Featured

It’s Chaos…

“We’d have these huge philosophical arguments where I was like- I don’t believe in an intelligent creator, per se, but I think there might be a latticework of logic and meaning to the universe that maybe we’re too small to see. And she was like, Sweetie, it’s all random, it’s all chaos. It’s chaos. Be kind. It’s chaos. Be kind.” -Patton Oswalt, Annihilation

I was invited by the wonderful Smelly Socks and Garden Peas to write a post about what we will do the first weekend after the end of quarantine/ lockdown.  It has been a challenge, with all the togetherness of late it’s a miracle when I can construct a complete thought without interruption, let alone an entire blog post.

As I thought about what I might want to write about I turned over several ideas, perhaps returning to simple pleasures like parks and pubs, maybe those historical sites I have been dying to get to (once a Tudor history nerd, always a Tudor history nerd) or maybe something about the overnight trips we want to plan?

But.

The above quote from Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation special on Netflix keeps running through my head and blocking out all of those other thoughts of a post-lockdown existence.  Father of Gingers and I have been big fans of Patton Oswalt’s stand up for years.  His slightly curmudgeon-y and misanthropic, sharp, nerdy, occasionally quirky take on the world speaks to us and our sense of humor.

However, Annihilation was hard for both of us to get through.  It was the first special after the death of Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara.  A not-insignificant portion of the set is him talking about losing his wife, and worse, telling their elementary school- age daughter that her mother is gone and how they both dealt with it and are dealing with it.  It is the only comedy set I’ve ever watched where I had to repeatedly try to swallow around a huge lump in my throat and needed several breaks to wipe my eyes.  Through it all, he comes back to McNamara’s philosophy on life, “It’s chaos, be kind.”   She was speaking in a more metaphysical sense, but it has very practical applications right now.

The current situation in the world is best described as Chaos with chaos sauce, chaos sprinkles, and an angst cherry on top.

There’s not much left for us to do, but be kind.

There is so much information bombarding us from every corner.  Everyone has a slightly different priority order, the vast majority of which carry absolutely no malicious intent towards others.  The majority of people are making decisions using the best information they can to make best decisions they can in a time of best worst choices.

It’s chaos

Some of us are going to have to make decisions based on medical information. They may be too much at risk and they have to stay inside until this storm is further past.

It’s chaos

Some feel the lockdown has gone on too long, some feel it’s ending too early.

It’s chaos

Finances may be the driving factor in some family’s decisions on how they’re going to proceed. Mental health is a not-insignificant factor in the balance as well.

It’s chaos

Everyone is on on edge- these are life and death choices, not just for the threat of COVID-19, but also in terms of mental health and financial stability. There isn’t a one size fits all answer.

Be Kind.

The bottom line is there is no way around this chaos, the only option is to just get through it. It doesn’t have to be pretty- but how much better will it be if we are kind?

This is a very long winded way to say I don’t know yet what my first choice is for when our first weekend out of lockdown comes. We will be taking a slow approach for several reasons that make it the best fit for our family. I do know I’ll try my hardest to be kind.

There’s a very real chance I totally misunderstood the assignment… but at least this is off my chest.

Featured

Run (Ins) with Cows…

Sure, they look peaceful…

If I’m being truthful it’s more of a runs from cows situation…

Yesterday, after we got through a semi- productive day of home learning, Father of Gingers came home from work, and offered me a chance to run for the hills get out for a walk to get some exercise, fresh air, and the chance to complete a thought without interruption.  It was, as they say, an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I got into my workout clothes, grabbed my earphones and phone and made my bid for freedom headed out the door.  Living in the English countryside means options when it comes to our allotted outdoors time right now, something I am very grateful for.  I decided to walk up to the next village, cut down behind the church, go down through the field where the cows are, take the footbridge over the river, walk by the sheep field towards the next town, then turn around and come back.  We’ve done this walk as a family several times, and I usually wind up wearing Little Ginger in the toddler backpack for at least part of the trip, so I thought it would be nice to do on my own, and maybe even throw some running into the mix…

I headed off, listened to a Marco Polo from a friend, and then attempted to record my reply while walking.  There are people who are coordinated enough to exercise and send messages at the same time.

Unsurprisingly, I am not one of them.

I managed to send off a message in which I only forgot to answer 80% of the questions I had been asked and not fall in a hedge, so that was a win, and I continued down the road.  I did a bit of jogging and was feeling pretty good by the time I reached the church and the field behind the church.  I had big plans to run through the field to the foot bridge.  I stopped to take another video for the Marco Polo message of the scenery.  Said scenery is so quintessentially  British countryside that one expects to see Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth, preferably) striding over a hill at any moment to offer a mildly withering comment. To be honest, if you factor in my workout outfit, we’re probably looking at a level ten withering comment.

The view for reference (without Mr. Darcy)

As I stopped to do this, I realized that the small herd of cows that occupy the field were not on the far side of the field but laying down right right on the side of the path I usually take down the hill to the bridge. This gave me pause, given my less than stellar track record with wild life. I decided to ignore the little voice in my head that was frantically reminding me that cows are freaking ginormous and that I always forget this fact until I’m up close and personal with a member of the bovine community.

I started to go down the footpath at a very cautious jog/ walk, keeping an eye on the potential killers cows. Then I realized there was at least one baby cow in the entourage. My first thought was, “oh how sweet” rather than, “hey, most animals are super protective of their babies.” This is why I wouldn’t last long in the wild.

Then two cows stood up very quickly. One, a rather sizey brown cow, turned to face me head on, and started to stare me down while standing right in my path. She was looking at me like she just knew my favorite bag is made of leather.

I don’t think she was waiting for me to ask her, “How now, brown cow?”

At this point my brain was causally shrieking asking me, “I can’t remember, is it a fact that cows kill more people than sharks, or is it lightening, or maybe plane crashes? Anywho, maybe, just maybe, it’s time for us to skedaddle, shall we?”

Taking the cows-as-harbingers-of-doom statistics into consideration- I started to rethink my plan. I then factored in the fact that Father of Gingers has repeatedly stated he is not prepared to be a single parent and I started to turn around. Yet another cow stood up to provide backup to her sisters in being surprisingly menacing for animals that feature prominently in such classics as “Old MacDonald” and are frequently portrayed as wise and gentle in a number of children’s movies.

At that point I decided that running back up the hill was the best choice as having she was trampled to death by cows in a pandemic written about me felt a little bit excessive and definitely not how I would want to be remembered.

On the upside- I knocked some serious time off my mile time average. I continued on to a cow-free route and finished up my outside time. Then I realized- I’m totally like Ernest Hemingway…

Kinda…

He ran with bulls, I ran with away from cows- practically the same thing, right?

Sorta…

I’ve never driven an ambulance in wartime, though.

Not really…

I’m honestly not a fan – this really wasn’t the best comparison…

I wonder if Jane Austen had any close cow calls?

Featured

Trying Not To Sound Like Doogie Howser, MD

You can tell yourself these people started out as exceptional.  You can tell yourself they had influence before they started.  You can tell yourself the conditions under which they achieved were different from yours. 

Or you can be like a woman I knew who sat at her kitchen window year after year and watched everyone else do it and then said to herself, “It’s my turn.”

I was  37 years old at the time— Erma Bombeck

So, I’m a year behind Erma, but starting a blog or two is something that has been on my mind for quite a while.  I’ve always been afraid it would wind up sounding like the final scenes of a Doogie Howser, MD, episode where we’d see the lesson learned appear letter by white letter on the blue  computer screen.  To be completely honest, the inspirational nineties music is blaring in my head right now…

As I said, I’m a year behind Erma, and forty is coming at me fast.  I’m in a different place than I imagined, not worse by any means, just different.  I’ve started this to chronicle me getting my ish together, as the kids say (I think they still say that? Anyone??) and as motivation to try things I haven’t before.  My goal is to close out my thirties strong, and enter my forties having tried some things that I have put off until now.  Strap on a helmet, it’s bound to get interesting…

 

 

A**hole Armadillo and the Flightless B*stard

I currently have a wadded up stuffed pink Snoopy in the cabinet above my refrigerator….

I let Snoopy stretch out a bit for the photo op…

This is not some “the rooster flies at midnight” secret code, nor is it commentary on the beloved Peanuts franchise.

It is the result of lessons learned from A$$hole Armadillo and the Flightless Bastard. Who are they, you ask? I’ll explain in a minute… (Yes, this is a shameless bid for reader engagement, and no, I’m not sorry. )

Fridge Snoopy (hopefully I’ll come up with something less serial killer-esque before I hit post, but for now its the best I have) is our backup Snoopy. Little Ginger imprinted on a pink Snoopy in her collection of stuffed toys about a year and a half ago and decided that was her go-to bedtime stuffed guy. After pink Snoopy suffered a near- decapitation incident we realized we needed backup. I do not posses Doc McStuffins level abilities when it comes to rehabbing injured toys and it was REALLY touch and go for pink Snoopy while he was nearly channeling Anne Boleyn.

Side Note- does anyone else DESPERATELY want a follow-up Doc McStuffins series where Doc is grown-up and a high powered research physician? I want to see Callie the Hippo become a nemesis after not getting due credit for Doc’s accomplishments… Can’t you just see her strolling in saying, “We meet again McStuffins…”

This might just be me and it’s entirely possible that this is a side effect of having Disney+ joining, and becoming a crucial member of your pandemic co-parenting team…

Anyway…. A$$hole Armadillo and The Flightless B*stard….

Big Ginger tended to rotate through a variety of stuffed animals, called his “guys” in his toddler/ preschool years. Then he bonded with a stuffed armadillo and armadillo got upgraded to Armadillo-with-a-capital-A and we moved into life with one specific special stuffed animal. I made sure he was ready for bed every night, triple checked that Armadillo was packed for overnights, kept him clean. I even took Armadillo with me on errands to photograph what he got up to while Big Ginger was at preschool.

What didn’t I do? I didn’t have a backup identical armadillo…. This was a huge problem because that Armadillo was a stone cold asshole.

Armadillo would invariably disappear as we were approaching bedtime. No matter what I did, it would be five minutes to go to powering down for the night, and that asshole would be nowhere to be found. We worked through it, and I became aware of his favorite hiding spots. It got to the point where I could locate him before bedtime and keep tabs on his whereabouts until tuck-in.

However, there was also Armadillo’s other favorite trick – going AWOL in the middle of the night. I’d be woken up by a tear-stained little face (inches from mine) or summoned by a shrieking of “I CAN’T FIND ARMADILLO ANYWHERE!!!! WHERE’D HE GO?!?!?!?!?” Invariably Armadillo would be found in the bottom of the bed, he usually had managed to wrap himself up in a sheet and masquerade as a lump in the comforter… I told you he was an A$$hole….

Finally I decided that I HAD to have a back up armadillo (which is a sentence I never thought I’d write, and honestly hope is never necessary to write again.) My mother and aunt tracked down replacements and had them sent to me in a bid to shore up my armadillo-depleted sanity. I was ready, I had a system, I was going to rotated armadillos to ensure even wear, and…. Big Ginger moved on to another favorite stuffed animal, leaving me with two backup armadillos.

To this day the back up armadillos live in the back of my dresser drawer, both as insurance and reminder of the wonderful lengths (and eBaying) family members will go through when you just cannot face another armadillo hunt (stuffed armadillo- I wouldn’t know where to begin with a real armadillo hunt and NEVER want to find out that information).

With Armadillo out of our life, we moved on to Penguey the penguin. (We tend to opt for pretty on the nose names in this house. I expect if I have grandchildren their names will be, while not super orginal, extremely accurate.) Penguey wound up being a worse escape artist than Armadillo, which I really didn’t think was possible, even thought I have seen all the Toy Story movies, and really should know better.

Penguey did better at not going AWOL in the middle of the night, to his great credit. We were able to return to regularly scheduled middle of the night wake up reasons, including- but not limited to; the dinosaurs on the comforter facing the wrong way and socks falling off feet.

However, Penguey was a massive flight risk (despite being unable to fly) right around bedtime. He mad Armadillo look like a total amateur. At this point I was pregnant with Little Ginger and my penguin detecting abilities were not great. My breaking point was a night that both Father of Gingers and I spent quite a while searching for that stuffed bird, and was at the end of my rope. I may or may not have texted in a fit of frustration ,

“I CANNOT FIND THAT FLIGHTLESS BASTARD ANYWHERE!!!!”

The name stuck….

Fortunately, BG never picked up on it – at least to my knowledge… This could come up years from now.

Good old FB…. I was unable to locate Armadillo for a picture, I told you that guy was a total A-hole

Strangely- I’m STILL waiting to hear from the Mom of the Year award committee… maybe they’re saving me for some sort of lifetime achievement award???

Time has marched on and both A$$hole Armadillo and the Flightless B*stars have moved to way background supporting characters in our life. However, their lessons stay with me.

Just ask Over the Fridge Snoopy.

One year later…

Hope is a spur to action. Hope is not a lottery ticket that we cling to. It’s a hammer that we use in an emergency to break the glass, sound the alarm, and spring into action. Hope is not a state of mind, it’s a state of action. -Ady Barkan

I’ve struggled with the idea of writing a post focusing fact that this week marks one year since the start of the first lockdown.

There’s the dreariness brought on by the soul-crushing realization we’ve now been in this bizarre version of normal for over a year that makes me reluctant to sit down and write, much less hit publish on a post like this.

There’s also the doubt that there’s much I can add to the conversation that hasn’t been said already… As I’ve said before, I realize how lucky I’ve been in the past year.

My first inclination was to post a meme I made once I’d been at parenting through a pandemic for a while… and hopefully write something funny about the strange journey of this past year:

However- the above quote from Ady Barkan has been in the back of my mind pretty consistently since I heard him speak in an interview with Jimmy marking the release of Not Going Quietlya documentary about Barkan’s experience with ALS.

Listening to a man who’s health is deteriorating at an alarming rate speak about hope captivated me.

This is a a man who, due to a cruel twist of fate, may not live to see forty and won’t live to see his children grow up. It would be impossible to blame him or judge him if he treated hope like a lottery ticket.

What else are you supposed to do when your world has been flipped on it’s end and there’s nothing to do but work with the tilted normal you’re left with?

In Barkan’s view- there is plenty to do, if you’re willing to change your view. This skewed normal is a time for action.

Since listening to that interview I’ve realized how much hope there has been in the last year, as hard and awful as it has been.

I see the kind hope Ady Barkan speaks of in the quick development of a vaccine for COVID-19. I see it in the lines of people waiting to receive their shot, going to pharmacies at closing time in case there are extra doses. I see hope as information is shared on the best way to book a vaccine for loved ones.

I see it in the effort so many have put into following restrictions that have been cumbersome and frustrating to protect others.

I see some hope for the future of education – there’s been some serious realizations about flaws in our system. This has been an opportunity to assess our values and what we want for our children and those who teach them. As there’s been a broader view into what our teachers do, there’s also greater reason for action to

I see hope in relationships. The past year has given the slightest glimpse into the reality Barkan and too many others live with. Our time is precious, and we never know how much time and freedom to move we will have. It is a reordering of priorities- we know now how much we’ve miss seeing friends and loved ones. When we’re finally able to be together again, I think it will be valued more highly than before.

Personally, I have hope my children will look back on this as a year where they realized they can be flexible, resilient and do incredibly hard things, even when they don’t want to.

I hope they remember it was a time where it was also okay or everyone to be sad and frustrated by a circumstance beyond their control, even as we all worked to make the best of it.

I hope I will remember the value I place on relationships as the calendar turns closer and closer to marking two years since I’ve seen many family and friends- a circumstance I never planned for.

I hope I will continue to work towards goals I have for myself. If I was able to find time to do some hard work in this past year, I know I can do it.

Finding hope as I reflect on this last year doesn’t discount the breathtaking scope of loss that has been experienced.

It’s more a realization this past year wasn’t wasted. It’s not a year to write off and say we never want to experience again. We can take what we’ve learned to improve the world as we go forward.

If we can do that, I’m sincerely hopeful for better days ahead.

Here is the link to Ady Barkan’s interview:

No one expects…

I think most of us took the word expect and predict out of our vocabularies this year. This has been a year of the unexpected and (to a degree) the unpredictable. I was thinking about last year’s end of year post and trying to decide if and how to write one this year. There’s not really a good way to sum this up, it’s been a roller coaster. Thankfully, it looks like we might be on the last few full loops before the end of this ride.

In thinking about this year, a few things have come to the top of my mind:

I’ve been told I’m good in a crisis (this relates to the topic at hand, I promise). This is a benefit-ish of the the way I tend to process my anxiety. Sometimes it’s like my brain is on a permanent doom scroll. This means I’ve usually run through countless potential scenarios and responses/ outcomes. So, most times I have an idea of what to do next when the unexpected rears its’ head and I don’t have to think too hard, I just have to do the next thing.

Then 2020 happened.

I’ll turn it over to Monty Python for a second here…

Substitute global pandemic for Spanish Inquisition, and yup, that about covers it.

It’s a little disconcerting to realize even with hours worrying and planning for (I thought) everything possible- I hadn’t even gotten close to the way events rolled out this year. That’s a lot of wakeful hours spent over the years- and I still had to make things up this year as I went along.

My biggest takeaway from this year was a pretty blunt reminder that you cannot prepare or plan for everything. The best you can do is just look for the next choice and go from there. It’s a tough concept for a control freak a planner to wrap their brain around. If I’m going to reframe this in a positive light- I am achieving new levels of flexibility and adaptability.

I should note- on a greater geopolitical/ social level, so much of what has happened in 2020 should absolutely have been expected. That’s a discussion for another time as I don’t think I can give it the deserved detail and attention today. There are also so many writers more qualified than I am to speak on many of the inequalities and injustices of this year and I feel it’s been best to share their voices rather than add in my less informed/experienced opinion.

Like everyone else I’ve looked for inspiration this year and have found many sources, thankfully. One that has been on my mind a lot has been the Queen. Binging The Crown most likely had something to do with this. Living in England probably factors in too.

I’ve thought a lot this year about World War Two and the hardships and separations experienced by those who lived through that time in history. I don’t feel like it is a perfect comparison as there are many differences in circumstances and the way this year has been experienced, especially compared to the average American’s experience on the home front during the war. However, The Queen is in the unique position (among many other very unique aspects of her life) of being someone who can speak with authority on both of these times in history. Her speech in March, at the start of lockdown, has popped up in my mind again and again as the months have gone by this year. This was at the point the reality of how long this could go on and what that would mean for me personally was just dawning. I have now been out of the US the longest I have ever been in my life, and this is the longest I’ve gone without seeing my parents, as well as many other family and friends.

The Queen referenced lyrics from a song popular during the war, which have become increasingly appropriate as time has passed this year,

“We will meet again”

I have come back to these words again and again this year, and I’m sure I will keep them in my mind for the coming months.

I know this it is true and with each passing day we get closer to the day where we will meet again and this current reality becomes a chapter for the history books.

Last year, I wrapped up with a joke about my new favorite shirt:

Clearly… I had no idea just how much foreshadowing was happening there.

In related news, I think I might be retiring this shirt.

Just in case.

Happy New Year everyone. Stay safe, and hopeful that better days are coming soon.

The Weak Bridge

Said weak bridge

In the past eighteen months, I’ve moved to England and turned forty. Oh, and we have a pandemic going on and we’re currently white- knuckling through election week and starting lockdown 2.0.

At this point, standard 2020.

I’ve had this in my drafts folder for a long time and it seems appropriate for right now.

We’re living in a more rural part of England, both Gingers go to school in a nearby town. Fortunately, school is still happening so I continue to drive the route for school drop off that I have for over a year (not counting the seven month pause) now.

After everyone was dropped off, the way I drove out of town leads me over a bridge – somewhat ominously called a weak bridge. This is not a name you usually want assigned to a piece of infrastructure you use daily, particularly one that was built before the American Revolution.

Last year, once I’d managed the challenge of being on the wrong (to me) side of both car and road, I started to gain a mastery of roundabouts. Fun fact- if you were awful at double Dutch jump rope as a child, roundabouts are probably not going to be your favorite traffic device. With all of that reasonably under control, I found myself with time to think on my daily drive out of town. As I got to thinking I realized the weak bridge was a perfect metaphor for certain seasons of life..

Vehicles over a certain weight aren’t allowed on the weak bridge and there are bollards to ensure that more than what the bridge can handle does not get through.

This seemed like the perfect metaphor for turning forty at the time and feels even more applicable now.

Even before factoring in the upheaval caused by current events it had been an interesting year or so. At times it felt like the universe was trying to hammer home the gravity of the impending milestone birthday by lobbing life events at a rate that was almost darkly comedic at times. In my close circle of friends, most of us were turning forty within the same nine months or so. As a group, we experienced so much change, loss, health issues, and major life events in six months that if we’d submitted it to the writers of This is Us it would have been kicked back for being a bit much.

It was a natural point in my life to take stock, do some evaluating, make necessary changes, and stop allowing anything that is not good for my infrastructure through.

Then the pandemic happened.

Its been a situation without precedent in most of our lifetimes. Quarantine, worry, illness, stress, financial insecurity, have all left us in an emotionally weakened state. Our values have been tested as well as our resilience and many of us have had to inspect our views to make sure we are creating a world that provides equality, safety, and fairness for all. Now, we are anxiously watching election results and hoping that decency and kindness will win over the unrelenting chaos and calculated cruelty of the last four years.

It has been a time of trying to juggle so many responsibilities that cannot be dropped and constantly trying to figure out what would bounce and what would shatter if dropped. Quarantine meant that we were isolated from so many of those we would turn to for support. Many have endured illness and loss without being able to say goodbye or to grieve with and hug those left behind.

Yet, we STILL have so much that still has to happen on a day-to-day basis. That will not change as things start to slowly reopen and hopefully inch towards yet another new normal. Everyone will come out of this with varying degrees of structural damage.

We are all weak bridges right now.

We all need to take more care to insure we can get let through what must get through and we put up our bollards to stop what is trivial and what we cannot bear right now. Our tolerances will vary in what we can handle as we go forward.

Everyone has been shaken, but some were closer to the epicenter than others. Those of us that are in better condition may have to take on some “traffic” for others so they can remain standing.

As for me, I’ll keep thinking of the signs I saw every day for a while -Temporary Road Works. The weak bridge was not weak forever. The crew worked on it to shore up the worn out arches and reinforce the foundation. One day the bollards came out (much to the relief of my poor car, which has more than one scratch due to my misjudging where they are) and the bridge returned to doing it’s job as normal.

The bollards- they look wider in this picture than they actually were.

We won’t have to have our bollards up forever either. Things will improve, we will learn how to navigate around the permanent changes in our landscape. It will become clearer what responsibilities can be set down until restrictions are lifted to the point we can share them with others again. In the meantime, bollards will stay up, we will all still be able to do our most important jobs. We will get where we need to be, it just might take a little longer than before.

Sometimes you have to turn centuries old masonry for a good metaphor about the current state of the world. Who knew?

Et tu, American Girl????

2020…. I know, right? 

I had high hopes for clearing the insane number of posts in my drafts folder and getting some new posts up once both Gingers were back at school.

Bahahahahahahhahahahahahaha. (Gasp) HaHAHAHahahahahahahahahahahah

Please pardon the hysterical laughter. 

We got five days into the school year, then I got an urgent email from Big Ginger’s school. There was a confirmed case of COVID in his bubble at school so all of the students in the bubble had to go home immediately and self-isolate for the next fourteen days. His school has been amazing, and I’m extremely grateful to have a schedule that was flexible enough to accommodate this change of plans. Yes, the writing I wanted to do got punted back into the holding pattern it’s been living in, but it wasn’t a logistical nightmare/crisis like it is for so many others.

I figured I would just wait and post in a week or so once this surprise bout of home learning was over. (Surprise home learning is the worst kind of home learning.). Keeping things as easy as possible is the name of the game and has gotten me as far September in the year of WTF that is 2020.

Then- I saw this….. the new American Girl from the historic collection.

Something about that Walkman looks familiar…

Let me preface what I’m about to say with a reminder I turned forty shortly before a pandemic started. My three year old asks me daily if I know that my hair is turning white? Often followed with, “But why is your hair turnin’ white?”

“Because 2020” is apparently not an appropriate answer to give a preschooler. I’m just proud my reply hasn’t been “effing 2020”. (Before you ask- Of course I’m expecting the invite to the virtual “Mom of the Year” award ceremony – I’m honestly shocked I haven’t received it yet.)

All of this to say, I may have already been slightly on edge (by which I mean approaching defcon head-shaving on the midlife crisis meter) already last week.

Then- American Girl decided to inform me I’m historic. They unleashed a doll who had the exact same Care Bears shirt I had as a little kid. I feel personally attacked by that side ponytail as well.

I loved American Girls when I was little. I got Kirsten for one birthday. I had a matching dress and matching loopy braid hair. Yes, there’s photographic evidence of this, and no, I will not be sharing it. The internet is forever, after all.

For reference, this is what I considered historic…

Where was I…… Oh, yes, I adored the dolls and the books that told their stories from extremely long ago. Like, far in the past- I mean, Felicity and Kirsten didn’t have indoor plumbing. Samantha was a maybe on that front. I loved imagining crossing the ocean in a boat to a new home, and for some reason still remember that BYOS (bring your own spoon) was a huge part of pioneer culture, as evidenced by Kirsten’s little wooden spoon in her apron. All of these girls in the stories were part of ancient history

The dolls had clothes drastically different to what I wore (stirrup pants, slouchy socks, oversized sweatshirt, with a ponytail firmly anchored by a scrunchy), and lived a shoulder pad-free life drastically different from my radical, tubular, eighties life. I loved imagining what it would be like tying on a sun bonnet to do my pioneer chores like Kirsten or trying to be a proper young lady in the early 1900s like Samantha. I tore through the books as fast as I could get my hands on them, and am certain this was the foundation of my love of history and historical fiction. But they were all definitely firmly set in some version of “the olden days.”

I mean, even Molly, the doll with the story chronologically closest to me, was still a solid FORTY YEARS ago when I was playing with these dolls as a child. She lived during World War Two, coped with her dad being overseas for the war, and rationing. The four decades between my be-scrunchied self and a little girl who had to worry about rationing might as well have been millennia. Forty years was forever as far as I was concerned.

Oh. Wait.

2020 minus 1980 equals…..

If anyone needs me I’ll be laying down. Then I’ll be tending to my grey hair which I’m now calling natural 2020 highlights, thankyouverymuch.

A Word for Teachers…

With.

For.

It’s amazing how seven letters in two different combinations can convey meanings that are worlds apart. These two words can have a massive impact in our mindset in the current situation, especially when it comes to education.

For example, fill in the blank in this sentence with each word and see how it changes:

My child’s teacher works ____________ me to educate and prepare him/her for the future.

Wow, right?

To me, the difference between these two little words is a not- insignificant factor in the current debates about the 2020-21 school year. When things started to go sideways back in March, I wrote about how teachers were doing their absolute best to make things work on the fly. The vast majority of educators are still doing their best to prepare to deliver meaningful, impactful lessons by whatever means are available.

Summer work is not foreign to teachers; if you want to see someone laugh hysterically until tears stream down their face, tell a teacher it must be so nice to lay around and not do any work all summer. This year, most educators would most likely tell you they’ve worked harder and spent more time on school preparations than they have in any other summer of their professional lives.

If you’re going to use a four letter word when thinking about the start of the school year, let it be with.

Teachers are still lacking in all of the information and resources needed as the start of school in the US looms closer every day. School districts are getting conflicting guidance and being constantly threatened with penalties when they can’t achieve the impossible (there are only so many ways to arrange a classroom, and no one can magically poof thousands of extra square feet into existence). They just want every student in their charge to be successful and to do their jobs well.

They want everyone to be safe.

Teachers need to stay healthy, they need to feel safe to do their jobs effectively, and they need to feel like their families are as safe as possible in this bizarre and scary time.

Just like all of us.

A lot of the debates I see raging on Facebook parenting boards are a symptom of how our society has been viewing children and education for quite some time. I have a lot of thoughts about how the horrendous cost of childcare, and insanely insufficient parental leave results in some parents viewing school as a service that is bought and paid for. I also have very definite opinions on the fact that our society has become one where parents are dependent on school (especially elementary) to account for a significant portion, if not all, of their childcare due to lack of support. I’m not going to shout from that soapbox now, as I feel there’s so much to be said that can/has/will be said by others with much more expertise on the topic.

All parents are going to have to make really difficult choices in the coming weeks. Information will be considered, lists will be made, options will be weighed again- often in the middle of a sleepless night. We continue to find ourselves in the land of trying to settle on the best worst choice.

It is easier if we’re all in it together.

Will all of our decisions look the same?

Nope.

But. If we can just keep that one little word- with– in front of us as we go into the coming weeks, it might make the impossible a bit easier. Approaching this as partners, rather than expecting someone to do something for us will get us further.

Our schools and teachers are ready to work with us to figure out how we’re going to make this all happen. Even when governments aren’t working with them on basics such as funding to put new regulations in place. Seriously, think for a second about what happens when you tell your kid to take one pump of hand sanitizer. Now multiply it 20, then multiply that by 5 times a day. Even the economy size bottles aren’t going to last long, and it’s not cheap. That’s before factoring in bigger ticket items like plexiglass, extra personnel, transportation concerns,… the list just keeps going.

Let’s prepare to work with all school personnel to make whatever variation of school is going to start in the coming weeks work. It is going to be more stress in a time where stress has felt unrelenting.

Will it always be pretty? No. Are there going to be glitches and days where everyone wants to just wave the white flag? Almost certainly. Is the school year going to look like anyone’s first choice for the ideal way to educate children? Bahahahaha- of course not! It’s 2020, first choice hasn’t been part of our vocabulary for months now, silly rabbit.

If we work with our teachers, we will still get maintain our first priority- educating our children and preparing them for the future. We can minimize the impact of this insane time in their school career by approaching it as a partnership. By working with our schools and not expecting them to work for us, we stand a better chance of making this work the best way we can.

With. Just focus on with- four letters make all the difference in the mindset we approach this with.

If you need to scream some other four letter words in the closet, into your pillow, alone in the car while dealing with this, that’s okay. I’ll be there with you, a lot of educators will too- In fact, they could probably teach us some amazing new ones.

And please, wear a mask.

Before you post that meme…

This is something that has been rattling around in my head since April. I’ve written a bit about this before, and it’s not intended to call out anyone specifically.

Dear Friend,

Before you share that meme about weight gain in the pandemic,  I’m asking you to pause for a second.  Right now, if you open any social media account you are guaranteed to see at least one post, meme, or joke about gaining weight during quarantine.  There are jokes and memes about “gaining the Covid 19”, clothes not fitting, images altered to make the subject appear fatter than they are, and that’s just scratching the surface. At the core, under the seeming lightheartedness, they are all weight-shaming and more than a little fat-phobic.

On one level, I get it.

Weight may feel like the one thing we should or can control right now. I have to ask, though- is it really the most interesting thing that has happened to you or that you have thought about these last few months? Are scale numbers the most impactful numbers you’ve read?

Doubtful.

Before you hit post, I want you to consider a few things.

Your body holds your wonderful heart, which has ached with disappointments both small and large during this time. It holds your brain which has been swimming with more concerns and worries that would have seemed possible at the start of the year.  Figuring out home schooling and how to keep children entertained has probably consumed a not-insignificant amount of your time.  You’ve held children in your arms who are crushed, anxious, bored, frustrated, and just plain out of sorts.  Do those children care about the number you see on the scale when you’re comforting them or helping them stay busy?

No.

You are working through a time where the way many holidays are celebrated has changed drastically. Not to mention Mother’s Day, an emotional mine field for so many.  Normal rituals and activities that provide a comfort or a distraction from grief aren’t available.  If you have eaten more of your favorite foods than normal, does that make you a bad person, less worthy of love and respect?

Absolutely not.

Maybe you’re an essential worker.  You have worked harder and most likely cried more in the last several months than you ever have in your professional life.  It has been unrelenting. Amongst all of this, groceries still need to be bought, childcare issues need to be sorted, education figured out, and there are family members  you are especially  worried about. You are doing everything in your power to make sure your family isn’t put in harm’s way due to your exposure and hoping as hard as you can you stay healthy.   In short, you have been coping with an unimaginable load on top of worrying about all the things everyone else is worried about.  Is now the time to add feeling ashamed for not tracking every morsel that you put in your mouth?

I can’t believe I have to say this, HELL NO!

Perhaps you are married to essential worker, you probably haven’t seen much of your spouse since March.  You may not have seen them at all. You most likely are juggling all of your children’s needs and the bulk of the household chores on your own.  Maybe you are desperately trying to work as well in the midst of this chaos.  You are definitely constantly worried about your spouse, praying they stay healthy and that the rest of your family does as well. Should you be beating yourself up if you haven’t crushed several workouts this week- especially if working out is something that feels like added pressure on your to-do list, instead of a relief?

No, you shouldn’t

You might be among the countless people who are awake at night trying to figure out how to make finances work while being furloughed.  Or laid off.  You might be a small business owner wondering if you will be able to open your doors again.  You may be wondering if you will still have a place to live and food in the kitchen in the coming months.  Should you be made to feel like you are less than if the number on the scale is more than you are used to seeing?

No, you really shouldn’t.

Or maybe you are someone who is overweight.  You are dealing with all of the stresses everyone else is facing.  But, there is also one stressor not everyone will understand. You’re seeing time and time again, from all sides, that having a body that looks more like yours after lockdown is over is the absolute worst thing that could happen.

During a pandemic. 

When people are under horrible financial strain.  At a time when people are experiencing grief and psychological distress. 

While people are dying.

These memes and jokes imply that even with all of this awfulness going on, the most awful thing is still being or becoming fat.  You are being told your body is worse than all of the horrible things  going on right now, combined.  That is the message you are getting from every post, joke,  and meme about the horror that is pandemic weight gain.  Is it going to make you feel diminished, ashamed, and like your only worth is measured by the size of your body?

Almost definitely.

So, wonderful friend, please think about what you’re saying before you hit post. You probably aren’t aware of how hurtful it is, or you are trying to be in on the joke instead of the butt of the joke. I know you, and I am certain would never tell me these things, and you would be horrified if I told you someone had said something derogatory about my size to me directly.  It isn’t you, it is part of our mindset.  It is a very telling sign of our culture and how much we value thinness over physical and mental health. It is a sad commentary on how we are trained to hate our bodies from a young age.

We can continue this by sharing those jokes, and passing on those memes.  Or we can choose not to post and make steps towards change.

Love,

Your friend who doesn’t think her body is the worst possible outcome

 

Where Have I Been Lately?

In the literal sense, I’ve been home with Father of Gingers, Big Ginger, and Little Ginger, like everyone else in the world. (The at home part, not the with FoG, and Gingers big and little)

For the last 30 some odd days.

I honestly won’t be surprised if Hal and Mavis start talking to me soon, like the gargoyles in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.

If they do, it’ll probably be during a home learning session. Most likely during a heartfelt debate over whether the numerator or denominator represents how many equal pieces the whole has been split into.

I may still like this as much as an elderly dog likes a toy grocery cart, But we’re safe and everyone is staying healthy, so there’s a lot to be grateful for right now. This isn’t going to be a long post, I just wanted to give a little update. In the good news department, I’ve had three pieces picked up by sites as freelance articles. I’m really excited about this and hope there will be more to follow, and possibly a book one day once life is back to some kind of normal and I can complete a thought without a bunch of interruptions. For the meantime, here are the links to the other posts if anyone is interested. I know not everyone is on Facebook and the algorithm is weird, so even if you are you may not see posts. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

At Her View From Home:

Mom Friends Are the Keepers of Babyhood

At Mock Mom:

A “Fun” Recipe Even the Busiest of Moms Couldn’t Screw Up

At Sammiches and Psych Meds:

On the Eve of Eight Years Old