AHHtumn at last…

The temperature today, light rustic shades just beginning to emerge among the foilage, the lack of 95% humidity (whew!), and an overall lighter feel in the air… Autumn is making her first appearance a little earlier during this most unusual year.  Waiting patiently through the LONG hot summer of this pandemic with the consistent uncertainty, anxiety, and worry, it is ever-so-refreshing to simply breathe softer, cooler air literally on the day of the Autumnal Equinox. Pop hasn’t left the screened porch since awakening; meals, naps, snacks, and conversations ensue in his outside “office” today.  He takes a moment to look at me and to thank me “for living in a place with four distinct seasons and trees.”  We are grateful in our own ways for the blessings and gratitude of this first day of Autumn, the time when change is in the air, when everything bursts into the last boldest color, and nature saves up a grand finale of fabulousness.

Winter pencils into the etching… Spring shimmers in pastels… Summer glows in soft watercolors… Autumn, well Autumn explodes into the final mosaic of all the seasons together, simply reminding us again how lovely it can be to simply let things go.

Happy Fall, y’all! 🙂


It’s ironic, but perhaps highly symbolic, that I drank from my favorite cup on the very day of her passing.  Daddy even commented to me when he saw her image on my mug, “Now there’s an example of dynamite coming in a small package!”  I laughed, “Yes, daddy; definitely a petite, brilliant lady, but a heroic giant in the very best of ways!”  Little did I know hours later news of her passing would break and the tears would flow…

Whatever your political affiliation, it is undeniable Justice Ginsburg made our world a better place. Serving as a relentless litigator and jurist, especially with her decisions and dissents on the Supreme Court, she set the stage for generations to come.  The inspiration of her lifelong engagement of and dedication to excellence, to equality, to justice, to civil rights for ALL, and to this country, is undeniable.

Personally, how grateful I am to her for the exceptional role model she is in the lives of my own daughters.  I thank her for being a trailblazer, a citizen committed to real progress, an advocate in her unflinching pursuit for freedom and opportunity, and a relentless titan for equal justice under the law for ALL.  I thank her for the position she holds in changing the course of American history during her lifetime.  Just like other iconic legends in my own life, many of whom have gone before her, the soft yet powerful voice of Justice Ginsburg will continue to resonate loud and proud echoing into the next generations.  May we all move forward and continue working to live up to my favorite quote of hers:  “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability…”  

Rest in power and peace, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  And just so you know, whether it is fashionable or not, perhaps you’ll better understand why I wear my lace collars anytime I choose…

Never Forget…

Nineteen years ago today, after my early morning message to our campus and my usual morning walkabout through hallways and random classrooms, a relatively peaceful start to another school day commenced.  I made my way back to the front office in time to take a phone call from a parent who happened to be in NYC on business that day.  We visited briefly as he began to share the reason for his call.  During the course of our conversation, the landline crackled, there was a horrific explosive sound, and the call went dead. I attempted to call him back but nothing connected.  The front office phones started ringing and all four landlines jammed. I remember a chilling, sinking feeling washing down my body (Granny called them “riggers”); our school was WAY out in the country and something felt completely OFF…little did we know…

In the course of working through that moment of panic (we had no set protocols back in those days for lockdown or shelter-in-place), I decided to lock all the exterior doors of our campus in order to mitigate outside traffic.  The librarian caught me in the hallways as she wheeled a TV to my office and asked me to join her there “NOW, please,” only to have both of us witness the second plane crashing into the other tower of the World Trade Center.  Before we could comment, the reporter broke in to share that the Pentagon was on fire.  I alerted teachers in person, asking them not to turn on TV or radio, but to teach and maintain a schedule while keeping email open for updates from me.  My assistant principal stationed herself at the front door so no one came in or out without ID.  Our school secretary manned the TV reports and district facts from my office while our Nurse, attendance clerk, and office assistant took non-stop phone calls for hours.  Little did we know in those first moments of terror and uncertainty just how much all our lives would completely change.

While 2020 is certainly not the same as 9/11, aspects and outcomes of these times in our history resonate:  All the children who will never see a parent again; all the families who have lost a loved one; all the individuals on the front lines of defense who have sacrificed themselves in order to assist and care for others; all the uncertainty and long-term effects for those who continue to struggle and search for answers…we see you and we hear you; please don’t give up!

Likewise, a powerful image of hope emerges:  all those who sprint into action to assist; all the scientists, healthcare workers, front-line workers, researchers, and supporters continuing to work endless shifts for answers and cures; all the educators and parents teaching, working, and keeping the home fires going; all the small business owners investing in their communities while their communities invest in them; all those folks simply acting in supreme kindness day in and day out even in the darkest of moments (just like a complete stranger who made certain that parent in 2001 made it out of that first tower alive and home to an anxious family)…we are beyond grateful!  How can we serve?

With all the political divide, the constant barrage of ugliness in words and deeds in a 24/7 vortex, the resistance to needed change for centuries-long systemic issues, or, just simply being asked to wear a mask, we all need to STOP for a single second and just breathe.  Breathe in and breathe out because we can!  Breathe in and breathe out to re-center our humanity!  We have life and so much more.  One simple truth continues to prevail no matter our situation:  there is always more uniting us than dividing us in this country.  We are still “one Nation, under God, indivisible; with Liberty and Justice for ALL…”  We are not here to BE right; we are here to get it right. We are here to DO the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.  You know it; I know it.  And on this particular  Patriot’s Day (and every day), may we never, ever forget.

Do we have the sense of a goose?

While reflecting back over some stories from the past today, I found my beloved mom’s response to this VanAmGram blog from 2011…whew…stopped me in my tracks! So grateful for the powerful message mom and I both shared at the beginning of each school year. May we ALL find our “goose sense” and remember to stand by each other…no matter what! HONK!

Van Am Gram

While walking along the Miller track during recess time with a group of learners today, we looked up and noticed a flock of geese in their famous “V” formation.  It reminded me of a powerful lesson my mom always told her staff and one, in fact, I’ve shared with mine.  In light of the cooler Autumn temps today and the geese we noticed, I shared this lesson with the students walking with me: 

Everything in nature happens for a reason and scientists have discovered why geese fly in the “V” formation.  As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following.  By flying this way, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.  Truth #1:  If we share a common direction and sense of community, we can get where we’re going quicker and easier…

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