Zoom: It is Our New Way

This morning, I get to argue with my child over wearing pants because he has a Zoom meeting with the rest of the class. Zoom is apparently our new way of life. The last time his teacher had a Zoom session, my son was too sick to join in the fun. It will be nice for him to get that experience, at least seeing his classmates. This whole thing is finally wearing on him, making him sad he doesn’t get to hang out with his friends. I promised him he could have his friends over after this was all over. If this ever ends. It feels pretty endless right now.

Next week, I have to try out the Zoom thing myself for a meeting with his 504 team. Which is always super fun because I’m terrible at technology. You’d think for someone who freelances, streams (maybe starting up again next week some time), and games as much as I do, I wouldn’t be so terrible at figuring out new programs. But I am. Here’s to hoping. Though, let’s be honest I’ll probably fail at something.

Zoom has almost become a meme at this point. It’s like a false sense of normalcy at a time when nothing seems right. Does this new program open up doors after this whole thing ends? Probably not. Despite this current situation proving that some people can actually successfully work at home, employers will still insist on going back to normal. But for now, this gives us the opportunity to pretend that everything still goes on. Except our sanity, that’s long gone.

Families are using Zoom to stay in touch. Schools are using it to have classes, giving children some type of connection with their teachers and peers. Businesses are using it for meetings. This has become the way. As technology evolves more, maybe more people will get to enjoy working from home on a regular basis which can save everyone time and money. But, right now I’m just hoping that we make it out of this healthy and safe.

Upending the Lives of Children

My child thrives on routine. Due to his many difficulties, routine is something that is sacred to him. If things don’t go to an exact routine, his entire day is destroyed and that’s the reality of having a child like him. Even my older son prefers to stick to a routine and gets a little antsy if things don’t go according to plan. But he’s far more flexible when his routine is shaken up. This is probably one of the biggest challenges I have so far.

I do have as strict of a routine as I possibly can for him, while also managing my own work expectations. This is something a lot of parents are trying to manage right now: juggling their work commitments to their home commitments. That’s not a new concept; working parents have been struggling with this for a long time. The problem is now we are trying to do everything at the same time. Spoiler alert: We’re all failing at it. It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to admit that my son has failed every science project that we’ve received because he doesn’t follow the instructions, such as “work with a parent”. I’m honestly not sure how his teachers manage to get him to listen. His teachers are saints and magicians all at once.

Their lives are, and I don’t mean to be dramatic here, ruined. They aren’t getting that social interaction with other children that they need to thrive. They don’t get to run around at the playgrounds. Seniors are missing their year-end events. Juniors are missing out on prep time for their things like college tours, college fairs, and exams. These are experiences that they aren’t going to get back. And that’s sad. My heart hurts for them. Just because I didn’t care about these events, doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the milestones. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel compassion for those students missing out on this. You only have your youth for so long and to have these major moments not be a part of them, that does make me feel bad for them.

That doesn’t mean there’s no reason for it. I keep seeing petitions about how people should be at risk to put these events on anyways. I agree about the importance of these events, but to put lives at risk for them? Until there’s testing made more available and a vaccine created, it’s never going to be safe out there. That’s science. There’s more evidence of the probability of reinfection than there is that there’s no risk of it. But this is so new that no one knows anything. If this were my kid, I wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony because it was too risky for me, nor could my parents who have a very close relationship with my son. There are safe ways to do things and there’s being completely stupid.

Some places have setup schedules where an individual student can bring a couple of family members to see them do the walk and the students get that experience, even if they can’t share it with their friends. That’s a safe idea. That’s a good approach. That allows for social distancing, while giving the child that experience. It won’t be the same as the grand graduation ceremony students usually get, but it’s better than a Zoom graduation.

People are making rash decisions because they aren’t thinking logistically; they are thinking selfishly. Your want to do something doesn’t take over the reality of the situation. The reality of the situation is that there are over 50,000 people across the country who have died and that number doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I’d even be willing to bet that those places who have decided to say “eff it” and reopen are going to make those numbers jump even higher. Do I like it that I’m in charge of providing barely adequate education to my children? No. Does that mean I think the schools should open up just because I don’t want to deal with it? I’d rather have my children alive, I’m silly like that.

In a time when we should be growing closer together, helping each other, we are bickering like children. We are stubbornly following whatever our political affiliation wants to spoon-feed us and doing so blindly. This was a test to see if our country could unite to do the right thing and make the changes to become better, and I’m sad to say we failed.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I’m not a particularly positive person. I’m more of a jaded realist. The thing about being a realist is that you are often accused of pessimism. Am I guilty of pessimism? Who isn’t? Hope is the most treacherous of human fancies, after all. A motto I lived much of my teen years following.

Some time after becoming a parent, I lost the need for pessimism as a crutch though I still mention how my class voted me the class pessimist with my dear friend. We deserved it. I started more towards realism, still careful not to hope. Hope leaves you open for disappointment. I prefer logically considering things and determining the most likely outcome. Things didn’t turn out how I would have liked? I started living by “It could be worse.”

As it turns out, people hate that phrase. I like it because it centers me. It puts things in perspective. Sure, school is officially cancelled for the rest of the year leaving teacher Mom in charge. But, it could be worse. At least I know they are safe. I’m not going to be worried about them contracting the virus at school. I don’t have to worry if their schools become a statistic for school shootings or being bullied. I just have to worry more about whether or not I’m enough for them. And my never getting a moment of quiet time until this lockdown ends. Send help. By “help” I mean “wine”.

Does this new normal suck? Sure. I can’t take my kids to the park. I have to juggle trying to help with 2 sets of remote learning plans plus an OT learning plan. But we’re safe. Aside from the stomach bug that took over our house, we’re healthy. I don’t have as much time to clean because I have to juggle teaching, my own work, keeping them quiet so they don’t bother my husband as he works in the makeshift office in the basement. But, it could be worse.

Whenever someone vents to me about something, I try to remind them that sure things suck but life’s too short to stress over everything. That’s how I remain so seemingly emotionless. It’s not that I don’t care about the Patriots getting rid of another player. It’s just in the grand scheme of things, is that really something worth my already limited sanity? This is something we should appreciate now more than ever. Yes, you are validated in feeling emotionally done. But looking at how things could be worse doesn’t dismiss those real feelings of stress and anxiety; it helps puts things in perspective. At least we have a roof over our heads to stay safe during these difficult times. We have food in our fridge. Because there are a lot of people who don’t have these luxuries. They don’t have the luxury of remote learning capabilities. It could be so much worse for us.

Most importantly, we have each other. And as long as we each do our part, things will get better. We just have to do what needs to be done. This may be considered a war time, but do we have to go to war? No. We have to sit on our asses playing video games, catching up on our reading list, binge-watching whatever we want. Some people have to still go out and work, my husband being one of them. But he wears his mask, uses his hand sanitizer, and washes his hands because it’s more than just about him getting sick. This is our time to shine. This is our time to come together and ask for help and put a smile on another person’s face. Because they probably need it. We all do.

Being a Joiner

I’m not a joiner. I don’t like the idea of just following along just because. I’m my own person and peer pressure doesn’t dictate anything that I do. If anything, I’m usually the bad influence. Not on purpose, but I’m not going to lie that it ends up that way. When it comes to social media, I usually stick to that. I don’t want to offend people when they invite me to do those challenges on Facebook, but I’m not going to post 10 selfies of myself. I probably only have 2 or 3 selfies and only a handful of pictures of myself. I’m okay with that. Photographs steal the soul, or something. I’m not going to just participate in something, because that’s not who I am.

I did end up in a Facebook “challenge”. Not because I felt compelled to by peer pressure. It was because the concept was intriguing to me. 10 days of posting album covers that shaped my musical upbringing? The challenge of picking just 10 albums from my younger years, even in my late teens and early 20s, was interesting. There are so many bands, songs, and albums that have touched my life. That I have related to so strongly that they are the only things that can manage to get my hardened heart to feel strongly enough to cry.

It’s also interesting to show off, as much as possible, just how eccentric my musical tastes are. People would be confused listening to my most listened to playlist on Amazon, where my playlist is so varied that it jumps around practically every genre. I’m okay with that. I don’t care if people laugh at my music. I like what I like and people being closed-minded and judgemental don’t bother me. Mostly because I don’t care. I’m not out to impress anyone. If a song has hit me in the feels in one way or another, I like it. I don’t think I need to defend myself or my choices, and if people want to make fun of me for that, it says more about them than me.

Will I do another challenge? Probably not. This is a one and done. I like the challenge of sharing my favorite music. I don’t like the stress of trying to pick people and not make them feel like they have to or whatever. Plus, I don’t like having to do the posts every day because honestly, that’s more work than I want to put into social media.

Managing a Tummy Ache During a Pandemic

What we’re learning so far is that life still needs to move on, even in a way that isn’t our usual, no matter what circumstances are going on around us. We still have to work to pay bills, if we’re fortunate enough to do so. We have to juggle that with remote learning plans to ensure our children are still exercising their brains. We have to manage their science projects from school that you messed up because your child was so excited he tore off the instructions and you were left going “oops” or you have to grow a plant even though you have the worst green thumb in the planet and ended up killing their science project.

Deep breath. Now, you just have an added worry. Fortunately, my husband has been spending a majority of this working from home though there have been times where he’s had to go out. He’s the one who goes out for groceries because his wife has a terrible immune system, so I stay home with the youngest. The only trips the youngest and I ever make out is to walk over to the school to grab their food packs, because it gives the kids some routine where they go out and get fresh air to do something.

That doesn’t mean no germs are coming into the house. Last weekend, my husband ended up with a stomach bug that we watched carefully, but it went away after a few days. Then, my youngest had it. This stomach bug is making its way through our house during a pandemic. That’s not great for my anxiety at all. This is where educating myself comes in. I understand the symptoms of the virus. I know that it’s a stomach bug because there’s a very low-grade fever, nothing with the respiratory tract, and the symptoms went away after a few days. Though it does seem to spread. My oldest is now showing symptoms. My house is doomed. Mommy is the last person standing, so you know that means she’s going to get smacked. Let’s see how these monsters last without me for a few days.

Still, it’s easy to freak out. It’s normal to. The idea that you can be as safe as possible and you just need someone else to do the same to avoid getting sick. That’s why we avoid going out. That’s why we avoid takeout as much as possible. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself and #science. By denying science, denying how serious this illness is, by not educating yourself is not only hurting you but the people around you. It doesn’t matter that you’re young and healthy. It can still get you. It doesn’t matter if you’re young and healthy, the people you visit may not be. Is it really worth the risk?

Finding the right balance of being concerned without being overly freaked out is important for your sanity. Again, this is the importance of staying educated. That’s why you wear your mask out, even if you think you look ridiculous. Even if it fogs up your glasses. Even if you don’t think you can breathe in it. You can, I promise. That’s why you wash your hands constantly no matter how dry they get. Just buy a lotion from Lush Cosmetics, trust me they’re great. (Not paid sponsor, I’m not popular enough for that. But, I like sharing great products.) The sooner that people stop being idiots, the sooner this gets under control. Sure, you can be scared. I’m pretty terrified, if I’m going to be honest. Not just that this thing is going to cause serious damage to my friends, who are out there working despite all of this going on. Not just that my family can be impacted by it. But because if this keeps going on, we’re all going to run out of food and toilet paper because people panic buy everything. Then that makes other people panic buy even more because they are afraid they aren’t going to have any food because now you’re in a cycle where the only winners are the businesses selling us the food.

As for now, I’m going to practice my vomit exercise as one child has started vomiting in the bathroom (hopefully the toilet, but you never know with him) and the other into a bucket while laying on the couch. All while trying to keep my sanity and hold off this stomach bug as much as possible. Because that’s what mom’s do.

As It Turns Out, I Would’ve Been a Terrible Teacher

I know it’s been a while. Adjusting to this new normal has been a bit crazy, but I’ve finally gotten into the swing of things again to get back to doing this. I’m hoping now I can get back to my usual schedule, but these are uncertain times so who really knows. I do promise that I’m going to try my best.

If you’re new the the blog, then you probably don’t know that I originally went to college to be a teacher. After some time in the field and doing some of the coursework, I definitely reconsidered that choice. The teachers at my college basically informed us that it was a thankless job that we’d probably fail at and that we were just glorified babysitters that get abused by parents and administration. A few of the teachers I observed seemed to be less than thrilled with their choice. I had such high hopes of having an impact on the lives of my students while sharing my passion for books and literary theory. I slowly realized maybe that wasn’t what I was meant for. So now you have me here as an adequate blogger/author. Yay you?

I often toy around with the idea of going back to school, just to do it and try. Why not? But then this new normal of remote learning with me trying to teach my kids happened. Then I realized, I would have made a terrible teacher. It definitely confirmed that elementary school wasn’t going to be my area of specialty. Especially when dealing with a child who has a 504 plan that I’m also supposed to be sticking to. Who has anxiety struggles, sensory struggles, and attention problems. My oldest one is fine. He mostly just does it all himself without asking questions, unless he’s come up with great question and wants to discuss and debate it. That I enjoy.

I would be that teacher that sneaks wine in a soda can during school. Or Bailey’s in my coffee. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m trying to manage my workload on top of playing teacher. Or if I’m just super stressed dealing with everything and wish I could just take them to the park to burn off energy, even though my youngest never runs out of energy. (I live in a house but my neighbors don’t seem to be practicing social distancing and I’m not risking it.)

This is new to all of us parents who don’t already homeschool. Trying to make sure that they keep up while trying to adjust based on their needs is a struggle, especially when you have your own work to do. Times are tough right now. You try to avoid the news so that you don’t get anxious and spread that to your kids. You try to make their lives as normal as possible when there’s nothing normal about this situation. They are scared and you have to suck it up to be their light in a tunnel that just seems to get darker every day. These are trying times. These are new times that many of us have never experienced before. But, I’m hopeful that once we get through this tunnel, we can make it through anything.

It’s a Super Tuesday… or So They Say

Last week, I spoke about Super Tuesday. Well, here we are. The Democrats are down 3 people, two of which actually had some sort of momentum while there are still people in the race that probably have no business being there. That means the two realistic options are Biden or Sanders, neither of which bring any sort of excitement for me. Neither of which I can stand behind. And likely neither of which will win in the election against Trump, which is even less exciting for me than anything else.

With many candidates who have dropped out of the race backing Biden, I wonder why. I really wonder why. Half the time the man stumbles over his words and I’m convinced he doesn’t even know where he is for the most part. His ideas were that he’s done everything that has made America great and fought against everything that wasn’t. At least that’s what he says. I’m fairly certain that facts disprove this. He’s meme-worthy for sure, but we already have a president that goes viral for all the wrong reasons; we don’t need another bumbling idiot in the White House. Yes. I hate saying that about them because it disrespects the office and as much as I dislike the president, I don’t believe in disrespecting the office. Even if he doesn’t believe in that.

Then there’s Bernie. I didn’t feel the Bern last election cycle with him and I certainly don’t feel it now. Don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal. He has his convictions that he believes in and doesn’t care about the establishment. He is the anti-establishment candidate in many regards as Trump was. The establishment doesn’t want him to win and will try to stop it, but they may not be successful. He promises a better future in such an idealistic way, again like Trump, that it can blind his more fervent followers. Sure, I love the idea that I can send my kids to college without worrying about the costs or that I can worry less about medical bills. But what does all of that cost? Much like Trump his concern seems much less about the middle class, a group that seems to suffer no matter who’s in office. Whether they want to just give free stuff to the lower or upper class, the middle class still has to carry most of the tax burden.

It’s not that, generally speaking, the rich aren’t getting taxed a massive amount. That’s a half truth that we’re told. They get taxed a higher percentage and may pay more when they have to. But they have rich accountants that minimize what they owe as much as possible. The middle class are hit the hardest with tax bills, primarily because they may struggle to pay what they owe. Most middle class people live paycheck to paycheck. A massive $2000 tax bill at the end of the year isn’t really that feasible. And now we have to pay more for programs? Why not make budget cuts to programs and fire unnecessary personnel or reduce their paycheck? American’s have to make cuts to balance their budget, even the difficult ones. Why can’t the government do that?

That’s the problem today. You are really choosing between an old, out of touch man that wants to keep things the way they are or an old, out of touch man that wants to make radical changes that our country probably isn’t ready for. Or you could vote for any of the other candidates in hopes that one of them picks up traction over these two. Except Bloomberg. Please don’t do that.

The Two Most Important Questions to Ask Your Kids

Every day when I first see my boys after school, I ask my boys 2 simple questions: “How are you?” and “How was your day?” I consider these the most important questions that I will ask my kids every day. There’s a subtle difference between these two questions, even if you think I’m just asking the same question twice. But it’s very deliberate.

The first question I ask them every day is “How are you?” I’m asking them about how they emotionally feel after their day. Do they feel good? Excellent, even? Are they feeling a bit meh? I want to know how they are feeling because that’s the most important thing to me. I want to make sure that I ask because I want them to know that first and foremost, I care about their mental health. If they have a few days in a row where they shrug or answer negatively, I plan a surprise to cheer them up. I give them more individual time to see what’s going on. I make sure that they know how important they are.

The second question immediately follows. “How was your day?” This is me asking them what happened. Did anything fun or exciting happen? Was it a crappy day? This gives them the opening to know that I’m here to listen to them, no matter how great or boring or bad their day was. Surprisingly, they always open up. “This kid was a bully to me, but it’s okay because I just ignored them.” Or my oldest goes on long discussions about how amazing his forensics class is or how he roasted his friend. This can also give some excellent insight into how they are feeling.

These questions are incredibly important for a few reasons. First of all, it tells them that I honestly care about how their day was no matter how mundane it was. I give them my undivided attention as they answer these questions to show them that no matter what, I’m going to be annoyingly there for them. I stop work when they answer and any other time that they want to talk to me. I want them to know that I am there for them and have this open line of communication so if there is something big, they’ll let me know.

Most importantly, I’m emphasizing how important mental health is. In the past, mental health was shrugged off or seen as a weakness. Even today, there’s still so much stigma around it. I want them to know that they are loved and valued. I want them to know that I care about their emotional health more than I care about their grades. As it turns out, this is something that may even help them do better in school. My expectations for them are that they grow up happy, love what they do, give back, and just be productive people in society.

I stand by my belief that these are the most important questions to ask your kids every day. This forms a special and trusting bond that may be helpful to them when they need it the most. Maybe this can make a difference in their lives, no matter how annoying they find me today.

Be Warned: Primaries are Coming

Super Tuesday is coming soon. Very soon in fact. This is where the people get the choice to vote for their ideal candidate, someone that they really support in hopes that they get the nomination. Then, they decide not to vote in the general election if their candidate doesn’t make it. It’s always an interesting treat to see, especially with so many states up for grab on this one day. Maybe the election will be rigged again. Maybe it won’t. But Super Tuesday may be filled with plenty of surprises. I hope one of them is that a better candidate surfaces.

As an independent, I have the additional problem of not only choosing which candidate but also which ballot to pick up. Do I vote in the Democratic Primary? Do I vote in the Republican? Do I go with one of the other options? Decisions decisions. I have narrowed down to the 2 main parties when I go into the election.

Why am I considering voting in the Republican primary even though Trump will easily win it? Because maybe deep down, I hope that if another candidate starts making waves people will realize how awful the current president is. I would vote for Weld on this ticket, because he’s a far better option than Trump. In fact, I wish more people saw it instead of just blindly voting for him because then maybe we can get a reasonable Republican on the ballot. Or any Republican that isn’t Trump. Because I don’t care about whether or not someone is a Republican; I care about what they stand for, who they are, and what they want to achieve. You know, the seemingly silly and unimportant things.

The problem is going with the Democratic ballot. I’m really not sure which way to go here. Originally I was for a more moderate choice like Buttigieg. I like the idea of someone who’s actually served in the military in some capacity to be the Commander in Chief rather than someone who isn’t. In fact, I’ve even argued the point that military service should be a requirement for the president for that reason. They’ve been in war. They know it. They won’t be as willing to throw our military around if they have a better appreciation for the fact that these are real people with real families, not people on a Risk board. But what does he really stand for? I don’t like the idea of voting for someone when I can’t really answer that question.

Warren and Klobuchar are a definite “no” from me. I feel like they are just being pushed down our throats on the basis of the Democratic party is so determined to show that they are the party of diversity. That they are going to be the party of the first woman president. So much so that they don’t care that these two candidates aren’t what we need. Klobuchar lacks any personality to the point that she uses one-liners as if she’s a comic. And what are her beliefs? She spends so much time focused on talking points I’m not even sure she knows what she believes in. And Warren has always been more about grandstanding and talking about whatever she thinks people want to hear. I just can’t in good conscience go this route in the primary.

The last candidate to consider is Bernie. Because I refuse to even consider Biden or Bloomberg or whoever is still left in the race. I like the idea of affordable college. I like the idea of affordable healthcare. I don’t like the idea of giving more handouts to people who just want handouts. (And I’m not saying this to mean that all people on food stamps and welfare only want handouts. This is for the specific rare instances of people who abuse the system.) I don’t like the idea that as usual, these are things that the middle class will be paying for. Not the rich. Not the corporations. The middle class. The ones who carry most of this burden already but don’t get the ability to benefit from the programs that they pay into. I think Bernie is way too far left. There’s always going to be loopholes that the rich are going to find to not pay their fair share, and they don’t care. They’re not the ones who are going to suffer for that. We are. And honestly, I don’t think that he’ll beat Trump. Which is a major factor to consider.

That’s the problem with politics though, isn’t it? You’re never going to get the perfect candidate. You just have to choose the least vile choice. Will this be the first election that I vote Democrat? Probably, unless for some reason the current president is removed from the ballot with a better option. But which one will I vote for? Fortunately, I still have a few days to decide. Since my state is a Super Tuesday state.

I Thought I’d be Dead Before I Saw the End of Civilization; Then I Watched the Debate

Last night was another brutally embarrassing debate. There was no control. There was nothing but screaming and madness and something about communism. It’s hard to watch because I want to have an open mind about voting for one of these candidates. I really do. But all I could walk away with was “We’re screwed.”

See, I’m this apparently rare breed of person right now who is actually an independent. I don’t care what political party you are; if I think you’re the right choice then you’re the choice I make. Voting is something I take very seriously. I appreciate the struggles women went through before me so that I have this right today. I feel as though by just voting for someone because they belong to (insert party here), then I am doing a disservice to this right.

It seems silly to think like that, but I have integrity that makes me do what I think is right. Your vote can determine the future of this country, depending on where you live. This isn’t the time for divisiveness like “That’s my candidate because go (insert party here).” This is the time for taking a serious look at what’s going on now and thinking “Is this the future I want for my kids?” My answer is absolutely not.

I want the tax law reversed. Why? Because it didn’t benefit anyone I know. You know, the hardworking middle-class that is constantly called “the backbone of America”, but never treated as such. Actually, it is. Because our backs break from carrying the country. That law was meant for people who profit off of the middle class. I’d rather that $2,000 extra that I used to see in my refund, what I use to pay back bills or save to pay for a vacation or new appliances or for when life explodes in my face. But no, I lost that because the president wanted to make his rich friends richer. But hey, $10 extra every paycheck makes my life better right? Now I get the fancy toilet paper with that extra money. But mama wants a new washer.

The idea of keeping an at this point obviously corrupt, inept president in office that wants to just profit from his position and not actually help anyone disturbs me. But people will vote for him because he’s the republican and they don’t need to support him, just the party. However, as of that debate last night, the idea of practically any of those people in office also disturbs me. I would’ve been more behind a Yang ticket than half of that debate stage.

We don’t need anymore divisive presidents. We don’t need anyone too far in either direction. We need a moderate, someone who’s not so extreme that they turn off people from voting but someone who can inspire independents like myself to vote for them. As of right now, I just have to hope that the republican primary takes off and I can get a real decision instead of one that’s worse than what South Park could have ever imagined. At this point, what’s worse than a Turd Sandwich?

I hope the debates get better, because I want my kids to learn about the process. I want them to learn, especially the one who’s about to turn 18, the importance of the process and making an informed decision. Yes, informed. As is not just voting for a party, but voting for a person. You want a dignified leader that’s a role model; that’s strong and decisive. But right now it’s a “which one acted less like a child on the debate stage?”