Anyone’s Guess

What. A. Mess.

Here in the States, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is pressuring schools to fully reopen for classes this fall.

All the while limiting federal funding to schools, causing states and counties to have to make budget cuts to already woefully underfunded schools.

Like I said, it’s a mess.

Offering Options

Our local school board has offered two options for the fall semester this year:

  1. 100% distance learning, using online platforms and video call-ins.
  2. Hybrid model, where children go to school two days a week and do distance learning for the other three.

Parents are required to choose one option by next week. The choice is binding for the fall semester, and once made it cannot be changed.

Making A Choice…

We talked about it, considered the options, read and listened to information from health officials and from the school board.

We also thought about what is best for our rising kindergartener, what he needs in a learning environment.

We logged onto the parent portal and made our selection. No going back now.

…And Sticking To It

And then the doubt set in.

I made the mistake of logging onto social media to see what others had chosen.

Many people have remained quiet, but many are extremely vocal about their choice. And those most vocal had chosen the other option.

Immediately, I started to question my decision. Did I have all the facts? Did we really make the best choice for our child? Or did we choose the most convenient option for ourselves?

The more I cogitated, the more anxious I became. I worked myself up into nearly a frenzy when I remembered that once made, the selection cannot be changed.

My Calming Force

I melted into tears, I was convinced we had made the wrong choice!

And then I spoke to my husband.

Have I mentioned on this blog how wonderful the man is? [Quick pat on the back to myself for choosing a great husband.]

He quietly listened to my fears. His calming presence and soothing “Mmhmms” and “Uh-huhs” calmed me down. He then, very wisely, reminded me of a key fact:

Nobody has the right answer.

This is a scary situation. The schools are doing their best to keep children and staff members safe. Parents want to make the best decision for their families.

And while the CDC and state health departments can offer guidance, they do not have all the answers.

No one does.

So, my Chico lovingly told me, there is no wrong choice. There are two right choices, and we must pick the one we feel is best for our family.

And those people, he said, who are so forceful and seemingly confident about their choice on social media are simply trying to convince themselves that they have made the right decision.

But of course they have. Because it is the right decision for their family. And we have made the right decision for ours.

It’s Done, Anyway

I felt better immediately.

But even if I hadn’t, there’s not a whole lot I could do about it. Our choice is made, and though I have doubts and insecurities, deep down I feel that it is the right decision for our family.

We’ll see where it goes, what happens in the fall. What is clear is that if this pandemic takes off again, no one will have any choice at all: the schools will shut down.

In the meantime, we’re wearing masks, washing our hands and choosing to trust our own judgment. A judgment based on the information that is available to us.

A Special Word to School Staff

Stay safe, everyone. Especially school staff.

We love you and value you.

And I will make this promise: I promise to vote whenever possible for the candidate whose platform highlights school funding, so that all schools have the ability to keep their staff and students safe in this pandemic.

From “Robin Hood” to “Ivanhoe” to “Hamilton”

I forgot “Hamilton” was airing on Disney Plus tonight.

In my defence, I don’t follow musical theater much and I’m not overly familiar with the music from “Hamilton.” I have been curious to see it, and had planned to nab tickets when it came to the Kennedy Center in September.

Thanks to the coronavirus, that’s been postponed (coronavirus, you beeyatch!).

But back to my forgetfulness.

Tonight, in addition to forgetting I had a skype date with some girlfriends, I also forgot about the airing of “Hamilton.” In fact, instead of watching “Hamilton,” I was watching “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn.

If that doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because this version of the legend came out in 1938.

Yes, 1938. Yes, I am an old woman.

An old white woman.

Ivahnoe

I once read that in antebellum America, the most popular novel in the northern states was Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was a huge bestseller, and some argue its publication precipitated the conflict that became the Civil War.

In this same source (which I cannot currently remember, sorry!) I read that the most popular novel in the antebellum south was Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an anti-slavery novel, written by a black woman, which depicts the horrors of slavery and is the source of the name Jim Crow (as in racist Jim Crow laws).

Ivanhoe is a romance, set in medieval England, in which a Saxon knight fights for the liberation of Norman Richard the Lionheart, king of England, from captivity in Austria. It’s full of battles, witch trials, forbidden love, and features our friend Robin of Loxley (AKA Robin Hood).

I Grew Up with “Ivanhoe”

As a child, we had the 1952 film version on VHS. It starred Robert Taylor, Joan Fontaine and Elizabeth Taylor. It was romantic. It was glamorous and adventurous.

I watched it over and over again.

I have never seen a film version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (probably because there hasn’t been a Hollywood production of it since the silent film era, when white actors in blackface played the leading characters and danced in almost every scene).

Whitewashing Literature

I have never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Nor, in fact, have I read many novels by authors of color. I’ve read some hispanic authors, south Asian and middle eastern authors. But I’ve never read anything written by a black American author.

Is this racist?

Yup.

By reading predominantly novels written by white men and women, I am devaluing literature by people of color. I am also missing out on a large part of what reading is supposed to do for you: opening your eyes to different experiences.

What does this have to do with “Hamilton” and “Robin Hood”?

Just the fact that I forgot about the airing of “Hamilton” because I was watching an old movie starring nothing but white actors shows how well entrenched I am in my white world.

I’m not trying to draw parallels between “Hamilton” and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or even to belittle the quality of “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (it’s a fun, swashbuckling adventure!).

I’m just musing on how the choices we make (like which films to watch and which books to read) can keep us in our little white bubbles.

What To Do?

Branch out. That’s what I’m trying to do.

The book Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad has been helpful in opening my eyes to the extent of my own complicity in racism.

I recommend it as a starting place for anyone who really wants to know how we are complicit, and how to break the cycle.

The Joy of Arguing

I missed writing yesterday because we did an epic one-day car trip with the family. Thank GOD we scored a minivan with a built-in DVD player. Today’s article is coming to you from a different location. A very relaxing location.

35. War and Peace: Write about a recent conflict that you dealt with in your life.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Conflict? Me?! Never.

Well, perhaps not never.

Most of my life, I’ve studiously avoided conflict. A lot of people do, especially (dare I say it?) women.

I’ve apparently internalized the desire to avoid conflict so much that I often respond to conflict with—I’m embarrassed to say it—tears.

Arguing Joyfully

In the last few years, though, I have tried to learn to argue joyfully.

You read that right! Arguing can, in fact, be a joyful experience. When you find yourself in a heated debate with someone you love, it can be a satisfying (and rather exciting) experience to disagree, to even get angry and argue about something.

The key is to always remain respectful, because in the end you do want to see this person again.

A Recent Conflict

Recently, I got into a heated argument with my husband on the way to the grocery store. I got so mad that I stormed out of the car and slammed the door behind me.

With each step I took away from the car, I felt my anger dissipating, and by the time I’d gotten into the store, I was able to do my shopping with a clear head.

Though I made a stormy exit, up until then I had vented my frustration verbally. The fact that there were no tears was a big victory for me.

Tears = Emotional Blackmail

I used to burst into tears when we fought, changing the situation from a mutual argument to making my husband feel ashamed for upsetting me so much.

Bursting into tears at the moment an argument breaks out is emotionally manipulative. I wasn’t sad in these cases; I wasn’t hurt. I just didn’t know how to express anger. I thought anger was the worst feeling you could possibly have.

I thought that it was a horrible thing to be angry with someone I love.

Recently, thanks to the therapy I started after my mother’s death, I came to understand that anger and love are not mutually exclusive. It IS possible to be seriously mad at the person you love.

The key is to learn to argue with joy.

How to Argue Joyfully

  1. Use your words. Anger can cloud our judgment and make it hard to find the words we want. Try to keep your head about you and clearly state what has made you angry and why it makes you angry.
  2. Do not make attacks. This is especially important when arguing with your partner. This is your chosen life companion. You don’t want to say anything you will regret later.
  3. Know when to end it. When frustration reaches a boiling point and you find yourselves arguing in circles, it’s time to stop. Walk away. Cool down. Clear your heads.

Last Rule

Oh, and for Pete’s sake and the sake of your mental health and personal well-being, never EVER engage in an argument on social media.

It is impossible to argue joyfully in social media.

What Comes in Threes?

24. Numbers: Write a poem or journal entry about numbers that have special meaning to you.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Bad things always happen in threes.

That’s the old line, at least. But three is also a lucky number. The Holy Trinity. One, two, three, go! Third time’s the charm. Third time lucky.

But then again, three is a crowd. And deaths come in threes.

GOOD LORD. Number three! Make up your mind! Are you GOOD? Or are you BAD?

One of Three

I’m one of three. The third, actually (and in my case, yes, it was third time lucky because they’d hoped for a girl).

And here I am. The mother of two. Two boys, to be precise.

I always thought I’d have three. On an early date with my Chico, we talked about family expectations. I said I’d always pictured myself with three kids. He said, “Where there’s three there’s four.” (For context: he’s the youngest of four.)

“You’re not the one squeezing them out,” I muttered. Four seemed excessive.

What About a Third?

But now that we have two… Now that we have two wild and wonderful boys who fill our days with exasperation and joy, I’m just not sure.

I’m not sure I want a third.

I don’t feel anyone is missing. Our family feels complete and happy as it is.

Also, I don’t know if I want to put myself through the physical trial that is pregnancy and childbirth again. Granted, I managed both like a boss in my previous pregnancies and deliveries, but I’m nearly 35 now. My body has taken a long time to recover after the birth of our second son, and it will never be the same.

It sounds selfish, but there it is. I don’t know if I have the stamina and energy needed to carry another child, birth another child and then raise another child.

(Just the thought of going through potty training and the terrible twos again gives me great pause.)

Two’s Good, Too.

So maybe it won’t be three. Maybe we’ll leave it at two. For now, we are deciding not to decide. And if that goes on much longer, the decision will have to be no.

Tick tock, you know.

So I may have to start mourning the idea of three. Give up on the idea of a girl (though, Lord knows with my luck if I got pregnant again it’d be with twin boys).

But then again… They do say that third time is the charm.

A Balancing Act

So yesterday I wrote a list of the sweet treats that I’ve been baking in lockdown. Just writing the list had me craving a treat.

I love sweets. Not just any sweets. Gourmet sweets.

Candy? Meh.

I can do without M&Ms, Mars bars, or candy of any kind, really. I don’t care for soft drinks and I can pass on ice cream and even chocolate.

But OH. EM. GEE. You put a plate of cookies, muffins, scones or cakes in front of me? And I am a GONER.

The combination of sweet and bready makes my head spin. I am physically incapable of resisting. Such things have to either be hidden from me or kept in the house without my knowledge (hard, since I’m usually the one baking them).

Attempted Moderation

I’ve managed to moderate my intake of delicious baked treats by imposing a rule that I only eat the things I make. Great. That should slow me down, right?

Wrong. I bake them. I research and practice to perfect baking recipes. I tweak and modify so that they’re as tasty as I want them. While I’m pretty good at limiting myself to one helping a day, I sometimes can’t help myself.

Damn.

Balancing Attempt

Having used calorie tracking apps before, I’ve come to the conclusion that despite my love of baked treats, my eating habits are actually quite healthy.

What I cook and eat on a daily basis is good for me. But those things I do indulge in, I want to enjoy. I want to be able to have a couple glasses of wine in the week. I want to enjoy a cookie, piece of pie or slice of cake after my dinner a few times a week.

And so, I have made a decision.

I am now a person who exercises daily.

“How can you NOT be a person who exercises daily?!” Some people need to exercise, they need to sweat and exert themselves.

I, dear reader, was not one of those people. I did not feel the need to make myself uncomfortable.

For most of my life, this wasn’t a big deal. I’m naturally very strong and though I could wish my cardio was better, I never felt incapable of doing the things I wanted to do. I could hike a mountain on a Saturday in May after sitting on my backside from November through April.

Age Sucks

But now, I’m feeling my years. Cycling with the boys has become more difficult. A weekend hike is now hard because my breathing is labored.

And so, a new habit begins. Just as I have become a person who writes every day, I am now a person who exercises every day.

(I hope.)


Send encouragement! Tell me your favorite exercise routines! We have a stationary bike which came with a one year iFit subscription and I’ve been enjoying the workouts which take you on a virtual ride in a cool place somewhere in the world.

Great Minds

Day 19 in my daily writing challenge. Feeling pretty good about how quickly I’ve made writing daily a habit.

19. Great Minds: Write  about someone you admire and you thought to have had a beautiful mind.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

There are few people who combine greatness of mind and greatness of heart.

An intelligent, discerning person who is also kind and caring is a rare person indeed.

The Dinner Party

You know that game, where you’re allowed to choose four people (alive or dead) to share a dinner party with you? The dead are miraculously brought back to life in the present time and you can have them all over to dinner.

Who would you choose?

I have thought of this game before, and thought of historical figures I’d like to meet. Jane Austen is usually my first pick.

But the more I think about Austen’s sharp commentary about the people around her, I wonder if I wouldn’t be disappointed to find her heart to be a little less soft than her mind is sharp.

Sharp Wit, Hard Heart

It has been my experience that sometimes the wittiest, funniest, smartest people can also be the cruelest. I don’t like cruelty and unkindness. I always feel bad whenever I find myself laughing at the expense of other people.

Why is it that great capacity of thought is often paired with a reduced capacity for empathy?

To me, the presence of both is what truly makes a mind great.

The Great Mind I Knew

I knew a person like that. She was interesting and interested. She had a lot to say, but also listened a lot. She had great superiority of mind, but was humble, caring and kind. She could speak with information on a wide variety of topics, but she also loved to learn and would absorb new ideas with delight.

Long-time readers and family members may have guessed by now who I mean.

She had her flaws, this is true.

But the greatest gift my mother gave me was to model both intellectual curiosity and compassion.

A Role Model Still

This is probably why, nearly three years after her death, her influence on me remains strong. Her death has allowed me to see some of the flaws in her character, and some of the less healthy aspects to our (rather co-dependent) relationship.

As I slowly take apart the stones of the pedestal on which she stands, I am delighted to meet her eye-to-eye.

And I am most delighted to learn that despite her flaws and despite her shortcomings, she is still a person worthy of admiration.

A person who had a heart as great as her mind.

Lockdown Mode

It’s official! Our governor has joined many in imposing a stay-at-home order.

Other than grocery shopping, medical care, going to essential jobs or getting exercise, we have to stay inside!

UNTIL JUNE THE TENTH.

June 10th. JUNE TENTH.

That is… Let me see… MORE THAN TEN WEEKS FROM NOW.

That is just mind-boggling. We’ve already been home for two weeks, and just the thought of not being able to leave the house for any extended purpose for that long is enough to set me nervously twitching.

What can I say that you don’t already know?

This is HARD. This is BORING. It’s CONFINING. It’s ANXIETY-PROVOKING.

It’s so many things in ALL CAPS.

Learning to live with it

This situation has brought forward so many insecurities I had about myself as a mother, a spouse, a housekeeper, a knitter… Even as a reader.

(Yes, you can be insecure about your reading skills, choices, tastes…)

I’ve had a lot of time to look long and hard at my insecurities. And as I look at them, they gradually lose some of their frightening power. It’s like I’m getting to know them all, one by one.

I’m becoming more aware of insecurities I didn’t know I had, and little by little coming to understand them.

That’s not to say I’ll come out of social distancing cured of all my ills and ready to take on the world like She-Ra.

Though I can still dream…

But perhaps this time in social isolation will help me to better accept my insecurities and understand how they play on me.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll figure out how to face one or two of them.

Let’s be Honest: Parenting is Tedious

Yeah, I said it!

PARENTING IS TEDIOUS!

C’mon, you all know it’s true. Yes, we adore our children. Yes, we share precious, unforgettable moments with them.

But let’s be real: those precious moments are balanced by an equal number of mind-numbingly dull interactions.

Most of our time as parents is taken up with negotiating somewhat healthy food into our children’s mouths, cleaning up after them and listening to them tell long, rambling stories that MAKE NO SENSE and HAVE NO POINT.

*Sigh*

Endless Needs

As a very wise (and honest) friend once said to me, the tedium of parenting comes from endless kids’ needs coming before our own.

As parents, we have to prioritize the survival of our children: clothing, feeding and getting them to school/daycare. Or just getting them through the day.

As a result, our needs come second (if at all).

I really admire those parents who can continue with their pre-kids activities with apparently as much dedication as ever. In my experience, while some things must continue (work, for instance), something always must give way in the face of our children’s needs.

I guess that is the sacrifice of parenthood.

Guilt Again…

In our family, we have each given up something in the face of parenthood. In my Chico’s case, it’s doing the sports he loves. For me, it’s been a career.

This is where the Mom-Guilt-Monster raises its ugly head.

I think: but if we don’t model self care and prioritizing of our interests to our children, how will they learn to take proper care of themselves?

I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m hoping we’ll all learn to strike a balance.

And in any case, even if we think we have everything right and we’re doing everything perfectly, I bet you our kids will grow up to complain to their therapists about us, anyway. Ha!

fake-productivity

Fooling Myself into Feeling Productive

It’s so easy to feel like you’ve had a productive day!

Here’s the secret:

Start the day by cycling your kids to school.

Voilà! The rest of the day can be entirely misspent, but YOU CYCLED TO SCHOOL THIS MORNING!

So clearly I’m not an unproductive lump!

These October mornings are perfect for a bike ride with the kids. It’s not so cold that your fingers freeze to the handle bars, and not so hot that you arrive a sweaty mess.

Each time we cycle to school, our Bug does better. He’s still practicing starting on his own (it’s tricky to get one foot on a pedal and push off with the other!), but with each ride he gains confidence.

It’s a great way to kick-start the morning.

It is, however, no guarantee that the rest of the day will be as productive.

Avoidance

Sadly, cycling to school is simply a way for me to mask the feeling (really, the knowledge) that I’m avoiding something.

What am I avoiding?

Well, job applications. The knowledge that I am not putting as much time and energy into my job hunt as I know I should.

So instead, I thrive on fake productivity.

Fake Productivity

It’s not like these things don’t need doing: laundry, cleaning, cooking… They’re essential to smooth running of family life.

But they’re not what I really need to be focusing on right now.

And I know it. My Chico knows it. And now all of you know it.

How Can I Make it Better?

Try again tomorrow.

And if that fails, try again the next day. And the next. And the next…

Until I find a job.

Can Anybody Hear Me?

Can Anybody Hear Me?

Is it just me?

Or is applying for jobs a bit like trying to be heard above a loud, noisy crowd?

I guess that’s exactly what it is. I’m trying to make my resume stand out over hundreds of others. All those others are probably stronger than mine in many ways, and weaker in others.

But how am I to know that?

Have I gotten a response to any of my job applications? So far, just one.

Admittedly, it was a good response. I got an interview. Didn’t get the job, but hey, it’s a start.

While I know that I’m trying to be heard over hundreds of others, sometimes it feels much lonelier than that.

It feels like I’m standing in a huge, towering, dark and empty stadium. My little voice echoes and is then swallowed by the enormity of the space.

When you send an application off to an anonymous careers platform, it feels like you’re standing on that enormous stage and throwing pathetic little paper airplanes out into the empty audience.

One after another, after another, after another, after another…

One a day, every day.

Back to work!