Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t get days off, but don’t expect some long and poignant post today. Well, maybe you shouldn’t expect that most days. Today is Thanksgiving, a day that people set aside in hopes that it makes them feel grateful for everything that they have for at least one day a year. It’s a day that politics should be left out of. I’m sure Halloween has pretty gruesome history behind it, still going to celebrate that. It’s not about the past; it’s about where we move forward.

I’m thankful for every day. I’m thankful for my beautiful boys. I’m thankful for their successes and their struggles, because both make me a better mother and human. I’m thankful for my supportive family, who’s always there when I need them the most. I’m thankful for my husband, who always lifts me up when it feels like everyone else wants to take me down. I’m thankful that I have a house, food, and loved ones. I have a lot to be thankful of, which I’m very thankful for every day. We don’t need a single day to be grateful. We should be grateful every day.

If you are lucky enough to spend the day with family, remember how lucky you are. If you are working today, putting your life on the line to ensure the safety of others, thank you for your service. We are thinking of you, grateful for your selflessness. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be with family, be with the family you choose. Blood doesn’t mean family. Love does.

Happy Thanksgiving and remember the lessons of today every day of your life. Even in darkness, there is something to be grateful for.

Social Media Help For Esports

Some teams have an awesome team behind their social media accounts. As a Boston Uprising fan, I feel as though they have done an amazing job. The Overwatch/Overwatch League teams (and Blizzard team in general) also have a knack for getting information out and actively engaging with their fans. This is just one of many things that I personally love about Blizzard. The problem is that PR on the social media front tends to be a problem for these teams/stars, especially in the Overwatch League and apparently now their Contenders teams.

You may have heard that there’s a new team in town: the Toronto Defiant. I cried a little on the inside when they had Neko in their video releasing info on 2 of their new players. The reveal was well-produced and the hype around it was perfect. This was social media used in an effective manner to achieve awesome results for the team. Even though this worst kept secret was something some Boston fans were hoping was fake. (Which quickly disappeared when Neko referred to HuK as a lying bastard on the internet, but still some of us clung onto hope that Neko would be our fearless Zen/Ana once again.) The Neko incident of calling HuK out on and it going viral on social media is just one of many ways that the PR team has failed players on the social media front. I could go into real life examples of how social media can give people a negative impression on you without the polish of an experienced professional, but I really don’t like to talk politics on Gaming Day.

Way back when DreamKazper did that terrible thing, I pointed out that this was just one of a few examples back then that you have these kids who are impulsive and inexperienced socially (in most cases) who need help navigating the finer points of engaging fans and social media strategies. As an Uprising fan, I can point to NotE and Gamsu as evidence that when a player uses social media properly can grow a massive following without any drama. Gamsu posts images of the beautiful views when he hikes or hilarious images of him missing his flights. Then there is NotE who goes the puppy route and keeps up this wholesome and goofy image that he has. These are players that have either been coached properly on social media PR or ones who just are personable and relatable people with a talent for social media.

Then you have teams like, I don’t know, the Toronto eSports Club who went full nerd-rage on Twitter. “We were told we couldn’t have our name so we quit Overwatch”. They sounded like petulant children. Does it suck that they had to change their name because of the Toronto Defiant? Absolutely. I don’t think it was right that they had to change their name. Throwing a childish fit on Twitter? Probably not the best way to go about it especially if you want sympathy over the situation. Plus, I mean just flat out quitting the game and bashing how awful it is? That brought up a lot of concerns for Uprising fans (and potentially even their players/staff) of what this meant for them since this seemed like a rash overreaction one the part of their academy team. When HuK comes off as a reasonable party in a situation, then you know you’re wrong. This is another case where someone who shouldn’t have a Twitter account while representing other people makes everyone look bad. (Applies to politics today as well.) In case you’re wondering Toronto eSports doesn’t actually own the academy team, the Uprising do. So, this really means nothing.

These teams and players need better social media coaching. Fissure has an awful reputation due to his social media presence. xQc has a reputation due to his online persona where you either love him or hate him. Social media today can make or break your brand if you let it. In a lot of these cases, they are letting it break them. I’m no expert on social media, but I have done enough where I don’t utterly squash the brand I’m trying to build up. If you don’t have the funds or means to get social media professionals to manage the more difficult people, maybe it’s a good idea to at least train them better in these areas. In most cases, the Overwatch League players are freshly 18 with their own income, living on their own, coming into a massive fan base. It can be easy to get caught up in the fame, not realizing the consequences of your actions in the grand scheme of things.

When Talking to Your Child About Death

The first time I had to discuss a death with my son, it was my aunt who had passed away. He was still young enough where he didn’t exactly comprehend it and it didn’t ultimately have an impact on him. (I want to say he was 3ish at the time?) The second time I had to discuss a death with him, it was my paternal grandfather. This time he was in Kindergarten. Still, he was too young to really understand. I asked him if he wanted to go to school, if he wanted his birth father’s family to take care of him (it was just before his Christmas break started) while I attended the funeral. I missed the wake to take care of my son. I couldn’t miss the funeral.

My son, who even still is a lot older mentally than he should be, decided he wanted to come with because it was the right thing to do. I reluctantly agreed that he could go, thinking that he was too young to be at a place like this. But I figured if he was mature enough to ask and understand what was happening, that he was able to attend. He wanted to come up to the body with me. I held his hand and we prayed together while kneeling in front of my grandfather. We attended the Catholic mass afterwards, where people were crying and remembering my grandfather. I stayed stoic, as I tend to do. Probably why I have the reputation for being “cold”. I stayed stoic until out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my son was trying to be like everyone else. He asked for a tissue, and started dabbing his dry eyes because everyone else was crying. He started forcing sniffling noises while doing it. I didn’t want to laugh during a somber mass, but I chuckled. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he knew the motions that he needed to go through and he just wanted to make sure he was doing it right.

It was a long time later when I had to tell my now older son about a death in the family. This time, it was his biological paternal grandfather, a man he maybe met twice? I remember failing at this opportunity, making a joke because that’s who I am. “Dylan, you know what sucks more than your computer dying?” Yeah, you can finish the joke. I said it. I should be ashamed of myself, I know. But you have to be me and my son to understand. He didn’t react. He didn’t even really know the guy. He was confused as to whether he should go to pay his respects, be alone among a room of people who he didn’t even really know. Ultimately, he decided that it was better for him not to go. He was 15; that was entirely his choice.

My youngest son’s school was doing a project about Veteran’s Day. We decided that it would be cute to write about my maternal grandfather, who served in the Navy and passed away when my oldest son was about 2 or 3 months old. We named our youngest after my grandfather, so we thought it would be cute for our son to learn about him. It was cute until he asked why he didn’t meet my “Grampa”. I calmly explained to him that my grandfather passed away a long time ago. “He’s dead?” I nodded. “Did he die in the war?” I explained that he died of cancer and that cancer sucks. “What happens when you die?”

I stopped. What was my approach here? What do I say to him? Do I say what I believe? That he’s just dead and there’s a body in the ground and that’s really it? I couldn’t do that. I found myself saying the words I’ve learned through all my years of Catechism. “Well, he’s in Heaven watching over us to make sure that we’re okay. He’s protecting us.” My son went on. “What’s Heaven?” I found myself getting wrapped up in a lie that I didn’t believe, as parents often do in so many situations. “Well, it’s where good people go. And your great grandfather was a very good man.” He nodded, asked a few more questions, and that was the end of the conversation. Until he kept bringing it up. “How can he protect us if he’s up in Heaven?”

I wanted to say to  him “Mommy doesn’t believe in God or Heaven or angels, I just lied to you because the truth sucks”. There was no right answer here. I had to keep going with this lie to protect him. Just because I didn’t believe, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to believe if he wants to. It’s a loaded topic dealing with death, especially when discussing it with your kids. I worry about the day when I have to tell them that someone they were close to died because I’m the last person I’d want to tell me if someone passed away. The last. I’ve done it before. I’m not very good at it. I blurt it out without softening the blow. I answer questions honestly. I’m brutal and cold. I admit my faults. I have no idea how I would tell my child that someone they loved died. I could barely make it through a conversation about telling them how someone they didn’t even know died. Did my child need to know that my grandfather died of cancer? Was that too much to put on him? Did I screw up my oldest by telling  him the news through a joke?

I’m a mom trying to figure out this hard stuff just like everyone else. My way probably sucks and I don’t know how to fix it but it surprisingly has worked up until this point. I’m numb to the death thing and admittedly that has hardened me. My first thought it never “oh that sucks”, it’s always “okay, what needs to be done next.” I hope that I figure this out because as you can see, my gut instincts are not great here.

Shadowlands: The True Beta Experience

Now that there’s really not much to talk about in the Overwatch Leage, aside from my MVP choice Fleta winning the award and Washington Justice somehow doing exceptionally well in the playoffs before finally falling to the Philadelphia Fusion, it’s time to look at the Beta Experience for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.

At first, the experience started off well. The story was great. I’m not sure I liked the story more than some of my other favorite expansions like Legion and Wrath of the Lich King, but the story was far more interesting than what BFA turned out to be. (I admit, I did enjoy the BFA story for a while but eventually was bored of it.) The prequel book was good and a great lead-in to the beta… but there was something missing. Things were pretty easy to get through, and it was interesting coming across some of these characters that we have loved in the past to see where they are now that they are dead.

The Bug That Ended it All. And Led to Another Major issue.

But then, things halted. As you can see, there’s this really cool looking effect on the side of the screen. The problem is… that’s not supposed to be there. That’s the effect you get as you travel through the wormhole to get to Oribos. This is how the whole situation happened, though according to the forums these 2 issues are completely separate:

  • I moved on from Maldraxxus, which is a cool zone for those fans of necromancers in WoW, into Ardenweald. This zone in pictures was gorgeous and the creatures and NPCs that were in this zone looked so stunning. I suppose it helps that this zone had beautiful shades of blue everywhere. It was fun questing, finding mischief with the NPCs… until I go to turn in the quest.
  • There was seemingly everyone on the server who was trying to also unsuccessfully turn in this quest. Tried the usual things and even abandoned the quest. I tried to retrieve said quest, “Tending to Wildseeds”, and the NPC was nowhere to be found. Cool.
  • I hearthed, forgetting that my hearth was back in Bastion. Easy enough… just fly back to Adrenweald and try going back again. Except when I landed, now I’m stuck with this wormhole effect that lags and makes playing impossible.
  • Go to the forums, it’s a common issue. Just do an arena skirmish or instance and it will clear when you get back out. Went into an instance, could barely do anything because of lag caused by said instance, then got out and still had the issue.

The Problem With These Issues

As already mentioned, the wormhole effect makes it so that the game lags horribly and I can’t really do anything. Which I suppose is fine, because apparently I can’t do anything anyways. In Shadowlands, the quests are linear. So when a quest bugs and you can’t do it/turn it in, you’re stuck in the game. You can’t get quests elsewhere. You can’t just move onto another zone. While I enjoy the linear storytelling of this approach, when you have a bug that breaks the game so you can’t complete the quest you are stuck in a loop of nothing. You can’t do anything, except instances. Which, with the wormhole bug, makes that impossible too.

The Concern

The game is supposed to be released next month. This has apparently been an issue since the beginning of September and if it’s still an issue today, then is the game even going to be able to be released on launch day? Or are they just hoping that people won’t level that high until some time (/lulz) and they can just wing it? Is the response to just not make that a quest that requires you to move on?

Please Make This Work

The beta in Shadowlands has been fun. I can’t wait to play it more… maybe another toon won’t stay perma-stuck at 57 because of the same bugs. Maybe not. But I’m actually still really excited that this could be a fun expansion with a great story. I’m hoping later this week, with the kids back at “school”, I can get into streaming it. For now.. please make the game work. I really want to try the covenants.

Overwatch League Playoffs 2020: The First Week

I went into the knockouts expecting the Boston Uprising to lose their first match. I still was going to watch and root for them, since I’m not the type of fan that just turns my back on my favorite teams. But I mean, they weren’t going to win right? Even if they were going up against Houston, who has had a difficult time lately. I would’ve been okay with a Houston win, since I like the team. They are good people, have great role models for kids, and are just generally hilarious when you read their social media or watch them stream. But then, the first match broke so many brackets. Because Boston won that first match!

I couldn’t believe it. They did so well the first map. They rolled out with different comps each match. They tried new things. They played aggressively. Our DPS played on characters that they were actually good at. Myunbong was on his apparently most amazing character ever (Ana) and just tossing out sleeps that seemed impossible to get. If this was the team that we had all year, we would have had more than just 2 wins in the regular season. While I admit that when I saw Fusions roll out on the Roadhog I was scared, it turned out so much better than I thought. He was able to play more aggressively, which seems to be his preference. Punk was amazing. They were all amazing. It was incredible and bittersweet to watch. We finally get a meta that works for us, and it’s in the playoffs.

Then the drawings happened for the playoff teams to pick their choices for the next round of knockouts. The first team didn’t pick us. (Gladiators) Then, Atlanta’s resident “villain” picked us. However, instead of his normal trash talk saying things like “ez”, he picked us because he wanted to see the drama and storyline about Decay (Justice) going up against his old team (Fuel) that released him while badmouthing him right before the playoffs.

Now, of course we lost the second round, but I’m not disappointed in the loss. They didn’t get destroyed. They put up a fight. They looked good; just Atlanta looked better.

The playoffs showed me that this team had talent. It showed that I was right; you figure out a way to let these guys play the characters they are good at rather than forcing a meta and they win. They look and play more confidently, which means that they are more aggressive. It was far more enjoyable watching the Uprising lose to Atlanta in the playoffs than it was to watch them lose practically all their matches all season long. Why? Because they played their heart outs. They looked great out there. They weren’t losing because they were terrible; they were just losing because Atlanta was just a little bit better.

What do I want to see next season? I’m definitely hoping for new coaches. Ones that can plan out better strats and work with the strengths of the players rather than forcing something that obviously isn’t working. Is it the coaching or HuK micromanaging? I’m not sure. If he is, maybe he should take a step back and let the coaches do their job. The playoffs showed the potential of this team. I wouldn’t be opposed to everyone staying now. I would even keep Fusions as a tank. I want the team to have more players next season, so that you can swap players in and out like other teams do. Because character picks can be dependent on the meta and the map, so the ability to swap players in and out means that you can get the perfect comps for each map. At least one backup for each position. I’m not asking for a lot here. And maybe next season, actually swap players in and out. Or change strats on the fly. Because there were so many games this season that the team just smashed their head against the wall repeatedly hoping for different results but getting the same exact stomping by the other team. Maybe then, we can have a winning team.

My pick for the Grand Finals winner is Shanghai. I have them in my now deceased bracket going against the Shock in the finals, but I’d love to see a Shanghai win. Plus, Fleta was my pick for MVP so I’d like to see that too. The Shanghai redemption arc would be so amazing if they could add “Grand Finals Champions” to their name.

Those Incredible People You Encounter When Gaming

I debated writing about my experience in the Shadowland Beta this week, but maybe I’ll focus on that another day this week. Today, I was inspired by my encounter playing games today in Overwatch.

I’m not the best Overwatch player. I’m decent enough. I would argue that I’m Mystery Heroes good. I play decently enough but I play because I have fun. I play Mystery Heroes because I was tired of being bullied in competitive, though I would have really loved to make at least Plat since I came so close before quitting. I would have loved to get a gold weapon for at least D.Va. Why did I quit? I primarily play tank or support. Both roles require chat, probably more than other roles. It’s insane how quickly people turn on you at the lower ranks the minute they hear a female voice.

So I don’t play any Overwatch that requires voice chat. I can have just as much fun and get the competitive experience just by playing Mystery Heroes all day long. Sometimes, on Tuesdays, the husband and I play together and he gets me to play quick play for the quicker queues since he mostly plays DPS. But I enjoy that because he can speak for me. I don’t have to worry about anything and he does the call out and I do what I’m supposed to. It’s simple. And I have the safety net of support when playing.

Usually things aren’t too bad lately. But today I played for a little bit before work and having to take my kids to their school to pick up their lunches and it was a nightmare. It reminded me of why I hate playing video games that require interaction with other people. Things were going well until we were getting held by 2 Torbs (Mystery Heroes, of course), and tanks on the final area of Dorado. Finally, we get a healer. I was Mercy. One of the Torbs on the other team Molten Core. This guy and the Rein decide to go through the fire, which would kill me. I stayed back to wait for it to go away and then went in to heal. The Rein died and this guy nearly died. Healed him up a little, then rezzed the Rein. Went back to heal him, he got focused and killed. Then someone says “Too bad we don’t have any good healers.” I didn’t engage, because I never engage. Then he said “Right Leigha?” (My gamer tag is Leighanneore.) Again, ignored it. Eventually we get a better comp, I’m back healing on Baptiste, and we roll through pretty easily after killing the Torbs. I had over 6k healing and gold and I was only healer for that last point. So, I guess super bad?

I paid such little attention that I didn’t even know who said it. I just endorsed everyone on the other team. I end up in another match. Blizzard World, again on attack. We rolled through the first point pretty easily but then started to get held on the last section again. I was Rein, trying to shield a Pharah from above and the rest of the DPS. I stayed with the payload, people were behind me, and I had my shield up to protect the team from the Pharah. The Pharah shot behind my shield and a baby D.Va died. . Same person as last time, “Nice shield, Leigha”. I rolled my eyes. I was getting frustrated because why take us losing out on me? I ended up on Torb, we destroyed through the map and again won. I even ended up with a terrible PotG where I killed a couple people, then dumped lava everywhere and killed more.

I ended up in another map with this same play, fortunately not on the same team. I felt bad for the other team because the way he was mocking me was ridiculous. And uncalled for because it wasn’t my fault we were losing. It wasn’t my fault Rein doesn’t have a dome 360 shield or that Mercy can’t heal through a dumb idea of running through lava. I know that logically, but it stung more than it should have. My team beat the other team and I got to knock him around as Brig. Then he went into another commentary about how everyone was bad at the game but him.

I didn’t want to stop the day on a bad note. A note of a reminder of why I avoid multiplayer games and social interaction in general. I get into my final match of the day and I was shocked by something: kindness. A teammate was being friendly and others joined in. We rolled and they were excited and being so awesome. I never interact, but I did comment in between rounds: “I’d legitimately like to say that this was my first positive interaction in the game today. I’d like to thank you for that.” I meant it. They were giving smiley faces and being generally awesome. I was Mercy, did moderately well, we won. They were happy and saying great job and everyone rocks and how fun it was. That one positive interaction made up for all the negativity for the rest of the day.

Just like in the real world, some people are absolutely trash human beings and others restore your faith in the other players in the community. The fact that they can be anonymous, a faceless bully makes them feel like they are powerful. But they aren’t. They are the same level of trash as people who bully in “real life”. They use their power of words to take people down because they are terrible people or because their life is terrible and they want to take it out on you or because they feel small. Knowing this doesn’t make you feel better in the moment. In the moment, you just feel small and without confidence.

It didn’t get into my head. I still focused up and played despite what will just become a minor inconvenience to my day. A brief feeling of never wanting to log on the game again because I can only block him for 7 days, so what’s the point? There’s no way to monitor someone harassing people on voice chat, so there’s no point in reporting him for toxicity. I even re-watched the moments where he acted like a fool to see if I made any mistakes. After review of myself and a second/third opinion, it wasn’t my mistake. But being right doesn’t matter. What matters is that people tend to ruin everything.

So what’s the moral of this story? For as much trash as there is in the gaming community, there’s even more good. I’ll still never feel confident enough or comfortable enough to play competitive and climb the ladder. But I can take be mostly ok with this and bring it to every arcade match. Because I don’t need to win. I don’t need to do anything but have fun and get better at the game.

This is the World We’re Raising Our Children In

You can be outraged by so many things in the news, including the media itself. I hate to break it to you: many things can be injustice and you can see things from both sides. Liberalism isn’t a disease. Conservatism isn’t a disease. Partisanship is. The problem is the outrage is politically motivated in many cases, not related to justice. It’s people following blindly. I’ve never been very good at following the masses.

I can be both pro-cop and anti-police brutality. Why? Because I don’t buy into notions of sweeping generalizations. I think there are good cops. I think there are bad cops. Just like there are good doctors and bad doctors. Spoiler: in both cases, the bad ones kill people. The problem is that people place these professionals on pedestals and think they are gods. They aren’t, despite the fact I would argue that the bad ones all share a god complex.

Likewise, I can be outraged that a white boy gets shot outside of his house in broad daylight. But I wouldn’t ever compare it to something like Elijah McCain’s death. Never. Why? So many reasons. Did anyone say “What did that boy and/or his father do to cause this tragedy?” Did the person get to keep their job/get paid leave and not get arrested for what happened? Did anyone say “Well, maybe he shouldn’t have been on his lawn because then this wouldn’t have happened.” “Well, maybe his dad was a criminal for something completely unrelated.” No. Because that would be a real shitty thing to do. Because a kid died needlessly for whatever reason and that is tragedy enough. That kid shouldn’t have died because he was innocent and that’s all that matters. But why doesn’t it matter in the other situations? Because people follow the agenda that they are supposed to because it’s easier to follow than think for yourself.

I avoided writing this. I didn’t want to fan flames on topics I’m not as well-versed in. I make it a habit not to write about these tragedies because I feel morally wrong in profiting from them. It’s silly, but I struggle with posts like this because I have opinions. But I’m a white girl who grew up in the middle class and is still living in my station. What does it matter what I have to say? There are more powerful voices of people who experience this feeling of racism every day that understand it better than I could. I see things in passing, even things that happened to my husband and child that were racist incidents. I’m a witness that is outraged for them.

Is there a problem with people not recognizing that racism exists today? Absolutely. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s accepted. Or because they don’t see it. Or it’s because they don’t want to admit that it’s still a problem. Or because the media tells them it’s a fake issue. Racism was a thing of the past, right? It can’t possibly be 2020 and people are still fighting against it. <Insert eye roll here>

I would also argue that this is all a result of our own complacency. We let politicians divide us and say we have to choose whose lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter while picking and choosing which deaths across the country deserve outrage. Instead of arguing “White people are brutalized by cops more often”, maybe think of the common denominator there. Maybe think that more training should happen because why should teachers have to jump through more hoops to teach than the people you are trusting with guns? The minute we start pushing for justice for one person and saying another one is completely responsible, maybe there’s a problem with us. Maybe there’s a problem with the media we watch or memes that we like. Maybe there’s a problem with the people we keep in office.

Would this have happened under Hilary? I’m not dumb or blind enough to think that a Democrat in office would be any better. There would still be a massive political divide. There would still be cases of police brutality. Do I think President Trump is doing anything to make matters better? No. I believe that his past actions have shown that he honestly doesn’t care about anything other than his family’s wealth, his donors, and supporters no matter who his supporters are. Unless it benefits him financially or egotistically to make things better, he won’t.

Do I think Biden would make things better? No clue. Because the problem really comes down to who were are as a country and unless someone can bring peace to both sides, it doesn’t matter who gets elected. I’m convinced the soul of our country has already been long lost along the way and I only hope it can get it’s crap back together before my grandchildren are born.

It’s Another Day

It’s Tuesday, a day when I’m supposed to come up with some though-provoking topic to inspire something. Anything. But I’m less than inspired by the world around me. Today is one of those “dead inside” days, where I’m just going through the motions of… whatever it is this dumpster fire going on around us is. Today, it’s all random thoughts as they come to me. This is “Random Rantings” after all. Plus, the writing experts say to always write on a schedule, even if there’s nothing to write about. So, here we are.

I don’t sleep well, so last night I put on the DNC in hopes that it would put me out. It did. I’m not inspired by politics. I appreciate the argument that this election is for the soul of our country, but I’m afraid to point out to everyone that the soul has been long lost in favor of partisan divide and brainwashing that both sides have brought upon the masses. If there’s hope for our country’s soul to be saved, I hope to be alive to see it. Today, I’m more cynical than ever and I roll my eyes at those who in one meme point out this fact but in the next meme out some talking point for the political side that they so blindly follow. I think people my age are getting more news from memes than they are from the actual news. And no, that’s not a good thing. I did wake up a little bit afterwards, then just watched some infomercials.

I read the news, listening to our school committee say that the phased-in plan that they chose was the best option because it gave a choice. But, there’s no choice. There’s no real choice. It’s either your kids won’t get a proper education or they get sick/get others sick and add more statistics into this pandemic that’s supposed to be a hoax or something. And masks, am I right? Good thing my kids aren’t the first to go in. I’d be even more pissed about my decision if my kids were the sacrificial lambs here.

There was a dog running loose in my lawn yesterday, one that looked well-loved and just lost. I tried to help him. He didn’t want my help. It was interesting that I felt more compassion for that dog than most of my neighbors. Then they tossed trash on the sidewalk and I remembered why that was the case. I sighed, went back into the house and fed my dogs some treats.

We received our mail-in ballots yesterday. I look forward to not having to actually trek 2 miles to get to my polling area that doesn’t seem to ever have enough parking and have lines normally, without their being a pandemic. That’s why I normally do early voting. But, with pandemic closing down city hall essentially (but our kids are going to school… go figure) and the construction, going to city hall sucks these days too. Mail-in it is.

When I woke up this morning, I did hit my September weight loss goal already. That was exciting news. Hard work really does pay off sometimes. It’s a good thing I actually sincerely love salads and working out. It’s also a good thing that I found a diet that actually works for me and is sustainable. I hope this means I can be back into running shape soon. I do love some fall runs, with the foliage around me and the smell of people burning leaves. Fall is the best. Too bad people don’t understand things like “pandemics” and now I can’t enjoy the fun fall activities I love. Because like everything else, people ruin everything. Making homemade pizza for supper may make me feel better about everything.

That about sums up the random thoughts in my brain today. Hopefully Thursday can bring something more inspiring. I’m just really tired of screaming about local politics and other annoyances that we can’t escape in our real life.

And… They’re Going… Maybe… Sorta

Finally, the school committee voted, on a new plan that was just proposed and wasn’t even discussed last week. One person abstained. Seriously, why be on the school council if you can’t own up to making a vote on such a hard choice. If you think it’s hard and messy right now, imagine being one of the parents who have to make some very difficult decisions right now. Yes, it’s a mess, but votes matter to constituents.

The new plan is a modified phased in approach, where the vocational students, vulnerable students, and those with IEPs/special needs attend school on the first day. Then 3 weeks later, they phase the next group of kids. Then the keep phasing kids in every 3 weeks until finally all the kids can be in school together. All of the kids in the schools together, while there’s a pandemic going on, right in time for flu season to hit. Then we get to play the fun game of “Is it COVID or Is It the Flu?” I do love a good mystery game…

What do I like? I could send my youngest, who receives services, to school and know that there won’t be as many kids. Maybe even less than 20 in the entire school, and it would be less risky for him and myself. Since he doesn’t really see his grandparents, because of you know… a pandemic, it’s only me that I have to worry about dying. Also, that means I get rid of my kid finally after having him 24/7 for what feels like a century. If you knew my precious little Loki, you’d get it.

There, I mentioned everything I like about the plan. One of the arguments is sending the kids for their social and emotional development. So my kid, being in a room potentially alone with a single teacher (because apparently the fine details aren’t important or something), isn’t getting that development from interacting with peers. Because he’ll have no peers. If they do intermix classrooms, how would that work of they separate the kids? How do you argue that they need to form a relationship with the teachers if that may not even be their teacher when full face to face opens?

Then, there are the high schoolers. They didn’t even have a plan out for the seniors returning to school. Are they just not returning? When they do return, what does the cohort system look like for them? Does my son still get AP classes? Will he have to suffer in classes he didn’t want rather than those he was really excited about, like his forensic case studies class? How are they going to ensure that the buses aren’t overloaded? Is the attendance policy voided for the year due to the circumstances, or are we going to have to pay hundreds of dollars in medical bills (if we’re lucky) every time our kid has a cough so they can be cleared for school?

As parents, I think we deserve more than “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there”. I definitely think that we deserve more than what we’ve seen on this school council to the point that I think we need to really reconsider the people who serve us. I think that if I had the funds, popularity, or even anything that I think would be a good quality in a school council member, I would run because I think I would do better. I think that you shouldn’t be able to abstain because you’re angry or because you’re too scared to vote either way. I think you should push for exact details before voting on a plan. If not to make an informed decision, to at least get details so the people your plans actually impact can know what to expect or what to do next. I think that you shouldn’t be as confused, or more confused, than your constituents who are watching the meeting. And I especially don’t think that you should make things even more confusing for us.

I understand the importance of being in school for kids. I understand being a working parent who doesn’t particularly like the idea of remote learning, because working from home while being a teacher is hard. Yes, I’m fortunate I do work from home and can accommodate the remote plan while others can’t. But I also can’t say I have any faith at all that my children will be safe going back to school, especially since I have more questions than answers. And honestly, the fact that so many people don’t actually know what the decision was even after watching that meeting shows just how awful the whole situation is. If we didn’t understand what’s going on, it’s the fault of those people in charge.

So what’s my plan? I guess I’ll find out when they can tell me what their plan is because I have no idea what’s going on. Or hope that the Governor scraps it and calls it a day because some school districts can’t get their stuff together.

An Impossible Position for Parents

Exactly a week ago, I wrote about the impossible position our schools are in. How no matter what their decision will be, there will be a lot of people pissed at them. Now, it’s time to talk about the impossible position we as parents are in right now.

As parents, it’s our number 1 priority to ensure the safety of our kids. We are responsible for making hard decisions every day about what’s best for them. We plan out where to live to make sure they are in the best schools we can provide them. We carefully pick out a pediatrician so that they get the best care we can provide them. We make every decision to do what we think is best for our kids. The minute a decision is made that isn’t in the best interest of our kids, that’s a failure on our part. We’re not perfect as parents; we’re just trying to make it through the day without anyone dead, if possible, and with as much of our sanity intact that we can salvage.

This pandemic has divided parents as much as other hot topics such as vaccines, breastfeeding, babywearing, and staying home/going to work. The thing is that at our core, every parent has their own ideological beliefs that drive them. Some parents think that school is so important to kids that they are willing to just risk it. It’s no worse than the flu anyways, right? Some parents don’t have the option because the world is fundamentally stacked against the working people, so they have to send their kids to school out of financial necessity whether they believe it’s safe or not. Some parents are so stuck on the idea of remote learning because of fear of the virus entering into their carefully crafted bubble or just because they believe that masks are deadlier to kids than the coronavirus is.

Then, there are parents like me that are torn. Sort of. My oldest, as long as if there are sports and he can participate in them, will likely do remote learning either way. I just don’t understand how they expect to keep high schoolers maintained enough for proper contact tracing if a virus outbreak in the school happens. I just have too many questions that I feel aren’t addressed. Does he get in a cohort with kids who have the same exact courses as he has? Does he have to sacrifice classes, like his AP classes, because he’s in a cohort that doesn’t offer those classes? Sure, it’s been 18 years since I’ve been in high school, but high schoolers like mischief. They like rebellion. They probably won’t wear masks, or they’ll pull that super awesomely effective move where they wear the mask under their nose. They’ll huddle around each other and the schools won’t properly monitor that. They’ll pull down their mask and cough on someone screaming “Corona!!!” thinking it’s hilarious. Plus, he’s on an already overly crowded bus. Even in cohorts, how are they going to manage the safety of the kids on the bus? There are too many questions and I personally enjoy having a child who is alive and being alive myself that I just can’t risk it.

The issue is then my youngest child. He receives services in school. He’ll be 8 when school starts. He has anxiety attacks and a sensory disorder that they said he would’ve grown out of by now, but hasn’t. He requires movement breaks and his noise-cancelling headset when he gets anxious or the class is too loud. How is that going to work in the new COVID classroom? How can we expect that these kids are going to keep their distance or even keep their mask on? How can we expect that they will wash their hands regularly? What about when they eat together? They need their mask off to eat, so how does that happen safely with kids? But, he’s at an age where school is so important for his social and emotional development, an area where he does need help in.

I understand that sending him to school is a preferable choice. Even at the beginning, I mentioned that my plan was to go hybrid for my youngest and remote learning for my oldest. But after last week’s school council meeting, I don’t trust that they really have a viable plan to keep my kids safe. Even if they have a plan, I’m not sure I trust the higher ups to follow through with their end of the bargain. This puts us parents who have to make this choice in a really hard spot. What are we supposed to do? The default for me as a parent is to err on the side of caution, suck it up, and do my best. That means both will be in remote learning, even though I’m risking the mental health of my child (and myself, the way last year went). But that’s our difficult decision.

Parents always find their way when making these impossible choices. It’s not for us to judge others for their choice. This isn’t a time where you call the remote learning families “scared wusses that fall for media scare tactics and propaganda”. This isn’t a time to put down those pushing remote learning as “bored, stay at home mom keyboard warriors and what about us parents who actually work”. We’re all trying to do the best we can in a situation that we’ve never had to face. There’s no parenting book on how to raise a child during the pandemic. Even if they were, how useful are parenting books anyways? They just make you feel bad about yourself because nothing works for you. We are forging our own paths here and a little more support and a little less judgement is the right play here.

We Look Towards Our Leadership… And They Failed

We trust our school council with the lives of our children. Our children, the most precious things in a parent’s life. These are the people who we are entrusting right now to make an informed decision on what’s best for the education of our children during these uncertain times. Sure… we have an option of remote learning no matter what they decide, but that’s not the point. The point is: why weren’t they better prepared?

The schools should have been working on a plan since March to come up with all of these “what ifs”. What if this virus gets worse? What if it’s still a major issue come fall? How do we do a great remote learning plan in case we need it? How long do we offer remote learning? Will we open school in phases, like the state did? There are so many questions I have. What if my senior in high school gets exposed one time, then needs to quarantine for 14 days? He can only miss 16 days for the entire school year, so what happens if he gets sick or has to quarantine for another 14 days? Are they getting rid of the attendance rules? My youngest has anxiety attacks. Are we going to put him in a “sick room” with another kid who might have the virus because he’s showing symptoms, so he can get infected? What if he has an anxiety attack and tears off his mask because he’s hyperventilating? These are real concerns and I’m not unique in struggling with them.

The meeting had flawed statistics. Of course the remote learning wasn’t successful. Half the time the sites were down and the teachers were completely unprepared and were thrown into this remote learning plan without any real experience with it. How can you say that you can’t really measure attendance and the success of remote learning and then show charts of how unsuccessful it was? Great, there haven’t been many cases of kids getting sick in Chicopee… because parents have been smart about protecting their kids. My kids also didn’t get a bad flu like they normally would during the early spring because they weren’t in school either. The original basis for the recommendations for face to face learning are flawed to begin with. But we’ll stick with the flawed recommendations because…. why not?

Maybe we should listen to our teachers. You know, those people who are severely underpaid for what we expect of them and under-appreciated who are tasked with educating our children for 180 days a year. Maybe we should take their concerns, being on the front lines and all, and listen to what they think is best for our kids. They’re the ones in the schools. They are the ones we are asking to risk their lives for our children. Maybe they should have more of an impact on this decision.

At the meeting, it seemed like the representatives were unprepared. I sat through this 2 1/2 hour meeting for answers, because I wanted to be prepared. So I could make the best decision for my children. So I could be prepared. I looked to the school council to help me be prepared. I looked to them, the people that we as citizens of this city voted in, to give us answers so that we knew what we were going to do as a family for our kids. And these leaders and our mayor failed us.

Some members of the council, including my ward 7 councilman, asked great questions. What about lunchtime in the high schools? The representative from one of the high schools stated the precautions they were going to take. My son laughed. “I can barely get lunch some days because the cafeteria has no room for us. How do they think we’re going to accomplish 6ft. distance?” He’s right. My kid gets it. Why don’t they?

It started out to be a reasonable discussion with the school council giving their comments, until the Ward 1 councilor passionately spoke on the subject. Which led to a heated… tantrum. Which led to a postponement of the vote. For a week. Us parents need to wait anxiously for another week when they should have been better prepared. They should have had a better plan. The meeting was a failure. It was embarrassing as a resident of the city to see things turn ugly like that. It was frustrating to sit for nearly 3 hours to get answers, to get nothing but watching grown adults shout at each other. It was awful to realize that we have trusted these people to make these decisions and they couldn’t do it. Instead we get a “Well, let’s do remote learning until Springfield starts their hybrid approach to see if it’s safe enough for our students”. What? Let’s see how those sacrificial lambs do in the next city over to see what we’re going to do? Insane.

At this point, I’m not sure why I’m more afraid to send my kids back to school. Is it because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be going away? Or is it because these representatives of our city are the people making the decisions that directly impact my kids?

The Impossible Position of Our Schools

Our district just laid out a draft for the upcoming school year. I feel bad because no one is going to be happy. The fact of life is that they can’t please everyone. They will get slammed with insults. How dare they make our kids wear masks?! Good luck. Maybe I’m unique in making my kids practice wearing masks in anticipation of this requirement, even if we’re at home. Why? Because the masks aren’t going away anytime soon and neither is this pandemic. It’s common sense.

The smart play would be to take this process in phases, much like the reopening of the state. Start off by doing the remote-only option for students who don’t need any special attention at the schools. This allows the students who actually need to be in school, whether they receive OT or other services, to go there in the safest way possible. Then, as the situation starts to get better, slowly transition into their hybrid model. Then finally, when they get to the threshold of under 5% positive cases, they can safely return to full-time. It should be a slow, phased-in process. If it’s good enough for reopening the states, it’s good enough for the schools. If things start to get bad again, roll back to the previous phase.

Granted, I’m not an expert on the educational system. This is all opinion as an outside observer. I think a rational approach, not a political one, is the approach we should take. This isn’t the teachers being too lazy to teach; it’s them not getting paid enough to risk their lives (or the lives of their loved ones). They didn’t sign up to be babysitters, people who take bullets for our kids. But that’s often the realities of their job. The perception of their job. It’s not their fault a pandemic has taken over the country and there’s no leadership stepping in to stop it. They definitely didn’t sign up to potentially die of a virus in a slow and excruciating manner because parents need the kids to back to school.

As a parent, I’m concerned about sending my kids to school. I’m concerned about them bringing something home that could kill someone with my craptastic immune system. I’m concerned about them bringing something to school that could potentially kill someone else. I’m concerned that my kid won’t keep his distance from others or keep his mask on all day. I’m concerned that my oldest will take an overly crowded bus to school, then swap around to 7 different classes and god knows where he got whatever he brought home. It’s a mess. This whole thing is impossible for our underfunded school systems to deal with. And they aren’t the ones responsible for this mess.

So let’s not get mad at the schools for trying to keep our kids and themselves safe from becoming another statistic of this virus. Let’s work together and start supporting our schools for everything that they do for our children. Ask what they need. My school district gives out lunches during the week, even though it’s summer, to ensure the kids are eating well. My school district seems intent on wanting the safest approach while still educating my children. I appreciate them for trying their best and working with what they have. They deserve our appreciation, not our scorn.

Boston Uprising and the Countdown Cup Qualifiers

At this point, I think most Boston Uprising fans are at a loss. During the casting, the UberX duo got it 100% right. They weren’t bashing the Uprising; they were pointing out the obvious flaws that they had and the coaches should have known better. But apparently they didn’t. Whoever was making those calls, like holding onto 6 ults for over 2 minutes when they could have just ended it with a lot of time on their clock, was making major mistakes. Let’s take a closer look at the match.

The first map was Oasis, and the Uprising and the Titans went back and forth. It looked solid, until going into the last round in Map 1. The Uprising didn’t even bother trying to fight for high ground. They just sat down on the point and got slaughtered repeatedly. It wasn’t even close. It wasn’t even fun to watch. How could they look so solid the round before, then end up just falling apart? It seemed insane. As my husband and I screamed at the television, “Why not the high ground?”, we heard the casters wonder the same thing. Vancouver won Map 1.

Boston then ended up picking King’s Row for their next map. Maybe, I hoped, there was a different strategy. Maybe we’d see Colourhex on Junkrat on defense with Jerry on Widow. Maybe we’d see a Rein/Zarya comp, which is common for King’s Row. Except, they went with the same meta comp. Things did go well for them on their first attack. Then the Titan’s had a better attack. Then, the Uprising took way too slow to cap it in the next round which led them into the eternal overtime that would stop the minute people left the point. Or got slaughtered off of the point, right at the archway, ending the round. Their 2nd defense went much better and it looked like they were going to do it, especially after Jerry put in some hard work. Then Fusions died. And slowly our team died and then the point was capped, making their walk back so far away that they likely weren’t going to make it in time. But don’t worry, we have Bob right? Except Bob didn’t feel like cooperating and ran past the point. The team on the point died and the rest of the team just didn’t make it back in time. Boston is down 0-2. 1 map to keep them in the game.

Boston picked Hanamura, a map that they had done pretty decently on in the past. They ended up quickly capping the first point and had over 5 minutes to cap the second. They had a massive ult advantage that they could have used to waltz into the point. But they didn’t. Ok. Maybe they wanted to bait out the Titan’s ults first. But then…. they still didn’t go for the point. It wasn’t until about 2 minutes that they went in with their ults and eventually capped and they had no time on the clock. The only way that the Uprising could stay alive is if they managed a full hold to force a draw and get another map pick. They crumbled, and the Titans took the match 3-0 and knocked the Uprising out of the Countdown Cup qualifiers.

So what happened? The usual happened. We get excited and we start thinking “yeah, we can do this”, but then we get our hopes squashed right in front of us. A big problem is that we keep forcing Colourhex and Fusions to play the meta rather than to play to their strengths. If we wanted to play the meta, we should have picked up a DPS with a Genji and a tank with a more flexible hero pool. Not force a player that can be pretty great when he’s in a groove, but not so stellar otherwise. But I don’t blame the players for this. I blame the shot callers. I blame the people who said “Maybe we don’t need to go high ground here”, then get rolled for the rest of the round. The guy who was like “Hey we have all of these ults, let’s snowball it and cap this point with 4 minutes on the clock. Or… we just hold them for 2 minutes and do absolutely nothing with them, then barely cap the point and end up having no time to go again.” I blame the person who doesn’t hire extra players to sub in for specific roles so that we can get these wins. That’s the person(s) to blame for the loss.

At this point, the organization should just hire the fans to know what to do because they seem to better understand the game than the coaching staff and management does. Can we improve during this short break before the next round of matches? I hope so. It’s too late to fire and hire a new coaching staff, for logistical and morale reasons. But this time, they need to clean house and not of the players this time.