All the Feelings

Tonight, I miss my students. I miss them so much, and in tandem with that feeling, I feel fear. My fear is rooted in the worry that we have lost something fundamental, not in schools, but in our society. I am afraid that the “normal” course of things is now fundamentally altered. I just finished watching “Friday Night Lights” for the 5th or 6th time, and all of the things that I saw for those kids in the last two episodes of the show may not come true for our kids, simply because our economy as we knew it was a lie it seems, or at least, it was true only for a few.

I spent this morning talking to my friend Von about all of it, and I think we have a pretty solid plan to see how things go over the next year, and then maybe all (the friend group) try to leave the United States for greener, perhaps Italian, pastures. Everything seem so confusing and as if a giant rug was yanked out from underneath all of us at the same time. 16 million people have lost their jobs? And yet, I sit on a couch with a puppy watching  “Apollo 13” because it was just the 50th anniversary the other day. Maybe it was yesterday?

Anyway – there are good things happening. There are the birds and the bees and new variegated geraniums and the fact that our house now has a/c and heat for the first time since we bought it. Our friends and family are fine. We are getting along great, although there are stories of the opposite being true. I suspect if you didn’t get along before the pandemic, you sure as hell aren’t getting along now.

This is non-sequitor, but important. Today I received an application for Early College High School from a student who was rather well known for being a scamp earlier in the year. Then, he went to Mexico for three weeks, returned and was transferred into my class. The kid and I just got along really, really well and he turned himself around and started to take his schoolwork seriously. He passed one half of his college entrance exams. I called him a couple of times over this strange break of ours and asked him to apply to ECHS. He said he would think about it, and I gave him til last Thursday to tell me either way, no pressure. He called me back and told me he wanted to do it, and then I dropped off applications at his brother’s house (no contact on the porch!). Late this afternoon, I received 5 photos via text, which were his full-page essays that he wrote explaining his goals, his challenges, and his three best qualities. The school counselor, who received his application, wrote me to say “wow”. This one incident let me know that maybe I did something good this year, despite how strangely it has (almost) ended.

I worry about our future and our kids, even though I know I have no control over this. People say this a lot: we have no control over x or y or z, but that doesn’t change the feelings. I was listening to a podcast today and the host said that she felt we should stop saying “how are you?” because no one has a good answer, and we should come up with something else. I wish someone would come up with something else to say to me instead of “you can’t control x, y or z”, or perhaps I should learn non-attachment. Perhaps both.

Tonight, it is late and I am so tired and just hope to sleep tonight. I am having so much trouble sleeping, and so many others are, too. But, suffice it to say, I did not realize how much love I had for my students, and for the “normal” way of life until a few weeks ago. This too shall pass, but into what?

Date: 16 April 2020

Cases: 2,064,815

United States: 639,628

Deaths: 137,020

Mortality Rate: 6.64%

 

 

 

 

It’s Been a Few Days

It has been a few days. I haven’t known what to say, but by now I just think I am shirking a responsibility so I will try my best.

By tomorrow there will be 2 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The United States is still beating everyone in our number of cases, and now, our number of deaths. Our federal government continues to fail miserably at anything resembling leadership. New York City seems like a death trap, but the governor of New York actually knows how to lead, so that is something. It seems that the resolution of this crisis will only come from the states, but primarily, the individuals that experience it. It seems that the world is lacking leadership: there is no one who has stepped in. I hear that the women presidents of the world are doing a wonderful job, but we hear nothing of them here.

I suppose I feel cynical today. I feel cynical about the United States and where it is going, and where it is. After all, I only became a citizen a few years ago, in 2015. It has been 4 years. I am considering renouncing my citizenship to this country that now seems patently absurd and abjectly cruel to its people. How can a president almost mock his own peoples’ suffering, disregard it, and only care about the levels of money that he and his friends can earn? It is despicable, it is deplorable. It is the lowest point yet of a low-road presidency. I have been hesitant to write my inner desire to renounce my US citizenship out of fear that someone will read this and take me to task, but now, I think it is all right to be honest.

Where do we go from here? What happens to the world? Will it all just go screaming forward into “normal”? 4 million garment workers lost their jobs in Asia, and none of them get stimulus money from their governments, although I can guarantee you in 2 years, they will be back, forced into factory work so that folks in the United States can buy t-shirts for $5. Or maybe not. Maybe the Coronavirus COVID19 is so powerful that it really will stop us in our tracks. What does that mean? What would we all do? I think we all are so anxious at this moment that it is impossible to think clearly. We are all on edge and just trying to distract our minds from those moments of terror and concern.

I miss hugging my friends and having dinner parties with them. I just baked a new cake, a parsnip cake, from the Lost Kitchen cookbook and it smells divine. I can’t wait to make if for them. I am waiting to receive a new book, written by a namesake, and I am very much looking forward to devouring its pages and begin crafting my own minor masterpiece. It sits in a box to my right, begging me to dive in.

What will we all do? It is impossible to know. All I know is that today and each day are very tiring in their complexity and their lack of clear information and facts. Perhaps it is by design? Perhaps it is a pandemic.

Date: 14 April 2020

Cases: 1,920,985

United States: 582,580

Deaths (Worldwide): 119,686

Mortality Rate (Worldwide): 6.23%

Dystopian Worry

These last few days, I have been drowning in worry. I have been enmeshed it in, held down by it, choked by it, pressured by it, swayed by it, distracted by it, addled by it. It has held me by the throat. Everything seems so chaotic and insane, like how could it have all been so fragile that it fell apart in just a few weeks? Just like all the dystopian fiction I have read for all of these years, those stories were exactly right in predicting the pace of the dominoes falling.

But then there is another side to this. The control piece is the other side, and the reality is that there is no control now or any other time. I think, though, that the now feels so out of control it is rather starkly constructed with the relative peace of “before”. Let’s say that, anyway. And add to that a lack of leadership so profound it seems that no one cares, let alone has the skill, to lead. We are all just watching it unfold in real-time. And real-time feels fast sometimes, and sometimes ever…so…slow.

I type this sitting by a cook fire in my garden. I can hear crickets and frogs, birds, and my neighbor’s little girl on her playscape. I can hear the distant sound of trucks on the highway, and sometimes one even drives down our road, past our house. The dog just barked at a toad: I don’t think he’d ever seen one before. The wind plays with my hair, and the almost full moon is caught in wispy clouds over the eastern sky. The sun has almost set, and tomorrow is….Tuesday?

Where do we place worry, or free-floating anxiety when we have nowhere to go, when we are asked to stay at home and do nothing? When we are no longer working, except for maybe an hour or two, here and there. When we are asked to not go out to shops, to wander, to talk with friends on their patios. When we are asked to be at home with our family and our own thoughts for the third week in a row. The mind reels, wobbles, pursues strange rabbit holes of thought and indecision, concern, and worry. But then it passes, again, to another rabbit hole or recipe, project or paranoia.

I have seen more beautiful meals cooked and photographed on Instagram than ever: people are getting crafty out there, My friend Shanarra is making COVID-19 themed quarantine cocktails that just sound lovely and have many snarky, slightly ironic names. People are challenging themselves to create beauty out of what they have, rather than seeking it from someone else, outside of themselves, with a perfectly curated vision of beauty and bliss, Perhaps it is becoming more real.

This experience, while bizarre, does feel like the Maine winter. We have come through the first phase in which we accept it is winter and we will be snowed in quite a bit and have begun to look around for things to do on snow days. Some people are still trying to pretend that nothing has changed. My friend Linda once told me that winter forces you to know the nooks and crannies of your own mind, and you might be surprised as to what you find in there. I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment. I found anxiety and worry and irrational fear, not of the virus, but of society’s lack of security and stability in the face of grave trial. Queen Elizabeth spoke yesterday of the strength of Britons, and I took some solace from her. She is right, and she has been alive a lot longer than me.

Tonight I was staring at the evening star through whispy, humid clouds and wondering what to do, and a little voice in my head said: publish your book. Work on your book. That is something that I can do, and I do have a lot of time.

I am hoping I can take some tools from my toolbox and try to remember that anxiety is fear feeling real, but it’s not real, really. I will try to remember to breathe and bake a yummy cake I have been wanting to try, and roast some veggies and call friends I haven’t chatted with yet this quarantine time. I have to remember that the bees don’t care about COVID-19: they are off to the races, and after all, they are the lynchpin to our food system. The bees’ work is much more important than my worries.

Perspective,  I think, is my takeaway tonight. I hope you out there are doing all right. Stay home, stay safe, be well. Create something beautiful out of weird stuff around your house. You never know what it might end up meaning to you.

Date: 6 April 2020

Cases: 1,346,299

United States: 367,507

Deaths: 74,679

Mortality Rate: 5.547%

Friday Reflection

View at Medium.com

The map is scary and sad, and yet, there are still lots of people who won’t take the virus seriously. No one seems to be talking about the overall mortality rate: all people talk about is social distancing and whether or not to wear a mask.

Today we went on a car parade all around Elgin to see our families and it was great. I have been so sad these last two days, and I couldn’t really tell you why. I realized, last night, that I miss the morning times of school: advisory time, when the kids come in and out to visit and hang out. I miss the bliss of ending 4th period and knowing I have 5th period and lunch off together, and the joy that is 6th period. 6th period was my worst class at one point, but they turned into my best through multiple exercises in vulnerability and that ultimate in teacher skills: parenting. They learned at some point, and then knew, had internalized, that I really really cared about them, and then, all 29 of them, magically, through a force of their own, decided, like a hive of wily honeybees, to behave as a whole. And after them came my bouncy 7th period computer science kids: 30 of the smartest, magic-jumping-beaniest kids in the school who came up with wonderful and realistic apps to address the impacts of the Coronavirus way back before the government even thought of this disease as a concern. Then my 8th period, my smallest class, my island of misfit toys with whom I get to round out each day: each day asking me question after ridiculous question and being mean to me just to be 8th graders. I miss them all so much it is crazy.

Being away from my students has made me think of all the students of years passed. Some are teachers now, some are married, some have kids, some are riding their own melt, and some have disappeared from my frame of vision. One of them sent me a photo of her sewing table last night because she saw I was sewing on my Instagram Stories.

We are shut down, our economy is cratering, so many people are unemployed it is unfathomable to me. Our schools are closed, and everything is weird. It all happened so fast.  I hope our new normal, after this has passed, is more reflective of our individual humanity and our scope for being people with each other. I hope we appreciate nature more. I worry that it will get a lot worse before it gets better. Heavy heart today: I hope tomorrow is better.

Date: 03 April 2020

Cases: 1,099,389

United States: 277,953

Deaths: 58,901

Mortality Rate: 5.358%

===========================================================================

Here are some articles about how to interpret the models that have been discussed over the last few days –

 

  1. https://medium.com/@wpegden/a-call-to-honesty-in-pandemic-modeling-5c156686a64b

2. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/04/01/824744490/5-key-facts-the-white-house-isnt-saying-about-their-covid-19-projections?fbclid=IwAR3wx7NSOwqJ-aFswK2SafUGLvRiUhCwF_H8L7XghgMnGqjti3dZDuUH9Pg

3. https://covid19.healthdata.org/?fbclid=IwAR089L2Ipds3BzCR-jC-obV0hzHgSci2lEywQFOfKDwBE3zVkDIK0QPZvKc

 

 

Tomorrow, A Million

This is just a quickie as it is very late and I am very tired. I am not sure where the day went, but went it went. I think that tomorrow the world will cross the 1,000,000 infection mark. That feels crazy as I remember noting, with my students, when there were 1000 cases, in China, back in January, I think. This is hard to believe.

There are still many people who don’t take this seriously: most of the state of Texas seems to not take it seriously. I wonder who is right? I miss my students and have a strange sense of time right now. I miss my students and wonder if they miss me. I miss my students and miss my structured days a it, even though my ability to walk my dog once a day and spend time in my garden and sew the quilt squares for the Lockdown Patchwork Project makes me happy.

Nicole’s uncle died of COVID-19 and I worry he is just the first person of many who I will be acquainted with. 240,000 people will die, they say, if we do everything right. Texas? Any ideas about that one?

Tomorrow is another day. I wish on the stars each night that it is only the smaller number and that we figure out this crazy virus soon.

Good night.

Date: 01 April 2020

Cases: 937,567

Deaths: 47,235

Mortality Rate: 5.038%

Daily Promise

20181221_175805

It has been several days since I have written, and I now realize that it is a massive oversight. So much is changing, every day, sometimes every hour, that this situation almost requires documentation. So, I heretofore commit to writing at least a little bit, every day.

I post the statistics at the bottom of every post but suffice it to say: living through a pandemic is eerie and off-putting in the strangeness of how everything feels the same, except that you can’t go to work and you are not supposed to see your friends or go shopping for anything non-essential. Today, Drs Birx and Fauci presented some very interesting projection modelsof where we go from here. Without any intervention, 2,000,000 deaths. With interventions, our best-case scenario is about 200,000. Dr. Birx always says we need to do better, and I appreciate that about her. She also has an amazing scarf collection and wears them tied in interesting ways every day. Her scarf affinity reminds me of Madeline Albright’s pins; I love good accessorizing.

I am not trying to be glib. In fact, I am very worried. I mostly worry because I think only a very small percentage of people are taking the pandemic as seriously as they need to; it seems that people think it can’t really happen. But I think something at least will happen, and I am scared about what it will be.

Meanwhile, I have to come up with meaningful online lessons (that is no problem) and hope that most of the students do them (that is more of a problem), and I have to wrap my head around staying home for at least one more month. Two weeks has felt like forever: I wonder what I will be saying come May 5th. School is cancelled till May 4th per government order. Wild times.

I am going to teach lessons around COVID-19 in computer science class and think about meaningful communication and stress management and future-casting in college and career readiness. I am going to plan for next year’s switch to full-time computer science and moving to the high school. I am going to edit my book, which is 1200 pages and is sitting beside me on the table, grinning and glowing in its glory. I am so excited. I am going to sew, and garden, and paint, and organize the scary closet. I am going to write.

I have been listening to lots of podcasts about this pandemic: maybe you have, too. I am fascinated to talk to my friend and mentor, Derry, about the science going on behind the scenes of media frenzy and public panic. He says that they are studying why certain people die and why certain people barely get sick. They are trying to figure out why the immune system over-reacts to it sometimes, killing its own alveoli (lung) cells, and what impact the disease has on the heart. They are looking at using Immuno-suppressant therapy, perhaps, and trying to sequence the genotype of all people with the disease so that they can find the commonalities that cause people to die, and some people to spread the disease without knowing they are sick. Mysteries, right? Living through a pandemic, an event “never seen before in modern medical science” as Derry says, is a crazy, wild rollercoaster of a ride.

The backdrop of this ride is the beauty of Texas spring, with all of its birds and bugs and flowers. My bees don’t care that there is a human pandemic, and the starlings that gather in their murmurs aren’t affected. The rain falls with regularity, the sun sets, and it rises. My love for people grows each day, as before, but perhaps with a bit more purpose, intent and fervour. I worry a lot and try to remember that control is an illusion. I remember this best when I am outside with plants and trees. I remember it, also, when I am reading and sewing, or just sitting on the patio.

When this is over, whenever that will be, I wonder what we will remember? That is why I commit to writing every day. Otherwise, I will forget.

 

Date: 31 March 2020

Cases: 855,007

Deaths: 42,032

Mortality Rate: 4.916%

 

Quiet Afternoons

There are people out riding their bikes and mowing their lawns and it is Thursday afternoon. People are out walking, and making beautiful photos on Instagram, and cooking, and everything else. Everything else but….working.

According to the New York Times, 3 million people have filed for unemployment, the most people ever in one week. I don’t really know what that even means, it just sounds like such a big number. Never before have I been more thankful for my job: I am so lucky to have my job, that Cody has his job, and that we both are able to work from home and still be paid.

I feel that there is some sort of shift happening in peoples’ perceptions in terms of their own lives and livelihoods. So many parents have told me that they are so happy to be at home with their families. So many people are out on the streets walking around instead of inside, glued to screens. So many people are more kind to each other than they were. People seem to be sharing, pitching in, and working together. I am ignoring the government and all the crazy madness that seems to come spewing out of the executive branch each day: I cannot understand a president who places money over people. I do acknowledge that it is not just as plain and simple as that, and that we must of course think of the economy, too, but it seems not to be a choice between but a choice of both. Texas Monthly has a great article about this false choice .

The days are strangely long, but they pass into relaxing evenings and then into beautiful mornings, over and over, on a relaxed sense of repetition. I feel guilty sometimes about my peaceful experience of this pandemic, but I suppose it is just the way it is for me. So I send love out to the rest of you, and hope you are all ok.

Date: 26 March 2020

Cases: 529,591

Deaths: 23,970

Mortality Rate: 4.52%

Today the United States became #1 in infections

Today