As COVID19 cases start to double up in a serious and scary way, we are all faced with doubling down on our social distancing.
Folks, take a look at Italy. We do NOT want to experience this pandemic they way they have. Our huge population and state-to-state response, especially in the face of inconsistent and belated leadership at the national level, we are already in for some of this. But it is not too late for each and every one of us to make drastic and immediate changes in the way we live. We CAN make a difference.
That’s how Philadelphia felt in September 1918. They went ahead and held a parade hosting 200,000 ten days into the flu pandemic. Then they experienced the worst spike and the most deaths of ANY city in the US. At least they got all that death over with in the first two months. San Francisco successfully ‘flattened the peak’ in the first six weeks, then relaxed restrictions and had ranked sixth amongst cities for number of deaths in a 24-month period. You can read about it for free with Apple News, but I suggest going straight to the source and supporting them with a subscription today.
Yes, that’s right. Twenty-four weeks. THREE MONTHS. Our lives are not going to be the same for three to six months and maybe even up to a year, until a reliable and safe vaccine can be developed, produced and distributed. So hunker down and don’t forget to smile, treasure your family, get outside, create something new, do something you’ve always wanted to do, and laugh out loud!
Why should I follow these strict self-quarantine guidelines?
Here’s the math and science behind the need to start social distancing right away, and why our leaders and law enforcement shouldn’t have to force us to comply. Because it’s okay to be smart.
What about going outside? What about parks? What about SPRING?
Still dithering? I get it. A week ago that was me. Can I take my kids to a park (click to see a report from CNN on this topic)? If we’re at the park, can they go on a play structure? What about the beach? Should I be cleaning every high-touch surface in my house? Every day? Every hour? Is it okay for my 72-year old mother to be going out? Trust me, better minds than ours are thinking about all this. In the age of information, it’s easy to imagine that each one of us has all the answers. But the truth is, we ARE a herd. We each have different roles to play. Our scientists are doing their jobs. Our grocery store clerks are doing their jobs. If we don’t do our jobs and circle up, we will lose those we care about.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Now that the six-county San Francisco Bay Area shelter-in-place order has been extended statewide, I don’t have to make every decision by myself. Rather than making me feel like my freedom is restricted (my freedom IS restricted, by me – I am choosing to comply with these orders), I feel relieved and reassured. Not just because I don’t have to think about every little panic that rolls its way through the internet. But because we are working together. Scientists, lawmakers, administrators, retailers and everyday citizens are all working together to get through this pandemic as safely as we can.
And working together is how humans do things best.
Let’s face it. We know it’s going to get worse. One week of quarantine already felt really hard. But if we are really going to flatten the curve, that means extending it over a longer period of time. So settle in and get comfy. Because we are going to completely upend our social lives and routines. We are going to have a terrible recession. And people we know are going to get sick or die.
So let’s do something humans do best – LAUGH. Laughter boosts our immune systems. It boosts our mood. It helps us endure and survive. It reminds us that we belong to each other.
For your giggling pleasure, here’s a collection of my belly laughs from Week 1 of California’s COVID19 quarantine:
Been teaching for thirty years, and have so far successfully managed to avoid the one kind of teaching I never wanted to do – teaching my own kids.
When my youngest failed to learn how to read in kindergarten, I didn’t get out my copy of Word Matters. I stayed firmly in Mom-mode: kept taking my kids to the library to quietly help them pick Just Right books (and also letting them bring home whatever they thought they wanted to read), and Reading Aloud every night (No link for this one, because it’s super easy – just open a book, snuggle in and start reading the words on the page. That’s it. You can skip words, skip pages, fall asleep right in the middle – trust me, kids love that! Just read. No rules to remember). I didn’t step in on Study Skills until my middle-schooler ground himself down to D’s and F’s via a doomed hail-Mary disaster-mode of perpetual procrastination.
And here we are. Schools closed for who knows how long, and families confined to themselves and their immediate surroundings. Suddenly I’m not only in charge of reading (and cooking, cleaning, managing activities, health care, household organization, etc.), but also handwashing, super-sanitizing, news-interpreting, and Algebra. All while working from home. Yipes!
So I find myself digging deep for the advice I most need to give myself in these trying times. I can do this, if I can just remember all I’ve learned in all these years of teaching.
Good teachers have a plan.
I knew I had to start with defining my goals. District emails alerted me to probable closure of schools a little ahead of the curve, giving me time to think about the shape I wanted our lives to have during these trying times. I knew for sure that I wanted every day to include time to:
You’ll notice that math was NOT onmy list.
Good teachers ask their students what they want to learn.
I asked the kids what was important to them. My ten-year-old immediately produced a school schedule for ME (the only teacher she could get her hands on). My thirteen-year-old declines to participate in homeschooling in any way, which means he passed on the opportunity for input. When my daughter asked me what our school would be called, I naturally riffed on a J. M. Barrie reference, but that wasn’t J. K. Rowling enough for her. So now, whenever I refer to the Never Never School, she immediately adds “of Witchcraft and Wizardry!” and my thirteen-year-old punctuates the sentence with something appropriately adolescent like “Poop emoji” delivered with an expert mix of sarcasm and glum.
Good teachers have their own style.
After one day of Mommy Madness, during which I consumed every internet article offering advice or information about how to keep a potentially deadly virus away from my 72-year old mother (who lives with us), and underwent the uncomfortable and terrifying Jekyll/Hyde transformation into Plague Mama (more on that later), we tried one day of no plan at all to just see what my kids did with that…
NOT a viable option for me. I promptly came up with Plagueschooling Routine Draft #1.
It’s not perfect, but I’m determined to give it at least a week. My daughter loves the structure, my son non-verbally appreciates the independence, and I’m grateful for time with my kids alternating with sanity-preserving time to myself.
Good teachers keep it flexible.
This is my weakness (as you’ve already no doubt noticed). I tried to plan for my lack of flexibility by building time into the plan when my children could legitimately get away from me to “read a book.” I certainly won’t check up on that. I will be hiding in my room, going for yet another walk down the same street (the only one I can get to on a cane), or obsessively surfing the net. In the sometime spring weather we’re having in the California lockdown, we’ve started a “the sun is out – let’s go see!” routine. Matched by “It’s raining! Does anyone want to go for a rain walk with me?” Also, we will be having a MAXIMUM of four days a week of “school.” Day Five is wide open. My guess is movies and semi-illicit but very sanitized and socially-distanced expeditions to outdoor locations around the Bay Area.
Prepare, Don’t Panic – resources from Kidpower.org, which is hosting free webinars about staying safe with boundaries in response to COVID19, conflict resolution in confined spaces and more!
Mind Up, the program your middle-schooler will LOVE you for bringing home!
Keep checking back – I’ll add more links as I find/need them!
Good teachers are clear about expectations, and calm about consequences.
In addition to our usual family rules:
Take good care.
Do your part.
Be kind and compassionate.
Speak the truth of your heart.
We’ve added a few rules especially for California’s COVID19 Quarantine:
NEVER wake up ANYBODY who is sleeping at ANY time of day or night.
All ANNOYING NOISES will be ejected from the premises.
My children will accurately report to their children years from now that their mother was anything by calm about consequences. More on that later. But I do have a few natural consequences in mind for those times when my children just have to test the limits:
For every infraction, you have to go to bed ten minutes earlier. So I can get a break from your obnoxious behavior (did I say that out loud?)
Just kidding. It will actually be:
Good teachers belly laugh.
I learned this from my Kindergarten teacher – Thank you, Jane! There’s nothing that will put your kids more at ease in troubled times than hearing you laugh. Even better if they’re the ones who made you do it. So look for laughter everywhere – Buzzfeed Parents on homeschooling during COVID19 – and if you’ve found some, share it with me! And let me know…how’s #Plagueschooling going for you?
Three years ago, the year I turned forty and my father died, I began this blog to document just one thing–my resolution to begin walking every day of my remaining days, first thing in the morning. As I suspected at the time, this one change began a transformative process that continues right into this year. The transformations cycle backward and forward, at different times invisible, exhilarating, frustrating, terrifying and satisfying. Mostly, I write here about how I grapple with changes I have chosen: to get married, become a parent, leave the professional world of teaching for the world of homemaking, pursue my ambition to write books for children, and carry my inner child forward in healing.
Today, I learned about a mom who has spent the last few years grappling with changes she did NOT choose: the loss of an eight-month old child to SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy), subsequent miscarriages and just last week, a stillborn child. You can read more from Emily on her blog Sweet Ezra, and you can support her efforts to raise funds for SMA education and research through the organization she started after her son’s death, Hearts for Ezra.
But I think what Emily may need more than anything right now is your love. Today is Imbolc, an old Gaelic holiday marking the beginning of spring and now celebrated as part of the pagan Wheel of the Year. Traditionally, the Goddess Brigid presides over this holiday, a time to welcome in the new year, a time to light candles in the dark. Witches believe that through intention we can accomplish magic that will transform ourselves and the world. We believe in the power of intention. Some might call this the power of prayer.
For Imbolc, we invoke the triple aspects of the Goddess Brigid:
Brigid the Poet, who teaches us to speak our truth, with beauty,
Early Christians incorporated Brigid, the Celtic goddess of Imbolc, into St. Brigid of Kildare
Brigid of the Forge, who grants us the spark and the fire we use to transform the old into the new, to smith the tools we need from the materials at hand, and
Image by Gita Rau, Flickr Creative Commons
Brigid of the Well, who heals all wounds and tends the waters of the world.
Signs of spring 2 by James Jordan, via Flickr
I light a candle for Emily this Imbolc, that words may offer her solace and a path through grief, that the spark of her family and her hope continue to burn bright, and that she be held and healed.
To Emily, I offer gratitude for the blaze she tends in the world, the lighted path of her words. When you read them, you too will be warmed by the fire of Her bright spirit. Blessed be.
Photo by Jean-Raphaël Guillaumin, Creative Commons
Samhain: the pagan New Year, the time when witches say that the veil between the worlds thins. We set up altars, we light candles, we lay out bread and wine for our Beloved Dead. It is the darkest time of year, when fields lie fallow and frost sharpens the remaining leaves. A time to remember those we have lost, a time to remember the power we have to shape our lives and our world, a time to remember the sleeping seeds, which soon will stretch to new, hidden life under our feet. Blessed be!
You never think it will happen to your family. And then it does.
Last Thursday, my 65-year old mom and 86-year old grandma were evacuated by bucket loader from their riverside home in Lyons, CO. Sirens began sounding from the town at 2 a.m. that morning, but on the far side of the river my mom and grandma could hear nothing over the roaring river. They slept through the early calls for evacuation.
At 5:30 a.m. the housekeeper called, awakening my mother. The house was already surrounded by water, the river lapping at the underside of the porches. Several calls to 911 later, they were still in the house. Since the water had not yet entered, no plans for evacuation were made. A bit later the head of a local construction company called to check on them. Soon after, the head of the Department of Publics work arrived with his bucket loader. With the help of three water rescue workers, they lifted my grandmother into the muddy bucket of that machine. By that time the water was already up to the doorknob of my grandfather’s old shop. With the cell phone tower down, it was hours before we heard from my mother that they were safe. Many people are still missing. Many families have still not heard from their loved ones.
By Friday the flooding had gotten so bad that the entire town of approximately 2,000 people–the place where I spent all my summers growing up–had to be evacuated.
My mom and grandma spent one night in the evacuation center at Lyons Elementary School,
where my grandfather taught for many years, and another day and night at LifeBridge Church in Longmont, before they were ready to move again. Now safely situated with my brother and sister-in-law, they wait.
The town of Lyons is working hard to restore power, sewage and water to its residents. Meanwhile, displaced townsfolk wait in lines for limited passes to get back to their properties: to assess the damage, gather their valuables, and leave without flushing a single toilet for fear of overloading Lyons’ tenuous system. Not even yet enough time to grieve.
On Friday, more than a week of weather after the initial flooding, my mom and brother will finally get to see what mark the river has left on the home my grandparents built, the home that brought my entire family together in the summers, for homemade ice cream and river tubing, horseshoes and dominoes and stories around the kitchen table.
I don’t usually blog about the news, but this time the news really hit home.
If you want to help, please look into the donation campaigns below. Please consider posting links to your other social media. This beautiful town and its residents will need all the help they can get to rebuild.
DONATE HEREto the Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief, part of the Boulder Community Foundation. Click the green Donate Now button and be sure to designate Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief from the drop-down menu to direct your donation to the town and people of Lyons.
Or, DONATE HERE for the indiegogo campaign started by Lyons H.S. graduates collecting funds on behalf of the Lyons Community Foundation/Flood Relief.
Or consider putting one of these on the counter at work:
Photo by Jen La Follette/Ross Lehmkuhler
Look closely and you’ll find my folks here: what brave, stalwart women!
I remember the feeling of being completely together with my children. Elbows sharp yet unknown inside of me, revealed when I finally held her on the outside of my belly, and recognized their shape with the intimacy of those last four crowded months. The feeling of a child hiccupping underneath my pubic bone, a steady, happy and reassuring tic. Hands fluttering, fluttering below my belly button, again so familiar to me after birth, in the way she held her hands curled up under her chin to sleep for the first three months of her life. His kicking and flailing familiar to me too, the way he can’t quite get enough space even now, wanting to be right next to me with his spiky knees and clawing hands.
Warning: This piece contains explicit and direct material about the human body.
Why aren’t there any porn sites featuring aging people? Well, there are actually more than you’d think, all of them decades more unrealistic than their younger counterparts. I’m only forty, and already can tell you that the comfort of any given sexual position or activity is its most aphrodisiac property. I’m not truly interested in senior sex, but I do wish the daily onslaught of media images included at least the occasional unclothed octogenarian. It would give me some advance warning about what to expect from my own body as I get older. Some people have finally figured out that puberty shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to teenagers—that it might be a good idea to give young people a heads up about what to expect. Books have been written with shiny blue covers and technical language, to be shared awkwardly at the appropriate time. But where is my guidebook for peri-menopause? For perpetually sore knees? For going grey? The books may be out there, but who’s going to read them to me? Continue reading →