A Visit to the Donut Shop

I wrote a memoir piece in a Creative Writing 101 course I took over the summer through Gotham Writer’s Workshop. I really enjoyed the experience and I hope you enjoy this snapshot of memory.

The bright February morning in 1993 wasn’t cold at all in our southern California desert town.  We were all wearing shorts and t-shirts as we slammed the white car doors of our old ‘84 Toyota hatchback and the three of us kids followed our mother to the donut shop.  Mom opened the door of Hole-in-One Donuts, her short brown permed hair bounced as she marched inside, and held the jangling door open to allow us to file in.  I came in first, an awkward 13 year old, with hair like Mom’s when it wasn’t permed.  I was head and shoulders taller than my sister who was two years younger than me.  She had long blond hair and the confidence that came with knowing she was pretty.  My 7-year old brother bounded in last and my sister turned around and told him to stop running into her.

The sugary fried smell, touched with bits of coffee, enveloped us as we came inside.  We went straight to the display case with the tower of pink donut boxes on top, in easy reach of the clerk in a smudged apron.  He was filling one for a man in blue jeans and a t-shirt with a dirty red ball cap, the kind that every blue collar man wore in the early 1990s. The three of us looked at the generous display and considered each donut lined in their careful rows.  My little brother pressed his hands against the glass to get a better look and my sister lightly smacked his hands away.  I decided on the chocolate cake donut with the peanuts on top.  

The usual group of old men were in the shop, each sitting at his own table like a king at his court, with a black coffee in front of him.  They were all looking at the TV screen that was bolted to the ceiling, just above the pink boxes.  It was a news program and the reporter was talking urgently over the video of what was a very large building.  It was so large that the camera could only see the bottom few stories and there was billowing black smoke coming from it.

“What’s going on?” Mom said to anyone in particular as she gazed toward the television screen.

One of the old men spoke up from his table.  “Someone set off a truck bomb in front of the World Trade Center in New York.”

“Yep,” said another old man who presided at his court a table closer to us, “Killed 6 people.”

“Well, how terrible,” said my Mom.  She gave our donut order to the clerk.

New York might as well be on another planet to me. Why would someone set off a bomb in a truck anyway?  I considered that for about 5 seconds and found no answers, so I once again looked at the old men who kept court in Hole-in-One donuts.  One old man was preaching to his choir about Middle Easterners and how they hated Americans while the other old men leaned forward in their thrones, a hand on their black coffee, to listen to him.  Their conversation wasn’t interesting to me either, if New York was another planet then the Middle East was another galaxy.  The news coverage about the riots in Los Angles less than a year before was more interesting than this to watch, at least until I saw what happened to Reginald Denny after he was pulled out of his truck, I stopped watching after that.  

The clerk used his tongs to pluck our selected donuts from their racks and put them into a large white paper sack.  He placed the sack on the counter as he rang up four donuts, three chocolate milks, and one coffee.  Oh what joy to get a double treat: chocolate milk and a donut!

Mom gestured to a booth by the large front window, far away from the Kings, and put her change away into her wallet.  My sister and I slid into the booth while my brother jumped into it and we looked at the TV screen, watching the black smoke billow out from the base of the building and looking forward to our donuts and chocolate milk.

5 Tips to Help Students Swim in Distance Learning

I wrote this blog for Passion Planner when they called for guest bloggers early in October 2020. They politely rejected my submission so I present it here in hopes that it help someone out there struggling with distance learning.

“What did the little acorn say when he grew up?” I asked my math class.  I paused for effect and watched them as they thought about the answer or smiled expectantly, waiting for the cheesy punchline they knew would come.  “Geometry.  Get it?  Gee-I’m-a-tree!”  I waited for the expected laughter and groans that characterize my first silly math joke of the school year, but it never came.  I only saw my student’s laughing faces and their eye rolls on my computer screen.  The missing sound of their laughter was thunderous to my ears as I am used to having students in a physical classroom and not a virtual one.

This was the new arena of distance learning where everything was so different to what we’re used to in the physical classroom, that many of us felt like we were drowning in this new method of learning.  Students missed the interaction with their teachers and each other.  Technology has frustrated us and sometimes it’s down right tough to be motivated as the days seem to blend into each other, continuously staring at the same computer screen, in the same room of your house, with nothing to break up the monotony.

Here are some tips to help students avoid drowning in distance learning, begin to tread water, and then swim with confident strokes toward reclaiming your education.


Passion Planner sent me a little circular sticker that had the phrase “One day at a time, one step at a time” and the year 2020 emblazoned in green on it when they sent me a free Passion Planner back in April through their Give One Get One program because I am a teacher (thank you Passion Planner!).  What an appropriate motto for 2020 when everything has changed so fast that it’s difficult to look beyond today.   It is an excellent reminder that this new learning environment can be overwhelming and stressful but if we narrow down our focus to the tasks that need to be done TODAY, we’ll save our stress and anxiety only for things we have immediate control of.  It reminds me of the saying “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  

Look at all the projects and goals you have and break them down into daily bite-size tasks.  It’s more manageable to focus on a few items on a daily to-do list than a monstrous overwhelming pile of tasks on a weekly list.


Our life has not been paused while we are distance learning and COVID keeps us mostly at home.  Time is still marching on and we must continue to move forward toward our goals.  Where do you see yourself three months from now?  How does next year look to you?  What about three years from now?  Planning ahead is necessary to help you achieve your dreams.  Goal-making is more concrete and real when you put pen to paper, not to mention how incredibly satisfying it is to check off a completed goal! 

The Weekly Academic planner and Weekly Annual planner are designed to help with goal setting and also have space for your schedule, to-do lists, and brain storms – all a student needs to keep dreaming and planning.   For more practical advice on how to keep dreaming and planning check out 3 Tips to Achieve Academic Success With the Passion Planner.


Always turn on the video during class conference calls as it makes the “classroom” environment more personable when we can see each other’s reactions to the lesson.  It’s much easier for the instructor to teach a group of faces than to a group of blank named screens.  Teachers are masters at reading body language and perceiving how their students are doing without their students saying a word.  Distance learning has taken that away from teachers and they are beside themselves not knowing if their students are truly learning the lesson.  Communicate with your teachers to help them through this very challenging time of their career.  Turn on your video, send an email, message them in the chat.  Share with your teachers when you’re struggling and share with them when you’re successful.  We all like to know if we’re doing something well.


Treat your learning space as if it were your prized posh corner office.  Wherever you choose to do your assignments and participate in class conference calls, whether it be at a desk in your bedroom or the kitchen table, try to make it pleasant as you are spending a lot of time there.  Make it user-friendly for yourself by having all your school materials within easy reach like textbooks, pens, and highlighters.  Have your Passion Planner nearby to mark when assignments are due or jot down your thoughts. Use headphones or earbuds to help you hear the classroom conference calls and subdue any distracting noise.  

Make your learning environment nice and personalize it if you can.  Set up photos of  your loved ones, light a candle, or place a vase of flowers nearby.  Get a comfy chair, a nice lamp, and have your fuzzy slippers at hand.  A silver lining of distance learning is that you can attend classes barefoot if you wanted to!

For a list of other items that will make  your learning environment more like a prized posh corner office, see The Ultimate School Supplies List for Distance Learning You Didn’t Know You Needed in 2020.


Pay attention to how you’re feeling during this truly unique learning experience and change what you can control.  Feeling overwhelmed by all the email notifications through Canvas, Blackboard, or Google Classroom?  Getting a notification every…single…time someone posts to the discussion board may be causing you unnecessary anxiety.  Go into your settings and change them so that you aren’t inundated by tidal waves of emails.  Are your eyes sore and neck stiff?  Maybe you should take more breaks from sitting at the computer and invest in a set of blue light glasses and artificial tears eye drops.

Ensure you take a break from the computer and school work to do things you enjoy.  It’s important to insert joy into your day so that you are equipped to deal with the more challenging aspects of distance learning.  

If you’re having trouble identifying how you can take care of  yourself and identify how you feel this Self-Care Reflection PDF will help guide you.

Stay tough, distance education learners, and keep swimming those confident strokes!  While this is a season like no other, it is only a season, and it will end one day.  Focus on one day at a time, adjust what you can control, and keep dreaming your dreams and planning to make them come true.