As the upcoming school year swirls loudly around us, this teacher is honest enough to say if ever a summer could last forever — I’d pick this one. Not because I’m dreading returning to school (with or without a mask). Not because I don’t want to teach without a hug or high five. Honestly, it’s not even because of anxiety about the unknown (although there’s plenty of it). Instead, I would make summer last forever because of what I’ve learned during the longest ever spring break that turned to summer.
I share these lessons so I can return to this summer over and over.
These are a little long, but we are writing history here they say…
Traveling is never about the destination. From China to Chattanooga or even just down the road to Crawfordsville, I love to travel! I’ve pushed through exhausting seasons because on the other side, my favorite beach or ranch awaited. Long before I’d heard “Corona” associated with a pandemic rather than a party, we had committed to more time at home in 2020. However, this was a screeching whiplash inducing halt for our crew. My kids have grown up on the road. It is their normal to fall asleep and wake up in another climate. What I didn’t know until this summer is how much they love it. Traveling, it seems, has become part of their love language. I guess I assumed they love traveling because of where we go, what we do and who we see. But through this summer, I found they were more than happy to drive in a 2 hour circle to make a delivery, eat takeout on the tailgate and return back home with our masks and sanitizer with us along the way. Although they appreciate the beach, the cabin, and the adventures — we in our core love to be together traveling and we don’t often care to where or why. That lesson is a gift of summer I never want to forget.
Home is the best place to explore. We have mud, animals, hills, trees, creeks, and ponds here at R7. I love watching our kids savor the adventure found in the country life. When time slowed down so much that I could literally hear the clock ticking…I learned that home is also my place to explore. A place to explore my dreams, my feelings and the dreams and feelings of the people I love the most. When home starts to feel confining, I don’t have to leave to explore. There is so much to uncover about myself, my home and my people if I just change my perspective. I fell in love with home all over again and that lesson is a gift of summer I never want to forget.
Kindness & bravery go together. During the early days of quarantine, we stumbled upon the need for food pantry volunteers at our local shelter. Although somewhat scared, we rounded up mask supplies and headed downtown. We all fumbled as we put on gloves, took temperatures, and came up with what felt like a safe assembly line. We tried to figure out…is it better to smile and have eyes squint or raise your brows in an excited face? Which is better understood as a smile by other volunteers? In hindsight, some of this seems silly but in the moment it required bravery and kindness to get to work and be uncomfortable rather than watch another Netflix series.
After a sweaty afternoon of hauling cases of food, we were waiting on our take out (drinks included — quarantine bonus). Our youngest noticed a gentleman settling in for a good night’s sleep on the sidewalk. We let the tacos get cold and our son made his first shopping trip with X’s on the floor to purchase what he thought might be helpful. We delivered it safely from six feet away and as our son thanked us for helping him with his deed, he let us know that this was his favorite day of the pandemic.
Other days of this summer also required bravery and kindness. The time we went into a bar and grill to use the restroom with our masks on and could literally hear people laughing at us for wearing a mask. The time we didn’t wear a mask and people were upset. Every step of learning a new way of interacting this summer has required us to be brave and kind at the same time. Bravery and kindness lived out loud is a gift of this summer I never want to forget.
Unpack rather than unwind. The slow down provided by this extra long and mostly quiet summer was so overdue that I could literally feel my body unwinding. Now, when I feel myself beginning to tense up and accelerate again, I can physically feel a shift that I wasn’t able to recognize before in the hustle. Rather than blaming my stress on my people, a messy house or a full plate, I can recognize more easily that my stress and tension are from lack of rest. Rather than getting tense, bearing down and using adrenaline to push through, I am trying to create a lifestyle I don’t have to unwind from. To do that, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have to stop and unpack what expectations are causing the tension. Often times those expectations are my own. If they aren’t then I can practice that bravery & kindness I’ve been learning and make adjustments. If I unpack my responsibilities and stresses, then I won’t need to unwind later. I can work and rest in a rhythm that makes the feeling of summer last forever.
I hope you also discovered some things this summer that you want to last forever. I’d love to hear about them.
Teacher disclaimer: I look forward to spring when I can look back on the upcoming school year and my teacher heart, despite all challenges, will be able to say there were some things I learned this school year that I want to last forever — but for now I’m going to pretend that it is “Forever Summer”
We have limited Forever Summer gift sets available if you want to cheer up that teacher friend, sister, mama or treat yourself for that matter!