Sunday, August 01, 2021

COVIDiary: Back to School 2021 vs 2020



Welp. What a difference a year makes. Sorta', kinda'. 

Though grandson doesn't start middle school until next week, granddaughter starts 3rd grade tomorrow. She told me she is glad to get back to school. Her main teacher from 2nd grade has moved up with the class to provide a smoother transition from last year's virtual school to this year's back-to-campus. 

Most of the COVID protocols are still in place: masks, distance between students indoors, etc., but the kids are so used to it by now that continuing to protect themselves and others doesn't bother them. And this new variant is scary, especially for young children, so I'm grateful those rules are still in place.

I've been putting together a photo book about our 2020-21 coronavirus year. While most of the photos and experiences included - holidays, the lockdown, projects - didn't dredge up too much horribleness, I have to admit the pages about virtual school caused a little trauma. It was hard. Looking back on it was hard. Remembering the internet disruptions, the app-confusions, the tears - oy! It's a wonder we're not all in therapy, especially the brave, wonderful teachers (and they may be - I'm sure they need it). 

But looking over what our children learned last year - yes, even while remote from their classrooms - I'm really impressed. It was most certainly not a lost year, and I know that everyone learned all sorts of skills and adaptability that they'll carry with them from here on out. 

As painful as looking back on 2020's start of school is, my main takeaway is that WE MADE IT! We all survived. Now we're ready to face a still-not-back-to-normal school year, knowing that as long as we keep each other safe through this weird virus- vaccinations, masks, distancing - we can keep going, progressing, growing. 

Compare/contrast, you say? Here you go:

Back to School 2020                                                   Back to School 2021

Set up distance learning areas at home                       Lay out school clothes for school

Ensure all internet access and apps work                    Ensure backpack is filled will school supplies

Practice patience because something will go wrong     Practice patience because something will go wrong

Have plentiful snacks/water on hand                           Bring water bottle (no snacking in school, y'all!)

Pray all distributed instructions have been followed    Pray all distributed instructions have been followed

Get to know your teachers via Zoom or Teams             Get to know your teachers wearing masks

Get to know your classmates via Zoom or Teams          Get to know your classmates wearing masks

Crazed parent as virtual school monitor                       Professional educators teaching, monitoring, caring

Saturday, May 15, 2021

COVIDiary: To (Continue) Mask, or Not To (Continue) Mask

A couple of days ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) here in Atlanta lifted the COVID-19 mask requirements for folks who've been vaccinated. 

It was sort of a good news/bad news situation. 

Good news: I've been fully vaccinated since mid-February. Summer's coming and while I loved wearing my mask in the cold weather, mask-wearing in Atlanta's heat is brutal. And at some point we do have to get beyond this thing. 

Bad news: How can I (or stores or museums or churches or restaurants, etc.) tell who has been fully vaccinated and who hasn't? We didn't get tattoos on our foreheads when we got our shots. Yes, we were given a card with the vax info on it (which I keep with me all the time), but news of fake vax cards are everywhere. And if I've learned anything during this pandemic (shoot, let's be serious, since the 2016 election), many of my fellow country-citizens are selfish and stupid, so I've lost all trust in Americans to do the honest and moral thing. 

My workplace, the Atlanta History Center, is following the CDC guidelines and dropping mask requirements for staff and guests. Fortunately, we staff members have been told that we will not be responsible for asking for proof of vaccination, as it might provoke unwanted confrontations and compromise our safety. 

Well, OK. I'm vaccinated. While working inside, I'm behind plexiglass in a huge atrium with proper ventilation. My other assignments are outdoors. I welcome never having to remind people to keep mask over mouth AND nose. 

Yesterday, I went shopping at real stores for the first time in a year, and mask requirements were still in place. I was surprised that everyone was abiding by mask rules, staff and shoppers. It was good to know that people are still being cautious.

I'll miss you, mask collection. I'll miss having my smirks covers. I'll miss not having to wear make-up and lipstick. I'll miss having something that hides sleep-face creases. On the up-side, it'll be good to let my face hang out again, I reckon. 

I suspect masks will be around beyond this point, especially during cold and flu season. And I have so many cute ones, I'm prepared for whatever viruses hit us in the future. 

Or maybe I'll just frame the whole mask collection as a reminder of this weird, historic year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Still Crazy After All These Years


On this day I start my seventh decade. Let's see what the rest of this life has to offer.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

COVIDiary: Oh, the Places I Want to Go!

Having been completely vaccinated since mid-February, I've found myself travel-dreaming of late. Flying is out of the question for the foreseeable future because there are so many stupid assholes who refuse to get their jabs (and you can just bet that they're the ones flying around). 

Still, this is travel-dreaming, so in the best of all possible immunized world, here's where I'd pack off to first:

  • New York, New York. These vagabond shoes are longing to stray right through the very heart of it. I want Central Park. I want the Brooklyn Bridge. The Met, the Cloisters, the Morgan. I want crowded sidewalks, slippery subway steps, street vendors, and my NY lottery scratch-offs. I want to fill my belly at Sarita's Mac & Cheese, Fraunces Tavern, Sardi's, Chez Josephine, any good bagel shop, and whatever food truck around Union Square that suits my fancy. And I want to settle into a comfy orchestra seat at the St. James or the Shubert or the Lyric or whatever - just get me back to live theater, please! It's up to you, New York, New York!  
  • Hawaii. Pick an island, any island. I've been to Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii (the Big Island) and love them all. Willing to give Lanai a try, too. The Grand Wailea on Maui, the Napali Coast and beaches of Kauai, a little peek at Oahu's Diamond Head, and the wild volcanic action on the Big Island - yes, to all. Mahalo, y'all!

  • England and Wales. Just because. I want to spend time with friends. I need to stock up on tea at Twinings and Whittard's in London. I have a real need to journey back to Walton-on-Thames and pass familiar places, though I know it's much-changed since I was last there. Same goes for Oxford. I want to get to Wales and meet Liz in person, not just online. I crave a full English breakfast and drinking gin and tonics at a riverside pub. The sceptred isle is another of my "homes," and I need to be there. 

Sure, Maine and Greece and a return to South Africa, Germany, and Italy are on the list, but they'll have to line up behind the top three. I've missed travel so much since I left my big-girl job. I'm ready to roll!

Of course, I'm broke as hell, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Monday, March 29, 2021

COVIDiary: Back to School

No new shoes. No new backpacks. No new uniforms. But masks, water bottles, and laptops at hand, our kiddos returned to almost full face-to-face school this week.

For the past two weeks, the students have been divided with half going Monday and Tuesday and the other half going Thursday and Friday. It seemed a good way to acclimate everyone to the new rules of masking and social distancing, classroom arrangements, and lunch/recess accommodations. The teachers have to do double-duty (when haven't they?) by teaching the in-class students as well as those opting to continue virtual school. 

I know Liam and Charlotte were glad to get back; they both admitted it to me. Just being with their friends and teachers and in a familiar space lifted their spirits, I think. 

Teachers and staff have been vaccinated, and everyone remains masked. No use of water fountains,so the kids have to bring their own water bottles. Desks are separated. Lots of hand sanitizer. 

Praying all goes well with the return to in-school learning. I know parents and grandparents want the best for everyone, but it's been a hard, hard eight months as we've struggled with technology glitches, wonky schedules, and basic algebra, multiplying fractions, and decimals (me!). 

Historic. A time for the ages. The kids will be fine academically. They've learned a lot these past months, much of it not academic. Things like resilience, creative problem-solving, and flexibility. 

We'll all recover. We'll never forget, though. And teachers aren't paid enough. Ever.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

When Will We Ever Learn?

At what point in time and place will white "Christian" folks accept responsibility for the injustices we slam onto other races and ethnicities? 

Not a week goes by without some violent act against Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Muslims, and others considered "different" or off-kilter or "not one of us" just because they are. Just because they want the same respect and opportunities and rights. 

If you're white, I bet your brain automatically goes to "not all white people, not me!" Well, you know, I don't know. Speaking for myself, no, my family never owned slaves, I do my best to work at being anti-racist, and I've always worked in professions with colleagues of diverse races and backgrounds. But I am aware that simply because of the color of my skin I have an advantage that outweighs even the disadvantage of my age and my sex. 

My white European features and style of dress - however plain and unremarkable - give me a free pass for all sorts of things. No one steps aside to avoid me on a sidewalk or holds their purse or packages tighter when I'm near. No one has a problem with my hairstyle (except me!) or speech patterns. I'm pretty confident that if I'm stopped for a traffic violation (haven't been in years, but, hey, who knows?), I'll come out of it alive, even if I show some attitude.

White privilege is real and deeply embedded in our culture and government. The sooner we pale folks own up to it, the sooner we can work to tease out all the threads tangled up in this privilege and straighten them out so that everybody's "thread" is equal in opportunity and respect. The color of that thread should not and cannot matter. 

To our Black, Asian, Latino, Muslim sisters and brothers, we owe recognition, respect, and a fierce effort to ensure our skin privilege never again puts them in danger or at economic, educational, or cultural disadvantage.

When will we ever learn? It will take work. Hard, good work. But this has to stop.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

COVIDiary: One Year

It's been a year, friends. Remember that thing we thought might change our lives for a few weeks, maybe a month or two, that weird virus-y thing that no one really knew what it was about, but, yeah, better safe than sorry for short time? Yeah, it's been a year. 

I wish I could wax philosophical about how I grew, what I learned over the past twelve months, but I just can't right now. I did none of the things I'd always told myself I'd do if I only had the time. I didn't write. I didn't organize all those boxes and bags of old photos. I didn't sort, discard, downsize. Nope. All I can say is that I survived and my family survived. 

The year feels lost to me. Summer, lost. Autumn, lost. The school-year, lost. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas - all lost. Vague memories of everything with photos as proof, but the real touchstones of traditions and gatherings that mark the years couldn't take place, so what's happened over the last year is a jumble. 

I'm not sure I can really reflect on the impact this pandemic has had on my life until I can get some distance from it. I need time and space to see how - if - it's changed me. What I suspect - at least, for myself - is that there are some lasting scars that I can't acknowledge right now. 

I believe a grieving period is needed. A period to sort through the lost days, the lost connections and memories of things that couldn't happen. 

However, I do believe there's light and life at the end of this dark tunnel. So be gentle with everyone for I'll bet they are fragile after making it through this year, whether or not they want to admit it. Be grateful for the small things. Celebrate the big things. 

That's all I've got right now.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

COVIDiary: Clouding

Last year during the March/April/May lock-down, my late afternoon and early evening balcony-time became my soul-saving time. I'd drag my camp chair out onto my tiny 4th floor balcony, tea or water at hand, to read or listen or just to be. 

To be honest, most of my balcony-time was the just being stuff. I'd watch how the trees were leafing out. Or count the number of trains coming and going on the tree-hidden track behind the apartment. But mostly I'd let my mind go blank as I watched the breeze push the clouds around.

Today was lovely and warm - a bit cloudy at times, but fine for balcony-sitting. So I dragged my camp chair out on my tiny 4th floor balcony with a book and my tea to enjoy this last day of February Sunday afternoon. 

I did a bit of reading, but I found the breeze and the tree branches and the clouds pulling me away from my book. So I decided to give in and watch the clouds roll by.

Except I've discovered that, usually, clouds don't roll by. Neither do they scud. 

Nope. In the words of Joni Mitchell, I've looked at clouds from both sides now, and they mostly drift. And slide. And gather, merging with other clouds to grow and form new shapes, or pull apart to drift away from their mama-clouds. Clouds flow. And they are hypnotic. 

It's noisier and louder now than it was during last year's lock-down. Cars coming and going. Lots of folks walking around, talking and laughing. The stillness and silence from last spring has given way to business as usual, the busyness of life. My clouding has a different soundtrack now. 

Still, there are worse ways to spend the last day of February than enjoying a springlike breeze watching the clouds drift by.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

One Night in This Wine Bar in Walton-on-Thames . . .

. . . in the summer of 1979, it was girls' night out to celebrate the impending wedding of my friend Sarah. Sarah and I had survived working behind the bar at the Ashley Park Hotel a couple of years before. We tended the lower pub, for the more well-off folks, not the upper pub where all the railroad workers hung out. Lots of stories about that time, but those will have to wait.

So, back to the summer of 1979. Wine bar. Walton. 

Sarah, a few of her college girlfriends, and I were partying big-time, drinking way more wine than was good for us (none of us were driving). Boney M's "Night Flight To Venus" album was spinning for the enjoyment of all, when in the course of things "Rasputin" hit the air. 

As I recall, there was a small dance floor - or maybe not, maybe we just created one - and up we all jumped and danced free-spirited to that fun song. You cannot sit still during "Rasputin." Arms flung out, spinning around, jumping, being adorable (or irritating, depending on your perspective). Such a joyful memory of being young and carefree and not giving a fig about what anyone thought about our wild abandoned dancing. 

The next day I got down to the local shops to get my own vinyl (yes, vinyl) "Night Flight to Venus" album, which I still have today, even though I do not own a turntable. Thank goodness for YouTube and Alexa.

Why bring this up now? Well it seems that Boney M's "Rasputin" is the latest thing on TikTok, causing a well-deserved resurgence in the song and the group. Hearing the song again made this old lady jump up, fling out her arms, spin and jump around - though I'm not nearly as adorable as I was at 28. 

Boney M was never big in the U.S., so Americans missed out on this joyful stuff. I hope TikTok can introduce my fellow citizens to this Euro-group and its fun music.

"Alexa, play Boney M's Rasputin." Now, go fling out your arms and jump around! 


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Why I Don't Do Lent

Ah, Ash Wednesday. The start of the 40-day church season that I ignore. Here's my confession: once I get my ashes, I don't do the rest of Lent. 

Lent is a season of intense, purposeful self-reflection and introspection, of self-denial, of trying to make positive changes, of repentance, of prayer - all in preparation for Easter. Yeah, I tried it a few years. Read the right books and Lenten meditations (even wrote a several of those in my time), attended the right services, said the right prayers, and followed whatever guidelines and suggestions for having a meaningful Lent were offered. 

But here's the thing. I already beat myself up in a hundred different ways 24/7/365. I don't need forty days to intensify the self-flagellation. Or reflection. Or introspection. I do way too much of all that already. Constantly. Very often in the wee small hours of the morning. 

I read meaningful, spirit-filling books and meditations all year long. (Thank goodness for the Brene Browns, Dolly Partons, and Lin-Manuel Mirandas of the world, as well as some true-blue friends.) And prayers? Yes. Bewailing my manifold sins? Yes. Not sure I want to do more of any of that than I already do.

So Lent has never done anything for me spiritually. All that stuff is guilt-/shame-/anger-/depression-inducing for me. Even all the gazillion meditations offered fail to move me. Lent has never brought me closer to God. If anything, it just kept me in a constant state of pissed-off when I tried to follow the whole 40-day thing back in the day. 

Those of you who find it spiritually meaningful, even necessary, I salute your efforts. If you think I don't understand the season or am missing the point, nah. I've seen it up, down, sideways, inside and out. I get it. 

But as for me, I'll continue my year-long Lenten practices without doubling up on them for the next forty days. I guess my only Lenten discipline is ignoring the whole thing.