One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

As a Bird

Up the trunk, following Geddy who narrates, “Step here, and here. This might be hard for you, because you’re in your older years.”

I, at 40, laugh but sigh: some truth to that. He knows that I used to climb trees as a child. For a moment, my eyes close and the river damp floods my nostril memories of Russian Olive, Weeping Willow. Where’s the sweet scent of horse’s nose, searching for the girl stretched out on a branch, dangling her legs in open air?

My eyes return to my son, crawling along, finding his footholds, finding his triumph at climbing so high.

“Is this the highest you’ve ever climbed as a parent?”

I turn my head about, gaze below. “Yes, I think it is.”

“And now we have our picnic,” he smiles.

We snack on granola bars, not minding the crumbs tumbling down to ants and whatever else hides in the weeds.

I see the people, sometimes two by two, moving along the dirt trail near us. It might be a regular weekend. Then some walk by in cloth face masks. Others give the next passersby a wide berth. In this tree are we safe from everything but falling?

I wish to stay all day, like the birds who continue nesting and singing, ignorant of panic. Or do they know? Do they know that all around them the humans are hoarding? Do they shake their feathers, sad at our fear? Matthew comes to mind.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (6:26). 

But I am not a bird. I don’t have that trust, though I’ve known my entire life that I should. When have I been without?

We climb down, explore around the fallen tree, finding more hiding places for spiders and snakes. Another snippet comes to mind, though I forget the poet’s name: “It’s never the edges of the world that worry.” I feel like I’m on the edge and worry is all I see. We’re all afraid we’ll disappear, like in a magician’s trick, but he won’t be able to bring us back.

Down by the river’s edge, we stumble along on the rocks, trying not to splash the toes of our shoes in water or muck. Geddy makes a game as we avoid touching any wet part of the rocks, moving down the bank, ducking under branches. The Canada geese are nesting near. The mallards swim about in twos. They keep going, ready to raise their families, even as the world feels stuck in a time loop.

A heron flies over the river, graceful giant, off to the rookery to attend to its own nest. This parent must go “shopping” daily for food, hunt it down, and take it back to its offspring. I cringe to go to the grocery store where even in a time of empty shelves I find enough to feed my family.

Before long, Geddy and I return to our home, our roost, with warmth and water and beds. With snacks and games and books. He shares the excitement of our adventure with Luke, telling how I climbed, too; delighting in the look of horror on his daddy’s face while watching the video of the snake we saw.

I imagine fluffing my feathers, tucking my son under my wing, knowing that tomorrow’s troubles are for tomorrow. Are we safe here? Safe for today.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Creating a Final Exam In the era of Covid-19

(Guest post by Luke Hindman)

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a lot of changes to the way I teach and interact with students in my courses. Working from home these last six weeks has added its own unique set of challenges. It has also resulted in a breaking down of some of the barriers between my professional life and my personal life. What follows is a snapshot of trying to update the Final Exam for CS121 so that students will be able to take it at home.


Morning department and committee Zoom meetings beginning at 9:00a. Meet with other instructors teaching CS121 at 10:30a. Four instructors teach six sections. After an hour of discussion, come up with a plan.


I actually don’t know what happened on Tuesday. Maybe there was a time warp and this day was skipped???


Meetings with students, teach over Zoom, office hours, email… Beautiful day so a quick 17 mile bike ride to Lucky Peak. No time to work on the exam.


Zoom meetings all morning. Start working on the exam in the afternoon and realize there is no way that the plan we came up with on Monday will work. Send the course coordinator a text explaining why our plan won't work. Ask if we can have a Zoom meeting for later that night to discuss it after kids are in bed.

Get out of shower around 8:35p, see that I received a response from the coordinator at 8:30p saying we could meet at 8:40p. I check the time and it is now 8:38p. I text a quick response “Works for me!” I finish drying off and grab a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt from the closet and am still drying my hair when the Zoom session begins. In a moment of panic I quickly check the shirt to make sure I didn’t accidentally grab my DNS is Sexy shirt.

Quick tangent here… It is amazing to me how my attire for Zoom meetings has changed over the last six weeks. Business Professional slid to Business Casual, then Casual, and now At-Least-I'm-Dressed. Sheesh!

Thankfully I had grabbed my Commodore64 T-shirt. Breathing a prayer of thanks, I jump into our discussion. Fifteen minutes later we have a workable plan. We spend another 15 minutes catching up on life and then return to our evening plans. One to “Good Omens” on Amazon Prime and the other to “Tiger King” on Netflix.


Begin working on exam questions, but have trouble focusing. Text the course coordinator. She has a similar struggle and is not making progress either. I go dig dandelions. I’m just getting settled down to start working on the exam again when my 6-year-old son begins complaining that he is bored. I offer him a dollar to pick the heads off all the dandelions in the front and back yards. He counters with 50 cents for just the backyard. I consider that a win and accept the deal.

Go back inside and write the exam overview and review guide. I send a copy to the course coordinator for her feedback. She is frustrated at creating exam questions. I suggest we pull a few questions from our existing quiz pool and only create a few code reading questions. She loves the idea.

At this point I feel really good about my progress and it is a beautiful day, so I bike to Lucky Peak.

Feeling satisfied with the ride and all the progress I’d made on the exam, I grab coffee on the way home so I can have a burst of energy to wrap up the exam questions.


While drinking the coffee I receive an email from a friend asking about how professors create final exams. I feel this is an important question that requires serious consideration. When I get home I write this blog post describing the process. I check the clock, realize that it is nearly 5:00p, and decide to call it a day. I'll finish the exam on Monday!

And THAT is how a final exam is created in the era of Covid-19.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Look at What We Have

“You’re going to say no, but I have an idea.”

He stood before me, so tall at almost seven years old. I looked at my phone: ah, how-to-avoid-going-to-bed thirty. Right on schedule. I looked into my son’s negotiating blue eyes and decided to listen before opening my mouth.   

“You change into your pajamas, and Daddy changes into his, and I change into mine, so if you say no, I will be ready for bed. But I’m not going to tell you what we’re doing yet, ‘cause I don’t want you to say no yet.” My boy kept eye contact, presenting his plea. 

Getting comfortable in my pjs sounded reasonable. After a long day in this new stay-at-home era of social distancing, and trying to clean the house and corral a boy through rewards and promises into “doing school” at the dining room table without interrupting Daddy in his office; we all needed some comfort. 

Once we convinced Daddy to change, our son revealed what he had in mind.

“So, we’re going to the backyard and we’re going to take out some chairs, and pillows, and blankets, and we’re going to look at the sunset and the stars, and look at our beautiful big tree and our park, and our house.” 

I did not want to say no to what sounded like a take-it-all-in and be thankful moment. No screens. No news. No work. No thoughts of what we couldn’t do or where we couldn’t go. 

I arranged two dining room chairs on our back porch and returned with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Daddy came quietly, in pjs and coat, and Geddy brought out another blanket. 

Daddy and I sat down in the chairs and Geddy said he wanted to sit on my lap first. I opened the hand-knitted blanket and wrapped him right in. His long legs reached so far, my lap could hardly hold his length. But he who dislikes kisses and says I tell him I love him far too often, he wanted to cuddle up with his mommy, so I offered no complaints. 

We watched a neighbor family of four play pickleball on the tennis court in the park. The echoing ‘plock’ competed with my thumping heartbeat. Three quiet dogs stalked each other in the grass, running about then dropping to their bellies and crawling, somehow not breaking into sound. Pink clouds stretched their fingers, holding onto light. The hint of yellow-orange glow amongst the trees and the houses sheltered above the horizon.

Geddy spoke first, directing our attention. “Look at our big tree. Now look at our house.” We turned our heads. “Look at our garden beds. I can’t wait til spring.”

“Spring is here,” I murmured.

“No more winter?”

“Well, it could still snow, but basically no more winter.”

I looked at the bulging buds on the tree branches and the bright green of new grass shoots. Spring dared to venture out of hiding.  

Our backyard started yawning toward evening as we kept looking around, snuggling in the blanket. Then my boy got up and said it was time to snuggle with Daddy. I felt the absence of his warmth and weight, like the time of his birth, when nesting him safe inside me had ended. 

In the fenced yard, time waited with us, but darkness frowned with impatience. 

Then the goodnights began.  

“Good night, trees.”

“Good night, slides.”

“Good night, moon,” said Daddy.

“Hey, that’s a book!” Geddy chimed in.

I said, “Good night, slugs.”

“Slugs!” Roared Geddy. 

And then we blinked. The light had faded; the blush gone from the sky. We carried the chairs and dragged the blankets back inside. Then our boy climbed his ladder to his loft bed. We tucked him in and prayed “Thanks,” and “Please.” And we whispered, “Good night, Geddy.” And we paused. And I thought, Look at what we have. 

Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

Sunday, April 19, 2020

In Quarantine With the Seven Dwarves

My husband's sneezes shook the room. Yes, he appropriately covered his nose and mouth, but nonetheless I wondered if another earthquake had happened. It wasn't moments before that the house was also startled by a loud crack when our son slammed his bedroom door. I sat in silence after the storms, watching our cat sleep peacefully in the chair across from me. Then it hit me: I am in quarantine with the seven dwarves.

I know, it's just three of us here, well, four, counting the cat, but somehow this home confinement can make it feel as if we have a crowd. All the emotions keep coming out and bumping into each other. Sometimes Happy can be hard to find, though we take turns being him. If there was a Weepy dwarf, he could be me when I watch another good-news story about kindness and helpers. Although, the allergies affecting my husband bring out more than just the Sneezy in him. I've always been Bashful around people outside my family, but I suppose he isn't present much when I'm stuck at home. Our son can change from Happy to Grumpy with the blink of an eye. I sit here hoping he can switch back just as quickly.

If the cat is Sleepy, then where does that leave Doc and Dopey? Well, those fall to my husband, too. He's brainy as always, not letting this time of uncertainty diminish his creativity. There's the rocket launcher he built the other day. And he's a professor, working tirelessly from home to teach his students online. The Dopey side comes in with part allergy-pill-popping and his quirky sense of humor. Case in point: As I just finished telling him about all the dwarves living here, he flashed a sly grin and said that if he's going to be a dwarf, he's got dibs on Sexy.