day for a couple weeks or who knows yet?

There are so many issues with closing schools, of course. As meals for hungry children, who steps in? The digital divide, homeless kids living in cars or cramped places. What will they do now? School truly is a home for head, heart and soul. We know for so many children of all ages and stages that school is the safe place, teachers and all school staff take care of these children. Parents are the child’s first and best teachers, many kids also live with grandparents, relatives, other caregivers, all now tasked with keeping already stressed children from unknown harm. I thought tests too stressful, shooters were unimaginable, but now this, beyond comprehension. Our precious children have already had more than their share of damaging life events.

I kept saying these past weeks I needed a day home, all day, to get some of my “roundtoit” projects caught up. Well, now, I have that and more. Pretty much I am staying home for a long time, it seems now. Who knows? Fear gripped me beyond what I would want to admit, anger, too. Now that I am feeling better, my only bucket list was to get on an airplane and start visiting my other kids, family and friends. My horrendous medical bills, all charged on my VISA gives me plenty of air miles. I was saving up to maybe go to Hawaii or Disneyland with the kids. Those miles can just wait.

I have a very large extended family, maternal side, Bill’s side, too. I have five grandchildren. But I see Morgan all the time, couple days a week at least because I am now only ten minutes away from them. Yet I can’t go over there now. I am staying home for the common good, and yes to protect us. I decided to use this time at home constructively. I never finished settling in after my last move. I have mounds of paperwork to sort and file, and hopefully toss. I also started a rewrite of my 2002 book “Reading Champions”. This is a favorite, out of print a long time. I have plenty to do. Get on the bike. Do Pilates. Binge watch, read my Kindle. That’s not the problem.

I was doing ok. The political din confounding, but all in all, life was great. It still is, of course, but so different. There has been some incomplete or confusing information about this virus, as it is so new. Couldn’t watch news anymore, the political, the virus, but was following pieces on Twitter, FaceBook and reading articles in my phone news feed. I of course read more than I wanted to know about the pandemic, but was glad it appeared children were mostly spared or ‘generally’ only mildly ill.

What I missed was that children may be carriers. I emailed my primary and my naturopath to learn more. I was told “children may be a vector” and for safety, grandparents with health issues, age factor should stay away from their grandchildren for now. I also talked with both my doctors, checked CDC site and read articles only now beginning to mention the role of kids and all possible asymptomatic carriers. Yikes, who would want to touch a keypad now? I was already OCD, so being responsible but not a nut, although probably so. I was wiping down carts for years, bet not the only one.

When daddy came home Thursday, it was time to leave. I gave Morgan my last hug for awhile. Later Mommy told me that she cried. For me, this is my ultimate sacrifice. I wish I could be with all my children and grandchildren right now, but social distancing in my case means not only staying home, but staying away from Morgan.

I recognize there are enormous challenges right now, responders, unfortunate illness and unfathomable loss and separations. I support closing down what we can as a united people, everywhere. Anything we can do now to mitigate this horrendous turn of events. I thought we had all had enough, I thought 2020 would start with anything but this.

So I obviously had to shift my attitude and calm down. I have it great. We have tp, chocolate. We have each other. Morgan and I are Face Timing. I’m thinking about projects. I am so glad we had a sleepover last weekend. Now, I walk into Morgan’s little schoolroom here. It looks just like she left it last Sunday morning. Artwork, her projects, books, stuffies all there waiting for her. Me, too.

This is the time we stand together, being extra kind and generous with each other, figuring how to stay connected without being in physical proximity. Social distancing is necessary but heartbreaking. I am a toucher and hugger and yes, my hands are on my face constantly. It’s unbearable to not be making a leprechaun trap today with Morgan. But instead, I talked with my sister, nieces, daughter, friends. Making connections, forgiving, making amends, seems like a perfect time to do so.

Like waiting for the category 5 storm to hit, like waiting for medical test results, like finding out you have a fractured tooth, worrying about finances, it’s all too much to bear. But we must. And we shall, together. I just ordered pjs  online. No way I would go to the mall. Yet profoundly sorry I am not currently supporting all the local businesses I want to stay open through this. I wish I could do more. We all do. We do what we can, safely, for ourselves and others. Sacrifices for all.

Sports, theatre, movies, conferences, wedding, grads coming, birthday parties for the kids. Poof! Even the park may not safe, kids touching everything. Right now community after-school programs are obviously closed too, so there goes another safe play source. Yet at home, there’s lots to do as a family, schoolwork, learning must continue, reading favorite stories, tech, writing letters, playing board games. Adding structure to each day seems appropriate right now.

Sending you all the love in my heart today. We are getting through this together. We are strong. I am staying home, doing my part, as I know you are. We must be fearless and thoughtful leaders now, never giving up hope. I encourage us all to do whatever sacrificing must be done to survive and flourish. Stay strong with me. I know I slipped up, but I’m back. I promise.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

May God Bless and Keep you and yours safe.

I’d love to hear from you! Contact me:

Twitter: @RitaWirtz

FB: Rita’s Facebook

Website: RitaWirtz.com

Instagram: @ritamwirtz

Books: Stories From a Teacher’s Heart, Reading Champs

As always, thanks to BAM Radio Network for support of my writing.


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