Monday, July 27, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Back To School Shopping

Back to school shipping is, umm, different this year. No new themed dresses, no requests for professional wear from Stitch Fix, no new fun lunchbox (although to be fair, my T-Tex lunch buddy is still in great shape). 

I placed an order for scrubs -- five pairs of pants in black, gray, and navy, and 8 tops. I have hedgehogs & cactuses, owls, unicorns that day "caring is magical," sloths, haunted houses for Halloween (assuming we make it to Halloween), and three solid colors (black, purple, and orchid) with interesting necklines. 

Scrubs can be washed in hot water and sanitized effectively, over and over and over again. They're also good optics for being high exposure in a health crisis while not actually in the healthcare industry. 

I also bought two face shields to wear in addition to a mask... We will be provided shields but in the event that they are backordered at industrial scale I wanted to make sure I had a couple. 

My doctor recommended a water bottle with a retractable straw to decrease exposure while hydrating. Also, a hamper with a lid to put my dirty scrubs in when I come home and shower downstairs before coming up. it's recommended to wear by hair up, like in a bun, to decrease the possibility that droplets in my hair could get in my face at some point. There's much pint in coloring my hair if I have to wash it daily, so I ordered a color-depositing conditioner... In Rose Gold for Brown Hair. We'll see what that looks like.

I've got to have some kind of back to school fun  between the scrubs and the rosy hair (even if it's in a bun)... Otherwise this all sounds terrifying and depressing. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 





Saturday, July 25, 2020

We're All Mothers

I was driving and listening to All Things Considered  on NPR earlier this week, when an interview came on with the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo.

It was all about her handling of the coronavirus, and how they were able to curb the virus effectively, going from 430+ cases per day to an average of 60. 

I enjoyed the interview... until the end. 

Ailsa Chang asks Governor Raimondo about whether she thinks the fact that her team of government and health officials were entirely women was a factor in the state's success. Which sounds like an interesting question and like it should appeal to my feminist self. 

But, the answer was ruined. 

Governor Raimondo says, "it is true that Rhode Island's COVID response is being led by women, and by the way a diverse group of women." So far, so good! I smiled and nodded in my car. 

"Now, I guess I would say this: We're all moms, and you know, being mothers maybe makes us a bit more empathetic but it makes us a whole lot more practical. It's just, 'okay, what's the problem, what's the plan, let's get to work' -- like come on, ladies!  Let's get the job done for people!"

So, I have to admit, when I heard it the first time in the car I misunderstood and thought that she was saying that ALL women are moms, and that filled me with the fury of a thousand murder hornets. BUT, when I re-listened it to write this post, I realized she meant that all the women working with her are moms. 

Either way, the "maybe makes us a bit more empathetic but it makes us a whole lot more practical" part made me swear and flip off the radio in my car so that I looked like an utter lunatic to the unfortunate people on the road with me. MOTHERHOOD DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE CORNER ON EMPATHY AND PRACTICALITY. Hell, womanhood does not give you the corner on empathy and practicality. I hate hate hate hate those kinds of statements. 

Statements like, "Well, I just care more about the future because I'm a mom." Um, maybe you care more about your specific child's future because you're a mom, but that doesn't mean that only moms can have a stake in the future or worry for the sake of all future generations. It comes up all the time in political races (usually in other countries, sigh) where women candidates pitted against each other pull out the "As a mom" arsenal to discredit childless opponents. I can't remember who or when it was, but I was again in my car swearing and flipping off the radio because I heard a woman running for office in another country who criticized the other candidate's stake in the future because she didn't have children. It's rampant and ugly and sets women upon each other, which isn't helpful. 

This post was in my drafts when I read Loribeth at The Road Less Traveled's post on the "mom" thing and activism. It reminded me of the irritation I have at the "Mom thing"  in politics in general. And even in teaching... I know I've mentioned this before, but NOTHING drives me crazier than teachers who state their claim to expertise in parent meetings with sentences that start "As a mom...." In one particular meeting it took all my self-control not to say "YOUR CHILDREN ARE UNDER 5! What relevance does this have to an 8th grader situation?" But I didn't. Sometimes it IS relevant, like if the teacher had a child who had a similar issue at a similar age. But otherwise it takes away from the fact that your expertise as a teacher comes from your experiences...AS A TEACHER. It is totally possible to be an empathetic, practical, organized teacher and not also be a parent. And if you aren't a parent, it suddenly makes it seem like you have less expertise somehow. Pffffft. 

Anyway, it stuck like a splinter in the bottom of my foot and left me all irritated. I really wish people would stop using motherhood as a sort of universal sainthood that elevates you above the rest of us selfish, lazy, unorganized masses. (note heavy sarcasm)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

A Once in a Lifetime Moment

Friday night, Bryce and I took off on foot, both half in pajamas, with binoculars around our necks, to get to a spot in our "neighborhood" where there's a lot of sky. 

A field that last year was corn, and this year is some kind of hay grass with milkweed.
Love that they left the milkweed for the butterflies.

We were on the hunt for Nowise, a comet that you supposedly could see, tail and all, with your naked eye but see better with binoculars. It comes only 6,800 years. It was a clear night, which almost never coincides with celestial events in my part of New York. How could we NOT try to see it? 

We'd read somewhere that you look up after sunset, but misinterpreted it to mean RIGHT after sunset. When we got to the road with the fields (about a 10-15 minute walk), all we could see was Jupiter, so we checked online and....oh. An hour and a half after sunset. 

No worries, it was beautiful, as you can see in the picture, and as it got darker the sunset with the trees got even more vibrant. 

A different section of the same field.

The pictures we take in these moments almost never live up to the amazement of the actual sight, so this is the last picture I took. I wanted to soak it up. I didn't want to waste any more time taking shots that ultimately wouldn't do the memory of the moment justice. 

We walked up and down the road to pass the time, Bryce calibrating his starwatching app with Jupiter to make sure we could figure out where the comet was, stars slowly appearing starting with the brightest. 

But the fireflies -- oh man, the fireflies were like constellations in the grasses, in the trees. They were everywhere, and blinked their love messages in Morse Code patterns only they could translate. They were in the wildflowers and the "weeds," in the tall marsh grasses, and all the way up the walnut trees. The bats came out while there was still dusky light and swooped above our heads and over the fields. The tree frogs and bullfrogs sang. Some kind of night bird added to the mix. 

It was insanely gorgeous. 

Once we could see the Big Dipper, Bryce looked to see if it was nearby. And on the app, it was right below it, just above the treeline...but we couldn't' see it yet. It took forever to get truly dark, but we didn't mind because it was just a perfect, perfect night. 

We walked back up towards the field we started by, laughing at the good fortune we have to live in such a beautiful place, and once we recalibrated ourselves (and looked like weird UFO sighters to the very few passing cars), Bryce looked towards the Big Dipper and said, "HOLY SHIT! There it is!" and pointed me in the right direction. 

Sure enough, there was a comet, with a tail behind it, visible in the sky. With the binoculars you could see the tail more clearly, but regardless, you could see a freaking comet in the sky. The last time I saw a comet in the sky was Halley's Comet, when I was a kid in 1986. That one will be back in 2061, and I hope I get another shot at seeing it, but Nowise is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of comet. 

We stood out there watching it for a while, and then walked home, keeping our eyes on the comet as we went until the trees covered it up and the lights in our neighborhood made it hard to see. (The neighbors directly across the street light up their property like goddamn Disneyland, I do not understand why you would move out to the woods and the country and then light the night like that. It actually lights up the entire dead end street next to us, and I don't have to put solar spot lights on my Halloween decorations in the corner garden because their driveway lights do that for me. Ugh.)

At one point on the way home, we walked through a tunnel of fireflies, because they were all in the walnut trees on either side and we were surrounded by flashing lovebugs. 

There wasn't much to the night -- just an appreciation of nature and the universe and the beautiful place that we call home -- but it is probably going to go down as one of our favorite moments together, where we could stop, and enjoy, and appreciate, and sit in a moment of beauty in the midst of all the chaos going on in the world right now. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

What It Means To Be A Teacher Now

I am a teacher. 

I work my tuchus off for 10 months of the year for what amounts to miserable hourly pay after the day is done. Which, to be honest, the day is never really done because my students haunt me, the thoughts on what I could have done better haunt me, the plans for what to do next and how I can try to get the best out of my students academically and social-emotionally haunt me. Also, food for thought, in my husband's engineer-y line of work, people who have barely graduated undergraduate college make more than I do now, as a teacher with a Master's degree, with 6 separate certifications from the state, National Board Certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist, and 11 years full-time teaching experience (13 years total). 

In my position that in our society is valued less monetarily than a starting point engineer: I must be an innovator with educational technology; a collaborator with teachers, staff, administration, families, community; a curriculum expert fluent in all academic areas since I support them all and explicitly teach some; a behavioral expert; a special education law expert; a writer of legal documents that spell out individualized education plans; a customer service rep soothing angry parents (who are typically angry because they are hurting but I am a great target because I represent everything that's hard for their child, even though I also represent hope that things can become easier with the right supports and building of skills); an advocate for my students in my classroom, in other classrooms, and in the school as a whole; I am an event planner; an entertainer; an insanely good actress as I have to show patience when kids are squirrelly, calm in the face of explosiveness, and stern when I really want to laugh at something naughty said or done. Sometimes I laugh anyway.

I have a million stories about crazy situations, like a parent call regarding a homemade bowel movement made from a peanut Cliff Bar (very realistic) left on another student's chair as a prank; the millions of times I have spoken calmly and had someone scream in my face STOP YELLING AT ME when I am actually not yelling at all; the time I ill-advisedly April Fools Day pranked my resource class predominantly made up of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder into thinking that Betsy DeVos had decided the state of education is so dire that summer school is now mandatory, and one of my students exploded into SCREW YOU! and I had to bust out laughing and admit that it was a prank before she (probably justifiably) ran from the room in a rage (ooops, but she forgave me and admitted it was a good prank once she was no longer feral); how a student once climbed to sit on top of a file cabinet during a lockdown active shooter drill and then proceeded to try to CLIMB UP INTO THE DROP CEILING like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, stating "I'm not about to get shot!" while I hissed "GET DOWN HERE! RIGHT! NOW!" and had to weigh addressing his (not terribly illogical) choices with being heard out in the hall and deemed a possible shooter target...

Oh yeah, that's right. I also have to be a human shield for my students and think critically if I hear gunshots in the hall, and I have to practice for that unlikely (but possible) event something like 5 times per year, getting squirrelly 8th graders who may or may not be taking their mood stabilizing/focusing meds to quietly hide in a corner away from all windows and the door and be quiet for up to 20  minutes, explaining that if we did hear gunshots it would be vitally important that they be silent and listen and trust me when the game plan changed from hiding like mice in a hole to something like barricading the door, or running, or some other SWAT team nonsense that WASN'T A PART OF MY MANY DEGREES/CERTIFICATIONS but now I'm wondering if it will be for newer teachers (or already is). 

I do all this gladly (well, maybe not the "what to do if someone is trying to kill us in a place of learning" part) because it is my job and I love it. I love my students. I love the challenges. I love the outlet for creativity that is making learning dynamic and fun and building that community in the classroom that makes it a family of sorts, which is even more important to me as I don't have children of my own despite a great deal of effort to have them. It is the cliche that is on a million mugs and memes, but I LOVE my kids and they are truly MY KIDS. I mean, they don't come home with me, so it's not like I'm a parent, but for the day? When I worry at night and over vacations and in the summer and DURING PANDEMIC BUILDING SHUTDOWNS? Yeah, they're my kids. 

So I am really quite upset about the fact that now, in addition to all of this, of planning and practicing for a possible violent threat and possible death, that teachers are now in the position of going back into a situation where the chances of being harmed a zillion times higher from the virus than they are from a possible active shooter situation. 

There are a million posts and memes and articles listing out all the ways that the "reopening" of schools is terrifying and ill-advised, so I'm not going to go into every point (and there are A LOT). Because also it's supposed to be summer and I'm not supposed to be thinking about all this.

Summer is typically a time of recovering from the past year and then planning for the next, but unless you are actively teaching summer school for 6 weeks, you are UNPAID for the 10 weeks (sometimes 9) of summer. It's a running joke that teachers only work part of the year and that we have this amazing cushy benefit of oodles of vacation. And we do have vacation throughout the year (that is at specific times that we do not choose and we cannot take vacation time of our own), but during the year there's planning that takes place through some of it and during summer we are not paid. And yet we work, planning and prepping and taking professional development courses and worrying. I usually try to take July as a "I may Pinterest and read PD books, but I'm doing nothing but reading on the couch and digging in the dirt and getting a lovely refresh on my soul" time, and August is planning planning planning, setting up the classroom, sorting through supply orders, organizing folders with student names, meeting with paraprofessionals, etc etc etc. 

NOT THIS SUMMER. 

This summer is the most stressful and anxiety-ridden summer of my life. I got a few days where I did nothing and tried to go into reconstitution mode, but the planning for next year pretty much started right away. And, I am very excited to be the new lead teacher for my building's special education teacher department, but holy moses did I pick a doozy of a time to go for that! There are preliminary schedules to review, so much anxiety about what it may look like, and questions galore. I enjoy finding and sharing information, but this year there are some pretty high stakes to it all. 

I am upset about how the media discusses the school issue -- saying that "schools are closed" and "we have to reopen schools" makes it sound like nothing has been happening. In actuality, SCHOOL BUILDINGS have been closed, but school itself has gone on, just differently than it looked before. I know not everyone had the same experience with online school, but it raises my hackles so much when I hear about parents "homeschooling" their kids during this time. The definition of "homeschool" according to Merriam-Webster is "to teach school subjects to one's children at home" or "to teach (one's children) at home." Which then calls into question what it means to teach. Is it homeschooling when you help your child with homework or to study for a test? I feel like using "homeschool" in this pandemic shutdown time is deceptive, because I am providing the curriculum, I am providing contact time online, I am providing support, I am providing materials for learning and demonstrating what students know. I guess it could be different at the elementary level, and I'm sure people will tell me in the comments, but I feel like if you are not creating and delivering and assessing content, you are not homeschooling. You are supporting your child's education. The teacher is doing the teaching. 

This is not to say that parents have not been instrumental to the success of our new virtual learning reality -- kids who have parents who can sit with them and help organize them and keep them on task when working on independent work (or supervising when in group online situations) tend to be way more successful at keeping up with everything. But not all parents have this ability, because there are parents who aren't working from home, there are parents who are working in healthcare, or service, or other high-risk situations. There are parents who lost their jobs and are searching to make sure that they can keep their housing once the no-eviction rules expire (because at some point, they will). There are parents who are caring for older relatives, or younger children, or who are in health crisis themselves (physical or mental). Many parents I spoke to were overwhelmed by the logistics of getting their kids on computers and tracking their schedules along with their own (especially if they had more than one child), but they didn't have the impression that they were teaching, more like managing. And it is a lot. I agree. The whole thing is stressful and not ideal. 

But looking at physically reopening buildings and having 700 or so middle schoolers plus several hundred adult staff in one building scares me so much. There are so many questions. A friend posted something about wearing scrubs to school, so we can easily wash our clothes when we get home, so we can make a statement about the state of things and show support for healthcare workers. I'm all in on that. I think I would wear a hazmat suit if it wouldn't terrify the students and make me a slick sweaty mess underneath it all. 

I am scared for my own health, and I think that needs to be okay -- to not just talk about the lives of the children, but also the adults who teach and nurture the children who are going to be exposed. I have heard people say that teachers are selfish who think about their own health when we're talking about children. It's a similar argument for those who think it's selfish for teachers to say that they don't make enough money -- we don't do it for the money, obviously, but it sure would be nice to paid commensurate to our many qualifications, degrees, and licensures that are REQUIRED...it is not selfish to want to do amazing things for the youth of America and receive better pay than a starting salary for someone in a different industry. I mean, I'm a teacher, not a nun.

Schools are petri dishes. It's a miracle if you get to November before having some sort of respiratory or sinus infection. The flu runs through schools like mad -- I HAD A FLU SHOT last year and still was out for over a week with Flu A. Because I have asthma. And while my asthma is pretty well controlled with my daily 2-puffs, twice-per-day steroid inhaler, if I get even a little cold it ALWAYS goes into my chest and then I have to break out the nebulizer. I have had the flu where I coughed so much I thought I was going to pass out and my eyes were going to burst and I honestly thought I was going to die. I have almost been hospitalized for the flu. So, um, COVID? It scares the everliving shit out of me. Also, I have autoimmune issues. There's the Celiac, but there's also the scleritis I had in my eye during The Year Of Awful, 2017, that I must get checked for every year FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. I also feel like if you look at my infertility history, if there was a weird thing that could happen, it happened (ectopic pregnancy from IVF! OHSS requiring bonus surgery to tap my abdomen of fluid! Asherman's Syndrome scarring in my uterus! Adenomyosis!). I could not get rid of that uterus fast enough once it was clear I had no use for it. And I'm still worried about those ovaries trying to kill me someday. 

So it seems like COVID-19 is, uh, a bit of a risk for me. I'm otherwise pretty healthy. But do I want to be in an enclosed space with germ machines (even in middle school, they're gross germ machines), armed with just hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and a mask that people will not wear with fidelity? And what about the recent evidence that the virus is airborne, and that aerosolized particles can survive IN THE AIR for a really long time? How do I disinfect the damn AIR? The article from MIT that I've linked to says that sanitizing all the surfaces isn't as important if it's airborne, "Instead, the focus should be on other factors, like where we spend our time." We were told that the three factors for spread are activity, time, and proximity...all major factors in classroom learning. The same MIT article says, "To safely reopen, these spots will not just need to reduce the number of people allowed inside at any given moment; they will also need to reduce the amount of time those people spend there. Increasing social distancing beyond six feet would also help keep people safer." Six feet is not a magic number. And it kills me when people are like, "Oh, we can take our masks off if we're 6 feet apart." Um, except if you drift towards each other, which humans tend to do; except if you cough, or sneeze, or yell or woo hoo or sing or do anything that causes those particles to spew more forcefully from your unmasked face. And, um, teenagers don't do any of those things. They are known for quietly whispering in the classroom and the hallways. And following rules with absolute fidelity. 

I love my job, and I love those loud, naughty germ machines, and I don't WANT to not be with my students. I can love all these things and be terrified. For my students' lives, for my life. For the possibility of not just dying, but of living with the long-term effects of COVID-19. Hearing reports of people sick for upwards of 120 days, seeing the long term impact on lung tissue, the muscle wasting... it's terrifying. WE KNOW HARDLY ANYTHING ABOUT THIS THING LONG TERM. 

So, it's kind of hard to rest and relax when all of these things are swirling through my brain. I realized last week that I didn't put supply orders in before we "left" in June, because it simply did not occur to me. And now I'm left wondering, what on earth do I order? (I realize I am privileged for having money in a budget to order supplies, I am definitely among the lucky as teachers go in that regard.) Do I order as if things will be normal? What IS normal? Do I order a zillion ziploc bags and enough supplies that I can have individual supply packs for kids in my resource room? You may say, "don't they have supply lists? Aren't they buying things?" Um, yes but have you met middle schoolers? They could have 100 pencils in their locker but they'll forget to bring one to class. Not everyone can afford everything on the lists. And middle schoolers are kind, and generous -- they want to lend a pencil or an eraser or a highlighter to people in class. And they won't be able to do that. I will have to shut down their kindness in the name of safety. Should I order stuff for teaching at home? I already bought a folding whiteboard with my own money (worth more than its insubstantial weight in gold in the spring). There are so many questions. 

I have not really been able to unplug this summer. I am trying, but every time I look at the internet, or hear the radio, or come out of my hole in any way shape or form I am smacked in the face with the reality of teaching in a pandemic. Of being in a no-win situation -- there is no solution that will make everyone happy, or safe, or comfortable. For some kids being home is a nightmare situation. For some kids being home has been great. For some teachers being home makes them more productive. For some teachers being home is impossible because of small (or not so small) children that need attention, need help, and don't tend to sit quietly and self-soothe and manage their own time during a school day. It's an impossible situation. 

And it keeps me up at night. I am a teacher. I love my kids. I love what I do. But I don't want to sacrifice everything -- my health, my husband's health, the destruction of our tiny family unit -- to open classrooms before it's safe. Because even if it's safe when we reopen the buildings, how long before it's not just because of the sheer activity, time, and proximity of all the people with all the contact points? It seems like the most dangerous experiment in the strength of this contagion, with our children and educators at the center of a study we didn't sign up for. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Travel That Wasn't

Last October was our 10th wedding anniversary, and we celebrated with a weekend away at a bed and breakfast not too far away (but far enough to FEEL like a getaway). But the plan was to have a bigger trip this summer, to do our 10th wedding anniversary trip less like a weekend getaway and more like our Resolution Honeymoon two-week California adventure. 

At first we were thinking Washington State, the Pacific Northwest, the Olympic Peninsula. Our thought, because we are nerds, was to spend some of the time hiking on the peninsula and in all those insanely green and mossy forests, and some of the time visiting Snoqualmie and doing a bit of a Twin Peaks tour. Bryce has been obsessed with Twin Peaks and David Lynch in general (he watches his crazy weather reports fairly reliably and our wedding vows include me watching at least one David Lynch film per year), and the outside of the Great Northern Hotel is actually the Salish Lodge & Spa.

Seattle Luxury Hotels, Washington State Luxury Hotels, Seattle WA
Image from salishlodge.com

The inside doesn't look anything like the show, but we figured we could find some awesomely nerdy places to go and enjoy a fancypants getaway either before or after hiking all over the Olympic Peninsula. 

We also thought about sneaking up to British Columbia for a few days, but then it turned out there was so much to do in Washington State that maybe British Columbia should be its own trip. Especially since apparently there's an amazing botanical garden there, and I am a sucker for a good botanical garden. 

Anyway, I had started planning some Washington-trip stuff via Pinterest, when Bryce surprised me over blueberry pancakes one Sunday morning in January, and changed our destination. 

"What would you say about going abroad for this trip instead?"

We'd talked about going overseas before, to Norway, or Finland, or Iceland, or Tuscany, or Provence, or Ireland, or Scotland... but I hate flying and am terrified of terrorism. Bryce argued it was time to live a little, and to do the stereotypical privileged childfree traveling everywhere, and that while the U.S. has a lot of great places to go, there was no reason why we couldn't expand our horizons and cross an ocean. I've done that exactly once in my life, and it was when I was 19 or 20 and my family took a trip to Yorkshire and Bridlington to visit my stepfather's family and see the Bronte's moors and the walled city of York. So, uh, yeah...maybe it was time to go to another country. I could find some way to cope with being super high in the air over an ocean for hours.

So, we started planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland (Ireland for my distant heritage, Scotland for Bryce's) and then the more I started to look into the trip the more I wanted to spend more time in one country and so we shifted to all Scotland for this time. 

I got REALLY into it. It was a good start, since they speak English in Scotland, and so we could get international travel without the fear of not knowing the language well enough in case of emergency. I started watching all kinds of youtube videos on various areas of Scotland. I watched a ton of Rick Steeves. I pinned things like mad. I discovered Scotland is a really great place for Celiacs to go, as there is a LOT of gluten free stuff and their regulations make it super easy, which was a relief. I reread all of Mel's Scottish Trip posts and salivated over all the Harry Potter places. And the hairy coos, of course. 

I started planning an itinerary around seeing puffins, seeing the Jacobite train, and visiting the Loch Ness Monster museum. We also wanted to go see a castle that is apparently some long-ago relative of Bryce's family, so like a super removed "family castle." There was a castle you could stay at but it looked super haunted and while that appealed to Bryce, I did not feel that our vacation needed to include millennia-old ghosts. I bought travel guides.

We were messing with when to go, and basing it off of the dates puffins are most reliably on the island of Staffa. Because I have been dying to see puffins in person forever, and in Maine you can go on a boat and see them on their rocky outcroppings, but in Scotland YOU CAN GET OFF THE BOAT AND WALK AROUND THE ISLAND WITH THE PUFFINS. So that sealed the deal. 

Except... 

Bryce had his Candidacy Exam (which sounds not scary but is basically "Here is my PhD proposal and here is all the research I've already done, here is my plan for finishing this out, here are my publications and my plans to have more publications, and here is why this is useful to humanity...please let me continue towards my dissertation and acquisition of those three amazing letters." His advisor asked him to take more time off from work in order to finish his presentation and proposal and have ample time to prepare. So that started making the Scotland trip sound a little less likely. 

Then the first big US cases of coronavirus hit Washington State around January-February. And it just blew up into an epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, so we were like, "WHEW! Thank goodness we didn't decide to go THERE!" 

And then Europe blew up, and Italy was in terrible shape, and we were glad we hadn't picked Tuscany. 

In March Scotland started reporting cases. 

It became clear that while we may not have gone because Bryce used up his vacation time for his PhD, we were DEFINITELY not going now because there was a full-tilt pandemic, we lived in New York which fast became a new epicenter, the idea of getting on a plane seemed ludicrous, and then we were working from home for the foreseeable future, getting groceries delivered and going nowhere. 

Let alone Scotland to see puffins, the Hogwarts Express, and Nessie. 

I am just not meant to see puffins. We went to Bar Harbor a while ago and went to see puffins on a Puffin and Whale Watching boat tour that left early in the morning, and it was unusually foggy. As we sat huddled on a bench in our sweatshirts, the announcement came over the PA that "If you are here for whales, you will definitely see whales. We're a go for whales. If you're here for puffins, the fog is so thick that it is not safe for us to try to get near the rocky outcroppings where they are, so you will not see puffins today. REPEAT: YOU WILL NOT SEE PUFFINS TODAY. Please exit the boat and get a refund if you only wanted to see puffins." Well, crap. 

And now, I had the chance to see puffins very much up close, and there's a pandemic. Do I think my desire to see puffins caused the pandemic? Absolutely not, I'm not delusional. But I do think that every time we try to do something exciting there seems to be some kind of cosmic shutting it down. 

I have a plan for puffins though. It's real weird but I'm very excited and it's not at all a boat trip through the Hebrides islands, but it will make me feel a little better. Here is a sneak peek: 



Also, we found an interesting video that has given us ideas for an actual Twin Peaks themed vacation to Washington State, whenever we can actually travel somewhere and not fear dying. Our fear of dying is pretty high, and given the United States' response to things like universal mask-wearing and staying home and social distancing, it's not likely that we'll be able to comfortably do that anytime soon. However, the video gave us a vicarious moment where we could, with a lot of willing suspension of disbelief, pretend we were somewhere else. Enjoy, it's 28 minutes but will send you virtually to the impossibly green Pacific Northwest, many locations from Twin Peaks, including the TWO hotels that were used for the Great Northern, which now that we know that maybe we can try to stay in both. 




I'm sad we didn't get to go to any of these places, but I'm glad there are ways we can still plan and dream for a day when we can. Even if it seems that day is ridiculously far in the future. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our peaceful home and the slightly less exotic wildlife we have here. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Quite the Scare

This is Lucky.

He loves boxes. He claims boxes for his own use pretty much immediately upon arrival and vacancy.

Lucky is our furry child who we can legally ignore when he's being an attention hog, at least until he strategically knocks things to the floor. 

Lucky gave us quite the scare -- he was yowling, unable to get comfortable, not eating, and then projectile vomiting across the floor Wednesday night (always night). So I took him to Emergency. 

I did not know two things: 1) he'd be hospitalized for three days and 2) my car battery would die for good and I'd need to get a replacement from AAA in the parking lot of the Emergency Animal Hospital at 2 am while a lovely chain-smoking family, NOT wearing masks, shouted expletives at the billing staff. A fun side effect of curbside waiting is apparently dead batteries (I was one of two in the Emergency parking lot). Also, they kept referring to Lucky as an "older cat" and as a 13 year old I guess he is newly "senior," but it was weird since he is so very playful and snuggly and spry.

Now my battery is brand new and Lucky is home, with a lot of medications to help his mild pancreatitis, inflamed bowel, and apparent monster hairball that has wreaked havoc on my poor sweet boy. He's eating now and seems better every day, an exorbitant amount of money later. Worth it though, because he's our snuggly boy.

Mildly obscene photo of Lucky "helping" with my puzzle and showing off his funky barber job.

Holy crap, 2020, give it a rest already. I can't take all the nonsense you're throwing like confetti.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! (tried to post last night from my phone and it was not having it.)


Monday, June 29, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Garden Therapy

When summer hits, I spend a lot of time in the garden. And a lot of time taking pictures of my plants. I ordered a lot of plants online, because I'm not comfortable going to garden centers even though they're open. Maybe if I go right when they open for the day... They were doing curbside but then it got busy and they stopped (ugh), so I haven't been even though I desperately need mulch and I really want a few more plants. 

I get such happiness from gardening -- from weeding and seeing tangible progress from my sweat equity, from amending soil and clearing new spaces, from carefully planting new flowerbabies and watering them and topdressing them with compost... And then seeing them grow and bloom and return.
 
Yellow columbine with blue brunnera


Pretty pink columbine, like a rocket (covered in cottonwood fluff)

The moon garden, the night blooming phlox is out and the moonflower is covering the trellis, can't wait for that to bloom with its big white fragrant flowers... night blooming phlox smell like cookies. 

Brand new butterfly bush just starting to bloom

Freya bellflower starting to bloom, and plum smokey verbascum in the back (this is a new garden space that was covered in daffodils earlier)

Ooooh, first try with helenium... so pretty and sunny!

The corner garden, the lavender is REALLY happy there

Sea holly "blue glitter" with the purple salvia, so spiky and purple and interesting

"African Sunset" black eyed Susan vine getting started up the tuteur trellis, and you can see the yuccafolium globe thistle behind it like a piece of desert hanging out in NY

The corner garden, just taking off -- still to come are orange and yellow hummingbird mints, purple veronicastrum,  giant blue globe thistles, and echinacea -- most of the coreopsis is blooming but soon there will be magenta ones too. No foxgloves this year, hoping they come back next year.

It's a good reminder that some things will thrive no matter what, but they things you tend to will thrive better. That patience is important because my old gardens took over a decade to get where they were when I left them (sniff sniff) and these are only in Year Two, so any progress and filling is awesome. It takes time and care to rebuild life from scratch. And you have to keep checking back, because it changes and grows every single day. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!