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%

Daily Promise

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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%

 

A Thousand People – Same Human Being

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AIDS Memorial Quilt, Washington, D.C. 1987

I am feeling a bit bleak today. I just took the dog on a very long walk through the old parts of Elgin, and I feel better, but still bleak. The news seems so odd, so full of danger and uncertainty. No one has any idea what is happening save that there is a rising tide flowing fast towards us.

Cody is outside gardening; he is planting cucumbers. I started a lot of seeds a while ago, mostly focusing on flowers but with a few veggies in there for good measure. We usually have a pretty and amazing summer garden, and this year feel a bit more pressure to step it up a notch.

Today we had a Digital Learning Team conference call to discuss how to help teachers transition to remote learning. People expressed the worries that kids won’t do anything and we then discussed the fact that a) we have no control over that b) we can’t grade anything and c) we have to abandon expectations and just do this for the sake of the kids who will do it. I think there will be many of them. I think, for me, my overwhelming sense is of worry for them. I worry that they won’t get to see their friends and their teachers and ask all the weird questions that teenagers ask. I worry about missing them and that they won’t learn anything and they will be sad. We don’t live in Austin, where kids can get out and walk around and look at things. A lot of my students live on big properties with a few tiny houses or house trailers on them and a whole lot of nothing for them to do. School is such an important place and outlet for rural kids.

My general bleak feelings come from fear, I think, and I know that fear is the mind-killer, but it is there nonetheless. I am worried more bad things will happen, bad things that I can’t even foresee since things seem to change every few hours. I feel terrible for the people who are sick and all the doctors and nurses that are taking care of them. I have this horrible fear of not being able to get food. I don’t think that one is super realistic, and I also know that lots of other people feel that same feeling. It is a horrible feeling and one I have never had before. I think that is part of the bleak feeling I have today is that the feelings/thoughts/passing brain impulses that I am having I have never had before, and so they are very disorienting.

My friends Kevin and Darrel went out for a walk in their neighborhood in Altadena this morning and found that their neighbors had made sweet signs for their yard, so I think I am going to go and channel these feelings into something positive and pretty. I think little things do make a difference, right?

Date – 23 March 2020

Cases – 329,862

Deaths – 14,378

Mortality Rate – 4.3%

6 Days In to Quarantine

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This map is cited below, in the last paragraph

I read somewhere, yesterday, that it is important to journal during times like these. We are ankle-deep in a pandemic, on our way to being knee-deep. For the first time in my life, my parents’ life, and even my grandparents’ life (who are all dead), there is a virus ravaging many corners of the globe. As it ebbs and flows, retreats here and expands there, the most common feeling of it all is a simmering panic based in uncertainty. It seems not even our leaders know what to do or what to say, so they talk about the stock market a lot, and we all feel lost.

This morning, I went to the grocery store because I have been unable to get sugar for a few days, and my two new beehives still need to be fed as there aren’t quite enough flowers to sustain all those little, buzzing creatures. I waited in line for an hour with a garbageman on my left and a pastor on my right; we discussed the state of affairs, laughing to keep from crying. When I finally made it inside the store, all looked mostly normal except there are still no potatoes or onions. It is a mystery.

I found a 25-pound bag of sugar, grabbed dinner for tomorrow and Monday (as I aim not to go to the store for a few days), and went through the line with my 4 items, being blessed by the manager along the way for only buying what I needed. The boys running the check-out are in high school and looked a bit winded and rough-trod. I asked them if today was another day of adventure and they whinged at me a bit, then talked to each other about the line around the building and the one person who tried to jump the line (I saw her; I am going to assume she just didn’t see all the people standing in the great big, huge line).

When I am home, on my property, it is almost possible to forget all of the madness that is happening, especially in the cities, around the Western world. Around me, as I walk with the dog, are the singing sounds of birds just returned, the breeze caught in spindly branches with, as yet, no leaves, the snort of the horse next door, the strange cry of the neighbor’s guinea fowl, or the incessant barking of Chomps, the next door neighbor’s pit bull who spends her life in the backyard, alone.

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Student-created coding art 

But the reality is that on Monday, I will wake up at a normal time and call all of my students in my 2nd period class on the phone, try to reach them, see how they are doing, and ask how ready they are to learn remotely for a while. They say now that we will go back to school on April 6, but I am highly in doubt of that. We start on March 30. Why would we do all of this work for a week? I miss my students and am thankful that my 2nd period is one of my favorite classes, and the one in which we have studied the Coronavirus since we first started hearing about it, back in the fall. My 2nd period class has learned about the virus, about epidemiology, and has designed proof of concept apps to help people or HHS workers with an outbreak. Little did we know that we would be here now. This year, we have also spent a lot of time comparing and contrasting Chinese and American cultures and our different approaches to authority, privacy and liberty. In other words, that class (and its 7th period counterpart) are well-versed in where we are at this exact moment.

I looked at the Times this morning and there is a video about how New York City is shut down and 100% of its workforce (except essential workers) have been ordered home. My friend Kevin texted from Altadena the other day that California, too, is in lockdown. The garbageman in line this morning had a card in his wallet that his employer had given him because the City of Elgin is worried that it will be soon illegal to drive and leave your home: the card is to show policemen that he is an essential worker.

How did we get here and so fast? How were we so woefully unprepared? How is our economy so supposedly powerful but yet is crippled by debt? Do businesses not keep cash on hand anymore? Why are so many people losing their jobs in an instant? Why are so many people buying so much food at the grocery store and where has all the toilet paper gone? Why is this only impacting the western world? We hear almost nothing from Latin America, South America, Africa, Russia, and now it seems that the Asian cases are almost finished.

I have been thinking about how to teach students in times like this. What do we focus on? Can we focus? What are the most important messages that need to be communicated? I wonder if the most important things for students to do are creative, real-world and involve them being able to choose what they want to do, or how, at least, to express their learning.

I feel like I am rambling and don’t have a “flow” today to my writing. I had something brilliant the other day, but of course didn’t write it down. So, for today, I am going to go. But I will be back, maybe later today! I wonder what people thought 100 years ago when the Spanish Flu began to creep in around society’s edges. I was just looking at my favorite COVID-19 map and remembering when we were talking in CS class about how the cases had risen to 1,000.

Date – 21 March 2020

Cases – 287,239

Deaths – 11,921

Mortality Rate – 4.15%

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Student-created coding art – focusing on the meaning of loops – Apple Keynote