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.

The New School Year

Everyone is already looking ahead to the new school year, anxious to get the kids back to school in a setting where they can see their friends again. Mostly, I’m just excited to have someone else fight with their child why school work is important, even if it’s going to kill them from boredom. My home OT sessions have gone similarly horrible. In fact, I would be lying if I said I was confident my children are going to go back to school next year and be able to keep up with their peers. My only real comfort is knowing that my kids aren’t the only one with the “worst teacher ever” right now.

If you’ve been on social media, you have seen everyone share those new guidelines from the CDC about opening up the schools. I definitely have. I read them. They seem insane, to say the least. Not that I don’t believe there should be some guidelines, but that I don’t believe they can accomplish what they want. Not in my school district, at least. 1 kid per seat on the bus and skipping rows? My oldest son’s bus has kids sitting 3 to a seat and that isn’t even enough for them. How is that going to work? Are we going to magically come up with more buses when we can barely afford to meet the needs of the teachers and students as is? What about expecting young children to keep a mask on all day? That’s not realistic at all. It’s not realistic. And aside from the mask policy, 90% of it probably won’t even be put into effect in most districts.

I get the point. I understand the point. I don’t believe in those conspiracy theories about fear mongering and how the flu kills more people just because your media told you that line once and you just believed it. Or because you heard it, wanted to verify it, then just ignored the 20 other articles that disprove this point and use that one article from the National Review to show that you’re right. You’re not right, if you read the actual science behind the numbers. Here’s a brief rundown, in case you’re interested: it all comes down to testing. Since the CDC can’t ensure that everyone who died of a flu-related complication was actually tested for the flu, they essentially estimate a number to what they think it is based on some algorithm that I probably wouldn’t even understand if I tried. I got this information from Live Science, then looked at several other articles that ended up sharing the same exact information. I could be wrong. I’m not unwilling to hear actual facts to prove me wrong. But, this is what my research has shown me. Even still, their estimate was around 62,000 people dying of the flu this year. Which is, for those who like math, is less than the over 90,000 people who died of the coronavirus-related complications.

What these 2 illnesses do have in common is that by taking the proper precautions, you can minimize your risk and the risk of others. I’m not saying don’t live your life. I’m just saying don’t be stupid. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

Back to the original point of the post: what about our kids? People around social media are in an uproar on the community forums. “I’ll just homeschool my kids.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I can barely keep up with my “I need money to survive” workload and the very, very, very basic remote learning things that I have to keep up with. If you’re already struggling with that, good freaking luck actually homeschooling your kids. You have to prove that you are competent by the school district’s standards to homeschool, have to essentially submit lesson plans/hours of instruction, and follow strict regulations based on your school district. You have to be in compliance with laws around homeschooling. Then, there are those other aspects of not having that socialization in the school environment and missing out on those activities they get to enjoy in school like goofing off on the bus during field trips or school dances. I’m not anti-homeschooling; I’m very much in approval of parents who do what they feel is right for their kids. What I do want to make people realize is that if you’re struggling now, homeschooling isn’t a viable option for you.

The thing is, this is just information based on what we know today. This is a new beast we are dealing with here. We might have better answers about it, more testing, and a vaccine by the time we send our kids back to school. No one really knows much about anything. But, what I do know is that I’m going to follow the people who are experts in science, specifically infectious diseases, to form my opinion. Not some hack job on the internet that is only spewing misinformation because for some reason people have an adverse-reaction to facts and misinformation can be very profitable. Keeping yourself educated with the latest, and I can’t stress this word enough, FACTS is really going to be the only way we get through this.

And We Start to Open Up Again

I don’t particularly care to debate whether or not opening up is 100% the right thing. Because honestly, it won’t ever be 100% the right thing until there’s better testing, tracking, and a vaccine. That’s just science. As someone who does get sick often and badly, I take a look at this in a more realistic way. Again, I know I could choose not to go out to stay safe and that’s my plan. I’m not living in fear. I’m living in protection. I’ve been bedridden by sinus infections before because they get so bad, imagine if I got this? My family understands that. My parents are in the high-risk category, so my kids haven’t gotten to hug or really see their grandparents aside from waving in the window. My husband wears his mask and takes as much precaution as he can to stay safe, but there’s no real guarantee that he won’t bring something home to us. That’s a risk that we’re supposed to be willing to take.

But just because they government is opening up the world, that doesn’t mean I’m going to participate. I watch the daily rises and falls in the numbers. Until they get to a much lower place, I’m staying home and no one is coming into my house. I honestly don’t care about anything except keeping my family safe, which includes taking the precautions I need to so that I don’t end up dead. Dramatic? Maybe. But I just want to make very clear that peer pressure doesn’t work on me and I’m not going to do something because crazies with a gun think I’m irrational and living in fear. If I’m the one living in fear, how come you’re the one with the gun?

I’ll probably lose friends along the way. I’ll piss off family members that already don’t agree with my decision. It’s not their decision to make. I’m not withholding my kids from anyone. People can call them, voice chat with them, but we already have such a short time on this earth. I’m not going to go out with tubes down my throat because someone thinks I’m trying to hurt their feelings. I’m not. I’m doing what I believe is the right thing and you’re not going to convince me otherwise unless you’re an experienced and highly educated medical professional. Because science.

If you choose to go out and let your kids run around in large masses, that’s what you think is the right move for the safety of your family. I won’t judge you for that. But I would appreciate not being judged for what I think is the safe and right thing to do for the safety of my family.

Something Amazing Happened with the Boston Uprising

Last week, I avoided Overwatch League talk as I would normally do during my gaming posts on Monday during the league play. I was tired of lamenting about the Uprising’s inability to adjust strategies and do something new. I was tired of talking about the same teams winning and losing. I’m not going to say I had given up on the Boston Uprising. I still watch them religiously, even though I go in without any expectations. Usually, I’m still very disappointed. But something happened this week that was shocking. And no, it wasn’t just that we won.

Prior to the match, I joked that it was only going to be a short and quick loss, then our family could just binge movies for the rest of the day. We saw CatBren pick Uprising as the winner. That wouldn’t happen. Poor Bren. The desk laughed. At least he was honest about the random pick, they said. But what happened was crazy.

It was like an entirely different team out there. Colourhex wasn’t forced on Mei. They weren’t forcing a meta. In fact, they showed us more flexibility than we had ever seen. They played different comps, not stubbornly sticking to the same exact strats and hoping for different results. They adjusted when they needed to. They put up a fight, even on maps that they lost. They looked confident out there. They didn’t look like a team that just wanted to bang their head against the wall for 15 minutes, giving up the loss as quickly as possible to end their own suffering. And ours, maybe.

It was a long 6-map win. It was a wild ride, but holy hell, even if they lost I would’ve been happy. They adjusted, even mid-map. They looked incredible. It was so nice to see their face cams at the end and seeing them all jump up and hug each other in celebration. It was a moment that brought me back to them.

I wasn’t lost because I hate losing teams. I’m a lifelong Boston fan. I’m used to losing. I’m used to being a joke. It wasn’t until recently that we knew the taste of victory. My problem is losing because they refused to fix a problem. And look what happened when they did. Was this a fluke because Mei was banned this week? Or did they finally realize that to win, maybe you need to make adjustments rather than sticking to a failing strategy and just hoping things will turn around on their own?

I’m not sure. I’m hoping that if this was a fluke just because Mei was banned that they will realize that things just work better when teams play to their own strengths rather than bowing down to a meta that they consistently fail at.

It’s Going to be Okay

That’s something I think we all need to hear these days. We’re all struggling. A lot of people have lost their jobs. Parents who still have to work through this are struggling to balance working from home and managing their children’s education at the same time. Or they are trying to manage finding daycare for their kids while they go to work, adding to their stress of worrying if it’s safe for their kids. We’re not mentally in a good place right now. Or at least I know I’m not. But, it’s going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay because you’re doing the best that you can. No one can expect anymore than your best. You’re always going to think that you’re not doing enough. But you are. You’re doing your best for that moment in your life.

It’s going to be okay because eventually things will start to feel some type of normal again. Whether it’s the new normal or getting back to what your life used to be. Normal is really what you make it to be, not what everyone tells you it should be.

It’s going to be okay because we’re meant to adapt, adjust, and change our approaches. We evolve at our own pace. Change isn’t something that everyone can accomplish at the same time. And that’s okay.

It’s going to be okay because someday it will be safe for kids to hug their grandparents again. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that this is all to make sure that we have our family as long as possible.

It’s going to be okay, somehow. Because we need to have some sort of reasonable optimism that we will get through this. That we are going to come out of this stronger than when we went into this.

Because that’s who we are.

So, just remember: it’s going to be okay.

It All Starts with a Character

There are so many current, relevant topics I could be discussing right now. Like how countries are seeing a resurgence in cases because they opened up probably way too soon. How if you need a 10 step strategy on opening up, it may be too soon to. People have the right to feel terrified because no one really knows anything about this virus, except for the fact that it’s death toll keeps rapidly rising and there’s no real treatment or vaccine to help people through it. Or how people who ignore these guidelines for staying safe are the reason why we’re still dealing with this.

But I don’t want to. It makes me sad and angry and all types of negative.

Instead, I will work through my brain’s struggle to come up with a story to start a series of children’s stories. I have a character that I so desperately want to see come to life. I have her personality in mind. I’ve envisioned what she looks like. But I’m not a children’s author. Aside from “Dear Child”, I’ve struggled a bit trying to get back to the genre because I know there are stories there. I know that my character is going to be a flawed character, but I want to send a message of empowerment not to just other girls, but to all kids. I have all these great hopes for the story.

Unfortunately, I have no story. I’m not sure if it’s my workload breaking into my brain’s creative side, draining any will of creativity out of me. I’m not sure if it’s anxiety over what’s going on in the world that is hurting my brain. I just know that I have a great character, but she’s just sitting there smiling at me through my rough sketches of her. It’s frustrating. I’ve never had this long of a dry spell in my personal writing.

It is probably a combination of being burnt out from writing due to my workload and the fact that with the kids home all the time with no break while juggling said workload as well as my new “school of mom”, that I don’t have that quiet time where ideas just flow from me. With everything going on, I don’t see that changing any time soon and that does make me a little sad.

Writing may seem like an easy task. But words are hard. Stories are hard. Having the will to type endlessly is hard. Writers don’t have an easy job. We are tasked with inspiring emotions and getting people to relate to a fictional character. We need readers to connect on some level to the story. And we don’t get the ability to tap into the nuances of body language and inflections that can often only be heard. We can try, but we can’t reach everyone and we know that. But you need to be able to reach someone.

Maybe over the weekend I can get the chance to sit down and work on something. Maybe.

Using Gaming to Cope

Normally I would talk about the weekend of Overwatch League, then end in a rant about how poorly mismanaged my favorite team is, but I’ve opted against that this week. I would have ended up in a rant about how the Vancouver Titans obliterated their team, rounded together what T2 players they could in a short time, then spent the weekend bullying the Uprising while still losing their 2 matches this weekend. First of all, the Uprising get bullied enough. Joining in on that doesn’t make you the cool kid. Secondly, win a game, then you can talk.

The last time I left my house since everything happened was probably sometime in mid-April, when I helped my mom with something. Before that, was probably mid-March when I braved the stores early on to stock up on meats. I’m an introvert that doesn’t really enjoy going out too much. I like hanging out in smaller groups of my friends or family, but larger events can be overwhelming. In general, I like the fact that I can just stay home all day. But I do miss taking our family adventures to the park or doing something fun.

But I have video games. I’ve worked my butt off grinding hard in World of Warcraft, retail, leveling up as many toons as possible due to their XP boost that they are fortunately keeping until Shadowlands release. I’ve probably easily leveled 20 110 characters since the boost was released and I intend to keep going. That sounds insane to people, but it’s not to me. Not because I’m a gaming addict, but gaming does something to make you feel in control when there’s not much else you can control in the world right now.

I like that I can just put on music and mindlessly level away, without having to worry about how this pandemic has uprooted my life. I can talk to friends that I’ve made over the years playing as well as my “real” friends that also play WoW. It’s a connection to the outside world that even an introvert like me needs sometimes, when it just isn’t safe for me out there in the world. If I get sick, it’s because my husband brought it home with him by going to work or the store or other errands he has to take over because I can’t.

Gaming is the perfect escape in a world where everything seems so crazy. It has helped me stay more sane than if I didn’t have some sort of distraction to occupy my brain, which honestly isn’t a place anyone really wants to occupy. I can play WoW or Overwatch while working or sit on the couch relaxing with my boys while playing Animal Crossing, teaching my little one about the game. People who don’t game probably will never understand the incredible ability games have to offer social connections and distractions at a time when we need it the most. No matter what else is going on in the world, I still know what the outcome will be playing my video games.

In a few days, I may be picking up streaming again as I level a bunch of low level allied race toons in World of Warcraft. I’m interested in seeing how fast I can level them with the new XP boost, because I did level pretty quickly before that. I hope everything ends soon, but at least I know I have my video games to help me out.

A Writer Who is at a Loss for Words

I was sitting around thinking about what I should write about. Should I be celebrating that I’ve only gained 5 lbs during this coronavirus time of eating whatever you can get your hands on and mindless snacking out of stress and boredom? Should I go on a rant about people being irresponsible and how dumb I think the protestors are and how I not-so secretly hope that they get it and learn a major life lesson? Should I lament about how I’ll never think to myself that homeschooling would be much easier than sending my kids to school in a world where school shootings are so on trend?

All viable topics. But what does it matter? I could discuss how you’re not only protecting yourself but you’re protecting others by staying safe and following these rules. But I won’t change your mind about it. I won’t change your mind that it’s selfish to ignore mask rules or social distancing measures or how you shouldn’t hang out with family just because you miss them. This is your time to show how selfless you are. And you’re failing at it. But, it doesn’t matter because my opinion doesn’t change anything. I have a right to my opinion; you have the right to yours.

The virus topics are all played out. No one wants to read another story about how this sucks, because people read things as an escape or to find something that they relate to and find solace in. My pessimism has taken over; there’s no solace to be found here.

I have no topic. This post is just like the Blues Traveler’s “Hook”. You’re reading because I’ve engaged you. I’ve captured your attention. But there’s nothing of meaning. Of substance. It’s words, and I’m struggling to find them right now.

A writer without words. That seems crazy. What good is a writer if they don’t have the words? But they say that “you should create a schedule and stick with it, even if you have nothing to offer”. It seems silly, but this routine is as important for the writer as it is the reader. It means that the reader has something to look forward to. It makes the writer sit down and write. It forces creativity, though not necessarily in the right way. But it does.

I just have to keep up the mantra of “It could be worse”. Things could be worse. I’m told this too shall pass, but the problem is that it’s either not going to pass fast enough or it will pass too fast and we’ll just end up right back here hoping that no one you know gets sick or dies.